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Sugar High Friday: Watermelon Sundae

July 28, 2006

Watermelon Sundae

I have been a subscriber to Gourmet magazine for a few months, and I have to say that I have been a little disappointed by my experience thus far. While I enjoy the lavish spreads of photographs from exotic places and the reviews of glamorous restaurants, they haven't inspired me much. There have been recipes here and there that intrigued, but not many. It seemed to focus more on eating out than eating in, and I just don't get out much, you know? Once you knock out the holy duo of New York and San Francisco and all the urban divinities in between (Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Miami and Los Angeles) you're not exactly left with representative coverage for the rest of us mortals.

But I suppose that I shouldn't expect the gorgeous, high-flying Gourmet to cater to the proletariat; they do the aspirational thing well. If I wanted to build my recipe repertoire, I told myself ruefully, I should have picked Cook's Illustrated.

And then, just when I was feeling let down by my faith in Ruth Reichl and this highbrow establishment of a rag, the July issue rolled in with a gorgeous painterly cover of sea-green dishes and bright fruit, tomatoes, and pasta. The entire issue was packed with recipes and features that captured the languorous sensuality of hot, hot summertime and its tumbling overflow of good food.

Every story made me want to try the recipes - the whole issue is now thumbed and a little crumpled, a little spattered. But the very first thing I saw was what I wanted to try the most. Watermelon sundae, with a ricotta ice cream and dark chocolate shavings.

Ricotta Ice Cream

Now, watermelon is not something I would ever think of pairing with ice cream. It's too sweet, too watery and full of its own character to pair with a rich and creamy ice cream. And yet this recipe was instinctively intriguing. Throw together almost every kind of dairy you can think of - ricotta, then cream cheese, then milk and cream - add some sugar, dark rum and lemon zest and toss it in the ice cream maker. This produces an unusual rich, sweet ice cream with just a touch of acidity from the lemon and the cream cheese, a slight graininess from the ricotta, and all the body you'd expect from a custard without any of the work. It took literally five minutes to put the mix together, and since all the ingredients were still cold from the fridge, it went straight into the ice cream maker. It freezes up beautifully into firm yet easily scoopable ice cream.

Then, this is where it gets seriously brilliant. Serving this over watermelon punches up all the watermelon's natural crisp flavor, with the lemon and the rum and the rough texture of the ricotta catching on every juicy bite of the watermelon. I love my watermelon in the summer, and this just gives one more reason to buy a quarter, chill it into a freezing cold confection of nature and then smother it in this wonderful ice cream and a flurry of chocolate flakes.

Ricotta Ice Cream

This is what I was hoping for from Gourmet - a sophisticated and inspired twist on an American institution, the family picnic and the sweet, sticky watermelon juice left spattered on the rough wooden tables, the taste of rustic, homemade ice cream. It's homey and elegant all at once, and I am going back for seconds while I read my next issue of Gourmet. It came in the mail today, with a special literary supplement. Things are looking up.

Oh, and this is my entry for Sarah's episode of - Ice, Ice Baby. How appropriate! While the rest of the country is experiencing a heat wave, we here in Florida are slogging through our own normal summer temps of 90-110; it's been like this since May, and it's not going away any time soon. So ice in any form is welcome. Go look at some of the great recipes and cool down!

Ricotta Ice Cream

Watermelon Sundae
From Gourmet's July edition

Ricotta Ice Cream
1 (15-oz) cold container whole-milk ricotta (1 2/3 cups) or 1 2/3 cups fresh ricotta
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup cold milk
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold heavy cream

1. Blend the cheeses, milk, sugar, zest and rum in a blender until smooth.
2. Add the salt, vanilla and cream and blend for just a few seconds until combined.
3. Put into an ice cream maker and freeze according to directions.
4. Put in the freezer to harden for at least two hours.

1 (4 1/2- to 5-lb) wedge of watermelon, cut into 1-inch-thick slices and chilled
1 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (from a 3-oz bar), shaved (1/4 cup)

Serve watermelon with scoops of ice cream and chocolate shavings.

Posted by Faith at 28 July 2006

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I am just going to have to buy an icecream maker now! That does sound - and look - very tasty indeed.

Posted by: Andrew at July 29, 2006 05:27 PM

Thanks Andrew! I confess I ate the rest of this over the weekend, once with cacao nibs and once with cherries. So good.

Posted by: faith at July 30, 2006 10:46 PM

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