Easter is around the corner and there are plenty of Italian traditions that go with it. I would say that for Italians, Easter is the second most...
It’s summer, and that means gelato and sorbetto aplenty. Try these two recipes for delicious and refreshing desserts. The sorbetto is easy to do, and with its clean bright taste, it captures the best of summer blueberries. It makes a delightful dessert on its own, served with fresh berries or with amaretti cookies. The gelato, with its kiss of basil and a blueberry swirl redolent of grappa is a summer pairing you are sure to enjoy. The fresh taste of basil marries beautifully with the sweet blueberry swirl for a unique frozen dessert. This gelato is wonderful by itself right out of the container, but served with yellow peaches and blueberries, it is a very special summertime treat indeed.
After a few hours in the freezer, both take on the perfect consistency, but after a longer freeze they will be quite firm. If you find them too firm to scoop, place the containers on the counter and leave them at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Makes about 1 quart
1 ¼ pound (20 oz.) blueberries
⅔ cup vanilla sugar
⅓ cup water
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over a medium flame, mashing the berries, until the mixture comes to a boil, about 10 to 12 minutes. Set a sieve over a medium bowl, and pour the blueberry mixture through. Using a silicone spatula, force the mixture through the sieve, catching the puree in the bowl. Scrape the bottom of the sieve using a clean spatula. Discard the seeds and skins. You should have about 2 cups of blueberry puree. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Place in an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a container and place in the freezer for 2 hours or longer to cure.
Basil-Blueberry Swirl Gelato
Makes about 1 quart
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 grappa
Peaches or fresh berries to serve and basil leaves for garnish
Make the basil base: 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 heat, cover and steep 20 minutes. Strain and discard basil. 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. Reheat milk mixture and slowly dribble half into the beaten yolks, whisking all the while. Return all of the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, scraping 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 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 8 hours or overnight to chill thoroughly.
Make the Blueberry Swirl: place blueberries, granulated sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low to medium heat, crushing berries as they soften. Cook until the mixture forms a thick sauce, 12 to 15 minutes. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl, and using a spatula press the mixture through the strainer. 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. When gelato has finished churning, transfer one half to a freezer 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 in the freezer 4 to 6 hours to cure.
Cook’s Note: Vanilla sugar, a fragrant blend of sugar and vanilla beans is simple to make and adds rich, deep vanilla flavor and perfume to drinks, syrups and baked goods. To make your own place 2 cups of granulated sugar in a container. Scrape the seeds from one vanilla bean and stir into the sugar. Bury the vanilla pod in the sugar. Cover tightly for 1 to 2 weeks to allow the vanilla to permeate the sugar.