It was Chinese New Year last weekend, and as has become tradition, it fell to me to make the black sesame ice cream. So there I was, rummaging through the spice cabinet for the tub of black sesame when out came tumbling the white seeds instead.
Well, I thought, white sesame ice cream would be pretty nice too. Plus if I brought both flavors I could make some cool molded yin yang desserts and...well, that didn't happen. Because when you stir orange zest into hot ice cream base—the same addition I make to my black sesame seed version—the result doesn't taste like Chinese New Year. It tastes like a Greek bakery.
It was clear I was forcing the ice cream into a direction it didn't want to go, so out with the Chinese dessert plans and in with the whole halvah-creamsicle custard I had going. Some vanilla went in for balance, along with toasted pistachios once the ice cream had churned.
This ice cream balances mellow nutty flavors with floral-citrus sweetness, and it'd pair perfectly with some Middle Eastern-style baklava. But it cries out for something tart, a bold topping to give it contrast. The answer is another Middle Eastern staple: pomegranate molasses, pomegranate juice reduced down to a sweet-tart syrup that becomes sticky like hot fudge when poured over ice cream. You can find it online and in Middle Eastern markets near the rosewater.
You won't want to serve this to say farewell to the year of the snake, but come Greek Easter or an end-of-Ramadan feast, it may fit right in.