ice cream

It Bears Repeating

Spiced Coconut Ice Cream from Date Night In / Eat This Poem

It was very good timing to find Ashley's new cookbook at my doorstep in December. One set of recipes in particular, from the date night inspired by "A Touch of Thai," had me dreaming of being back in Thailand. Coconut ice cream was a daily treat while we sat under umbrellas in Krabi, and I was itching for tropical flavors in the weeks after we returned. 

I love when recipes take you somewhere else. In this case, not only was I reminded of the fond memories of my own vacation with my husband, but I was given a glimpse into two other marriages. Before turning the pages to reveal spring rolls, green curry, and this ice cream, you read lovingly about Ashley and her husband Gabe sitting under walnut trees to celebrate her parents' fortieth wedding anniversary. And under these majestic trees, her dad asked a probing question: "What have we done in our marriage that you all have taken into your own marriages?" 

It's a heavy question, the kind parents feel comfortable asking once their children are grown and established and everyone starts treating each other like adults. For Ashley, the question reminded her how important small actions are, because it's in mundane moments like setting the table with cloth napkins for another date night that feelings about marriage begin to form for her children. It's a very special thing to read about, proving what we all know to be true: A meal is more than the sum of its ingredients, and food continues to be one of the intimate ways we can connect with those we love and cherish, romantic or not.

In gathering the ingredients for coconut ice cream, I couldn't help but consider Paul Hostovsky's poem "Coconut." We've talked about it before, but that's the beauty of poetry: It bears repeating.

Reading a good poem once is rarely enough. There are books I walk to year after year and flip open a single page of before placing it back on the shelf. Sometimes that's all you need. The words are there when I crave reminding of something long forgotten, to offer comfort, bring a smile, inspire me, offer something new. 

This time around, I was most interested in happiness. It's something Ashley's book nudges your towards, too, finding quiet moments in a day to spend time with the ones you care about most. It's easy to go through our week just bypassing each other, even when you live in the same house and sleep in the same bed. Quality time is what we're after, and sometimes you simply need to put it on the calendar and make an evening of it. 

Spiced Coconut Ice Cream \\ Eat This Poem


by Paul Hostovsky

Bear with me I
want to tell you
something about
it's hard to get at 
but the thing is
I wasn't looking
I was looking
somewhere else
when my son found it
in the fruit section
and came running
holding it out
in his small hands
asking me what
it was and could we
keep it it only
cost 99 cents
hairy and brown
hard as a rock
and something swishing
around inside
and what on earth
and where on earth
and this was happiness
this little ball
of interest beating
inside his chest
this interestedness
beaming out
from his face pleading
and because I wasn't
happy I said
to put it back
because I didn't want it
because we didn't need it
and because he was happy
he started to cry
right there in aisle
five so when we 
got it home we
put it in the middle
of the kitchen table
and sat on either
side of it and began
to consider how
to get inside of it

From Bending the Notes (Main Street Rag, 2008)

There's a moment in the poem when the Dad says "we can't have it" because he isn't happy, so he projects that onto his son. His son starts to cry because his happiness was squashed under the fluorescent lights of the produce aisle. It took only a second, but when we are not living from a place of happiness, and our hearts are not open to it on a moment-by-moment basis, we hurt the people we love, rather unintentionally, but it changes our experience of the moment. 

You see, we are back to the moments that seem utterly unimportant, yet have such a profound impact. It's not unlike eating ice cream. A scoop can be devoured in minutes, without pause, without so much as a smile if you're really concentrating, but that would be missing the point, something Ashley articulates so beautifully.

By the time the spiced coconut ice cream sits in front of us, melting in little pools of hot coffee, the house is perfectly quiet. We are silent too as we savor the ice cream’s mix of coolness and warmth. I feel whole, happy to have had time with my husband, proud to be an example for our kids.
— Ashley Rodriguez, Date Night In
Spiced Coconut Ice Cream // Eat This Poem


In this recipe you'll find the spices are warming but not overpowering. I made a few tweaks to accommodate what my pantry offered, and have to say, this recipe a complete winner. 

Slightly adapted from Ashley Rodriguez, Date Night In

1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 can coconut cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the coconut milk, coconut cream, vanilla seeds and the pod, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes for the flavors to infuse.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt for two minutes, until pale yellow. Return the liquid to a simmer and pour a ladle-full into the eggs, whisking briskly to temper it, then pour the eggs and sugar mixture into the custard, whisking continuously until incorporated. Cook over medium heat until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes.

