Wednesday, May 29, 2013

buttermilk ice cream

This recipe is from Tom Douglas' The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.

buttermilk ice cream

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
8 large egg yolks

1) Put the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and salt in a large bowl. Place a strainer over the bowl. You will use this setup after you make your creme anglaise.

2) To make the creme anglaise, put the cream, sugar, and honey in a saucepan and scald- bring to just below the boiling point until it begins to steam and little bubbles appear around the edges- stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

3) Meanwhile, put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until the yolks are pale yellow. Gradually add a ladle of the scalded cream to the bowl of yolks while whisking to warm the yolks. Pour the warmed yolks into the saucepan with the cream mixture and return to medium heat, stirring until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Immediately pour the creme anglaise through the strainer into the buttermilk mixture. Set the bowl over a large bowl of ice water and stir to combine. When cool, cover the bowl and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. 

4) Churn and freeze the chilled custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container. Cover and freeze for several hours or overnight until firm before serving. 

strawberry rhubarb crisp with buttermilk ice cream

I adore rhubarb. It is just one of the reasons why I think Nigella Lawson and I would be good friends. I love it as much for it's sour tang as it's perfect pinkness. I read in a book once that every recipe should have salty and sweet but what really elevates it is the addition of acid. It is a sour brightness that makes all the other flavors dance around on our palettes. Rhubarb contains the sweet sourness all on it's own.

In childhood memories, rhubarb seemed to grow in every backyard in the neighborhood. Our own house had a much neglected plot of it that appeared on it's own every summer. Cutting across the yard on our way to a friends house we would stumble into it and it was kind of like 'Oh yeah, the rhubarb is back again.' Such is the magic of childhood. Nowadays I sometimes feel like the only reliable returning element in my backyard is ants.

But here is a dish of summer nostalgia perfection- strawberry rhubarb crisp. I mixed it up a bit by capping with a scoop of homemade buttermilk ice cream. The labor was not lost. The cool creamy tangy ice cream softened and puddled on the warm sweet crisp.

The crisp recipe is from Barefoot Contessa's 'How Easy Is That?'

strawberry rhubarb crisp

4 cups fresh rhubarb, 1-inch diced (4 to 5 stalks)
4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved, if large (I cut into quarters, I prefer for the berries to sort of melt into the crisp)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest (I omitted- the juice is enough citrus flavor for me)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal, such as McCann's
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2) For the fruit, toss the rhubarb, strawberries, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and the orange zest together in a large bowl. In a measuring cup, dissolve the the cornstarch in the orange juice and then mix it into the fruit.

3) Pour the mixture into an 8 x 11-inch baking dish and place it on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

4) For the topping, in the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, salt, and oatmeal. With the mixer on low speed, add the butter and mix until the dry ingredients are moist and the mixture is in crumbles.

5) Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, covering it completely, and bake for 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown.

6) Serve warm with buttermilk ice cream (recipe here).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday's poem: Going Home (Burlington Route) by Willa Cather

Going Home
(Burlington Route)

How smoothly the trains run beyond the Missouri;
Even in my sleep I know when I have crossed
  the river.
The wheels turn as if they were glad to go;
The sharp curves and windings left behind,
The roadway wide open,
(The crooked straight
And the rough places plain.)

They run smoothly, they run softly, too.
There is not noise enough to trouble the lightest
Nor jolting to wake the weary-hearted.
I open my window and let the air blow in,
The air of morning,
That smells of grass and earth -
Earth, the grain-giver.

