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Flavor #22: Five-Spiced Persimmon Ice Cream

11 Jan

Bright orange. Looks like a pumpkin. Does not taste like pumpkin. Tastes better than a pumpkin. It is a persimmon! (At least the Fuyu one.)

“I never had a persimmon before,” a friend said when I served him a scoop of the five-spiced persimmon ice cream.

I was awestruck. Never had a persimmon ever?

Fuyu Persimmon

Growing up, my mom constantly purchased persimmons…almost in bulk at the weekly farmers markets. Bruised or dotted with black spots, they were on sale, but still as good as the perfectly shaped ones. She always bought the plentiful Fuyu persimmons with its squat bottom. (Differences between Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons.) My picky younger self avoided many fruits and this was one of them. After dinner, my mom carefully peeled the persimmons, leaving finger-sized slivers on a napkin. She ate the peeled persimmon quickly, relishing the light sweet juice. Not quite floral, not quite peachy, but something of its own. Vanilla, maybe? A gentle nudge of sweet? A reminder that the fall and the winter had arrived.

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Flavor #21: Pomegranate Blueberry Sorbet

1 Jan

Pomegranates. Blueberries. A winter fruit of tricky and a summer fruit of warm nights. All mixed into an ice cold sweet dessert for a new year.

Then zombies. And my favorite kind of meal.

(Two months delayed due to travel.)

Every year for my book club, I host the Halloween event around late October/early November. Each time, the intended focus is the book (usually zombie-themed). But every single year, my creativity takes over me and I JUST HAVE TO make multiple courses of zombie-themed food.

Meat heads are tasty

This year, as a result of being fully immersed in an ice cream journey, I thought about how ice cream can be creepy. Blood-red colored surely. (Maybe black? Sesame?) With some kind of topping that is…incredibly gross.

And that’s when it came to me.


Pomegranates ready to be chopped

As a child, I recall my mom telling me to go to the backyard to break the pomegranates. Eating the fruit is a messy endeavor as each seed (as sturdy it seems on the outside) bursts with so much juice. My mom must have instructed me to wear an apron, lest my clothes be stained by the bright and unwashable colors of the pomegranate.

The seeds are interestingly shaped and encased inside a red package. Aliens bursting from within? Evidence of one’s trypophobia? (I am pretty sure that I have some of that phobia too…) A disease? Symbolic of the Rape of Persephone where she was tricked to eat four seeds?

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Flavor #20: Spiced Apple Ice Cream with Dulce de Leche Swirl

20 Dec

Spiced apple ice cream with dulce de leche

(An ode to the country I am currently in: Argentina.)


Apples. Red. Green. Fuji. Rayburn. Apple pie. Apple sauce. Apple cider. That annoying remainder of the apple: the core that you bite round and round, the uncomfortable eyesore on the table withering into an unsightly brown. Yet. Sweet. Tart. Classic americana. I love pink lady apples the most—for the rosy happiness inspiring color, right balance of tartness and sweetness equivalent a healthy version of ice cream (of course!). The sweet crunch. The magic of an apple corer and the friendly lady at a hotel restaurant when I was 10 who cut our apple for us when my parents asked for a knife. These are my memories of apples.

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Flavor #19: Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Caramelized Figs and Candied Bacon

26 Nov

A few years ago, I asked to take my family’s BBQ grill. Sitting in my parents’ garage, I knew that my parents rarely used it (having opt to use the grill at a swimming pool club because it didn’t require our maintenance or cleanup). Not having the space in my San Francisco apartment, I left it at Chris’ apartment where he had a backyard. Where one summer, BBQ was the only word that escaped from my lips as the evening approached.


During those years when I dreamed of BBQing, anything that was given to me…I naturally brainstormed a way to BBQ it. At work, one day, my coworker brought bags of figs, lamenting about how they kept dropping like bombs in his backyard. Fragrant sticky juicy bombs.

“Fantastic,” I said. “I’ll think of a way to BBQ it.”

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Flavor #18: Pear Pecorino Ice Cream

2 Nov

When I was in Ohio, I asked to visit Snowville Creamery (one of the dairy sources for Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream), because I had trouble getting in touch with Jeni. To my surprise, Warren (owner of Snowville Creamery) invited me to stay the night to get a “real experience” of the dairy farm and the dairy plant. During dinner, I mentioned my love of cheese and my expensive habit of buying a wheel of Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery…but how to my dismay, when I visited the cheese stand at North Market (a public market full of local goodies) in Columbus, the cheese expert told me that good cheeses in Ohio are rare. The cheese expert directed me back to California where good cheeses are plentiful.

