Friday, May 28, 2010

Rhubarb Redux

I've confirmed that the pusher was right. The old fashioned green kind does taste better.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

partaking of the ice cream making

I was visiting my sister, another sister, and we wanted to make a dessert and we had just been to her swanky new local ice cream spot-- salted caramel, malted chocolate with pistachio praline, gooseberry. I was looking for Thai basil vanilla and serrano pepper chocolate, but apparently they were sold out. We decided to make ice cream, normal ice cream. Normal strawberry ice cream. Strawberries are in season and every stand at her farmer's market had basket after basket, all red and bursty and perfumed.
We got the Cuisinart ice creamer maker, as recommended by C. Kimball and we made the custard base and froze the freezer bowl and 24 hours later we were ready to add the strawberry puree and start the freezing process.
I had read a few recipes, one called for just milk and cream and strawberries, most wanted some egg yolks, one wanted cream cheese, one wanted lemon zest and lemon juice. We opted for eggs, milk, cream and a vanilla bean. Lots of sugar. We had to freeze in two batches and I thought the first batch was insipid so I added some lime juice to the second batch.
When I read the instruction manual, after the fact of course, it said to add plenty of sugar because the ice cream tastes less sweet when it is frozen.
This is what I learned. Don't overfill the freezer bowl. The ice cream is definitely less sweet when frozen so unfrozen it should pretty much make your throat ache. Don't add lime juice. Let it freeze as much as possible in the maker and then it will be softer and nicer when you finish it in a separate container in the freezer. The batch I rushed was hard and crystallized. Also, more isn't really better when it comes to flavoring, it's just more. I thought that 6 C of strawberries for 2 qts of ice cream made an ice cream that was too strawberry-y. Also, next time I'll try fewer egg yolks, this recipe called for 9. My sister and I want something like Shrafts strawberry ice cream, or really any Schrafts ice cream and their vanilla was very white. I am guessing they went with one or none egg yolks.
The good news was that we did not get little ice butter balls. I am blaming my sister's cream. Its a sensible cook who blames her product.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Honestly, I love stewed rhubarb so much I can't believe I haven't posted about it yet. The flavor, a transporting blend of sweet and tart; the texture, smooth and cool or warm and soft; the appearance, sort of like, well, let's just stop there.

Last weekend the pusher at the Farmers Market talked me into buying the "old fashioned" variety which was more green than red, with fatter stalks. This in spite of the fact that the previous weekend I had given a total stranger a lesson on selecting rhubarb in which I instructed her to only buy the slimmest, reddest stalks. I came home with my bulky stalks, chopped them up and put them in the sauce pan with a soupcon of water, a dash of vanilla sugar, and half a vanilla bean that had been marinating in the sugar bin. Cooked over low heat until it was the perfect, smoothly soft, joy that I love so much.

It was the color of snot, but tasted excellent. I'm not convinced by the pushers' assertion that it's better than the modern, redder plant and it sure doesn't look as good. But I choked it down.

Here's how I've eaten it this week:

Over vanilla ice cream

With yogurt, flax and wheat germ for breakfast

In a smoothie (suggested by my sister)

With a spoon straight out of the fridge

OMG it is the absolutely best thing in the entire world.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Vegetarians are coming! The Vegetarians are coming!

This particular one was coming neither by land, not even free range humanely raised organically coddled chicken land, nor by sea, not even sustainably fished sea. He was coming via 7-11 where he most likely had a Snickers bar and Dr. Pepper. So, while I was taking the vegetarian parameters seriously, it wasn't as if the Dali Lama or Jonathan Safran Foer was coming to dinner.
I had been through this a few times now. The first time I made a curried tofu and vegetable stew. Not amazing but eminently edible. I sometimes make it for myself, just as a vehicle for soy, which is a super food, but also apparently verboten for women. I compromise and eat it occasionally, which is what I would do anyway bc the only thing I like about it is the virtuous feeling I get from eating it, or the superior feeling I get from telling people I ate it. But, when I served it to the vegetarian, and his girlfriend asked for the recipe, we realized that fish sauce, actually is made from Fish (!) and so that particular stew has been dumped from the repertoire. The next time I played it safe with a black bean and sweet potato chili. This is also something I occasionally eat, pretty much for the same reason I eat the tofu. I guess this vegetarian's palate has been shaped by 7-11, so the very earnest chili was barely touched.
The next time I gave in, went with the dairy option and made a delightful spinach lasagna. If lasagna didn't take an entire afternoon and every pot and pan in the kitchen to prepare, I would make this all the time. It was amazing. And everyone liked it and no one complained about the dairy.
So the last time he came to dinner, I made a strata, which is essentially a savory bread pudding. This one had red peppers and cheddar cheese. It was delicious, I would make it again, maybe with some sausage tossed in.
For dessert I attempted a fool. But it quickly turned into a mousse. I am squeamish about raw eggs, (unless they are in cookie dough) so it was a whipped cream and gelatin mousse. But apparently gelatin expires because this stuff never gelled. I had carried this box of unflavored gelatin with me in my last three moves, and I guess I need a new box. I eventually put the whole thing in the freezer, hoping for semi freddo. It was pretty semi fred. I happen to love red berries with sugar and whipped cream, so I was happy, but really, you wouldn't set out to make that dessert.
When I complained to my sister about the expired gelatin, she said, "You fed gelatin to a vegetarian?!" Oh yeah, I forgot about that part. Good thing it wasn't the Dali Lama.

For the strata:
Some bread, cut into squares, about 4 cups. Some red peppers (2) sliced and sauteed in olive oil, add about a cup of sliced green onions for the final few minutes of sauteing. I also added some thyme. Grate about a cup and half of cheddar cheese. Mix together 4 eggs and 2 cups of milk, add some dry mustard and a pinch of cayenne and little salt. Put half the bread in a 9x9 pan, spread half the peppers and half the cheese. Another layer of each, then pour the milk and eggs over all. Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes. It should be soft and then it rests for 10 minutes after you take it out of the oven and it will firm up a little.

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