Italian lore says to place a pot of basil on your windowsill to invite the attention of romantic suitors. Serving lemon basil ice cream for dessert may help solidify the relationship. If lemon basil isn't available, substitute sweet basil, but decrease the amount of leaves to half a cup and increase the lemon peel to 1 tablespoon.
Servings: 1 quart
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1 cup loosely packed lemon basil leaves (see headnote)
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
- 1 cup buttermilk
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until light, foamy and about doubled in volume.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stir together the half and half with the lemon basil leaves, bruising the leaves with your spoon to infuse the flavor into the half and half. Bring the mixture just barely to a gentle boil (some bubbles, no froth). Remove from the heat and let the leaves steep for five minutes.
Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a large mixing bowl and discard the basil leaves. Stir the buttermilk and grated lemon peel.
Slowly stir about 1/4 cup of the buttermilk mixture into the eggs and repeat, stirring in small amounts of the buttermilk mixture to temper the eggs, preventing them from cooking. When the eggs are the same temperature as the buttermilk mixture, you can finish combining the two mixtures at once.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly until it is slightly thickened and coats the back of a clean spoon. Take your time with this part –- and do not let the mixture come to a boil.
Pour the custard into a bowl and refrigerate until it is very cold, preferably overnight.
Process the cold custard in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
From Cynthia A. Brown, Smithsonian Gardens education specialist.
Tested by Cynthia A. Brown.
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