July 23, 2010

Coffee Ice Cream (withOUT eggs)

When Mother's Day rolled around this year and the present my 3 year old handed me was the ice cream maker that he'd told me about the week before, it was something of a challenge. I was determined to make my favorite ice cream (coffee). Before I tackled that, though, I tried out the basics and got ahold of a base mixture that would work for me: one without eggs. This turned out to be:

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar

Everything else was a matter of flavoring. Add vanilla for vanilla ice cream. Cocoa powder for chocolate. Matcha powder for green tea (haven't tried this one yet).

So, what about coffee?

The issue was that not a single recipe I found online left out the eggs! Look, I know about the egg debate. If you're someone who willingly uses eggs in uncooked food, good for you. My neuroses, however, restrict me from any such daredevilry.

I could just leave the eggs out of the recipe, but I didn't want the texture to be off. Get the milk to water/coffee mixture wrong, and you'll have sorbet with some cream thrown in.

So, how do I add flavoring from something like coffee without adding more water? Answer: steep it.

My husband is a big one for tea. As such, he has these paper envelopes he uses for loose tea.

Making tea involves combining 3 variables: the temperature of the water, the ratio of water to tea leaves, and the quantity of time you steep the leaves. Take away from one of these three pillars of tea (temp, time and ratio), and you need to add somewhere else. Have less tea? Increase the time you steep. Need it faster? Make the water hotter.

With all this in mind, I thought to myself, "Self, why don't you put your coffee in one of those fancy schmancy tea bags and steep the coffee in that milk overnight?"

So that's what I did.

And it WORKED!

So, here's the recipe:

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp espresso

Pour whole milk into a container (preferably with a cover). Measure espresso into tea bag and submerge in milk. If you have a cover, leave part of the tea bag outside of the cover for ease of removal.

Put milk into refrigerator to steep overnight (less time might be possible: say 6 hours or more). Combine milk with cream and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture into ice cream maker. Use according to your maker's instructions.

Once finished, put in freezer to "ripen". The longer it sits, the better it will taste.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can switch out just about anything for that espresso: chai, Earl Grey, Thai tea...you name it! I hope to be trying them all.
Read more!

July 29, 2009

Asparagus Treats

Yesterday was Farmer's Market time again and I really made out this time. Picked up some yummy asparagus for one of our favorite treats. Asparagus is a hard texture for toddlers and it has a very distinct taste. I could never get my son to try it until I prepared it this way. Start by doing your usual wash and snap routine. Then dice them into about 1/4" pieces. They should be about the size of a skittle. I toss them in a cast iron skillet with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper just until they get a little browned. Then put the whole pan in the oven at 375 degrees for about 7-10 minutes.

Dump them immediately into your serving dish and squeeze the juice from one medium lemon and throw in a handful of freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan. Toss it together and this is the easiest, most wonderful way to eat asparagus. My son LOVED it. The small pieces made it much easier to chew and the lemon brings a real freshness to the dish. It's also great on top of some crusty garlic bread. This dish is so great because it's tasty hot or room temperature. Perfect for picnics or outdoor dining. Read more!

July 21, 2009

African Peanut Stew

The other night I was trying come up with something different to do with chicken thighs and I came across some versions of this stew. From what I could gather, it's a popular dish in mostly central Africa and can be found with many variations. I think it's like any traditional regional dish. It's cheap to make, can feed a lot of people and every one's mom makes it a little different. I think you can find the heart of a culture in its "peasant" dishes as my husband likes to call them. Basic ingredients, lots of flavor and love. I ended up using what I had on hand and improvising, which turned out surprisingly well. If you like Indian cuisine and Thai, then I highly recommend you try this.

Peanut Stew:

  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large can of tomatoes or about 2 cups of tomatoes (peeled and seeded)
  • 1 large yellow onion (diced)
  • 1 1/2-2 cups peanut butter (chunky or creamy)
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
This dish is seriously so easy to make, I'm pretty sure you could throw it all in the crock pot too and it would be awesome. I made it on a uncharacteristically cloudy, cool and rainy Summer day here and it was perfect. Now all of the ingredients can and should be tweaked to suit your tastes. Start by adding the onions and a bit of oil and saute them just until they start to soften. I like to add some salt and pepper here as well. Add the tomatoes and let it come to a boil. If necessary you can add a little bit of water if it is too thick at this point. Lower to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 25 minutes before adding the curry powder and peanut butter.

