Summer is a dry spell for writing here – it is dissertation time, guests visiting from out of town, time for us to travel back home. But blogging is about nothing if not keeping momentum, even if it feels as though I have a lot on the stove and not that much emotional energy to think or write about it in an intelligent way.
After three years in Toronto we have our first houseguests, friends from the UK. Friends from a different life, when Johannes was there for his PhD, from a time before we had ever thought about this city. We’ve been serving them the oven-roasted chicken shawarma from Sam Sifton in The New York Times, about which I cannot say enough good things. You can prep it the day before serving, and serve it with some fresh flatbreads from the Lebanese bakery down the street, and it tastes like you spent hours working when really you just gave the chicken a night of getting very familiar with lots of lemon and garlic and paprika. And since the guests are not used to the Toronto humidity, ice-cream.
There is a fridge of ice-cream in this house, partly a way to deal with the glut of fruit we carry back from Kensington Market after a day’s work, and partly because making ice-cream feels so quintessentially summery, so downright transgressive in a country mired in snow for much of the year. So we’ve been making frozen yoghurt following David Lebovitz’s recipes, with strawberries, and with mango. Pulped fruit, sugar, Greek yoghurt, some lemon juice. Mixed together and left to chill in the fridge, it allows you to wake up the next morning, have coffee, and then churn a batch. It makes one feel incredibly in control of one’s life, regardless of whether that’s true. That counts for something.
There has also been ice-cream, both of this year’s favourites recipes that don’t require making a custard. When I’ve spent hours writing and the house is dirty and I really want to just sit on the couch and drink wine, making a custard is very low on my list of priorities. The first is this delightful Serious Easts Snickers ice-cream, where peanut butter and half-and half gives you a consistency of a custard without having to stir for half-an-hour. (For those in countries where half-and-half is not a thing, substitute half cream and half milk, and you’ll be close.) I tweaked the recipe a bit – omitted the peanuts and used crunchy peanut butter instead, and instead of chocolate chips did straciatella (I’ve found this article really helpful in generally making tastier ice-cream). I also added some Oreo cookie crumbs, because I live in North-America now.
The other wonderful ice-cream is Yossy Arefi’s apricot buttermilk sherbet from Sweeter Off the Vine. You roast the apricots with some sugar, and add buttermilk and cream and a tiny bit of corn syrup and a decent amount of salt. It’s rich but tangy, and feels like something you could easily serve after a dinner party, little scoops in little bowls, and have a very happy table.
We brought out all our ice-creams and frozen yoghurts, along with a cranberry sorbet that’s been kicking around the fridge since fall (!) and a rhubarb semifreddo that’s at this point not quite semi in consistency, and had the house guests make the rounds between them.