Saturday, July 13, 2013

you scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream

In most kitchens, there is a graveyard. A dusty cupboard of appliances, items with grand promises of health and ease, convenience and culinary assistance. What are they really? A waste of space. A panini press? You can do it with two frying pans and a brick. A waffle maker? Just make pancakes. A slap chop? Learn how to use a knife.

However, I'll admit it. A trivial, luxurious, non-essential appliance has won my heart. It's frosty and cold, and it's a workhorse. It churns out the best gelato, frozen yogurt, sherbet and ice cream I can dream of, flavoured with dark chocolate, just-picked berries, or coconut milk. I bought an ice cream maker, and I just can't stop using it. I'm an addict.

This blog post should really be labelled 'how to make friends with ice cream.' Here's the first few weeks of ice cream adventures:

#1: Inaugural use, full of excitement. Picked a frozen yogurt recipe from Green Kitchen Stories: Strawberry Rhubarb Fro-Yo. Result? Amazing healthy dessert, made with all-local ingredients (full fat yogurt, honey, organic strawberries and home-picked rhubarb).

#2: Decided to be less health conscious, so I turned to an expert for a Chocolate Sorbet. David Lebovitz has a cookbook entitled The Perfect Scoop, which has every ice cream recipe you could possibly imagine. I melted two dark chocolate bars and waited eagerly. I was not disappointed.

#3 Cashew Ice Cream with Roasted Strawberries. A vegan creation with a cashew base. Interesting, but needs some work. Those roasted strawberries though - unbelievable.

#4: Roasted Banana and Coconut Ice Cream. Becoming more confident, and I decide to make my own recipe. One can of coconut milk, two oven-roasted bananas, three spoonfuls of sugar. Genius!

#5: Out in the country, picking wild berries, so Wild Black Raspberry Sherbet was a no-brainer. My friend Katy's property is covered with wild berries right now. Countless mosquito bites and thorn scratches are a small price to pay for a bucket of berries. This recipe is based on a David Lebovitz recipe for raspberry sherbet, but go crazy with any berry!

Wild Black Raspberry Sherbet
You can find black raspberries at the market right now, but if you can't get them (or you don't have a property covered in wild raspberry bushes), substitute raspberries, strawberries or cherries!

1 lb black raspberries
1 cup sugar
juice from 1 lemon
2 cups soy milk, almond milk or cow's milk

Puree all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Push through a fine mesh sieve, and discard seeds (or skins or pips, depending on which berry you're using). Finish in your ice cream maker.

The final word? This appliance was worth every penny. You're welcome, Kitchen Aid. I may have just sold a few more ice cream makers for you.

Friday, July 12, 2013

rhubarb here, rhubarb there, rhubarb chutney everywhere

I've been going a little rhubarb nuts lately. Rhubarb syrup for lemonades and cocktails, rhubarb upside down cakes made in the cast iron skillet, strawberry-rhubarb frozen yogurt in my new ice cream maker. Fun fact about rhubarb: yes, the leaves are poisonous, but you'd have to eat five kilograms of leaves to reach a lethal dosage of oxalic acid.

For my first canning project of the year, I chose a rhubarb chutney, from the awesome Food in Jars, via Food 52. Chutneys are a South Asian condiment that usually contain fruit or vegetable mixed with spices - there's hundreds of varieties. North American chutney is usually fruit based, cooked down with vinegar and sugar, and a mixture of spices. The problem I've had with chutney in the past is what the heck do you do with all that chutney? Many cookbooks are quick to suggest serving it with meat, but vegetarian ideas? Here's a list I've come up with:

1. Obviously, a cheese plate! Chutney goes great on a crostini with brie or camembert. 

2. Grilled Cheese! Spread a spoonful of chutney on an aged cheddar grilled cheese.

3. With greens! Hearty sautéed greens, like kale or swiss chard taste great finished off with a spoonful of chutney. 

4. In a glaze! Use it as a sauce to glaze roasted or grilled vegetables. 

5. At a BBQ! Chutney is an awesome condiment for all manner of veggie burgers (and meat burgers.)

Now that I've convinced you, go make some chutney! As a note, I've also made Food in Jars Apple-Pear Chutney from her cookbook, which is also amazing.

Rhubarb Chutney
This recipe makes only 3 half-pints, so if I've convinced you that you're going to love chutney, and you've got room on your shelves, you should double it. 

