Black Sesame Ice Cream and a Cookbook Giveaway

Black sesame seeds have a toasty, nuttier flavor than white sesame seeds and is a favorite flavor in Asian desserts.
Black sesame seeds have a toastier, nuttier flavor than white sesame seeds and is a favorite in Asian desserts.

Have you ever been struck by an incessant food craving that just won’t go away? (No, this has nothing to do with pregnancy.) It’s kinda like an earworm (click here for more info about this wonderful new word I just learned about on NPR), a song that lodges in your head and plays over and over again.

Most often, it’s a childhood snack or comfort food you crave–mom’s mac and cheese, Twinkies (RIP), or cherry-flavored jello. And it’s always, always, always, annoying because you simply can’t shake it off until you actually indulge it.

In my case, I’ve been fantasizing about glutinous rice balls in sugar syrup (also known as tang yuan,汤圆) for the last week or so. You know, those chewy white balls made from glutinous (or sweet rice) flour, the ones that burst open with one bite, releasing a lavalike flow of sweet black sesame paste?

So when Diana Kuan (who writes the marvelous blog appetiteforchina.com) invited me to participate in her Chinese New Year potluck to celebrate her new book The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, one recipe was calling, siren-like, out to me.

I’ve seen black sesame ice cream on menus before but I’ve never tried it, let alone attempted to make it. However, Diana’s recipe is so simple that my mind was made up before you could say “black sesame.” I whipped up the ice cream base in barely 10 minutes and the ice cream machine did the rest of the work.

The four hours the ice cream had to sit in the freezer to set seemed like a toe-tapping eternity. As soon as the timer went off, I scooped some out, sat down with a bowl of cool, nutty black sesame ice cream and ate my craving away spoonful by luscious spoonful.

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If you’d like to win a copy of The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me where and/or in what dish you’ve tried black sesame seeds (and even if you haven’t, leave a comment anyway)! I’ll select a winner at random on March 8th.

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Black Sesame Ice Cream

Adapted from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook by Diana Kuan

ice cream scoop2Diana uses a light Philadelphia-style eggless base for this delicious dessert infused with a hint of vanilla and the more dramatic nutty fragrance and flavor of black sesame, which is almost akin to dark chocolate or French roast coffee. I lightened it up a little and used half-and-half instead of heavy cream for a fluffier gelato-like texture. If you can actually resist gorging, the ice cream stores well in the freezer for up to a week.

Makes: 1 quart
Time: 10 minutes, active

2 cups half-and-half, or heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/∕8 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup black sesame seeds

Special equipment:
Spice grinder
Ice cream maker

Combine 1 cup of the heavy cream, the sugar, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Stir in the remaining 1 cup heavy cream, the milk, and vanilla extract. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. (If you are in a hurry, skip this step).

Grind the sesame seeds in a clean spice grinder for about 5 seconds until they turn into a coarse powder. Don’t grind for too long as the seeds will turn into a paste.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and slowly pour in the ground black sesame. Churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezersafe container and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.

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Now for some disclaimers: I received a copy of this book as thanks for writing a blurb for the back cover. And in participating in this potluck, I’ll be given a copy of The Chinese Takeout Cookboook to share with one lucky reader as well as be entered in a giveaway. However, I am endorsing this book because it has awesome, easy recipes that I know you, my reader, will enjoy.

New Potato Rendang with Green Beans and a Cook Book Giveaway

Many Asian dishes are naturally vegan–i.e. contain no meat products and no dairy–or are easily adapted. It’s not surprising since fresh vegetables are a large part of our diet, coconut milk is our “milk” of choice, and cheese hardly shows up in any of our dishes.

So when I found out that my food writer friend Robin Asbell was organizing a virtual potluck to launch her new mega-book I was excited to participate. Big Vegan, Over 350 Recipes, No Meat, No Dairy, All Delicious is a celebration of just how satisfying and alluring plant based cuisine can be. The book contains many easy Asian-inspired recipes that are not quite traditional but are still very appealing. They include: “Tofu Pad Thai,” “Edamame Dumplings in Handmade Green-Tea Wrappers” and “Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Lemongrass, Seitan, Sprouts and Basil.”

Robin is a Minnesota-based chef, food writer, and cooking teacher and an expert in natural foods. So you can be rest assured that her recipes are wholesome and tasty.

My contribution to the potluck is “New Potato Rendang with Green Beans.” Now my mom makes a mean beef rendang and I love her recipe. However, because it is such an involved process and uses a laundry list of ingredients that requires a trek to the Asian store, I never make it, preferring instead to wait until the next time I see mom again.

