lemon buttermilk sorbet & raspberry coulis

With the warm season officially upon us, I no longer have to justify using an ice cream maker in the wintertime.  Not that I care, but I did get some peanut gallery style comments about making iced desserts when it’s 37 degrees out.  Let’s just shout “Welcome, Summer!,” shall we?

The inspiration for this sorbet came from a friend who gave me the rough ingredients and measurements.  I combined that information with a  seasoned sweet tooth, and the end result was just the right amount of sweet, tart, creamy and refreshing.  Take note– this sorbet is excellent alone, but a spoonful or two of raspberry coulis doesn’t hurt.

 

Materials (makes approximately 1.5 quarts)

For the sorbet:
4 cups full-fat buttermilk
1.5 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp vanilla extract, optional
1 Tbsp vodka (I used vanilla Stoli), optional

 

For the raspberry coulis: (makes about 1 cup)
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp water
8 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed (fresh fruit can be used, but the amount would be different)

 

 

Protocol

Sorbet
1. In a food processor, pulse sugar and lemon zest a few times to release the oils from the rind.

2. Transfer lemon sugar to a medium bowl, and add buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla, if using.  Whisk until sugar dissolves.

3. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.  About 5 minutes before the end of the cycle, add vodka.  It lowers the freezing point of the mixture and allows for a super creamy sorbet that won’t turn into a rock.

 

Raspberry coulis
1. In a small saucepan, make a simple syrup by heating sugar and water until sugar dissolves completely.

2. Place raspberries and syrup into a small food processor or blender, and pulse a few times to purée.  If you don’t like seeds, strain coulis through a fine mesh strainer.

 

Happy Summer to you!

roasted garlic guacamole

I may or may not have mentioned that when I like something, I tend to overdo it.  Sometimes, my obsession is a food; other times, it’s a special type of pen.  And all the time, it’s laundry detergent and homemade cleaning supplies.  For several consecutive weeks in college, I couldn’t get enough heavily buttered sourdough bread.  A few months ago, I managed to acquire 19 fancy notebooks (writing in only the first one now, yet still collecting).  And these days, I’m crazy about roasted garlic.

 

It’s buttery smooth, and I like to think of it as the evening gown dressed-up version of its raw sibling.  You just can’t go wrong.  Because it takes the longest, get the roasting step going first.  While it bakes and cools, start the rest.  And somewhere in the middle of the process, whip up a margarita.  Might as well, you already have the salt and the limes out.

 

Perfectly ripe avocados (a must-have for great guacamole) meet lime juice.  The acid helps avocados retain their vibrant green color.  Science in action.  Add fresh garlic, and mash a bit, but don’t be too rough.  Chunks are good.  Add roasted garlic, cilantro and salt.  Inhale deeply.  Steal a few buttery roasted cloves.

 

Stir, and then find the best vehicle for guacamole delivery.

Materials
3 large ripe avocados
juice of two limes
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
2 whole heads roasted garlic
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
a healthy dose of Kosher salt

 

Protocol

1. Scoop avocados out into a bowl, add lime juice, fresh garlic and mash.
2. Add cooled roasted garlic, cilantro and salt.
3. Stir, and enjoy!

This is a mild guacamole version, so if you prefer a little heat, add your favorite diced chilies to taste.  If any guacamole remains, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on it (less air = less oxidation = less browning), and store in the refrigerator.

roasted {marinated} garlic

Aside from the hole-in-the-wall taquerias, a restaurant I fondly remember going to in Los Angeles is a magical place where, as they proudly state, “the garlic is seasoned with the food.”  The Stinking Rose, yes.  After spending time inside the restaurant, your entire being evaporates garlic.  For days.  Their bagna calda appetizer is a miniature skillet full of roasted garlic so tender, it spreads like butter.  I needed a fix, and I needed it right away.  A 900-mile separation may exist between Portland and La Cienega Boulevard, but my oven is just a few feet away.

Roasting garlic is so easy, I can’t believe I’ve been buying it all these years.  A clerk at New Seasons told me how to make it, but not before he implied disapproval that I even considered buying it pre-made.  Portland attitude, at the “friendliest store in town.”

Enjoy it straight out of the pod, or atop crackers and goat cheese.  Throw it on pizza, into a soup or use it as butter on a thick slice of crusty artisan bread.  It’s ALL good!