In response, to my delight, my wonderful host invited me to visit Integration Acres, local cheese artisans, where his daughter worked.

I was starstruck. In the back with the aging cheeses, I stood there in letting the smell of cheese waft over me. To wish me on my way, I got a slice of the pecorino cheese (or what seemed to be pecorino cheese…maybe it was gouda?). On its own, the cheese was strong and intense. It desperately wants to be paired with something.

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Flavor #17: Thompson Grape Sorbet

1 Nov

Grape sorbet

There are typically two flavors I avoid when I encounter candy. Orange and grape. Maybe because those two are the most artificial tasting. Or that their colors…aren’t as bright as yellow and blue.

When we walked through my favorite farmers market, I couldn’t help but notice the stalls carrying grapes. Green grapes, red grapes, purple grapes. Concord grapes (the most vividest), champagne grapes, Thompson grapes. At one stall, we stopped and sampled the four grapes that they sold. With eyes closed, we chose the sweetest grape. The seller watched us carefully as we jumped from box to box. It was near closing time…almost 2 pm. And we finally we made our decision.

Grapes at Farmers Market

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Flavor #16: Roasted Strawberry and Caramelized Banana Ice Cream

25 Oct

Growing up in California where fresh produce is ample. I had always taken for granted the fruits available in the farmers market. Especially strawberries. There is something intoxicating about an entire case of strawberries, with the delicate scent alluring all that pass by the stand. My mom brought my sister and me to the farmers market weekly in Oakland chinatown. As she shopped for the freshest fish and vegetables, my sister and I would greedily find the ladies handing out samples. Especially those of strawberries.

During high school, the first smoothie bar opened up downtown. (Unlike what others believe, smoothie bars didn’t become popular until I was nearly 16). After working on a science project together, my classmate’s mom drove us downtown to the new smoothie bar. Sheltered from mainstream trends, I was surprised by the incredible smoothie now served to the masses. A mixture of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, lemon and bananas. With a drop of yogurt (or some dairy product).

So, on a warm fall day (the summer in San Francisco), Chris asked, “Strawberry banana?”

It was an easy inspiration. (Granted, it had not been the first time he asked for the flavor or the smoothie equivalent.) A combination of sweet and tart.

No such recipe existed quite yet.

In making the ice cream, I adhered to the principles I learned in Ohio. Do it the right way In the recipes that I scoured for on the Internet, they were simple. Just chop up the strawberries and toss in! to Mash up the bananas and mix during churning. There was something missing.

Flavors intensify with a bit of heat…to evaporate the water. With too much water in any mix-in, the mix-in (or fruit for that matter) can taste like a bite of ice inside ice cream. So in an effort to minimize that, I roasted the strawberries and caramelized the bananas.

Pureeing strawberries and bananas

In making the ice cream, I initially started with an egg-based custard but in the process, I turned up the heat too much and the eggs…scrambled. So instead, I went with a cornstarch base, which was easier but also allowed for the fruit flavors to stand on its own than to be masked by eggs.

So more by accident, I let the roasted strawberries and caramelized bananas sit for a few hours. I am almost quite certain that the flavors were more intense as a result.

On taste, it was truly Proustian, yanking me back to the moment that I had a strawberry banana smoothie growing up.

Churning strawberry banana ice cream


For the roasted strawberries

1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced into quarters
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice or juice of a half lemon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a glass or ceramic pan (something nonreactive), mix well the strawberries and sugar together. Roast for 8 minutes until soft. Cool. Puree with the lemon juice. Set aside.

For the caramelized bananas

2 ripe bananas, peeled
1 tablespoon packed light or dark brown sugar

In a medium pan, mix the bananas and brown sugar together with a fork until fully mashed. Cook under medium heat for about 4-8 minutes until brown. Cool. Puree. Set aside.

For the ice cream base

4 1/2 cups of whole milk, half & half, heavy cream or combination
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and 2 1/2 tablespoons of the cream, half & half or milk until there are no lumps to create a cornstarch slurry.

