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Orange and Honey Caramel Ice Cream

30 June 2006

Orange and honey ice cream

Sometimes I develop a taste for something I've never actually tasted, something that lives only in my imagination. Sometimes my attempts to create this imagined taste go well; sometimes my taste proves to be entirely imaginary, unruled by the laws and actualities of kitchen chemistry.

The other day, possessed of a drawerful of oranges, a mirage of oranges and honey shivered through my mind - smooth, rich, custard with the flavor of citrus and deep caramel honey. I could almost taste the sweetness.

However, my first attempt at creating this taste ran head-on into a down and dirty fistfight with the natural tendency of citrus to curdle dairy into small gritty bits of orange cheese. Cooking the fresh orange juice down into a syrup did not hamper this tendency, as I had hoped it would, and I thoroughly lost the fight. I was beaten soundly, knocked into the ropes, and left with a teeth-squeaking cheesy custard of orange and curdled milk.

I couldn't believe that this taste was an illusion; I still had this idea of a grownup Dreamsicle, a cool and rich orange custard with the deep notes of honey. Then I came across a couple recipes online for orange and caramel ice cream, and tried to work in the honey, with help from another caramel ice cream that I like a lot. Tada! My imagination came to life.

Orange and honey ice cream

The recipe below turned out the rich custard I had been dreaming of, with the deep, unmistakable flavor of caramelized honey. If you don't like honey, you probably won't like this ice cream. The orange flavor was muted by the caramel, but deepened, still with its citrus and orange notes. I also took one recipe's recommendation and added a few shakes of fresh ground pepper, which heightened the orange flavor even more.

Orange and Honey Caramel Ice Cream

1.25 cups fresh sqeezed orange juice
2 cups cream
0.5 cup sugar
0.5 cup honey
1 cup whole milk
6 egg yolks
0.5 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
0.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)

1. Simmer the orange juice down to half in a small saucepan. Set aside and keep warm.
2. Put the honey and sugar in a separate large saucepan and add 0.25 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring, then boil until it turns color and begins to caramelize.
3. Meanwhile, warm the milk and cream in a separate small sauce pan over low heat. Also, have the six egg yolks beaten and ready in a medium bowl.
4. When the sugar has developed a deep amber color, slowly add the reduced orange juice. Be careful - it will boil up violently. Stir energetically.
5. Add the warmed milk and cream to the orange caramel and continue stirring carefully.
6. Temper the egg yolks with small ladlefuls of the cream and caramel, stirring thoroughly, then add all the egg yolks to the cream.
7. Stir over low heat until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Do not let it boil.
8. Let the custard cool to room temperature, then chill for at least four hours, or overnight.
9. After it is completely cold, freeze in an ice cream maker.

Posted by Faith at 30 June 2006 | Comments (5) | TrackBack

On Good Blogging and Coconut Bread

27 June 2006

Coconut bread

I am currently in Los Angeles, enjoying semi-time-off from work, staying with friends and looking forward to a trip up the Pacific Coast Highway to Monterey and San Francisco and all the foodie goodness that will ensue. The requisite pilgrimages to Chez Panisse, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and the Scharffen Berger chocolate factory are duly planned and anticipated.

Last night I got into an animated conversation with a friend about food weblogs and all the pleasure they have provided me over this last year - if you equate pleasure with slightly obsessive time wasting compulsion, that is. I have cooked more, been more inspired, and had so much more on my "recipes to try" list than ever before.

I think the thing I like most about food weblogs is that they lift recipes and food off the page and into real life, in living color! You take one look at a picture of something cooked by a living person, not some invisible cookbook aggregate, and you say, Hey! I can do that. In fact, I am going to do it right now!

That's what happened with this coconut bread I saw over at bakingsheet a little while ago. It looked so dense and moist, a simple bread with a flurry of fine, unsweetened coconut and a heap of fresh ground cinnamon. It was like I had no choice - I baked it and took it into work the next morning for my coworkers, who were more than appreciative.

