Monday, August 31, 2009

Chocolate - the Thin: Sicilian Chocolate Gelato

When I saw Alice Medrich's recipe for Sicilian Chocolate Gelato on my friend Audrey's blog Food From Books it appealed to me on a couple of levels; I was eager to try an Alice Medrich recipe, and, as much as I loved the Dark Chocolate Ice Cream, it seemed that I should add a less rich chocolate flavor to my frozen treat arsenal. Sicilian gelato is interesting because it is made with milk and thickened with cornstarch, thus eliminating a modicum of the guilt associated with ice cream - no cream or egg yolks.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- After reading Audrey's account, I made sure that my chocolate base thickened suitably on the stovetop, although it didn't get thick per se, just thicker than it started.

- I had some Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa powder, so that's what I used (the recipe recommends natural rather than Dutch-processed cocoa).

- The gelato froze very hard overnight; it wasn't icy, but quite hard. A few seconds in the microwave or more than a few minutes sitting on the counter were sufficient to soften the ice cream enough to scoop.

the verdict:

The gelato has intense chocolate flavor, but instead of being rich and creamy it was fresh and a bit lean. The taste reminded me of eating a Fudgsicle (although I've got to admit it has been year and years since I've eaten one!)

I shared this gelato with my brother-in-law and his family. My niece and nephews were amazed that I made it myself and plied me with questions about the difference between gelato and ice cream and the type of chocolate I'd used (cocoa powder rather than bar chocolate). I was happy to leave them with the leftovers; with a recipe this easy, I can always whip up another batch.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chocolate - the Rich: Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

Earlier in the summer my husband and I spent nearly a month living in the guest room in our basement (or "garden level" as those in real estate would call it) while our floors on the main level were being refinished and the rooms painted. We had a microwave, a sink, a refrigerator, a coffee maker and an electric skillet. On weekends I had access to the kitchen, although the cabinets and fridge were sealed closed, so mostly I got to use the stove/oven and the dishwasher. About halfway through our "exile" I saw this post about Dark Chocolate Ice Cream on the wonderful blog Ice Cream Ireland (by Kieran Murphy, one of the brothers who own Murphy's Ice Cream in Ireland), and that weekend I managed to make the ice cream, preparing it on the kitchen stove, churning it in the basement, and shooting the picture on the concrete outside the basement door. And it was totally worth it.

Speaking of exile, Wallis Simpson (the Duchess of Windsor) famously said "you can never be too rich or too thin," and although the wisdom of that is questionable enough, I've found that in the case of chocolate ice cream, it is either rich or thin but not both. This post will explore the "rich" side of chocolate ice cream; the next post the "thin" side.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe on the link above. I was lucky enough to locate a copy of the Murphy's Book of Sweet Things, which I got for my birthday. It is full of wonderful ice cream recipes and other sweets, but even if you don't have access to the book there are lots of wonderful recipes on the Ice Cream Ireland site. In fact, this recipe is on the site but not in the book.

- This is a custard-type of ice cream. I used 5 very small yolks, from some of the smaller of my farm box eggs.

- The recipe calls for is a LOT of cocoa. I left out the optional chocolate chips.

- I'm not sure what exactly I did wrong, but when I mixed the egg yolks + cocoa + sugar I ended up with a solid fudge-y mass - it was not possible to beat it. I persisted and cooked the custard, although it was so thick that I had to rely on temperature alone for doneness.

- When chilled, the mixture became nearly solid. I knew that it would taste too thick for me, so before churning I loosened it by stirring in about 1/4 cup of milk and cream.

