Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Birthday; Holy Ice Cream

A couple weeks ago was my birthday, and there were many wonderful, silly things.

There was the striped, cotton stretch mini skirt I found shopping with the boys (I never wear stripes; I don't wear skin-tight skirts), or that I got to spend quality time peeling loquats with my sister, or that it just so happened to also be Pentecost Sunday (the Church's birthday, you know, when the Spirit of the Lord descended on the disciples as fire, facinating), but all I really want to talk about is the birthday dinner menu. The food.

I know, you are shocked that I would want to talk about food, but these are new, big times, and I haven't had a menu like this come together in quite some time. I will try to contain myself: it was beautiful.

Envision a mojito in my hand (or yours, whatever), sipping slowly between chopping stints of loquats. Envision my lovely sister, Mara also sipping between peeling surges.

There is guacamole for snacking with classic, salty corn chips. Family is everywhere, bustling about, playing with Cedar, going to the store for more limes, more cilantro, more avocado. Various family members in various corners of the house are chopping, peeling, sipping, and snoozing.

Just for fun.

The table is dressed with a green tablecloth and yellow napkins, and a bouquet of muted pink and mauve flowers of unknown origin (some roses perhaps, some daliahs maybe are resting, centered, in a glass vase.

The dinner flavors are fresh and summery: tilapia fish tacos with Mi Abuelita Bonita Tortillas, shredded Caraflex (pointy!) cabbage, and a creamy lime aoli, topped generously with loquat salsa. On the side there is a spring salad in the spirit of Molly and David, with avocado (of course!), endive, lime, cilantro, radishes, and a gorgeous head of market-fresh red leaf lettuce. Everyone actually likes the tacos, even the few who 'don't like fish.' The salsa is, again, a hit.

I was so proud. I feel like something magical goes on when a group gathers for festive reasons and the food fits the festivities.

My mother made everything but the salsa, so when Mara and I were finally finished with the peeling and chopping of the loquats, we got to lounge around in the living room and sip the remainder of our mojitos, watching Cedar make goo-goo-eyes with Nana, and witnessing the first cranking of the air conditioner this season (only days before it had been storming still--my birthday marked the first real heat).

Yes, it was a big day. It felt like a birthday. But there is still more. That Saturday night before I had decided I couldn't live without this lemon cake, being a logically citrus-y end to a fishy meal. Also, as a major change of heart, I decided I couldn't live through another birthday without the perfect accompaniment for my perfect cake.

You see, my family has this thing with cake and ice cream. Or, they have this thing with ice cream as the ever-present sidekick for every dessert that even remotely resembles cake (or pie, or hot pudding, or, or, or...). It makes me nuts. It has been enough to make me pout, just a little, and almost, just almost tear up when my father assured my mother that he would personally provide the vanilla ice cream alongside her the lemon meringue pie for her birthday (this year's pie was not like last year's disaster; this time it worked; redemption, finally).

Ice cream for my mother with lemon meringue pie is fine; birthday wishes are meant to come true. But come on, lets attempt some variety. This must be a California culture thing I failed to notice prior to moving to Vancouver. There, ice cream is a purely summer thing. It is something to eat on a cone, preferably while strolling outside.

I recall that I used to eat cake and ice cream with great gladness, but that was when I did not know there was cake in existence that was not half-dry or rubbery and in great need of smothering with half-melted ice cream.

My adversity to ice cream as a sidekick to anything but bad cake or hot fruit pies has become a source of contention, a topic of great disagreement in our family dessert discussions. So I have decided, as I am in the minority and as I apparently cannot beat them, I will join them. For now.

But I refuse to join the ice-cream as sidekick mentality. Celebration food especially should be more than the sum of their parts. Therefore, this birthday, if there was to be a lemon-glazed, lemon-soaked lemon cake, there would be alongside it, in good, modern, egalitarian perspective, non other that the most-perfect, most delicately lavender-colored Mulberry Ice Cream one can imagine. Thank you Donna, oh mother-in-law from heaven, who made both.

I wanted to make this ice cream when I was reading Chez Panisse Fruit over a month ago. I thought it would probably be good, even great. I was not prepared for amazing. Texture-wise, it is an epiphany--neither getting icy nor hard in the freezer like some of my disasters have. It remains soft and sensuous when frozen 'hard' but it doesn't seem to melt too quickly either. The cardamom ice cream I made last summer was a divine flavor revelation, but this one, this Mulberry Ice Cream, capitalized in full, is another vision entirely to turn me and my family from all our sinful vanilla ways.

Who doesn't need a recurring experience of the holy? May we come together in greater peace and unity, where the dinner works, the cake is good and the ice cream rises to its former glory. Praise the Lord of Food for this holy descent. Hallelujah, amen.

Mulberry Ice Cream (straight from Alice Water's Chez Panize Fruit)

9 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 cups cream

3 cups mulberries
2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon kirsch

Whisk the yolks in a mixing bowl just enough to break them up. Gently heat the half and half, cream, and 1 cup sugar over lowish heat stirring, until the sugar dissolves and steam rises. Pull off heat and temper the yolks by drizzling the hot cream over the yolks, whisking constantly.

Return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or heat-resistant rubber spatula, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the spoon. Immediately remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl with the heavy cream. Chill thoroughly.

Stir together the berries and 3/4 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the berries begin to release their juice. Puree the berries in a food processor and pass through a sieve. Stir in the berry mixture into the chilled ice cream. (I chilled both separately over night and combined them in the morning.) Stir in the lemon juice and kirsch. Freeze according to the instructions for you ice cream maker. Enjoy!


  1. That was such a delightful meal, sister! That loquat salsa, shredded Caraflex cabbage and lime aoli transformed those tacos into heaven on earth.

  2. I'm so late in reading this, but it still reads DELICIOUS. Good thing we just had dinner. Mmmm. Mmmm. Good! (and a belated Happy Birthday!)