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Archive for August, 2009

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Holy Moses!  It turned out so dang good, I still have some in my freezer!  Still in the freezer?  If it was so good, why oh why do I still have some in the freezer?  Well, I like to horde.  I don’t like to be without good things.  So I put them away and never use them, knowing that I could if I wanted to.  It’s backwards, I know.  It doesn’t make any sense, I know! (But I seriously kept a jar of pumpkin butter for over a decade once- and then had to throw it away because it wasn’t good anymore!!!)  But alas, here I am with one serving of perfectly delicious brown-butter ice cream, just sitting in the fridge waiting for me to enjoy it.

And tonight I’m home alone!

And I won’t have to divide that “single serving” in two.

Tonight I might overcome my hording habits.

Saints be praised!

I am cured.

And now, let me share with you this most fabulous, most delicioso, most wonderful, yummy ice cream. You should know that I didn’t figure this out on my own.  Melissa of Traveler’s Lunchbox posted it and she found it in the new book Fat.

Brown-butter ice cream from the Traveler’s Lunchbox via Fat

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt (or plain ol’ kosher salt if you must!)

Place the milk, cream, and 1/4 cup of the sugar into a 4-qt pot and set over medium heat.  Stir every-so-often, just to melt the sugar.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Find a glass measuring cup with a pour-spout, and set it near the stove.  You will pour your browned butter into the cup when it is ready.

In a small saute pan, heat the butter slowly until it has completely melted.  Then continue to cook, watching very carefully until the butter begins to turn golden, and then light brown.  Once the solids begin to turn color, the cooking goes very quickly, so be attentive! As soon as it becomes light brown, carefully pour in the lemon juice (it will spatter a bit), and use a rubber spatula to pour it all into the glass measuring cup.  Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, break up the three yolks and whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the salt.  Whisk until the yolk mixture has become lighter in color.  Slowly whisk in the warm (not hot) butter, as if you were making a mayonnaise.  Continue this emulsification process until all the butter has been incorporated, including the brown solids.

One small ladle at a time, whisk the warm milk mixture into the yolk/sugar mixture.  When the two are completely combined, pour it all back into the 4-qt pot, and slowly heat, stiring constantly with a rubber spatula.  Cook the mixture to 160 degrees or until it coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Strain the ice cream base through a fine mesh strainer to ensure that you don’t have any bits of cooked egg floating around in your ice cream.  Cool, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Churn.

Eat with your eyes closed and dream about all things glorious and lovely.  Yum.

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The miracle of the garden has happened again.  Those lovely little okra flowers have turned into fierce-looking daggers of red okra that make me long for Scott’s gumbo.  Maybe, if I’m very, very lucky, he’ll have a batch waiting for me when I get home from work tomorrow (along with my slippers and cigar, of course!).  And on that note- we’ve got perfectly green peppers in the garden awaiting their due spot in the “trinity”.

No, no.  This ain’t no religious post.  I’m talking about celery, onion, and peppers.  In Cajun cuisine, that combination is called the “trinity” and it serves as the base for many dishes.  It’s alter ego “mirepoix”  lives in the realm of European cuisine, and contains carrots instead of peppers.  So that’s that!  You learn a new thing every day-huh?

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Roasted Pepper Salsa

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P8210012Have you ever eaten at Chevy’s?  My family used to go there fairly often on the weekends.  And if you ask me, the best thing about it was that darn salsa.    It was the perfect combination of sweet/tart/spicy/charred.  I LOVE that dang salsa.  So I set out to make my own a few years ago, and I’ve made it every year since.

Now mind you, this isn’t the best batch I’ve ever made.  I was in a hurry and didn’t let the peppers get charred enough.  Ordinarilly, there are a lot more little black specks throughout the salsa which really make it, if ya’ know what I mean… That being said, I guess we’ll suffer (suffer? pshaw!) through this batch so I can do it all again, but better.

I like throw the ingredients on the grill to char when it’s just the two of us and we don’t have enough food to fill out the space.  I also sometimes use the dying coals – just nestle everything right in there.  And if you’re indoors, you can use a cast iron pan or the open flame of the stove-top.

