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).

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sherbet
- 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)


Julie said...

Beautiful! Congratulations on the rhubarb. I'v never had much of green thumb either but I am developing one. I think it just takes practice and determination!

Jennifer Jo said...

I grow most everything else (kind of) and yet I can't grow blueberries. What's up with that?

The ice cream looks yummy. I made a rhubarb sorbet last year---it was a hit.

One can never have too much rhubarb...

Melinda said...

Is it ice cream season already? Oh goody!
You do beautiful ice creams so need to cry over your black thumb.

(as the camp nurse, I was named Bloody Mary. It seemed fun at the time!)

grace said...

lynn, i'd give you a run for your money in a 'worst gardner ever' competition. seriously.
incidentally, my camp nickname was 'waterbug' because i darted around everywhere i went. i didn't know the meaning of the word slow but buddy, i'm making up for that now! :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I positively LOVE your title! It's too funny. I wish I could give you some sage advice, but my thumbs aren't even close to being green.

Kitchen Corner said...

Very refreshing one! I think I need it now.. it's very hot here.

Tessa said...

Looks delicious! I can't wait to break out the ice cream freezer!

Cara said...

I'm hoping my black thumb turns green this year - we're making our first attempt at a veggie garden. I would love to have rhubarb!

CookiePie said...

What a fantastic way to bring together those flavors! And I am SO impressed that you grew your own rhubarb - I'm in the black thumb club myself (though my mom is an amazing gardener, go figure!).

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I would have to join you in the club Lynn. I try to grown things on the balcony here at my condo, some things work and some are less than successful. We have to remember that it is all trial and error. Here's to our continued successes!

elizabeth said...

Lynn- nice job on the rhubarb. It's funny, I just recently made a rhubarb strawberry ice cream (recipe from epicurious). I made it with pistachio meringues, and while the meringues were to die for, my ice cream tasted like jam (in not a good way). So glad yours worked out so well for you! Next time I'll have to take a cue from your recipe

Barbara said...

You're playing my tune with rhubarb! How lucky you are to have it growing in your garden! There are times when I really miss living up north... lilacs and rhubarb were my spring favorites!
Great recipe, Lynn. I am big into making ice cream right now!

Maria said...

I made rhubarb sorbet last year, I will be trying this recipe soon! We have four rhubarb plants!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Yes please ... with a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie!

Elle said...

It's not a cliche...its a classic!Love strawberry & rhubarb together! Sorry to hear about the basil, but clearly you do well with things that have a long life. Ever tried asparagus? Bet you would find a green thumb for them.

We Are Not Martha said...

I'm not good with gardening either! But we can only be good at so much and clearly you're amazing in the kitchen! That sherbet looks perfect!


Unknown said...

I have a major black thumb too! I can understand. Anyway, this ice-cream loks delicious, congrats on making it using atleast half home grown ingredients :P

Kristen - Dine & Dish said...

LOL - I can so relate. Growing things is not my forte, at all!
Looks like you did a great job with the rhubarb!