Tangerine Sorbet


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” When Charles Dickens wrote those words, he could have been predicting people’s perceptions of the world today. Depending on where you get your news from, who you’re connected to on Facebook, or who you follow on Twitter, these are the best or the worst of times. There’s no middle anymore. No nuance. It’s exhausting and emotionally draining.

Personally, I’ve turned to a couple of things that calm me in times of crisis: TV and food (and Steve, so I guess three things). Watching a good show on TV turns everything else off. My brain and my heart disengage from the real world and are immersed in the fictional world on the screen. “Jane the Virgin” makes me smile. “The Walking Dead” pumps my adrenaline. “The Crown” makes me swoon.

Food works in a similar way. It gives me something to look forward to, at a time when there’s a news alert on my phone every five minutes that’s sure to make me sad or scared or angry. The smell of short ribs braising is a sign that there are still so many good things in the world. Savoring each bite of a perfectly roasted chicken helps me from dwelling on the news. And the bitter-sweet-tart taste of this tangerine sorbet reminds me that life doesn’t come in just one flavor, but that it’s always deliciously precious.

Tangerine Sorbet – Slightly adapted from “The Perfect Scoop” by David Lebovitz


3 cups freshly squeezed tangering juice
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 tangerine for zesting
1-2 tablespoons orange liqueur (like Grand Marnier or Cointreau)


In a small saucepan mix 1/2 cup of the juice with the sugar. Warm over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir it into the remaining juice. Zest the tangerine into the mixture and add the orange liqueur. Mix with a spoon and chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge. Freeze the chilled mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Plum Ice Cream


It was a spring evening in 1997. There I was, with my boyfriend at the time and four of our friends, all gay men, sitting around a TV in a suburban living room, somewhere in northern New Jersey, waiting for the world to change. We knew this was coming. Everyone knew. But it didn’t make it any less monumental for us.

Our conversation stopped as soon as the show started. We watched with the cautious anticipation of those whose hopes had been dashed too many times before. But there she was on the screen, leaning over a podium microphone and pronouncing those words “I’m gay,” accidentally broadcasting them over an entire airport. We laughed nervously, not quite ready to feel relief. She had done it. Ellen had come out on TV. The first time a main character on a hit TV show came out as gay (along with the actress who portrayed it).

It’s been eighteen years since that night. We knew then that Ellen’s coming out was just another brick in the house we were all building. A seemingly small one (it was, after all just one character in one show that ended up being cancelled after one more season). But it turned out to be much bigger than we had thought. It was the beginning of us being seen and heard, in TV shows and books, in songs and movies, and eventually, in towns and neighborhoods where we had been all but invisible. It was the start of a movement that said: here we are, we are people, who live and love and die like you, who stress over who will take the kids to soccer practice or agonize over what to wear on that first date, who want to reach out and wipe with our thumb the drop of plum ice cream that’s stubbornly stuck to our lover’s lower lip but we are afraid to do so in public. We are like you.

Eighteen years ago, six gay mean watching TV in New Jersey could not have predicted (and they did not) that one day relatively soon, they would be witnesses to the Supreme Court (or at least most of it) saying yes, your love matters as much as anyone else’s. That they, some of them by now married with kids, would finally see the roof finished over that house they and those that had come before them had been building for decades. There are still things left undone, without a doubt, and there are others who still vow to tear that house down, but for now, that roof has finally made that house a home. 

DSC03200Plum Ice Cream – From The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments


1 lb (450 g) plums
1/3 cup (80 ml) water
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (180g) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kirsch


Slice the plums in half and remove the pits. Cut the plums into eighths and put them in a medium saucepan with the water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sugar until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

In a blender, purée cooled plums with cream and kirsch until smooth.

Chill mixture in refrigerator until very cold and freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Blueberry Lemon Frozen Yogurt


Once in a while, I stumble upon a book that burrows into my brain and lays a bunch of little eggs that hatch at random times, sometimes long after I’ve finished reading it, bringing back scenes and words. There was “The Confessions of Max Tivoli,” by Andrew Sean Greer, with its achingly beautiful sadness. And “Embassytown,” by China Mieville, that still makes me think about the complexities of language, humor, and sentience. I’ll never forget the three main characters or the idiosyncratic language of “Plays Well with Others,” by Allan Gurganus, its eggs still hatching in my brain, years after I finished reading it for the third time.


