Farmer Lee Jones churns charred eggplant into a creamy, sesame-topped ice cream that can be served as a dessert or with savory dishes. 

Note: You'll need an ice cream maker with a 2-quart capacity to make this. (Editor's pick: This ice cream maker has 4+ stars!

Shopping tip: Look for xanthan gum in the baking aisle of the grocery store. 

"Eggplant really shows its best character when it's charred, becoming almost meaty. The purée we use for this ice cream is a riff on one that chef Paul Liebrandt made at the CVI [Culinary Vegetable Institute]. After the event, we churned the leftover purée with creme anglaise to make an incredible ice cream that you could serve with savory dishes, like beef tartare, or complex-tasting desserts, like burned meringue, stewed fruits, or a black sesame cake. The ice cream recipe makes about 2 quarts so you will have enough to play around. 

The garnishes here are optional but we do recommend using some kind of aromatic herb or bloom. It's worth noting that the browned butter and xanthan gum in the purée stabilize the base and raise the melting point of the ice cream." —Lee 

Adapted from The Chef's Garden: A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables—with Recipes by Farmer Lee Jones. Copyright © 2021 by Farmer Lee Jones. Used with permission by Avery. All rights reserved. 

For more unique and delicious ice cream recipes, try Milk & Cereal Ice Cream and No-Churn Banana Pudding Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the Charred Eggplant Purée:
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 large or 2 medium eggplants, about one pound
  • 1 teaspoon squid ink, optional for color
  • ⅛ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon smoked salt
For the Ice Cream:
  • 2 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
For the Black Sesame Powder:
  • 3 tablespoons black sesame seeds, toasted and cooked
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat milk powder
For serving:
  • Mint blooms, marigolds, citrus lace, dianthus, and peppercress blooms

Yield

Serves: 4

Preparation

For the charred eggplant purée, in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Cook until the milk solids turn golden and the butter smells nutty, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the ginger, stir, then turn off the heat and let steep for about 15 minutes.

Turn on a gas flame, a grill, or a broiler. Set the eggplant directly over or under the heat and cook, turning frequently, until charred all over, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the eggplant flesh and skin to a blender and purée with the squid ink if using and the xanthan gum until very smooth. With the machine running, gradually add the browned butter mixture. Add the tamari, vinegar, and smoked salt and blend just to incorporate. Strain the purée through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and refrigerate to chill. 

For the ice cream, in a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the cream and milk and bring to a very low simmer over low heat. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until the mixture is very pale in color and fully incorporated. Gradually add the hot cream into the egg base, whisking constantly. Return the cream mixture to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium-low heat. Continue whisking until the base thickens to nape (just coating the back of the spoon).

Set up a bowl of ice water. Set another bowl in it. Transfer the base to the bowl set over the ice and stir occasionally, until chilled.

In a blender or bowl, mix the chilled eggplant puree and ice cream base until homogeneous. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the soft ice cream into an airtight freezer container and freeze for at least 4 hours and for up to two weeks.

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For the black sesame powder, in a spice grinder, grind the toasted sesame seeds with the confectioners' sugar and nonfat milk powder until you have a very fine powder. Pulse the ingredients until evenly mixed. Pass the mixture through a sifter and discard any coarse bits. Reserve in a small airtight container until ready to use.

When serving, if the ice cream is too firm to scoop, pull it out of the freezer to soften slightly for 5 to 15 minutes. Arrange some of the sesame powder in four serving bowls or plates. Scoop a generous portion of ice cream on top, then garnish with aromatic blooms and serve.