Monday, August 18, 2008

Homegrown CSA

I was over at my mom's house the other day, harvesting the extreme bounty of her yard. At one point, I was up on the roof, picking the oranges that were too difficult to get from the ground or a ladder. We ended up with four large paper bags of oranges, and the tree was still full of them. We also picked quinces, pears, figs, and grapes, and I snipped some fresh herbs before leaving, because, you know, they tend to come in handy.

Spent the next two mornings drinking copious quantities of fresh-squeezed orange juice, though I still need to wash out the terra cotta that rubbed off on my pants as I was climbing around on the roof.
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Chili powder

Thanks to Mark Bittman's words of encouragement (and instructions), I now make my own chili powder. This time, however, Joel totally caught on that I'd been using the coffee grinder to grind the spices after toasting them in the pan. The conversation went a little something like this:

Joel: (walks outside holding coffee grinder) Did you grind something other than coffee in this?
Me: Why?
Joel: The inside is stained all red.
Me: You didn't notice last time!

Then a long pause before he started laughing. After that I offered to buy him a new grinder and just use that one as my occassional non-coffee items grinder. I also tried to talk up the merits of "spicy coffee." I mean, it works with hot chocolate, right?

Here's the recipe:

Put 2 T ground ancho (or other mild chile) powder, 1/2 t cayenne, 1/2 t black peppercorns, 2 t cumin seeds, 2 t coriander seeds, and 1 T dried Mexican oregano in a small skillet over medium heat. Toast (stirring or shaking occassionally) until you start to smell all those delicious aromas (about 3 minutes, maybe longer). Grind until powdery (but then clean out the grinder really quickly to avoid the worst of the tell-tale red stains.
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Pretty plum

Not unripe, just green. Thanks Monterey Market!
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Friday, August 15, 2008

Caldo Verde soup

I love kale. I'm a huge fan of most leafy greens, including chard, collard greens, mustard greens, bok choy, amaranth, and so on. So when, a few years ago, my boss described to me Caldo Verde, the ubiquitous soup of Portugal, whose main ingredient is kale, I was intrigued.

Since then, I've been keeping my eye out for a chance to try the soup. But unlike in Cambridge (our fair city), there aren't a ton of Portuguese restaurants in Berkeley (a very minor trade-off, in my opinion), so I haven't stumbled across it.

However, on Leite's Culinaria (which has become part of my trawling-for-recipes circuit), there's a whole Portuguese recipes section, and Caldo Verde is at the top of the list. So last night I made it, and really liked it, though there are a few things that need working out before I attempt it again.

Since I'd never had it before, I didn't know if it was supposed to be as thick as it was. I cut the recipe by 2/3s, but then didn't do the best job calculating out what that meant for every ingredient, and I wonder if it's perhaps supposed to be a bit soupier instead of the stew-like consistency it was. Also, I chiffonaded (can this be a verb?) the kale, so it was in nice thin strips, but I should have also cut the strips into shorter sections so I didn't end up with knotty kale nests in the soup, which made it difficult to eat.

But it was delicious...and garnished with chorizo.
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You got peanut butter in my chocolate

The other night I made chocolate sauce (chocolate pieces melted into cream) to top the mint-basil chocolate-chip ice cream, and there was a ton left over. It's so good that I've been dipping a spoon straight in to the sauce, which, when cold is a lot more like ganache. But Joel, who isn't a huge straight-chocolate fan, pioneered a new treat the other night.

Last December, my grandma brought over some empty chocolate cups (the package showed them full of delicious things and she thought that was what she was getting), which have been sitting in the cupboard since then. Joel grabbed those and some peanut butter and assembled little homemade reese's, much to the delight of my nine-year-old cousin Donella, who was over watching the Olympics with us.
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Peanut butter cross-section

Cross-section of the peanut butter and chocolate dessert.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mint-basil chocolate ice cream

I'm not totally sure what cookbook this recipe is from, because I only have a photocopied page of it that I got from Nancy after making it over there last summer.

Usually, I alter ice cream recipes that don't call for eggs because I love the rich, custardy consistency you get from using them. However, I decided to follow this recipe from beginning to end (which also meant putting in spinach...more on that in a sec), and it called for cream and milk but no eggs, and I was surprised and happy to taste the results, which were as creamy but lighter than ice creams made with eggs. And that worked really well with the refreshing combination of mint with undertones of basil and flecks of chocolate. Writing about it now I'm sad I only made a half batch.

So about the spinach. Steeping mint and basil leaves doesn't really alter the color of the ice cream base. To get that brighter green color, this recipe suggested adding a bit of spinach. It ended up a cheery grass green, though Joel swears he could taste the spinach. I'm not attached to the color, so I'll most likely omit it next time.

Here's the recipe:

Combine 2 c whole milk and 1 c sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to disolve the sugar. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate (if the milk is hot when you add the spinach, the color won't be right).

Combine 2 c heavy cream, 40 peppermint leaves, and 12 large basil leaves in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and let the leaves steep in the cream for a half hour.

Now for the spinach part. Blanch a handful of spinach leaves in boiling water for 20 seconds, then transfer the spinach to a bowl of ice water. Wring out as much of the water as possible (you can use a dish towel for this). Chop the spinach.

Put the spinach and half the now-cool milk mixture in a blender and blend well. Add the remaining milk and blend a bit more. Strain the milk mixture through a fine-mesh strainer lined with damp cheesecloth into a bowl. Wring the rest of the liquid out of the cheesecloth. Then strain the cream mixture into the same bowl, and stir. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Churn the ice cream, folding in 6 ounces of chopped semisweet chocolate at the end. Freeze for a bit to firm it up before eating. Good with chocolate sauce (especially homemade).
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Make-your-own BLT bar

This is photo proof (thanks Ross!) of the BLT bar at Alexa's birthday party. It was only right that bacon should have a starring role in the party, and BLTs were the perfect bacon delivery mechanism. All the elements were delicious, including the homemade mayonnaises.

I had already eaten (a lot), but I couldn't resist the allure of the BLT bar (or later, the allure of a carrot-cake cupcake, a ginger cookie, and a chocolate chip cookie).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Poblano potatoes au gratin

On Tuesday, our last night of vacation, we all went to King's Beach to eat at a restaurant called Caliente, and I enjoyed almost all of the food (the guacamole being the exception). Kathy ordered this ancho chile beef shortribs with poblano potatoes au gratin. The shortribs had great flavor, but the gratin really stood out. It was unusual and it worked. I like that combination.
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Caprese al fresco

Caprese salad always tastes so good when eaten outdoors. Is it because you're on the tomatoes' turf?
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S'mores ice cream cake slice

Behold the all-important cross-section! With warm chocolate sauce. Eaten outside under some very tall pine trees.
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S'mores ice cream cake

This was the first in a year of birthday desserts made from Emily Luchetti's A Passion for Ice Cream cookbook. Mina chose it in honor of her upcoming 11th birthday.

A quick tour of the layers: the bottom is a graham cracker crust, made by crushing a cup and a half of graham crackers and mixing it with melted butter.

The middle layer is chocolate chip ice cream. It was supposed to be cappucino-chocolate-chip ice cream, but I was afraid of what coffee ice cream would do to four nieces and nephews at 8:00 pm. On top was a combination of marshmallow fluff (which I've never used before) and marshmallows, broiled to puffy toastosity. I'll follow with a photo of a slice topped with warm chocolate sauce.

It was a hit, but I hope someone in the birthday rotation requests this brown-sugar ice cream roulade soon- that's the one I really want to try.
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