Don’t Try This at Home: Basil Ice Cream

We haven’t been paying a lot of attention to our garden this year, being distracted by having a 5-month-old in the house, but alongside the cherry tomatoes, the basil has been flourishing. So much so that I have been using it in everything I can: salads, bruschetta, even infused olive oil. But last night I crossed the line. I made basil ice cream.

I got the recipe from a respectable source, David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop. And while I feel that the recipe was sound, I don’t think that ice cream made with herbs or other savory ingredients is to my taste. Or to the taste of anyone eating dinner at my house last night, unfortunately for them.

The problem with basil ice cream is that the unexpected appearance of a savory flavor in what you have assumed to be dessert is very off-putting. The pungent quality of the basil seems to fight with the rich sweet cream in a way that is not pleasurable. And it didn’t help that I kept tasting it long after dinner was over with. It had staying power.

This is not the first time I have failed at making ice cream with a savory ingredient. My attempt to make raspberry-chile sorbet for my mother’s birthday was also a spectacular failure. The chile didn’t seem very strong when I was making the base, so I kept adding more, forgetting that the flavors intensify after freezing. The result was inedible, although my mother, to her credit, choked it down.

So I cannot recommend Lebovitz’s basil ice cream recipe. And I think this is the end of my experiments with unusual ice cream flavors. If you are coming over to dinner any time soon, you don’t have to worry — I’ll present you with a luscious chocolate or a refreshing fruit sorbet instead.

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Try This at Home: Basil Ice Cream

  1. Lars 25 August 2008 at 1:30 pm

    I have seen the Lebovitz recipy for the basil ice cream, but i tried making this: http://cookalmostanything.blogspot.com/2007/01/basil-ice-cream.html, and I feel it came out very good. The basil taste is spot on, and it is still sweet, so it feels like a dessert.
    However, as you are suggesting the basil ice cream doesnt play well with other ice creams, especially not cream based ones. I served mine with rhubarb sorbet, and strawberry sorbet, and even tho the rhubarb itself packed quite a strong taste you would want to eat the basil ice cream last, or it would overpower the other icecreams by a mile.

    Next time I’m making it, it will be different. I will either make it less strong, and hence easier to match with other ice creams. OR I will go a diffrerent way, and serve a less sweet basil ice with tomato slices and mozzarella. Like a mad scientist twist on insalata caprese 😀

  2. Shannon 25 August 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Lars-
    I don’t know if I will make it again, but I admire your willingness to experiment. I definitely would try that insalata caprese!

  3. mulder 27 December 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I would encourage anyone to try this in spite of your warning – while savory ingredients may be off-putting to you, many people I know (self included – in fact, I can’t go back to “ordinary” flavors now) have tried ice creams made from chilies, tequila, basil, fennel, tomato, ginger, sesame, wasabi, etc. and enjoyed them thoroughly. Many people who like dessert but are overwhelmed by sweet, heavy, and rich flavors would find basil ice cream to be the perfect combination of flavors and textures. In other words: do try this at home! It’s delicious, especially with a teaspoon of vanilla added in the cream.

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