Few things make me happier than the arrival of rhubarb season. Once I see it making an appearance at farmers’ markets and on store shelves, I know that winter really, truly is over. But even more exciting than the symbolic significance those strange red stalks hold is their amazing flavor — a unique tartness that plays well with others, like strawberries, citrus, and ginger. It’s darn tasty, and so versatile. It’s the pumpkin of the spring! And while the pumpkin supply is practically endless during fall in the northeast, rhubarb season seems to vanish all too quickly. And that is why I’ve developed a method for making sure I get my fill of rhubarb each year: If I see it, I buy it. And I buy most of it. The first day it showed up at the store, I’d stuffed about half of the pile in a bag when I realized people were waiting for me to quit being such a hog and get out of the way. The next week, no one was around, so I took all but three puny stalks. Yeah, I’m that jerk.
Looking through my archives, you wouldn’t really pick up on my rhubarb obsession. That, I’m sorry to say, is due to the fact that everything gets eaten before I have a chance to photograph it. Pies, sodas, fruit leather — it’s all gone. We ate it all. But I saved you some ice cream! Wasn’t that nice of me?
As soon as I tasted this stuff, I knew I couldn’t let it vanish without being documented. I usually try to avoid the combination of strawberries and rhubarb because J is mildly allergic to the former, but it seemed essential for this ice cream (especially because I wanted to bring basil into the mix). If you’re skeptical about the use of basil in a sweet dish, I urge you to suspend your disbelief and give it a try. It adds a subtle, almost anise-like flavor, which compliments the sweet/tartness of the strawberries and rhubarb perfectly. The end result was divine. I know an ice cream is good when I want to melt it down and drink it so I can consume it more quickly, and this is one of those ice creams. Even J ate it, under my watchful and somewhat concerned gaze, promising me that it was fine because he’d taken allergy meds earlier that day. My only teeny tiny complaint was that, once frozen, it got a bit icy. Some brief reading online seems to indicate that the way to remedy this is by adding more sugar (but if anyone has any other insights, please share). I’ve made no adjustments to the recipe below, so if you’d like to try adding more sugar to avoid iciness, an additional 1/8 – 1/4 of a cup might help. (Also, the original recipe called for brown sugar, which I was out of. This may have a different effect on the final consistency, and also add a nice depth of flavor if you’d like to give it a try in place of white sugar.)
Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Basil Ice Cream
(adapted from Not Without Salt)
yield: approximately 1 quart
- 2 cups of rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups of strawberries, stems removed and halved
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 large basil leaves, minced
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups of heavy cream
- 1 of cup milk
Preheat oven to 400°. Combine rhubarb, strawberries, and lemon juice and zest in a pan. Roast for around 15–20 minutes, or until everything is nice and soft. Remove and let cool for 10–15 minutes.
Add rhubarb/strawberry/lemon mixture to your food processor. (If you aren’t neurotic about non-chunky ice cream, you can add the basil now as well and skip the straining part.) Process for several minutes, or until the mixture seems very smooth. Run mixture through a sieve, stirring until you’ve gotten everything through and separated out any remaining chunky bits. Return the mixture to the food processor, add in your basil, and process for another minute.
Transfer mixture to saucepan. Heat on medium and add the vanilla extract and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then remove from heat and let cool.
Once your mixture has cooled down a bit, add in the heavy cream and milk. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for at least an hour, or, ideally, overnight. (I also read that an overnight chilling can make a big difference in the final texture, so I will be doing that from now on.)
Process chilled mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.