How smoothly the trains run beyond the Missouri;
Even in my sleep I know when I have crossed
  the river.
The wheels turn as if they were glad to go;
They run like running water,
Like Youth, running away...
They spin bright along the bright rails,
Singing and humming,
Singing and humming,
They run remembering,
They run rejoicing,
As if they, too, were going home.

by Willa Cather

When I travel home, I do not take a train. The last leg of the journey is by ferry.
The 4 1/2 hour trip is the perfect way to slow down, reflect.
We have finally made our summer travel plans. I am looking forward to the ferry trip already. Below are some photos I took during my trip last fall.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Jackie's maple syrup ice cream with walnuts and espresso

As if it is not clear by now, I love food. I love eating it, making it, shopping for it, talking about it and writing about it. I also love thinking about how memories of previous meals influence a recipe or cause a food idea to come together. So, how did it come to be that I am sharing with you a dessert for maple syrup ice cream with walnuts and espresso?

One of my favorite books ever, is Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. It is a wonderful memoir from a literature professor about living and teaching in Iran. In the book, the author describes eating one of her favorite desserts, ice cream with cold coffee and walnuts. Small details like this are part of what make it such a wonderful read.

Cold coffee with ice cream is a real treat. I first enjoyed it at a restaurant in India. Big scoops of creamy sweet vanilla ice cream was served in a tall highball glass, submerged in cold, smoky dark coffee. It was not blended up, but rather like a coffee version of a root beer float.

I grew up eating a lot of ice cream. My parents owned a pizza and ice cream parlor. Eating pizza and ice cream, for us, was not reserved for special occasions- it was a regular part of our lives. This became even more true once I was old enough to work summers in the restaurant. For breakfast, almost every day, I would have a slice of hot plain cheese pizza topped with a large slice of fresh tomato. In the late afternoons, when the restaurant would quiet down a bit, I would sometimes catch my Dad taking a break from the heat of the pizza ovens by taking a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and drizzling birch syrup over it. Birch syrup is like maple syrup, except it was made from local birch trees. The sticky dark birch syrup against the cool vanilla ice cream has a similar flavor profile as the cold coffee and ice cream. (Sadly, the birch syrup company went out of business a few years back. My husband and I, however, still have quite the stockpile of their syrups. In addition to their classic birch flavor, they also made syrups from local berries: cherry, blueberry, etc. High-bush cranberry is my husbands absolute favorite.)

For Christmas, my sister bought me a copy of The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook. It is a collection of recipes from the celebrated Tom Douglas Seattle bakery. (If you watched this past season of Top Chef Seattle, you saw quite a bit of Tom Douglas.) While perusing the book, I saw this recipe for maple syrup ice cream. It reminded me of my Dad's predilection for birch syrup and vanilla. It is quite possibly the easiest ice cream recipe ever (no eggs, no need to cook a custard base) and has all the wonderful flavors of smoky sweet maple syrup.

After I made the batch, I was thinking about how to best serve it. All alone or as a topping for another dessert? I decided to do a spin on espresso con affogato, the Italian dessert of dumping a shot of hot espresso over cold ice cream. This time, as a nod to Azar Nafisi, I topped the maple syrup ice cream with a bit of chopped walnuts first.

The resulting dessert would be a perfect end to a brunch or light dinner. Mostly, for me, the enjoyment of it is in pulling together, in a single bite, different strands or experiences in my life: time spent with my Dad in the restaurant, a trip to India, and a favorite book.

Recipe from Tom Douglas' Dahlia Bakery Cookbook (Jackie is Tom Douglas' wife)

Jackie's maple syrup ice cream

2 cups cold heavy cream
3/4 cup cold milk
1 1/4 cups pure maple syrup, preferably grade B
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1) Put the cream, milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and salt in a bowl and, using a whisk, mix lightly, just enough to combine everything well. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

2) Transfer the ice cream to a container. Cover and freeze for a few hours or overnight, until the ice cream is firm.

My final step: rough chop a few walnuts and sprinkle over a few small scoops of ice cream. Fresh brew a shot of espresso or strong brewed coffee. Pour the hot coffee over the ice cream.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

banana ice cream

Here is the truth- I do not like banana's. A strange confession from someone who is about to give you a recipe for banana ice cream but stick with me: I do like banana incorporated into desserts. It is a dominant flavor to be sure, but adds warmth and richness. This ice cream is a beautiful pale yellow color and creamy rich banana flavor. It is a nice change of pace and elegant enough to serve all on it's own.

