Friday, July 30, 2010

Blueberry Ice Cream and Yogurt Cake

On to Dorie's recipes...

We had some folks over for dinner a few nights ago.  I made shrimp and grits, fennel and celery salad, and swiss chart for dinner.  For dessert, I wanted to do something easy (I pretty much say that all the time).  The blueberries are pretty good right now, so I looked back through my copy of Butter Sugar Flour Eggs by Gale Gand for her blueberry ice cream recipe, which I made years ago (7, to be exact).  

I remember that it was a delicious recipe, but this time all I could see was that it required 9 egg yolks. While I'm sure this high yolk content contributed to the deliciousness and that apparently I wasn't daunted by it the first time, I decided that I would find another recipe rather than end up with 9 egg whites in a ziploc bag in my freezer, their reappearance in another recipe all but questionable (although I know Big Apple Nosh would find something to do with them. Shame on me.).

So I turned to Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours and was happy to find that she also had a blueberry ice cream recipe. My beloved Dorie. I am so creepy.

Like the strawberry cheesecake ice cream, this recipe is great because it doesn't start from an egg custard base.  There is a tiny bit of cooking involved, but "cooking" is overstating it. You'll see. 

  • 1 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw and drain) (I used fresh because they're in season)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • pinch of salt
  • grated zest and juice of 1/4 lemon (or lime as you prefer) or more juice to taste
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (I messed up on this, as you'll see later)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
Place the blueberries, sugar, salt, zest and juice in a saucepan.  On medium heat, cook the blueberry mixture until blueberries begin to pop, about 3-5 minutes. 

The recipe at this point tells you to put the mixture in a blender and whir away, but I didn't want to dirty a piece of equipment so I transferred the mixture to a bowl and just mashed it with a fork.  The mixture doesn't have to be smooth--first of all it won't get that way and second it's nice to have a little texture.  Although don't do what I did one time and leave some blueberries whole--you will literally be eating frozen blueberry pebbles and that's not super pleasant. Too much texture.

Stir in heavy cream and sour cream.  At this point I realized that I did not have enough cream (I was using it in another recipe), so I upped the sour cream to a cup, used a 1/4 cup of heavy cream, and a 1/4 cup of skim milk (which we have around for cereal).  If you like, put in more lemon juice.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in fridge until completely cold.

After the ice cream base is completely chilled, freeze in ice cream maker according to instructions.  When the incredibly loud and jarring blare from your 10-year old ice cream maker is done, transfer ice cream to another container and freeze for a few hours.

While there is waiting time for the ice cream base to cool and for the final freeze, in terms of actual work this is an easy recipe and I highly recommend it.  Not too sweet, and great tang from the lemon juice and sour cream.

Along with the ice cream I served a very simple French Yogurt Cake, also courtesy of Dorie.  Don't let the "French" scare you off.  It's a very easy, homey recipe which Dorie says many Frenchwomen know when they want to whip up something simple.  I love this recipe because I don't have to haul out the mixer. SCORE.

Ingredients (with my notes in italics):
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (or, if you'd prefer, omit the almonds and use another 1/2 cup all-purpose flour) (in what seemed to be a pattern that day, I had completely forgotten to buy almonds (though truthfully I did see them on my grocery list and went Beh! I don't need those, I don't remember what those were for) so I used 2 cups of flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (due to almond oversight, supra, I also added 1/4 teaspoon almond extract but it didn't really come through, next time I might add more)
  • 1/2 cup flavorless oil, such canola or safflower (oddly, I had safflower oil, but I think using olive oil in baking is awesome so if that's what you have then go for it--Dorie even has a version with olive oil in it)
There's also a marmalade glaze that goes along with it but I didn't make that (for the record it's 1/2 cup lemon marmalade, strained, heated in a saucepan or microwave with about 1 tsp water, brushed over the cake).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter/grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 

In a separate, larger bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest with your fingers until well-incorporated, kinda like wet sand.

To the sugar/zest sand, add in eggs, yogurt, and extract.

Mix together to combine well.  Then slowly add in the dry ingredients with a whisk until just incorporated--the mixture will be quite thick and you'll be like "why am I using a whisk". Patience.  Oh, don't whisk too much because that will build up gluten and you want a nice, light cake, not one that's like eating a baguette.

Fold in olive oil with a spatula, until you get this pretty shiny stuff.

Pour into your greased loaf pan, level out the top with a spatula, place on baking sheet, and shove it in the oven for about 50-55 minutes, or until sides of cake pull away from the pan. 

