Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gelato al Limone

Here's a lost post from about a year ago that never made it out of the draft state!  Just as relevant today (though my most recent use of my ice cream maker was mango frozen yogurt, which you can find a recipe for here, if you're so inclined)... but anyway, here's that year-old post:

OMG, You Guys. Lemon gelato.

I don't use my ice cream maker as often as I'd like, in fact I think I didn't even use it once last summer, and I only just brought it out of the freezer this past week, but I intend to make up for lost time and make a lot of gelato for the rest of the summer (also sorbetto). Possibly weekly.

I saw a lot of recipes on the internet (some using just milk, some with egg yolks, various amounts of cream, etc) for lemon gelato (this is the simplest, and it actually seems both amazing and ridiculously effort-free, I might try it next) but I ended up adapting this one

My main change was a kind of chemistry experiment - I know from some sorbet recipes I've made (and from Cook's Illustrated) that adding a little alcohol of some kind keeps frozen desserts from getting too hard once they spend a day in the freezer (a problem I ran into this past weekend making a ricotta gelato recipe from a Mario Batali cookbook, a type of gelato thickened with cornstarch instead of eggs).

Anyway, I didn't have quite as much lemon juice as the recipe called for, and I wanted to see if I could avoid the rock-hard-the-next-day problem, so I filled out my scant lemon juice with some triple sec (a citrusy liqueur, you could use Grand Marnier or Cointreau if you were fancy enough to have it in the house). It worked beautifully! The day I made it, the gelato was almost as soft as soft serve, after the requisite 2 hours in the freezer, and the next day it was totally scoopable, actually legitimately gelato textured like you'd get at a gelateria.

Gelato al limone
makes about 2 quarts
adapted from a recipe on

1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
4 lemons
5 egg yolks
triple sec or any other citrus or lemon flavored alcohol product
2 cups heavy cream
vanilla and lemon extracts (optional)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel zest in big strips (avoiding the white pith) off three of the lemons. Add the zest to a medium-large heavy bottomed pot along with the milk and sugar, and put over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a heat proof spatula to help the sugar dissolve. 
Heat to 175 degrees (if you don't have a thermometer, it should just start to steam on the surface, not bubble or boil at all).

While the milk/zest mixture heats, beat the egg yolks lightly in a 2 quart metal bowl and prepare an ice water bath in another larger bowl (preferably metal, and big enough for the 1st bowl to snug down into later).
Squeeze the 4 lemons of their juice, into a measuring cup* - you should ideally have about 1/2 cup juice. Add triple sec to bring the volume up to 2/3 cup.

When the milk is hot, slowly whisk it into the yolks, a very little bit at a time. If you rush this tempering process, you'll have lemony scrambled eggs, so take your time. Once you've got about half of the milk mixture beaten in, you can go ahead and add the rest more quickly.

Return this milk/egg/zest mixture to the pan, and put it over medium heat, stirring, until it reaches 160 degrees. 
If you don't have a thermometer (get a thermometer!) it should coat the back of a spoon at this point. Pour it back into your smaller metal bowl, and place that bowl in the ice water bath. Stir until fairly cool, if you have time (if you don't, you'll have to leave the finished mixture in the fridge a lot longer before you can put it in your ice cream maker, 6-8 hours, as opposed to the 3 hours I did).

Once cool, I poured the mixture into a bowl with a spout to make adding it to the ice cream maker later a bit easier - I strained out the lemon zest pieces at that point.

Stir in the lemon juice/triple sec, the 2 cups of cream (I think this could be light cream, half and half, or even just more whole milk potentially, I plan to experiment with this more) and the vanilla and lemon extracts (1 tsp of vanilla, 1/8 tsp of lemon only).

Cover and refrigerate until very cold (or else your ice cream maker insert won't have enough cooling power to freeze it all the way). Freeze according to your particular ice cream maker's instructions, and then transfer to a container and put in the freezer for a couple of hours before serving.

Unfortunately, we somehow ate all of this gelato before I managed to take a pretty picture of some of it in a bowl or cone.  I will make more very soon so we can get a picture, just for the sake of thoroughness, of course.

*when I made mine I had only 3 lemons, which produce about 1/3 cup of juice. I had Jenean's bottle of key lime juice in my fridge, so I topped the lemon juice off with key lime juice up to 1/2 cup, and then added triple sec up to 2/3 cup.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

This is a classic from our childhood, modified just a little. The basic idea is that sometimes it's so hot that you don't want to cook any more than to boil some pasta, and if you have some tomatoes (regular or cherry or grape), you're most of the way there.  I made this on a hotter-than-hell type day just after I got done running a week long summer chamber music festival, and these were grape tomatoes leftover from our opening orientation crudite platter.  I had been so busy planning SICPP for so long (there's my excuse for the 2+ months since our last blog post!) that there was practically nothing else in my house to eat... this kind of turn-practically-nothing-into-something dish is my favorite way to cook.  Makes a great cold leftover meal too.
1 pound dried pasta (pieces work best)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes, or 2 pounds regular tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
fresh basil (if possible), sliced into ribbons, OR fresh parsley (if you have it), chopped
1/2+ cup grated parmigiano (plus more for serving)
zest and juice of 1 lemon (optional)


Set a big pot of water to boil for the pasta. Have 3 tablespoons of salt ready to throw in there when it comes to a boil.

In a microwave safe glass bowl large enough to fit a pound of cooked pasta, combine the good quality extra virgin olive oil and the garlic, which you can either press through a garlic press, chop small, or mash to a paste with some coarse salt and the side of your knife. Microwave for 1 minute.

If you're using grape or cherry tomatoes, all you have to do is slice them in half, and add them to the warm garlic oil. If you're using whole tomatoes, it's good to cut them in half around the equator and squeeze out the seeds before dicing them and adding them to the oil (if you want an extra layer of fussiness, as some in my family are inclined towards, you can peel big tomatoes). Add salt and pepper to taste, and the lemon zest and juice if you want it. If you have time, it's great to leave this to marinate ("to let the flavors marry" as our dad likes to say), but if you're in a hurry, it's not necessary.

Stir in the grated cheese (if you have the patience to use the fine grating side of your cheese grater, that's best for this, but microplane grating will do - just be sure that if you're measuring 1/2 cup, you pack it in to measure it (microplaning makes billowy piles of cheese that look like more than they really are).

Cook your pasta (salting the water once it comes to the boil), drain it well, and throw it into the bowl with the tomatoes/olive oil/cheese etc. Throw your fresh basil or parsley on top, toss around to combine, and serve, with extra cheese if you like.  Confession - I didn't have any fresh herbs, and was too tired to go to the store, and used a dried Italian Seasoning mix - it wasn't bad, but FRESH BASIL IS THE BEST, BELIEVE ME.

pasta with fresh tomato sauce

VARIATIONS: throw some broccoli florets or cut up green beans in with the pasta for the last 4-5 minutes of cooking; throw some green peas into the pasta water right before draining; add some chopped up leftover cooked chicken or some chickpeas for extra protein; when tossing in the herbs at the end, add some fresh arugula or spinach; add some drained capers and/or chopped briny olives, and swap the parmigiano for feta or ricotta salata.