My garden has been a little bit of a disaster the last few years. The first year I started out ambitious, and by the end of August only had one fully ripe tomato to show for it. I chalked it up to a trial year, and decided to regroup and replant the following May. The results were dismal as a caterpillar chewed its way through most of the squash blossoms and my eggplant never reached full maturity. This summer I was wise enough to keep it simple, and enlist the help of someone who actually knows a thing or to about growing vegetables. While my brother was in town from California he convinced me to to give the garden one last shot, and even offered to do all the planting. We agreed that planting one easy crop, such as lettuce, over the whole plot would be easy enough for me to manage and not a big waste of time or money.
Lo and behold little sprouts started emerging just a week after the seeds were buried. Shortly after we had baby heads of arugula, romaine and mesclun dotted across the plot. Encouraged by the new growth, I decided to plant a few chiles and small variety of herbs in vacant patches of soil. The lettuce was so abundant that we were able to pick from it for salads all through June and July. After the heat and humidity reached its peak, so did our greens, but the chiles and herbs continue to thrive.
So much so that a good quarter of the entire bed is covered in a huge tangle of mint. If I didn’t have such a wonderful recipe for spearmint ice cream, I would have a hard time finding a use for it. Instead, I plucked off a good cup’s worth of leaves from the plant to make one of the simplest, and freshest tasting ice creams of the summer. The base turns a lovely pastel green from the mint which is pureed into the cream, releasing a bright, zippy flavor. I have adapted the original recipe to include a few drops of spearmint extract to turn the volume up on the mint flavor, but not so much that you miss the fresh flavor of garden mint.
adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe for Spearmint Ice Cream
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 large eggs
1-2 tsp spearmint extract, to taste
Method: Heat a small pot of water to a boil then blanche the mint leaves for 10 seconds. Immediately strain the mint leaves and plunge them into a bowl of ice water. Strain the mint again and gently squeeze out any water. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the mint and turn the heat off. Allow the mint and milk to cool to lukewarm. then puree it in a blender until the mint is finely ground into the milk. Heat the milk and cream together over medium heat. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together for one minute. When the milk mixture reaches a boil, gradually stir it into the egg mixture. Pour the base back into the saucepan and stir over low heat until the mixture thickens slightly. Off the heat, add the extract and strain the whole thing through a fine mesh sieve. Chill the mixture in a large bowl set over an ice bath before turning in an ice cream machine.