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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Strawberry Agua Fresca

This could have been such a quick and easy post.

Three ingredients!  Plus water.  It takes about ten minutes to make.  I could have written this blog post in record time.

But then it sort of turned into a circular tale.  (If you've ever read the children's book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, you know what I'm talking about.)

It all started when I thought I'd make a pitcher of agua fresca.

Which made me think of Mexico.  Circa 1986.

Which made me wonder if I had taken any pictures of agua fresca during my long-ago Mexican vacations.

Which made me dig out a couple of old photo albums filled with pictures from vacations to Cancun and Acapulco.

No pictures of agua fresca, but there was this picture of my poolside drink served in a watermelon.

Which made me think of the abundance of tropical fruit that my friends and I ate on that trip to Cancun.  Imagine our surprise on our first night there, at dinner, when our waiter placed a hollowed-out pineapple loaded with fruit in front of each of us.  It was simply described as a "fruit cup" on the appetizer menu.

Which made me think of how much fun that trip to Cancun was.  So much fun that I wanted to go back to Mexico for my honeymoon the following year, to Acapulco.

Thinking of Acapulco made me think of the goofy little Mexican teddy bear I won shooting hoops.

Which made me think about how sweaty I was shooting hoops in Mexico on my honeymoon.

Which reminded me that I want to make a pitcher of agua fresca.

Today's Playlist
  • "Dead!"...My Chemical Romance
  • "On My Way"...Billy Boy On Poison
  • "Blue Orchid"...The White Stripes
  • "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked"...Cage The Elephant
  • "1983"...Neon Trees
  • "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To"...Weezer
  • "Ignorance"...Paramore

Strawberry Agua Fresca (8 servings)
Click for printable recipe
  • 1 quart strawberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 1 lime

Gather your ingredients.  

I put 5 cups of the water into a pitcher, the other cup into a blender.

Put a few strawberries aside to use as a garnish later. Hull the remaining strawberries.

Place one cup of the water, the sugar and the strawberries into a blender.

Give it a whirl until it's blended.  It took about 15 seconds on HIGH.

Set a wire mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour the strawberry mixture through the strainer into the bowl.

Stir the seeds and the pulp left in the strainer so that all of the strawberry juice drains through.

Discard the pulp and seeds that are left in the strainer.

Pour the strained strawberry mixture into the pitcher (which had the remaining 5 cups of cold water in it).

Cut the lime in half and add the juice from one half of the lime.  Oops, forgot to take a picture of that step.

Stir to combine.

Use additional strawberries as a garnish, as well as slices from the remaining lime half that you didn't juice.

Add plenty of ice and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Berry Cobbler

It's still berry season in Massachusetts so I'm still going a little crazy with the berries.

My favorite way to enjoy them:  plain, freshly picked, no embellishing necessary.

But there are so many other ways they creep into our menu: mixed into yogurt, floating in a cool glass of water, added to salads, and the desserts--oh, man, the desserts.

This cobbler is the perfect dessert recipe for your berries.  Use any type of berry or combo thereof.  I used...blueberry/blackberry...

Blackberry/boysenberry. Boysenberry/huckleberry. Huckleberry/raspberry. Raspberry/strawberry. Strawberry/cranberry. Peach!

I know, I know, peach is not a berry.  But if you're a Seinfeld fan, the above list is not complete without "Peach!"

(Today I made a berry cobbler, but for the record, you can make this cobbler with any fruit, and that includes peaches.)

Linking up with Share Your Cup!
Today's Playlist
  • "Paradise City"...Guns n' Roses
  • "Ball and Chain"...Social Distortion
  • "Dani California"...Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • "Blister In the Sun"...Violent Femmes
  • "Warning"...Green Day
  • "Lyin' In the Name of Love"...Joe Louis Walker
  • "Love You Madly"...Cake

Berry Cobbler
  • 7 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sugar, divided (3/4 cup + 1/4 cup; use 1/4 cup sanding sugar or large-crystal sugar if you have it)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1%, but any milk will do)
  • 2 cups berries
Gather your ingredients.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Wash your berries and pat them dry.  I usually let them sit on a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture.

Place the butter in a small bowl.  Melt in your microwave (45 seconds on HIGH should do it, depending on the power of your microwave).

Prep your baking dish.  

Using a pastry brush, butter your baking dish with a bit of the melted butter.  Use a small baking dish.  I used a 1 1/2 quart dish (dimensions approximately 6" x 8").

Place the dry ingredients (3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt) into a medium bowl.

