So, my sister is a total morning person. When I visit her, by the time I wake up, she has cleaned the house, done yoga, finished her weekly grocery shopping, and made us a coffee. I, on the other hand, crankily get out of bed around 11, searching for that coffee and don't really get going till 1 or so. In my defense, I am writing this post at 2am. See, we all have our special skills.
Ok, back from the sleeping tangent (it is 2am, after all). Our wake-up preferences affect when we shop at the farmers' market. She is usually there just in time for the opening. I am usually rushing before the stands close at 3pm or so. Both approaches have their advantage - she gets the pick of the best stuff, while I get the end-of-day bargains. I am going to argue that my strategy works really well for produce that is in season and plentiful. To prove my point, I bought $10 worth of strawberries at about 3:35pm last Saturday that will easily last me for the entire week. I would have paid $15 for the same berries if I showed up earlier.
Now, I looooove strawberries, but even I have my limits. It was clearly time for ice cream. I had some rhubarb at home and thought the classic combo would work really well with cream and frozen. I was right; the flavors work great. What I did not realize until later was that rhubarb is high in pectin and adds a particularly luscious quality to the ice cream. Err, I am eating this stuff out of the tub as I type.
The recipe is based on Jenni Britton's formula that uses cornstarch instead of egg yolks. I find that absence of yolks leads to a cleaner tasting base that is particularly suitable for fruity ice creams. I also swapped 1 cup of milk with the fruit.
Strawberry-rhubarb ice cream
5 stalks of ripe rhubarb, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 pound of good local strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of cornstarch (that's 4 teaspoons if you don't want to dirty two spoons)
11/4 cups of heavy cream
2/3 cups of sugar for the ice cream base plus 1/2 cup of sugar for the strawberries and rhubarb
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of cream cheese, softened
1/8 teaspoon of salt
First, cook the rhubarb and 1/2 cup of sugar over medium-low heat until the the mixture comes to a boil and the rhubarb starts breaking down. Add the strawberries, bring to a boil once more, and turn off the heat. You don't want to make jam here. Let the mixture hang out and cool a bit while you make the ice cream base.
Mix well the 2 tablespoons (also known as a bit) of milk with the cornstarch in a small container. Heat up the rest of the milk, the cream, and the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Turn off the heat and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Turn the heat back on to medium-low and cook, whisking frequently, until the milk mixture coats the back of a spoon and a trail is left if you drag your finger across it. Fold in 11/4 cup of the strawberry-rhubarb mixture and cook for another minute. Off the heat, whisk in the vanilla, the cream cheese, and the salt. Set the pot with the ice cream base in an ice bath and cool, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or so. Don't worry, there are no egg yolks to curdle here, so you don't have to cool it very fast.
Refrigerate the base until cold. Churn in your ice cream maker per directions. Try not to eat it off the spoon. Once churned, move it to another container and freeze for at least a couple of hours to allow the ice cream to "mature". Have a date. Eat. Drink a nice sparkling desert wine (there are strawberries involved, after all).