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Strawberry ice cream, pure and simple

Russ Parsons
The California Cook
How to make a simple, fabulous strawberry ice cream without an ice cream machine

There is absolutely nothing wrong with most strawberry ice creams. Except that they probably would more accurately be described as ice creams with strawberries (not that there's anything wrong with that).

But you can quite easily make a really delicious ice cream that tastes purely of fruit — one that is truly a strawberry ice cream — and you don't even need any special equipment to do it.

I learned this technique many years ago from Sicilian chef Ciccio Sultano of Ristorante Duomo in Ragusa, Italy. He used it to make a spectacular peach gelato for a special dinner at Santa Monica's Valentino restaurant.

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It is so good I have been using it ever since — with peaches and nectarines, of course, but also plums and now strawberries.

Actually, "technique" may be stretching the point. It's probably too simple for that word. Let's just call it a trick and be done with it.

Here's what you do: Cut fruit into small pieces. Toss it with sugar and any flavorings. Spread it on a cookie sheet and freeze until solid. Grind it in a food processor with a little bit of whipping cream or mascarpone until it is smooth.

That's it. You can serve it as is — the texture will be somewhere between a soft-serve ice cream and a chewy Italian gelato — or you can refreeze it briefly to make it a bit firmer.

Sultano's peach version is made with 3 pounds of fruit, peeled and pitted, 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of mascarpone.

For strawberries, I prefer 2 pounds of fruit with 1/2 to 2/3 cup of sugar, some orange juice, balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup of mascarpone.

The recipe is flexible. If the strawberries are very sweet, use the lesser amount of sugar. If they're pretty bland, use the greater. Do remember that chilling dulls flavor, so you want the unfrozen mixture to taste a bit sweeter than the ice cream will be.

If you're stuck with really bad berries, adding a couple of tablespoons of strawberry jam will give you something closer to that farmers market perfume.

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There are a couple of tricks with this trick.

It'll take longer than you might think to purée the berries in the food processor, and it will sound like you're trying to grind stones while you're doing it. Just stick with it and keep pulsing and scraping down the sides and bottom until the mixture is smooth.

Also, because there is so little fat in this recipe, when the mixture refreezes it will be rock hard. You can get it back to its original consistency by letting it thaw for a couple of minutes (or 30 seconds in the microwave) and then regrinding in the food processor, following the same procedure.

No churning, only minutes to prepare and spectacular pure fruit flavor. Could this be your ice cream of the summer?

russ.parsons@latimes.com

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