Spring has (almost) sprung, and yesterday at the market, I was beside myself amid the gorgeous new arrivals: rhubarb, lemongrass, heirlooms (yes from a greenhouse somewhere but they still looked as if they might taste like tomatoes!) and so forth. I've long wanted a use for celery beyond the salad and really thought it would be lovely in a gelato. I like an element of surprise and savory in sweets, and the herbaceousness of celery sounded like a perfect yet delicate foil to a creamy ice cream custard.
Rhubarb has a similar vegetal quality, and I loved the idea of a compote flecked with celery seeds adding color and zing to the gelato.
This is creamy yet light, and you really get the essence of celery throughout. I love it!
(I use a vanilla ice cream recipe from epicurious as the foundation for my gelato.) —em-i-lis
Test Kitchen Notes
Don't be put off by vegetables in gelato! This is definitely worth trying. I was pleasantly surprised by the gelato — the celery flavor is subtle and refreshing. By itself, it might be a cooling way to end a spicy meal. With the compote, which contrasts sweet-tart against creamy, it serves to highlight some of the best flavors of the spring season. —rainydayfriend
For the celery juice and rhubarb compote
celery stalks with leaves, washed and cut on the diagonal into chunks
4" piece of lemongrass; tough outer sheath removed; remainder pummeled lightly with a meat tenderizer or the like (you want it bruised)
rhubarb (from about 2 long, thin stalks), chopped just larger than a dice
Put the first 3 ingredients (celery, lemongrass and celery seeds) in a small pot and add water JUST until the greens are covered. Boil 35-40 minutes until celery is soft. Remove the lemongrass, and using an immersion or regular blender, puree. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and set aside. You should have about 1? c celery juice. Set aside.
While the celery is cooking, make the rhubarb compote. Mix the rhubarb, sugar, mint and lemon juice in a bowl and let sit 5-10 minutes. Then pour into a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, cover and cook until rhubarb is tender, about 5 minutes. Fold in 1/2 tsp of the toasted celery seeds, remove from heat, scoop out into a cool bowl, and set aside. When cool, cover and chill in the fridge until you're ready to serve the gelato.
For the gelato
Whisk together cream, milk, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking occasionally, then boil, whisking, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the celery juice and the remaining 1/2 tsp of the toasted seeds. Transfer to a bowl and chill, uncovered, until cold, at least 1 hour.
Freeze in ice cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, at least 2 hours. (The ice cream maker is optional but will facilitate the creamy-texture factor.)
When ready to serve, scoop out servings of gelato and top with the rhubarb compote.