Servings: Serves 10–12
In a large saucepan combine milk and heavy cream. Split vanilla bean lengthwise. Using a small paring knife, scrap out seeds and then put seeds and pod into milk mixture. Add fennel seeds and 3/4 cup of basil leaves. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and allow flavors to steep for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, finely chop the remaining 1/4 cup of basil and set aside in a moist paper towel to keep fresh. In a medium stainless steel bowl, combine yolks and sugar, whisk for 2 to 3 minutes until it reaches a pale yellow color, and sugar is dissolved.
Reheat milk mixture until very hot but not boiling, and slowly pour about a third of it into eggs, whisking constantly. Then pour this mixture back into the saucepan with remaining milk. Over medium heat, stir constantly with a wooden spoon until thick and can coat the back of the spoon. Do not let it boil. Remove bean pods and strain seeds, beans and leaves while transferring into a large bowl. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Using an ice cream machine, process according to manufacturer's instructions. Just before frozen, add reserved chopped basil to ice cream in the machine. Serve when firm enough to scoop.
From the July 2001 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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