Lemon verbena gelato with Fico Rosa di Pisticci

Lemon verbena gelato

This really should’ve been something to talk about during those dog days of July and August. My lemon verbena grows like a weed during summer, but the only one to use it the most is the Westie (she prefers nibbling the leaves to grass when she has a tummy upset). The idea of using lemon verbena in gelato is not new, but I have yet to see it made with the addition of caramelized figs. Fico Rosa di Pisticci (written about previously) holds up well during the cooking process, and contrasts beautifully in both color and taste.

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 yolks plus 1 large egg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup verbena leaves, loosely packed
For the caramelized figs:
1/2 cup chopped Fico Rosa di Pisticci figs (or other fig variety with red flesh)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon butter

1. Heat the milk and cream in a heavy saucepot until tiny bubbles form around the edge. Add the lemon verbena leaves, remove from heat, and set aside to infuse for 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and egg together with the sugar until light in color. Temper the egg mixture by slowly whisking in the hot lemon verbena milk (leaves included) in a thin, steady stream. Pour the mixture back into a clean saucepot and cook over very low heat, stirring frequently, until it coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow to overcook as the eggs will curdle. Remove from heat and cool completely. When the mixture has cooled (you can facilitate this by setting the pot on a bowl of ice), pour into a clean dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. This overnight step is key to obtaining a good lemon verbena flavor and gives the gelato base enough time to get really cold.

3. For the figs: melt butter in a saucepot and add the figs and sugar. Cook and stir over low heat until the sugar has caramelized. Cool completely.

4. Strain the lemon verbena gelato base and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions until the desired consistency. Scoop gelato into the container you will use to store the gelato, and gently fold in the caramelized figs. Freeze until firm enough to hold its shape.

Fico rosa di Pisticci
Enjoying the last of summer’s sweetness, one scoop and one bite at a time!

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Tomato and Fico Rosa di Pisticci tart

Tomato, fig, and sage tart

I’ll be thinking of this colorful combo when the days start getting shorter and cruciferous vegetables are crowding the fridge. Every summer (or at the end of every summer when I can use the oven without sweating it) I bake a tomato tart with the surplus of tiny cherry tomatoes from the garden. The addition of figs is something I’ve seen before, with crumbled gorgonzola I believe, but to save the calories for dessert, I spread a layer of ricotta on the pastry crust instead. Fresh sage leaves are cut into thin strips, sizzled quickly in a tiny amount of olive oil, and scattered all over before sliding the whole thing in the oven.

Ingredients

1 package store-bought puff pastry crust
1/2 cup low-fat ricotta
2 cups tiny cherry tomatoes, or regular tomatoes, halved
6 small figs, halved
4-5 sage leaves, julienned and sauteed in a small amount of olive oil until fragrant
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Unroll the crust on a baking sheet and spread the ricotta to within an inch from the edge. Top with the tomatoes, figs, and sage leaves. Fold in and crimp the edges. Season lightly with salt and ground pepper. Bake for 25 minutes or until tomatoes are blistered.

At last, some rain

Happy Labor Day to those across the pond! The month of September started off in the best way possible, making everything here in the chestnut forest feeling wonderfully cool and so very refreshed. It wasn’t the heavy thunderstorms as predicted, but a look around the yard is enough to tell me what a little bit of moisture can do to bring things back to a happy state.

Of course it’s not just the change in weather to be grateful for, but also fall produce that are beginning to show up on shelves. There’s the last of summer’s peaches and nectarines, grapes have taken the place of plums, and figs are coming in strong.

Fico rosa di Pisticci
Fico Rosa di Pisticci, purchased at Iperal Calolziocorte at 4,98€/kilo

Speaking of figs, I’m really picky, going for the sweet, dark variety flown in from Turkey. This year, however, I came across a variety that I’ve never seen before – Fico Rosa di Pisticci. These are cultivated in southern Italy, specifically the Basilicata region, and have a delicate sweet flavor. They’re the size of a walnut – perfect for halving onto open-faced tarts, pizza, focaccia, crostini, and bruschette. I’ll be posting what I did with the 3 1/2 pounds purchased yesterday if we don’t end up eating them all as is!