In my ‘circle’ (which isn’t made up of many), I’m known for my creativity in the kitchen. Because I live out in the middle of nowhere, I tend to get excited to have guests, and it often gives my creativity a super boost. The anticipation of all the joy to be had in cooking and sharing with friends and loved ones gets my creative juices flowing; my posse of eaters around the globe are always elated to dine at my house. They know that in addition to delivering a marvelous and meaningful time, I will bring the ultra-weird and unexpected to the table and it will all taste delightful.
The truth is, I cook like this all the time – even for myself (just look at my Instagram for proof). I think the main difference between cooking for myself and cooking for others is that I have to plan and, therefore, I have to think it through a bit more. I can’t deny that, because I’m mostly here alone, it feels special to have people over. So, I do like to make sure these occasions feel like a special event, for both me and my guests. I’m not sure if most my guests realize that the most joyful part of me making dinner for them is in the dreaming up of it – the part I do all alone.
I am not one to shy away from trying things for the first time when I have people over. I like to challenge myself and, for me, it says a lot about the love I feel for those I’m cooking for… and that I feel creative and happy enough to be me in the kitchen. I also of course love the idea of introducing new flavors and food ideas, especially the herbaceous ones to the open minded eaters I have over. So much food in the United States is served sans fresh herbs, so I want to show people every chance I get how much flavor and vibrancy herbs can bring to almost any dish or drink.
About a week ago I had the pleasure of making a meal for a special friend. Honestly, the meal itself was rather low key. I served one of my famous garden salads with Spring Salad Salt, of course, and some roasted chicken and potatoes with Nissa’s Fresh Mint Harissa, which I had in the fridge and often do. (You can find both these recipes on my birthday blog post.) The meal took about 30 minutes to put together, it was nice to chop garden goods and talk, without the worrying about burning something or stirring and monitoring the stove.
The dessert, which I am not known for, was the gem of the meal. My friend has a thing for chocolate chip cookies, and I had been telling him I was going to make him some for a while so I was -sort of- making good on my promise. I don’t have a sweet tooth, and cookies are not generally something I love. A challenge, however, I do love and the idea to make something he would like and I’d be impressed with motivated my creativity. Since I have been in the midst of an ice cream obsession, making a new ice cream every week, I knew cookies and ice cream were in order and at first I hadn’t even thought about putting herbs in any of it.
I didn’t think I could get creative with my ice cream and still pair it with a regular chocolate chip cookie. I had just bought some early season organic cherries, so a cherry ice cream was on my mind. I made a great one last year, but this time I wanted to conjure up a more vanilla-cream centric base with more of a fresh cherry vibe. Then double chocolate chip cookies entered into my mind. Obviously, these would go great with vanilla and cherry ice cream. And at the very last minute, this ice cream and cookies combo turned herbal.
The fresh jasmine blooming in my garden overtook me at some point on the day I was to make the ice cream, and out of nowhere I knew I had to infuse the milk with jasmine to make a beautifully perfumed vanilla ice cream and macerate some chopped cherries in brown sugar and cardamom. The juice was drained from the cherries (the juice makes great cocktails by the way) and just the macerated drained cherries added to the jasmine vanilla ice cream at the end. It was the best batch of ice cream I ever made, it was texturally perfect.
The double chocolate chip cookie I wanted to be fudgy and soft. The addition of a fresh rosemary salt atop changed the entire dynamic of the cookie. It was exceptional. I used a combination of a black flake salt from Cyprus that I got at FloraLuna Apothecary in Petaluma as well as some regular Maldon salt. Salt on any chocolate chip cookie is essential and chocolate is one of my favorite pairings for rosemary. Combined with the ice cream, the whole thing was mind-blowing. I felt really good about the sweet ending of my meal with my sweet friend.