Whisk to combine.

Whisk in the milk.

Whisk in the melted butter.

Pour into your buttered baking dish.  Spread evenly.

Arrange the berries on top.  You want them to be distributed evenly, but don't make yourself crazy because they will sink to the bottom when they bake.

 Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar on top.  This will give a good crunch to the crust.  Use sanding sugar or large crystal sugar if you have it; if not, regular granulated sugar is fine.

Bake in your preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour.  You'll know it's done when the top is golden and the edges are just starting to brown.

Serve it while it's still warm, topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

Refrigerate the leftovers.  If there are any leftovers, that is.

For breakfast's sake, I hope you have leftovers.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Happy 4th of July!

This card was sent to me by my blogging friend, Pam, of Virginia Retro.  Pam's collection of vintage tablecloths leaves me speechless:

Do you find yourself at a loss for words at the sight of these endless stacks?  What if I told you that every time she showcases one of her tablecloths, she coordinates the table setting to match?  I can't imagine how organized you have to be to have so many different sets of plates, glasses, napkins, candlesticks, serving pieces, head is spinning just thinking about cataloging it all!

My head was spinning last week when I made this salted caramel ice cream.  I hadn't made ice cream yet this summer, I had a free afternoon, I decided to get a little fancier than usual.

I debated whether or not I should blog about this ice cream.  Not because it wasn't good.  It was incredible.  Unbelievable.  Really, REALLY good.

But it took an incredible amount of time.  In a nutshell, the ice cream I've made in the past falls into these categories:

1.  Throw all of the ingredients into the ice cream maker, let it mix for 20 to 30 minutes.  Eat it while it's soft, or freeze for later. (Easiest and quickest)

2.  Make an egg-based ice cream, which requires heating the ingredients, tempering eggs, simmering to thicken, refrigerating for a few hours to cool it before it can be mixed in the (frozen) ice cream maker for 20 to 30 minutes, freezing it to firm up. (Easy yet time consuming)

3.  Making an egg-based ice cream (see above), which also requires preparing a recipe in advance for needed ingredients (such as salted caramel) that are part of the ice cream recipe.  (Still easy, yet even more time consuming)

Care to guess which one (1, 2 or 3) this salted caramel ice cream is?

Hint: it wasn't ready to eat until the next day.

If you picked #3, pat yourself on the back.

During the cooking process (particularly when I was stirring the cream into the hot caramel and the caramel suddenly seized), I had many thoughts along the lines of "this better be worth it," "is it really worth all of this trouble?" and "I'm never making this again."

And then when I took the first bite the only thought I had was, "Wow, this was SO worth the time that I put into it!"

I wrote everything down, so that I could duplicate the recipe at some point in the future when I have a free day.  Or two.  One day to make ice cream, one day to recover.

Then I decided that I do need to blog about it, if only to remind myself how time-consuming and frustrating it was to make.

And to remind myself that it was the best ice cream that I've ever made.

I even gave Clyde a spoonful.  He ate it quite enthusiastically.  

I wouldn't read too much into that, however; he also eats ice cubes with the same enthusiasm.

Linking up with Share Your Cup!

Today's Playlist

"That Time Is Gone"...The dB's
"Never There"...Cake
"Welcome To The Jungle"...Guns N' Roses
"Chelsea Dagger"...The Fratellis
"What I Got"...Sublime
"Flagpole Sitta"...Harvey Danger
"Come Out And Play"...The Offspring
"Ring Of Fire"...Social Distortion
"All My Lovin'"...Me First & The Gimme Gimmes

Salted Caramel Ice Cream (makes 1 quart)

  • 2 cups milk, divided (I used 1% milk)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Gather your ingredients.

The green bowl in the upper right is an ice bath...I filled a large bowl about halfway with ice cubes and water and put a 2-quart saucepan on top of the ice cubes.  The handle of the saucepan helps prevent it from sinking.  Or you can nest a bowl into the ice bath instead.  The only important thing to remember is that the bowl/saucepan in the ice bath should be large enough (at least 2 quarts) to hold your ice cream.

Put 1 cup of the milk into the ice bath.  Place a mesh strainer on top.  You will need this later.

I decided to go authentic and use a very coarse Celtic Sea salt.  And since I didn't want large pieces of salt in my ice cream, I ground it with a mortar and pestle.

If your sea salt is coarse, now would be the time to grind it.

Separate your egg yolks into a bowl that is large enough to do some whisking in.  In a little while you are going to temper the egg yolks with warm caramel, so make sure the bowl is big enough for whisking.