Also, do you not think banana ice cream would be a great base for a sundae? I am thinking a scoop of this, maybe a little salted caramel sauce or dark chocolate ganache, and fresh whipped cream. Could be a lovely dessert solution for a summer party.

The recipe is from Martha Stewart.

banana ice cream

4 large egg yolks
2/3 cups sugar, divided
1 2/3 cups whole milk
1 2/3 cups heavy cream, divided
3 to 4 very overripe bananas- skin should be more brown than yellow, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

1) Vigorously whisk together egg yolks and 2/3 cup sugar in a medium bowl until pale yellow and slightly fluffy, about 2 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, bring milk and 2/3 cup cream to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat, and gradually whisk into egg mixture. Pour mixture into pan, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, 1 minute.

3) Reduce heat to medium, and cook until thick enough to coat the spatula, about 1 minute (do not let boil.)

4) Pour custard into a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water, and let cool, stirring occasionally.

5) Puree bananas with half the custard in a blender until smooth, and transfer to bowl with remaining custard. Stir in vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup cream until combined, and pour through a fine sieve into another bowl. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

6) Freeze custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday's poem: A Grace for Ice-Cream by Allan M. Laing

A Grace for Ice-Cream

For water-ices, cheap but good,
That find us in a thirsty mood;
For ices made of milk or cream
That slip down smoothly as a dream;
For cornets, sandwiches and pies
That make the gastric juices rise;
For ices bought in little shops
Or at the kerb from him who stops;
For chanting of the sweet refrain:
'Vanilla, strawberry or plain?'
  We thank Thee, Lord, who sendst with heat
  This cool deliciousness to eat.

by Allan M. Laing

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

lunch (on a good day)

toast + ricotta cheese + halved grape tomatoes + salt & pepper
toast + avocado mashed with lemon juice and salt

This all adds up to a cheery lunch break. I love a nice little open face sandwich.
Here are two more of my favorites: tuna and hummuscaramelized onion jam tartine 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuesday's poem: Prairie Dawn by Willa Cather

Prairie Dawn

A crimson fire that vanquishes the stars;
A pungent odor from the dusty sage;
A sudden stirring of the huddled herds;
A breaking of the distant table-lands
Through purple mists ascending, and the flare
Of water ditches silver in the light;
A swift, bright lance hurled low across the world;
A sudden sickness for the hills of home.

- Willa Cather

This May is hot and dry. We did not have enough rain and already the back hillside grass has turned yellow. Tonight I watched a hummingbird flit unsuccessfully through the tall weeds; the warm of the day carrying eucalyptus and jasmine fragrance through the neighborhood. (Nearby, on the patio, Harriet stalked lizards.)

I love how Cather connects the single line images with the heartsickness of home. I know Cather for her beautiful novels, but very recently learned she is a poet too. If you are unfamiliar with her works, I'd recommend her short stories ("Neighbor Rosicky" is my favorite) and her novel "My Antonia". I like to read her books because of the midwest settings. My mother grew up there and on nights like tonight, when the last bit of light filters across the golden hillside, I wonder if images like this would make her long "for the hills of home."

(For a view of what the hillside looked like in early spring, see here.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

peanut butter cookies

Really, is there anything to match the perfection of a peanut butter cookie? I have been longing for them lately and mixed up a batch on a weeknight. It is such an unfussy thing that they come together pretty quickly. When the first batch exited the oven, I offered up one to my husband. He took a few bites and looked at me in silence. His response? "You put these together in like 20 minutes. Do you mean to tell me all this time I've only been about 20 minutes away from having these?! What do we not make them all the time!" And in fact, that Friday night, we made a second batch.

This recipe is from The Fiddlehead Cookbook. (Other Fiddlehead favorites- here and here).

peanut butter cookies

1/4 pound plus 4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 well-packed brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

1) Preheat oven to 350 and arrange racks so they are evenly spaced in oven.

