This morning I had to face a personal demon and reason some things out: what do I do if the project I’m currently working on fails? Since I lost my creative partner on the project a few months ago I’ve had to fully invest in moving it along myself. And many times I’ve cursed the former partner’s name because it all would have just been so much easier if we were still working on it together. I’ve equally been thankful that we’re not – the project is coming along well and I don’t know if the same fire would have been lit under me if he had taken the reins.
Without saying too much, just know that it involves food. And it could lead to me eventually not having to leave the city to perform so much or spending so much time in audition rooms. I love performing. I love love love playwrights, directors, producers, other actors, the live audience, the thrill of a really good piece of work. And I love work in general, so much so that I completely overdid it and had a relapse of Lyme several years ago. And since that last bout I’ve realized I need something with a bit more of a direct path that doesn’t require such dramatic energy. Yes, food work is obviously exhausting. Which is why I could never spend as much time in a kitchen as is needed to be a chef. But I have food to thank for making me well enough that I can work again at all.
Which brings me back to the whole failure thing. I came to one awesome conclusion that has cleared a lot: I want to push this project forward so badly because I simply love performing and food and want to share with a community of people. For 18 years I’ve gone back and forth between sickness and relative health. I’ve had to watch what I put in my body meticulously. When I go over the edge, it gets messy: a tiny bit of dairy can make me ill for days, alcohol can be temperamental depending on my sugar levels and if I don’t eat in proper rotation my body freaks out.
I love food for those very reasons. It is a powerful thing. It is my medicine, my magic. It is a form of art that I highly respect when I see it in others and want to nourish in myself.
So if this project “fails”, I’ll still have learned how to make an exponentially yummy list of treats anyway.
Like this one. Two years ago I had no clue how to make coconut milk taste so good. Let me share it with you.
A few years ago, one of my dearest friends (hi Ruark!) gave me an ice cream maker for my birthday. Actually, he was more than a dearest friend – we had been dating for about 7 years at that point. It was the perfect present – given to me in the dead heat of summer, while I was pulling out of that nasty Lyme flare and just able to eat food again. That summer I made a lot of sorbet, and he made full-fatted, full-dairied ice cream for our friends and loved ones.
I was psyched to welcome the machine back into my life this summer.
Unfortunately Ruark wasn’t around to taste either of these creations. We broke up a bit after that birthday but miraculously have remained good friends, supporting each other in work and new relationships with a familial kind of love. So when we decided on a little dinner reunion tomorrow night, ice cream went right on the menu. Along with another dear friend of ours, we shall feast in my tiny Washington Heights kitchen. And, as per usual, I always plan my desserts first.
This ice cream is completely dairy free and uses honey as sweetener – the half cup of honey made it a bit too sweet for me, but I have a feeling others may find it just right. If you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic, a warning: about five bites and I was shaking like a leave in the cooling autumn wind (it’s coming, NYC, sooner or later).
I upped the egg yolk content a bit to add some extra creaminess – I found this made an incredibly decadent texture, spot on to the original that I remember those many moons ago.
I knew I wanted to add something to the mixture in order to compliment the pomegranates, and found lime to work perfectly. Using the zest of two limes and the juice of one gave it an awesome current of citrus that wasn’t overpowering, nor overpowered by the sweetness of the ice cream. The fresh pomegranate seeds at just a touch of tang and crunch.
I’m a huge fan of this recipe Huge.
A note on pomegranates: Yes, you can buy containers of pomegranate seeds from the store, and that was my plan. But they were out. And so I grabbed two ripe pomegranates to seed myself, and am so glad I did! In doing so I was reminded at how beautiful a fruit they are, and how intricately constructed. They sort of remind me of lapas, one of my favorite seafoods when I visit the island my family’s from in Portugal. You use a tiny fork to get at the luscious meat hidden within the barnacle. I have a feeling Salvador Dali would have like them. And pomegranates. And if you’re curious at the connection email me. I’m a nerd for the surrealists.
- 5 oz egg yolks (that was about 8 large eggs for me)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 cups coconut milk (full fat, please)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder / starch
- pinch of kosher salt
- zest from 2 limes
- juice of 1 lime
- seeds of one pomegranate (more or less if saving some for decoration)
- In a heatproof bowl whisk yolks and honey together until smooth and thick, about 1 minute.
- In a large heatproof bowl, whisk vanilla into about 2 3/4 cup coconut milk, reserving the rest.
- Set either in a double boiler or over low heat and bring the milk up to steaming.
- Slowly warm the egg mixture by adding the warm coconut milk to it 1/4 cup at a time, whisking thoroughly, until about a half of the milk is whisked smoothly into the eggs.
- Remove the heated milk mixture from heat.
- Slowly whisk egg mixture into milk mixture, whisking continually while you work and whistling as well. (It’s much more fun if you whistle.)
- Dissolve the arrowroot in the remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk. Slowly add to milk mixture and whisk in.
- Add salt.
- Return bowl to heat and whisk thoroughly for about 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to thicken. Now I don’t work with dairy a lot and it’s been forever since I’ve made a cow-milk-custard. But I have a feeling it thickens moreso than the coconut milk. Please correct me if I’m wrong. But I whisked (and whistled, literally) to the point where it just coasted the back of a spoon. Because of the high content of egg yolks, it worked well.
- Remove bowl from heat and stir in the lime zest.
- Let cool a bit, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge, either until cold or overnight.
- When ready to churn (we don’t get to say “churn” enough nowadays), stir the juice of one lime into the mixture and pour into your ice cream maker.
- Churn (he he) according to its instructions.
- Meanwhile, remove pomegranate seeds from fruit. When the ice cream is just starting to look icy and thick, pour in pomegranate seeds.
- Remove to a sealed container and freeze until hard.
To make coconut milk whipped cream: Place two cans of coconut milk in the fridge and your whipping bowl / whisk in the freezer overnight. When ready, pour both cans in and whip at medium speed for a few minutes, then at high speed until frothy and light. Add honey, maple syrup or powdered sugar to your desired level of sweetness, and 1 tsp vanilla extract if desired. It won’t get quite as light as regular whipped cream, but tastes great and is a nice touch to any dairy-free dessert!