Monday, May 3, 2010
She Who Kills Plants
When I went to summer camp, everyone got cool "camp names." The counselors would bestow a moniker based on a preference, an attribute, or just something weird. Then when you got home you could drive your family nuts going on and on about the great times you had with Poncho, Slipknot, Flames and Bubbles.
If I had a camp name today, it would probably be something like Black Thumb. I am one of the world's worst gardeners. Every winter the seed companies send catalogs which I thumb through imagining a beautiful, bountiful garden like those pictured. I think they must use some sort of hallucinogen-based ink, because I forget about my attempts at gardening that have ended in shriveled, withered, bug-infested pathetic bits of greenery and begin to think that this might be the year for me.
I've tried growing starts from seed, buying starts at the nursery, and have now graduated to buying and bringing home plants, which promptly die. Seriously, I just bought a lovely, big basil plant at Trader Joe's and in two days the leaves started turning black and curling up. It's now hanging on by a thread.
The only success I've experienced is with blueberries, my faithful friends that produce every year and require almost no maintenance. Also, a newcomer to my garden has surprised me. Rhubarb has come back two years running! I am so delighted to see the lovely, large fans of greenery waving to me from the back of the yard. They beckon to me, saying, "Hey, I'm here. I survived the winter and the weeds. Come pick me and enjoy a delicious treat!"
For my first rhubarb of the season I tried a new frozen dessert. Pairing rhubarb with strawberries is almost a cliche, but I can stand the sting of being unoriginal with a lovely bowl of strawberry-rhubarb sherbet in hand. Lighter than a custardy ice cream, it's lovely on its own, but also pairs beautifully with crispy sugar cookies, brownies, or a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie (just in case you can't get enough of the yummy flavor combo).
- adapted from Williams-Sonoma Ice Creams and Sorbets
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 lb. (500 g) rhubarb, sliced
1 lb. (500 g) strawberries, sliced
1-1/2 cups (375 g) sugar
1-1/2 cups (375 g) whole milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) light corn syrup
1- In a small cup, sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let stand for 10 minutes to soften.
2- Meanwhile, in a large heavy saucepan, combine the rhubarb and strawberries with the sugar. Place over low heat and stir until the strawberries release their juice. Turn up the heat to medium and stir until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender, about 5 minutes.
3- Add the gelatin mixture to the hot rhubarb mixture and stir until the gelatin dissolves, about 1 minute.
4- In a food processor fitted with the metal blade or in a blender, purée the rhubarb mixture until smooth. Pour the purée into a large bowl. Add the milk and corn syrup and stir to blend. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
5- Transfer the sherbet mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the sherbet to a container; cover and freeze until firm.
Makes about 5 cups (1.25 l)