Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi) is in trouble over, of all things, ice cream. Specifically his favorite - pistachio ice cream. It seems his household spent $2700 on ice cream last year and people so upset about it that it’s front-page news. The Guardian reported, “Netanyahu ice-cream habit causes meltdown." In Jerusalem, AP noted that in response, “The country’s prime minister has frozen his annual ice cream budget.”
I know of many American politicians who would be only too happy to have a scandal over their ice cream budget rather than, say, their inappropriate on-line postings or extra-marital dalliances.
However, American politicians have long been passionate about ice cream. Most of our founding fathers – and mothers – were ice cream fans, even though at the time ice cream was an expensive dessert known only to the fortunate few.
George Washington was an early ice cream adopter. Shortly after the Revolutionary War ended, he bought an ice cream machine. Dolly Madison was such a fan that there’s an ice cream company named after her.
Thomas Jefferson loved his ice cream, especially vanilla. At the time, vanilla was comparatively rare since the vanilla bean was difficult to propagate. But when Jefferson was in France, he had vanilla ice cream and liked it so much that he wrote down the recipe and took it back to Monticello with him. He’s credited with making vanilla the popular flavor it is today. Previously lemon was number one.
Like Jefferson, Mrs. Netanyahu is said to prefer vanilla. I’m with Bibi, on pistachio if nothing else. I love pistachio ice cream, and I make my own. My secret is to steep the pistachio nuts in the ice cream mixture until they flavor it thoroughly. By then, they’ll be soggy, so I strain them out. When I churn the ice cream, I add a fresh batch of nuts at the last minute so they’ll stay crisp even after it is frozen.
Yes, you spend a bit more on the pistachios this way. But it will taste wonderful. And you’ll still be way under Bibi’s budget.
Pistachio Ice Cream
1 cup pistachio nuts, divided
1 ½ cups whole milk
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon almond extract
Toast all of the pistachios briefly. Then set ½ cup aside. Chop the remaining ½ cup roughly. Combine the roughly chopped nuts and the milk in a saucepan and heat until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 15 or 20 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they’re thick and pale.
Half fill a large bowl with ice or ice water and set aside.
Strain the pistachio and milk mixture. Discard the nuts. Combine the milk with the sugar and egg yolk mixture and cook over low heat until it thickens enough to coat a spoon. Stir constantly and don’t let it come to a boil.
Remove from heat and set the saucepan in the bowl of ice. Be careful not to let any of the ice water get into the ice cream mixture. Stir in the cream, salt, and almond extract. Continue stirring until the mixture cools.
Pour into a clean bowl, cover with clear plastic wrap pressed again the surface so it will not form a skin. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Roughly chop the reserved pistachios. Churn the chilled ice cream mixture according to ice cream machine instructions. Just before it’s ready, add the reserved pistachios. Serve or store in freezer until you’re ready to enjoy it.
Makes one quart.