2) In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until soft. Add white and brown sugars and beat until fluffy.

3) Add egg and beat until smooth, then add vanilla and peanut butter. Beat well.

4) Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt and add to butter mixture. Stir until completely combined.

5) Spooned walnut-size balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten slightly with lightly floured tines of a fork.

6) Bake for 12 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to racks. When cooled, store tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tuesday's poem: Work, Sometimes by Mary Oliver

Work, Sometimes

I was sad all day, and why not. There I was, books piled
on both sides of the table, paper stacked up, words
falling off my tongue.

The robins had been a long time singing, and now it
was beginning to rain.

What are we sure of? Happiness isn't a town on a map,
or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work
ongoing. Which is not likely to be the trifling around
with a poem.

Then it began raining hard, and the flowers in the yard
were full of lively fragrance.

You have had days like this, no doubt. And wasn't it
wonderful, finally, to leave the room? Ah, what a

As for myself, I swung the door open. And there was
the wordless, singing world. And I ran for my life.

- Mary Oliver

When I was visiting Seattle in March, I woke up to snow! It was the loveliest gray morning and while the snow was not sticking to the ground, big fluffy flakes fell for a good 30 minutes. My sisters little grape hyacinth plant bravely made it through the onslaught. Such is the perseverance of spring.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dale Chihuly museum

Do yourself a favor- next time you are in Seattle, go to the Dale Chihuly glass museum. It is right downtown next to the Space Needle. More than a month later, I am still dreaming about it. Some of the pieces feel like a cirque du soleil still life- they pulsate with energy, color, vibrancy.

The museum is also feels so accessible and as a visitor and novice of his work, I was able to quickly connect to the different periods of his designs.

While he has completed installations all over the world, there is something very northwestern in his pieces too. (This book reminds me of it.)

In addition to the gorgeous interior museum rooms, there is a gorgeous outdoor garden.

My sisters and I agree that this would be one heck of a place to throw a party.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

tuna and hummus sandwiches

I love to look back, at photos, at a memory of a place and remember how happy that moment was. I have been thinking a lot about Paris lately- about a year ago we were getting ready to go there for a weeklong visit. I find myself day dreaming: walking into different museums, strolling down sunlit streets, perched at cafes for hours sipping rose.

In pictures, we (my husband and I) seem suspended in time and light. In those still shots, it is just the two of us discovering this beautiful place together. I was amazed at how quickly a foreign place could feel like home, because we were together.

And maybe that is the piece that I carry with me. That wherever I am, when we are together, it is my home- Parisian streets or just everyday life.

Besides photos, for me, food is one of the quickest ways to recall travel. Trying to recreate certain dishes or flavors is a fun challenge I look forward to. In my Parisian day dreaming, this past weekend, I put together a California version of a cafe lunch for us- steamed artichokes, chilled rose and little open-faced tuna and hummus sandwiches.

The salty tuna, earthy hummus and peppery radish make a nice little bite. Also, I realize I am very late to this party, but Italian tuna packed in olive oil is pretty amazing.

This recipe is from The Barefoot Contessa's 'How Easy Is That?'

tuna and hummus sandwiches

14 ounces jarred or canned Italian tuna in olive oil
1/4 cup minced celery
2 tablespoons minced yellow onion (I used scallions here)
2 tablespoons minced cornichons (I doubled this to 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I go easy on this and just add to taste- with the pickles and mustard, I think it hardly needs any)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sourdough bread, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
hummus, store-bought or homemade
fresh radishes, sliced

1) Drain the oil from the tuna, reserving the oil. Place the tuna in a mixing bowl and flake it with a fork. Add the celery, onion, cornichons, lemon juice, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil, the mustard, salt, and pepper and mix well.

2) Cover a refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop.

3) Toast the bread (let it cool a bit) and spread each slice with a layer of hummus. Spread the tuna salad on each piece of bread, garnish with slices of radish and served immediately.