- According to the recipe, right before churning, whipped cream is folded into the chocolate mixture. I made sure my bowl and beaters were well chilled (put them in the freezer for awhile) so my whipped cream would be very cold.

the verdict:

This ice cream was very intense, very rich, and very delicious. It tasted a lot like frozen (rich) pudding. My husband is allergic to chocolate so it was completely up to me to eat this and I did my best to live up to the challenge. I rationed it out to myself a spoonful or two at a time as a special treat. That came to an abrupt end when in the course of rearranging my freezer I inadvertently left this ice cream on the counter, and didn't notice until two days later. It was a sad moment indeed when I poured it down the drain...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Irish Whiskey Ice Cream

Murphy's Ice Cream, the shop behind the wonderful Ice Cream Ireland blog, says that the Irish Whiskey Ice Cream is its best selling flavor. I figured I'd better try it to see what all the fuss was about.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- We have tons of Scotch Whisky (no "e") but I wanted to give this the full Irish respect it deserves, so we bought some Jameson's Irish Whiskey (with an "e")

- The ice cream has a pretty standard custard base, then cream and whiskey are added. I wondered how the ice cream would taste since the whiskey was not cooked at all.

the verdict:

Wow, this is great ice cream! I'd been afraid the ice cream would end up too boozy, but it is pretty subtle and delicate. The custard base makes it good and creamy, with a definite but mild kick from the whiskey. My husband flipped for this one, ranking it right behind vanilla (and equivalent to the fleur de lait) - he dearly loves white ice creams!

This was the ice cream that I paired with the applesauce cake, and it was amazing together - the caramel and the whiskey flavors combined beautifully. I can see that it would also be wonderful with oatmeal or spice cakes, bread puddings, or fruit crisps.

Of course it's also delicious all by itself in a big bowl!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

Earlier in the summer I made strawberry frozen yogurt from David Lebovitz' book The Perfect Scoop and we loved it - so much strawberry flavor and such a lovely texture - so I was looking forward to trying the blueberry version.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe on Pam's blog, here.

- Since these were pretty sweet (they were not wild blueberries) I cut the sugar a bit.

- The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of yogurt. I used 1 c Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup berry yogurt from Trader's Point Creamery. This delicious organic yogurt, produced from grass-fed cows, was voted the #1 yogurt by the American Cheese Society. It's a thin yogurt that comes in a beautiful glass bottle, and I've been able to find it at a decent price at Fresh Market. (Whole Foods also carries it)

the verdict

For some reason we had mixed reactions to this yogurt the day we first made it. My husband loved it, but I was bothered by something - the blueberry skins, maybe? It tasted a little odd, sort of chalky. But the next day it tasted very good to both of us and to some guests that sampled it. I'd like to try making this again with wild blueberries (fresh or frozen).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fleur de Lait Ice Cream

The name of this ice cream, Fleur de Lait, means "flower of milk" in French, and I think it perfectly describes the delicateness of this lovely frozen treat. David Lebovitz includes the recipe in his book, The Perfect Scoop (if you don't own this book, you might want to start saving your pennies - it's worth the $16.99 on Amazon. Oh, and while we're in parenthetical mode, this week I saw an ice cream maker in Target for under $30)

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe on my buddy Audrey's post.

- This is actually a Sicilian gelato - it's mostly milk and relies on cornstarch rather than eggs to thicken the base before churning. I enjoyed this process and thought it was pretty neat that there are no flavorings at all in this recipe.

You did notice the petals on these bowls and how they're perfect for "Fleur de Lait" ice cream, right?
the verdict:

When I tasted the Fleur de Lait, I realized that it perfectly captures the essential flavor of the milk in ice cream form. It's terrific on its own and would be a perfect accompaniment to anything chocolate or caramel-flavored.

My husband is a huge fan of vanilla ice cream (David Lebovitz Philadelphia-style Vanilla, to be precise) and I was a little worried that this other kind of white ice cream would leave him cold, so to speak. But luckily my fears were groundless; he LOVED this. In fact, the Fleur de Lait was his second favorite ice cream that I've made.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Patties and Peanut Butter Truffles

If you are a fan of decadent ice cream with fabulous mix-ins, this is the post for you. I usually like my homemade ice cream nice and smooth, with nothing to distract from its single flavor goodness. But somehow when chocolate and peanut butter are involved, I just have to make an exception! When my daughter J.D.E. returned a few weeks ago from an extended trip we decided a welcome home treat was in order. Last summer she'd had some amazing chocolate peanut butter ice cream at Goose Rocks Dairy in Kennebunkport, Maine, and we thought we'd try to capture a similar magic.

n.o.e.'s notes:
- You can find the recipe for the ice cream (and the peanut butter patties) here

- This ice cream was really easy - I love ice creams that don't require custard making, although I've sort of gotten the hang of custards by now.

