Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I scream, you scream...


My lovely little sister, Savannah, is visiting from her current residence in Kigali, Rwanda, and we've so enjoyed spending time together. One of our favorite "sister activities" is cooking (of course) so we spent part of Saturday in the kitchen making strawberry ice cream. Neither of us are huge sweets fans, but ice cream is tough to resist. I could've eaten the entire quart we made on my own!

Vanna's Strawberry Ice Cream

1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3 long strips fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 lb strawberries (3 cups), trimmed and quartered
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Combine cream, zest, and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and discard zest.
Whisk eggs with 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl, then add hot cream in a slow stream, whisking. Pour back into saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F. Do not let the mixture boil. You will know the custard is ready when it coats the back of a spoon.
Immediately pour custard through a fine sieve into a metal bowl, then cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, until cold, about 2 hours, and up to 1 day. (You can speed up this process by placing the metal bowl in an ice bath and vigorously stirring the custard.)
While custard is chilling, purée strawberries with remaining 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice in a blender until smooth, then add to the chilled custard.




If you dislike strawberry seeds in your ice cream you may force the pureed strawberries through a fine sieve before adding to the custard.

Freeze in ice-cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.


Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the completed ice cream. My camera battery ran down, then I couldn't find the charger, and it turned into one of those things. Oh well! The finished product was beautiful, creamy, and retained the gorgeous color you can see in the photographs above. We served it with fresh strawberry slices on top.

Savannah really did all of the work on the ice cream. I simply photographed and sampled at various stages...not a bad job to have! It really did turn out to be quite delicious. It was very light and had a super fresh taste that you just can't get from ice cream purchased at the store. I think it would be absolutely delicious as the filling for an ice cream sandwich. I may make it again soon along with some chocolate/vanilla shortbread cookies. A neopolitan ice cream sandwich would be so cute and yummy.

Finally, a few tips on storing homemade ice cream. I always place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the surface of the ice cream so there is no air between it and the plastic wrap. This prevents freezer burn (which is just the development of large ice crystals that occurs when air gets into the ice cream). Also, storing the ice cream in the back of the freezer will keep it fresher for longer. Not that you'll have this for very long...


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pizza and North Indian Butter Chicken -- what a lunch!


Charlie and I just made such a fantastic lunch, and I'm still buzzing from it.  We made a quick run to the Dekalb Farmer's Market this morning to pick up groceries for the weekend, and while we were there we decided to grab a pizza crust and some tomato sauce.  Now, I (we) usually try to make most everything that we eat.  BUT, the pizza crust and the tomato sauce were so beautiful and fresh (made today at the farmers market with all whole foods -- no preservatives) that I just thought oh, what the hell, and we threw them in the cart.  
We had three raw chicken thighs in the refrigerator so Charlie heated up a cast-iron pan (on the stove), sprinkled the chicken with kosher salt and cracked pepper, and seared the thighs for about 5 minutes on each side.  Then the pan went into the oven at 350 degrees for about 5 more minutes.  As the chicken cooked I topped the pizza crust with the spicy tomato sauce (full of basil, rosemary, onions, and the like), tossed on some mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and minced garlic.  We then tore some of the chicken into bite-sized pieces and placed that on top.  We shredded the remaining chicken and tossed it into a small baking dish with some leftover Indian Butter Sauce that I made a few days ago.  Everything went into the oven for ten minutes, which is just long enough to split a cold beer, and lunch was ready.  Delicious!
What a quick, easy, and thoroughly satisfying lunch.  As we enjoyed the pizza and the chicken we discussed keeping homemade pizza dough on hand.  It's so simple to make, but you do have to plan ahead as it takes some time.  The New York Times recently ran a fabulous article on making your own pizza, and now it's all I want to eat!   I'm going to get to work on that, and we're having a pizza party soon. 




This North Indian Butter Sauce is so flavorful and keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week.  It takes a bit of time to make, but it's definitely worth it.  Charlie says it tastes like something from a good restaurant, and I agree.  It also smells terrific as it simmers on the stove.  Try it on chicken, fish, or eggplant.  It's super great on tandoori chicken.

