If there was ever a reason to eat organic, strawberries would be it.
They're typically sweeter, juicier and bursting with flavor compared to bland, conventionally grown berries with their pale white centers.
And summer means ice cream.
This week we have been blessed with an abundance of organic strawberries. We belong to a local CSA, (Community Supported Agriculture) in which we buy a share of a local farm and in return receive a portion of the farm's harvest. Our farm includes pick-your-own crops (woo-hoo!), so we had at it yesterday down at the farm. We returned victorious with ten heaping, hand-picked quarts. We are all a little giddy from both the sweet, intoxicating smell of fresh berries, and the promise of summer that lies within the flesh of these delicate red fruits.
This recipe is an adaptation of Anya Kassoff's Roasted Plum Ice Cream from her cookbook The Vibrant Table. Her cookbook truly is a piece of art, just as much a functional tome as it is filled with gorgeous and inspiring photographs. Her original recipe is a mix of roasted plums, freshly ground cardamom and ginger with coconut milk that is bold and loud and completely addictive. This is, hands down, the most addictive ice cream I have ever had. When I tell you that I would eat a gallon of this in one sitting I am not exaggerating. The first time I made it, I seriously considered hoarding it in the back of the freezer til my conscious got the better of me.
I am absolutely smitten.
In my variation, the flavor is softer, more of a whisper, in a way that I adore. The lemon verbena has a delicate, sweet smell that reminds me of a hidden honeysuckle vine from childhood. While it resembles more of a sorbet when scooped directly from the freezer, if given time to melt just a bit it takes on a creamy consistency on par with traditional ice cream.
And that's where I surrender.
It compels me to stop and I become lost in my own little world. I let it linger on my tongue. I become mindfully aware of the sensation when the back of my tongue bursts in excitement and gives rise to a huge smile on my face. I become present. It is both mediation and pure joy. In one delicious scoop.
Lemon Verbena is very easy to grow here on the Jersey Shore, requiring little more than a pot of well-drained soil, sun, and water. The leaves can be used for tea; in sauces or stuffings; or used to flavor baked goods as well as ice cream. For this recipe just pinch enough tips to make up a handful, rinse well, and add them to the pot.
As with any processed product, be sure to check the ingredients in the coconut milk you select. You will get just under 2 cups from one 13.5 fl oz can of coconut milk. The original recipe calls for 2 cups, but at times when I only have one can I will just take out a few of the strawberries to keep the ratio even and it turns out great. Shake the cans vigorously before you open them to eliminate clumps. No worries — if you forget, or there are clumps anyway, just mix it up a few times around with a whisk. The separation is normal.
When cleaning the strawberries, be mindful that you want them all to be roughly the same size. So this may mean cutting larger ones in half, sometimes even into quarters depending on the size. Also, be sure to save the green tops of those organic strawberries! The entire berry and stem is edible so you can throw them in a smoothie or juicer. Just be sure to use them within a day, they won't hold up for long.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must warn you that the smell of fresh strawberries roasting in the oven can send you into a euphoric state of bliss. Does to me anyway. Awesome mood lifter on a bad day. But I realized that I get so deliriously happy that I start saying yes to everything. So, I'm gonna warn you: remain blissfully aware. I cannot be held accountable if, while making this recipe, your child asks for a pet python and you think its a fabulous idea. Just sayin.
Organic Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe
The 8SAFE processed ingredient that I used in this recipe was NATIVE FOREST Organic Coconut Milk.
A recipe is only 8SAFE if it is free of gluten and the top eight food allergens. Please be mindful of this when selecting products to use in this recipe, and double check the ingredients of the products you use.
4 cups hulled organic strawberries (about 2 pints)
2 cups unsweetened , full fat organic coconut milk
1 large handful of fresh lemon verbena (organic if possible)
Pinch of Himalayan fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup raw local honey
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put the strawberries on the foil in a single layer and stick them on the middle rack in the oven. Roast them for 15-20 minutes.
After the berries go in the oven, put the coconut milk in a saucepan and incorporate any clumps with a whisk. Then add the lemon verbena, stems and all. Bring to a boil, cover, and then remove from heat.
Check on the strawberries, and when they look "soft and jammy", take them out of the oven and loosely wrap the tin foil in a tent around the berries.
At this point, you'll need to wait about 30 minutes for the strawberries to cool and the lemon verbena to infuse the coconut milk, so do something that makes you happy! Play with the kids, dance around the kitchen, call a friend...
Then put the strawberries in a blender and puree until smooth. Next, add the coconut milk and lemon verbena, a small pinch of salt, and blend well to combine.
Strain the mixture to remove any little chunky bits, then transfer back to the blender and add the honey.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
The next day (or when it's been 4 hours and you just can't wait any longer!) churn the mixture in your ice cream maker. This can take anywhere from 25 to 50 minutes, depending on your specific machine. Freeze for 2-3 hours before serving, if you have the willpower that is, because nothing beats a bowl of soft-serve right from the machine.