Monday, May 3, 2010

In Which There Is Gelato And Also Langoustines

Partly because I tend to buy expensive food and partly because I hate wasting things and partly because I sometimes like to pretend I'm on a Food Network hidden camera show called Suburban Freezers, I save odds and ends of things in my freezer. When the tomatoes start to look elderly or the blackberries begin to take on a withered appearance, they go into the freezer for later use in sauces or jams. Fallen cakes await conversion to trifle, stale bread to French toast. I have containers of au jus, bagged poultry carcasses, and the occasional avocado.

But, for all my frugality, I loathe clutter. This extends to the freezer, and so on Saturday morning I went prowling through the big freezer in the basement in search of inspiration. I found it in the form of half a bag of frozen strawberries, three frozen mangoes, and a frozen banana. I recalled some buttermilk in the fridge, and decided that gelato was the order of the day.

A note on mangoes: they can sometimes be very starchy and fibrous, so be careful. I prefer champagne mangoes for this reason. And, because mangoes are annoying to cut up, be aware that Trader Joe's carries packages of halved ones in their freezer section. One package is about the equivalent of what I used here.

In the warmer months I always keep 1:1 simple syrup on hand. I make it in big batches, then store it in glass bottles in the fridge. It's nice to have for ice cream making and for mixed drinks, but it's also nice for making cold drinks like lemonade or sweetened iced tea because the sugar is already dissolved.

To make this gelato, I thawed the fruit in the microwave, but not entirely. The colder your starting mixture, the better resluts you'll get with your ice cream maker. Here's how much fruit I had, plus the banana. I'd estimate it at around 5 cups fresh, and around 3 thawed.

I then took 2 cups of simple syrup (in retrospect I think I might reduce the simple syrup to 1 1/2 cups) and combined it with the fruit in my food processor. I left some little chunks intact, but you can puree it as much as you like. I then added 2 cups of low-fat buttermilk (plain European or Greek style yogurt would do nicely as well) and the juice of 5 seedless lemons. Once everything was combined into a beautiful peachy color with ruby highlights, into the ice cream maker it went. After about 30 minutes in the ice cream maker, I scraped it into a plastic container and put it in the freezer to harden.

Because it was sultry out, I wanted to have a light dinner on the deck to complement this dessert. I pulled out a bag of langoustine tails. Langoustines are like teeny lobsters and the meat is very tender and sweet. AlmondBoy loves lobster but langoustines are cheaper, easier to work with in the kitchen, and much less fuss because you can buy bags of them at Trader Joe's, where someone has thoughtfully killed and packaged them for your convenience. I thawed the langoustines, then tossed them in a mixture of olive oil, garlic, sea salt, dried coriander, basil, and Greek oregano. I left them in the mixture for about thirty minutes while I got everything else ready.

I boiled half a box of whole wheat penne in salted water and let that cook while I cut a fresh pineapple into 8 long pieces. I put the pineapple on the grill and returned to the pasta. After draining the pasta, I added the langoustines and their juices, half a package of English peas, the juice of 2 lemons, and returned the pot to low heat. I wasn't quite happy with the results, so I added a quarter cup of Greek yogurt and found that it bound everything together perfectly.

Returning to the grill, I checked on the pineapple. It had been grilling for about 5 minutes and so I flipped it to let the other side finish. Grilled fruit is one of my favorite warm weather side dishes, and pineapple is one of the best. The charred spots have a deep, caramelly sweetness that goes wonderfully with the tart acidity of the fruit. As soon as the pineapple was charred to my liking, we ate. I had a lovely piece of Parmigiano Reggiano stravecchio, which we grated over the pasta. It was so good that I kept breaking off chunks to eat alone. The cheese was wonderful and nutty with delicious crunchy toffee-like crystals studded throughout. I luuuurve cheese.

For dessert, I served mugs of the gelato topped with Trader Joe's plain European style yogurt, drizzled with mesquite honey, and ornamented with a mint leaf plucked from the plant on the deck. It was heavenly. The sour, astringent creaminess of the yogurt was a perfect complement to the light, fruity gelato, and the sticky-sweet honey hardened from the cold into delicious chewy strands.