Monday, April 11, 2011



Remember the days before Baskin Robbins and Ben & Jerry’s?  The days when ice cream stands and parlors dotted the American landscape?  No?  Well, I do.   I remember summers spent on a lake in rural Connecticut and my parents taking me for homemade peppermint ice cream at a little stand that was nothing more than a shack on an old country road.

Not far from my house in Bayside, Queens, Long Island, New York was another shack.  It sold newspapers and comic books, cigarettes, tall “2 cent” pretzels and loose (not hard) ice cream.  Everyone called it “The Shack.”  My dad bought his daily Herald Tribune there.  I bought my love comic books there.  And we all bought our ice cream there. Big scoops of soft creamy vanilla or rich chocolate, fresh peach or strawberry ice cream plopped on top a crunchy sugar cone then dipped in chocolate sprinkles.  No “store-bought” or “pre-packaged” ice cream has ever replicated the taste.

Not until a recent Sunday brunch.

Friends were dropping by on their way home to Ojai and we decided to ‘do’ a brunch.  Of course, we could have done lunch (maybe make fancy ‘Nancy Silverton’ grilled cheese sandwiches, or a grilled chicken Caesar salad), but since they were to arrive before noon, but after ten, we did brunch.

Richard planned his menu that started w/ a thick chunk of smoked salmon (not lox) w/ butter and crackers and bloody Marys.  Then came a baked bread, sausage, red pepper and asparagus egg strata, served w/ a chilled 2006 House of Nobilo Icon sauvignon blanc, followed by some French pressed coffee or tea and his homemade lavender cookies and homemade gelato.  I pulled out my 4 Limoge luncheon plates (bruncheon plates?), polished the sterling luncheon (bruncheon) silverware, put linen napkins in silver rings and set our old pine farm table.

Brunch was a hit – but nothing prepared us for just how delicious homemade strawberry gelato is.   The creaminess coupled w/ the amazing taste of fresh strawberries.  Not since I licked a strawberry cone at The Shack have strawberries tasted better.

(From Italy’s Carpigiani Gelato University
as reported by Sherri Jennings in the LA Times)

1 1/2 cups milk
2 T. skim milk powder
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 -3 cups cleaned strawberries
1 1/2 pounds ice
1 pound ice cream salt

In medium saucepan, combine milk, milk powder, cream and 1 cup sugar.
Heat over medium heat, stirring, until it reaches a strong simmer (7-8 mins.)
Remove from heat, store in fridge at least 3 hours, up to 2 days.

In blender, combine the cooled milk base with strawberries and remaining 3/4 cup sugar.
blend until smooth.

Place mixture in small metal bowl over a larger bowl containing ice and salt.
Whip w/hand mixer ten minutes or so to lighten texture.

Freeze for about 1-1/2 hours before serving.  (Per Richard, it never freezes well enough in that short a time... four hours maybe – but gelato should have a soft consistency – just like that ‘loose’ creamy homemade ice cream)

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