Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

First of all, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, and especially to mine! Like most Dads, ours reigned over the meat grilling, and did a fine job with the handling of meat and fire. Dad taught us a lot of things – like how to mow the lawn and clean the pool – skills that I don’t use much in my urban life…But now that I’m an adult, I really appreciate how he always put family first. His job was a means to allow him time to spend with the family, and it was important to him to be home around 5:30 every evening. His job was over an hour away from home, so this meant getting up early so that he could be home at a reasonable hour. And I find that I’ve set up my career the same way – I’m usually at my desk at 7a.m., and try to leave the office at 4pm, so that I’m home around 5p.m. (I also seem to have acquired the hour-long commute, too – but at least I do it on bike or train). So thanks for being home with us every evening, Dad, and attending all of our basketball games, track meets, concerts, plays and always being proud of us. We will definitely be commemorating the day with some grilled lamburgers a bit later on.

And now, to the ice cream…The June strawberry fest continues unabated this week in our home, though I think I’m glad that I bought my flat of strawberries last week – all the rain this week has waterlogged the berries, and while they’re still excellent, they were more excellent last week. Glad my freezer is already well-stocked.

Anyway, with a few more quarts of berries in the fridge, it was definitely time to whip up some ice cream. Do not make this ice cream with store-bought strawberries. And if I’m being straight with you, dear readers, I’d also tell you to *never* buy strawberries in a grocery store. California grows crap strawberries, and the ones shipped cross country are nothing like the luscious, sweet as candy berries that are grown locally by Midwest farmers. So get your behind out of bed on the weekends and hit the farmer’s market in June if you want REAL berries.

This ice cream is awesome. I know I say that a lot, and maybe my standards are low, as I rarely make a batch of ice cream that isn’t worthy of illicit spoonfuls stolen from the container late at night or early in the morning. This ice cream is light, and tastes of beautiful fresh berries, with a cheesecakey finish, thanks to the addition of goat cheese. You might think goat cheese an odd addition to ice cream, but it really did bring in the cheesecake flavor, with less than half the calories and fat. Give this one a turn in your ice cream maker while the berries are still good!

Strawberry ice cream with goat cheese
makes a bit more than a quart

1 quart strawberries, washed, stems removed and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 13oz can coconut milk
3/4 cup half & half
pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
4oz fresh goat cheese
2 T vodka

  1. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Set aside the yolks in a bowl, and save the whites for later use.
  2. Place cleaned and sliced strawberries in a bowl with the sugar and vodka and let it sit for an hour, stirring every now and again.
  3. After an hour has passed, heat the coconut milk and half & half in a small saucepan gently. When the milks are warm, but not yet hot, whisk the yolks in their bowl, and then sloooowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. The goal is to keep the eggs from scrambling. When the milk and yolks have been combined, pour the mixture back into your saucepan, and gently heat while stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, making sure you scrape the edges and bottoms.
  4. Heat the custard until it gets steamy and thickens so that it will coat the back of a spoon. It will be about 170 degrees when the custard is done.
  5. Crumble the goat cheese into a large bowl, and then place a fine mesh sieve over the bowl. Pour the custard through the sieve and into the bowl, and stir to melt the goat cheese, making a smooth mixture. Set the custard aside for a few moments to cool.
  6. When the custard has cooled off quite a bit, pour it into a blender along with the strawberries and their juices. Puree in the blender, then chill thoroughly before turning in your ice cream maker.

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

I am thrilled that the farmer’s markets have finally re-opened for the season in Chicago. The last couple of Saturday mornings have been like a joyous reunion, as all of the market shoppers greet their favorite farmers and catch up on news from the farm and chat about what’s good at the market this week. The first weeks of spring mean two things to me – asparagus and rhubarb.

Asparagus is one of those things that just shouldn’t be bought at a grocery store. It’s best eaten within a couple days of picking, and the flavor doesn’t hold up too well when it’s been shipped from other countries. To store asparagus for a couple of days, I slice off a tiny bit of the ends from an entire bunch of asparagus in one slice, then store the whole bunch standing up in a cup with a tiny bit of water in it, and then put a plastic bag upside-down over the cup and asparagus – this will keep your asparagus fresh and snappy in the fridge for a couple days. Our first bunch of asparagus went on top of a gluten-free pizza, with green garlic pesto and a bit of tomato for sauce, and topped with some local buffalo mozzarella from the market. Best pizza I’ve ever made, for sure.

I have long been a rhubarb fan, and generally a fan of anything puckeringly tart. Growing up, we’d go over to Grandma’s house and harvest armfuls of rhubarb. Mom would make rhubarb sauce for breakfast, or if we were really lucky, Grandma would make a rhubarb pie. I’m not much of a baker, so most of my rhubarb is turned into strawberry rhubarb sauce, ice cream, or a summer crisp. I also stockpile cubed rhubarb in the freezer for the winter season.