4 cups sliced rhubarb (around 1 pound)
1 cup minced onion
3/4 cup raisins
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp red chili flakes

Combine everything in a wide pot, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to simmer. Cook until the rhubarb breaks down, and the chutney is thickened, stirring regularly. It should take 20 to 30 minutes.

If you want to can this recipe, process for 10 minutes in a water bath. Otherwise, it will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, or the freezer for 6 months.

The last word? You can never have too much rhubarb.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

strawberry fields forever: summer strawberry cake

Strawberries. Rhubarb. Something dessert-like.

How to decide? I turned to the internet for some spring dessert inspiration, looking for a simple recipe for a pint of strawberries and bunch of rhubarb, waiting patiently in the fridge. I searched through some reliable blogs, and instead of turning up one recipe, I'm faced with a difficult choice: there are 20 tabs open on my browser, each one a promising and tantalizing dessert. Impossible!

In the end, I chose a strawberry summer cake, from smitten kitchen - a recipe I ment to make last year, but stumbled across after strawberries were long gone. What better way to celebrate the beginning of strawberry season? I made a few minor changes to her recipe: I added rhubarb and substituted whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose. It's a delicious, simple cake. The strawberries melt into pockets of jam, the cake is fluffy and light, despite the whole wheat flour. Next time, I might add in some citrus zest or a vanilla bean.

As noted in her recipe, use a deep 9-inch pie plate, or a 10-inch pie plate. It seems like the batter would fit in a smaller dish, but it rises a lot. Like, overflowing batter in the bottom of my oven. Which smells delicious when it first happens, then turns into a awful burning smell next time you use the oven. So don't use a 8x11 pan, like I did.

summer strawberry cake
adapted very slightly from this recipe on smitten kitchen.

6 tbsp (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature + extra for greasing pie plate
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 lb strawberries, hulled and halved
1/2 lb rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 10-inch or 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Cream sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy. Add in egg, milk and vanilla, and stir until just combined. Mix in flour mixture, stirring until smooth.

Pour into prepared pie plate. Cover batter with strawberries, cut side down, in a single layer. Scatter rhubarb pieces around strawberries. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tbsp sugar.

Bake for 10 minutes at 350, then reduce temperature to 325 and bake another 50-60 minutes, until centre of the cake is set, and a tester comes out clean.

Done! Delicious with whip cream, yogurt, or vanilla ice cream.

Here's my shortlist of recipes that didn't make the cut for tonight. I''ll report back, since I still plan on working my way through them.

Strawberries and Cream Biscuits - Smitten Kitchen
(like a strawberry shortcake with the strawberries baked right into the dough.)

Rustic Rhubarb Tarts - Smitten Kitchen
(little rhubarb galettes with a cornmeal + corn flour crust.)

Rhubarb Cordial - Food 52
(a pretty pink colour, a tart taste, the only drawback is the month-long wait.)

Rhubarb Chutney - Food in Jars via Food 52
(small batch, easy as pie, delicious on grilled cheese or tossed with garlicy greens.)

Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberries - Food 52
(inspired by 101 Cookbooks, roasted strawberries are out of this world.)

Strawberry Brown Butter Betties - Smitten Kitchen
(a crust made out of bread, brown butter, jammy strawberries, what could be bad?)

Rhubarb with Earl Grey, Cardamom and Orange - Food 52
(what a grown-up, intriguing combo of flavours, can't wait to try!)

Strawberry Cupcakes with a Brown Sugar Buttercream Icing - Not Without Salt
(a cupcake batter with pureed strawberries? sounds amazing.)

Rhubarb Snacking Cake - Smitten Kitchen
(is it a buckle, a streusel or a bar? it can't decide, but it's filled with rhubarb.)

Strawberry Shortcakes - Food 52
(a classic recipe from a classic man - James Beard - with a bonus secret ingredient.)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

boozy concoctions part III: homemade vanilla extract

Cooking with booze continues, but this time it's not for drinking. It's an essential ingredient for all those summer desserts: vanilla extract!

homemade vanilla extract
from a variety of sites, including this onethis one, and this one

3 vanilla beans
1 cup high proof alcohol (vodka, rum or bourbon)

Split vanilla beans down the centre with a knife. Put in a clean jar, and cover with alcohol. Leave at room temperature. You can multiply this recipe by however much you like - I started with two cups of bourbon and 6 beans. You can replenish the extract with more alcohol and beans as you use it up. If you use the seeds from a vanilla bean, throw the used pod into the extract to help replenish! It should be ready in 1 to 2 months - just taste for strength. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

boozy concoctions part II: strawberry-rhubarb gin

The summer drink extravaganza continues! If you start it right now, it'll be ready in time for the next long weekend. What are you waiting for?

strawberry-rhubarb gin
If you want to be fancy, call this a cordial, since it does have added sugar. But if you're going to call if a cordial, you must drink it in an old fashioned crystal glass, while sitting in the shade with a fan. 