- I actually went out to buy good old Jif peanut butter because all I had is natural peanut butter and I wasn't sure how the texture would be .

- We made Lebovitz's peanut butter "patties" to mix in. The were awfully thin and sticky, even after time in the freezer. Tasty though.

- We wanted to boost the chocolate aspect of the ice cream, and were contemplating making our own truffles or the chocolate ripple that Lebovitz suggests, but then I found a package of "Harry London" peanut butter truffles in the cupboard (from an after-Easter sale) so I chopped those up.

- When the ice cream was finished churning, and was still in the "soft-serve" stage I stirred in the patties and the chopped truffles before putting it all in the freezer to firm up.

- The patties never did get very hard, and sort of turned into soft peanut butter smears through the ice cream. Which was not really that terrible, actually!

the verdict:

This was a nice chocolate ice cream with intense peanut butter accents from the patties and the truffles. What a great combination! It was creamier and not as sugary as a Reese's cup. It wasn't the same as Goose Rocks Dairy's ice cream, but it was delicious treat in its own right. We were very sad to see the last drips of this one!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

{TWD} Creamy Lime Meringue Pie with Gingersnap Crust, and Lime Cream Ice Cream to kick off Ice Cream Week!

I'm going to say this quietly, in case the subject depresses you, as it does my college-aged daughter J.D.E. Labor Day is fast approaching, and the carefree days of summer are drawing to a close. With the calendar firmly in mind, today's post will have two seasonal desserts: The cool, refreshing and oh-so-summery Tuesdays With Dorie choice for this week, Lime Meringue Pie, and a bonus Lime Cream Ice Cream (yes, the word "cream" is twice in its name).

And as a final tribute to summer: this entire week will be Ice Cream Week here on The Dogs Eat the Crumbs (and yes, the dogs are happy to lick the drips)

Creamy Lime Meringue Tart

n.o.e.'s notes:

- My husband loves lemon (or lime) meringue pie, so I gave him some choices: regular pie crust or graham cracker, meringue or whipped cream. His vote: graham cracker and meringue. After getting my options settled, it was time to make the pie. I even had some graham cracker crumbs that would be great to use up. But then I read in the P&Q comments (and on Twitter) that Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen made a gingersnap macadamia nut crust for her pie, using this recipe for her crust.

I had wanted to make a gingersnap crust way back in the Creamy Cheesecake week, but let myself get scared away by those fear-mongers at Cook's Illustrated (just kidding) who had definitively stated that gingersnap crusts do not work (you can read their quote on my cheesecake post). This time, since I was making just a little bit of pie - and it wasn't going to be served to anyone but my guinea pigs family - it was a perfect time to experiment with Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps (these yummy cookies are made with fresh, crystallized, and ground ginger). Here's what I used for my crust:
1 cup gingersnap crumbs (made using my mini-chopper)
1 1/2 T melted butter
1 T brown sugar
This was the perfect amount to fit in two 4" mini pie plates and a 2" micro-mini foil pan. I baked the crusts at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

- This week's P&Q post on the Tuesdays With Dorie website was a goldmine of information this week. In addition to crust inspiration from Mary Ann, I learned from Linda of Tender Crumb (who chose this week's recipe - thanks, Linda!) about Dorie Greenspan's "super-charged" way to cook the lime cream over boiling water, AND a terrific way to heat egg whites before whipping them so the meringue ends up cooked. I used both tips and am thrilled with how successful they were:
-- my cream thickened in less than five minutes in a metal bowl over boiling water.

