If there is one thing to know about Linda of Linda’s Italian Table, it is that I can’t be left alone in the house with any frozen concoction resembling ice cream or gelato. You have been duly warned. There are no expectations of trust – no rules that can’t be broken when it comes to frozen cream and me. It is official. I have no scruples in this regard. If it is within striking distance – it is MINE.
Put some fresh figs and walnuts in it, as in FIG AND WALNUT GELATO, the Recipe of the Month for August, and that seals the deal. I fall on the sword. Guilty as charged. No remorse. I’ll eat it every time. No matter whose name is on it, who has laid claim to it, or for what occasion it has been designated. I just can’t be trusted!
Marco again: Many believe, Marco Polo brought this creamy bit of heaven back from his adventures in China along with pasta, the Ravioli, the wheel, and hydro-electric power, yada, yada. Pardon my sarcasm – but REALLLY! That Marco must have been a busy guy squirreling all of his professed findings in his backpack. As history has shown, there are holes in these tales. However, China can be credited with the first ice cream makers – producing ices without cream.
Of course, the Neapolitans: It is the Neapolitans, (wouldn’t ya know!) while they weren’t busy making pizzas, who can claim to have produced the first ice creams in Italy back in the 18th century. The Italians then brought forth gelato – different from ice cream in that it is usually more dense, contains milk and much lower milk fat. Using less milk fat, allows the flavor to come forward. It is generally served in a softer form than ice cream.
I can’t imagine anything better than figs fresh and in season paired with milk and cream and a little walnut crunch! Mmmmm – alas I am presently a stecchetto, as the Tuscans might say ( on a diet!) and on a regimen of my more athletic moves because of my last rather prolonged foray into the land of gelato! But YOU can go ahead and make some and then tell me about it!
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FIG AND WALNUT GELATO
Prep: 35 minutes
2 c. Whole Milk
1 1/2 c. Cream
1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
5 Egg yolks
1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. Fresh Fig Puree (Use Processor, Blender, or Mash with fork)
1 c. Chopped Fresh Ripe Figs
1 c. Walnuts – coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. Honey
Heat milk and cream in pot until bubbly on the sides. Do not scorch.
Remove from heat.
In a bowl beat together egg yolks, sugar, and cinnamon until light and lemony in color and foamy. When you stop the beaters, you’ll see bubbles of air form.
Add a small amount of warm milk and cream to the egg yolk mixture whisking constantly. Then add a little more to get the egg yolks used to the warmth and so they won’t cook when you add the milk/cream. Then add all of the rest of the milk/cream whisking continuously throughout.
Pour this mixture back in the pot and turn on the heat to medium. A wooden spoon is good for the next part. As the mixture heats, continue to stir with the wooden spoon. When the mixture coats the back of the spoon and begins to thicken, remove the pot from the heat to cool. It is important not to cook too long and let the eggs cook and separate and look grainy. Do not leave the pot and remember to stir. This takes just a few minutes.
Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let chill in refrigerator. Some say that a few hours is all that is needed, but I like to let it sit in the frig overnight. This will allow the mixture to really chill and thicken more.
I like to make my puree, chop my figs and walnuts the next day while the gelato is processing in the ice cream maker. I then put them in the freezer for a few minutes until I am ready to use them. This makes them very cold and will not raise the temp. on the gelato when you add them.
When ready to make your gelato – add your mixture and follow the directions on your ice cream maker. If you do not use an ice cream maker, place the mixture in the freezer and stir up every 1/2 hour for a few hours until you get a good soft consistency – add your figs, puree, and nuts, stir and then let freeze harder.
When your gelato is finished in your ice cream maker, pour it into a bowl and quickly add the honey, fig puree, chopped figs, and walnuts. Fold them in with a spatula very quickly.
Then put the bowl of gelato in the freezer until you get the firmness desired..
It’s a good idea to take the gelato out of the freezer several minutes before serving if it is frozen hard, as gelato should be served semi-soft.
Serving your FIG AND WALNUT GELATO: You might like to slice some ripe fresh figs and place in the dish with your gelato. A drizzle of good local honey is nice and also a sliver of goat cheese on the side. I like to serve it with shaved dark chocolate over the top. The chocolate is delicious with the figs.
PARLA COME MANGI!
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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography