thrifty ice cream

did you know that there is this fantastic thing going on at rite aid, where you can get a double scoop of thrifty ice cream for 99 cents? it is real. i went there yesterday evening after a hot, dizzying after-work drive around town to check out potential apartments, and it was just the thing.


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that’s a scoop of chocolate brownie (my first time trying it) plunked on top of a scoop of strawberry (…i’ve lost count by now).

thrifty ice cream has a very secure place in my southern california childhood. there was one summer i would go there nearly every week after my dad picked me up from my evening art class. by the time i climbed out of the car, the night sky would have turned dark and the air finally cool. i would follow my dad into the brightly lit drugstore, flip-flop sandals slapping the floor, and stand before the ice cream freezer to order – without fail – either a scoop of strawberry, mint n chip, or rainbow sherbet. and my dad – almost as predictably – would pull out his green plastic coin purse, those keychain ones you find at souvenir stores that split open like a baked potato when you pinch the ends, and he would pay entirely with change.

one night, when he was slowly counting out the coins and the cashier was standing patiently by and waiting, my embarrassment became palpable. my dad noticed and turned to me and said something like, ‘you know, one day, when you are older, you will remember how daddy used to always pay for your ice cream with pennies.’ i would laugh about it, he implied, instead of fidgeting and scowling. i would look back with fondness.

well, daddy was right. there are all sorts of ways i have grown up since that summer night, but one lick of strawberry, and i return to innocence (that’s a song, isn’t it) and to the tenderness of that moment. so hey, for 99 cents a pop this week, i’m going to revisit my childhood as many times as i can.

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strawberry season

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the strawberries in this town are ridiculous. i don’t know if it’s just trader joe’s, or southern california, or maybe the entire state, but every box i’ve bought recently has been filled with berries that are ripe and sweet and flavorful. i was slated to bring dessert for a beach picnic yesterday, and had decided to bring some white chocolate-dipped strawberries. but as i was washing them into a colander in the sink, i popped a couple stray ones into my mouth, and they were so sweet and delicious straight out of the box, it was almost painful to dip them and disrupt the taste with a melted chocolate coating.

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but obviously i did anyway.

now i am inspired to make more of this strawberry season. i made a detour to the market earlier today to pick up more boxes of berries, and this evening i am making that strawberry pie that i posted about earlier. it piles a couple pounds of fresh fruit in a crumbly cookie crust, unadorned except for a saucy glaze made of more strawberries. the pie is for my dad, because today is his birthday.

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over the last couple months, i’ve found cooking is my ticket back home. i returned a while back and spent an afternoon in the kitchen with my mom, relearning how to make the fried rice and dumplings that had been so present in my childhood… and relearning how to talk to my mother. and now perhaps it’s my dad’s turn. i remember saying that this would be the year i’d remember to be a daughter, and for once i feel like i’m starting to do things right. strawberry season is magical in all sorts of ways, i suppose.

milk

IMG_0077milk is one of those places that really belongs in l.a. the interior is bright and white, and the place just gleams from the street corner on a cool june night. with its bold red sign, you really can’t miss it driving down beverly boulevard. then upon entering, you become so enamored by the sight of all the different ice cream products that you are confused into paying $3.25 for a scoop.

the first time i went to milk, i ordered a scoop of banana dulce de leche and it was pretty good. but it was more banana than dulce de leche, and that’s the wrong side to err on in my opinion. then i stole a taste of my friend’s coffee toffee. it was rich and robust; the coffee flavor really punched through. i was promptly enveloped in jealousy.

last night, after all that beer and basketball, we went to milk, and this time i ordered a scoop of coffee toffee. i reveled a bit in the strong, creamy-coffee flavor and the crunchy shards of toffee. then i took a bite of my friend’s strawberry shortcake ice cream bar. one little bite and the strawberry flavor swept my mouth, and there were delicious little crumb clumps embedded in the coating, too. i was promptly enveloped in jealousy.

now guess what i’m determined to get next time. this is going to be a vicious (delicious!) cycle.

milk also has a substantial food menu (i was intrigued by the crispy skin ½ chicken i saw scrawled on the specials board) and a side case of baked goods (their blue velvet cake is pretty popular, i sense), but if i’m going to bookmark this place for anything it’ll be for the ice cream. you can justify plunking down a fistful of dollar bills for homemade ice cream if it leads to a night of thrilling conversation, right?

now, you tell me: would you rather date a guy with a comb-over or a guy who’s 4’11”? or: a girl with a moustache or a girl with four missing teeth? we sat outside in those metal chairs till closing time hashing these complex issues out, and it just wouldn’t have worked without the ice cream.

blueberry crisp

this post is going to be all sorts of mediocrity. first of all, i don’t know how to shoot pictures when there isn’t sunlight available.

