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Cooking With Myra: Live one day at a time

Jan. 17, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 17, 2011 at 7:18 p.m.

Mexican Chocolate Chile Ice Cream

Mexican Chocolate Chile Ice Cream(Helado de Chocolate y Chile Pasilla) 1 large pasilla negro chile, stemmed, seeded and, if you wish, deveined

11/3 cups half-and-half

2 oz. Mexican chocolate, chopped into small pieces

3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, preferably 70 percent Venezuelan, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

11/3 cups heavy cream

11/2 tsp. vanilla, preferably Mexican vanilla

2 Tbsp. Kahlua or other coffee liqueur

Make the chile infusion. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the chile, pressing it flat against the skillet with a metal spatula until it is very aromatic - about 10 seconds per side. Place in a small saucepan, add the half-and-half, Mexican chocolate and the semi-sweet chocolate, and heat over medium until steaming (but not boiling). Cover and let steep for 10 minutes, then pour into a blender and process until the chile is pureed.

Set up a double boiler. Set up a 4-quart saucepan, filled halfway with water, into which you can nestle a 3-quart stainless steel bowl. Bring the pot of water to a boil over high heat while you're preparing the custard base.

Cook the base. In the 3-quart stainless steel bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until thoroughly combined, then whisk in the chile-infused chocolate mixture. Reduce the temperature under the pot of boiling water to maintain a gentle simmer. Set the bowl of custard base over the simmering water and whisk frequently, scraping down the sides of the bowl regularly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens noticeably, about 5 minutes. The custard is sufficiently cooked when it reaches 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (You can also test it by dipping a wooden spoon into the custard, then running your finger through the custard: if the line holds clearly, the custard has thickened sufficiently.) For the finest texture, pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a similar-size stainless steel bowl.

Cool the base. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice. Nestle a smaller bowl into the ice and pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl in the ice bath. Whisk the mixture until it is completely cool. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

Finishing the base, freeze the ice cream. Stir the heavy cream, vanilla and Kahlua into the base. Freeze in an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer's directions. Scrape into a freezer container and freeze for several hours to firm.

Makes 1 quart.

Recipe from "Fiesta at Rick's"

By Myra StarkeySometimes, I get lulled into believing that life is always fair. It would seem that if we try to do the right things in our relationships with others, that is be unselfish, and to do our best to please God, then good fortune would shine down on us.

And even though I realize that I often fall short in what I do, my life seems filled with undeserved blessings.

I survived a serious scare with cancer 10 years ago, but other than that, things have been pretty good. No close friends or relatives have died prematurely, our kids are healthy and happy, and most things seem to have worked out for us so far in our jobs.

A friend called me this week to tell me that her nephew's 3-year-old daughter had died suddenly of meningitis. On Monday, the child seemed to have an upper respiratory infection and saw the doctor. By Wednesday, she took a turn for the worse and they took her to the emergency room, where she deteriorated, and they were unable to resuscitate her. It was their only child.

I also found out this week that another friend of mine has had a recurrence of her cancer.

I spent lots of time counseling and encouraging her two years ago when she was initially diagnosed. She made it through the surgery and chemotherapy that the doctors advised. She kept all her follow-up appointments and seemed to settle back into her life believing that her battle with cancer had been won.

Recently, she noticed a nagging headache and further testing revealed that the cancer had spread to her brain.

Combine this worry in her life with the fact that she lost her husband about a year ago to lung cancer, and it would seem that life is indeed unfair.

My heart has been breaking for both families, and I have done the only thing I know to do in times of turmoil . pray. My prayers are simple, since I know I am helpless to change any of the events. I have only asked for strength and peace for my friends and their families.

I would love to turn back the clock to a more carefree time and restore those families to happy moments, rich with laughter and health, but it cannot be done.

Years ago, when I had breast cancer, I learned one of the most important lessons in my life. I learned to live one day at a time, to enjoy each minute and each joy that comes my way, knowing that in the blink of an eye, everything can change. But in the midst of despair, it is difficult to find the energy to even live for that day. When hearts are broken and despair evokes a guttural cry so deep down it seems like it is surreal, how can we look for joy?

I do not know that answer, except to believe that God is in charge of everything, and intimately and personally knows our pain. This truth may not immediately make situations any easier. But in each of us is the ability to stand beside a friend or family member acknowledging their sadness, while delivering hope by being there to help them get through their days.

Last weekend, my medical student daughter, Hannah, and her husband came to visit. She brought several of her med school friends. She is struggling with how much she has to study to stay ahead.

We had planned a couple of fun things to do, but the rain kept us inside which allowed them to study and not feel like they were missing out on fun.

As usual, I was the cook for the weekend, and thought I would prepare chocolate ice cream to go with her birthday cake. She will be turning 23 this week.

I decided to make the Dark Chocolate Chile Ice Cream from the Rick Bayless cookbook, "Fiesta at Rick's."

The kids were hesitant to even try the ice cream thinking that peppers and ice cream do not go together. Like all things in life, we cannot doubt it unless we have experienced it for ourselves. I think they were pleasantly surprised.

The ice cream is very rich, because cream and half-and-half are used in place of whole milk. The chili pepper is steeped in the half-and-half, and then pureed together when the pepper gets soft. The ice cream's sweet, velvety texture is complemented by the spice of the pasilla chile pepper.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail myra@vicad.com.

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