2 cups hulled and sliced strawberries
1 cup sliced rhubarb
1 750ml. bottle gin
1 cup sugar

Combine everything in a clean quart jar (you might not need all the gin - congrats, make a cocktail to celebrate). Leave in a cool, dark place for a month or two, shaking every week or two to help dissolve the sugar. Strain out and discard solids, and store in a clean jar at room temperature. Use as you would gin, in any kind of cocktail or martini, but remember there's added sugar, so cut back on other sweet ingredients. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

boozy concoctions part I: meyer lemon limoncello

Cooking + alcohol is a match made in heaven. A glass of wine or a bubbly cocktail is always welcome in my kitchen, both in the hands of the chef and the happy people waiting to eat the food. But I don't stop there. What about cooking with alcohol? Not just for deglazing and simmering, but making your own fancy, flavoured infusions?

The recipe for fruit-infused liquor is simple: put fruit in a clean jar, cover with sugar and booze, leave for a month or two. Sugar isn't necessary, but since I'm usually using these infusions in mixed drinks, it saves you from having to add simple syrup at a later point.

Last year, I made plain old rhubarb gin - it turned the gin a purple-pink colour, and gave it this amazing rhubarb flavour. This year I'm branching out. 

There's a scene in Under the Tuscan Sun where Diane Lane is given a glass of homemade limoncello by her dreamy Italian love interest. Sitting on a beach. Under the Tuscan sun. All I want is to taste that limoncello. (Boyfriend, if you're reading this, take me to Tuscany some day.) 

Here's the closest I'm gonna get to that. If you don't have meyers, definitely make this with plain old lemons - more tart, just as good! I would encourage you to use organic lemons, because you don't want all those pesticides mixing in with your hard earned homemade booze. Adapted from this recipe.

meyer lemon limoncello

16 organic meyer lemons
1 750ml bottle vodka
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup honey

Quarter meyer lemons, and stuff them into two very clean quart jars. Pour over the vodka, seal tightly and set aside for a month or two. 

After that looooong wait, strain out the gorgeous, lemon coloured vodka and set aside. Put the lemons, water, sugar and honey in a large pot, and bring to a gentle simmer. Don't boil - you'll cook off all that leftover alcohol in the lemons! Stir often, mashing the lemons with the back of your spoon, or a potato masher.

After about 10 minutes, the sugar will have disolved, and you'll have this awesome lemon mash. Strain with a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the solids. Stir together the vodka and the sugar/lemon/honey liquid, and pour into clean jars. Store in the fridge, not in the liquor cabinet, because of the high quantities of lemon juice. It'll keep for a couple of months, but good luck with that. 

How will I be drinking this? I might use an ounce or two to fortify some lemonade. Or I might drink it mixed with club soda and garnished with a lemon twist. Best of all, I might shake it over ice with some strawberry-rhubarb gin and strain into a chilled martini glass for the perfect late-spring martini. Strawberry-rhubarb gin, you ask? That's in tomorrow's post. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

roasted rhubarb with vanilla

Guess what's popping up at farmer's markets and fruit markets? It's red and green, tart and tasty, and pairs deliciously with apples, strawberries, vanilla and orange zest. It's .... Rhubarb! Right now, forced rhubarb is available (long stalks, tiny leaves, sweeter than regular rhubarb), and soon you'll find regular, outdoor rhubarb at the market.

It's more than a pie ingredient: think savoury rhubarb chutney with meat or cheese, rhubarb jam laced with orange or vanilla, rhubarb compote on top of ice cream, frangipane tarts, yogurt or custard. Some of my favourite things to make with rhubarb: apple rhubarb crumble, rhubarb applesauce, rhubarb-ade, and rhubarb compote.