-- I heated my egg whites in a different metal bowl (this was one of those dirty-every-bowl-in-the-kitchen recipes) over simmering water until they reached 160 degrees before I whipped them. Once I spread the meringue on the pies I just had to run them under the broiler for a minute to brown them, since the meringue was already cooked.
- The cream was interesting to make, even if it did generate a sinkful of dirty dishes. I was hoping to get away with a little less than the 2 1/2 sticks of butter that Dorie specifies in the recipe. I tasted it at several stages, and ended up using 1 1/2 sticks, which was creamy but still lime-y. (It was actually delicious with no added butter - nice and puckery.)

the verdict:

I thought the crust, cream and meringue were fabulous together. The pie didn't hit the usual lofty taste levels of Dorie desserts for my husband. He loved the crust and the meringue but found something not quite right about the lime cream. First he said it was bitter, then he said too much butter, which made me think of this nursery rhyme:
Betty Botter bought some butter,
But, she said, The butter's bitter;
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter.
But, a bit of better butter
Will make my batter better.

So, she bought a bit of butter
Better than her bitter butter,
And she put it in her batter
And the batter was not bitter.
So, 'twas better Betty Botter
Bought a bit of better butter.

Well, I know my butter wasn't bitter, and I have no idea what my husband was tasting in the cream, but he thinks he'd have liked it better with less butter, preferring a tarter - but not bitter - pie.

Lime Cream Ice Cream

Although I've never had the pleasure of visiting Murphy's Ice Cream in Ireland, it has some lovely-sounding flavors. Fortunately, Kieran Murphy includes some recipes on his blog Ice Cream Ireland, including a Lemon Curd Ice Cream that sounds divine. I planned to make that this week. I got busy researching lemon curd recipes, and at the same time I was getting ready to make the TWD Lime Meringue Pie. Finally, the light went on: I could switch the flavor from lemon to lime and use my leftover lime cream, rather than curd, to make the ice cream. The biggest difference between a lime curd and the lime cream that we were making for the pie is the order and manner in which the butter is added. You heat the lime/eggs/sugar/butter together for a curd, which is dense, but you add the butter later for a cream, which gets its creaminess from the emulsification (rather than melting) of the butter into the lime/egg/sugar mixture.

I used Murphy's Lemon Curd Ice Cream recipe as my guide, but used double the amount of lime zest, lime cream, and concentrated key lime juice. (I was trying to amp up the lime flavor because Margaret of Tea and Scones had made the ice cream with lemon curd and said that the lemon flavor was mild.)

Murphy's ice cream recipes use a technique where custard is made with milk and eggs and chilled, and then cream is whipped and folded into the custard just before churning. This produces a wonderfully creamy, almost fluffy ice cream. Combined with the lime cream, the resulting ice cream was like a lime cloud!

Come back every day this week for more of Ice Cream Week!

And if, like J.D.E. below, you are not eating grains, dairy or sugar, you can celebrate summer's bounty with a plate of raspberries for your dessert!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Corn and Vegetable Gratin with Cumin

Back during the holiday season I saw or heard in a news story about some scientific study which found that people tend to be less satisfied with gifts that they pick out for themselves; preferring the excitement and surprise of a gift chosen by others. I have no doubt that's a true, but just the same I was thrilled to find these individual-sized square gratin dishes under the tree on Christmas morning, even if I had shopped for them, bought them, and wrapped them for myself!

Fast forward 8 months, and I still hadn't used my gratin dishes, at least not for gratins. So imagine my excitement when I came across the NY Times recipe for Corn and Vegetable Gratin with Cumin. Yay! a chance to use my gratin dishes AND the bounty of corn I ended up with from my farm box (mistakenly ordered twice as much as I meant to)

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I made 1/2 recipe in 2 gratin dishes.

- In place of the 1.5 eggs for half the recipe I used one very large duck egg

- Although I was dying to use gruyere, I didn't have any and I did have jarlsburg cheese (1 oz)

- With all that richness, I felt pretty safe using skim milk.

- My garden had some wonderful, sweet red and green anaheim peppers

- I used wild garlic from farm box (bigger but milder cloves)

the verdict:

Although I usually think of "gratins" as dripping with cheese, but this one was more of an egg dish - kind of like crustless quiche. Enough quibbling about semantics! This gratin was delicious, with a Southwestern accent from the cumin and the peppers. I was glad I had such a tasty recipe to inaugurate my gratin dishes...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grilled Peach Salad with Finocchiona

Most of the time I avoid sweet flavors in my savory dishes (although I love savory flavors in my sweets, go figure!) but I do love fresh fruit with savory - especially salty - food; cantaloupe with prosciutto is one of my favorite ways to start a meal. So when I saw Jamie Oliver's recipe for Grilled Peach Salad I had a feeling that I would love it with some of our fabulous local peaches.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I didn't have bresaola (very thinly sliced, cured, dried beef) but I did have some wonderful finocchiona (a dry Italian salami with fennel), cured at a nearby restaurant/specialty store, that I used. Prosciutto would also be great with this salad.