We only believe in creamy PB in our house so I found that gave it a nice creamy texture. I added some chopped peanuts for garnish at the end for contrast and it worked. Let it simmer again for about 30 minutes. In another pan, brown the chicken on both sides and then transfer to the stew pot for another 30 minutes. The longer it simmers the more the flavors mesh and the creamier it becomes.

The curry powder gives it warmth and complexity but not necessarily heat. The two year old scarfed it down with no complaints so it obviously wasn't too spicy for him. Serve it over rice or couscous and you will be golden. I was feeling lazy this time so I didn't add any other vegetables but I think next time I will add some carrots. It would also make a nice dipping sauce on it's own if you blended the ingredients to make it smooth. I could just eat it up with a spoon. Read more!

July 17, 2009

Caramelized Onion Relish

Ive told you before that I am addicted to onions so this recipe should be no surprise. I do however think that non-lovers can enjoy it too. I love to feature onions as the star of this dish as opposed to just a supporting ingredient. Caramelized onions, once you get the hang of them, are so easy and so versatile. They have such a wonderful creamy sweetness that goes so well with savory dishes. Caramelized onions, bacon and Gruyere breakfast casseroles are full of win.

The trick to making them is slow and low. I could never get it right until I figured this out. For this relish version I use about 3 medium sized yellow onions and slice them thinly. Heat a tablespoon of butter and olive oil in a nice, wide pan over low heat and add the onions. Toss the onions around the pan so they are evenly coated. At this point I add about 2 pinches of salt and sugar. Now I've measure them but a good three-finger pinch seems to be the perfect amount.

Now cover and let those puppies cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want them soft and oozy but not browned. If they are starting to brown too quickly, make sure to check the flame. Once they are soft and translucent, take the cover off, turn up heat ever so slightly and let cook another few minutes until the have are golden brown.

The optimal way to serve this is atop some lovely crostini that have been spread with a tangy goat cheese. As an appetizer it hits all the right spots in your mouth. Tangy, sweet, savory, creamy and crunchy. Please try it for your next get together or as part of the main coarse even. Read more!

July 14, 2009

Farmer's Market Time!

One of the best things about living in Chicago is the abundance of Farmer's Markets. There is so much variety and each neighborhood has its own little atmosphere. When you can get fresh peas, greens and berries for like $7.00 total and it's local...seriously. How can you not be excited by that? Today we picked up three bunches of onion bulbs because I'm seriously an onionaholic. I could probably eat one raw like an apple. My favorite easy meal is a crap load of sauteed onions, garlic, some red pepper flakes and good olive oil. Dump over angel hair, shave some Pecorino Romano over it and go to town. Lick plate like a dog when done.

Anyway I also saw some gorgeous sour cherries that I really wanted but I couldn't figure out what I would do with them. My son wouldn't even touch them so eating them as is seems out. Anyone have some ideas? I would welcome them. Tell me about your favorite homemade cherry dish. Read more!

July 11, 2009

Cheesy Grits

My grandmother was born and raised in Mississippi. She taught me how to cook and naturally the southern influences were thick. If I had to describe her cooking style, it would be healthy soul food. Maybe country cooking lite. She's a big believer in hot cereal for breakfast. It's something I unconsciously adopted now that I have my own child. Oatmeal, Malt-O-Meal or my personal favorite grits. My husband had never had grits before we got married and I have since brought him over to the dark side with me. Our favorite way to eat them is thick, but not stiff, and cheesy. My grandmother, for the record, would not approve of the cheese or the cream.

