How about insalata caprese for dessert? Most of us love the famous combination of tomato, buffalo mozzarella, and basil as a savory dish. But it is also delicious as a dessert with the basil transformed into ice cream. The technique for making basil ice cream is the same as for making mint ice cream. Cherry tomatoes are roasted in the oven to bring out their sweetness (with a bit of sugar added for good measure). The buffalo mozzarella just needs to be served at room temperature to bring out its flavor. Balsamic vinegar is not a good idea on the savory version of insalata caprese (because it would overpower the other flavors), but a balsamic syrup is great when drizzled on top of this. As a finishing touch, a drizzle of the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford. And some toasted pine kernels. What’s not to love?
A note on the balsamic vinegar: if you can find it, it is best to use balsamic vinegar without caramel used for coloring. Many producers add caramel to their balsamic vinegar to make it look more like the expensive aceto balsamico tradizionale (which has to be aged for at least 12 years). When you reduce the balsamic to make a syrup, the caramel will give an unpleasant burnt taste.
For 4 servings
50 grams fresh basil leaves (about 3 cups)
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) whole milk
125 ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream (about 35% fat content)
4 egg yolks
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
250 ml (1 cup) balsamic vinegar
50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
250 grams (.55 lb) buffalo mozzarella
2 Tbsp pine kernels, toasted
good quality extra virgin olive oil
250 grams (.55 lb) cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp sugar
olive oil for greasing the oven dish
Wash and dry 50 grams of basil leaves. Put them in a saucepan, and cover with 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) of whole milk.
Press down on the basil leaves to submerge them…
…and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat as soon as the milk starts to boil, then turn off the heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
After those 10 minutes, transfer the milk and basil to a blender and blend on high speed until very smooth.
Use a food mill fitted with a fine sieve…
…to strain the basil-infused milk.
Combine 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar in a bowl with 4 egg yolks.
Whisk the egg yolks and the sugar.
Keep whisking until the mixture becomes pale.
Now add the basil-infused milk to the egg yolk and sugar mixture, and whisk to mix.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
Heat to about 85C/185F over medium high heat, while stirring constantly. I like to use a thermometer with a probe, as it allows me to heat the mixture quickly without the risk of bringing it to a boil (we don’t want that to happen as the eggs would curdle). If you don’t use a thermometer, you could also stir over medium low heat until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. That will take a lot longer and I am not a very patient person.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl or jug and add 125 ml (1/2 cup) of heavy cream.
Whisk to mix.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture is completely cold.
As soon as it is cold, churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a container and put it in the freezer to harden.
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F. Cut 250 grams (.55 lb) of cherry tomatoes in half. Lightly oil an oven proof dish. Arrange the cherry tomatoes in a single layer, cut side up, and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar.
Roast the tomatoes for half an hour at 160C/325F. Afterwards, take them out of the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
To make the balsamic syrup, pour 250 ml (1 cup) balsamic vinegar into a saucepan.
Add 50 grams (1/4 cup) of sugar.
Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Simmer the mixture until it is thick and syrupy and reduced to about 125 ml (1/2 cup). Take into account that the syrup will become thicker and may even harden as it cools. If the syrup becomes solid when it cools off to room temperature, add a bit of balsamic vinegar and stir over low heat to loosen up the syrup and mix in the balsamic you just added. Allow the balsamic syrup to cool to room temperature. (Store any leftover balsamic syrup in the refrigerator in a covered container. It will keep for a long time.)
Put the ice cream in the refrigerator for half an hour before serving, so the ice cream can soften a bit. Arrange mozzarella, tomatoes, and ice cream on serving dishes, and drizzle with the balsamic syrup and extra virgin olive oil. Garnish with the pine kernels and serve at once (before the ice melts).
This is nice with Brachetto d’Aqui, the red cousin of Moscato d’Asti. If you can’t find it, regular Moscato d’Asti will do in a pinch.
Pasta with stewed kidney beans is a hearty flavorful dish, perfect for winter.