Happy National Ice Cream Day! With much of the country suffering under record temperatures, this holiday couldn’t come at a better time. My solution to help cool things down: a rich batch of creamy olive oil ice cream.
I remember the first time I tried olive oil-flavored ice cream. It was several years ago at a great restaurant, and while I certainly enjoyed it, the olive oil flavor was almost an afterthought, as if the pastry chef used whatever oil was on the shelf.
Since then, I’ve tried to improve on the dish a number of times using a variety of olive oils. While the ice cream method is simple — a basic custard base consisting of cream, milk, eggs and sugar — the trick is using a really good olive oil, one assertive enough to stand up to cold temperatures, with the right flavor notes — fresh, fruity, perhaps a hit of pepper — to play well against that frozen custard canvas.
A few weeks ago, I went down to Rio Bravo Ranch’s farming operation in Bakersfield to take a tour of the Nickel family’s olive groves and sample their award winning olive oils. The family began planting olive trees in the early 2000’s, working with experts to find the right olives for the local terroir, and has been commercially selling the oils for a few years now (you can find them at select local stores, as well as directly through their website here).
This recipe uses Rio Bravo’s 2018 Picual extra virgin olive oil. Like so many of the great olive oils coming out of California now, the oil boasts a rich, complex personality. The flavor is almost delicate at first, with fresh grassy notes and hints of sweet tomato and almond, followed by a playful peppery finish. It’s a winning flavor combination for this ice cream. I decided to fold in coarsely chopped roasted almonds, both for texture and to play up the nutty notes in the oil. Served alongside grilled fresh peaches (which also pair well with almonds), it’s the perfect dessert for summer, or any hot day for that matter.
OLIVE OIL AND ROASTED ALMOND ICE CREAM
15 minutes, plus chilling and freezing times. Makes a scant 2 pints
2 1/2 cups half and half
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large egg yolks, beaten
1/3 cup best-quality olive oil, such as Rio Bravo Ranch’s Picual EVOO, plus extra for garnish
1 cup coarsely-chopped roasted and salted almonds
Grilled peach halves, for serving
Maldon or other coarse sea salt, for garnish
1. In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat the half and half and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a gentle simmer. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the remaining sugar.
2. Add a little of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks, stirring to temper the eggs. Stir the yolks back into the cream and heat over medium-low heat until the cream thickens to form a custard. Immediately remove from heat and strain into a bowl set over an ice bath, stirring the mixture to chill it quickly. Once the custard base is chilled, stir in the olive oil.
3. Place custard base in ice cream maker and freeze. When ice cream is almost set, sprinkle in the toasted almonds.
4. Serve scoops of the ice cream alongside grilled peach halves, topped with a drizzle of oil and a light sprinkling of coarse salt.
Note: From Noelle Carter.