I recently had a conference call during which I learned a certain grocery store chain plans to offer a program to rate the contents of your shopping basket, much like your mother might if she combed through your crumpled receipts.
I suspect many of us have an internal dialogue about what we eat that we turn up or down like a transistor radio. But perhaps some people hope to go home and review a computer printout of their food purchases like it is a naughty or nice list from the North Pole.
A program like this brings up many questions. It so happens—for me—I only go to this particular grocer for two very specific things: turkey subs and hot dogs. At my most recent trip, I was also lured into buying some canned beer from their liquor store warehouse.
So it is pretty clear my report card would not be one to post on the fridge.
At a recent dinner at the Rosebud, I debated this idea with a good friend of mine over negronis and fried vegetables. It was the kind of conversation you can have with someone you have known for nearly two decades. She pointed out a way to scam the system by paying cash for your undesirables. I had not even thought of this, but it was a fast reminder as to why we are still friends.
It is ultimately sad that we need a computer to help decide if what we are buying is “good.” But I get it. Marketing is powerful, and confusing, and many people find food labels to be like hieroglyphics.
Plus we are very busy and easily distracted by cookies.
But the food choices we make are also very complex. I shop at four different spots to get what I need—and reasons for this vary from nutrition and sustainability to emotion and taste.
All are valid. And hard to judge in isolation, whether you are a machine or a human.
Take the ingredients to make this ice cream. Fresh mint and matcha tea might make Dr. Weil happy. But flavonols in the tea may be blunted by the addition of dairy. Not to mention the matcha food miles. Plus the mint is not actually even eaten.
The dark chocolate is 70% cocoa, but is that enough? (Probably not.) But it was produced locally and this allows me to implicate an unsuspecting factory in Somerville, Massachusetts in the post-rationalization of my cravings.
And swapping brown rice syrup in place of the corn variety seems better, but is it once you consider the arsenic risk?
All this aside, no one eats ice cream for its health benefits. The ingredients, however, do make a very satisfying iced dessert. It is smooth, bright, and grassy, with slight bursts of bitter chocolate. I originally added the matcha for shallow reasons (namely to impart a light green hue). But it also contributes a vegetal note that plays very well with the mint and dark chocolate. A computer is not going to know this. At least not yet.
So here is a little secret. A way to simplify things. Eight out of ten of us do not eat enough fruit and vegetables. This is not a metric that makes people very healthy. It turns out broccoli does not have a sexy marketing campaign, either. (Though it should.)
But if you aim to eat more plants maybe, just maybe, you might have a little bargaining room for ice cream every now and again too.
Matcha Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home
2 cups whole milk, divided
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
1½ ounces (3 tbsp) cream cheese, softened
1¼ cups heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
pinch of salt
3 ounces fresh mint (including the stems) or about 3 cups lightly packed mint leaves (stems removed)
½ tsp matcha green tea powder
¼ tsp orange blossom water
2 ounces dark chocolate (preferably 70%), cut into small shards
In a small bowl, mix 2 tbsp of the whole milk with the cornstarch. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.
In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining milk, heavy cream, sugar, brown rice syrup, and salt on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture boils. When it reaches a slow rolling boil, continue to stir for 4 minutes more.
Meanwhile, roughly tear the mint leaves into small pieces. Prepare a large bowl with ice and a little water and put a smaller bowl inside the larger bowl; set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk the matcha tea into the orange blossom water until a slurry forms; set aside.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and gradually add in the cornstarch mixture; return the pan back to medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until it thickens (this will take a few minutes).
Remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly whisk some of the hot liquid into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pan with the remaining liquid; add the torn mint and green matcha slurry and whisk to combine.
Pour the liquid into the prepared bowl on ice. Let cool for about 30 minutes and then refrigerate, letting the mint steep for about 5 hours. Strain out the mint and then return the milk mixture to the fridge (I prefer to let it chill overnight, but you can churn it once it is cold.)
When ready, churn the mixture in an ice cream machine for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it gets thick and creamy and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. At the very end of the churning, add in the chocolate shards while the machine is still running. Pack the ice cream in an airtight container. Cover with parchment paper cut to fit the container and freeze for at least 4 hours.
Makes about 1 quart
-I luck out having Taza chocolate so close. Luckily, you can also order it online.