Tuesday, July 31, 2012

American-Style Ice Cream is also
delicious-style ice cream

Recently I bought a new ice cream machine, and the first two recipes I made in it were sorbets.
   I started to think perhaps I should actually make ice cream in it, and happily I came across a recipe in the August 2012 issue of Food & Wine magazine for American-Style Ice Cream (click for the recipe). I decided I would give the blackberry-sage version of the recipe a try.
   Well, it was a smash hit with my husband. He loved it, and I think it’s pretty darn good too.
   According to the F&W article from which the recipe came, American-style ice cream, also known as Philadelphia-style ice cream, is made with sugar, milk and cream. This is different from French-style ice cream, prepared with an egg custard (the two types of ice creams were contrasted in the magazine).
   The owner of Seattle’s Molly Moon’s ice cream shops, Molly Neitzel, contributed the recipe for American-style ice cream and its variations.
   “I love how easy it is to make, and I love its pure cream taste,” Neitzel told F&W.
   It’s a great description of the ice cream. It was extraordinarily easy to make and had a good cream taste. It had a terrific texture, and the blackberry-sage version I made was an absolutely brilliant flavor. I want to go back and try the chocolate-toffee, salted caramel, and strawberry-jalapeno flavors.
   There is just one slightly tricky aspect to making the ice cream, and that’s bringing the heavy cream (I used whipping cream), whole milk and sugar to a simmer. The recipe doesn’t say how long it will take nor the temperature at which to cook the mixture.
   I found it took about eight minutes on medium heat, with me stirring constantly, to reach the simmer stage. The simmer stage began when the mixture of liquids and dissolved sugar started to rise up and look frothy. Take the mixture off the heat at the exact instant it starts to do this, or it may burn.
   After the mixture of whipping cream, whole milk and dissolved sugar is brought to a simmer, the mixture is poured into a medium bowl, which is in turn placed in a larger bowl of ice water. The ice cream base mixture is left to cool completely (this will take about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.)
   The next step is crucial for successful ice cream: Refrigerating the mixture until it is very cold, at least one hour or overnight (I refrigerated the mixture for about three hours before proceeding). Making sure the mixture is very cold before putting it in the ice cream maker greatly aids the maker in producing the ice cream.
   The ice cream base mixture is put into the maker with optional additional flavorings. For the blackberry-sage ice cream, that meant putting in blackberry jam and one tablespoon of minced fresh sage with the milk mixture.
   After the mixture is processed in the ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, the ice cream is transferred to a plastic container and frozen until firm, at least three hours.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rice salads for summer

Rice salads make a great accompaniment to grilled pork, chicken or fish.
   Served cold, rice salads provide a pleasing texture difference next to grilled meat. Often dressed up with vegetables, fruit, and herbs, they satisfy cravings for summery freshness. They might even be tried by those who abhor pasta salad.
   They’re great to make in advance, and a terrific contribution to a potluck-style barbecue.
   Today I’ve got a couple of great rice salad recipes to tell you about.

Cherry, Wild Rice and Quinoa Salad (click for the recipe) from Eating Well magazine reminded me of a really great Waldorf salad, with its cherries, celery, goat cheese and pecans.
   The combination of wild rice and quinoa will not only satisfy the folks in your life who like those foods, but everyone else as well.
   Wild rice is cooked in boiling water. The recipe says to do this for 30 minutes, but I did it for 35 instead, with the lid off. Quinoa is added and the mixture cooked for another 15 minutes (I put the lid on for the last 15 minutes). The wild rice and quinoa are rinsed with cold water until cool to the touch.
   Raspberry or pomegranate vinegar (I used raspberry red-wine vinegar) is combined with salt and pepper. The rice, quinoa, pitted and halved cherries, diced celery, goat cheese or smoked cheddar cheese and toasted pecans are added and tossed to combine.

Red Curry Chicken with Rice Salad (click for the recipe) from Real Simple magazine - the star of this recipe is the rice salad. The chicken was merely adequate, but the rice salad is a winner. Leftovers are great for lunch the next day.
   Long-grain white rice is cooked and spread on a plate and left to cool.
   Canola oil, Asian fish sauce, and sugar are combined in a bowl. The rice, a thinly-sliced jalapeno or serrano pepper (it doesn’t need to be red like the recipe says; it can be green), snow peas, and thinly-sliced scallions (green onions or spring onions) are added and the salad tossed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sweet or spicy, chili sauce saves the day in summer

Recently my husband and I tried a couple of outrageously-easy recipes that still had a lot of flavour thanks to the use of sweet chili and spicy chili sauce.
   The recipes were Sweet Chili Dogs from BBC Good Food magazine, and Spicy-Sweet Glazed Shrimp from Everyday Food.
   Both were ideal for summer weeknights, as most of the work for each was done on the grill.

