Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Last Day of Summer--???

We all know Labor Day signals the official end of summer, but in Texas, we also know that-- it's TEXAS-- we do our own thing!  School started weeks ago and the summer heat will last another month.  However, that doesn't dampen our spirits when it comes to the other Labor Day traditions:  BBQ and homemade ice cream!  Ben is a terrific BBQ-er and I'm hoping to persuade him to do a guest blog sometime.  He made the best smoked pork shoulder ever yesterday! He always does a chicken at the same time, which is another one of his specialities.  
You'll have to wait on the secrets of Texas BBQ (He's got another yard project going right now and wants to get it done in the "cool" hours of the day.), but that brings us to the other Labor Day subject:  homemade ice cream!
When Marie was little, we used to have all the neighbor kids over and make ice cream the old fashioned way.  It was fun to let / (force) them all to take turns cranking away.  Now, I have the most wonderful invention by Cuisinart!  If you have one of their counter-top ice cream makers, you know what a great machine it is.  It makes up to a quart of ice cream in no time!  I always thought I didn't need one, but they don't cost much, so I thought I'd give one a try.  Turns out it's so easy and fun to use, I've made all kinds of ice creams and sorbets that I wouldn't have even tried before, especially now that I don't have the "child labor" hanging around my neighborhood anymore!  They all grew up-- or got smarter-- or both!
Anyway, there were lovely figs at the Farmer's Market, and that got me thinking about the Orange-Fig gelato at our Austin Whole Foods Market.  Ben loves that stuff, and if we even pass through Austin,  he usually stops for an "Orange-Fig" break!  I decided to try making my own version and came up with this recipe, adapted from a fig ice cream recipe from the "Chez Panisse Desserts" cookbook.  It turned out really delicious!  Creamy, but refreshing, it was the perfect dessert for a 100 degree "end of summer" celebration :)

Orange-Fig Ice Cream
1 lb. very ripe figs
3 Tbl. fresh squeezed orange juice
grated rind of one small orange
1.5 cups light cream (like half and half)
1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tbl.
3 egg yolks (lightly beaten with a fork)
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Slice off the stems from the figs and cut them into quarters.  Place them in a small pot (not aluminum) with the orange juice and rind.  Cook over low heat until they are very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring often.  Mash the figs with a potato masher, put them through a food mill, or process into a puree in a food processor.  Set aside.
Warm 1 cup of the cream and the sugar in another (not aluminum) saucepan, whisking.  When the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat and whisk in the egg yolk slowly.  Keep whisking briskly until the yolks are blended in completely.  Put the pan back on the heat and cook and stir until it is slightly thickened.  Use gentle heat. 
Add the remaining cream, the vanilla and the fig puree.  Stir well and pour into a non-metal container.  Chill in the fridge thoroughly, then process in the ice cream maker.  If you have time and will-power, pack the ice cream in a plastic container and put it in the freezer to harden and develop more flavor.

Aren't figs so beautiful?!


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