Strain the custard into a large bowl and cool to room temperature before freezing in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

"Savor" by Julia Wendell + Pistachio Gelato

Pistachio Gelato | Eat This Poem

It had been approximately eight weeks since I last visited the farmers' market, six weeks since I'd had a free weekend, and four weeks since I'd felt any sort of enthusiasm for cooking. Spring was hard. I paid no attention to its offerings, trading my time in the kitchen for taping together moving boxes. A few transitions (the kind most people like to spread out over a longer period of time) occurred simultaneously, and there were moments I thought we would never make it out the other side. But here we are. And it's summer!

At the end of June, Andrew and I woke up on our first free Saturday since the beginning of May. We made pancakes, then went to the gym (for my first yoga class in oh, four weeks)...And after that, we stopped by the farmers' market. Just that morning, I was lamenting how uninterested I was in cooking. I usually meal plan every week, heading to the store with a firm strategy in place for the dishes I planned to cook every night, but that morning I couldn't bring myself to flip through a magazine or give it any firm thought. I was completely uninspired, and I hated the feeling.

Pistachio Gelato | Eat This Poem

So we walked into the market with no plan whatsoever, and it was exactly what I needed. Without the trappings of my handy list, I let summer's first vegetables tell me what I should make. We went home with a pound of gold tomatoes, ruffled chard, kale, fingerling potatoes, red peppers, a case of strawberries, and pistachios.

It only took 20 minutes of standing among the stalls and trusting my instincts to tap into the enthusiasm again. I couldn't wait to start cooking. Andrew had been requesting ice cream steadily for the past month, so pistachio ice cream, or gelato, as it turned out, was the very best thing to make. I was also fresh off of reading a new poetry collection, Take This Spoon by Julia Wendell, so I was itching to make a pairing and find my way back to this space. 


by Julia Wendell

The velvety heat and sweetness
smothering ice cream's cold shock,
holding each soft spoonful in our mouths
as long as possible:

even my calorie-conscious self
couldn't say no. Stirring was a chore
for my mother, the impatient one.
She was glad to have me

fetch the double boiler, wooden spoon, tolerant
of my constant pleading: Is it ready yet?,
as stubborn white flecks of clotted cream
fought their subservience to chocolate,

resisting union.
But persistence wins. If you stir long enough,
it will thicken and delight,
and it will disappear.

Poem reprinted with permission from the author. Visit Main Street Rag to order your copy.

"Holding each soft spoonful in our mouths as long as possible." Isn't that the essence of summer, in a way? Whether it's ice cream or a sunset or a bonfire or a meal under the stars, summer days swing from one to the next and we try not to fall until September.

"Savor" invites us in by using a memory many can relate to. Mother and child waft between patience and impatience, and the tasks ahead seem mundane until the moment when "persistence wins," and the ice cream "will thicken and delight, and it will disappear," just like every summer afternoon. That's how it always works, doesn't it? We fight and resist, we let frustrations take over, but once we let go, that's when the magic happens. This poem is a beautiful meditation on relationships, on seasons, and on cooking, the driving force that fuels so many of us. It set me on the right course to embrace the coming days as best I can, and I hope it does the same for you. 

Pistachio Gelato | Eat This Poem


This recipe is a hybrid of the pistachio butter from 101 Cookbooks, and the pistachio gelato from David Lebovitz. Making gelato (instead of ice cream with an egg-base), really allows the pistachio flavor to shine through. I scooped mine onto a strawberry crumble, but it would also be wonderful drizzled with homemade chocolate shell

For the pistachio paste
1 1/2 cups pistachios
1/3 to 1/2 cup hot water
1/4 cup teaspoon salt

For the gelato
4 cups whole milk
2/3 cup organic cane sugar sugar (use 1/2 cup if you'd like it a touch less sweet)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cup cup pistachio paste (see above)
A squeeze of lemon juice

Puree the pistachios in a food processor until broken down. Drizzle in the water until the puree is creamy, then let it run for about  three minutes; it will be the consistency of hummus.

Rinse out the food processor, then add 1/2 cup milk and the cornstarch, blending until the starch is dissolved and the liquid is smooth, about 1 minute.

Heat the rest of the milk in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar. When it almost starts to boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook at a gentle simmer for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat and chill thoroughly, at least 4 hours. Once chilled, whisk in the pistachio paste and a few drops of lemon juice until smooth. If you prefer a really smooth gelato, puree the gelato in a sturdy blender before freezing in your ice cream machine.

"Mountains" by Natasha Sajé + Affogato

Often the books stay open for days, face down, saved on a page that stuck with me, that I need to go back and review, that needs a recipe. I don't pick them up automatically. There are food magazines to peruse and dinner to be made, the dog to walk, the food system to keep up with, laundry to be done, graduation cards to send, and online shopping to be done, among other things. I know we all have our own noise. All good things mostly, but things that train us (for better or worse), to do several tasks at once instead of what poetry requires: to be fully present in the moment, reading the words on the page and letting them sink in like crusty bread sopping up olive oil from the mouth of a bowl.