Ice On Ice

Individual Sesame-Chocolate Ice Cream Cakes

ice cream sandwich2

(Tahini Ice Cream, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Ganache, Honey Sesame Clusters)

When I was about 8 months old, my mom innocently gave me a lick off her spoon of vanilla soft-serve. That was my first taste of ice cream. My then-blue eyes widened, my dimples poked through very chubby cheeks, and my little tongue, reportedly, flapped furiously for more—that was my way of communicating that “Hey, I like that. Can I have some more, Mommy?” With that lick of swirled, most likely artificially flavored confection, my mom had created the monster that I am today: a fine ice cream seeker, maker, junkie.

I’m not sure why so many pastry people seem to love—and I mean love ice cream. While I get lots of pleasure out of making my own ice cream, the process isn’t as beautifully tangible as working a dough is. Pastry works my mind, pastry is my crutch when I’m feeling off but, more often than not, what I crave is ice cream. I’d take a good scoop over cake, and if only allowed to eat one sweet for the rest of my life, I might even choose ice cream over my beloved pie. I crush on ice cream so hard, that I’ll eat it in abundance deep into a second “polar vortex.” In fact, while I may go out for ice cream more often in the summer, I make more of it in the winter when berries and stone fruit, which sometimes take on an unpleasant texture in frozen desserts, are off my radar. Ice on ice. There’s just as much warmness to ice cream as there is coldness: Sometimes you patiently infuse warm milk and cream with fragrant flavors and a burst of steam kisses your face when you open the pot’s lid. You dip a spoon into it and taste to see if it’s on point. You reheat and pour this steamy mixture, carefully and slowly, into egg yolks while whisking like mad. Then you pour all of this back into the pot, and you stand, whisking still, over this gradually thickening, hot pot of custard. Dribbles of custard inevitably trail down the side of the pot or the bowl to which you’re transferring this liquid gold and you wipe them up with your finger and lick off the warm mixture—that tiny drop contains so much flavor. No, ice cream isn’t just cold.

I love how chocolate swirls find their way to the corners of your mouth, how the lips become coated by an opalescent milky film, how a dot of cream adorns the tip of your nose if you’re licking off a double-scoop cone. I love how something can at once be childlike and sophisticated, no matter what herbs or alcohols your ice cream is infused with.

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Green

Roasted Kale, Four Ways

crispy chicken skin
It should be around this time that I begin to crave green. The holidays are over. We’ve experienced more than one substantial snow event. I haven’t eaten a green bean in three months, an asparagus spear in seven. Unfortunately, though, this wanting began some time earlier. I’ve been itching for a fix of green that’s not broccoli, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts—because whose stomach can really handle mass quantities of those, as delicious as they may be? Certainly not my little fire pit. I want green that’s not greens—I’m not looking for leaves. I want fresh and delicate produce when I feel neither fresh nor delicate. I want quick-cooking when I’m slow. I want summer in winter. And, as in most aspects of my life, I want something I can’t have.

But I’m getting along with my beloved roots. Rugged and long-lasting, they’re versatile and their colors match those of the hidden sun, the long-lost rainbows. They’re earthy-tasting reminders of the ground from which they came that is typically covered this time of year by all that is winter. As for that green I crave, I’m getting most of it from, well, a green: kale. But kale is different to me than chard or spinach. Kale feels more substantial, its flavor hinting of broccoli. It’s the curly and hardy never-let-you down, always-make-you-feel-good vegetable that people couldn’t stand several years ago but suddenly can’t seem to eat enough of.

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Keeping On

Sable Breton Galette with Rosemary Poached Pears and Honey Caramel Diplomat Cream

Rosemary Caramel

I hold Christmas tightly. Too tightly perhaps. It’s not a holiday. It’s not religious. It’s not a time for vacation. I hold whatever it is tightly because after the lights come down, it’s grey until April. There’s nothing to look forward to. There’s no celebration to plan. There’s nothing for the mind to stir over. I get anxious when I’m lacking something to stir over.

I’m not sure I can spend too many more years in this city, though there’s a chance I’ll never leave. I started writing this in mid-December in my laundromat, where I learned, as snow fell steadily and the thermometer read 18 degrees, that there’s no heat (or perhaps it wasn’t working for just that day). I take breaks to quickly hide my hands between my thighs until they’re warmed by my body’s heat and can hold onto that electricity for a moment so that they’re strong enough to tap keys. I blast music through headphones to keep my toes tapping and my head nodding; otherwise, my toes would pop off, and my head would explode. It would be messy.

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