Inspiration arrives via many avenues but the sweetest, most satisfying are born of fond childhood memories. My dad worked the restaurant business all his life. He never worked in a “Greek” restaurant per se but one knew a Greek was in the kitchen or the owners were Greek with one look at the menu.
Souvlaki is an easy giveaway, Spanakopita, Avgolemono Soup, rice pudding or a Baklava. A recurring conversation I have with family & friends is that you just don’t get the same quality of food at diners, restaurants & eateries of yesteryear. Back then, the chef/cook would arrive real early in the morning and prepare the day’s specials, prep for the breakfast rush, whip up salad dressings, soups of the day, sauces/gravies and the topic of today’s post: desserts.
Back when I was a kid (70’s), one would go to a diner or restaurant and you would be able to choose from the the array of house-made pies (and other desserts). Two of my favourite pies were the banana cream pie and the coconut cream pie. I would stare at the revolving display of cakes and pies thinking, “which one will I order today”? I don’t go out to eat as much and when I do I’m usually disappointed with the quality of the food or I feel I didn’t get good value for my money.
This is due in part to many factors: we are more sophisticated/more demanding palates, we can and do cook more at home (we’ve been empowered in the kitchens) and sadly, even independently-owned eateries have gone corporate i.e. taking short-cuts. Here’s what happens to a restaurant: a sales rep. from a large food distributor pays the eatery a visit, asks to see the owner(s) and they go through the menu, prices, issues the restaurant may have.
The “kind” sales rep. has a real solutions for “George Restaurant”: that soup of the day? Just buy the frozen block of soup, place it in one of those black crock-pots and turn-on in the morning…soup’s ready by lunch time. Got lasagna on the menu? No problem – just buy the frozen lasagna and throw it in the oven…you now have your special of the day covered. Pies? Salad dressings? We have all those made at our commissary. See what’s happening?
The temptation to cut labour costs is too great for many restaurateurs to resist. Instead of hiring talent kitchen staff who will prepare EVERYTHING on the menu from scratch, high-school students or unskilled labour are hired and asked to simply follow cooking instructions on a frozen pre-made food item. Is it any wonder more of us are cooking and eating at home?
This also why I decided to finally splurge on an ice cream maker last year: so I could capture those flavours I remembered as a child and make ice cream (cook food at home the way I like it) the way I remembered it to taste. Back to those banana cream pie and coconut cream pies I miss at my Dad’s (and many uncles’ restaurants)…the inspiration for today’s ice cream.
I used to alternate ordering banana and coconut cream pies and the inspiration for this ice cream combines the flavours of both these diner favourites. This ice cream recipe pairs roasted bananas with toasted coconut and the ice cream base contains no eggs or heavy cream (no custard base). Instead, the concentrated flavours of roasted banana and toasted coconut are accentuated with the addition of coconut milk (found in the international aisle of your supermarket and at Asian stores) and sweetened with a can of condensed milk. I took direction from the “ice cream man” himself, David Lebovitz and his recipe gave me the confidence to go forth with this natural pairing….banana and coconut.
The crowning glory of this ice cream is when I emptied the churned ice cream into a tub and topped it with some reserved toasted coconut. Kinda’ looks like the ice cream one would see at an old-time ice cream parlour, eh?
Roasted & Toasted Banana & Coconut Ice Cream
3-4 very ripe bananas, cut into 1 inch slices
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
For the base
1 can of coconut milk (400 ml)
1 can of condensed milk (300ml)
1 cup of whole (homo.) milk
3/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. of vanilla extract
1 shot of banana liqueur
Equipment: Ice-cream maker
- Place your chopped bananas in a small baking/roasting pan and add the butter and sprinkle the brown sugar over them. Toss with a spoon to incorporate and cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 400F oven for 30 minutes or until bananas are softened an a light brown colour. Remove from the oven, puree with a blender and set aside.
- In the meantime, place your shredded coconut in a skillet over medium heat and continuous move the pan as your coconut is toasting. As soon as your coconut reaches a golden colour, remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.
- In another bowl, add the condensed milk, whole milk and coconut milk along with the salt and vanilla extract. Mix with a wire whisk until incorporated and smooth and place in your fridge to chill for at least 3 hours.
- Assuming that your freezer bowl is already frozen, empty the bowl with your chilled milk/ice cream base into the ice cream maker and churn. Add the pureed banana into the milk mixture and continue operating your ice cream maker for 25 minutes. At this point add a 1/4 cup of the toasted coconut and pour in the banana liqueur and churn for 5 more minutes.
- Empty the ice cream mixture into a tub and smooth-over the top and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of toasted coconut over the ice cream.
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