Right now, it’s “Preparation for the Next Life,” by Atticus Lish, that’s filling me with wonder. Its plot is minimal. Two people, an illegal Chinese immigrant and a damaged Iraq war vet, meet and fall in love in a contemporary New York city that many of us never see, away from Manhattan and gentrified Brooklyn.

Not much happens in this book. But it’s the words. The language is so deceptively simple and unadorned. The sentences are mostly short and direct, with the occasional small flourish. Put together, they convey places and feelings like a punch in the gut, sudden and jarring. The words are like water, flowing around distractions, coming together into a stream of experiences. The simplest things, describing a dinner at McDonald’s or working out at the gym, become compelling in this book.

I want to be able to write like that. Even if it’s about something as simple as a bowl of blueberries, blended with sugar, yogurt and lemon, to make frozen yogurt. So, for now, I’ll just keep writing.

DSC03073Blueberry Lemon Frozen Yogurt – Slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments


1½ cups (360 g) plain yogurt (whole milk)
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
3 cups (340 g) blueberries
2 teaspoons kirsch
3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
finely grated zest of half a lemon


In a blender or food processor, blend yogurt, sugar, blueberries, and zest. Stir in the kirsch and lemon juice. Chill for 1 hour.

If it solidifies, give it a good stir with a spoon. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Vegan Pear Caramel Ice Cream


When my friend Lisa told me a few years ago that she had decided to go vegan, I was devastated. She was someone that enjoyed food, all food, just as much as I did. She ate everything and really savored new food experiences. I remember one night when she and I were having dinner with another friend at Le Villaret in Paris. It was a tasting menu and we were probably on our third or fourth course. The food was exquisite, the wine superb. The three of us took a bite of what was impossibly even better than the courses that preceded it and we looked up at each other amazed. Lisa had tears in her eyes. So did I.

So you get the idea. Lisa has always been one of my most precious food buddies. An indomitable eater. A loyal gustatory companion.DSC03418

I reacted to her news of going vegan much like some parents react to their kids coming out to them. “Why?” was the first thing I asked. “Are you sure this is what you want?” Followed by “What about me?” and inevitably “I don’t understand this but I love you and I will support you, no matter what.”

Ok, maybe it wasn’t so dramatic. She did make this decision for valid reasons. She no longer trusted the food supply system (watching “Food Inc.” had done a number on her) and cutting out all meat products was a way for her to regain some control over what she ate. So, I took it in stride and accepted it as a new challenge: every time she visits me, I strive to “veganize” a recipe I like. Sometimes it works well (like with the pain d’épices that comes out great). Sometimes it’s tougher.

For her last visit, I wanted to make some pear ice cream, since pears were in season. I adapted my favorite pear ice cream recipe from David Lebovitz and the result was actually pretty good. Personally, I’d much rather have it made with heavy cream, but the vegan version is still creamy, with a strong pear flavor and a slight burn from the caramel. And it made Lisa happy, which made losing the heavy cream worth it.

DSC03424Vegan Pear Caramel Ice Cream – Adapted from Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments

Note: The trick to this is to separate the cream from the water in the coconut milk. I used the Thai Kitchen brand of coconut milk. The cream had already separated to the top of the can. Whatever brand you use, make sure not to shake the can before opening it, other wise the cream will mix with the water. Some people refrigerate the cans first for the cream to separate. I didn’t have to but it may work for you.


2 14 oz cans of coconut milk (unsweetened, not the lite version; do not shake the cans)
3 medium-sized ripe pears, peeled and cored
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
heavy pinch of salt
a few drops of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon pear-flavored eau de vie or kirsch (optional)


Using a can opener, remove the top of the two cans completely. The coconut cream should be at the top. Using a spoon remove the cream until you reach the coconut water at the bottom of the can (discard it or use it for something else, like smoothies). You should have about 2 cups of coconut cream from the two cans.

Dice the pears into 1/4-inch pieces.

Spread the sugar in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, carefully watching and stirring occasionally with a heatproof spatula until melted. When the sugar is a deep amber, stir in the pears. The caramel will seize, but continue cooking and stirring occasionally (again with a heat-proof spatula) for about ten minutes, until the pears have cooked through and the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the coconut cream, then mix in the rest of the cream, salt, lemon juice, and eau de vie/kirsch (if using).