Rhubarb sauce is stunningly simple to make – toss a bunch of cubed rhubarb into a saucepan, add a little water, sugar, a couple handfuls of strawberries, and simmer until soft. Taste, and add more sugar to suit your tastes – I like my rhubarb quite tart. I’ve been adding a couple spoonfuls of rhubarb sauce to my bowl of oatmeal, and eating it a spoon or two at a time from the container in the fridge – I love this stuff!

Rhubarb sauce
Makes 1 quart

1 1/2lbs of rhubarb
2 cups frozen strawberries, whole
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar

  1. Combine all ingredients in a pot and stir together. Cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce is simmering, remove the lid, stir, and cook for about 5 more minutes until the rhubarb is soft. Add more sweetener if you like.

Serving suggestions: swirl some into your morning oatmeal, serve over vanilla ice cream, top a bowl of plain yogurt with a couple spoonfuls and a bit of granola or eat it straight up!

Be my Valentine: Summer Strawberry Sorbet

Mark and I are not big on celebrating Valentine’s Day with grand gestures or an expensive dinner out. For us, a perfect Valentine’s Day is a very good home-cooked meal shared with friends, and we did just that last night. The menu featured my favorite comfort food – a perfectly roasted chicken, herb roasted root veggies tucked underneath the bird to crisp in the chicken fat, a big salad…and then dessert.

For dessert I wanted to make something light and refreshing, and since I have a freezer full of summer fruits, I decided that strawberry sorbet would fit the bill nicely. To me, strawberries are the flavor of my birthday. We were lucky enough to have a U-pick fruit/veggie farm just around the corner from our home, so my birthday ritual was to go pick fresh strawberries with my mom the day before my birthday. We’d make cheesecake or shortcakes and top it with freshly macerated berries, instead of having birthday cake. Fresh strawberries are summer’s perfection so far as I am concerned – sweet and tartly distilled rays of sunshine.

Sorbets are the simplest of desserts, so long as you have an ice cream maker. Freeze the bowl the night before, blend up your sorbet base and chill, then let the machine turn the sorbet a few hours before you plan to serve. I don’t add nearly as much sugar as most of the recipes you’ll find in cookbooks – perfectly ripe fruit doesn’t need it. Using less sugar does mean that leftover sorbet will be rock-hard the next day, and not as scoopable as what you buy at the store. Just set the tub on the counter for about 10-15 minutes before scooping, and you’ll be in business. Or, you can always chop up the hard sorbet into cubes, and pop those into a fresh lime juice margarita – the choice is yours.

The sorbet turned out perfectly – sweet and tart, and the perfect reminder that summer will come again.

Strawberry Sorbet
Serves 8
1.5 Weight Watchers Points per 3/4 cup serving

6 cups frozen strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
juice from 1 Meyer lemon
zest from lemon

  1. Freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker at least 24 hours before you plan to turn the sorbet.
  2. The next morning, defrost the berries. Peel the zest off the lemon in nice long strips with a vegetable peeler and set aside. Pour sugar and water into small saucepan and add lemon peel. Heat over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the sugar has melted, you have a simple syrup, lightly scented with lemon. Remove the lemon peel and toss out.
  3. Place strawberries in a blender, and pour simple syrup over the berries. Add the juice from the meyer lemon, and puree until it is smooth, about 1-2 minutes, depending on the power of your blender.
  4. Taste the puree. If it needs a little additional sweetness, add a squeeze of honey. Pour the puree into a tupperware container, and chill for 4-6 hours.
  5. 2-3 hours before you plan to serve the sorbet, pour the puree into your frozen ice cream maker bowl, and attach the turning paddle/motor. Turn on, and let the machine turn for 30-40 minutes, until it has turned into soft sorbet. Scoop the sorbet into a tupperware container, and place in the freezer until you’re ready to serve.

Strawberry Rhubarb Oats

It was time to make another batch of steel cut oats for breakfast this evening, and I wanted to mix things up a bit. I happen to have a freezer brimming with beautiful summer fruits – blueberries, strawberries, peaches and rhubarb…a small bit of the summer sunshine to last me through the long, dark winter.

I decided that I’d try the delicious duo of strawberries and rhubarb, and the results are…WOW. I used the same recipe posted here. I added 1 cup of frozen rhubarb at the beginning, and cooked the oats as normal. I added 2 cups of frozen strawberries once the oats were done, and let them defrost and impart their sweetness to the finished oats. I am really looking forward to breakfast tomorrow!