My grandmother Lili died last Friday morning in New York; she was 94 years old (almost 95).

Lili, two days after her 90th birthday, in her apartment in New York. (2004)

One of the things I’ve been remembering over the past few days is how she connected with my friends that she met. She recalled people she’d only met once or twice for years, and would ask about them when we chatted on the phone. At a party after my college graduation, I remember four or five of my friends around her, listening with rapt attention to stories of her life for the better part of an hour.

She had a long, full life, survived much of WWII in hiding in Europe, emigrated to the United States, raised a daughter, ran a business and managed a building in New York City into her eighties, not only survived a major accident that doctors said would leave her unable to walk but scoffed at the idea of using a cane afterward, and connected with many people, even if she didn’t have a lot of friends.

She also was ready to be done. For the past few years, she’d said that there wasn’t anything she really wanted to do. It’s hard to argue that point with a 90 year-old who’s lived in Manhattan for twice as long as you’ve been alive. Over the past year or so, she said things were getting harder, even day-to-day things. Thankfully, her passing was quick and hopefully easy and painless. It’s a sad thing for sure, but not tragic.

She’ll be missed.

[ I’ve written about her a couple of times before, notably here and here. ]

posted June 22, 2009 – 10:39 am

Needing something to take to a dinner party, and inspired by some beautiful, if just-peaked, heirloom tomatoes at the Capitol Hill Farmer’s Market, I decided to make some saffron-tomato ice cream. My mom had given me some saffron a while back, and she likes to make a pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes, saffron, and cream (just microwave it for a couple minutes to soften everything up and steep the saffron in the cream & tomatoes). The saffron/tomato flavor combination is a real winner, and I’d been wondering why more people didn’t make tomato ice cream.

My recipe follows:

Saffron-Tomato Ice Cream

Makes about one quart.

  • ~2 lbs very ripe tomatoes (I used two very large heirloom tomatoes that were in the “seconds” pile at the Farmer’s Market for $3/lb)
  • A little less than ½ cup sugar
  • 1 generous pinch saffron threads (maybe about a half a teaspoon?)
  • 1 generous pinch salt
  • 1 pint half & half
  • ½ pint heavy whipping cream
  • 3 egg yolks

Chop the tomatoes into large chunks. In a heavy saucepan over reasonably high heat, combine the tomatoes and sugar. They’ll release their liquid and start to break down. Simmer over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until there’s about half as much liquid as when you started (should be about a pint, give or take). Remove from heat.

Add the half & half, saffron, and salt, and stir to mix. Let the mixture steep for 10 minutes or so.

Reheat the mixture. Temper the egg yolks (add some of the liquid, a little at a time, to prevent them from cooking immediately), then add that back to the saucepan and cook over low-medium heat until it coats the back of a spoon (and leaves a distinct trail when you drag your finger across the back of the spoon).

Remove from heat, and strain the mixture into a bowl with the heavy cream (preferably over an ice bath). Allow it to cool, then mix in your ice cream maker according to the instructions.

The ice cream-making part of the process goes much quicker when the mixture is cool. Leave enough time for it to cool down after making it, or make it the day before and leave it in the fridge overnight.

I just snuck a little taste from the freezer, and couldn’t be happier with the results. I’m thinking about making some parmesan crisps to go with it. Do you think I could add a little sugar to them to make it more of a desserty cookie?

posted June 14, 2009 – 3:55 pm
Old News
Log in