- In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that I threw my peaches on a stovetop grill pan, along with the requisite herb sprigs. I also chopped some of the herbs and tossed with the peaches and olive oil before grilling.

the verdict:

This is my new favorite summer salad. I love how the flavor-filled herbed grilled peaches combine with the savory ingredients, and the dressing does a lovely job of pulling it all together. I actually licked the plate when this salad was finished! The first time I made this salad, I was eating dinner by myself, but I have since made it for my husband and daughter, and they both love it as much as I do.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

{TWD} Applesauce (hint of) Spice Bars Cake

This week's recipe for TWD, Applesauce Spice Bars, sounded intriguing to me; I was imagining blonde brownies but with a spicy, apple-y edge. But at the same time, looking at the bars in the cookbook, with their little blanket of glaze, they were giving off a "cake" vibe. How to know the true nature of this baked good? Only one way to find out: bake them up and see!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The recipe calls for applesauce as well as chopped fresh apples. I used a variety of apples: I made applesauce on the stovetop with Pink Lady apples and honey, and for the chopped apple, I chose 1 small Granny Smith and added 1/4 Mackintosh apple.

- Why use light brown sugar when you have dark brown sugar is what I say!

- For the optional liquor note I used brandy (but the flavor was undetectable once the bars were baked)

- I substituted whole wheat for about 1/4 of the white flour

- I put half the batter in 8x8 pan, resulting in bars that were brownie depth (but I forgot to take any pictures of them) and the other half batter in a 6" springform which produced double thickness wedge-shaped "bars."

- Right after I put the pans in the oven I tasted the batter left in the bowl and wished I'd added extra spices.

- My bars cooked very quickly. They came out of the pan pretty dense, but after an overnight sit, they got rather soft and cake-like.

- My plan was to freeze the bars, so I made just enough of the brown sugar glaze for one or two bars - 1/5 recipe. The glaze was delicious; very caramelly in flavor. I ended up wishing I'd made more glaze because the bars never made it to freezer at all! I gave one pan of the bars away to a friend whose mother-in-law was hospitalized, and my husband ate the other pan for breakfasts several mornings.

- I got interrupted at the glazing stage, and it was hours later before I spread the glaze on the bar, so it didn't really look that great:

the verdict:

My husband straddled the bar/cake issue masterfully; after taking his first bite, he said, "good apple recipe." In fact the (unglazed) bars made a great breakfast treat for him.

I thought the unglazed bars were pleasant, but liked this Rye Apple Cake better. But in truth, I like more spice in my apple baked goods than either of the recipes has. However, adding the glaze produced made a big difference.

My husband had the single glazed portion for dessert with ice cream and found it a synergistic experience. In fact, he likened it to eating a "Grillswith" (grilled glazed donut with vanilla ice cream) at the old University Diner in Charlottesville, VA (the UD is no more, but Charlottesville's denizens can still get a Grillswith at the equally greasy White Spot diner - home of the "Gusburger"). The glaze - and ice cream! - really take the bars to a higher flavor plane than the elements can reach on their own.

Good as these applesauce bars were - and I'd put them squarely on the cake side of the fence - what I really ended up wanting was a true chewy bar with apple and spice flavors. Someday I'd like to experiment with that.

