As July rolls around, my porch is practically exploding with greenery and I am finally in the privileged position of trying to find a wide range of uses for the enthusiastically bushy basil plant. My thoughts turned to David Lebovitz's excellent recipe for basil ice cream, which I've made numerous times and is fabulous on its own (or with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and macerated strawberries!), but for this post I decided to put the ice cream in a different context and paired it with rounds of fresh mozz and a juicy tomato for an especially refreshing caprese salad. I quite liked it! It certainly makes for a fun spin on a summertime classic.
Caprese Salad with Lemon-Basil Ice Cream
Ice cream recipe produces a quart; salad recipe is for two people
Ice cream recipe adapted from David Lebovitz's basil ice cream from The Perfect Scoop
*1 cup packed basil leaves
*3/4 cup sugar
*2 cups heavy cream
*1 cup whole milk
*5 egg yolks, lightly whisked
*The zest of 1 large lemon (optional, but I like the citrus zip)
*1 large heirloom tomato per two people
*8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
*Freshly cracked black pepper & pinches of sea salt
*Fruity olive oil
*Splashes of balsamic vinegar, if you please
*Palmful of small basil leaves, to garnish
To make the ice cream: blend the basil leaves with the sugar and 1 cup of the cream in a small food processor until the leaves are finely minced. Put half of the basil mix in a large bowl with the other cup of cream and chill. Meanwhile, warm the rest of the basil mix with the milk and salt in a pot until steaming, then slowly temper the egg yolks by pouring the hot liquid into the eggs, whisking all the while - then scrape everything back into the pot and continue to cook over medium, stirring constantly. Cook without bringing to a boil just until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
At that point, remove from heat and pour through a sieve into the chilled cream mix. Add the lemon zest. Stir until cool, then pop in the fridge to chill thoroughly for a least a couple of hours, preferably overnight. Churn the mix in your ice cream maker, then store in an appropriate container to ripen further until you're ready to assemble the salad.
Drape slices of tomato over rounds of cheese and adorn with basil leaves. Sprinkle some salt and pepper across the salad, and add splashes of any oil/vinegar you'd like to use as well. Scoop out two or three little pats of lemon basil ice cream and serve!