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June 22, 2009

When Life Gives You Mint, Make Ice Cream

When a large bunch of mint showed up in my CSA bag last week, I puzzled over how to use it. I've never liked mint in any context but toothpaste and dessert, so chutney, jelly, tea, and biryani were out. Ignoring the mint until it went bad was not an option, as I've vowed to eat everything that arrives from the farm this season (except beets: I make my husband eat those).

Since I had some dark chocolate, ice cream seemed the best choice. I adapted my simple-is-best vegan ice cream recipe, steeping the mint leaves in coconut milk. Coconut is a nice complement to fresh mint, which has an earthier flavor than mint extract, and when churned and frozen it scoops up just like dairy-based ice cream. 

A word of warning: just because this ice cream is vegan doesn't mean it's good for you. Sure, it's free of cholesterol, green food coloring, artificial flavors, and mysterious texturing agents, but do yourself a favor and don't read the label on those cans of coconut milk. There's a reason this tastes so creamy and decadent, and you're better off not knowing. 

Coco-Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

1 packed cup mint leaves, rinsed and patted dry
2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch sea salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces or chips

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together coconut milk, sugar, and salt and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in mint leaves. Continue to simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and chill for 3-6 hours. Pour liquid into a bowl through a fine strainer, pressing mint leaves with the back of a spoon.

Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions. When ice cream has the consistency of thick whipped cream, add chocolate pieces. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours, before scooping and serving.

Makes about 1 quart.

Mary Lake is a writer, teacher, columnist for MF&L, and vegetarian blogger: Mitten Machen

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