When done, take out of oven and place loaf pan on cooling rack for about 5 minutes.  Afterwards, run knife around edges of cake if necessary (mine came right out), flip out of pan, and rest again on cooling rack.

Slice and serve, baby, slice and serve. Ta-da!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I'm a huge fan of Dorie Greenspan.  I just think she's (my education has given me an incredibly vast vocabulary).  Did I tell you I once saw Dorie G. in the subway station? I did. I'm pretty sure she lives in my neighborhood, which of course I take as a reflection upon how great I am because Dorie lives in my nabe.  I know that seems like circular reasoning but, yeah you're right.

She's this petite little pixie with tons of talent who exudes warmth and a kind of joie de vivre.  Plus, she has an apartment in Paris. I die.

I first heard of Dorie Greenspan while reading Paris Sweets.
I would type "Source" and link it, but If you can't tell this is from Amazon I can't help you

This is one of the most charming cookbooks I have ever read.  I mean, first of all, it's about Paris. It's not just about desserts and recipes that Dorie found at some of the best patisseries in Paris--she has little stories and side notes about each place, which for me, read like a guidebook.  When my family and I visited Paris eons ago, I made a spreadsheet listing all the places Dorie highlighted in her book, with notes on location and what was the best thing to try at each place, all ranked by priority.  Type A I am.  My brother-in-law apparently told my sister that if he never saw another patisserie again, that would be fine. WEAK.

Dorie's also very well-known by helping to write a baking cookbook with Julia Child--Baking with Julia.

My absolute favorite recipe from this book is the French Apple Tart.  So incredibly tasty and pure apple-y, and quite a presentation.

And then there's Dorie's own book of baking recipes, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

I cannot tell you how excited I was when Baking came out.  I love this book.  I won't necessarily make everything (actually I'm positive that I won't), but it's such a pleasure to read, and the recipes I have tried I enjoy very much (except for that frosting recipe that really went wrong but I think that's because my candy thermometer is a piece of big poo).  I went through a phase where I made her banana bundt cake repeatedly.

Dorie is a very popular woman (deservedly so)--she's appeared regularly on NPR's All Things Considered (though I'm not sure whether she's doing that anymore), and there's even a fan base of home cooks that have started a baking group, Tuesdays with Dorie, that make a recipe from Baking each week and blog about it.

I actually started this post to tell you about a few recipes from Baking that I made recently, but I got all distracted. So this is just my "I worship you" homage to Dorie.

Do you have any food idols?  What are your favorite cookbooks/baking books?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pasta alla Carbonara

Pork. Cheese. Garlic. Eggs.  That spells yummy, for those of you that can't decipher. 

I had a hankering for pasta with carbonara sauce the past week, mostly because we got some eggs from the farmers' market and I wanted a recipe that put them to shining use without being an omelet or anything.  Too much egg is not good for Kevin's reflux (or my egg tolerance).

I am VERY embarrassed for my husband to say that when I suggested pasta alla carbonara with enthusiasm, he responded with what was considerably less than joy. This did not please me. No, not at all.  However, I forged on, mostly because I think Kevin sometimes doubts a new dish I'm going to make because he has had a version in the past which was sucky so that's the one forever ingrained in his memory.  I wanted to show him who's boss.

There are a bunch of recipes for carbonara sauce--as I started looking through them I decided that I wanted a recipe without onions and one using pancetta or guanciale.  My go-to Lidia Bastianich's Italian American Kitchen uses onions and bacon in her recipe, so it was a no-go.  Go-to was no-go. Heehee. (Of course I could have just subbed pancetta for bacon and cut out the onions, but I just wanted a recipe geared for a non-onion dish because...just because. Meh.)

You failed me

Side story:  Kevin and I love watching Lidia's Italy on public television.  A few years ago, we decided to go to Felidia, her flagship restaurant in a townhouse on the Upper East Side.  So we're crossing the street to get to the restaurant entrance and who do we see but Lidia herself! It was so exciting.  Kevin and I started clippity-clipping faster to catch up with her, giggling like schoolkids, and we call out to her.  We tell her how much we love her and her show.  She looks at us, a little bemused, and says, "Oh thank you. Sooo, [you weirdo stalkers,] where are you visiting from?"  She deservedly assumed, based on our very uncool behavior, that we were starstruck tourists from God knows where and had come to the city to have a "fancy meal" at the restaurant of our favorite food celebrity.  In response to her question, we deflatedly admitted, "The Upper West Side."  Like, right across the park, lady. 

Anyway, after Lidia failed me, I figured fellow Italian food doyenne Marcella Hazan would be a good bet.  I don't have any of her cookbooks, but her carbonara recipe is online at several places.  I made a few small changes to the original ingredient list, which I note in italics.


