Pistachio Semifreddo

 Over the years, I've invested in a lot of different tools and gadgets for my kitchen -- mini loaf pans and tiny tart pans, heart shaped ramekins, a slightly pricey food processor, a creme brulee torch, popsicle molds, a deep dish pie plate, a cupcake carrier, and a waffle iron, to name just a few. However, no kitchen gadget has even come close to equaling my ice cream maker, which was given to me as a gift my senior year of college. To be honest, I was skeptical at first -- after all, I was happy enough with my store-bought Ben & Jerry's, and doubted homemade ice cream would be that much different. Plus, the ice cream maker itself didn't look like much -- just a large metal bowl that needed to be frozen and then attached to a mixer -- but how wrong I was! Making homemade ice cream was not only incredibly easy, it was also delicious, far better than anything that came out of a carton at a store, and it was love at first batch (of chocolate ice cream). I began to churn out a flavor or two  per week, starting with simple flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, and slowly expanding to more creative flavors, like raspberry chocolate chip, chocolate mint brownie, oatmeal cookie, Nutella, and blueberry cheesecake. I began to keep a notebook with me so I could write down different flavor ideas (peanut butter! pumpkin pie! blackberry!) and read up on ice cream basics in David Lebovitz's book, "The Perfect Scoop." My family christened the summer of 2010 "the Summer of Ice Cream," though they certainly had no complaints.

Now that I've gotten you all hyped up on my ice cream maker, I must tell you -- it's still at my parents' house in the U.S. It is too heavy and I'd never be able to fit it into any luggage to bring it over here to Rome, plus it requires a Kitchen-Aid standing mixer to attach to (also at home -- sob). In any case, I'm not alone in this, because I've realized that most other people do not have an ice cream maker handy, either. 

Enter this semifreddo, which requires no ice cream maker, fits into this month's no-heat, low maintenance recipe theme, and, most importantly, is an easy solution for any homemade ice cream cravings I've had. Now, if you've never heard of a semifreddo, let me explain -- it is a frozen dessert, and kind of a cross between mousse and ice cream (with a texture that is a bit softer than ice cream). This pistachio semifreddo is divine, sublime, blissful, off-the-charts good, one of my new favorite dessert recipes. It tastes just like a pistachio -- not like that wimpy bright green "pistachio" ice cream of my youth -- and is even dotted with bits of pistachio which up the pistachio factor and give the dessert a little crunch and texture. It is cold and refreshing, just what you need on a sweltering Summer day (or night -- this also makes a great midnight snack when it's too hot too sleep. I speak from experience). 

Notes: I toasted the pistachios to intensify the pistachio flavor, but feel free to use regular pistachios if you want to keep this completely heat free. I froze the semifreddo in a Tupperware container with a cover which I found very convenient, but any 2 quart container will do. To garnish, I sprinkled each serving with some raw chopped pistachios and chocolate shavings, but I bet it would also be great with chocolate sauce if you want to make things really fancy. Finally, this semifreddo would probably also be great with hazelnuts, pecans, or almonds in place of the pistachios -- I'll be trying those soon. Enjoy everyone!

PISTACHIO SEMIFREDDO

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (6.5 ounces) shelled, salted pistachios
6 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
In a food processor, blend 1 cup pistachios with 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar until very finely ground. Add remaining 1/2 cup pistachios and pulse until just coarsely ground.

Beat egg whites in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, then increase speed to high and beat until meringue just holds stiff, glossy peaks.

Beat cream with the vanilla extract in a wide bowl with mixer at high speed until it just holds soft peaks.

Fold the meringue into the whipped cream gently but thoroughly, then fold in the ground pistachios. Spoon into a 2-quart dish (or a large Tupperware) and freeze, covered, until firm enough to scoop, about 4 hours. Serves 8-10.


Very slightly adapted from www.epicurious.com




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