My cousin Peter, who lives in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, once invited me over to his house for drinks, and when I arrived I found him in the kitchen creating mixology magic using vodka, basil, lime, and green peppers. He blended the basil and green peppers to create a purée, which was then added to the muddled limes in an ice-filled glass and stirred with vodka. I loved the cocktail so much that I woke up the next morning and immediately went to work figuring out how to transform that cocktail into a pie.
I blended some fresh green bell peppers with the basil and then added sweetened condensed milk and Key lime juice. When experimenting, sometimes I find that all of the ingredients simply just won’t work. The green peppers did not really talk to me, but that basil was singing quite loudly and with perfect pitch.
The savory tartness of this pie (hello, basil, my love) is what makes it an unexpected and delicious surprise. Topping it with fresh strawberries provides a nice textural accompaniment to the custard’s silkiness.
1 nine-inch pie
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- In a small food processor or a blender, combine the basil leaves, olive oil, and 2 tablespoons (30g) of the Key lime juice. Using a silicone spatula, press the leaves toward the bottom to compress them, then pulse to blend the mixture. Pause the food processor or blender, add 2 more tablespoons (30g) of key lime juice, scrape down the sides of the container, and use the silicone spatula to press the mixture back down to the bottom. Blend once more until emulsified.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the basil purée and sweetened condensed milk until well blended and the filling is an even light green color. Add the egg yolks and whisk until well combined. While whisking, slowly pour in the remaining ¾ cup (180g) Key lime juice and continue to whisk until the juice has completely blended with the sweetened condensed milk. The mixture will begin to thicken as the acids in the lime juice react with the proteins in the sweetened condensed milk. Allow the mixture to stand for 5 minutes to thicken even more.
- Set the graham cracker pie shell on a baking sheet and pour in the filling. Bake until tiny bubbles emerge on the surface of the pie’s filling, about 15 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven. When cool, refrigerate until set and thoroughly chilled, at least 6 hours.
- Before serving, top the pie with the strawberries.
- Refrigerate the pie in a cake box for up to 7 days or freeze for up to 2 months. Remove the pie from the freezer and allow it to thaw for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and melted butter until the crumbs are well combined with the butter and there are no dry crumbs visible. Transfer the crumbs to a pie pan or baking dish and tamp down so that the crumbs form a solid layer across the bottom and up the sides of the pan or baking dish. Consult the recipe for how to bake the crust.