Cool to room temp, and then puree in a blender until smooth. If you want, you can press it through a strainer. I prefer that it has a little bit of the pear texture.

Chill in the refrigerator and churn in ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Marzipan and Chocolate Ice Cream


When I was a kid, my parents had some strange ideas about how one caught a cold. These ideas weren’t just unique to my parents. Everyone thought them true and from what I can see when I visit my family now, many people still believe them. For example, if you take a shower and wash your hair, you should never walk outside with your hair wet during the winter, because you will catch a cold. You also must always make sure to cover your neck with a scarf when it’s cold, because otherwise you’ll catch a cold. You must never, ever drink refrigerated water in the winter, because you’ll…well, you get the idea. Never mind that winter temperatures only got down to the upper 40s and lower 50s.


Basically, the thought is that there are two things central to getting sick with a cold: cold temperatures (stay away from them) and your throat (keep it warm and covered). This combination created a particularly nasty villain in the fight against colds: ice cream in the winter. Which is why when I was a kid, there was no ice cream anywhere to be found outside the summer months. No ice cream shops, no ice cream trucks, no ice cream in grocery stores.


Come summer, the two main providers of ice cream on the island would open their stores. For many years there were only four flavors: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and rose. Then at some point, someone imported a brand of Italian gelato called Pahit Ice and from that point on we had all kinds of flavors and flavor combinations available to us. My and my sister’s favorite was chocolate hazelnut. My mom’s was always stracciatella: vanilla ice cream with chocolate chunks. My dad gravitated towards fruit flavors, like prickly pear or passion fruit.

There was never a marzipan and chocolate flavor, though. Which is strange, given that marzipan features prominently in our cuisine. So, here’s a recipe for a great version of it. It features a chopped up bar of the insanely addictive Ritter Sport dark chocolate with marzipan. If you can’t find it, just substitute with your favorite milk or dark chocolate.

Just remember. Enjoy your ice cream while it’s summer, because once the winter comes, you risk getting sick with a nasty cold if you indulge in it.


Marzipan and Chocolate Ice Cream – Adapted from Love and Olive Oil


5 egg yolks
7 ounces almond paste, crumbled or cut into large chunks
2/3 cup sugar, divided
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Marzipan, coarsely chopped


Place a fine mesh sieve over the top of a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer, beat egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, and almond paste together until smooth, about 2 minutes.

In a saucepan, combine cream, milk, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, and salt. Cook gently over medium heat, stirring regularly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture just starts to steam (small bubbles will start to form around the edges, but do not let it boil). Remove from heat.

Slowly whisk some of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture, 1/3 cup at a time, until about half of the cream mixture has been incorporated and mixture is warm to the touch.

Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan, while whisking, and return to medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 to 7 minutes, or until it reaches approximately 165 to 170ºF. Do not let it boil. Pour mixture through sieve into medium sized bowl, discarding any solids. Let mixture cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until completely cool, at least 3 hours or overnight if possible.

Churn ice cream in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Add the chopped chocolate bar just before ice cream finishes being churned. Serve immediately (it will have the consistency of soft serve ice cream) or put ice cream in freezer container and freeze.


Ultimate Chocolate Ice Cream

DSC02471I really don’t like flying. The loss of control (you’re hurtling through the air at 34,000 feet at unimaginable speeds!), the long periods of sitting down, the dry air and pressure differential (hello explosive sinus headache!), the forced proximity to other people (does your elbow have to rest on my ribs? is that Chanel No. “stale smoke and onions” you’re wearing? what part of I-am-wearing-headphones-so-that-I-don’t-have-to-talk–to-you do you not understand?), are only some of the pleasures of flying that I wouldn’t mind never having to experience again.

We flew back yesterday from Hilton Head Island where we visited Steve’s dad, brother, and sister-in-law. Since Hilton Head Island airport is smaller than a Walmart, the only planes that land there are tiny propeller ones. We got into one that supposedly would fly all the way to Washington D.C. It did, but only after it shook and tumbled as it landed enough to make me think about reaching for the barf bag twice. And then, when safely on the ground, I turned airport mode off on my phone to find a voicemail that – surprise! – our flight to New York was cancelled – thank you for flying US Airways – you are now scheduled to fly tomorrow at 9am – good luck.