North Indian Butter Sauce 

1/4 lb butter (1 stick) plus 2 Tbsp
5 Tbsp canola oil
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp ginger and garlic paste
10 oz tomato puree
2 tsp ground cardamom powder 
4 Tbsp ground cashew nuts made to a fine paste
1 cup chicken broth
2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper plus 1/2 tsp
2 - 3 tsp salt (to taste)
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream or half and half 
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
pinch of tandoori masala
2 Tbsp fenugreek leaves

Heat butter and oil together in a wok, add a bay leaf, stir for a few seconds, and add the ginger and garlic paste.  Cook until most of the liquid evaporates.
Add the tomato puree and the cardamom.  Let it cook until the puree dries and the fat separates.  Add the cashew paste and stir for a few seconds.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Salt to taste.  Cover and cook for 10 to 15 uminutes or until the masala turns a bright red color.  Add milk and cream, continuing to stir, then add the garam masala and a pinch of tandoori masala.
In a separate pan make a tempering by heating 2 Tbsp butter then adding the fenugreek leaves and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.  Cook for 30 seconds then add to the sauce.  Pour the sauce over chicken, fish, or eggplant, and serve warm with naan.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

California Flatbread Salads with Balsamic Strawberries


Spring has sprung, and I've been seriously craving fresh veggies.

I made tortillas recently but realized as I started gathering my ingredients that I had only a little all-purpose flour. Instead of throwing my hands up in despair I decided to use 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup all-purpose.  This resulted in crispy, cracker-like flatbreads -- not exactly a tortilla but still delicious.  

Instead of trying to roll up the "tortillas" and fill them with meat, cheese, and the like, I piled the flatbreads with fresh greens, sliced almonds, bleu cheese, red onion, and balsamic strawberries.  I enjoyed this creation so much that I've decided to repeat the process and use the flatbreads as a base for fresh salads on a regular basis.  The finished product has a very California kitchen feel to it.  

Here is a loose recipe for the salad I threw on top of the flatbread.

California Flatbread Salads

6 - 7 strawberries, sliced
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 head Romaine lettuce
2 large handfuls baby spinach
1/4 cup diced red onion
Honey Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)
4 - 5 whole wheat tortilla crisps
1/4 - 1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Place the sliced strawberries in a small bowl and pour the vinegar on top.  Allow the strawberries to marinate while you make the rest of the salad.
Tear the Romaine into bite-sized pieces and mix with the spinach in a large wooden bowl.  Add the diced red onion and use your hands to evenly distribute the greens and onions.  Drizzle the dressing on top of the salad and toss to coat the leaves.  Place each tortilla on a plate and top with a generous serving of the salad.  Top each serving with a sprinkling of bleu cheese and almonds.  Drain the strawberries and place on top of the salad.  Serve immediately.

Honey Lemon Vinaigrette

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
1 squeeze fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
coarse kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl mix the garlic, mustard, lemon juice, honey, and apple cider vinegar.  Stir vigorously until fully combined.  Starting with a single drop, slowly add the olive oil.  Continue pouring in a steady stream, vigorously stirring the vinaigrette as you add more oil.  Mix until the dressing is full combined.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.



Thursday, April 16, 2009

Once-a-year Lasagna


Last fall some (wonderful) girl friends of mine put together an amazing bachelorette party for me the weekend before I got married. My friend Stacey very generously allowed us to use her lake house, and we had an absolute blast! One of games we played that weekend involved a list of questions about our relationship. Charlie answered the questions before we arrived then I answered the same questions (the penalty for answering incorrectly being that I had to take a shot and the reward being that I got to open a gift). Well, I'm certainly not tackling the entire list of questions publicly, but there was one that applies to this blog. Jenna asked what answer Charlie gave when asked what his favorite dish is that I cook. Breaking the rules, my sister then lunged across the table and shouted "Once a year lasagna!!!". She was correct.
That's right. I only make lasagna once a year. Why? Because the first time I made it for Charlie he ate half the pan in one night! It is for HIS HEALTH and general wellbeing that I established this rule (although I'm not sure that he appreciates it). In return, he gets to choose when I make the lasagna, and a few days ago the request was made. True to my word, I whipped it up. As expected, it was gone in two days.
What is it about Once-A-Year-Lasagna that he loves? I'm sure I don't know. I, for one, don't really love cheesy, tomatoey, pasta dishes. All of those things individually are fabulous, but put together I think they disappoint. He, however, does not.


