I'm fortunate to live in Astoria, a neighborhood in New York that's really four or five ethnic enclaves stacked on top of each other. Though traditionally Greek, Astoria's also home to Italians, Egyptians, Serbians, and plenty of other ethnicities I can't pin down yet. As you can imagine, the food here is pretty sweet.
And it better be. Astorians are finicky eaters and terrifying shoppers. To keep them happy, even modest groceries carry at least three kinds of spiced sausage, feta from six countries of origin, and enough varieties of olive oil to displace everything else in your pantry. I've never seen an Astorian fail to find their favorite version of some imported food, and for the sake of my the cashiers at my shops I hope I never have to.
It was while browsing the honey aisle (yes, aisle) of my local import food shop that I came up with the idea for this ice cream. A jar of pine honey caught my eye, and given how much attention Ethan and I give to honey varieties, I felt obligated to try it in some ice cream.
Adding some sprigs of rosemary felt only natural. From there it seemed only right to include some grassy, heady extra virgin olive oil. Astorians practically use it to fuel their cars and lawn mowers.
If you've never had olive oil in ice cream, take a moment to consider how delicious it can be. And if you don't trust me, take the olive oil gelato at Otto (of Mario Batali fame) as proof that it can be magnificent in sweets.
Oil doesn't hit you over the head in this ice cream—that's the rosemary's job. Its alpine punch recedes as the ice cream melts on the tongue, giving way to the sweet, resinous honey. The olive oil glides across the finish, smooth and ethereal. It also lightens the texture as something of a respite from all the cream, making for an easily scoopable ice cream that melts effortlessly in your mouth.
If serving on its own, drizzle on some more olive oil and sea salt for a Mediterranean sundae. I used it to round off slices of generously spiced honey cake, but I'm itching to try it with baklava, another Astoria specialty. But what kind of baklava?, the Astorian may ask. You're on your own there—I'm keeping out of that fight.
Ethan Frisch is the chef and co-mastermind behind Guerrilla Ice Cream. He's traveled around the world (30 countries, 5 continents) and worked as a pastry chef and line cook in some of NYC's great (and not so great) restaurants. He currently lives in London, where he really misses New York City tap water.
Max Falkowitz writes Serious Eats' weekly Spice Hunting column. He's a proud native of Queens, New York, will do just about anything for a good cup of tea, and enjoys long walks down the aisles of Chinese groceries.
- Yield:8 to 10 (makes about 5 cups)
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:50 minutes, plus an overnight chill
- 3 cups half and half (or 1 1/2 cups each cream and milk)
- 3 (5-inch) sprigs of rosemary
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup pine honey (or other dark, full-flavored honey)
- 1/2 cup strong-flavored extra virgin olive oil
Combine half and half, rosemary, and salt in a 3 quart saucepan and heat to just below a simmer. Steep rosemary in dairy for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then discard rosemary.
In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and honey till well-combined. Slowly pour in hot dairy, whisking constantly. Return yolk and dairy mixture to pot and heat on low, just below a simmer, stirring frequently. Custard is done when it forms a thin coat on the back of a spoon and a finger swipes a clean line across.
Whisk in olive oil, then transfer to an airtight container to chill in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, churn according to manufacturer's instructions, then freeze for 2 to 3 hours or until firm. Ice cream is best if left to thaw on the counter 10 minutes before serving.