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Strawberry Ricotta Ice Cream

Strawberry Ricotta Ice Cream

Southerners have a way of speaking that is infinitely more colorful than us folks up north. I’m not talking about the ubiquitous use of “y’all” which I gather has as many rules as a French pronoun. A Serbian woman who speaks five languages and taught French language classes in Alabama explained the proper use of “y’all” to me.

What I’m talking about are expressions like, “he ran as fast as a bobcat with a burr under his tail.” I once worked with a guy who had a seemingly bottomless hat full of those. Unfortunately the one that stuck to me was, “You can’t swing a dead cat without hittin’(Your Noun Here)!” Example: “You can’t swing a dead cat without hittin’ a Starbucks!”

I shudder to think of the number of times I have had to fight the temptation to use those words. I believe the trick is to not think about the words too intently. It’s like cockney rhyming slang. The intent trumps the words. It makes the English language a more colorful place to live (so to speak.)

Well, lately I can’t swing a dead cat without hitting Ricotta Ice Cream. Actually, not the ice cream itself, but recipes, stories on TV, and magazine covers. I was, at first skeptical—a healthy skepticism, I might add, based on real-life experience.

Greek yogurt has taken off like a dog after a shiny hubcap. (I made that one up. How’d y’all think I did?) During the past few years Greek yogurt has grown from a niche product to a dairy aisle staple. My preferred brand, Fage, no longer imports the stuff, they now make it here, and have done for quite some time.

This summer Ben and Jerry’s has gotten into the act by introducing a range of frozen Greek yogurt. I tried a couple of them and found them like eatin’ a mouth full wet cheese. The latter was not me making another attempt at the Southern idiom. That’s what it tasted like to me: an odd, mildly sour cheesiness. Frozen Kefir? Same.

So, perhaps you can see why I might be a bit hesitant about Ricotta, which, to damn it further, is often called Ricotta cheese.

Yet, like any responsible adult I must step back a moment and survey the playing field. Cheese isn’t necessarily a bad thing in desserts, is it? There’s Cheesecake, yes? I’ve been eating ricotta-filled Cannoli all my life. So in spite of my skepticism, I decided to jump into the ricotta pool. Or at least make some Ricotta ice cream.

At first I was tempted to make a frozen version of the classic chocolate chip-studded Cannoli filling. But then I happened to find some beautiful strawberries and thought they might pair well with the ricotta (like cheesecake with strawberry topping.) (They also make the photograph above much prettier than if I’d used chocolate chips.) There’s also the issue of temperature: I find the freezer tends to blunt the flavor of chocolate chips, and also makes them too hard for my fragile little teeth. (I could start a blog called “Adventures in Adult Orthodontia – or— My Life on Gas” but will resist the urge. For now.)

So the pretty red strawberries were elected.

Throwing fresh fruit into ice cream can be as tricky as going ‘round your elbow to get to your thumb. (Mark Twain would have loved that one.) If you cook the fruit you run the risk of losing its bright color, and it can also become unrecognizable. The plus side to cooking the fruit is that by adding enough sugar you can ensure that it doesn’t freeze to the “hard rock” stage. (The more sugar you add, the less something will freeze.)

My compromise was to macerate the sliced berries in a healthy amount of vanilla sugar. If you let them sit long enough like this you can soften the berries, preserve the bright color, and hopefully have them absorb enough sugar so that they won’t freeze rock hard.

I also thought it might be interesting to experiment with part-skim ricotta. I can never tell the difference between regular and part-skim in other cooking, so why not try that trick here? While I was at it I figured I’d go for broke and substitute half and half for heavy cream too. (I know. Aren’t I dangerous?)

The result was perhaps not as silky smooth as cooked custard ice cream, but it had a very nice light quality. The ricotta taste was definitely there, but the generous shot of vanilla in the recipe seemed to be magnified by it, and there was a tangy yogurt character without the odd cheese smell.

This makes a nice, quick alternative to the slow custard ice cream, and is lower in fat due to the part-skim yogurt and half and half. Yippee!

And it’ll keep you cooler than an Eskimo in an air conditioned igloo.

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Click here for my Ricotta Ice Cream recipe.

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

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