Friday, June 20, 2008

I Scream

...Make Sure You Have Some Flavor
I went to Boston this past Monday for a book launch party for Recipe of the Week: Ice Cream (Wiley 2008), by Sally Sampson. This is the third book of Sally's I have worked on, so finally meeting her in person was fantastic. You can check out a picture of her on her editor's blog (blogs, blogs, everywhere).The party was at Toscanini's in Cambridge,and I stayed at Irving House ,which was close by. I flew in Monday afternoon and the party was at 5, but I still had enough time to check out Formaggio Kitchen. When I finally found it, I walked in and was overwhelmed by cheese. I was humbled by cheese. The girl behind the counter asked me, "What kind of cheese do you like?" And, me being humbled by cheese (at the selection), couldn't just say, blue, brie, gorgonzola, swiss, cheddar...the first types to pop into my head, I said..."All cheeses!" She looked at me like I was ridiculous. "Do you like mild, sweet, sharp, nutty...?" ug. I said," Just cut me some hunks. And can I have some of that Chorizo to go with it?" Geez. I can't believe I let myself be intimidated by cheese. She ended up giving me a couple of hunks to taste--which I couldn't help but eat on my walk home. Success. Now I need to try the one in the city, Formaggio Essex, which I hear is quite small, but this time I will be a little more...confident. After the party Sally, Gus Rancatore (owner of Toscanini's), and Sally's son and I had dinner at East Coast Grill. I had a great shrimp and scallop dish that had a bit of an Asian twist.

Tuesday morning Sally and I had breakfast at a little place in Harvard Square called Crema Cafe. My latte was the beautiful kind--one sip and I felt European. My English muffin had to be homemade, and my egg was scrambled to perfection. Eggs are easy to make, but even easier to screw up. SO. Boston was a success. Cambridge was in a word, lovely. Sally was sassy and has easily become one of my favorite people to work with.

I am taking a food writing class with Media Bistro, and one of our assignments was to write about cooking with a piece of equipment. I was inspired to write about ice cream, since I had been flipping through Sally's book for a few weeks. Here it is below. Get excited.
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I can only survive the crackling heat of summer with one thing--ice cream. 

Last week I found myself at “my” bodega, whole wheat pita bread in one hand, hummus in the other. I hesitated in front of the standing freezer and stared down at that little circular cardboard container. It stared back at me—Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, the most seductive and smooth ice cream in the world, and I couldn't resist. After I got home and dug into the chocolate. It is always a stressful process, because I have to get either a white or chocolate chunk with every bite. Some of you might be able to relate to this with say, Lucky Charms, when you need a marshmallow with every bite. Then I realized, I have been limiting myself. There are more flavors out there. There is a more cost effective, fresh, and flavorful way to make ice cream in my very own home. Ben and Jerry be afraid. I decided to buy an ice cream maker. Homemade ice cream, here I come.

Honestly, this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. My friends and I get together to make dinner about once a week, and I have often thought about how great it would be to have an ice cream maker. There was an “incident” on Italian Night when I had planned on pouring a homemade ganache over coffee ice cream. My roommate was responsible for getting the ice cream. When she got home she claimed, “I went everywhere. No one had coffee.” Now, I would never have to overcome such devastation again. “No coffee” never again. Now, which ice cream maker would be the best choice? I have a Kitchen Aid, and I debated whether or not to buy the attachment. It is still about $70 on Amazon and the Kitchen Aid website. So, after perusing the aisles at Linens and Things, I had two Cuisinart models to choose from. There was the cheaper, $49.99 version, and the expensive (high-tech looking) $99.99 version. Tight times call for cheap measures, so I chose the $49.99 one. Plus, it looked simpler to use, and I admit cooking equipment intimidates me.
Saturday night, my friend Stephanie and I had a huge dinner planned. Homemade guacamole, mojitos (which can also ease the insufferable heat of summer), fajitas, and for the grand finale mint chocolate chip ice cream made in my white, new, and shiny ice cream maker.
What a let down. As soon as I opened the box and read the directions the first thing I read was: Freeze bowl for 6 to 22 hours. 6 to 22 hours? That must be a typo, I thought. I mashed up avocados, checked the freezer bowl. Chopped peppers, checked the freezer bowl. The bowl seemed cold to me. I read the directions again: If you can still hear the liquid when you shake the bowl, put it back in the freezer. The liquid inside the bowl sloshed around as I shook it. Drat. I would have to wait to get my ice cream fix. The next morning, I awoke with a start. It’s frozen! I was like a kid on Christmas. It’s frozen! I walked back to Stephanie’s air-conditioned apartment where I had left the bowl the night before. “It’s frozen!” I acclaimed, as she opened her door. She was half-awake, but ready to lend her moral support. I cracked open Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food (Wiley 1998), my go-to book, and found the recipe I had chosen to modify a bit. I had decided to take his recipe for Basic French Vanilla Ice Cream and add mint and food coloring. Voila. Mint Chocolate Chip. As a first time maker of ice cream, I didn’t quite realize how much waiting this would all require. I had stirred, then heated, then stirred. Now, I had to let the mixture of half-and- half, sugar, and eggs, cool to 40 degrees in the fridge. I felt impatient to say the least. So, Steph and I watched television, and I kept glancing back at my white, new, and shiny ice cream maker, as if I expected it to get up and walk out the door.
I must have gotten up a dozen times to check the mixture, which Bittman suggested I set in a bowl of ice to hasten the process. The thermometer read 43 degrees. Good enough.I took the freezer bowl out of the freezer, and locked it into place. Then I poured the neon green (yes, they now make food coloring in neon colors) liquid in freezer bowl and snapped the plastic lid over top. I pressed ON and the machine began whirring and churning. In only about ten minutes, the ice cream began to thicken, and I could see it clumping to the sides of the handle in the freezer bowl. Twenty minutes later, I added the chunks of the semi-sweet Ghirardelli bar I had chopped up. I think the pieces might have been a little too big, because the freezer bowl jumped a few times, but the ice cream was also getting gooey and thicker at this point. I spooned the sweet, creamy green mass off the sides of the handle…and took a bite. It melted onto all sides of my tongue, and the minty vanilla flavor immediately made me smile. Good bye Ben and Jerry’s. Hello homemade.