For the birds.

Wait. Is this thing on? ::tap tap::

Wow. I have drafts in this here blog from three years ago, including an essay on why, in sandwiches and burgers, does the cheese have to go on top? Why can’t cheese ever be on the bottom? Is it because it melts and you don’t want it on your hands? In multi-layered burgers and sandwiches you may see cheese lower than on top, but only if there’s already a cheese layer on top. Imagine getting a burger with one slice of cheese and it’s on the bottom. Wouldn’t you freak out? Admit it. You probably would.

I deleted that essay. The loss to humanity cannot be measured.

Anyway, I’m popping back on for a minute to note that I have a Twitter account on which I post details about life, gluttony, and more gluttony. Here is it. Enjoy. As for this blog, I may update now and then with random food thoughts that will probably not include pictures. If I do update–and I’m sure it will be sporadic–it won’t be like it used to be. Life has gotten in the way too much for that. But I like knowing this place is here and that I can spit out a thought or two for anyone who might be interested. Like that cheese thing. I’m glad I got that off my chest. That’s about the level of brilliance you can expect right there.

Grand Gianduja Stracciatella Gelato.

I’ve met people who eat chocolate every day, survive on chocolate when depressed, and smoke chocolate after sex. You know those people. Perhaps you are one. Well, not me, I’m stronger than that. Chocolate can’t take me on its own—it takes two to take me down. Caramel plus chocolate works. Almonds can help out. Recently I tried a matcha dark milk chocolate bar that made my knees wobble.

Gianduja Stracciatella GelatoAnd God help me when chocolate teams up with hazelnut. If chocolate and hazelnut ran a cult together, I’d shave my head, buy a robe, and get a tattoo. Chocolate and hazelnut make me run in circles and howl at the moon. Tease me with gianduja or Nutella and I’ll transform into a raving chocelnut girl, a hazelolate slut, a nutty drooling wench powerless in the face of my desire. You know you can dip strawberries in Nutella? You can dip anything in Nutella. Believe me, I know. My cats are still pissed.¹

It never occurred to me to combine chocolate and hazelnuts myself until my cookbook ban lifted and a sexy copy of David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop finally arrived. I happened to have a bulk quantity of shelled whole hazelnuts and a supply of Green & Blacks milk chocolate and Michel Cluizel milk chocolate in my pantry. Since the word “fate” gets thrown around too casually, I won’t claim that I made the gelato due to fate. I made the gelato because I love chocolate with hazelnuts and had the stuff around to make it. It’s not a romantic story, but when your most enduring love affair so far has been with a sweet creamy chocolate nut spread, you work with what you have.

By the way, if you live near an Aldi, they sell an excellent trans fat-free chocolate hazelnut spread for a third of the cost of Nutella. I mention this because if I’m going down, damn it, I’m taking everybody with me.

Gianduja Stracciatella Gelato in ice cream makerI’d post a recipe, but others have already done so with yummy pictures of their own, so by all means, give them a visit. It’s not a simple recipe. The hazelnuts must be toasted and skinned, then ground and soaked in milk. Then you strain the nuts out and throw the nuts away. I can’t tell you how traumatizing this is. You spent all this time with them and then…toss them? Well it turns out that their flowery fragrant spirit is still there, steeped into the hot milk mixture, so just do what I did—wipe away the tears and steel yourself with the knowledge that it will all work out for the best.

David recommends 5 ounces of melted chocolate for the straccciatella, the melted chocolate that is poured into the churning ice cream where it hardens and breaks into delicious little bits. I found that much dark chocolate a little too overpowering. Next time I make this—and there will definitely be a next time—I plan to drop amount that down to 3 ounces. Then I’ll dip everything, including myself, into a vat of Nutella.

· David Lebovitz on gianduja from the source
· David’s gianduja gelato at butter sugar flour with rippled chocolate sauce
· …at Cookie Baker Lynn in its simplest form, sans straccciatella
· …and at Cafe Fernando between crisp wafers

¹ Kidding.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! (Even when we’re weeping.)

My 33rd birthday is coming up. A few weeks ago my mother, a salt & pepper-haired woman fast approaching her 60s, looked at my hair and said, “You have as much white hair as I do.”

“WHAT?”

“In the back there, I see a lot of white hairs.”

Azuki bean ice cream“NO YOU DON’T.”

“Yes I—”

“YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO TELL YOUR DARLING DAUGHTER THAT HER HAIR IS AS DARK AS MIDNIGHT.”

“I am?”

“YES.”

“Huh.”

After checking my hair with one handstand, two mirrors, three lights, and four back flips, I can firmly state that my mother is a dirty rotten liar. She just loves to get my goat, but goat meat is a future post. For now, let’s talk about ice cream.

Weather bad? Life in the toilet? Dirty rotten lying parents got you down? Ice cream will soothe the pain. You never outgrow ice cream, especially this one. Unlike most frozen desserts that melt into a chilling puddle, velvety azuki bean ice cream coats your tongue in an insulating blanket of sweetness that practically inoculates your body against the cold. If there’s an ideal ice cream to eat on a cold winter day made even colder by your mother stabbing you in the back with the cruel icicles of filthy lies, this would be it.

Sweetened azuki beans, known as pat in Korean and misleadingly called red beans, is used to fill tteok or mochi, stuff steamed buns, and top shave ice and ice cream throughout Asia and Hawaii. Koreans enjoy shave ice topped with pat in a treat they call pat bing su. If the idea of cold sweet beans doesn’t appeal to you, try a pat ice cream bar from an Asian grocer. It may take more than one try before the grainy texture and earthy sweetness grow on you. Soon, however, you’ll try another one, crave another one, and eventually buy a whole box because you’ll be hopelessly, happily addicted. Then you’ll come back here, make this ice cream, and thank me and my lustrous ebony hair for posting this recipe.

FOUNTAIN OF RAVEN-HAIRED YOUTH AZUKI BEAN ICE CREAM
Adapted from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein
Makes about 1 1/4 quarts

The original recipe calls for two cups of red bean paste. To make life easier, I use the whole container, whether it’s a 14-ounce can or a 17-ounce packet (I slightly prefer the flavor of the beans in the packets). I noticed no texture difference either way.

Ingredients:
· 2 1/2 cups half and half
· 3 large egg yolks
· 1/2 cup white sugar
· 1/4 teaspoon salt
· 1 14-oz can or 1 17-oz packet of smooth sweetened azuki (red) bean paste
· 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional but strongly recommended
· 1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds, optional

Bring half and half to a simmer over medium heat. In the meantime, beat egg yolks in a heavy medium bowl with the sugar and salt until the mixture is thick and lemon-colored. Slowly, whisking the whole time, pour the hot half and half into the yolk mixture to temper it. Once most of the half and half is beaten into the yolks, pour the contents of the bowl into the pot with the remaining half and half and whisk continuously over low heat until the mixture thickens slightly or reaches 170 degrees. Don’t let this mixture boil or it may curdle. Remove from heat and stir in red bean paste and almond extract. Stir well until beans are dissolved. Strain the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into a container. Cover and chill at least four hours or, better yet, overnight.

Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker until ice cream is thick and increased in volume. Add the sliced almonds in the last few minutes of mixing. Thoroughly incorporate. Eat fresh or freeze.