  • 1/2 lb pancetta, cut in 1/2" slices (or good slab bacon) (Mina had a brain fart and bought a whopping .18 lb of pancetta. Oops. Anyway, I bought rolled pancetta sliced thick, and I cut them into 1/2" cubes. I could have done slices, but I think cubes are cuter)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Chenin Blanc for no particularly good reason except the wine store guy suggested it after I rejected his original suggestion of Gavi. Chenin Blanc = Italian food, don't you think?)
  • 1 1/4 lb spaghetti (who buys their spaghetti in 1 1/4 lb boxes? Yeah I didn't think so. I just used a pound)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 oz Romano cheese, freshly grated (I translated this, based on a very scientific system, which also happens to be very top-secret so I can't tell you about it, to 1/4 cup. And what is Romano cheese? I assumed it was the same as Pecorino Romano, so that's what I got)
  • 2 oz Parmigiano cheese, freshly grated (Again, using aforementioned very special secret system, this translated to about 3/4 cup grated cheese)
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 TBS chopped parsley
Lightly crush and peel the garlic (or peel and crush, whatever floats your boat).  Place in pan (I used a wide 4 quart saucepan) with oil and heat to medium high. Watch the garlic. When it turns golden brown, remove and discard.

Not golden brown enough. They look like albino turds.

Place chopped pancetta into the pan and saute.

Stir occasionally and cook until edges are crisp, about 5 minutes.  Pour in wine and simmer for 1-2 minutes.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs, and then mix in cheeses, pepper and parsley.  In the picture below I dumped them in all together cuz I thought it would be more aesthetically pleasing, but do the eggs first so you can whisk them up well before adding the other stuff. Or don't. I threw it all together and didn't die, so I doubt you will.  Unless you sin.

Behold the golden orbs

You will end up with a mixture looking like this.
Whoa I have no idea what I just did to the formatting. I didn't even know you could do that. Totally accidental. Wish I could do it again, on purpose this time.

Anyway, boil the spaghetti according to the box's directions (I usually skim 30-45 seconds off the cooking time). Drain.  Place into bowl that has egg mixture and mix dem suckers around.

I didn't feel like this dish was particularly nutritious on its own (unless you believe that humans can thrive on fat and sodium alone), so I made some broccoli rabe to go along with it.

I took one large bunch of broccoli rabe (a bit over a pound), and I...peeled them. You don't have to do this.  Just like with the celery, I once saw Lidia peeling broccoli rabe and so now I do it, particularly when we're having guests over.  I wouldn't consider Kevin a "guest", but he was due home hours later so I figured I had the time to kill.  

The reason why it's nice is that the skin on the stalks can be kind of tough and I have had the mortifying pleasure of watching my guests struggle to chomp and gnash a stalk into two more manageable pieces, only to surrender and shoved the entire broccoli rabe piece down the gullet.  If you're reading I'm sorry. But don't worry, I wasn't watching. Nobody saw.

The peeling doesn't have to be exact--just a few swipes with a peeler to remove some of the skin.

Heat up a few TBS of olive oil with 2 cloves of smashed garlic on medium high heat, in a pot/pan large enough for the rabe and that has a cover. When the garlic is light golden brown (don't wait until truly golden brown, it'll burn), put in the broccoli rabe and toss to coat with oil.  

You  may have to do this in batches so that the rabe is a bit manageable.  Toss the rabe until it all gets kinda wilty.  Salt and pepper to taste. Pour in a few TBS of water or stock. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve alongside pasta.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

After School Snacks

In high school, I had a pretty specific after-school routine.  No it did not involve extracurricular activities.  I would go home, make myself a snack, go to my parents' room, turn on the TV, lay in bed with my favorite shows on, eat my snack, and fall asleep until my mom got home.  *Such* a lazy ass.

I have very, very, very fond memories of many an afternoon singing to the theme song to this show and then promptly dozing off.

I know, I said I was in high school.  But I never said I had good taste or acted my age. After this, there was Saved by the Bell, Batman, and other shows I can't really remember because I was in and out of dozing consciousness.

So what was I noshing on?  Oh the wholesomeness, courtesy of my parents' love affair with Costco.  Here is a sampling:

we had a trashy brand of frozen burrito but I can't remember the name and it's probably not in business anymore

Let me clarify that these nutritionally balanced snacks were usually heated in the microwave.  Yes we had a toaster oven and that's the better, tastier way to heat up these babies, but screw that I wanted my junk food fast and soggy.

