Eating our Veggies

For a person who does not, in fact, own a dairy cow, I like cream perhaps a little bit too much. Whenever I’m at the store grocery shopping, my mental list of potential foodstuffs to buy pretty much begins and ends in the dairy aisle, “do we have cheese for Sylvan? milk for all of us? cream for my coffee? butter, and backup butter in case I go on a pie-making bender and need even more?” We are definitely not going to qualify as self-sufficient homesteaders unless we kick the cow habit, or acquire one.

So it should come as no surprise that I opened the fridge yesterday and discovered a nearly full quart of cream, purchased on the fly, which was swiftly nearing its expiration date. I ran through a mental list of possible uses–cream soup? not in the mood. creamy pasta sauce? nah, seems too rich. chocolate mousse? tempting, but necessitating more effort than I wanted to marshal. and so I landed where I often do, in ice cream land.

My ice cream cookbook collection is carefully curated and well-splattered with evidence of use. My go-to is often Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (for next day scoopability and inspired flavor combinations, she can’t be beat), but I remain loyal to David Leibovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, and also to the dark horse Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book.  All have their strengths and weaknesses and have earned their place on our overstuffed cookbook shelves.

I wanted something wintery, not totally run of the mill but neither too far out of left field.  I was just about to settle on eggnog ice cream, when I stopped in my tracks and furiously backpedaled.  Sweet potato ice cream.  yes.

At this point you are probably thinking, “ahem, ‘neither too far out of left field?'” which is a fair critique.  Most neighborhood scoop shops do not stock sweet potato ice cream, even in the winter.  But I love sweet potatoes.  And I have about 10 crates of these nifty purple ones that I grew this year, AND I’ve been trying to think of uses for them where their arresting hue would be cool, rather than disconcerting.  Furthermore, I have discovered that the only truly foolproof way to coerce Sylvan into tasting unfamiliar vegetables is to serve them in ice cream form (it worked with beets!).  I was sold.

Truth be told, it was an easy ice cream recipe–no cooking or custard, just 20 minutes simmering of the cubed sweet potatoes, covered with water, on the stove.  Then I threw all the ingredients in a blender and pureed the heck out of them.  It was at this point, however, where I encountered thee small problems.  First, the recipe called for brown sugar, which I had just run out of that morning.  No problem, I substituted maple syrup.  Second, in my excitement, I had neglected to take note of the fact that the recipe did not call for cream.  At all.  All I needed was 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of milk.  After a moment’s pause, I decided that more cream could only be an improvement on the recipe, and I substituted cream for all of the milk.

The third problem was a logical extension of the second–the more I blended, the thicker my ice cream base became, until I suddenly realized that I had invented something entirely new: purple sweet potato whipped cream.  Happily, I had at least stopped before I ended up with purple sweet potato butter…

My taste testers, however, declared that the sweet potato whipped cream was delicious, and urged me to continue with my original plan.  (In truth, Sylvan was quite ready to eat an entire bowl of the ice cream base straight out of the blender, but I cut him off and distracted him with an apple.)

Don’t tell Sylvan that he ate a vegetable last night.  He thinks that he tricked us into giving him ice cream.

So, if you need an inspired dessert for your next Baltimore Ravens-themed dinner party, or you child goes through a purple phase and you weary of grape-flavored everything, purple sweet potatoes are your new best friend.  I think I’ve got enough butter in the fridge to make a sweet potato pie…

sweet potato ice cream

Sweet Potato Ice Cream
from The Perfect Scoop

N.B: sweet potato ice cream freezes to a rock-like consistency after a night in the freezer, so either enjoy it all the first night, or budget sufficient thawing time before serving it on day two.  This is David Lebovitz’s original recipe, which is probably better than my bastardized version.  But do use the purple sweet potatoes!

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup plus 2 T whole milk
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt
a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place the cubed sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the cubes are tender when poked with a knife,  Drain the sweet potatoes and and let cool to room teperature.

Pour the milk into a blender and add the brown sugar, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt.  Puree until very smooth.  Add lemon juice to taste.

Chill the mixture in your refrigerator, then freeze in your ice cream maker.

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