This week's recipe for Tuesdays With Dorie was chosen by Karen of Something Sweet by Karen (find the recipe in her post), or, better yet, buy your own copy of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Roasted Chile Lime Chickpeas with Cilantro

We were looking for a great-but-not-too-unhealthy munchy snack and these Roasted Chile Lime Chickpeas with Cilantro fit the bill nicely; we started with dried chickpeas which we soaked, cooked, then roasted as directed in this recipe (which uses canned), and ended up with irresistable bits of crunchy spiciness (check the recipe for other flavor combinations) which carried the added benefit of an impressive nutritional profile!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stir Fried Tofu

My daughter J.D.E. found this easy recipe for Stir-Fried Tofu in Mark Bittman's big red book How to Cook Everything (it's also in his big green How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and online); we loved the flavors - and the wonderful smell as it cooked! - but found ourselves wishing for some kind of crunchy texture (cashews or peanuts would be great as Bittman suggests in the variations) and a bit more spicy heat, so we'd also add the optional chiles (or red pepper flakes).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

{TWD} Button, Button, Who's Got the Peanut Butter Brownie Button?

Continuing with 1-Sentence-Blog-Post-Week, I will say (in one run-on sentence) that despite rave reviews from many other Tuesdays With Dorie bakers, something went very wrong with my Brownie Buttons (chosen for us this week by Jayma of Two Scientists Experimenting in the Kitchen, find the recipe on her post) and the butter-laden batter that bubbled greasily around the edges as it baked somehow turned into dry-tasting brownies that were improved but not redeemed by two different peanut-butter toppings; of my 24 Buttons (see? they're buttons!) 12 were frosted with Ina Garten's yummy peanut butter frosting and 12 were baked with peanut butter inside, then iced with delicious chocolate peanut butter ganache (peanut butter stirred into Sweet Melissa's semi-sweet ganache from my freezer) and I was left with a strong temptation to lick off the frosting(s) and leave the brownie!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Understated, for Once: One-Sentence-Blog-Post-Week Challenge

As a tonic for impending blogging burnout, a few of my TWD friends* and I have challenged each other to One-Sentence-Blog-Posts; each of my posts this week will be, well, limited to one sentence, and I'll live my heretofore-unrealized dream to be a Woman of Few Words (or at least a Woman of Run-On Sentences)!

* Bakers who are participating with a "Terse Tuesdays With Dorie" one-sentence post, and/or additional breviloquent offerings during the week:
Di's Kitchen Notebook
Tea and Scones
Tracey's Culinary Adventures
The Tortefeasor
Grandma's Kitchen Table
Pink Stripes
Love Big, Bake Often
bliss: towards a delicious life
The Singleton in the Kitchen
I Heart Food 4 Thought
meet me in the Kitchen
kait's plate

Engineer baker
she's becoming Dougmesstic
Effort to Deliciousness
Lethally Delicious

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Black Pepper Ice Cream with Lime Syrup and Cantaloupe

Whenever I eat a particularly good melon in the summertime (really, there's no point eating melon out of season), I think of my mother-in-law. She'll look up from a delicious melon and say, "You know, there's always one melon that's the best of the summer, and I declare, I think this is it."

The week before last there was a cantaloupe in my farm box, and after I took a taste, it knew that this was it. The best cantaloupe. Not just the best of 2009, it was the best of the decade, possibly the best I've ever eaten. A cantaloupe for the ages.

What to do with it? First I gave half of it away, because I didn't think I could finish it by myself. Neither my husband nor my daughter J.D.E. care much for cantaloupe.

I wanted to do this melon justice, so I consulted David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop for guidance. David suggests pairing fresh cantaloupe with Lime Syrup and his Black Pepper Ice Cream. That was a very unlikely sounding combination to me, but I'd been wanting to try the black pepper ice cream, and I had a new bag of limes in the fridge so I decided to give it a shot.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe for the ice cream here.

- I made the ice cream as written. Surprisingly (at least to me), the ice cream turned out a creamy tan color, but it makes sense, since the cream is infused with cracked black pepper and then the peppercorns are strained out.

- The lime syrup was easy to throw together.

- I took the picture on the complete wrong light setting, and before I checked the photos I ate the evidence (it was melting!) So please excuse the oddness of the photo.

the verdict:

The ice cream was smooth and rich, with a perfect "mouthfeel." It had a distinct flavor of black pepper and a sneaky spiciness that waits for a minute and then attacks in the back of the throat. I love spicy food, and was expecting some heat, so I liked that. The lime syrup was surprisingly good with the ice cream - it was sweet and bright and complemented the complex spiciness.