This recipe from the River Cafe, via The Wednesday Chef, keeps the rhubarb intact - pretty little pieces, perfect for spooning over creme anglaise, yogurt or ice cream. Or eating straight from the pan.

roasted rhubarb with vanilla 

14 oz. rhubarb, cut into 2 inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 orange or lemon
3 or 4 tbsp sugar
1 vanilla bean

Place rhubarb pieces in a shallow baking dish. Toss with juice and zest of orange (or lemon), sugar and scraped seeds from the vanilla bean. Bake at 300 for 20 minutes. Don't stir! You want to keep the rhubarb intact - stirring will break up the pieces and make a pile of mush (delicious mush, but not the effect you're going for). Serve on top of ice cream, yogurt, custard, waffles or pancakes with a drizzle of that vanilla bean-flecked syrup created by the rhubarb.

In other news, spring means I'm a year older (I share my first-day-of-spring birthday with my favourite classical composer, Bach), and it means beautiful Easter music, finding pussy willows on runs in the park, seedlings growing strong in the greenhouse, and tulips, lots of tulips. I missed you, springtime!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

celeriac and parsnip puree

The more you cook, the less time you have to write and post: catch 22?

I've got two new(ish) food-related jobs, so I find myself cooking and thinking about food more (awesome!) but having less time to post and reflect on this deliciousness (not so awesome).

A few nights ago, I was flipping through Dorrie Greenspan's Around my French Table. It's the kind of cookbook that all your favourite chefs tell you to buy, over and over and over. The kind that gets shout-outs from Ina Garten and Lynn Rossetto Kasper. A woman who gets called a 'culinary guru' by the New York Times. As a side note, never read a cookbook before going to bed. Your dreams will be full of gnocchi  chasing buckwheat blini and you'll be ready to gorge on pancakes come breakfast. Back to the book - I was looking for a classic beef stew for my boyfriend, one that I could modify for myself (with mushrooms, of course).

This woman is amazing! I decided to make a celeriac puree to go along side her beef daube. If Dorrie Greenspan tells you to simmer something in milk, then discard all that milk, you do it. Even if it feels wasteful and strange. And then you will find yourself licking every last bit of celeriac puree off your food processor, smiling because it's so freaking delicious.

(Here it is, with a rich mushroom stew, and my cat Pipi stealing into the frame, because she thinks I made it just for her.)

Celeriac and Parsnip Puree
From Around my French Table, by Dorrie Greenspan. I added parsnips, but you could omit them (and double the celeriac instead).

3 cups milk
3 cups water
1 tbsp sea salt
2 large celeriac roots OR 1 celeriac and two medium parsnips, peeled and cut in 2 inch cubes
1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut in 2 inch cubes
1 onion, peeled and quartered
5 tbsp butter
salt + pepper
chopped fresh chives (optional)

Bring milk and water to a boil in a large pot. Add celeriac, parsnip (if using), potato and onion. Return to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, uncovered for 30 minutes, until veg are tender.

Drain and discard cooking liquid. Puree vegetables and butter in a food processor, possibly in batches, if your food processor is as frustratingly small as mine. Season with salt and pepper, and serve sprinkled with fresh chives.

This would be delicious with any rich hearty stew - I suggest Dorie Greenspan's Beef Daube. I made it, as well as a veggie version by substituting mushrooms for the beef and bacon. You'll probably need two bottles of red wine, not just the one called for in the recipe - because what goes better with a rich, warm dinner than a bottle of wine?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dorie Greenspan's Beurre & Sel Jammers

On my list of destinations next time I visit NYC: Beurre et Sel. It's a cookie store, created by award-winning cookbook author and chef Dorie Greenspan. And if this recipe is an indication of the cookie quality at this store, then I'm sold.

I will sit on a blanket in Central Park, drink a perfect latte and eat buttery cookies with just-the-right-amount-of-salt. There will be tickets to a musical tucked into my guide book, and a bike lying on the grass beside my picnic blanket. Manhattan, it's been too long!

Around this time of year, I start looking through my cupboard, taking stock of what jams, jellies and preserves have made it through the long winter. It's time to make room for this spring and summer's new jars - and what better way to get rid of jam then to dollop it in a buttery, crispy cookie, and surround it with streusel! Don't be put off by the recipe's instructions to make the cookies in muffin tins. I too was skeptical, but was won over by the perfect shape and texture of the cookie. This is not a simple drop cookie you can churn out in 10 minutes, but the extra time and preparation makes for an out-of-this-world cookie. I might go as far as to say this is the best cookie I've ever baked.

