Posts tagged ‘ice cream’
Summer came screaming in like an out-of-control freight train around here. We had our first official heat wave (three days or more in a row with 90+ degree temperatures) in the first week of June which is some sort of record, I believe. The beautiful fragrant old garden roses have already come and gone. Last summer was cold and wet. This summer apparently is lining up to be hot and dry (except for today’s lovely soft rain). Me thinks the ice cream churner is going to be getting a lot of use these next few months. What a shame. It is a burden I will try to bear with grace.
First stop on the seasonal scoop tour is Rhubarb & Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream. I realize these two wonderful earl summer ephemerals may be slipping away from the farmers market stalls, but hopefully you can find a pint of berries and a bunch of stalks to give this recipe a go. It’s so creamy and fruity; the perfect early summer cool-down.
On another note, I have to say thank you to several of you who have really been so good to reach out to me - via lovely comments in the last post, thoughtful emails, or even in-person visits at the farmers market – letting me know how much you appreciate the blog. It’s been a challenge keeping up with all my passions (turns out there is a bottom to the creative juices in this vessel) and having your words of encouragement has meant a lot to me. I feel rejuvenated and already have several new recipes in the works to keep us all well-fed as the summer progresses. Thank you, dear friends!
I know it’s not exactly ice cream season any more, at least not here in Philadelphia. Unfortunately this is yet another recipe that slipped to the bottom of the drafts pool and just now is resurfacing since the weather is cold enough to keep me inside and at my computer with greater frequency. To make up for the untimely fashion in which I’m getting around to posting this decadent Pear Caramel Ice Cream, I’ll throw in another cookbook review with today’s recipe.
Falling Cloudberries, written by globetrotting Tessa Kiros, stopped me in my tracks when I saw its beautiful tapestry cover and the striking photos of both the food and places of Tessa’s travels inside its pages. I was thrilled to have a such a lovely book to have tucked on my bedside table to read a little bit each night. Tessa has written the book in a style that melds memoir with making delicious dishes out of local ingredients. Perfect, right?
Well, while the book is a real stunner and the stories within its pages heartfelt and poetic, I always judge a cookbook not by its cover, but by the recipes in its collection that I test. I have to be blunt: the recipes in Falling Cloudberries are not really worthy of the price on the dust jacket. While I love the cultural context in which Tessa chose her recipes, the reality is that the ingredients in many of them are quite hard to find and I couldn’t really think of any substitutes to try for the ones that did get me itching to make them. In the end, I tried the recipe for her potato salad and for this ice cream. The potato salad was such a disappointment I’m not even going to post that one. The original recipe from the book’s pages for this Pear Caramel Ice Cream was also a huge disappointment with the first batch I made, mostly because the caramel process Tessa presents is, in my humble opinion, misguided and resulted in a grainy consistency and not very sweet flavor.
I decided to make a second batch using my own caramel technique and, lo and behold, the flavor of this ice cream proved to be outstanding! The pear is soft and smoky from being steeped in the hot caramel and the caramel itself adds an unmistakable yet subtle golden richness to the cream while also adding a little chewy texture and a punch of flavor when drizzled in at the end of the churning to create little veins of gold in each scoop.
So with the right tweaking, I’m sure there are several recipes worth a look between the gorgeous covers of Falling Cloudberries. But you must be an adventurous cook willing to make the effort in order to use this book for its recipes. That being said, if you enjoy food more in spirit than in process, as many a foodie does, this is a book well worth having for its graceful storytelling and poignant photography. It would make a wonderful gift here at the holidays for the foodie traveler on your list or as a luxury purchase for yourself. Falling Cloudberries may not be a workhorse in the kitchen, but it certainly is a worthy piece of eye candy in the world of culinary reads.
Well, here’s a recipe that’s been waiting patiently in the draft pool for awhile now. It’s a real winner though and deserves its moment in the spotlight, even if the season for pawpaws has come and gone back in the earlier days of autumn. Pawpaws? Is that a typo? Nope, that’s the featured local – and highly unique – ingredient in today’s post.
Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) are the largest edible fruit (a berry to be precise) native to North America. I foraged mine from a small grove in the woods that I happened to find thanks to the directions of a friend. This fruit grows on small trees that are native to the Northeast, though with the disappearance of our natural woodlands with development, there aren’t so many around anymore. The trees tend to spread about, forming groves with both mature trees and saplings, all of which are easily distinguished from the other trees in the woods by their enormous leaves that come in groups of threes (thus the “triloba” in its botanical name). My mom knows an old song from when she was a girl about going picking in the pawpaw patch so I think this fruit was much more popular back in the day when there were plenty of rural areas still sustaining large numbers of native trees.
Ironically, the pawpaw today is once again in vogue, being touted as the next big thing in local fruit production. A few passionate folks have even taken upon themselves the task of planting entire orchards of pawpaws. This is a rather selfless act as these trees take nearly 20 years to mature and bear enough fruit to make them a viable commercial venture. In other words, you’d best be young when you plant your pawpaw trees. All joking aside, pawpaw trees are beautiful in the home landscape and should be consider if you are looking to plant a native tree in your yard or even city parks.