See how happy he is?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tiny flower biscuits


I made the cutest little biscuits the other day. They weren't fluffy southern-style breakfast biscuits but rather something more like an accompaniment for tea. I cut them into flowers before baking and ended up with something along the lines of a savory cookie. I think I'll make these tiny treats again for brunch and serve them with an assortment of jams, honey butter, and lemon curd.




Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Modest Proposal


I seem to have taken Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal somewhat to heart.  A few nights ago my three-month-old niece, Sofia, came over for a visit.  I couldn't resist putting her in a stock pot and taking photos.  She's just the right size!  


Next time I'm going to dress her as a lobster and give her a stick of butter to hold onto.


”I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled ...”

from Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal

Saturday, April 11, 2009

C is for Cookie

The word Chocoholic was invented for my Dad.  He also loves bananas, walnuts, and cookies.  So when I found a recipe for Banana-Walnut Chocolate-Chunk Cookies I knew I was on to something.    I made the cookies and ended up with a gooey, chocolate chunk cookie with a hint of banana bread and a nice crunch from the walnuts.  The chocolate chunks left big pockets of melty chocolate, and the addition of rolled oats (old-fashioned oatmeal) contributed a soft but substantial texture.  The finished product was delightful.  Everyone oohed and aahed after the first bite, and the flavors deepened the longer they sat.  My Dad, in particular, loved them.  :)
Here's the recipe:

Banana-Walnut Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (about 2 ounces), toasted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Whisk together both flours, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
Put butter and both sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low.  Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined.  Mix in banana.  Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.  Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts.

Using a 1 1/2 -inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart.  Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 12 to 13 minutes.  Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely.  Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperatures up to 2 days (if you have any left after 2 days!)

I know you're not supposed to eat cookie dough if it has raw eggs in it, but I couldn't stop.  It's so good!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gourmet to the Rescue!


Oh wow, I've been shirking. Things have been super crazy lately, and I have all but abandoned this blog! Well, no longer. I'm back in the game and will be posting on a daily basis from now on if at all possible.
My brother has been in the hospital for going-on three weeks so Charlie and I have had a lot of company and a lot going on. This means I've been cooking quite a bit but relying on old stand-bys that I know are tasty and will please a crowd rather than experimenting with new recipes. I did make an exception on Monday for the Pasta in Garlic-Almond Sauce featured in April's issue of Gourmet magazine. I found it in the Every Day Quick Kitchen section of the magazine, and it intrigued me. What a find! True to Gourmet's promise it was quick and easy...also quite tasty and fresh! Here's the recipe:

Pasta In Garlic-Almond Sauce

3/4 cup whole blanched almonds (4 oz)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 cup water
1 lb cavatappi or other small tubular pasta
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 (10-oz) package frozen peas
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus additional for serving
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup basil leaves (torn if large), divided
1/3 cup mint leaves (torn if large), divided
1/3 cup chopped roasted almonds (2 oz)

Puree blanched almonds and garlic with water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth. Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until almost al dente. Reserve 3 cups pasta-cooking water and drain pasta.
Meanwhile, heat oil and 1 Tbsp butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably straight-sided) over medium heat until foam subsides. Add almond puree and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups reserved cooking water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in remaining 2 Tbsp butter until melted. Add pasta and peas and cook, stirring occasionally until pasta is al dente (sauce will be thin), 2 to 3 minutes. Add cheese and lemon juice and stir until combined well. Remove from heat and stir in half of basil and mint and salt and pepper to taste. Serve in pasta bowls topped with chopped almonds, remaining herbs, and additional cheese.



Tasty, tasty! Everyone just loved this pasta. The almonds, garlic, mint, and basil work together to create a complex flavor that's still fresh and light. Also, it's very creamy without having a drop of milk or cream in it! I'm going to keep this recipe as a new stand-by quick dish for sure.
Charlie also thinks it's really good served cold as a pasta salad, but I prefer it hot and fresh out of the pan.