(here they are - filled with blueberry jam and pear-ginger-orange conserve)

Beurre et Sel Jammers
Makes about 34 cookies. From this recipe in Bon Appetit magazine. I used local/organic k2 Milling's Red Tail Flour, which is a mix of spelt, oat and wheat flour. However, if you can't find that, I would use all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour. There's lots of steps to these cookies - if you want, you can make the dough and streusel 1 or 2 days ahead of time, leaving them in the fridge/freezer.

cookie dough:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour (see note)

streusel and assembly:
3/4 cup flour (see note)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
5 1/2 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup thick jam of your choice

things you need:
2 inch cookie cutter
3 standard 12-cup muffin tins

make the dough:
Beat butter in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add sugars and salt, beat 1 more minute. Change speed to low, and mix in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour, and mix until just combined.

Divide the dough (very soft and sticky) into two balls. Roll out between two sheets of parchment paper, one at a time, flattening the dough until it's 1/4 inch thick. Stack the two large, thin circles of dough (still sandwiched in the parchment) onto a cookie sheet or large plate that fits in your freezer. Freeze until very firm, at least 2 hours.

make streusel:
Mix together flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Using your fingers, rub in the cold butter and vanilla, until the streusel looks like crumbs, and holds together when you squeeze it. Put it in the fridge to stay cold.

assemble the cookies:
Preheat oven to 350. Using the cookie cutter, cut out circles from frozen dough. Gather scraps and repeat, until you have around 34 cookies. Press the cookie rounds into the muffin tins, then put them back in the freezer for another 30 minutes.

Finally, remove the cookies from the freezer. Spoon 1 teaspoon of jam into the centre of each, then use a small spoon to sprinkle about 1 tbsp of streusel around the jam. Bake cookies for 20-22 minutes, until streusel and cookie is golden. Let cool for 15 minutes in muffin tins, then remove by running a knife around the edge of each cookie. Cool the cookies the rest of the way on a wire rack. Cookies will keep for 3 or 4 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

(dreaming of New York City today.)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Oranges and Lemons: St.Clement's Cake

One of the many cookbooks to join my bookshelf recently is Jamie Oliver's Great Britain. Any review I give will be biased, because of my big chef-crush on the adorable guy, but the photography is gorgeous (David Loftus, the photographer behind a wagon-load of aesthetically pleasing books), and the recipes are things you picture yourself eating in an old stone cottage, accompanied by tea and softly falling rain.

This week I made this citrus-full cake. It's a simple batter cake, and after it comes out of the oven, you stab it all over and drench it in orange syrup. I can get behind that.

A few notes - Jamie's recipe isn't gluten free, but it's so close. I substituted all-purpose gluten free flour (Bob's Red Mill brand) for the all-purpose flour. The cake is so moist and flavourful, you won't notice the difference. Also, Jamie says to make it in a 8-inch springform pan, but I used a well-greased bundt pan, and the cake came out of the pan just fine. Finally, try and use organic oranges and lemons - the zest of commercial citrus is coated in wax, and full of pesticides. You don't want to zest that into your system.

Jamie's Nan's St. Clement's Cake
4 1/2 oz unsalted butter (1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp), softened
(plus more for greasing the pan)
1 cup and 2 tbsp sugar
4 large eggs
1 large orange
2 cups ground almonds
3/4 cup all purpose flour (or gluten-free all purpose flour)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 cups icing sugar
1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a bundt pan, or a 8-inch springform pan, lining the bottom with parchment.

Beat the butter with 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp of sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Add the zest of the orange (keeping back a little for decorating, in a covered bowl). Fold in the almonds. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then fold into the batter, until everything is just combined. Spread into the prepared pan, and bake for 30 minutes, until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup sugar and the juice of that orange you zested in a pan. Simmer, until sugar is melted. Poke the cake (still in the pan) all over with a fork. Pour over syrup, and leave cake to cool completely in pan.

While the cake is cooling, make the icing. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, and add the zest and juice of one lemon (keep back a little zest for decorating). Mix until icing is smooth. Transfer the cooled cake to a serving tray, and drizzle with the lemon icing. Sprinkle with reserved citrus zest.

PS. Did you know a 'St.Clement's' is actually a lemonade-orange juice combo served in pubs in England? It's something my great-great granny probably ordered.

PPS. This cake (and the drink) are named after the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons: "oranges and lemons, sing the bells of St. Clements." The line refers to a church in London that was near to the docks, where produce would have been unloaded.