I love the public library for many reasons, one of which is free access to a huge collection of cookbooks. I take great pleasure in parasitizing old and new releases alike, serendipitously latching onto a select few food titles and not letting go. Sometimes they're not exactly what I expected once I get them home, but other times, they're so much more.
Such was Rustica: A Return to Spanish Home Cooking. I have a soft spot for Spain, having spent a formative period of my life exploring its less famous corners. The food in this cookbook is not necessarily the food I remember. It's more the style of the food that strikes me now, so in tune it is with the seasons and the local bounty. Not everything appeals to me (Cold octopus terrine? No, thank you.), but much of it does. White beans with wild mushrooms. Shrimp fritters. Simple tomato salad. Quince pies with ricotta and honey. I ended up flagging so many pages that I finally made Husband buy it for me for Valentine's Day (nothing spells love like a list of demands).
Last week, I made the goat cheese ice cream (helado de queso de cabra). I spooned some dried cherries soaked in anisette over the smooth, rich custard. Whoa. This ain't ice cream cone material. Save it for something special. One small scoop in a fancy bowl with a spoonful of cherries is all you need. Amazing!
Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Dried Cherries and Anisette
The original recipe called for fresh cherries, but, since they're out of season at the moment, I substituted dried tart cherries and macerated them in anisette. It's lovely, but if you're not fond of anisette's licorice flavor, feel free to substitute brandy, red wine, or water.
5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
8 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled
3 oz. dried cherries
4 oz. anisette
In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks and sugar until combined. (Save the leftover egg whites in the freezer for macaroons or pavlovas.)
Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat it over medium heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat. Gradually whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot cream into the egg mixture to temper the eggs and prevent them from scrambling. Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the pot of cream. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Do not let it boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the goat cheese. Let cool completely. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Pour into a container and freeze until scoopable, 6 to 8 hours.
For the cherry topping, simmer the dried cherries in the anisette in a small saucepan for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the cherries are soft and the liquid is reduced to a syrup. Remove from the heat and chill until cold. (I like the resulting subtle anise flavor, but for a stronger hit, add a splash of anisette off the heat.) Serve a scoop of ice cream with a tablespoon or two of cherries and syrup drizzled over the top.
Source: Adapted from Rustica: A Return to Spanish Home Cooking by Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish
Goat cheese: Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery, Websterville, VT
Cream: High Lawn Farm, Lee, MA
Eggs: Chip-In Farm, Bedford, MA