Jasmine Vanilla Cherry Ice Cream
Makes 2 pints
This ice cream recipe makes use of early season cherries and abundant jasmine blooms to spring-up (and sultry-up) a classic vanilla-based cream. You’ll find it has a cream and fresh-fruit vibe, but with added layers of life and abundance that bring joy and feed the heart and spirit. For a mind-blowing treat, serve with the Double Chocolate Chip Cookies with Rosemary Salt.
For the macerated cherries:
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and chopped
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
For the ice cream base:
1 cup whole milk
Handful of fresh jasmine flowers (½ – ¾ cup)
5 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean split
Pinch of salt
For the macerated cherries:
Combine the cherries, sugar and cardamom in a bowl and let stand at room temperature about an hour or two before making the ice cream. Strain the juice (use it for a cocktail) and place the cherries in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes.
For the ice cream base:
Combine the milk and the jasmine flower and let stand for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Mix up the egg yolks and sugar until it’s super creamy and well mixed.
In a heavy bottom pan, heat the milk, cream, and salt until just about boiling. Whisk in a little of the hot milk mixture to the eggs (to temper) – then a little more, then a little more. Next, add the egg mixture to the warm milk mixture. Turn the burner to medium-low, and allow the mixture to thicken, stirring constantly about 2-3 minutes. It should get thick and coat the spoon (but honestly, I don’t know if that description helps enough… it’s more a feeling that it’s the right consistency than anything).
Then strain into a glass bowl (I think the glass cools it more quickly). Put that bowl into an ice bath, stir a lot and let it cool as quickly as possible. Then, put that in the freezer for 20 minutes to get super cold. In the meantime, turn your ice cream maker on freeze so it gets cold.
Put the cold ice cream base in the ice cream maker and turn the churn and freeze on. Let it do its thing for about 30 minutes or until it’s the consistency of soft serve ice cream. Sprinkle the cherries into the ice cream maker and continue to churn for another 10-20 minutes or until the ice cream is a bit harder than soft serve but still moving around the machine.
Place that the mixture in a pre-chilled container. At this point, it’s still kind of like soft serve and needs a bit more time in the freezer for optimal texture. It’s best to make the ice cream a day before you’d like to eat it.
Double Chocolate Chip Cookies with Black Rosemary Salt
Makes 9 large cookies
This double chocolate chip cookie is fudgy and soft. The fresh rosemary salt on top is a must and takes this cookie to the next level. The salt uses a combination of a black flake salt from as well as some regular Maldon salt, but using only Maldon salt is just as excellent. Flake salt on chocolate chip cookies is a must, in my opinion. If you haven’t tried chocolate and rosemary this is a great gateway to the pairing prowess. Serve the cookie warm with the ice cream! Serve it to super sweet people for optimal joy!
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup dark cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup salted butter (1 stick/ 8 tablespoons), room temperature
½ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ dark chocolate chips (semisweet/ 50-53%)
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon Maldon salt
1 teaspoon black flake salt (sub more Maldon salt)
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
In a separate large and deep mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugars with a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the egg and the vanilla and beat another 2-3 minutes until creamy.
Stir in the dry ingredients and either mix together by hand (preferred method at this stage) or use the hand mixer on low speed. Once the wet and dry ingredients are combined and mixed well, gently fold in the chocolate chips.
Since these cookies are super chocolaty and fudgy, it’s best to freeze them in “cookie dough balls” before baking. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop up some cookie dough, making round balls a little smaller than golf balls. Place them on a small baking sheet or plate and freeze. Once frozen, you can store them in a zip lock bag in the freezer to have on hand.
Pre-heat oven to 375° F. Combine the rosemary and salt and set aside.
Place your cookie balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the cookies for about 15-18 minutes. At about the 12-minute mark, sprinkle each cookie with some of the rosemary salt, making sure to get a little on all sections of the cookie. When the cookies are done, they will still seem quite soft when you remove them but they should not be batter-like consistency at all. Slide the parchment paper (and the cookies) onto a wire cooling rack or wooden cutting board, and cool for about 5 minutes.
Serve warm with a bowl of Jasmine Vanilla Cherry Ice Cream.