I’ve gone mad! Mad, I tell you! Okay, here’s the deal. I made this basil ice cream with intentions of enjoying it all on it’s own, but it just didn’t quite work out that way. And then, I tried it with tomatoes.
Back in April, after my appearance on the Today Show, Chaser and I had a lovely lunch in the city with my uncle Joe at Felidia, Lidia Bastianich’s flagship restaurant. Everything was top notch, right now to dessert, which was a fancy schmancy strawberry something-or-other adorned with a perfectly shaped quenelle of basil ice cream. The dish as a whole was wonderful, but it was the ice cream that really made us swoon.
It was bright green, creamy and intensely flavored with basil, and while it beautifully complimented the strawberries, it also tasted amazing on it’s own. Now that the basil in my garden has fully recovered from the cold, wet spring, I thought it high time to tackle the recipe myself.
So, I did. But on it’s own, it tasted, well… it just tasted too basily. Too green. And while not bad, per se, it needed something else to balance it out. I, of course, thought of strawberries first, but the season has since passed and I didn’t have any on hand. What I did have were some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market, and I figured it was certainly worth a try.
And… Wow! To my utter surprise, it worked. It worked astonishingly well. The creaminess of the ice cream actually mimics the creaminess of fresh mozzarella in a Caprese salad, and the potent basil flavor ties it all together. The sweetness of the ice cream is set off by a generous sprinkle of sea salt, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and of course the bold, rich acidity of the tomatoes. The chill of the ice cream makes this so perfect to enjoy on a hot summer afternoon, and the afternoons here have been quite hot lately.
I’m telling you guys, you have to give this a try! But if I still haven’t convinced you, go ahead and make the ice cream anyway, but rather than using basil, make it with fresh mint instead. And in lieu of tomatoes, go ahead and sprinkle in some chocolate chips. That is most definitely a version of this recipe that everyone can get down with.
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- 2 cups basil leaves
- 6 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Ripe, in-season heirloom tomatoes
- Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Best quality extra virgin olive oil
- Basil sprigs for garnish
- Combine basil leaves, egg yolks, sugar, milk, cream and salt in a blender and buzz on high until thoroughly blended. Transfer to a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for about 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, then cover and refrigerate until chilled (overnight is best).
- Stir in lemon juice, then pour into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturers instructions. Transfer to a container and freeze until solid.
- Slice the heirloom tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick and layer them on individual plates or a platter. Season generously with sea salt and pepper. Scoop a heaping spoonful of ice cream over the tomatoes and sprinkle a little sea salt on top. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with a sprig of basil. Serve immediately.