I am very particular about the consistency of my hot cereal. It can't be too runny or too thick and if there are lumps I simply won't eat them. There's a simple method to cooking grits and avoiding lumps and it works for all hot cereals. You must start with a whisk and not a spoon. I prefer a savory breakfast to a sweet one, so this really hits all the right spots. You can always adjust it to fit your tastes. We've even eaten it on "breakfast for dinner" nights. It's cheap and hearty. Now on the ingredients, I really prefer a very sharp cheddar for this dish. The sharpness really goes well with the natural, mellow taste of the grits. New York State Extra Sharp Cheddar is my go to, but I've also used a sharp cheddar from Trader Joe's ( I think it was a New Zealand Cheddar) that is excellent and very tangy.

Basic Sunday Morning Cheese Grits:

  • 3/4 cups grits (makes 4 servings)
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons-1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • approx. 2 cups cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
Start by bringing the water to a rolling boil and add garlic powder and salt. Slowly pour in grits while whisking continuously. Let grits come to a boil (still whisking continuously) and then lower to simmer and cover. Let them simmer for 15- 20 minutes, making sure to whisk every few minutes to avoid sticking or burning. At this point you can add your cheese and butter. Once it has melted, add the cream or milk until it reaches the desired consistency. Now taste it at this point and add pepper and more salt if you like or more cream if it is too salty or thick. The cheese adds a good bit of salt, so I try not to add much more. Remember it will thicken as it sits so I usually leave it runnier than I like. Take it off the heat and let sit for five minutes before serving. You will want to eat it right away but please trust me and wait five minutes.

It's pretty tasty served up with some fresh chopped green onions, chives or lightly sauteed mushrooms on top. You can adjust the amount of cheese to satisfy your cheesiness quotient. Also play around with the types of cheese. Parmesan gives it a really different taste and texture. Eat up y'all. Read more!

July 6, 2009

Kale, Mushrooms and Garlic Oh My

Last year we were getting a box delivery from our local co-op and it was fantastic. If we hadn't moved we probably would still be doing it. For $25 we got enough fruits and vegetables to last our family of three a week. What was good about it was that it forced me to be creative with ingredients I would not have thought to purchase on my own. For instance one week we got kumquats, which my husband had never had before. The bad part was that what was in season and locally grown we would get week after week. One runs out of different ways to cook kale after a while. So once we stopped I refused to buy kale anymore. Dandelion greens, Swiss chard, spinach, sign me up but NO MORE KALE.

Maybe I was feeling nostalgic for those days because today I saw some and couldn't resist. They were so fresh and lovely sitting there almost calling to me. So I whipped up one of my easy one pot(okay two pots) meals and it was so yummy. My method is simple. Throw a bunch of vegetables at some pasta and devour. This is the best way to get my two year old to clean his plate. He shoves it in his mouth and doesn't ask questions. A meal like this is perfect on days when I'm short on time or energy...or both. It's also good for cleaning out the fridge. I made it two ways (with dairy and without) since my son is allergic to dairy. Both were simple and delicious.

The Quick and the Kale Pasta

  • 2 cups sliced Cremini and Shitake mushrooms
  • 2-3 bunches of kale
  • 2 garlic cloves sliced paper thin
  • 2 tablespoons ricotta
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 pound pasta of your choice ( I used Penne Rigate)
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
Add pasta to boiling (salted) water and heat large heavy bottomed pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Dump mushrooms in heated pan and saute until they are nicely browned. I add salt and pepper towards the end. When they are done, remove them from the pan and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic cloves and let them start to get golden. Don't let them brown or overcook because then they will have a bitter taste. Make sure your kale is completely dry before adding it to the pan. I throw it in a salad spinner after rinsing and it works great. Try to get the kale coated with the garlic/oil mixture and let it wilt. This should only take about a minute or two. Season with salt, pepper and some lemon juice.

Now add the kale and mushrooms to the pasta and mix well. At this point I separated half of it and served it to the kiddo. For the dairy version, add the ricotta and Parmesan at this point and mix well. I usually reserve a little pasta water so a I can thin the sauce if need be. You can adjust to your tastes. The kale adds a heartiness to the dish and it's all very satisfying. Plus it takes 30 minutes or less to throw together and you can easily swap out any or all of the ingredients. Have fun! Read more!