The Sweet Chili Dogs recipe (click for it) says to cook the sausages in a roasting pan in the oven, but that’s surely a step most people will want to skip this time of year. My husband cooked the sausages on the grill.
   As the recipe’s title suggests, this is the one that uses sweet chili sauce, which helps create a delicious and easy topping for the sausages.
   The recipe says two red or white onions, or one of each color, can be used, but I used two red onions. From past experience, I know that when red onions are cooked down they turn nice and sweet.
   The recipe curiously doesn’t let the reader know they should chop up the onions, but I rightly assumed that I should!
   The chopped onions are fried in oil (I did it at medium-high heat, not high as the recipe said) until softened and browned. Sweet chili sauce and tomato purée (I used tomato paste and a bit of water) are added to the onions and the mixture is cooked for a minute more.
   The sausages are served on the hot dog buns, topped with the onions.

Spicy-Sweet Glazed Shrimp (click for the recipe) is the recipe that uses spicy chili sauce such as Sriracha to give it its hot-yet-pleasing flavor. To cut back on the heat, use less sauce and increase the amount of honey.
   This recipe turned me on to a good shrimp-grilling technique: Using extra-large shrimp, two skewers are threaded through the head and tail of each shrimp, making a neat little ladder of shrimp that’s easy to flip on barbecue.
   The shrimp is grilled on the skewers until they turn opaque, then are flipped and brushed liberally with a glaze of spicy chili sauce and honey and cooked for a few minutes more.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Salad with pancetta was a great way
to use our garden-fresh parsley

In our outdoor herb garden this year, my husband and I planted two flat-leaf parsley plants.
   They shot up quickly, so I hit the Internet to find some recipes that would use a lot of parsley.
   On the Saveur magazine website, I found a recipe for Parsley and Pancetta Salad (click for the recipe) and pounced on it. It calls for six cups of loosely-packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, which are the only greens in the salad.
   It was a great way to use our herb garden parsley. The lemon and parmesan mixed with it creates a terrific side for grilled steak or chicken.
   The fresher the parsley used, the crunchier and better the salad will be. Since I made the salad using the freshest parsley available, with leaves right off a plant, it was ideal.
   I made a few modifications to the recipe, however.
   The recipe says to place parsley leaves on plates and top with lemon segments, thinly-shaved Parmesan cheese and red onion. The fried pancetta follows.
   Instead, I put the parsley leaves in a bowl, squeezed in the juice from one large lemon, then added the grated Parmesan. I tossed it all together in the bowl.
   I skipped the raw red onion completely.
   To serve, we put a helping of greens on our plates, then topped them with pieces of fried pancetta and its rendered fat as the recipe directs.
   Pancetta, Italian bacon that is salt-cured pork belly, can sometimes be purchased already cut into cubes, which the recipe calls for. If you can’t find it that way, I suggest buying a large piece of pancetta at the deli counter, then cutting it up into cubes yourself, rather than attempting to cut thin pancetta slices into cubes. The pieces would burn very quickly when cooked!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cherry Mojitos aren't really mojitos,
but they're delicious anyway

Recently I made I a cocktail that I think wasn't what it claimed to be.
   Bing Cherry Mojitos (click for the recipe) from Martha Stewart Living magazine were absolutely delicious and I highly recommend you make them, but I don’t think they’re really mojitos.
   In a recent food chat that I participated in on Twitter, a cocktail expert insisted that a mojito isn’t a mojito without mint, and I think she’s right.
   According to wikipedia, a mojito consists of white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water (or club soda) and mint. There are variations, but these usually relate to the type of alcohol used, such as a flavored rum instead of white rum.
   Mojitos also involve muddling – mushing together the mint, lime juice and sugar with a muddler or wooden spoon handle before the rum and sparkling water is added.
   These Cherry Mojitos don’t have mint OR rum (vodka is used), and nothing is muddled.
   Nevertheless, they are definitely worth making. They are a fizzy, refreshing delight to serve on a warm summer evening.
   One small warning about the recipe: Step one, in which a simple syrup is made, says that it will make about two cups of syrup. I didn’t find this to be the case – it made about one cup. I would double the amount of sugar and water if you’re making all 12 servings the recipe says it produces. If you’re going to make six servings instead, the amount of sugar and water already listed in step one is fine – 1 ¼ cups sugar to 1 ¼ cups water.
   Water and sugar (I used Splenda instead) are brought to a boil in a small saucepan. The simple syrup is removed from the heat, and is left to cool completely. At this point, the syrup can be refrigerated.
   Freshly-squeezed lime juice is put into a bowl or container. Bing cherries (I used regular cherries instead) are halved, pitted, and added to the lime juice. The syrup is stirred in. Refrigerate mixture for at least one hour or overnight.
   There are two ways to serve the cocktails. For a large crowd, the cherry mixture and vodka can be stirred together in a large serving bowl, with people filling their own glasses with some mixture and then topping off their own servings with sparkling water or club soda.
   The second way, which I used, is to fill a couple glasses with ice, then spoon a half-cup of the cherry mixture in with a soup ladle - this is necessary to make sure several cherries make it into the drink. I then added 1.5 oz (44 mL) of vodka and 62.5 ml (2.1 oz) club soda. I stirred the ingredients together, then served the cocktails.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kiwi-Lime Sorbet a good first
outing for new ice cream maker

