Monday, April 16, 2012

Black Pepper Ice Cream

I actually thought that no flavor combination could beat the cardamom ice cream that I made a few weeks ago. Perhaps that was a correct assessment, but this taste was at least tied. It's unconventional and definitely odd to put a spicy, savory flavor into a dessert and I am the plainest jane that there is, but the contrast between the vanilla cream and the peppercorn is dramatic to say the least. If your mouth is too hot from the pepper, the milk neutralizes your taste receptors making for a pleasant journey into the kingdom of spectacular ice cream.
Last week, I was at al di la, a northern Italian restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The Slope is slightly lacking in quality food, especially for dinner, but al di la's cuisine truly makes up for the relative mediocrity of the neighborhood's fare. When I first started going to al di la, I was a little girl completely disinterested in what the menu had to offer. I knew what I wanted before I went into the restaurant and while the grownups placed orders for exotic dishes like risotto negro and tortelli di zucca burro e salvia, I promptly requested pasta and butter.
I can't even begin to impart to you the regret I feel today at having wasted so many opportunities to eat some of the most delicious food in New York City, but I do understand that I liked plain food that didn't intimidate my unseasoned palate. What I'm trying to say, is that I forgive little Nika for her misguided orders for all those years.
When I was five, my parents and I went to Italy for two weeks and while we were there, I became very sick. After wandering through the streets of Venice all day trying to find the hospital, we decided that we needed food and returned to the restaurant we had been going to for the past few nights.
I don't know how accurate the rest of my recollection is, but I remember that we had the same waiter every night. I used to know his name; in fact I think I even wrote him a card from Brooklyn. He tried to trick me into eating but I held out, the pickiest and most stubborn customer he had ever served.
Determined not to feed me pasta and butter while I was in Venice, he told me that he had prepared goldfish for me. Something about his description must have intrigued me because I ate what he brought me ravished after being sick all day. Looking back it was probably some white fish, breaded and fried. I had to hand it to him though, he got me to eat, simple as the dish was, and my parents were grateful.
While I am still rather selective in what I choose to eat (I do have some bizarre dislikes including but not limited to eggs, raisins, peanut butter and pancakes), I have become more adventurous. And so the last time I was at al di la, I had black pepper ice cream for dessert. It's really difficult to impart the flavor of this dish particularly because we rarely have pepper as the primary ingredient in food and thus we haven't all isolated its taste for an immediate association. But please, take my word for it and one day when you're inspired, try it.
I used the same base ice cream recipe as I did in the cardamom ice cream post, but with slight variations. Instead of adding cardamom and vanilla to the milk, cream and sugar, I added 1 tablespoon of peppercorns, which I ground in a mortar and pestle. Eventually these peppercorns will be sifted out, so don't worry about the texture. I also added 1 tsp vanilla extract, although you can use 1/2 of a vanilla bean instead.
Before I added the 3 cups of cream to the mixture, I sifted out the peppercorns and then added 1 1/2 tbs of ground pepper. I also added about 1 tbs of the sifted out peppercorns back in. Be careful not to overload with spices and taste the batter before you add each tbs. I put it in the fridge for three hours, which was not enough, so I suggest leaving it all day or overnight. I saved it by putting the batter in the freezer still in the ice cream bowl for 30 minutes (not recommended) and then finished mixing. I froze it in containers and now I have pepper ice cream to my heart's content.
The once plain jane, who ordered pasta and butter no matter where she was, has graduated into the realm of exotic flavors and cuisines. She is surprised by the adventurous spirit that lay dormant in her for so many years. Welcome to this brave new world.

No comments:

Post a Comment