 

Materials
whole garlic heads
extra virgin olive oil
butter (optional)
salt & pepper

 

Protocol
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Cut the tops off the garlic heads and peel the outermost layers of the skin off, leaving the individual clove skins intact.
3. Pour a bit of oil over the tops of each clove, making sure each clove is oiled, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  If using butter, place about 1/4 teaspoon on top of each head of garlic.
4. Loosely wrap with aluminum foil, and place in oven for 35-45 minutes.
5. Allow to cool, and carefully remove cloves from their pods.  Some will come out easily; others may need help from a fork.
6. To marinate garlic for later use, place peeled, roasted cloves into a glass jar, cover with extra virgin olive oil, and store at refrigeration.  A teaspoon of dried rosemary per 2-3 heads of garlic is a nice, but not necessary, addition.

kitchen lab 101: freezing egg yolks

I recently learned that egg yolks can be frozen for later use.  It’s true, but they must be treated, and there’s science behind the reasoning.  Egg yolks contain water, which crystallizes when freezing.  This causes the proteins to cluster and congeal, creating tiny gelatinous clusters that don’t redissolve.  Adding a substance to lower the freezing point of the water (think anti-freeze) prevents crystal and, therefore, gelatinous protein blob formation.

To preserve yolks for a savory dish, lightly whisk 1/8 teaspoon of salt with ~4 yolks; for a sweet dish, lightly whisk 1.5 teaspoons of sugar or simple/corn syrup into ~4 yolks, and store in an airtight container.  Label container with the date, number of yolks and whether they contain salt or sugar.  To use, thaw yolks in the refrigerator overnight, and move to room temperature about 45 minutes prior to cooking.  Egg sizes vary, but 1 tablespoon is approximately equal to one yolk.

easy, no-bake energy bonbons

A recent craving led me to Pinterest, and after a 15 minute (OK, 1 hour) tangent, I came across an appetite-stimulating picture of these so-called energy balls.  The recipe called for peanut butter, oats and chocolate, which is cookie territory and always a welcomed treat, except there was no baking involved.  Instant gratification.  Sign.  Me.  Up!

 

These healthy bonbons, as I’ve renamed them, make a great snack, treat along the hiking trail, or even dessert.  They’re also super easy to make, if you can call it that.  Just throw all the ingredients together in a bowl, and stir.  Can you handle it?  The most time consuming part is shaping them into perfect spheres, so if you have a bit of OCD like I do, and you’re running low on patience, bars are an alternative.  I’m taking that route next time.

Out of curiosity (and because I like math), I calculated the calories.  Each heaping tablespoon-sized ball is worth about 85 calories, which is reasonable for how good they taste.  I offer no comment on how many I sampled during the mixing process, but I promise you can’t eat just one.

 

Stay tuned for adaptations with different nut butters, extracts, chopped nuts and dried fruit!

 

Materials (makes 30 balls, barely adapted from Daydream Kitchen)

1 cup dry oats (I used old fashioned)
1 cup finely shredded coconut
1/2 cup ground flaxseed (I ground the seeds in a coffee grinder)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup mini carob chips (or chocolate chips)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

 

Protocol

1. Using elbow grease or the classic hand mashing method, combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.  This makes the mixture easier to shape.

2. Scoop using a tablespoon, and form into balls.  Bonbons will keep in an airtight container for up to a week, but mine didn’t last that long.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

red lentil chili

It’s no secret, I love lentils.  They do all kinds of good to me.  I’m also addicted to Pulse, which is a great time waster phone app that manages all my magazine, blog and recipe inspiration subscriptions.  This chili recipe popped up via the Meatless Monday feed (on a Monday afternoon, nonetheless), and I knew right away from the ingredient list that it would be a hit.  With a few adjustments, and a kick from my friend’s homemade pickled jalapeños, Monday’s dinner was underway.  As was meatless Tuesday’s lunch.

This soup can be ready in under 30 minutes, which, aside from imminent belly satisfaction, means only one other thing–  more time for Pulse surfing!  Do you use Pulse?  What are some of your favorite feeds?  Do you also get carried away in its awesomeness?

 

Materials (makes about 6 servings, adapted from Running with Tweezers)

1 medium yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/2 jalapeño, finely diced (scrape seeds out or omit for less/no heat)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup red lentils
3.5 cups water or vegetable broth
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can beans (I used pinto)
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp brown sugar
a few generous splashes of hot sauce (I used Cholula)
salt to taste

Protocol

1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan, add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add garlic and jalapeño, if using, stir and cook for another minute or so.