Oh let's not forget these:

It's kind of a wonder that I eat fresh food at all considering that opening up our pantry sometimes looked like you entered the junk food aisle of a drugstore. As I mentioned, there is a deep-seated and ongoing love affair between my parents and Costco--there wouldn't just be a bar or two of candy, there would be BOXES of this stuff.  Along with gallon size tubs of trail mix, massive containers of Slim Jims (yeah, what of it), and the like.

And that, my friends, is an encouraging, all-American peek into my adolescence.

Did you have any favorite after-school routines and/or snacks?

Monday, July 26, 2010


Ah, the fragrant basil of summer. So plentiful and overflowing when in season, it's easy to forget what a fleeting treat it is.  One massive bunch is a little overwhelming, its fragility at home a bit nettlesome, that I often neglect to truly appreciate just how wonderful fresh basil is.  I've been chopping it up and sprinkling it in whatever recipes I can, but of course the most well-known use for basil is pesto.

Before getting to the pesto, let me mention how I take care of the basil at home.  When I bring the basil home, I fill up a tall vase with water.  I thoroughly rinse the roots of the basil plant under running water--it's amazing how much dirt comes out.  Then, I run the leaves under very cold water.  I shake out the bunch as best I can, and place them in the vase.  This is messy.  There will be grit all over your sink and water droplets everywhere, and chances are more than a few basil leaves will fall to their peril. You also have to shake it out pretty well because ironically and annoyingly, basil leaves don't like wallowing in water--they turn black. Nice.

Oh, you think I'm done? No. In order to keep the water from building up bacteria and muck, and to keep the leaves fresh, each morning I replace the water in the vase, rinse the roots and stems, and run the leaves under water. Same old. I don't think I could take care of a baby, this stuff is too much work.

While you don't have to do this, at least in my apartment, the leaves go very limp and would not survive two days without some refreshing.  See below pic of the vase/basil arrangement--ignore the other stuff.

That's like, a tree of basil

My go-to pesto recipe is from Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe. I really like this cookbook because it explains the reasoning, science, and experiments behind the recipes, but the recipes themselves aren't terribly complicated.  What I like about this recipe is that you blanch the garlic first to soften the flavor, since raw garlic can be a bit harsh.

For 1 pound of pasta, you need:
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (or whatever nut you want--I usually use slivered almonds. Pine nuts are $$$)
  • 2 cups packed basil leaves (honestly this is so unhelpful--how tightly do you pack it? I'm still figuring this out.  One time I packed it super tight and the pesto ended up tasting like grass)
  • 2 TBS parsley (the recipe calls for this but I never use it, even if I have parsley--I don't know why I just don't feel like it at that point)
  • 7 TBS olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
Because I love tomatoes, I also add: 
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
Bring a bit of water to boil and throw the garlic in for about 45 seconds.  Note: I doubled the recipe so you will see vast quantities of crap in these pics.

It's phenomenally difficult to take a picture of garlic in boiling water.

Remove garlic, run under cold water to stop cooking, and peel.

Lightly toast the nuts in a skillet or in a toaster oven (I did 350 degrees for about 2 minutes--better to undertoast than BURN).

What is also interesting about this recipe is the "bruising" step for the basil.  You're supposed to put the basil in a freezer bag, seal it (removing excess air), and bash it with a rolling pin to release the oils.  I think this step is to imitate the traditional mortar and pestle method, which more grinds the basil rather than just furiously slashing it to bits like in a food processor, the latter of which most of us use.  The bruising/grinding helps release the basil flavor better than just whirring it in a food processor.  I also read about the mortar/pestle v. food processor thing in a newspaper article years ago but I can't find it.

Two things about what I did: (1) I just mash the leaves between my fingers because I don't want to use up a freezer bag and pull out the rolling pin; and (2) I did this when the leaves were too wet, so your basil leaves may look different.

In a food processor, place in the basil, garlic, olive oil and toasted nuts.  Basically everything except for the cheese--apparently the heat from the processor will do something (very technical term) to the cheese and make it greasy.

Whir together, stopping occasionally to scrape down with a spatula.  Remove mixture to a bowl, and stir in that fluffy, salty, nutty, pungent parmesan.

Salt to taste.  Boil pasta according to directions, drain (reserving some of the cooking liquid), and mix well with pesto.  I throw in a little cooking liquid to loosen the pasta/pesto if necessary.  Toss in tomatoes.