BUT, I did not love the ice cream with the cantaloupe, or the cantaloupe with the lime syrup. So I ate the ice cream with the syrup, then the melon on its own, and enjoyed both.

And with the rest of the melon? It turns out that both my husband and J.D.E. loved the Best-Cantaloupe-Of-All-Time, and we ate it twice at dinnertime, draped with prosciutto. YUM!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Avocado Cilantro and White Onion Salad

Although I make some type of salad every single night for dinner, during the summer salad-making turns from a chore to a pleasure. Farmers' markets, farm boxes, and even the local grocery stores are all brimming with fresh, inviting produce. I can step outside my front door and snip just about any kind of herb (except cilantro, which gave up the ghost very early in the growing season).

I was excited to see that the August challenge recipe for the Tyler Florence Fridays group is Avocado, Cilantro and White Onion Salad. I had half an avocado hanging around the fridge, and all of the other ingredients were handy, so I made the recipe right away. And then I made it a couple of days later because 1) it was just that delicious, and 2) my pictures from the first batch were pretty terrible. My initial excitement gave way to lasting happiness when I realized that this salad was not just a summer veggie thing; these ingredients are available all year long!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe on this Tyler Florence Friday post

- Since I only had half an avocado, I made 1/8 recipe.

- I used some local Vidalia onion, and some wild garlic from the farm box people.

- The recipe calls for "freshly picked" cilantro. Since cilantro is the one herb that had refused to grow in my garden I decided that "freshly picked up" from the grocery store qualified.

the verdict:

This salad was so delicious! Although I would have been tempted to throw in some tomato, the avocado and onion made for a great duo, with fresh and flavorful support from the lime and cilantro. I licked the plate. Both times I made it.

I'll be making this recipe again and again, no matter the season.

Thanks, Megan, for this outstanding recipe choice (and easy, too!) I've been away from TFF for quite a while - this recipe was a perfect way to return!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

{TWD} Classic Banana Bundt Cake

My father always thought it funny that there are fruits - like grapes, or bananas - which I like just fine but I never really eat. It made perfect sense to me: I like those fruits but I just like other things more. Despite my best explanations he was never convinced. "How can you say you like grapes if you don't eat them," he'd say. Or, "if you don't eat bananas then you must not like them."

I don't even bother buying grapes (although I eat them at my mom's when I go there for lunch every week), but every now and then I'll grab a bunch of bananas when I'm at the store. I might eat half a banana here or there, but I might just as easily not get around to it. And then one day I look at the counter and they are over-ripe. The entire bunch. I wait until the peel is good and brown all over, then I mash them, measure them, scoop the mash into a plastic bag, and pop it in the freezer. Labelled with the date and quantity.

Luckily I love - and will eat - banana in baked goods. My husband loves it even more. Whole wheat banana bread is a breakfast staple at our house, and can be whipped up any time, thanks to that ready supply of frozen mashed banana.

When the August Tuesdays With Dorie recipes were announced, I quickly baked up the Classic Banana Bundt Cake so my husband could enjoy it before he left town for 2 weeks.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- At Christmas time I'd gotten a deep 7-cup pudding mold that was still sitting in its wrapper, so I decided to use it for this recipe. I scaled the recipe to 2/3 which I hoped would fit with room to spare.

- Frozen banana will get darker over time in the freezer, but it does not affect the flavor. I heaped my measure of banana.

- I used flour blend that is half all-purpose and half whole wheat.

- My duck egg was a bit scant compared to what I should have used. I figured it would make for a more dense cake, which is just fine with me. I'll take dense over fluffy any day of the week.

- I used regular Greek yogurt.

- To cut the saturated fat just a bit, I used 3/4 the amount of butter the (scaled) recipe called for and filled in the difference with light flavored olive oil and a dollop of extra yogurt.

- I was a little worried about the cake sticking to the deep mold, so I slathered it with butter and then floured the pan.

- The cake took a long time to bake and rose well above the rim. It got good and brown, but I left it in the oven until it started pulling away from the edges of the pan. I didn't want it to stick to the pan.