In a medium pot over medium heat, mix the remaining cream, half & half, or milk with sugar and salt. When the mixture begins to steam, add the cornstarch slurry. Continue to cook until the mixture thickens or begins to simmer.

Chill at least three hours or overnight in a refrigerator.

To make ice cream

Mix in the strawberry puree and banana puree into the ice cream base. Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve plain or with fruit toppings (e.g. banana slices and/or strawberry slices).

Flavor #15: Kaffir Lime Coconut Sorbet

22 Oct

coconut kaffir lime sorbet

I am notorious for not eating green things. I hate green things unless they are tinged with sugar or overwhelmed with salt.

So quite naturally, I am quite the candidate for ice cream loving. Even those flavors that are green.

A sample list of exceptions to green things that I will eat:

  • Limes (because they are like oranges and lemons)
  • Green things that can be picked out
  • Sauteed green beans
  • Lettuce
  • Juicy pear jelly belly beans
  • When I was in Vancouver, my friends and I walked through the markets of historical Granville Island and came across wrinkled green limes nestled with astringent hardy leaves. Kaffir lime is what the sign said.

    Kaffir Limes

    “You will never find this in the states,” my friend who was raised abroad in India, Thailand and Singapore announced. “Not fresh, at least.”

    At my first real job, I went with my coworkers frequently to Osha, a local San Francisco Thai restaurant. There, kaffir lime leaves permeated nearly every plate (definitely more than the Americanized Thai restaurants I was accustomed to). Spicy catfish to salmon sashimi salad to tom kha noodle soup. The leaves were always so dried, almost translucent. But they imparted an unusual taste that I associated with Thai cooking.

    When I went to the farmers market (same trip as for the passionfruit), the same stand had a box of kaffir lime leaves with deeply nestled wrinkly limes.

    kaffir lime leaves at farmers market

    Bargaining with the stand owner, I walked away with more than 20 kaffir leaves and about 6 limes.

    When I returned to my kitchen, I searched online for inspiration for ice cream flavored with kaffir limes. I came upon this excellent recipe from Serious Eats. Interestingly, the original recipe called for coconut water. The author recommended buying those pervasive bottles of coconut water (nowadays the substitute for Gatorade) such as Vita.

    However, adhering to my decision from Ohio, I wanted to use only whole ingredients as much as possible. Like any determined chef, I found myself at the local ethnic market, buying three whole coconuts. Then after bribing a fellow male (knowing my weakness in wielding a chefs knife), he chopped open the coconuts and I poured out the coconut water directly in measuring cups.

    real coconut water

    Good fact to know: each coconut (those found in grocery stores) will have approximately 1 to 1.5 cups of coconut water.

    By using unfiltered, unprocessed coconut water, the kaffir lime coconut sorbet had a strong coconut taste (especially since no water is used; only coconut water is used to balance the water/sugar content). Each bite of the sorbet finishes with a refreshing hint of the kaffir lime leaves.

    The resulting sorbet is tropically sweet, without being overpowering.


    Adapted from Serious Eats


    3 1/2 cups of chilled coconut water from retail coconut water brands such as Vita Coco or 3 fresh coconuts (not coconut milk)
    12 kaffir lime leaves, bruised and torn
    Pinch of salt
    2 pieces of star anise
    1 cup of sugar
    2 to 3 tablespoons of lime juice, to taste
    1 tablespoon of ginger, shredded on a fine grater or microplane (optional)


    Add coconut water, kaffir limes and salt to a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, uncovered.

    Remove from heat. By this point, the leaves will have faded to a dull olive green. Remove the leaves. Stir in sugar until dissolved.

    Add the star anise and steep for at least 10 to 20 minutes. Depending on the intensity of the flavor, allow for more or less time.

    For best results, chill for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

    When ready to churn, stir in the ginger (optional) and lime juice, starting with two tablespoons. Check flavor and add more lime juice, to taste.

    Churn in an ice cream maker based on the manufacturer’s instructions. The result will be slightly soft. Freeze for at least an hour for good consistency. Top with lime zest or other Asian goodies (like sago!)

    coconut kaffir lime sorbet

    Flavor #14: Mango and Passionfruit Ice Cream

    2 Oct

    The innards of passionfruit

    In the same farmers market trip for the peaches, a stand with smaller boxes than others caught my eye as I strolled. It looked as if the farmer looked at her garden and chose a select few. Sure, they were generic things like plums, apricots…but then there was these…wrinkly things. They looked like dates. Small and puny. Mostly visually unappealing.

