If you live in the Boston Area and you haven't been to Arax Market in Watertown, you don't know what you're missing. Located at 585 Mount Auburn Street, this Armenian market is filled with every kind of Middle Eastern fruits, vegetables, nuts, pastries, cheese, spices, olives and supplies one could imagine. Oh, and the most ornate selection of hookas I've ever seen - just in case you need one. So today when I went in with my recipe for Syrian Ice Cream which included 2 ingredients I was completely unfamiliar with: Mastic Gum and Salep, the awesome guys who run the place couldn't have been more helpful. Within minutes, I had everything I needed, plus a few extra treats I couldn't resist. Many, many thanks to Arax for hooking me up! Be sure to check them out on Facebook.
Agriculture in Syria includes wheat, barley, cotton , lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugarbeets, fruits, nuts, vegetables, beef, mutton, eggs, poultry and dairy. Aleppian culinary influences, along with Arab, Persian and Turkish traditions make for a wonderful variety of dishes such as humus, tabbouleh, fattoush, labneh, shawarma, mujaddara, and meze to name just a few. Middle Eastern food is without a doubt on my top 5 list of favorite foods - and now this ice cream...well, read on.
Rose Water - Scents the custard with a delicate, exotic aroma. I dabbed a little behind my ear because really, what's better than smelling like a sweet rose? Mastic Gum thickens the custard, but also lends a very subtle pine pitch flavor and scent, like pine nuts; Finally, Salep flavors and thickens the ice cream custard with a lovely vanilla and cinnamon taste.
Gum Mastic - I chewed it plain and it really is like gum, with a pine pitch taste - I loved it!
Top with plenty of chopped, shelled, unsalted pistachios - how deluxe can you get?
Syrian Ice Cream (Éma’a) - Recipe Courtesy of foodbuzz
(Yield: About 10 cups)
9 cups plus 1/4 cup whole milk, divided
1 cup heavy cream
4 medium pieces (about 1/4 tsp) Chios gum mastic
2 -1/2 cups sugar
5 tsp sahlab
3/4 tsp rose water
Chopped pistachios (for serving)
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 c milk with the sahlab; set aside.
Grind the mastic into a powder; the best way to do this is to put the mastic between 2 pieces of parchment paper or inside a plastic bag and pound it with a heavy object, such as a rolling pin.
In a medium-large pot over medium heat, combine 9 cups milk, the cream, and the mastic; bring to a boil (stirring frequently). Slowly whisk in the sugar and bring back up to a boil, stirring constantly. Whisk in the sahlab mixture and boil vigorously 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the rose water. Cool to room temperature, lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the mixture (to prevent a film from forming), then refrigerate until well chilled (about 4 hours).
Transfer the chilled mixture to an ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. Once processed, put the ice cream in a freezer-safe bowl and transfer to the freezer to set. Scoop out the ice cream and roll generously in chopped pistachios before serving.
Final Assessment: Whoa! This might be the best ice cream I've EVER had - and trust me, I've had a lot. It tastes like a combination of vanilla, cinnamon and pine. It's creamy and sweet and the pistachios on top give it texture, crunch and a wonderful nutty flavor that compliments it beautifully. Add to that the ever so slight scent of roses and it's a full on heavenly sensory experience - sexy, right?!
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