In my recent quest to find the best ice creams in Sonoma County, I was happy to discover a new, adventurous spirit  that blends the  savory and the sweet. At last, Americans are catching up to the rest of the world, where ice cream and sorbets are routinely made from    spices like  curry  and cardamom,  vegetables like corn and  offbeat fruits such as avocadoes.  

    If you’re looking to expand your ice cream repertoire beyond the usual mint chocolate chip, check out Sara Engram and Katie Luber’s “Spice Dreams” (Andrews McMeel Publishing). This  little, pink cookbook pushes the envelope with an exotic array of  refreshing recipes, from Honey-Mint Ice Cream with Thyme and Basil to Mango Sorbet with Cumin and Cinnamon.

     Here is a recipe from the   book for Brown Sugar and Spiced Banana Ice Cream, a twist on the beloved dessert,  Bananas Foster.

 Brown Sugar and Spiced Banana Ice Cream

Makes 1 ½ quarts

1 medium ripe banana

¼ cup plus 1 ¾ cups whole milk

½ cup plus ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 large egg yolks

2 cups whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

 Puree the banana and ¼ cup of milk in a food processor until smooth. Combine the banana puree, the remaining 1 ¾ cups milk, ½ of the brown sugar, the cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and salt in a medium, heavy saucepan. Scald the milk mixture over medium-high heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes

While the milk is scalding, whisk together the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl. Add the remaining ½ cup of brown sugar and whisk until the eggs are light and fluffy. Whisking constantly, add a small amount of the hot milk to the egg mixture. Gradually whisk in the remaining hot milk.

Return the custard mixture to the pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and place in a bowl of ice water to quickly cool the custard. Let the custard cool, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

While the custard is cooling, combine the cream and the vanilla in a medium bowl. Stir in the custard mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and press the wrap directly onto the surface of the custard. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. The custard may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Freeze the chilled custard mixture in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours before serving.