    “Passionfruit. The wrinkled ones are usually the ripest,” she said and then turned to a man fingering produce in a box nearby.

    Like most Americans, I only knew passionfruit as the orange-y liquid thing found in juice—sometimes formulated into an icy creation in classy restaurants. Hand-picked Gem lettuce leaf with a single wedge of heirloom tomato dotted with passionfruit vingarette

    I doubted her conclusions and paused. Standing there, I stroked my phone. Tap tap to find out what I could do with passionfruit. Accepting that my phone’s data decided suddenly not to work in a pivotal moment, I gave in. I selected the ones that seemed…good. They were so light. As I shook them, they seemed to be hollow. Perhaps a few seemed to have something inside. Yet, I was no expert and I trusted her.

    “Ok, we’ll take these,” I gestured to seven passionfruit.

    Unsure whether to trust her and also uncertain of how soon I’ll get around to making the ice cream, I chose the ones that were less wrinkled. They were almost smooth with a lovely gradient of purple that extended across the thick unedible skin.

    At home, I realized my folly. The passionfruit was not enough on its own (my bunch of passionfruit sadly averaged to no more than 10 seeds each). I wanted a bit more than 7 passionfruits, but the farmers market was closed. I searched online for something that would add additional flavor to the ice cream while complementing and not overpowering the strengths of passionfruit.

    Earlier in the week, I had visited my mom who had recently underwent surgery. Sorrow gripped my heart as I watched my mom—the quintessential dragon lady who used to make loud demands to store keepers and fearlessly moved to the states just because—moving about in pain. As we shared a lunch of ravioli that I purchased near my apartment in the city, she suddenly said, “You must have the mango ice cream that I got from Lunardi’s.”

    Ignoring the pain (the one seemingly painless moment that afternoon), she hobbled quickly to the freezer. Then magically, she produced two spoons as she sat back down at the kitchen table. Opening the plastic carton, she dug a scoop of mango ice cream into her bowl. Using the same spoon, she licked the ice cream in glory. (My family did not use ice cream scoops; however, nowadays I abhor the idea of bending my spoons.)

    “Look at this big mango chunk,” she said and took another bite. “I can’t believe that they did made such a stupid mistake, but I am so glad that they did.”

    Mango. Simple answer. It is the most popular flavor at the first shop that interviewed at Mitchells. At my last office job, one of my good friends would always take the lonely mango from the fruit box. Unlike the peaches, the pears, the apples, the oranges…this mango was always the last to go, rotting in loneliness or picked up by my friend who missed the mangos from her home country of the Philippines.

    As I constructed the recipe, nothing online really matched what I was seeking in terms of ingredients (fresh instead of juiced or canned), so this one in particular is a bit of experimentation…and magic.



    2 cups whole milk
    1 cup heavy cream
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    4 egg yolks
    Pulp from 7-8 whole passionfruit including seeds (if not wrinkly, let the passionfruit sit in direct sunlight; after 8 hours, the passionfruit should be ripe)
    1 whole mango


    In a medium pot, heat the milk, heavy cream and sugar until simmering over medium heat. Remove from heat.

    In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Temper the egg yolks by pouring one cup at a time of the warmed mixture. Whisk the mixture after every cup. Return the contents into the pot and place over medium heat. Stir frequently. The custard will thicken. Remove from heat when the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

    Stir the passionfruit pulp into the mixture. A little passionfruit juice will strongly flavor the mixture. If you wish, you can strain out the seeds, but the seeds add texture to the ice cream. If desired, reserve some of the pulp (or whole passionfruit) to serve over scoops of ice cream once ready to serve.

    For best results, chill for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator to let the passionfruit intensify the mixture.

    Slice up the mango into bite-size cubes (if you need help, read this or this). Or alternatively, you can roughly chop the mango to offer surprise big mango pieces, which my mom will surely love. We want to add this fruit halfway through churning (although you can do this prior to churning) to reduce freezing interference.

    Churn in an ice cream maker based on the manufacturer’s instructions.

