"But then there was a star danced, and under that was I born." -William Shakespeare (Much Ado about Nothing)
Today, dear readers, is my birthday; I am officially 29 years old. Most surprising of all is that, contrary to my expectations, I am not in the least disappointed at being--finally, officially-- on the brink of 30. While it's true that I can't say 28 was my best year ever (dissertation woes, anybody?), it did have its moments.
One of these moments came last week on a balmy day when, in between proctoring a Polish final and frantically reading The Marriage Plot, I pulled out my long-neglected ice cream machine and made Maria Speck's fantastically simple and oh so tasty Greek Yogurt Ice Cream. It's the kind of ice cream you can feel virtuous about eating; it's sweetened with honey, full of protein (a perk of Greek yogurt) and has just the right level of creamy tang. In fact, it goes best with fresh strawberries--the ones that are so sweet and perfectly ripe you can smell them from the next room. While this might not be the kind of recipe you would expect to find in a book on whole grains (Ancient Grains for Modern Meals), that's the thing that's so refreshing about the book in general: it's full of culinary surprises that draw on Maria's Greek and German background.
The only thing I did to the recipe was to intensify its "Greekness." Rather than use limoncello or vodka, I decided to use Metaxa, a blend of brandy and wine, whose life, according to the official website, begins "with the intense Mediterranean sun" and ends with macerated botanicals and rose petals. With a description like that, can you really blame me?
While I can't say that this ice cream is going to be today's birthday treat (I'll be dining Moroccan style this evening in San Francisco), it easily could be and you'd hear no complaints from me. It's the kind of ice cream that makes for a quick and light dessert on a busy day, but it can also be perfectly, satisfyingly celebratory. Last week when I got the news that the paper on Dostoevsky and comics that I've been writing and rewriting now for several years is going to be published next summer, it had its chance to shine. Ice cream, good news and birthdays--is there anything better?
Greek Yogurt Ice Cream
Yields about 2 pints
Slightly adapted from Maria Speck's Ancient Grains for Modern Meals
Recipe notes: I briefly flirted with the thought of using ouzo in this ice cream, but, after a discussion with the Greek, realized that all that anise might ruin the flavor. Ouzo has its place, but maybe not in ice cream. If anybody were to try this and use ouzo, I'd love to hear about the results.
Also, I'd be curious to see what this would be like with a tablespoon of vanilla extract or even with vanilla bean. The flavor is so simple and good as it is, but there's always room to play.
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (you can use whole-milk or 2%)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Metaxa (or vodka, limoncello, brandy or grappa)
-Place the ingredients in a large stainless steel bowl and whisk to combine. Make sure the honey is incorporated.
-Cover and refrigerate for several hours; Maria suggests two, but, since I had some errands to run, I left it in the fridge for about 6.
-Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
-Place the freshly made ice cream in a container and put it in the freezer. You can wait as little as 15 minutes before enjoying the finished product, although the texture will improve with more time in the freezer (I waited 2. My patience was amazing, although, yes, I did lick the spatula when the ice cream was safely in the freezer.)