Many years ago, as I entered the spice bazaar in Casablanca, the scent of cumin provided a Proustian moment for me. I was young and it was my first excursion to Europe, via Yugoslavian freighter, a “hip” and
“cheap” way to travel at the time (1967). Of all the beautiful and fragrant offerings, cumin wafted most aromatic, rising above the others and filling the street with its perfume, one I had not known until then. I continued delighting in its scent, literally, as I traveled around with a stash of cumin in my suitcase. To this day, cumin scents my kitchen as I prepare dishes for casual family meals and develop recipes for my cookbooks.
Recently, passing by an enticing display of multi-hued mangoes, another taste/smell memory in my life, I was inspired to put together the somewhat outre combination of cumin, olive oil, and fruit below. For the ice cream you don’t need an ice cream maker; the freezer does the job. The ice cream recipe is adapted from my latest cookbook, Bold Food: American Cuisine and How it Came to Be, co-authored with Susanna Hoffman, Workman Publishing, Spring 2012.
Makes 3 1/2 cups
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1. Heat a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high until warm to the touch. Add the cumin seeds and stir until lightly toasted and exuding their aroma, about 1 minute. Set aside.
2. Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Whisk the milk and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat until beginning to simmer.
4. Slowly whisk the hot milk mixture into the eggs. Pour the combined mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool until no longer hot to the touch, about 10 minutes.
5. Strain the milk/egg mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a 2 quart bowl. Add the cream, then the olive oil, whisking vigorously each time until thoroughly blended. Stir in the cumin seeds and place in the freezer.
6. Leave until frozen, whisking every 15 minutes or so to keep the cumin seeds evenly distributed. When frozen, cover, and use as needed.
7. To serve, take the ice cream out of the freezer and let soften for about 30 minutes. Scoop into individual bowls and garnish with mango slices, skin left on for ease of picking up and eating with fingers.