Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ice Cream of the Basil-Lime Persuasion

I found myself being an officiator of a marriage this weekend. No, not a madly in love couple, well, not yet anyways. The wheels in my head were turning. How could I make a refreshing ice cream that captured the flavors of summer in a single bite? First thought, basil. Second thought, lime. Yes, that's it. I will arrange their marriage in the bowl of my ice cream freezer. I will make them love each other. And I did. They are quite the happy couple as I am the happy recipient of their love child they made together...Basil Lime Ice Cream.

I was weirdly nervous about the whole thing really. I had a fear that the ice cream would turn an distasteful brown color, like the color of oxidized basil. Or that it would cause an acrid taste, far from it's delightfully anise/grassy flavor. I wasn't scared so much of the lime but the basil had me worried.

With the "what the hell" attitude of Julia Child, I tossed the torn, bruised basil leaves, stems and all, into the pot of freshly made creme anglaise or ice cream base, to let it steep. Then went the lime zest. Oh, the aromas that flowed. Memories that have been long forgotten or maybe memories yet to come where triggered. They were so faint I couldn't remember them in their entirety. With a frustrated brain, I continued to inhale the bevy of smells wafting off of the surface of the pre-ice cream. Though I couldn't remember the memories, I didn't care, for I was intoxicated.

After this steeped and chilled, I removed the basil and lime zest by straining it. I tasted it. It was wondrous good. But I felt it needed more punch. I wanted to be lifted off my chair by the burst of summerliciousness. So I grated another lime and minced up basil into tiny little specks and tossed them into the churning mix. For twenty-five minutes I waited. I waited to partake of this marriage of flavors. In my anxiousness, I tried to taste it will it was still churning, not a good idea. Finally I lifted the semi-frozen, summer infused, ice cream to my lips. Refreshing would be the first impression. Secondly, the glee that arises in me every time I taste basil, then I am hit with the citrus notes of the lime, which are always welcomed in my mouth. I swore I tasted coconut, though there was none of that in there. I wonder if my brain was saying...that's the natural progression here, basil, lime, coconut. Like some sort of Thai wonderland. I gave some to my husband, he tasted cinnamon. It's very interesting because the basil almost took on a new personality. A personality I much enjoyed.

So without further adieu, here's the recipe for the Basil Lime Ice Cream. I hope you enjoy it's complexities as much as I did. Oh, and for the record, it didn't turn a yucky brown color like I feared it would. As you can see, it's a gorgeous, light green.

Basil Lime Ice Cream

prep time: 10 minutes  cook time: 15 minutes  freezing time: 25 minutes plus additional 2 hrs. serves: 4

1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1 large handful of fresh basil, torn and bruised, plus an additional tbls. minced fresh basil
zest of 2 limes

Combine cream and milk over medium heat in a heavy saucepan. Cook until it almost boils, 5-8 minutes. Reduce to low.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Beat until a light yellow and sorta fluffy. Add 4-5 tbls. of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture, slowly. As you add each tbls. constantly whisk, so that the eggs do not curdle. Then gradually pour the egg mixture into the pot of milk. Stir constantly. Cook for another 3-4 minutes until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. This is when I add the zest of ONE lime and the bruised and torn basil leaves. Reserve the other lime zest and minced basil for later. It will steep as the mixture cools. Let it cool completely.

If you're in a hurry, like I usually am, just chill down the base in a water bath. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set a smaller bowl, containing the ice cream base, into the ice water. Make sure none of the water makes it's way into your ice cream. Stir occasionally until it's cool, about 30 minutes. Alternately, you could chill this mix in the frig overnight, just strain out the basil and lime before you do.

When it's cool, strain out the basil and lime with a fine mesh strainer. Pour into your ice cream mixer and following your particular ice cream maker's instruction, start freezing your ice cream. Half way through add the minced basil and zest of the other lime. It took mine about 25 minutes to get semi-frozen. Transfer to a container and freeze another 2 hours in the freezer.

This would be delish with some fresh strawberries on top, but honestly, it's so good by itself it doesn't need embellishment. End a perfect evening meal with the perfect summer treat. Enjoy!
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