A few days ago, I stopped by the Full Bloom Farm produce stand here on Lummi Island. I was looking for inspiration. Owner Lis Marshall sometimes offers less common varieties of herbs and vegetables that have inspired articles for this column.
I finally chose some fresh, fragrant dill. Okay, truth be told, I first thought it was fennel, but fortunately Lis was there to correct me. Needless to say, I'm not very good at plant identification - one of the reasons I don't forage wild plants more than I do. But I'm learning!
Anyway, as I finished the rest of my errands I found my thoughts alternating between two subjects. One, what was something creative I could make with the dill. And two, it was really hot, and I wished I had some ice cream.
In a stroke of serendipity, the two thoughts merged: perhaps I could make a dill ice cream. But what would I use for the base? Savory ice creams often start with a plain vanilla base (literally), but vanilla isn't a local ingredient.
Perhaps sour cream? Sour cream and dill make a wonderful flavor combination, and are often used together in sauces. Also, I'd heard of sour cream ice cream before and knew it would work texturally. But I didn't have any locally produced sour cream on hand.
I went to my refrigerator and the answer became obvious - yogurt! Yogurt has a tangy flavor similar to sour cream and in fact, I sometimes use them as substitutes for each other in recipes. Frozen yogurt is a classic base.
Frozen yogurt is often thought of as a lower calorie alternative to ice cream, but in this case it's slightly tart flavor would produce a more savory end result. It was exactly what I needed to complement the fresh dill flavor.
If you've ever watched the Iron Chef America shows on the Food Network, you've probably seen them make savory ice cream. Bacon ice cream was one of the first I remember which got rave reviews from the judges.
I'd never tried making a savory ice cream before, though, so I began by doing a little research online. I discovered an amazing world of taste possibilities I'd never dreamt existed. Here are just a few of the ice cream flavors people have created: Avocado-wasabi, feta cheese, bacon and maple, garlic, bleu cheese, tomato-fennel, olive oil, wine, horseradish, ranch dressing, bacon-maple and many more. Obviously the possibilities are endless - and fascinating!
Savory ice cream recipes tend to follow a pattern. They usually start with some combination of dairy products: Cream, milk, sour cream, half and half, yogurt, etc. Despite the fact that the overall flavor is savory, most also include a sweetener - sugar, honey, maple syrup and so on.
Sometimes eggs are added, too. They make a custard-like ice cream flavor and texture. (When eggs are used, the base must first be heated high enough and long enough to kill any bacteria before the ice cream gets frozen.)
Next comes a small counterbalance of sour acidity. Often this will be lemon or lime juice, but for a locavore in our area apple cider vinegar or verjus (a sour juice squeezed from unripened grapes) are good options.
Finally, of course, come the star ingredients-the flavors for which the ice cream is named. These ingredients need to be minced, grated, or cut small enough to work texturally and allow the flavors to blend throughout the other ingredients. If the experiment doesn't include eggs, you can taste the base as you add ingredients to it until you just the flavor balance you want.
Savory flavored ice creams, gelatos, frozen yogurts and sorbets are not just relegated to the dessert course of meals. Restaurants are beginning to include savory ice creams paired with main dishes in much the same way as cream sauces would be. Appetizers, soups and side dishes are all fair game for ice cream creativity.
For example, how about Parmesan ice cream served with prosciutto (a pairing found on MolecularRecipes.com)? Or black sesame ice cream served in a dollop over steamed asparagus? Or garlic ice cream over mashed potatoes? Or my Dill Frozen Yogurt (see recipe below) served with smoked salmon? Can't wait to try that combination once the reefnet sockeyes become available!
Savory ice cream is not for everybody. Some people find it sacrilegious to even think about anything outside the neapolitan flavor range (vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate). If you're up for culinary adventure, though, you and your family and friends might find creating savory ice creams entertaining.
Fortunately, making a savory ice cream is about as easy as it gets. The recipe I created with the dill is a perfect example. It took about 35 minutes altogether, most of which involved letting the ice cream maker do its job.
Note: Mark your calendars now so you won't miss the annual Whatcom County Farm Tour. It's scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this year, and includes some farms not previously open for touring. It's a great way to find out about food sources in our county and see what farmers are doing toward creating a sustainable local food economy. It's also just plain fun! Hope to see you there!
DILL FROZEN YOGURT
2 cups yogurt, plain (Grace Harbor, Custer)
1 cup half-and-half (Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy, Lynden)
1/2 cups honey (Red Barn Lavender, Ferndale)
1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
2 Tbsp fresh dill leaves, minced (Full Bloom Farm, Lummi Island)
Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir or whisk until smooth.
Process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. (It took about 30 minutes to freeze in my Cuisinart ice cream maker.)
Makes approximately 1 quart.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen, 1313 N State Street, Bellingham
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959
BelleWood Acres, 6140 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-318-7720
Bellingham Country Gardens (u-pick vegetables), 2838 East Kelly Road, Bellingham
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158
Five Loaves Farm, 514 Liberty St., Lynden
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151
The Green Barn, 211 Birch Bay-Lynden Road, Lynden; 360-318-8869
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190
Joe's Garden, 3110 Taylor Avenue, Bellingham, 360-671-7639
Lynden Farmers Market, Fourth and Front streets, Lynden
The Markets LLC, 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020
Reach Whatcom Locavore columnist Nancy Ging at 360-758-2529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, go to Whatcom Locavore on Facebook or @whatcomlocavore on Twitter. For locavore menus, recipes and more resources, go to whatcomlocavore.com.