It’s not summer without the ice cream machine in steadyuse.
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups half and half
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
Beat together the eggs and sugar until thickened and pale yellow.
Meanwhile, bring the half and half to a simmer over low heat in a large, heavyweight pan. Slowly beat the hot liquid into the eggs and sugar, then pour back into the saucepan and heat over very low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Don’t let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble (yuck). Remove from the heat and strain into a clean bowl. Allow the custard to cool slightly, the add the cream and peppermint, then chill for several hours or overnight.
Once you’re reading to make ice cream, stir the custard and freeze in your ice cream machine. While that’s churning, melt the chocolate, and then when the ice cream is very nearly done, slowly pour the melted chocolate into the ice cream while the machine is running. Keep the machine running a minute or two longer to spread the chocolate threads throughout the ice cream. Eat immediately, or pack into a freezer container to harden.
I grant that this post is a little silly. I know for most folks zucchini blossoms are more of a rare summer treat than something you’re looking for new ways to prepare. They are too fragile to find in grocery stores, so you really need either to grow them yourself or look for them at a farmer’s market, where they aren’t cheap. And once you have them at home, well, when they are so tasty dipped in batter and fried, why look any further?
But I was taken by Melissa Clark’s recent NYT column about zucchini blossoms, in which she points out what we really all know: once you batter and fry something, especially something as delicate as a zucchini blossom, the prevailing flavor disappears in the larger sensation of salty crunch. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but, maybe there’s another way?
And also, I’d bought a bag full of the flowers expecting friends for dinner; their plans changed but my sense of urgency about getting to the blossoms before they wilted did not. So I figured two preparations would be the best way to handle the bounty.
Within two blocks of my family’s San Francisco home, we have two taquerias plus a Mexican restaurant, one burger place, one salad and sandwich place, one seafood restaurant, three sushi restaurants, two Thai restaurants, two Indian restaurants, one Peruvian restaurant, one Ethiopian restaurant, one place for gyros, three pubs, three pizza places, three Asian-vegetarian restaurants, a Vietnamese restaurant, a couple greasy spoon diners, a donut shop, two ice cream parlors, and several bars and cafes.
It’s a wonder we cook at all, really.
But we do, and Tony often takes inspiration from the local restaurants to make something new at home. He’s made the shiitake mushroom dumplings from the now-sadly-closed Eos, a roasted tomato and pumpkin seed salsa from a nearby taqueria, and a lemon and chard pasta dish from the Italian place near the boys’ school. His latest homemade version of a local dish is vegetarian banh mi, from the Vietnamese place I didn’t even know we had (maybe because there’s nothing in the name to indicate it’s Vietnamese food?) Their version has some glass noodles and shiitake mushrooms and I have to say, I prefer Tony’s, which we’ve all been eating a lot this summer. It takes a few make-ahead steps, but once you’ve done them, you can be eating banh mi quickly. Here’s how he does it.
Next, shred a few carrots into matchsticks and toss them into a bowl. Cover with a simple pickling liquid of equal parts rice wine vinegar and sugar. Add a sprinkle of salt, stir, and let sit for 30 minutes. If you like cucumber or radish, go ahead and add them in matchsticks, too, and just increase the amount of pickling liquid to cover.
Then, make a batch of caramelized golden tofu, cutting the tofu into long fingers. If you like, cook some sliced shallots with the tofu.
The pickled vegetables and chili paste will keep indefinitely in the fridge; a batch of tofu will keep a couple days.
Once you have those three basic elements in place, all you need is a soft roll and some cilantro. You might also want some fresh mint, jalapenos, and a squeeze of lime juice. Spread some chili paste on the roll, stack the tofu, vegetables and cilantro on your roll in proportions to taste, and eat.
Serves one; adjust amounts according to taste (and your supplies)
Several handfulls of arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 apricot, sliced thinly
6-8 toasted pecan halves
about half an ounce of sharp cheddar cheese (use a vegetable peeler to get thin shavings)
a drizzle of your favorite vinaigrette
Toss all the ingredients together until nicely dressed. Serve.