I recently bought a new ice cream maker to replace the one I had for the past three years. The old one was pooping out, and I wanted to get back to making cold, refreshing desserts for summer.
   I grudgingly parted with all of $40 for a new ice cream maker, and christened it by making Kiwi-Lime Sorbet (click for the recipe).
   It was a very good first outing for that ice cream maker (which did a good job, by the way.)
   The sorbet was simply, and completely, delicious. In this hot weather, it was a blessing to pull it out of the freezer, put a couple of blobs in a dessert dish, admire the lovely green colour flecked by the kiwi seeds, then eat a bit of cold, heavenly refreshment.
   And it was so amazingly easy to make, it’s almost criminal. There are just three ingredients.
   Many sorbets and ice creams requires the base liquid to be refrigerated until cold before it is processed in an ice cream maker.
   But because this sorbet uses frozen limeade concentrate, it’s cold and ready right away to be processed in the ice cream maker, cutting down on preparation time a bit. But the sorbet still need to be put in the freezer to harden after it is processed.
   Peeled kiwis, sugar (I used Splenda instead) and ½ cup of frozen limeade concentrate are puréed in a food processor until smooth. The mixture is processed in an ice cream maker, transferred to a container, and frozen until solid.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grilled halloumi cheese proves deliciousness again, this time with watermelon

A few posts back, I raved about the insane deliciousness of grilled halloumi.
   I’m going to rave about it again.
   Last time we served grilled halloumi (a type of cheese) with grilled romaine hearts. This time around, we served it drizzled with a delicious basil-mint oil alongside cherry tomatoes and watermelon pieces.
   The recipe we used is Grilled Halloumi with Watermelon and Basil-Mint Oil (click for the recipe).
   Grilled cheese and watermelon?
   You bet. I was even surprised how well the two went together. The refreshing watermelon was a great friend to the wonderfully salty cheese.
   This dish would be a lovely for a summer outdoor dinner party. However, it was easy enough to prepare on a weeknight.
   Halloumi cheese has grown in popularity enough that is carried in the cheese section of many large supermarkets.
   Basil, mint, garlic and olive oil are pureed together in a blender, then the mixture is strained through a fine-mesh strainer set over a small bowl.
   Some of the basil-mint oil was drizzled over cherry tomatoes and halloumi cheese, and the two food items are grilled. The recipe says to use cherry tomatoes on the vine. This is simply to add to the ease of grilling them; it’s not an absolute necessity. We couldn’t find any on the vine and so used relatively large cherry tomatoes and grilled them in in a barbecue basket.
   To serve, pieces of thinly-sliced watermelon with the rind removed are arranged on plates and topped with the cheese and tomatoes. The remaining herb oil is drizzled on top.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lime and mint syrup adds to refreshing
quality of honeydew melon

Cold, sweet, refreshing – a piece of melon, such as honeydew, watermelon, or cantaloupe, can be an amazing treat on a hot day.
   Although a piece of melon doesn’t need much embellishment to be delicious, I recently tried a recipe for pieces of honeydew melon covered with a terrific syrup that made for an amazing dessert. The recipe was called Melon Carpaccio with Lime (click for the recipe).
   The lime-based syrup is flavored with mint, along with a touch of vanilla bean and jalapeno pepper. It certainly sounds like an odd flavour combination, but it works beautifully.
   The syrup is served cold, as is the melon. The refreshment level is intoxicating.
   The melon is cut carpaccio-style, which means it is cut thinly. Don’t be afraid to pick up the pieces of melon and drop them in your mouth – it begs to be eaten that way.
   Sugar (I used Splenda instead) and water are brought to a boil in a small saucepan. Mint sprigs and jalapeno pepper are added, along with seeds from a vanilla bean and bean itself. The syrup is removed from the heat, covered, and left to steep for 15 minutes.
   The syrup is strained through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, and lime juice is stirred in.
   Melon (I used honeydew) is peeled, seeded, cut into thin slices, and arranged in a 13x9-inch glass baking dish. The syrup is poured over the melon, and the dish covered with plastic wrap and chilled for two hours to allow flavors to meld.
   After the two-hour chilling time, there are two options for the dish. The first is to pour the syrup off the melon and serve it immediately as directed. The second is to pour the syrup off the melon and refrigerate the two separately until they are ready to be served.
   To serve, the melon is arranged on plates, the syrup is poured over, and, if desired, a scoop of lemon, coconut or mango sorbet is placed in the middle.
   I didn’t bother with garnish of mint leaves and lime zest.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bison Burgers go over big

