Mid-Summer Ladies Lunch

IMG_5191I'm not sure if you've noticed or not, but I have quite a thing about the weather and often find myself including a mini-weather report in my posts. The sun (or lack thereof) probably has more sway over my moods than it should, sets the tone for my day, and effects everything from what I wear to what I cook and eat. I only bring this up because today I'm writing you from the back porch of my parents' home on what has to be one of the loveliest days I can remember. The air is dry and hot and the sun's warmth only occasionally broken by cotton balls of clouds. So very unusual for mid-Summer in the mid-Atlantic. It could not have been a more perfect day for the ladies lunch I prepared for my mother and her good friend.Many of you know that I've been back with my parents this month because my mother's been ill. She was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer more than six years ago, fiercely beating it back even as it has regularly recurred. This year has been particularly trying for her as she's also had some stomach problems that just won't go away, causing her to lose weight and be tethered to a very restricted diet. I've self-appointed myself official fattener-upper and finder-of-flavor within tricky dietary constraints.  So, for lunch, I wanted to make a very special meal for both her and her dear friend who has come to visit so often and has helped keep everyone's spirits high.Sweet basil ice cream with caramelized cashewsAs is typical with my mother, when we were deciding on what sounded yummy to her, we started with the dessert and worked backwards. She's been requesting salted caramel ice cream since I arrived and we finally had the event to warrant it. For any of you who love ice cream, you must get your hands on Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at HomeThe author, Jeni Britton Bauer, started making ice creams in Ohio in 1996 and they've gone viral!  Quite simply, these are the best ice creams I've ever made and I love that she offers a base recipe with which you can experiment and play to your heart's desire.  My sour green plum and raki ice cream was based upon her basic recipe. Also, these are not made using the traditional custard-base (which can be tricky), instead she uses cream cheese, light corn syrup, and cornstarch which magically does the same job. Over the 4th of July my family swooned over the sweet basil with caramelized cashews ice cream I made and another favorite is her recipe for beet ice cream with mascarpone, orange zest and poppy seeds. Convinced you need to buy this yet?
So, back to today's lunch. Fresh fruits and veggies are basically forbidden unless they have high water content, low fiber, or are cooked beyond recognition. Enter the cucumbers and zucchini. Proteins and fats are good - how about some shrimp? And unlike the rest of us, for my mom, the more refined the carb is, the better. Bearing all this in mind, I decided to serve a chilled cucumber soup with roasted jumbo prawns, my Istanbul zucchini fritters with lime yoghurt sauce, and homemade salted caramel ice cream.  Just a note if you're going to refer to my earlier post with the fritters recipe - when I made the lime yoghurt sauce this time I mixed in a bit of sour cream and also used a microplane to finely grate a clove of garlic into the sauce.  An almost imperceptible difference, but a little more flavor if you want to go wild.Chilled Cucumber Soup with Roasted Jumbo ShrimpIMG_5196serves 42 pounds English or Persian cucumbers, peeled, seeded, chopped4 tablespoons lemon juice1/2 cup plain Greek style yoghurt2 garlic cloves12 cup extra-virgin olive oil2 tablespoons chopped fresh dillsalt and pepper12 jumbo shrimpIn a blender combine the cucumbers, lemon juice, yoghurt and garlic and puree until smooth. Now slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube until you've got a lovely silky and somewhat thick mixture. Season with salt and pepper to your taste and add the dill. Allow to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss your shrimp with salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil. Place them on a baking sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool before serving.  To serve ladle the soup into your bowls and place 3 shrimp in each, garnishing with a little more dill if you'd like.Salted Caramel Ice CreamIMG_5203from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home makes 1 quart2 cups whole milk1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, at room temp1/2 teaspoon sea salt1 1/4 cups heavy cream2 tablespoons light corn syrup2/3 cup sugar2 teaspoons vanilla extractPREP: Mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with cornstarch in a small bowl.  Whisk together cream cheese and salt in another bowl. Mix cream and corn syrup in a measuring cup with spout.COOK: Heat the sugar in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat until caramelized (the color of an old Penny, Jeni suggests). Her method is wonderful - you simply put the sugar in the pan and don't move it (but keep a close eye on it) until the entire bottom layer has turned brown and melted. Now work quickly and incorporate the remaining top layer of sugar until it's all melted and amber in color.  Now slowly add the cream mixture, stir until combined, then the milk.  Bring to a boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cornstarch slurry. Back on the heat, bring to the boil once more until slightly thickened - about 1 minute. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. I now put this in the fridge until cold. Once the cream mixture is completely chilled place it in the bowl of your ice cream maker and follower the machine's instructions. After churning transfer to the freezer for at least 4 hours.