What other ways do you use up your basil? 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Freekeh with Summer Veggies

I was going to start this post off by saying "Kevin and I love grains, especially nutty ones" but wow.  Failing to think of anything else, I will distract you by going on to say For example, have you had farro? Love it.  It's a grain--looks like rice but plumper and brown, with a much nuttier flavor than rice.  Not that rice is bad. I love me some rice.  Last summer I enjoyed making farro and eggplant (or something like that).

But this post has "freekeh" in the title--what gives? Well, this year, we've discovered the awesome grain freekeh (pronounced more like "freekah", but actually what do I know).  I had never heard of it until coming upon it at the Cayuga Pure Organics stand at the farmers' market.  The first time I saw it, I picked up a container and asked the woman how much the "farro" was and was rewarded with a stinkeye and reprimand that it was freekeh.

This is our new favorite grain. It is to farro what farro is to rice.  Even nuttier, with a very toothsome texture.  This stuff retains much more of a bite than farro.  Not that farro is bad. I love me some farro. I know, you've heard that line before.

I figured I'd make something similar to the farro and eggplant with the freekeh, but this time I threw in some other vegetables and didn't rely on any particular recipe.  That is a big deal for me.  I am typically a slave to recipes--I'm not very creative in the kitchen.  It's only recently that I've begun to branch away from recipes and, you know, start thinking for myself and not having a heart attack if I miss an ingredient or substitute something.

Enough about me and back to the freekeh.  Here it is, in my grubby little paw.

The woman from Cayuga Pure Organics advised soaking the freekeh in water for about 6 hours, and then simmering it in water for about 20 minutes.  In our hot apartment, 6 hours is a little long and they start to break down, so I soak for about 4 hours, or stick the soaking freekeh in the fridge for some of the time.  I guess you could soak them in the fridge whil you're at work. 

After soaking, I drain the grains and place them in a pot of boiling water or stock, lower the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until it gets to the texture I like (keeping in mind this is a very firm grain so it's never going to be soft).  Drain and it's ready to use! Note: It's not like rice where the water has to be an exact proportion and all gets soaked up--you're going to have extra water. Also, reserve some of the cooking liquid when you drain.

For our freekeh and veggies dish, I used:
  • about 1.5 cups of freekeh, cooked as described above
  • 3 small (or 2 medium) Japanese eggplants--the thin long ones that don't have as many seeds
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 small (or 2 medium) squash
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup julienned basil
This recipe serves 4-6.  

I chopped up the eggplant, onion and squash into about 1/3 to 1/2 inch dice.

See the pig bowl? Isn't it cute?

Sometimes when I use cherry tomatoes in a recipe, I like to give them an extra zing by adding about a tsp of balsamic mixed with a tsp of water to the tomatoes. I let them sit, stirring occasionally, until ready to use.  Just gives an extra bit of acidity and sweetness.

Ignore the basil and garlic, I was using it for a different recipe

In a deep skillet or stockpot, heat enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan to medium high heat.  Add in the eggplant and cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes, stirring fairly frequently to prevent burning and adding oil if looking dry. By the way I sometimes salt as I go along, and to the eggplant I added a dash of salt, about 1/8 tsp.

Confession: I like eating eggplant but I don't like cooking it.  It burns, it absorbs oil, I don't know what I'm doing, etc. I know there's the whole method of salting, rinsing and drying them but I don't engage in that sort of behavior.  This time I just kept a close eye and added more oil when necessary. Remove cooked eggplant from pot. 

The back of the piggy bowl! Curly tail, just like a pug's.

Add some more oil to the pot and saute the onions and garlic until translucent and turning golden, about 5-6 minutes, and then add in the squash. Again, I added about 1/8 tsp to this mixture.

I also added a TBS or two of water to help the squash cook, but don't add too much or things will get mushy.  Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until squash is cooked to your liking.

Turn off heat.  Add the cooked eggplant, freekeh, tomato/balsamic mixture, parmesan and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  And remember that reserved cooking liquid from the freekeh? I added at least 1/2 cup to the dish to just loosen it up a bit--one time I cooked freekeh and the next day it was kind of dry and hard to chew, so I wanted to make it a bit more "wet" this time.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Does this Angle Make Me Look Like a Chipmunk?

Our cable shorted out for a little bit last weekend which induced a few minutes of total heart-arresting panic and would have been cause for great outrage and angry phone calls except that there was a happy consequence.  It happened to freeze on a split second from Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals.  RR has no qualms using exaggerated hand and facial expressions to emphasize every syllable.

So this is what was up on our TV for 5 minutes:


Heehee.  I would make a lot of fun of this except for the fact that it reminds me of too many candid photos of myself where I am making the same or similar expression.  But I can *think* whatever I want. Silent thoughts. Heehee.