This really should’ve been something to talk about during those dog days of July and August. My lemon verbena grows like a weed during summer, but the only one to use it the most is the Westie (she prefers nibbling the leaves to grass when she has a tummy upset). The idea of using lemon verbena in gelato is not new, but I have yet to see it made with the addition of caramelized figs. Fico Rosa di Pisticci (written about previously) holds up well during the cooking process, and contrasts beautifully in both color and taste.
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 yolks plus 1 large egg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup verbena leaves, loosely packed
For the caramelized figs:
1/2 cup chopped Fico Rosa di Pisticci figs (or other fig variety with red flesh)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1. Heat the milk and cream in a heavy saucepot until tiny bubbles form around the edge. Add the lemon verbena leaves, remove from heat, and set aside to infuse for 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and egg together with the sugar until light in color. Temper the egg mixture by slowly whisking in the hot lemon verbena milk (leaves included) in a thin, steady stream. Pour the mixture back into a clean saucepot and cook over very low heat, stirring frequently, until it coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow to overcook as the eggs will curdle. Remove from heat and cool completely. When the mixture has cooled (you can facilitate this by setting the pot on a bowl of ice), pour into a clean dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. This overnight step is key to obtaining a good lemon verbena flavor and gives the gelato base enough time to get really cold.
3. For the figs: melt butter in a saucepot and add the figs and sugar. Cook and stir over low heat until the sugar has caramelized. Cool completely.
4. Strain the lemon verbena gelato base and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions until the desired consistency. Scoop gelato into the container you will use to store the gelato, and gently fold in the caramelized figs. Freeze until firm enough to hold its shape.