    Passionfruit and Mango Ice Cream

    Flavor #13: Roasted Peach Sorbet

    14 Sep

    After a two week journey through Vancouver and Seattle, I learned one important lesson in ice cream making:

    Shop well.

    The choice of ingredients always shine through the recipes. Particularly in ice cream where the taste is based on the quality of the ingredients.

    So when the rosy peaches, juicy lemons, and cinnamon come directly from the source—unfiltered, organic, fresh—there is a profound change of taste. Yet like many home cooks, I have often taken the most cost-effective and time-efficient methods of using extracts and pre-mixed ingredients ($4 for artificial vanilla extract? Sure!).

    A few years in 2008, I spontaneously showed up to an early screening of Food Inc, which changed the way I shopped for groceries. It takes only a little more effort to use whole ingredients (e.g., substituting cinnamon sticks for ground cinnamon or fresh lemons for bottles of lemon juice. For months afterward, I shopped only at Whole Foods and at farmers markets. The latter was the most intriguing based on meeting the farmers, the colors at every food stalls, and the missing middlemen.

    In Seattle, after talking to Adria from Parfait (who talked about her culinary awakening in France where local produce was abundant and cooking with fresh ingredients is a way of life), I went to the Alemany Farmers Market with only a singular purpose: To obtain the fresh ingredients for my next batch of ice cream.

    That’s how I came upon the peach. (A big influence was observing Tracy of Social make a peach sorbet at her kitchen on my last day in Seattle.)

    The peach is the quintessential fruit of the summer. The fruit that Alice Waters lovingly serves whole, unpeeled, unpitted rolling about on a plate at Chez Panisse. The fuzz that repels people yet draws them closer and closer to the juice.

    And in my life, it is the secret ingredient that my team guessed a few years ago in August (and make several dishes based on the peach) based on these hints:

    • Currently in-season in California
    • Typically have between 35 and 40 calories
    • Associated with the “unluckiest” colony

    At the farmers market, the peaches called out to me. And also the women who called out (near closing time), “One dollar per pound! EVERYTHING IS NOW ONE DOLLAR PER POUND!” Fighting past the competitive old Chinese ladies, I grabbed an empty bag and filled it up with all the available stone fruit. White peaches first. Then some plums—purple and green. Then topping off with yellow peaches.

    After accidentally gorging on all the plums (you cannot stop yours truly from eating fruit) and some accidental peaches, all that remained were 6 white peaches and 5 yellow peaches. Curious about how the sorbet will differ for each peach, I used the same method for each. Interestingly, the skin came off easily after roasting the yellow peaches. In contrast, the skin for white peaches came off in unsightly shreds—so I eventually just pureed it skins and all.

    Results between the two? Both sorbets spoke well to their source ingredients. The yellow peach sorbet had that sour taste that I loved—it was balanced well with the hint of lemon juice. The white peach sorbet was sweeter and spoke of berries—it was very similar to the raspberry lemon sorbet.


    I can gorge on this sorbet all day, but I am trying to reserve some for my curious ice cream tasters.


    Adapted from Seattle PI:


    5 or 6 peaches (6 is ideal for this recipe to have intense peach flavor, but 5 works as well because I obviously ate 1 too many)
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    Juice of 1 lemon
    2/3 cup sugar (the original recipe calls for Baker’s sugar for easy dissolving, so I pulsed the granulated sugar a few times prior to mixing with other ingredients)
    Pinch of cayenne
    Pinch of salt


    Halve the peaches and remove the pit. Sprinkle brown sugar over the peaches. Roast for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest for a few minutes.

    Peel the skins from the peaches. Be careful as the free-flowing juice and peach flesh can be very hot! Roasting brings out the flavor…and technically should make the skin easy to peel. If the skin is not easy to peel, leave it on. Depending on your preference on texture, the skin can be strained out later.

    In a blender or food processor, puree with the juice of 1 lemon (or 1 tablespoon of juice) and sugar. Add more or less lemon juice to taste.

    It is possible to churn immediately (mixture will be room temperature if the ingredients are at room temperature), but for better results, chill for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Churn in an ice cream maker based on the manufacturer’s instructions. Add a pinch of cayenne and salt at the beginning of churning to intensify the flavors.

    The result will be easy to scoop and does not freeze into ice blocks. (Yay!)

    Yellow peach sorbet

    White peach sorbet