'Chopped' Judge Alex Guarnaschelli on Summer Cooking and Desserts

Staff Writer
Alex Guarnaschelli
Bill Durgin

Alex Guarnaschelli

Tomorrow is set to be New York's first 90-degree day, and while Californians may think it's already mid-summer, the season is just getting started in certain parts of the country.

The Daily Meal chatted with chef Alex Guarnaschelli (who you may have seen on Iron Chef and Chopped) to help guide us through cooking in the hottest couple of months of the year. Guarnaschelli just teamed up with Häagen-Dazs to launch a free e-book about summertime (and raise some $75,000 for honey bee research), so naturally we asked the executive chef of Butter about desserts with ice cream.

"Honestly, for me the summertime is about simplicity," Guarnaschelli told us. "I think people want to cook new, interesting things that are easy."

For dessert, it could be a scoop of ice cream, with a little flavor mixed in. "You can go to the market and buy lemon verbena, or five varieties of mint, mash those leaves up, and stir them into ice cream," she said. "To me that's not the same as getting mint ice cream. It has the flavor running all through it."

If you want to look even fancier, Guarnaschelli suggests filling a pie shell with ice cream or sorbet, creating a classic, creamy fruit pie, the new ice cream cake. Los Angeles' Mozza's strawberry pie, for example, is something she wish she had invented.

"You could fill a pie shell with raspberry sorbet, pack it down and top it with a warm raspberry jam," she said, "and then you have something that’s lighter and something different from a pile of fudge and nuts and ice cream."

And of course, there are some summer flavors to definitely bring into the mix. Her top choice? Tomatoes. "Tomato's a fruit," she said. "I sautéed some little cherry tomatoes, and I put a scoop of vanilla over them and a squeeze of lemon juice? So good."

Other additions? Honey, lemon or orange juice, brown sugar, and some cinnamon ice cream. "All of a sudden, you've created this whole new universe," she said, and yet it's so easy. 

"A little bit of healthy lying is also part of my summertime dessert agenda. 'Why yes I made this ice cream myself. I’m exhausted in fact,'" said Guarnaschelli. "Any way that anybody cooks, and makes their own food from ingredients they’re proud of? I’m down. I’m coming over for dinner."

Jessica Chou is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @jesschou.