Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cream Catcher

It might be difficult for me to be away on vacation in the heart of summer, knowing that I'm missing all the delights of my CSA, my garden, and my local farmers' market. And I do miss them, even with all the food preservation work tied up with all of them!

But I am enjoying exploring the local foods that another foodshed has to offer, and one of the most appropriate culinary treasures for a week's vacation at the lake house comes from the local creamery.

The fair Titania led me over hill, over dale, and back a number of gravelly trails into the woods and up a mountain. When at last she stopped next to a seemingly deserted cabin, she announced that we had arrived and promptly introduced me to the locals.

Once inside the 24-hour farmstand (operating on the same local honor system), it became immediately evident that not only were several more cows involved in the creamery's activities but that a handful of humans had helped to produce an astonishing variety of ice cream flavor combinations (available in quart, pint, and half-pint containers). Heavenly!

In addition, the creamery also produces a number of cheeses, from the blocks of hard cheeses like Cheddar and Jack to small wheels of Brie and dishes of Boursin and other savory spreadable delights. Truly a dream come true!

Neither the fair Titania nor I believe in the unnecessary restraint of culinary appreciation, so we selected half a dozen ice cream flavors (mostly half-pints, as our wallets do require such restraint) -- maple walnut, almond joy, a brownie sundae, black raspberry chocolate chip, coffee, and ginger -- as well as a small block of Jack cheese and a tub of creamy garlic cheese.

We enjoyed a picnic dessert on the dock back at the lake, sampling each of the flavors as we watched the sun dip behind the mountains and the wind ripple the lake water. Can life get much better than this?

Why, yes. Yes, it can.

Because though I may be on vacation, having a full kitchen at my disposal means my baking impulse will not be denied. And tonight I whipped up an easy maple shortbread cookie base, topped with organic chocolate, that I baked just long enough to set.

I spread the remains of the black raspberry chocolate chip ice cream over the warm crust and topped it with fresh local red raspberries.

Titania and I dug in while the dish was at its perfect balance between warm and cold, and after much rapturous murmuring and sighing and smacking of lips, my dear friend cleaned out the bowl with her usual thoroughness.

That dish is but a memory now, and our stash of ice cream is dwindling rapidly, but we're making the most of it.

And I'm sure I'll dream of it long after I leave here.

Blissful Berry Cookie Torte

I confess, I sometimes mix up a small dish of very basic cookie dough -- just to eat the dough. So I had no problem improvising this little treat with the limited pantry we had at our disposal. You can modify this in endless ways, depending on what ice cream flavor you have on had and what toppings you might prefer. But do share!

1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c maple sugar
pinch of salt
up to 1/2 c flour
1 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 to 1 c ice cream, softened
fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream together butter and maple sugar. Add pinch of sugar and enough flour to bring the dough together. Press into a small baking dish (I used a 6" pottery dish). Sprinkle chocolate on top. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes, until shortbread is set. Allow to cool slightly.

Spoon ice cream over warm shortbread, spreading into an even layer. Top with fresh raspberries.

Serve warm AND cold... and enjoy!

Serves 2

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