- I always hold my breath when turning a cake out of the pan. I pried the edges gently and luckily the cake released cleanly! (In the picture above you can see some of the white floury residue on the outside of the cake.)

- Since the bulk of my cake was destined for the freezer, I decided to leave it unglazed. Plus, if a bundt cake is good, I think a topping can distract from the cake's flavor. Guess I'm just a bundt cake purist.

I think I folded a bit too gently - the ingredients aren't mixed very evenly!
the verdict:

When I sliced into the cake I could see that it baked up incredibly moist - and surprisingly dense considering how much it rose in the pan. We were fresh out of any suitable ice cream flavors, so we had our cake totally unadorned. That turned out to be no problem at all, since it left us enough room to go back for seconds on cake! Because this cake was absolutely, positively delicious! As I reported on Twitter: "I didn't know a banana cake could be amazing." My husband's reaction: "This is unconscious!" (That's a compliment) In fact, when we were eating this we happened to be discussing my recent TWD anniversary and the "Top 10" list that I was compiling. My husband gestured to the banana cake and said "This needs to be on it." It will definitely make the revised list!

My husband enjoyed the cake two nights for dessert and two mornings for breakfast. I popped the remaining half cake in the freezer.

I wish my dad were around so I could share this cake with him and prove that indeed, I LOVE banana in baked goods, even if I still won't bother to eat a raw banana!

Thanks to Mary, The Food Librarian, for choosing this fabulous recipe (you can find the recipe on Mary's post, and see her beautiful cake, dusted with powdered sugar - wish I'd thought of that!) I hope another TWD baker chooses a bundt cake soon.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

July m.o.m. - Whole Grain Lemon-Poppy Seed muffins

I know that today is actually the first day of August, and I'm just now posting the July muffins-of-the-month. My mom has been on vacation in Maine for the last part of the month, so I made muffins to have bring with me when I pick her up at the airport later today. Lemon-Poppy Seed might be her very favorite muffin flavor, so when I saw a recipe in my new King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book, I knew I had to make it. Nothing says "Welcome Home" better than your favorite muffins, right?

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I've heard great things about the book, so my hopes were high for my inaugural KAFWGB recipe.

- The recipe is for a Lemon-Poppy Seed bread, but gives directions for making a muffin variation. Scroll down to find the recipe as I made it.

- I followed the recipe exactly as written, with one exception: I didn't have lemon yogurt, so I used nonfat plain yogurt and added about 1/4 tsp of lemon extract.

- Actually there was an unintentional change from the recipe that I didn't realize until I typed it up - I only used 1/4 cup of lemon juice rather than the 1/2 cup that the recipe specifies.

- I order oat flour through my farm box, and it's fairly coarse. I love the texture that it gives my breads and other baked goods.

- There was enough batter to fill 15 silicone cupcake cups, which are a little bit smaller than the wells on regular muffin tins. I only made 14, so a few overflowed.

the verdict:

I loved these muffins, and I hope my mom loves them also. Some lemon poppy seed muffins are fluffy and cake-like, but these are moist, compact, and chewy from the oat flour. They are quite lemony and a little crunchy from the poppyseeds and the browned edges.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Bread (or Muffins)

1 1/2 cup (6 oz) white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (1 5/8 oz oat flour
3/4 cup (3 1/8 oz)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
2 large eggs
2 T grated lemon zest (was 2 lemons for me)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (oops, I used 1/4 cup)
3/4 cup lemon yogurt, non-fat to full fat (I used plain non-fat yogurt)
1/4 tsp lemon extract (my addition)
1/4 c (1 3/8 oz) poppy seeds

[There is an optional lemon glaze, which I omitted.]

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

2. Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until fluffy.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time.

4. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients

5. Add the lemon juice.

6. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients

7. Add the yogurt and poppy seeds.

8. Add the remaining 1/3 of the dry ingredients.

9. Scoop the batter into muffin liners or prepared pans (makes about 15 smallish regular muffins)

10. I baked at 360 convect/bake setting for 15 minutes, cooled a few minutes then popped them out of the muffin cups and cooled on a rack.