The fruit is well worth the wait. It’s completely unexpected in its flavor and texture, both of which are quite tropical. The texture, when ripe, is nearly identical to that of a banana. The flavor is a good deal harder to pin down with an easy comparison. Some people claim they taste like mangos, others like pineapple, still others think pawpaws taste like any old ripe banana. I can only say that in my opinion, they are delicious, sweet and “tropical”, but not really tasting like any of those other fruits.
The oblong fat green fruit begins ripening in mid September and is best shaken off the tree a little under ripe and set on a kitchen counter to soften. If you let the fruit ripen on the tree, it’ll fall to the ground and be immediately gobbled up by any and all woodland critters who are smart enough to realize that pawpaws are a real delicacy. Once harvested, pawpaws should be left on the countertop to ripen for just a few days until they get brown and squishy. That’s right…brown and squishy! That’s when the sugars really develop and the softer texture makes it easier to push out the large seeds from the flesh. Be careful though, they have a very short “shelf life” (one of the reasons they aren’t more common) and can quickly go past their prime.
Now, I’m sure I’ve piqued your interest. I wish that I could tell you all right where to go to get some of this delicious fruit next September. Sadly, I can’t. There’s a slim chance you’ll find it at a farmers market. There’s an even better chance that if you have some woodland near you that hasn’t been disturbed in many years that you can forage a basketful for yourself. The demand is certainly increasing for them and I hope that, like the tasty ground cherry, they’ll show up more and more with the new interest in locally grown and unusual fruit.
So, should you get your hands on some pawpaws next year, I’d highly recommend using them in this luscious ice cream! In general though, you can treat pawpaws like bananas since there aren’t a lot of pawpaw specific recipes out there. Have you ever tasted a pawpaw? If so, what did you think it tasted like?
Time for a change of pace, my friendly readers. We’re still in the midst of the Rhubarb Fest in the SFTF kitchen, but I seem to have misplaced the cord I need to download the latest pictures from my camera (eek!) so we’ll dive into the drafts I was holding onto until after the pink-tinged wave of recipes had subsided. Don’t worry. We aren’t going to stray far from the theme of seasonal sweet treats using red-hued local produce. Indeed, Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream is a perfect companion for just about any rhubarb concoction.
I can think of very few things that are more delicious than the combination of juicy just-picked strawberries and cold rich cream. There’s something just downright luscious about it. Every year when strawberry season rolls around again, I hunt down a pick-your-own place and go a little crazy. It’s typically proven to be a rather expensive splurge, but it’s worth it. This year I planted dozens of alpine strawberry plants (Fragaria vesca ‘Semperflorens’) in my garden and in containers around my deck. They haven’t yet produced any fruit this year, though they do have plenty of flowers and buds presently. The glory of the smaller and sweeter alpine strawberry is that it fruits all summer long, not just in June like the more robust and common commercial strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa).
While I await the arrival of my first baby berry, I was happy to chunk up these local strawberries from the farmers market, freezing them with some thick and frothy raw cow’s milk that I brought back with me from my family’s dairy farm. I know that you all probably think of supporting your local farmers all the time by buying your vegetables and fruit from them. I would encourage you (even nearly beg you) to not forget to do the same with dairy farmers who are selling milk and cheese and even occasionally ice cream. Right now the small-to-mid-size family-run dairy farms of our nation are suffering horribly from a crippling price slump in the milk market. My brother, who is trying very hard to keep the farm that’s been in our family for five generations operating, tells me just the basic daily operations of farming are causing him to pretty much hemorrhage money. The only apparent salvation is to sell our farm’s milk (and maybe cheese too) to the public directly and hope that they are willing to buy from us instead of the supermarket. So, please, remember your local dairy farmers too when you’re making your purchases.
In my family, there is an emerging holiday tradition that takes place between Christmas and New Year’s: a homemade ice cream contest between each segment of our immediate family. My three brothers and their respective families along with my parents and then D and myself all form teams to come up with an original ice cream flavor, which we then all make on the same day and have judged for bragging rights. Trust me, bragging rights are a far better prize than any other, although there’s talk of getting a gold-painted ice cream scoop for a traveling trophy.
This year was the first I participated as I usually had to leave for other engagements by the time the contest took place. I mulled over my flavor options for quite a few weeks. It’s not an easy task to come up with a winning scoop in this family of expert ice cream makers. One of those cartoon light bulbs went off when I hit upon the idea of Peppermint Dark Chocolate Ice Cream. It was seasonal, unique, and I already had a superb creamy rich chocolate recipe in my arsenal.
The day of the contest, last Friday, was chaotic with four teams (one brother bailed at the last minute) hard at work while simultaneously egging each other on with competitive jabs and threats of sabotage. Really, it was a blast. Each ice cream was made with gallons of fresh whole cows milk lugged across the 100 yards from the dairy barn to the house. And for my recipe, I used some amazing local brown eggs with yolks the color of deep golden late summer sunshine.
Four generations crowded into the kitchen for the official judging. A panel of three judges – my aunt, uncle and cousin – were tasked with determining the ice cream with the best taste and texture. They didn’t know who had made what flavor so it was about as fair as it could get within a highly competitive family. The other three flavors were Chocolate Covered Strawberry, Chocolate Cashew, and French Vanilla with Chocolate Chips. All tough and worthy contenders, to be sure.
Oh, and yes, I won.