first dinner party in the new apartment

for once i actually plotted out an ideal menu, easy to prep, easy to serve, light and yet vaguely impressive.

first course: gazpacho with mozzarella en carozza dippers.
main course: gnocchi in a thyme-butter sauce
dessert: ice wine ice cream with strawberry rhubarb compote.

i turned yet again to giada for advice on the gnocchi. every time i make gnocchi, i feel discouraged at first as i re-read the recipe and then slowly empowered as i remember that it’s really not that much work after all. giada, with her microwave shortcut, would horrify a true pasta purist but saving an hour of heating water and boiling potatoes is right up my alley on a saturday that got swallowed by chores and laziness. for the first time, i get a truly lovely gnocchi dough, which is mixing just as my first guests arrive. in spite of this success, i am forced to classify gnocchi as a work in progress, since i still need practice on forming the dumplings properly.

meanwhile, ms. luchetti continues to inspire and amaze with her passion for desserts. i’ve been saving this particular recipe for the arrival of berry season and it was worth the wait and then some. it’s true i’ve been collecting ice cream recipes for nearly two years now, and i do have a few staples: my chocolate chip cookie ice cream, my raspberry linzertorte ice cream, my cannoli ice cream, my cherry fudge ice cream.

i am absolutely going to have to add ice wine ice cream to the list. the only thing i did is tweak the custard base in order to utilize my own super-duper-secret ice cream strategy. (picture me as the busch’s beans guy, only with a really fat cat instead of the talking dog--only me and indy know the secret, and he’s not talking!)

the tartness of the rhubarb, even when mixed with the strawberry, would seem antithetical to the sweetness of ice wine but when the two met it was like i could hear the romeo and juliet theme in the background, they were so well-matched. it probably helped that due to my secret strategy, the ice cream was uncommonly smooth and that due to my friend dino’s overcooking of the rhubarb compote down to rhubarb pie filling, the fruit was more like a sauce than anything else. we ended up slurping every drop out of the dishes and attacking the leftover fruit with a set of spoons.

Ice Wine Ice Cream with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
(adapted from emily luchetti’s a passion for desserts)

I cup sugar
4 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
Pinch of salt
¾ cup ice wine
10 ounces rhubarb, cut into '/2-inch pieces
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
I pint strawberries, hulled and quartered

TO MAKE THE ICE CREAM: Warm the sugar, cream, and salt in a medium saucepan
over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbles form around the edges, 3 to 5
minutes. Pour the cream in a bowl and cool over an ice bath (see page 28). Stir in
the ice wine. Refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight.

Freeze the cream in an ice cream machine, according to the manufacturer's

TO MAKE THE COMPOTE: Cook the rhubarb, 5 tablespoons of the sugar, and the
water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the
rhubarb is soft, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature.
Stir in the strawberries and the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Store at room tem-
perature until ready to serve.

PLANNING AHEAD: The ice cream can be made a couple of days in advance. For
freshness, the strawberry rhubarb compote should be served the day it is made.

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