Cucumber Basil Icecream (egg-less!)

I subscribe to the TastingTable which in a nutshell is an edgy free daily email-based publication that gives the inside scoop of the food & beverage culture – often divulging adapted recipes & techniques garnered by renowned chefs (from mostly around the country but also ex-pats such as the austere David Lebovitz). I highly recommend subscribing if you like reading about all things epicurean (& adding new food homages to your next travel destination). Not too long ago, the TastingTable sent out an article about cucumber ice cream from Allumette (a restaurant & bar located in the Echo Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles) – I’ve never been, & likely never will since it’s going to close its doors in a couple of days. Such is the life of restaurants – lively yet short-lived & fleeting at times.
But I digress.cucumber basil ice cream
Cucumber. Ice Cream. Often times when cucumber is utilised in food – one thinks of salads, cucumber tea sandwiches, maybe even gazpacho – or even a further tangent, in cocktails: cucumber gin & tonic. Or some other sort of refreshing beverage combination (cucumber mint spritzer, etc). But in dessert? Perhaps cucumber sorbet – no further than that. This is why the article intrigued me, because why not? Cucumbers definitely have a distinct flavour. Creamy cucumber icecream? Sounds good to me! Reading the recipe; it also seemed insanely simple: juice some Persian cucumbers, whisk the strained juice with heavy cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk & salt. Cover & leave in the fridge for a couple of hours & you are ready to churn the ice cream base. The original recipe yields 2 quarts; which for a household of two adults – that is A LOT of ice cream. . Also, being who I am; I couldn’t resist modifying the recipe. I wanted to give the cucumber ice cream an extra dimension of flavour: herbaceous summery basil. What I did instead, was set aside the heavy cream & muddled it with fresh basil leaves. While the cucumber juice (which by the way; has the most incredible vibrant emerald hue that I’ve fallen in love with) melded with the evaporated & condensed milk – I allowed the basil to infuse the cream overnight covered in a separate container. I then ran the basil-infused cream through a sieve & whisked it with the rest of the ice cream base: ready to be churned in your ice cream maker. Easy enough, right? I must also say; it has a wonderful dense-enough texture for being egg-less. It’s quite substantial (must be cos of the three different types of dairy). This is not a wimpy ice cream – it is definitely decadent & worthy of any summer barbecue!

persian cucumber juice
Cucumber Basil Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart | Requires an ice cream maker – have your ice cream maker bowl chilled in your freezer before you embark upon this recipe to make life easier!
{ based on Miles Thompson’s Cucumber Ice Cream recipe via the TastingTable }

½ C organic Persian cucumber juice (from approximately 4 cucumbers, depending on size)
1½ C evaporated milk
1¾ C sweetened condensed milk
1¼ t sea salt
1 C organic heavy cream
½ C fresh organic basil leaves (torn) < one can easily substitute this with fresh mint as well or just omit the herbs altogether >

1. Prepare half a cup of Persian cucumber juice by using your juicer or blender to purée the cucumbers whole – double strain to ensure that the cucumber pulp is removed.
If you truly love cucumber & can’t bear to have the pulp (which is full of fibre & nutrients) go to waste – you can throw it into a fruit smoothie. The vegetal taste is rather subtle & it just adds to the body of the smoothie.
2. Whisk the cucumber juice with the evaporated milk, condensed milk & sea salt. If you would rather straight cucumber icecream; whisk in the heavy cream as well.
3. However if you want to do the basil (or mint) infusion: muddle the leaves into the heavy cream & set aside in the fridge to steep, covered overnight. I decided that muddling it would be the best way to go about it; because if you didn’t know – basil leaves tend to oxidise (aka turn brown) unless it is emulsified with fat/oil. The milk fat in the heavy cream is not enough to prevent the heavy oxidation (which would be the case if the basil leaves were food-processed with the heavy cream). However; if you desire a strong basil flavour & don’t mind a brown-tint to your ice cream.. By all means, blend away!
You could get away with having the cucumber juice, dairy & salt to meld in the fridge for a couple of hours if you are short on time. However keep in mind; the longer the ice cream base melds, the better the flavours will come through.
4. When you deem the ice cream base ready – pour your ice cream base into your chilled ice cream maker bowl & proceed to churn! This will take about 20-30 minutes. Check for a thick soft-serve consistency & transfer it into a preferably chilled container, cover it airtight & put it in the freezer for at least an hour before serving. I like to save some of the smaller basil leaves to garnish my ice cream scoops. & if you are adventurous; I highly recommend a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar right on top. It gives it just a bit of extra acidity to cut the creaminess of the ice cream. Just unbelievably good. I intend on making this for many-a-summer to come.

& if cucumber ice cream isn’t your thing – I have to share one of my favourite sodas of all time. DRYSoda (a Seattle company) has a cucumber soda that is deliciously refreshing. It’s got just a hint of sweetness (only 11g of cane sugar as opposed to the usual 36g of high fructose cane-syrup from other carbonated soda companies). It only has four ingredients & is kosher, gluten-free, sodium-free, caffeine-free. DrySoda has a beautiful array of flavours (11 in all!) & aside from cucumber – I really enjoy their ginger, rhubarb, lavender, pear & lemongrass (well… when they did have lemongrass.. it’s been discontinued.. as you can guess, I’ve been a fan of DRYsoda for years now). The product line is lovely & sophisticated – they pair well with food & are versatile as mixers (speaking from experience – a splash of gin + cucumber DRYsoda is a winning combo). They’ve launched nationwide, so you are sure to find them in any Kroger, Safeway, QFC, Ralph’s, WholeFoods, Sprouts, Pharmaca, etc.

Thanks for reading my tangents on cucumber…
Happy summer, everyone!

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