3. Throw in the lentils, and stir well to coat.  Add water/broth, tomatoes, spices and hot sauce.

4. Bring to a boil, cover partially, then reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for about 30 minutes, and remember to stir every once in a while so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

Super easy, filling and satisfies the meatless factor, whichever day of the week you choose to exercise it on.

a stroll down memory lane & toasted “brown bread” ice cream

During grad school, my friend Melissa and I used to frequent an ice cream shop in Hollywood called Scoops.  It was our treat after a full day at work, and the agonizing 4-hour forensic microscopy class that followed.  Aside from the animated mornings at the morgue, and the multiple scoops of sweet, iced butterfat before bed, my days were dreadful.  Dread.  Full.  Dealing with a certain professor and the grades she handed out was supremely dreadful.  But, I digress.  I made it through.  All that’s ancient history now.

Tai, the owner of Scoops, is an artisan ice cream designer.  All of his ice creams are unique.  Banana Oreo, maple bacon (yes, I know it’s everywhere now), strawberry Riesling, pear and goat cheese, and Guinness tiramisu are just a few of his formulations.  Tai has a suggest-a-flavor board at the shop where patrons can write down suggestions, so presumably, some of what he makes is based on someone else’s munchie-powered idea.  Not important.  Flavors vary daily, but what remains his most popular scoop, is the brown bread ice cream– a sweet base with crunchy, spiced bits mixed throughout.  So so good.

It’s been years since I’ve felt the torment of grad school and joy of Scoops, and only one of those was worth experiencing again.  Hint: it has nothing to do with refractive indices or polarizing microscopes.  This treasure had to be shared.

Brown bread baby, it’s good to have you back!

Materials (makes 1.5 quarts, adapted from David Lebovitz)

For the ice cream:
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup sour cream
6 egg yolks
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp bourbon

 

For the brown bread:
1/3 cup grapenuts cereal
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Protocol

“Brown bread” crumbs
1. In a small skillet, melt butter and allow it to brown.  You don’t have to, but the nuttyness of it complements the bourbon.

2. Add cereal crumbs, sugar and cinnamon, and stir well to coat.  Cook for about 5 minutes, and set aside.  Store in an airtight container until ice cream is ready.

The brown bread crumbs can be made a day ahead or the day the ice cream is churned.  The first time I made this ice cream, I thought the cereal crumbs were just a bit too hard and crunchy, so I’ve since been soaking them in 1/3 cup water, and making sure all the water’s absorbed before mixing into the ice cream.

 

Ice cream
1. Combine milk, 1 cup cream, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and heat on medium-low heat.  Do not let boil.

2. Pour the other 1 cup cream into a bowl, add sour cream and set a fine mesh strainer over the top of the bowl.

3. In a second bowl, whisk the yolks.

4. Remove the milk mixture off the heat, and in a slow and steady stream, pour about a cup of the heated milk into the yolks, while whisking.  This is to temper the eggs so they’re not shocked and scrambled when they meet the rest of the milk.

5. Again, working slowly, pour the tempered eggs back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk, and return to low heat.  Stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, cook the custard until it coats the back of your chosen utensil.  Do not let boil.  Custard is cooked at about 175  degrees F, so if you’re using a culinary thermometer, don’t go over that.

6. Pour cooked custard over the strainer into the bowl containing the cream and sour cream bowl, add gently whisk until smooth.

7. Add vanilla and bourbon, and stir.  Allow ice cream base to cool in the refrigerator overnight, then process per ice cream maker’s manufacturer’s instructions.

8. About 5 minutes before the end of the churning process, add the “brown bread” crumbs.

Thanks, Tai for the great idea, the sweet memories and your contribution to my grad school “freshman 15.”

 

slow cooker Tom Kha Gai (Thai coconut soup)

It’s been ages, it seems, since I last used my slow cooker.  I bought it to have while my kitchen was being remodeled, but as soon as the stove was back in business, it was stashed away.  This is partly due to my semi-irrational fear that a slow cooker is not trustworthy enough to be left unattended.  Kinda like me around a bottle of Riesling or a jar of Nutella.

This soup is the result of the crock pot’s recent resurrection.  Flavorful and comforting, it practically made itself.  I could definitely get used to meals doing that more often.  Enjoy!

 

Materials (makes about 2.5 quarts)

3 14-oz. cans coconut milk (I used 1 can regular, and 2 cans “lite”)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 pound firm tofu, cubed
1 large lemongrass stalk, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp ginger, freshly grated
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp curry paste (I used Thai and True’s yellow curry paste)
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3-4 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
salt or soy sauce to taste

 

Protocol

1. Place all ingredients, except the fresh cilantro and mushrooms, into the slow cooker, and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 6-7.

