If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, even a brief glance, you were not surprised, I’m sure, at the title of this post.
I kvetch quite a lot, especially on this soapbox in my little corner of the internet.
Fun, if not somewhat depressing, fact: 1 out of every 3 posts on this blog has been labeled with “whining.”
1 out of every 10, “Stupid.”
3 of every 20, “WISE.”
At least I have that ratio going for me… WISE>Stupid.
I won’t lie and say that my project has been going especially super duper well, simply because it has been somewhat stagnant in the last two weeks, primarily due to the fact that I have 4 finals within the next two weeks and 4 APs the two weeks following.
Needless to say, that has been consuming a lot of my time, energy, and, frankly, willpower.
I wanted to make something yesterday with basil, as we have two basil plants which have outgrown their welcome flourished, Lord knows how or why, in our kitchen.
It’s difficult for me to push WISE to the forefront of my mind and my worries these days.
I itch to get in the kitchen, but I have to force myself to work on other homework, else I fall behind (speaking of which, I already am behind…).  
I am relieved that my timeline for WISE is so much longer than my other classes; it may be only a few week difference between my APs and my WISE presentation, but I’ll be darned if it doesn’t feel wonderful not to have added pressure in yet another class.
I know there are still things I haven’t gotten to.
I know there are topics that are in dire need of attention.
I know because I read my project proposal once through, yet again (I found a typo! Send help!!!), and realized that while I have gone above and beyond certain expectations that I had had, I am also lacking in more than a couple.
About the dessert, ’cause that’s what we really care about around here:
I found this dessert by Michael Laiskonis (the plating makes me want to cry, it is so beautiful. And no, I am not joking.  I love that stinking cylindrical panna cotta so much.  How could you not?  It’s a little tube of beauty.) and ran with the inspiration.
First, I kept things small- the plate that you see is a tiny little tea saucer, though it looks rather large in the photos.  
Secondly, I loved the way he cut the strawberries- it’s unconventional and transforms them into a new, unfamiliar element which attracts the eye.   So yeah, I copied him there.  
Third, I had no idea that basil seeds, like flax and chia seeds, were mucilaginous.  Steeping them in basil syrup is so logical but so unexpected.  
It heightens the herbaceous and spicy notes of the seeds, while activating their mucilage-producing quality.
Yucky name, lovely texture- sort of “squeaky,” as Laiskonis describes it.
Stick with me for a few more weeks, guys.  
We’re in it for the long haul.
P.S. humblebrag… sorry not sorry… Look at that quenelle!!  Best one yet!  I’m figuring out more and more tricks:
boiling water
small spoon
NO drying off the spoon
a tall, plastic container with a rim for the ice cream.
Hallelujah, I might have quenelling down by the time I have to present.
strawberry curd
tomato spheres
balsamic reduction
steeped basil seeds
basil ice cream


for the strawberry curd:
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter
Bring the strawberries, sugar, salt, and lemon juice to a boil.  

Allow to simmer until the strawberries have broken down into a smooth mush consistency. 
Whisking vigorously, add the egg.
Cook over medium-low heat until the curd thickens.
Whisk in the butter.
Chill until use; press plastic wrap right onto the surface of the curd to store.

for the tomato spheres:
1/2 cup of tomato juice, freshly pressed out of a few tomatoes
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon agar
2 cups canola oil, chilled in the freezer for at least an hour
Stir the salt, sugar, juice, and agar together in a microwaveable, large container.  
Microwave on HIGH for 30 second bursts, until the mixture boils.
After the first burst that it boils, microwave it twice more, for a total of 1 minute 30 ish seconds of boiling in the microwave.
Remove the oil from the freezer (put it in a wide, large bowl).
Using a syringe, drop the liquid tomato gel into the oil.  It will congeal into little spheres.
Remove from the cold oil by straining the spheres out (the oil is reusable), then rinse in cool water and use.

for the basil seeds:
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
10 basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
1 tablespoon basil seeds
Bring the water, sugar, and basil leaves to a simmer just to dissolve the sugar.
Strain out the leaves.
The syrup should be a loose consistency.  
If it is not, simply add more water 1/2 a teaspoon at a time.
Sprinkle the basil seeds over the syrup and mix gently.
Allow to sit and become mucilaginous.  
To use, strain the syrup with a sieve.

for the basil ice cream:
adapted from Jeni’s
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons half and half
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon mascarpone
10-15 basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
1 vanilla bean, scraped
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup
pinch kosher salt
pinch gelatin (scant 1/8 teaspoon)
Bring the vanilla bean, the vanilla seeds, the half and half, the sugar, the salt, the corn syrup, and the basil leaves to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and whisk cornstarch in very well.

Place mascarpone in a bowl; strain the hot ice cream base over the mascarpone; discard basil leaves and vanilla pod; whisk well to dissolve mascarpone.
Sprinkle gelatin over the top of the mixture and whisk to combine.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then spin in your ice cream maker until smooth and creamy.
Store in a plastic container in the freezer.

for the balsamic reduction:
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Bring to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan.  
Allow to boil for 15-20 seconds, then remove from heat.
The reduction should be only slightly looser than a syrup.

to assemble:
micro basil leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
Smear a tablespoon or so of strawberry curd in a curve around your plate.
Place a large mound of whipped cream on the base of your plate; create a small well in the center with the back of a spoon.
Slice the very tips of the strawberries very thinly; place a few around the plate.
Spoon 1/4 teaspoon piles of basil seeds around the plate.
Garnish with micro basil leaves.
Splatter balsamic reduction across the side of the plate.
Place 1-2 tablespoons of tomato spheres in the well of your whipped cream.
Quenelle a scoop of basil ice cream and balance it on top of the spheres.
Serve immediately.

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