Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sorry honey cantaloupe

I was wondering what David Lebovitz would be like in person. First of all, I assumed he would be really fat, because in every other entry on his blog he talks about how he's eaten too much beurre noisette and needs to go on une regime. Second, I guessed that he might have a French accent after living in Paris for more than a decade now. And third, I figured that he would be well-spoken, but not quite as whimsical as he comes across on his food blog, where he employs prose so beautifully florid that it leaps off the page like Russ Tamblyn doing Jerome Robbins choreography.

So let me just say: number one, he is incroyablement trim, even for a gay Parisian; number two, the only evidence of his French provenance was his claim that he can only "smile for ten seconds before he starts scowling"; and number three, if David Lebovitz's blog is a ten on the whimsy scale, David Lebovitz dials it up to about a seventy-three in person. "Oh my! It looks like it's been through a flood!" he cried upon seeing my friend Jen's well-worn copy of Ready for Dessert. "You're my favorite person. Except whoever brought me this wine."

In case you haven't noticed, I am trying to do that food blogger picture thing where you adorn whatever dish you made with prepared components of that dish--like you surround your lemon tart with cut-up lemons to show that there is lemon in it, which always struck me as strange because if you were making a lemon tart why didn't you put all your lemons into the tart? Why would you cut up extra lemons? Anyway, I couldn't think of any ingredients to properly represent the preparation of a signed cookbook, so I just grabbed the things that were closest to me: three tomatoes and my cell phone.

But of course the main attraction of the picture is not a lemon tart but la signature of D-mountainrange-trebleclef-oval-lightningbolt himself. Well, I'm not in his top two favorite people, so he doesn't need to break out the good penmanship for me. And, honestly, I can't blame him. I didn't have any well-worn cookbook of his to show at his signing at Omnivore Books last week; I was planning to buy a brand-new cookbook when I arrived. And then by the time Jeff and I showed up they had run out of copies of Ready for Dessert, leaving us to buy The Perfect Scoop instead if we wanted an audience with Mr. Lightning Bolt. Oh no! I had to buy an ice cream cookbook.

And it's funny, because I had just been debating for the past week whether or not I should purchase an ice cream maker attachment for the KitchenAid stand mixer that Sam's Mom so generously bought me for Christmas last year after she thought it sounded like I was hurting myself making brioche. After some consideration, I decided--no, no, I don't need an ice cream maker right away; instead I will put that money away and save it for a trip to the Grand Canyon. Plus, I figured that Sam's Mom was planning to buy me an ice cream maker for Christmas, anyway. Then this signed ice cream book fell into my hands, and, well--goodbye Kaibab Trail, hello cantaloupe sorbet.

I would be hard-pressed to argue that this cantaloupe sorbet, the first batch out of my new ice cream maker, did not taste better than a sunset over the Grand Canyon looks. Plus, it's probably way more pleasant throughout the months of June, July, and August. So, once again, I have made a correct decision in my life. The sweet, floral kick of the melon really came through in the sorbet, which is really just fruit sweetened with a little bit of extra sugar and a few drops of Lillet Blanc. Recently I've found out that Lillet goes well with everything. Did the sorbet need a little bit of creme fraiche drizzled over the top? Need is such a strong word.

My second creation was this fig ice cream with walnuts suspended in honey, inspired by the suggestions of two of Jeff's coworkers, Erica and Jill. Well, let me just say Erica and Jill should ditch their dead-end jobs in law right now and open an ice cream shop together, because this was one of the best combinations of ice cream flavors I've ever tasted, right up there with Coffee Toffee at Bi-Rite. Knowing that we only have a week or two of fig season left, if we're lucky, makes me want to run down to Rainbow Grocery and buy them out of figs right away. Well, then I really will have blown my Grand Canyon budget.

David Lebovitz's recipe for fig ice cream is great. You just take just some fresh figs--I believe he specifies that these figs are to be so fresh that each one is dripping a single bead of sweet dew from the bottom, but the cashier at the Chinese produce market I visited was getting mad as I rearranged every container of figs in her store to assemble an entire one-pound box of dew-dripping figs--and cook the figs into a little jam with some sugar and lemon zest. Let it cool down, add some cream, puree, and freeze. No time was consumed making a complicated custard or anything, but somehow it blended into the most perfectly smooth ice cream, still hanging out, smooth and supple, in the freezer, three days after churning.

Smoother and suppler, even, than this minty green pea ice cream, the preparation of which did involve an extra twenty minutes making a complicated custard, as well as two separate straining steps (all of which are meant to ensure ultimate smoothness and... supplication?). I think it's because I used late-in-the-season peas, which are, of course, really starchy, and probably caused the custard to firm up a little prematurely. Well, okay, this is definitely an ice cream to try again in April with young, sweet peas. This is an ambitious plan because I am already sick of eating ice cream now, four days into owning an ice cream maker.

But don't worry about this batch of pea ice cream, for I had great plans for it.


Recipe roundup...

The recipes for fresh fig ice cream, green pea ice cream, cantaloupe sorbet and "wet walnuts" can all be found in David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop. I followed them all pretty much exactly, except I inundated the walnuts with honey instead of maple syrup.

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