Fortunately, a helpful agent booked us on a Delta flight which would arrive in New York at the same time as our cancelled flight. Then as soon as we sat down in that plane, two college girls sat behind us. And then one of them – tan, dirty blond hair, short shorts – took a really deep breath and started talking without.a.break for the entire flight. Have you read Kerouac’s “On the Road”? The stream of thought chain of words that never lets up? Like that, except less interesting and delivered in the sentence-as-a-question cadence of valley girl speak that continued on through the flight, through the deplaning, all the way into the terminal until the other girl (who barely managed a few “uh-huh”s and “yeah”s the entire time) ducked into a bathroom, presumably to escape.

Hopefully, your Memorial Day travels are a little less eventful. So, as we begin the summer season, I offer you this recipe for the ultimate chocolate ice cream. It’s got a couple of ingredients that are tougher to find and which you can replace. But if you find them, the result will be worthwhile. Almost worth flying for.

DSC02743Ultimate Chocolate Ice Cream

Note: Gianduja is an Italian chocolate spread that contains about 30% hazelnut paste. It comes in blocks and it’s solid, not liquid. If you can’t find it, use good quality milk chocolate instead. I like Sharfgen Berger Extra Rich Milk Chocolate. Also, if you can’t find malted milk powder you can omit it from the recipe, but try to find it. It makes a big difference.


2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons black cocoa
3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa
125 gr sugar
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup malted milk powder
170g gianduja, chopped (or use good quality milk chocolate)
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Place the chopped gianduja (or milk chocolate) in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, add the cream, cocoa, sugar, salt and malted milk powder. Whisk gently while heating over medium heat until combined. When the mixture comes to a boil, pour over chopped gianduja in bowl. Whisk until gianduja is completely melted and incorporated. Add milk and vanilla and whisk to combine.

Let it cool and chill, covered, in the refrigerator. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Passion Fruit Ice Cream


My birthday was always my favorite day of the year when I was a kid. My parents made a big deal out of it and since my sister and I had birthdays that were separated by only 4 days, we celebrated them together, even when we were teenagers. Since we were only two years apart, we knew each other’s friends well and had no problem having one party where all of our friends were invited and had fun together.

The time of the year was always great too, because the weather at the end of April was usually warm and dry, while everything was in bloom. Our parents threw us a big party where everyone hung out in our big front yard. There was always music and lots of dancing (my sister and I loved to dance, and still do). There is a photo of me from what was probably my 8th birthday, twirling a girl from my class, most likely to an ABBA or Boney M song (my favorite bands at that time).


As an adult, I still love my birthday and I still get excited at the prospect of opening presents and celebrating a day that’s all about me. But not all of my adult birthdays have included big parties and dancing. Take this year, for example. The night before my birthday, I had an MRI of my left hip and lower spine to figure out the source of the hip pain and foot numbness that I’ve had since October (it turns out it’s a labral tear, tendonosis, and bursitis). Nothing makes you feel like you’re getting older quite like hip pain. Then I got home and in the middle of dinner a piece of my lower front tooth just fell off. The next day, the day of my birthday, we woke up to freezing temperatures (at the end of April) and one of the rainiest days in the history of New York city. On top of that I had to work all day and teach in the evening.

But before you start to feel sorry for me, I should tell you that after all that I got to come home to a lovely dinner with my amazing husband, who bought me presents and brought me flowers, and finished it all with a hefty scoop of this passion fruit ice cream, one of my favorite desserts. Which is to say, I had a great birthday again.


Passion Fruit Ice Cream

Note: I use the frozen passion fruit pulp from Goya, which I thaw before adding to the egg yolks. You can also buy fresh passion fruits and extract the pulp yourself. If you do so, you can either strain the seeds or leave them in for the added crunch.


1 can (14oz sweetened condensed milk)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup passion fruit pulp (see note)
4 large egg yolks


In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the passion fruit pulp. Place a mesh strainer on top of a medium bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, add sweetened condensed milk, cream, sugar, and pinch of salt. Heat, stirring frequently, over medium heat until combined and bubbles start to form.

Temper the egg yolks by slowly pouring about 1/3 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, while whisking constantly. Scrape the tempered egg yolk mixture into the saucepan, again whisking constantly. You’ll notice that the mixture will immediately become thicker. Continue to cook over medium heat for another 4 minutes, stirring constantly with a spatula and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan.

Pour the mixture through the mesh strainer into the medium bowl. Let cool completely and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.