Basil Blueberry Swirl Gelato
I have never been tempted by desserts with savory components. Somehow they always seemed wrong to me, so when I developed a craving for basil gelato I was surprised. Maybe it started with gorgeous peaches. Bart brought home a dozen of the most fragrant and perfectly ripe pieces of fruit I have seen all summer. My first thought was to slice the peaches, toss them in basil simple syrup and keep life easy. Then I remembered the blueberries in the refrigerator. Next, my eye drifted to my ice cream maker, and I was all in for this one.
The basil gelato base is lightly flavored, a lovely match for the blueberry swirl. Use more basil if you must, up to 50% more, but be careful, tasting occasionally after 15 minutes to be certain the infusion does not take on a bitter edge. I was concerned that the blueberry swirl might not have the body, taste-wise, to stand up to the basil, so I added some Mandorla grappa. The bitter almond and dark cherry taste of the grappa did the trick, brightening the blueberry flavor and bringing it into tight focus. This gelato is wonderful by itself, right out of the container, but served with fresh or poached yellow peaches or nectarines, or even berries, it is a very special summertime treat indeed.
Basil-Blueberry Swirl Gelato
Makes about 1 quart
After a few hours in the freezer, this takes on the perfect consistency, but after a longer freeze will be quite firm. If you find the gelato too firm to scoop, just leave it at room temperature for a few minutes. It will soften beautifully.
2 cups whole milk
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
20 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Pinch of kosher salt
1 ¼ cup blueberries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons Nardini Mandorla Grappa
Peaches, nectarines or fresh berries to serve alongside
basil leaves for garnish
Make the basil gelato:
In a medium saucepan combine milk, cream, granulated sugar, basil, and kosher salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Continue cooking until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat, cover pan and set aside to steep for twenty minutes. Strain, and mixture to pan. Reheat briefly. Discard basil.
While the mixture is heating, separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a medium heat-proof bowl, reserving the whites for another use. Whisk the egg yolks until slightly lightened. Slowly dribble half of the hot milk mixture into the beaten yolks, whisking all the while. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat. Use a silicone spatula to stir and scrape the bottom and sides of the saucepan until the mixture coats the back of the spatula, or reaches 180 degrees F. Do not boil.
Place a strainer over a medium stainless steel bowl and pour the mixture through. Set the bowl containing the gelato base over a second, larger bowl half-full of ice water to cool. Stir occasionally, being careful that no water seeps into the gelato base, until the mixture is cool. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight to chill thoroughly.
Make the Blueberry Swirl:
Place the blueberries, granulated sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low to medium heat, crushing the berries as they soften and stirring often to prevent sticking and scorching. Cook until a silicone spatula leaves a broad trail when drawn across the bottom of the pan and mixture forms a thick sauce, about 12 to 15 minutes. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Use a spatula to press the mixture through the strainer, leaving the seeds and skins behind. Use a clean spatula to scrape the mixture that clings to the underside of the strainer into the bowl. This should yield about ¼ cup of puree. Discard seeds and skins. Add grappa to the puree, and stir to combine. Refrigerate until cold.
Make the gelato:
Pour the chilled base mixture into an ice cream/gelato maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Add the swirl:
When gelato has finished churning, Remove the cannister from the machine and transfer one half of the gelato to a chilled storage container, smoothing the top slightly. Pour one half of the blueberry mixture atop gelato and swirl or fold gently using just a few strokes, lifting and swirling the blueberry mixture. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Stir as little as possible to retain rivulets of blueberry. Smooth the surface of the gelato. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly atop the gelato, and transfer to the freezer 4 to 6 hours to harden and cure.
Food Nerd Notes: To those of you who are wondering, yes, I finally got my fancy ice cream maker. I love it. Come on over.
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