2. Add the mushrooms during the last 20 minutes of cooking, and top with cilantro when serving.

apple pie cream cheese tarts

For far longer than is acceptable, I had been neglecting a package of puff pastry, a bowl of sweet, red apples, and a precious jar of matcha powder.  My birthday was also approaching, and someone was gonna have to make a cake.  That someone, is yours truly.  So many projects, and only one of me.  Oh, the travesty.  I took inventory, picked up the missing ingredients at the market, and happily resigned my day to the kitchen.  Aside from the obvious perks a baking storm leaves behind, I had yet something else to look forward to.  And that’s cleaning the aftermath of the dance between flour, countless measuring spoons and spilled batter.  In the end, I had a face full of dessert, a kitchen towel in one hand, and a bottle of homemade cleaner in the other.  Pure joy.

Apple pie tarts were first on the agenda, and agreeably, the first to enter my belly.  Green tea ice cream and a fluffy, two-tiered vanilla birthday cake were also made that day, but I’ll get to them later.  Right now, let’s just agree that one of these flaky, buttery, reminiscent-of-apple-pie tarts covers your daily fruit intake recommendation.

 

Materials (makes 4 tarts)
1 package commercial puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
2 large sweet, red apples, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3-4 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 Tbsp. cream cheese, optional
1 egg, beaten

 

Protocol
1. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Melt butter in a medium skillet, add apples, sugar and spices, and stir well.  Cook for about 10 minutes, or until apples have softened.

3. In the meantime, prepare your dough.  On a lightly floured surface, lay a sheet of dough, and cut it into four pieces.

4. Poke two of the squares with a fork (these will be the bottoms), and cut 3-5 slits in the other two (these will be the tops).

5. Repeat with the other sheet.

6. When the apples are ready, begin assembly.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat (or parchment paper), and place two bottom pieces on the mat.

7. Gently spread a tablespoon of cream cheese over each; then spoon a quarter of the cooked apples over the cream cheese.

8. Cover with a top piece of dough, press edges down with a fork, and brush liberally with egg wash to seal.

9. Bake in oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

10. Garnish with powdered sugar, and devour shortly thereafter.

The tarts are amazing alone, but, just like their pie counterpart, pair well with vanilla ice cream.  Hold.  Me.  Back!  And to think this all started with an apple, which, itself, could be dessert.  It very well could, but not today, my friends.  Not today.

quinoa with mint & roasted pistachios

Some time ago, I didn’t know to pronounce quinoa or what it was.  Now I love it, and often correct others when they don’t say something that even remotely sounds like “keen-wah.”  I can be annoying, I know.

Quinoa is a grain-like seed, but isn’t considered a true grain (e.g. wheat) because it doesn’t come from a grass.  And, because it provides all nine essential amino acids, it’s a complete protein.  In case you’re a dork like me and might appreciate the information, those amino acids are Leucine, Isoleucine, Lysine, Valine, Methionine, Tryptophan, Phenylalanine, Threonine and Histidine.  They’re essential because our bodies don’t produce them, so they must be consumed.  Lesson over.  There may be a pop quiz next week.

The combination of fresh mint and parsley (don’t even think about dried!), nutty quinoa, and crunchy pistachios is nothing short of glorious.  This dish is full of flavor, and every time I eat it, I feel as though I’m treating my body to a dose of vibrance.  I first tried a variation of this recipe about a month ago, and have been making it weekly since.  A little obsessive, yes, but it’s easy to make, full of protein and antioxidants, and is that good.  And when I like something, I like it until I don’t anymore.  I’ve yet to tire of this protein-packed bowl of awesomeness.

 

Materials (makes 4 cups, adapted from the 2013 Food Lover’s Cleanse)

1 cup quinoa (regular or red)
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (you can use water, but may need to add salt to taste)
4 Tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2-3 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped
1/4 cup roasted, shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

 

 

Protocol

1. Place quinoa into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and toast for 4-5 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.  The beads will begin to pop and brown.

2. When the quinoa starts to smell nutty (about 5 minutes), add broth and bring to a boil.

3. Lower heat to a simmer, cover partially, and cook until quinoa is tender, about 30 minutes.

4. Remove from heat, let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

5. Add chopped parsley, mint and pistachios, and stir gently.

So easy.  Bon appétit!