If you like really spicy salsa, just use more hot chilis.  And if you don’t, well then don’t!

Roasted Pepper Salsa

  • 3 large ripe bell peppers
  • 1 small to medium hot chili
  • 1 very small onion (or a few shallots if you can’t find small onions), not peeled
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, still in their skins not peeled
  • 1 small red tomato
  • salt
  • a few teaspoons of sherry vinegar

Char all the vegetables until they are about 50% blackened.  You’ll need to rotate the onion regularly so that it cooks as evenly as possible…I usually get it cooked about half-way.  Set all the veggies on a plate to cool.  Open the peppers and chilis and discard their seeds and stems.  Remove the tomato’s stem.  Peel the onion and garlic.  Cut the onion into a few chunks.  Place all the vegetables in a blender with a hefty pinch of salt and a few teaspoons of vinegar.  Pulse a few times and taste for salt and vinegar.  The salsa tends to be pretty sweet, thus needing enough salt and vinegar to balance out the sweetness.

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P8100003I would like to point out that this “muffin eating” technique has been tested by two people who have a tendency to lack will-power on their days off (and on most other days too), especially when it comes to sweet food-stuffs (or any other food-stuffs, for that matter).  I should also like to say, “don’t try this at home” except that it was tried at home by the aforementioned two people*.  And the facts are as follows:  if your intention is to actually have a bowl of high-fiber cereal for breakfast, a substantial and healthy lunch, an afternoon piece of fruit, and a light, but satisfying dinner, then I don’t recommend finding yourself alone in the house with a pint of blueberries, a splash of buttermilk and a 1/2 cup of cream.  You might find that you’ve no interest in putting forth the effort to cook proper meals when there are perfectly delicious blueberry muffins calling your name from the counter-top.

*And for the purpose of full disclosure,  the resident male muffin-eater has been playing at least 10 hours of golf per week, and his female counterpart has the metabolism and nervous-nature of a hummingbird.

The Actual Technique for Eating Four Blueberry Muffins in One Day

  • Eat one blueberry muffin, still warm from the oven around 10:30am
  • Eat one blueberry muffin once it is fully cool to determine if it is still a good muffin
  • Eat one blueberry muffin around 3pm, in lieu of lunch, since lunch time is long gone and you are starving
  • Take 3 blueberry muffins to your parents’ house, watch your father wolf one down in under 20 seconds, saying through a mouth full of crumbs, “Let’s just tell Mom that you only brought two.”
  • Eat one blueberry muffin around 9pm just to confirm that it still tastes fresh even after sitting on the counter, uncovered, with the fan oscillating nearby.  Note: they were still fresh and delicious.

As stated before, this method was successfully carried out by the two people mentioned above, and will likely be tested again in the near future, for the sake of accuracy.  I suspect the results will be similar.

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Blueberry Cream Muffins adapted from Bakewise by Shirley Corriher

I liked the effect of small berries, as they didn’t explode too much as the muffin cooked.  If you can only find large berries, freeze them first and add those frozen berries directly to the batter, baking them as directed.

  • 2 cups spooned and leveled all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries (I did a few with raspberries and they were lovely too)
  • 1 Tablespoon course sugar for topping

Set a baking stone on your oven rack and place it in the lower third of the oven.  Turn the oven on to 425 degrees.

Prepare one muffin pan by spraying it with non-stick spray, or lining it with muffin papers.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar for 30 seconds so that it is light and powdery.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg with a fork, and add the canola oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and zests, whisking to combine.

Separately, pour the cream into a small bowl and whip to a soft peak. (This means that you’ll whip it until a little peak forms as you lift your whisk out of the cream.  A stiff peak is when the peak stands upright.  A soft peak is when the peak bends it’s head like the humpback of Notre Dame.)

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and dump in the egg mixture all at once.  Beat it well until it is thoroughly combined.  Don’t worry about over-mixing.

