Archive 2008 - 2019

Day 175

by Sarah R. Commerford

If you live in the Boston Area and you haven't been to Arax Market in Watertown, you don't know what you're missing. Located at 585 Mount Auburn Street, this Armenian market is filled with every kind of Middle Eastern fruits, vegetables, nuts, pastries, cheese, spices, olives and supplies one could imagine. Oh, and the most ornate selection of hookas I've ever seen - just in case you need one. So today when I went in with my recipe for Syrian Ice Cream which included two ingredients I was completely unfamiliar with (Mastic Gum and Salep), the awesome guys who run the place couldn't have been more helpful. Within minutes, I had everything I needed, plus a few extra treats I couldn't resist. Many, many thanks to Arax for hooking me up. Be sure to check them out on Facebook.


About the size of North Dakota (U.S.), Syria is a narrow coastal plain with a double mountain belt in the west, and a large semi-arid and desert plateau. Mostly desert land, the country is hot, dry and sunny in the summer and mild and rainy winter. Ethnic Syrians come from Semitic stock, with 90% being Muslim, 74% Suni and the other 16% a mixture Shia Muslim, Christian and Jews. Most people live in the Euphrates River Valley and along the coastal plain, the fertile strip between the coastal mountains and the desert. An ancient and rich culture whose history dates back to 2500 BC, the city of Elba was home to one of the most brilliant civilizations in the world. Currently, this beautiful country is in the throws of a violent, internal conflict, with protesters demanding the regisnation of President Bashar al-Assad, along with the overthrow of his government. To date 5000 deaths have been reported. For up-date information on the country's turmoil, readers are referred to

Agriculture in Syria includes wheat, barley, cotton , lentils, chickpeas, olives, sugarbeets, fruits, nuts, vegetables, beef, mutton, eggs, poultry and dairy. Aleppian culinary influences, along with Arab, Persian and Turkish traditions make for a wonderful variety of dishes such as humus, tabbouleh, fattoush, labneh, shawarma, mujaddara, and meze to name just a few. Middle Eastern food is without a doubt on my top five list of favorite foods - and now this ice cream...well, read on.

Rose Water - Scents the custard with a delicate, exotic aroma. I dabbed a little behind my ear because really, what's better than smelling like a sweet rose? Mastic Gum thickens the custard, but also lends a very subtle pine pitch flavor and scent, like pine nuts; Finally, Salep flavors and thickens the ice cream custard with a lovely vanilla and cinnamon taste.

Gum Mastic - I chewed it plain and it really is like gum, with a pine pitch taste. I loved it.

Crushed up between two sheets of parchment paper - no crystal meth jokes, please.

Salep added to milk turns thick and smooth with a wonderful vanilla/cinnamon smell and taste

Add nine cups of whole milk to a large pot

Heat to a boil over medium heat

Gradually add 2-1/2 cups of sugar. Yes, it's a lot of sugar, but it's a lot of milk too.  I feel absolutely zero guilt -- is that bad? Return mixture to a rolling boil for five minutes.

Just 3/4 of a teaspoon of rose water is added once custard is cooked -- a heavenly, delicate scent.


Top with plenty of chopped, shelled, unsalted pistachios.  How deluxe can you get?




Be still my heart...

Syrian Ice Cream (Éma’a) - Recipe Courtesy of foodbuzz
(Yield: About 10 cups)

9 cups plus 1/4 cup whole milk, divided
1 cup heavy cream
4 medium pieces (about 1/4 tsp) Chios gum mastic
2 -1/2 cups sugar
5 tsp sahlab
3/4 tsp rose water
Chopped pistachios (for serving)

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 c milk with the sahlab; set aside.

Grind the mastic into a powder; the best way to do this is to put the mastic between two pieces of parchment paper or inside a plastic bag and pound it with a heavy object, such as a rolling pin.

In a medium-large pot over medium heat, combine nine cups milk, the cream, and the mastic; bring to a boil (stirring frequently). Slowly whisk in the sugar and bring back up to a boil, stirring constantly. Whisk in the sahlab mixture and boil vigorously five minutes. Turn off the heat and add the rose water. Cool to room temperature, lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the mixture (to prevent a film from forming), then refrigerate until well chilled (about four hours).

Transfer the chilled mixture to an ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. Once processed, put the ice cream in a freezer-safe bowl and transfer to the freezer to set. Scoop out the ice cream and roll generously in chopped pistachios before serving.

Final Assessment: Whoa! This might be the best ice cream I've EVER had - and trust me, I've had a lot. It tastes like a combination of vanilla, cinnamon and pine. It's creamy and sweet and the pistachios on top give it texture, crunch and a wonderful nutty flavor that compliments it beautifully. Add to that the ever so slight scent of roses and it's a full on heavenly sensory experience - sexy, right?

Comments (1)

it would not thicken i have a new cuisineart ice cream maker what went wrong?

fred sohegian | 2012-03-18 11:24:06