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adventures of a half-chinese yalie in hollywood

Italy, Culinarily — Down With Ice Cream, Up with Gelato

Italy, Culinarily — Down With Ice Cream, Up with Gelato

Thank goodness Deepak has been nagging me about getting more and better content on this site, because it’s true – we barely covered a fraction of the adventures, sights and insights of that Italy trip. (I also realize, upon reviewing photos from Italy and looking back through the folder, that ridiculously short shrift was also given to our trip to Southeast Asia last year and our trip to Hawaii. COMING!)

Annals of the Barely Blogged: Last year in Singapore. Even my camera was sweating!
Annals of the Barely Blogged: Last year in Singapore. Even my camera was sweating!
... we ate some wacky shiz on the streets of Hanoi ...
… we ate some wacky shiz on the streets of Hanoi …
... a dedicated band played us onto a private island in the Maldives (life highlight, will never be repeated unless/until by a strange twist of events worthy of a movie from the heyday of Lindsay Lohan's oeuvre, we are granted a spot in a royal family)
… a dedicated band played us onto a private island in the Maldives (life highlight, will never be repeated unless/until by a strange twist of events worthy of a movie from the heyday of Lindsay Lohan’s oeuvre, we are granted a spot in a royal family)
Hawaii, with the two loves of my life - him and guava
Hawaii, with the two loves of my life – him and guava
We never did determine if this shot of Deepak imitating ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs was in fact wholly disrespectful and inappropriate
We never did determine if this shot of Deepak imitating ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs was in fact wholly disrespectful and inappropriate
Remember my arguments for the necessity of DSLRs on picturesque vacations? Sulfuric selfies!
Remember my arguments for the necessity of DSLRs on picturesque vacations? Sulfuric selfies!
Thermally yours by the natural heat source
Thermally yours by the natural heat source

Whoa, I’m so far behind. But back to the blog-in-the-moment. Today let’s explore one element of our most recent Italian culinary adventure.

The world is so shrunken by now, and Italian food so famous, that everyone already knows what the greatest hits of the Boot are. On our trip, we focused less on pasta and peasant meals (such as spaghetti alla carbonara) and more on gelato, coffee and pizza. Tons and tons of that triumvirate! The basic rule was that some purveyors of these dishes were actively researched and sought out; others we’d stumble into in our peregrinations, and hardly ever was an opportunity missed to snag an impromptu caffè or pizza (yes, the WHOLE THING! None of this al taglio business – can’t be sure it is fresh and chefs likely to scowl at you for requesting it anyway). A recap and ranking of our pizzexperience and our javadventures to come. For now, let’s talk gelato.

You can get some of these babies in the freezer section of your local Sprouts Farmers Market!
You can get some of these babies in the freezer section of your local Sprouts Farmers Market!
The beginning of our journey: at Wonderful Gelato in Rome
The beginning of our journey: at Wonderful Gelato in Rome

I’ve always been an ice cream maker. When I first graduated college and moved to L.A., one of my big “I’m an adult now!” splurges was the Aroma 4-Quart Traditional Ice Cream Maker. I spent what felt like a pretty penny on that thing, but it seemed to pay off because I made ice cream for parties, visitors and paramours and they all seemed to appreciate the effort.

Oh look! Here I am making sour cherry yogurt for my sister 4 years ago. The coke bottle glasses. The college-issue sweats. The particle-board apartment. Surely you will agree this is the height of glamour.
Oh look! Here I am making coconut and cherry yogurt for my sister 4 years ago. The coke bottle glasses. The college-issue sweats. The particle-board apartment. Surely you will agree this is the height of glamour.
This was from later that night though. If blue is not the warmest color, it is at least scads more flattering.
This was from later that night though. If blue is not the warmest color, it is at least scads more flattering.

And effort it was! That baby required a Costco-esque stash of salt for the freezing drum, hours and hours to chill the machine and crank it, and of course the time and expense of preparing recipes worthy of the herculean process.

Also at Wonderful Gelato - the pleasingly ubiquitous, dark-as-Nucky Thompson's-morality classic cioccolato flavor. This hue hereby entered my conscious as a color to strive for.
Also at Wonderful Gelato – the pleasingly ubiquitous, dark-as-Nucky Thompson’s-morality classic cioccolato flavor. This hue hereby entered my conscious as a color to strive for.

Fast forward to now. My generous Permanent Paramour has sweetly furnished me with Breville’s latest high-tech helado helperthe Smart Scoop. And while it’s a much more sophisticated machine, it’s freed me up to be much less sophisticated with my recipes. That’s because each batch whip-up requires no advance warning, no procurement of gargantuan quantities of ice and salt, etc.

These were also for sale at a gelato store in Venice. Haven't quite mastered the craft of rendering these in chocolate just yet ...
These were also for sale at a gelato store in Venice. Haven’t quite mastered the craft of rendering these in chocolate just yet …

It is in this spirit that I began making gelato the Sicilian way – that is, by making my base by heating whole milk over the stove with corn starch. Previously, I’d gone the custard route, using either whole eggs, egg yolks, cream or a combo of the three as my base.

Everywhere!
Everywhere!
In a decidedly lab-like shop
In a decidedly lab-like shop, our cup plays Where’s Waldo of sorts
Tuckin' in
Tuckin’ in
Our commonest combo: pistacchio + cioccolato
Our commonest combo: pistacchio + cioccolato
Background: The Ones That Got Away
Background: The Ones That Got Away

No more! Our myriad explorations (i.e., stuffing our insatiable faces at every turn under the guise of “cultural culinary testing”) begat hypothesizing, which begat researching, which begat a friendly wager re: gelato’s fat content (it is lower than ice cream’s!). And it all culminated in my new favorite way to make frozen treats. It’s more cost-effective, more exotic and just generally easier than dealing with the fussiness, cost and hassle of tempering eggs for a custard base.

Late in the trip I finally realized I should be taking detailed notes/including identifying markings so I'd know where we got the best ones!
Late in the trip I finally realized I should be taking detailed notes/including identifying markings so I’d know where we got the best ones!
Some days we were just hungry. Actually, this one was from last week in San Luis Obispo (Calif.), after we had shared an entree at dinner and it probably wasn't enough
Some days we were just hungry. Actually, this one was from last week in San Luis Obispo (Calif.), after we had shared an entree at dinner and it probably wasn’t enough

It is: making gelato using only whole milk and corn starch as your base! Try my latest recipe for yourself in the next entry.

The focus of this Capri shot can either be: the distant lighthouse, my greasy topknot, or the sweat/sunscreen smear combo on my face. Your choice!
The focus of this Capri shot can either be: the distant lighthouse, my greasy topknot, or the sweat/sunscreen smear combo on my face. Your choice!


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