Our friend Saket hosted an “Iron Chef” competition at his place earlier in the summer. He’d earlier held a brainstorming session to come up with theme ideas. When he’d been to a similar competition before, an ingredient had been picked and everyone had been expected to bring a dish including that ingredient. We decided to change things up and chose a much vaguer theme for this event — every dish must include either a cliche or a pun.
Matt’s and my entries included “American as Apple Pie” (apple pie shaped like a flag), “headcheese/cheesehead” (a cheeseball shaped like a head), and “toe jam” (boot-shaped cheese crackers with bacon-bourbon jam to spread on the toe). We didn’t ever pick a winner, but the highlight of the night for me was “cool as a cucumber” from Joey — ice cream flavored with cucumber and mint. It was so delicious that we decided to try to replicate it a few weeks later. Not sure if this is the same way Joey made it or not, but we thought our version turned out pretty well. A deliciously refreshing way to end a summer evening!
Cucumber mint ice cream
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 cups half and half or milk
6 egg yolks (can reduce down to 2 for a less rich ice cream)
2/3 c mint leaves, packed
1 Tablespoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup cream or more half and half or milk
1/3 cup of chocolate chips or other mix-in (we used some chocolate “crunchies” we had on hand that are crisped rice coated in chocolate)
Puree the cucumber finely. Set aside.
In a double boiler over simmering water, heat 2 c half and half or milk and 1/4 c sugar. Meanwhile, separate the eggs and whisk the yolks with the remaining sugar until light in color. While whisking, gradually add about 1/2 cup of the simmering milk to the eggs to temper them. Add the egg mixture to the remaining milk and cook over a double boiler, stirring nearly constantly, until thickened. This will take about 5-10 minutes. The custard is thick enough when it coats the back of a spoon and you can run a finger through the custard on the spoon and see the “track” from your finger.
Remove from heat and add the pureed cucumber, mint leaves, vanilla extract, and salt. Let steep about an hour.
Add the remaining cup of cream (or more milk or half and half) and chill thoroughly. (Either chill in an ice bath or leave in the fridge for several hours or overnight.) Strain out the cucumber puree and mint.
Freeze in an ice cream maker. When it’s nearly frozen, stir in any desired mix-ins.