Granted Robin’s recipe doesn’t use traditional ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves, nor the myriad spices, but that’s the beauty of it. All the ingredients are available at your neighborhood grocery store, the steps are simple, thus making the dish a lot more accessible to American home cooks.

I made the dish with no expectations and I’m definitely a fan! It isn’t as authentic as my mom’s rendang, but for as little effort as it takes (at least compared to her version!), it satisfies with a good approximation of Southeast Asian flavors. I’ll be making it again for sure.

Chronicle Books is giving away a copy of Big Vegan for my readers. If you’d like to win a copy, please leave a comment and tell me what your favorite Asian vegan dish is, or why you like rendang by November 7th. If you’re eating Asian, you’ve probably had several vegan dishes without even realizing it! Please don’t forget to leave me your email address so I can contact you if you win.

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New Potato Rendang with Green Beans

Adapted from Big Vegan, Over 350 Recipes, No Meat, No Dairy, All Delicious (Chronicle Books, 2011) by Robin Asbell

In Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, rendang is most commonly made with beef but you can use your choice of meat, as well as vegetables, as this recipe demonstrates. The green beans at my grocery store were a little sad looking so I used sugar snap peas instead. Since I had some kaffir lime leaves in the freezer I tossed some in and I substituted ground coriander for the cloves.

Time:1 hour
Makes: 4 servings

1 large red Fresno chili, seeded
1/4 cup/30 g minced onion or shallot
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 lemon, zested
1 lime, zested
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander, or 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup/240 ml coconut milk
2 Kaffir lime leaves, crushed to release their essential oils
1 lb/455 g fingerling or small new (baby) potatoes, halved
4 oz/115 g sugar snap peas or green beans, trimmed
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a coffee grinder or mini chopper, combine the chili, shallot, ginger, garlic, lime and lemon zests, turmeric, and coriander. Process to puree them to a smooth paste. If needed, add a little of the coconut milk to help it puree. Or use a mortar and pestle (which is what I did!).

In a wok or large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Fry the paste until fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves and mix well. Add the potatoes and bring them to a simmer, stirring. Cover and check often, stirring and adding water as needed to keep the potatoes from sticking.

When the potatoes are almost tender, about 8 to 10 minutes, add the beans, carrot, tamari, and salt and keep stirring. Cook until the vegetables are tender, another 3 to 4 minutes (or cooked to your liking), and the sauce is completely thick and coats the vegetables. Squeeze half of the zested lime over the vegetables, taste, and add more as desired. Fish out the kaffir lime leaves and discard.

Serve hot with white rice.

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Here some other rendang recipes to try:

Rasa Malaysia: Rendang Daging (Beef rendang)
Serious Eats: A series of rendang recipes to try
Seasaltwithfood: Indonesian rendang recipe

And if you’d like to check out the rest of the Big Vegan Virtual Potluck, here are the links:

Green and Red Spaghetti
Sandra Gutierrez

Bengali Curry of Cauliflower and Kidney Beans
Robin Robertson

Spanish Chickpea Fritters
Julie Hasson

Sundried Tomato-Kale Calzones AND 
Pumpkin Cherry Bundt Cake
Leinana Two Moons

Peanut Butter Tart with “Ganache”
Tara Desmond

Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins
Carol Golden

Maple Barley Granola with Pecans
Robin Asbell

Mango-Jícama Salad with Lime Dressing and Pepitas    
Susan Russo

Armenian Red Lentil Stew with Sesame Brown Rice
Bryanna Clark Grogan

Korean Miso-Tofu Soup
Nancie McDermott

Squash Quesadillas with Cranberry-Jícama Salsa
Jill Nussinow


Win a copy of my cookbook at RasaMalaysia.com!

Who doesn’t love a cookbook giveaway?

Just leave a comment on my guest post on RasaMalaysia.com by December 14th where I reminisce about some unforgettable duck. And you might be the happy recipient of The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook. Many thanks to Bee for organizing it!

Photo by Lara Ferroni excerpted from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook.

Here’s a snippet …

When I was growing up in Singapore, my mother would sometimes bring home a whole or half duck—succulent, slick with soy sauce, and very tasty—from the nearby hawker center to supplement our dinner. My siblings and I would dig in heartily, devouring every part of the bird. And we, a family of dark meat lovers, always came away with satisfied grins on our faces, as unlike with a whole chicken, no one had to contend with white meat. Even though mum is a fabulous cook, I remember wishing that she would be too busy to cook more often…

Click here to read the rest of my guest post on RasaMalaysia.com.

Psst… for another chance to win The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook, visit Leite’s Culinaria. This contest ends December 15th.

Good luck!

As grandma says, please share:

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