Now that the advance prepping is done, the fun begins.

Spread the sugar evenly in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  

The edges will begin to melt.  When this happens, use a rubber spatula to gently stir the sugar until it dissolves.

As it dissolves, it will begin to caramelize.  Just keep the heat from getting too high, and keep stirring.

While it is dissolving, it may get lumpy.

Don't despair!  It all melts somehow.

When it is all melted and caramelized, remove from the heat and add the butter and salt.

Whisk to combine.

Whisk in the cream.

Don't be surprised if the caramel seizes!  If this happens, return the saucepan to LOW heat and stir until the caramel melts.

Stir in 1 cup of milk.

The seized caramel did melt eventually.  It was a long, slow process.

Remove the caramel once again from the heat.

Now you are going to temper your egg yolks.  While whisking the egg yolks, pour about 1/2 cup of the warm caramel into the the bowl.  Don't stop whisking.

I hope that explains why I don't have pictures of this step.  Whisking with one hand, pouring the caramel with the other--no hands left to take a picture!

Pour the now-warmed egg yolks into the saucepan and cook until the mixture thickens, stirring constantly.

Now that the mixture has thickened, you are going to finally use that last cup of milk that you set up in the ice bath.  Pour the caramel through the strainer, into the milk set over the ice bath.  The strainer will catch any lumpy remnants of caramel or eggs that may have cooked while you were tempering them.  Remove the strainer, and stir in the vanilla.  

Continue to stir for a bit, letting the ice bath cool down your mixture. 

When your mixture is no longer screaming hot, place it in your refrigerator to continue cooling.  Allow it to chill completely--mine took about 3 hours.

When the mixture has completely chilled, freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

After 30 minutes in my ice cream maker, this is what I had.  Soft ice cream.  It was dreamy.

I suppose we could have devoured it right then, but instead we put it into a container and let it harden in the freezer overnight.

It was a loooong process. 

At the end of the day, I was thinking to myself I am never making salted caramel ice cream again.

And then, the next day...this.

One spoonful in, and my mind was changed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Farmers Market-Inspired Cooking Show!

Last week, we filmed an episode of the cooking show.

All of the recipes we prepared were inspired by our local Farmers Market.

My friend Amy cooked with me.

Gayle and Sheila watched from the sidelines, and provided lots of light moments off-camera.

Like when they discussed the short-shorts that Amy's husband wore in the early 80's.  Or when they pondered hot flashes.

When we went outside to grill the zucchini and summer squash, it started to rain, so Gayle and Sheila bailed on us and ran inside.

But then they provided lots of moral support by telling us that our now-wet hair looked fabulous on the camera monitor.

They were so sincere, I actually believed them.  I just adore my sweet, supportive friends.

While it rained, Amy and I cooked up a storm of our own!  

The aforementioned Grilled Zucchini & Summer Squash.

There is no link to take you to a recipe, but it's so simple--here you go:

-Lop off the ends of four 6-inch zucchini/summer squash, and slice them lengthwise.  You should get 4 slices from each, aim for slices at least 1/4" but no more than 1/2" thick.

-In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup EACH of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and a pinch of salt and pepper.

-Add the slices of zucchini and summer squash, and toss to coat.

-Grill on MEDIUM/HIGH, 2-3 minutes each side, just long enough to get great color and grill marks.  The squash should start to soften, yet still hold its shape.

Seared Sea Scallops with Sweet Vermouth 

Another recipe without a link.  I'll get it up soon, with the step-by-step.  Until then:

  • 1 lb large sea scallops
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup sweet vermouth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
-Dry the scallops.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil, add salt and pepper and stir to coat with the oil.

-Heat a skillet on high heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Sear the scallops until they are caramelized, about 2 or 3 minutes per side.

-Remove the scallops from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm.  

-Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the same pan, and reduce the heat to medium.  Add the shallots and crush the garlic directly into the pan.  Cook for a minute or two, stirring, until the garlic and shallots are translucent and soft.  Add the vermouth and let it reduce by about half.  Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the butter to finish.  Serve the sauce with the scallops.

The link will take you to "Berries with Creamy Custard."  You can use any type of berries that you like.

Make this.  You must!

After we were finished filming the show, we all sat down to eat.  There was lots of laughter and conversation...until we got to these berries.  Then we ate in silence.  Maybe there was an occasional "mmmm."  It's strawberry season locally-- and these strawberries were out of this world!