Chapter 1 of the gelato story: After having made several trips to Italy in the last 10 years, I've come to be a real afficionado of gelato. And although I've had it here at home, it never seems to taste as good as it does there. Is it the air? Is it the fact that I'm on vacation? Is it just the romance of Italy? Or, more likely, I believe, milk in Italy is just different than ours, with a higher butterfat content, and the milk tastes different because of what the cows eat. I just picture all those Italian cows munching away on REAL grass and stuff, rather than the manufactured crap and exaggerated hormones American dairies feed their milkers in order to produce the highest possible amount of milk output. I'd love to be able to bring a half gallon of Italian milk home with me from some trip to Italy and see if there was a difference. Not likely with the TSA vigilant at the screening stations and us with 5-ounce limits of anything.
Chapter 2 of the gelato story: A few years ago when our friends Yvette & Joe were coming up to visit from San Diego, Yvette said she'd bring dessert. And, oh my goodness, was it wonderful. She frequents a little gelato store on India Street (Little Italy) near downtown San Diego. Called Gelato Vera Caffe, it's run by a ubiquitous Italian man from the old country. His shop is small, his business brisk, and his gelato par excellence. Yvette brought her favorite, banana, and left us the remaining gelato after our wonderful dinner. We've been back several times to bring home a batch, although the banana flavor must be ordered in advance because he ripens the bananas for several days. Now, another day I'll write up the more recent roasted banana gelato/ice cream I just made a few days ago, but right now we're talking about Lemon Velvet since it was my first, successful gelato conquest.
One of the reasons gelato is different is that it's made mostly with milk (whole milk), not cream as our traditional ice cream contains. So, theoretically, it's a little healthier for us than ice cream. But any nutritionist would probably question my logic there. But anyway, I love making ice cream that doesn't require making a custard (it's traditional here in the U.S. - a sauce made with egg yolks and cream simmered until thickened, then cooled and chilled before freezing). So when this Lemon Velvet recipe appeared in the Los Angeles Times some months ago, I clipped it out in a flash because it contains more milk than anything else. The Velvet Turtle restaurant chain was widely known in Southern California for many years, and this recipe was a regular on their dessert menu. The original recipe is printed below. Normally I substitute the evaporated milk and the regular milk with Trader Joe's fat-free half and half. And I usually add some heavy cream instead of the half and half called for.
1. Remove the zest from some of the lemons with a microplane grater, if possible. Combine with the fresh squeezed juice in a blender. Blend well. If you don't have a microplane for the zest, blend this for awhile so none of the zest appears in big chunks. Pour into a large bowl with the other ingredients. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Taste for sweetness or tartness and adjust. If time permits, refrigerate.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 338 Calories; 18g Fat (47.2% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 65mg Cholesterol; 93mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Fruit; 1/2 Non-Fat Milk; 3 1/2 Fat; 2 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.
NOTES : This is a really smooth ice cream, and with our home grown Meyer lemons, the perfect complement to their sweetness. This may be the best ice cream I've ever made in my machine. Because I like to enjoy this all year around, I freeze the lemon juice (with zest included) in 1-cup containers. Then in December when I want a little lemon pucker, it's no trouble to prepare this. If you use other varieties of lemons the mixture may need additional sugar, so taste it and adjust as needed.