As its residents seem fond of saying, Almaty has a rezko kontinental’nyi klimat—a “sharply continental climate”—meaning that it's very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. When I got here everyone kept telling me that the winters aren’t actually that bad (especially compared to the truly arctic temperatures in Astana), just very humid. The idea of a humid winter seemed completely foreign to me—I couldn’t even really conceptualize what that meant. For me, humidity is closely associated with summer (when in the Northeastern U.S. it can reach 100 percent) and the feeling of being cocooned in a warm blanket as soon as you set foot outside. It turns out wet winter air is, more than anything, hazy, so much so that you can go for days without any visual evidence of the Tian Shan peaks right outside of town.
Now that summer is in full swing, the air is very dry, the mountains are very visible, and it is very, very hot. So hot that, even in an air-conditioned apartment, the idea of cooking—much less baking—can sometimes seem like too much to bear. I'd been meaning to try banana-based ice cream for some time, and the recent heat wave gave me the perfect excuse. This recipe is almost magical—it has very few ingredients and requires very little labor, but the is quite impressive.I decided to flavor mine with dates and tahini to approximate the taste of halva.* I hope your summer is turning out equally sweet!
Halva-flavored banana “ice cream”
Finally realizing a long-ago inspiration from the kitchn
2 medium bananas
2 tbs tahini
1 tbs honey or mulberry molasses (optional)
1 tbs coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
.5 tsp cardamom
Peel and slice bananas. Freeze them in an airtight container until solid (preferably overnight). Blend the bananas in a food processor until they reach a smooth consistency (resembling soft serve). Blend in dates, tahini, honey, coconut oil, and spices. Refreeze for at least two hours. Allow a couple of minutes for softening before serving.
* As an aside, although it's probably not something most people associate with Polish cuisine, halva is actually nearly ubiquitous in Poland, apparently a legacy of centuries of close contact with the Ottoman Empire.