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meh.

those are supposed to be blueberries in a lovely yellow baking dish (that my momma bought for me, aww). but instead they are grayberries. in a reasonably yellow dish.

second, while the finished product had a nice balance of crumbly crisp topping and soppy-syrupy baked fruit beneath…

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the fruit part didn’t have enough kick to it and the crumb part had a little too much salt. maybe a lot too much.

i got the recipe from the latest issue of living, needing a way to use up a leftover half-box of blueberries. the recipe was just all right, but despite its flaws, i won’t be throwing it out entirely. for some reason i always manage to mess up crumb toppings (they are forever melting into non-crumbness in the oven, making me oh-so-sad because the topping is always my favorite part), but this one turned out just right, texture-wise. i’ll just have to fiddle around with the flavor balance some more. fortunately this round was just a test run, and nobody had to eat it except me, and luckily i will still be my friend.

here’s to hoping the dessert planned for my barbecue next weekend turns out more fantastically, because people are actually going to have to eat that one.

chocolate chip cookies

i’m sure a lot of you have your go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies. i do, too – a gently tweaked betty crocker recipe – and i’ll probably hang onto it for one of those nights when i want something chewy gooey right this instant… or for when the apartment gets cold and i need a reason to turn on the oven. (is that sad?..) but for all other times, oh boy: this one is it.

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two-tone chocolate cream pie

i was telling you the other day how i lured some friends over with a couple of pies. first was the fresh strawberry tart, so sweet and delicate and composed of 80% fruit. now i’d like to introduce you to the chocolate pie. all cream and chocolate and butter and fluff. i.e., awesome.

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sweet, soft, saucy

pie is a great remedy for that ho-hum feeling you get in the middle of the work week. i took some time the other day to make a couple, then called over every good friend i knew to come and help eat them.

today: a portrait of the fresh strawberry tart.

i’m not a big fan of using the usual flaky pie pastry as a base for a fresh fruit filling, and i didn’t think a graham cracker crust would hold up too well either (though in any other pie situation, my heart belongs to crusts of the crushed-cookie-plus-melted-butter variety). so i went back in my files to retrieve a tart shell recipe i used last year. it comes from maury rubin, chef-owner of city bakery in new york, via this la times article. the tart dough bakes up to be rather firm and almost cookie-like, with a texture that crumbles finely in your mouth. i found it to be a lovely complement to the mound of sweet, soft, saucy berries.

to keep the strawberries from sharing too much of that sauciness with the delicately textured crust, i used a handy trick i picked up from my many years of eating store-bought tarts. i stuck a smattering of white chocolate chips in a bowl and melted them down, then used a pastry brush to apply a thin, sauce-proof layer of chocolate along the bottom of the tart shell after baking it. and that, my friends, put an end to my mushy-crust anxieties.

for the filling itself i turned to my dog-eared, thumbed-through betty crocker cookbook. to make the (luscious, glistening) sauce, a handful of strawberries were mashed down to a cup’s worth and thickened over the stove with some sugar, water, and cornstarch, into which i splashed about a tablespoon of lemon juice. i pushed it all through a sieve, then gave the strawberries a good tumble in the warm sauce. and then we had this:

and all of a sudden, wednesday night got interesting.

Fresh Strawberry Tart
adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook

Baked tart shell (recipe here)
about ¼ cup white chocolate chips, melted
1 ½ quarts strawberries (about 3 1-lb. containers)
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. corn starch
½ cup water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

  1. Prepare baked tart shell.
  2. Use a pastry brush to brush bottom of tart shell with melted white chocolate.
  3. Mash enough strawberries to measure 1 cup. Mix sugar and cornstarch in 2-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in water and mashed strawberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute; cool. Stir in lemon juice. Pour mixture through sieve, pressing with a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid; discard solids.
  4. Put remaining strawberries (washed and dried very well) in a large bowl. Pour cooked strawberry mixture over top and turn gently until all strawberries are coated. Fill tart shell with strawberries. Refrigerate about 3 hours until set. Refrigerate any remaining pie.