I don't eat ice cream sundaes very often. I prefer to focus on the pure taste of really good ice cream, without any bits and bobs to clutter it up. But I make an exception for this odd yet amazing sundae: Slices of watermelon with an eggless ricotta ice cream, flavored with dark rum and lemon, slightly grainy on the tongue, and showered with dark chocolate shavings.
Watermelon?! With ice cream? I had the same incredulous thoughts when I first saw this in an issue of Gourmet a few years ago. Watermelon is one of the last fruits I would ever think to pair with ice cream; it seems so rough, so watery.
But that's the genius of this recipe. The ice cream itself is a little rough, a little unexpectedly textured on the tongue. It's a really fast and easy recipe, too: You blend ricotta, milk, cream, dark rum, lemon zest, and some sugar and cream cheese in the blender until smooth and creamy. Then you can freeze it straightaway (no need to cool it down, unlike a custard). All those different dairy products give the ice cream heft and body, while the dark rum and lemon give it depth and brightness. The ricotta dominates, with a pleasantly rough texture in the mouth.
This texture grabs onto the watermelon, and vice versa — the fruity lightness of the watermelon brightening the ice cream, and the roughness of the ice cream complementing the watermelon's crunch and snap. The dark chocolate is not necessary, but it is a lovely garnish, and I think that the last note of chocolate caps the mix of flavors here very well.
It doesn't intuitively make sense, I know (watermelon with ice cream? ricotta??) — but put it all together and it is one of my all-time favorite summer desserts. It's so easy, and it makes a great presentation on the plate. You may have to tell your guests to trust you, but you will only have to tell them once.
• Get the recipe: Watermelon Sundae at Epicurious
Have you ever made this, or another ricotta ice cream?
(Images: Faith Durand)