To my knowledge, I’d never eaten bison (buffalo) before until yesterday, July 5, 2012.
   It was a good day in my life, because it turns out bison is delicious.
   We made Bison Burgers with Thousand Island Barbecue Dressing (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine and gobbled them up with vigor.
   The bison was tender, with an almost sweet taste.
   Aiding the burger’s yumminess was a fantastic sauce that, like the recipe’s title implies, is a mix of Thousand Island salad dressing (mayo and relish) and barbecue sauce.
   I recommend these burgers for a casual backyard barbecue. They’re a nice new twist on a plain old burger. The concept is familiar enough that people will try it, but will be happy and surprised by the great texture and sauce.
   As the recipe introduction says, be careful not to overcook the bison burgers, as they dry out quickly.
   They were very easy to make.
   The sauce is made by combining mayonnaise, chili sauce (we used sweet chili sauce), smoky barbecue sauce, relish and Worcestershire sauce.
   The burgers are made by mixing ground bison (available at many supermarkets and specialty foods stores), smoky barbecue sauce, salt and pepper.
   The patties are grilled until done. My husband used a hamburger-grilling contraption for easy flipping, and grilled the burgers over a charcoal fire.
   To serve, hamburger buns are toasted on the grill and the dressing is spread on the top and bottom half of each bun. On the bottom half of each bun are placed a piece of lettuce, a slice of tomato, the burger, and finally the top half of the bun.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pink Lady Milkshakes - fantastic fun
for a backyard barbecue

A Pink Lady cocktail is, according to Wikipedia, one that contains gin, grenadine, egg white, and, since the 1920s, some sweet cream.
   This caused me to puzzle over the name of Pink Lady Milkshake (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit magazine, as it contains rum, not gin. It does, however, contain ice cream.
   But I only paused to think about this for a short time, because no matter what the ingredients are versus the name of the recipe, it’s just darn good.
   My husband, a long-time fan of milkshakes, was instantly pleased when he first tried one. It really was of milkshake consistency and could be sipped through a straw.
   We used Haagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream, which simply added to its deliciousness.
   We agreed it would be fantastic fun to serve this as the dessert at a backyard barbecue. It would be unexpected for the adults, and a non-alcoholic version can be served to children. The base recipe makes four milkshakes, but more than one batch can easily be made, or it can be halved to make two milkshakes.
   The recipe says to dollop each milkshake with whipped cream and sprinkle lightly with finely-ground black or pink pepper. I didn’t bother with either the cream or pepper. Some people may even be put off by the pepper on top.
   The milkshakes were very easy to make.
   Fresh strawberries and sugar are combined, and left to rest until the strawberries release their juices, about 30 minutes. Champagne or white wine vinegar and dark rum is added (you can leave out the rum if needed).
   Strawberry ice cream is scooped into a blender, the fresh strawberry mixture is added, and the two are blended together until smooth.
   The milkshakes are divided among small glasses, and served with a straw.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cooling, tangy Chilled Cucumber-Buttermilk Soup
is an instant hit

It took just one spoonful of Chilled Cucumber-Buttermilk Soup (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine for me to know we had a major hit on our hands.
   “My goodness, that’s good,” I said breathlessly after feeling the silky, cool, and tangy soup on my tongue.
   My husband nodded in complete agreement as he savored his first spoonful at the same time.
   All the ingredients complement the cucumbers: Buttermilk and sour cream for a perfect tang, and kosher salt and shallot for excellent muted savory.
   It’s a terrific side to any type of summer meal, and is very family-friendly.
   The recipe says it makes four servings, but I found it made two. Be sure to double or triple the recipe if needed, but blend the soup in batches instead of all at once.
   The soup is very easy to make.
   Peeled, seeded cucumbers cut into chunks are puréed in a blender with roughly-chopped celery, a shallot, olive oil and kosher salt.
   The mixture is strained through a sieve into a bowl, and the solids are pressed on to extract as much liquid as possible.
   Sour cream and buttermilk are whisked into the soup, which is refrigerated until cold, at least one hour.
   The recipe says to serve drizzled with olive oil and garnished with chives, but we didn’t do either of these things and still found the soup sensational.