Fold in 1/4 of the whipped cream, then fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Fold in the berries.

Divide the batter evenly between all 12 muffin holes and sprinkle the course sugar over the top.

Turn the oven down to 400 degrees and prop open the oven door for 10 seconds, then place the muffin pan on the baking stone and close the oven door.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick insterted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then jar the pan on the counter to help loosen the muffins before removing them to a cooling rack.

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Soaking dried beans

It’s a simple thing, but….do you know how to soak dried beans?

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Just put them in a bowl and cover them with 3-4 times as much water, by volume.

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So long as you rinse them first, you can go ahead and use that soaking liquid for cooking.  It’s best to let them soak for at least 3-4 hours.

 

 

 

 

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Then just put them in a pot, cover them with about twice as much water by volume, add aromatics such as bay, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, chili pod… Gently simmer until they’re tender, adding a bit more water if necessary. Salt them only when they are done, allowing them to cool in the salted liquid.

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By the way, these beans are from that fabulous bean guy, Rancho Gordo, who is based in Napa.

 

And I think they look like my cat, Daisy.

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Oh, dear.  It looks like I may have caught her in the middle of something.  Carry on.  Chop chop.

 

 

 

 

…And by the way, that’s Peru in the foreground pretending she’s unaware of the inappropriate behavior taking place behind her. Prude!

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Yarrow, lovely Yarrow

Yarrow is like the miracle plant.  It’s drought tolerant, it’s beautiful, and it attracts all the little flying insects that I want in my garden.  I really love this particular yarrow because the little white flowers look like snow.  It’s cooling to look at in the warm weather.

P8040002And those doggone little flowers are just so cute!

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P7200002I came across this lovely salad on Heidi’s beautifully photographed blog, 101 Cookbooks, and I’ve been aching to make it ever since.  See, I love dill.  It’s one of those things that I actually carry on my lap on the way home from the farmer’s market so I can pick it up, hold it to my nose and just breathe it in…all the way home!  Now I know that most people associate dill with things like salmon and potato salad, but in my household growing up, we had it with tuna.  Only tuna.  That was it.  So to this day the first thought that comes to mind when I see big bunch of dill at the market is, “Gee, I could really go for a big ol’ tuna sandwich!”  So of course, we flaked a little tuna on top of this salad for our dinner.  How could I resist?

This is my adaptation of Heidi’s delicious salad.  Her rendition includes a little brown sugar or honey for a touch of sweetness, but I found it was a little too sweet for me.  Click on over there to see how she does it.

I used the little pebble-sized Navy beans, but you could use any white bean….or any other bean for that matter!

My version of Heidi’s Bean, Carrot and Dill salad

  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 bunch of young (but not toooooo small) carrots
  • 3 Tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill
  • 2-1/2 cups cooked white beans
  • 1/3 cup chopped, toasted almonds
  • extra-virgin olive oil for dressing the salad
  • pure olive oil for cooking the carrots
  • kosher or sea salt, to taste

Toss the red onion with the juice of one lemon, and a good pinch of salt and allow them to macerate for about 30 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Give your carrots a taste.  If the skin is bitter, peel them.  But if not, leave the skin on…there are lots of nutrients in there!  Slice them into 1/4-inch thick rounds and saute them in a large saute pan in a single layer over medium heat. Toss them only every few minutes so that their surfaces become lightly browned. And don’t forget to give them a pinch of salt as they’re cooking.

Pour the beans and the dill right into the saute pan, along with the carrots.  Cook them over medium-high heat until they are warmed through.  It’s okay if they begin to brown slightly in spots.  It adds a delicious dimension of flavor!

Place the macerated onions into the bottom of a large bowl.  When the beans and carrots are ready, pour them on top of the onions.  Give the whole mixture a gentle stir, and squeeze in the juice of one more lemon along with a few glugs (2-3 Tablespoons?) of extra-virgin olive oil.  Allow the salad to sit for about 20-30 minutes so that the flavors begin to marry.  Taste, and add salt if necessary.

Just prior to serving, toss in the toasted almonds.

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