Coconut bread

I wanted to play around with it a little, though, so I added a simple citrus syrup. I poked holes in the top of the bread and poured it over, then sprinkled the top with a little more coconut. This gives the top of the bread a dense, moist bite as the tart lemon and lime flavors swing by, then the flavors of coconut and fragrant cinnamon gently drift in. This is a go-to bread, easy, moist and reliable and so, so delicious that you really should have an exit plan for it - otherwise, you'll eat it all yourself.

Coconut bread

bills Coconut Bread

Go to bakingsheet for the recipe!

Citrus Syrup

0.5 cup of sugar
0.5 cup of fresh lemon and lime juice
2 tbsp of whiskey (optional)
Unsweetened coconut flakes (available in bulk produce area at Whole Foods and other groceries)

1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, or until syrupy.
2. Poke a series of small holes in the top of the bread with a toothpick and pour the syrup over.
3. Sprinkle with unsweetened coconut flakes.

Posted by Faith at 27 June 2006 | Comments (140) | TrackBack

Red & Green: Pasta with Fresh Pesto and Roasted Peppers

13 June 2006

Pesto and Pasta

When basil flourishes, make pesto. I have two plants exploding out of their pots, one on the tiny back porch of my apartment, and one on the front stoop. They gulp water desperately in the Florida heat and humidity, sagging like cartoon plants under a yellow cartoon sun every day around 4:00, when I revive them again with a stream of water. And then they reward me with handfuls and handfuls of good green spicy basil. I can smell it every day as I turn my key in the door.

I needed to make a side dish for a potluck and so I turned to my generous basil, finally whipping up a batch of pesto for this warm, oozy, and crunchy pasta salad. I used walnuts in the pesto because that's what I had around, but another handful of tender oily walnuts make a nice texture, crunching here and there in the pasta. And then a batch of roasted red peppers for color and deep, savory taste - charred and salty and then cooked slowly until silky in balsamic vinegar and garlic. Tossed all together they make a deeply satisfying dish of pasta, suitable as a side dish to some roasted chicken - or all on its own with a green salad and cold, crisp glass of wine.

Pesto and Pasta

Pasta with Fresh Pesto, Roasted Red Peppers, and Goat Cheese

Basil-Walnut Pesto
4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed well
0.5 cup walnuts
0.5 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
0.25 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. In a food processor purée basil with remaining ingredients until smooth.
2. Season with salt and pepper. Pesto may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, its surface covered with plastic wrap.

Oven Roasted Red Peppers with Balsamic Vinegar
4 large red bell peppers
Olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
0.25 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Red pepper flakes

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Toss peppers with 1/4 cup olive oil in bowl and transfer them to large rimmed baking sheet.
3. Roast peppers until partially charred, turning every 10 minutes, about 50 minutes.
4. Transfer peppers to reserved bowl; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Cool 15 minutes.
5. Peel and seed peppers over bowl. Tear each pepper lengthwise into 6 strips. (Good luck doing this without burning your fingers! I had to rinse the torn peppers over the sink in cool water to get all the seeds out. Next time I will cut them in half and seed them before roasting.)
6. Transfer pepper strips to heavy large skillet. Strain liquid from bowl into skillet. Add garlic, vinegar, red pepper, and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil to skillet. Simmer over medium heat until liquid becomes syrupy, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes. Cool. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature.)

1 pound of pasta, preferably something small and ridged that will hold the pesto and cheese well
Extra walnuts, if desired
A chunk of good goat cheese (at least 4 oz.)
1 batch of pesto
1 batch of roasted red peppers

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente texture. Reserve half a cup of the cooking water.
2. Toss the pasta with a little olive oil, the red peppers and their sauce, pesto mixed with the pasta water, and a crumbled chunk of goat cheese. Throw in some toasted walnuts for crunch, if desired.
3. Taste and add some salt and pepper, if necessary.

Posted by Faith at 13 June 2006 | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Deceptively healthy & economic: Spinach Soup

6 June 2006

Spinach soup

Spinach, leftover vegetable stock, sour white wine, one lone onion, some half 'n' half about to go off. These were the things I had on hand tonight, along with small desire to be creative. So I put them together in the most straightforward way possible: spinach soup.

Now, before you summon visions of Popeye, Depression-era eating, or the soup pots of Dickensian hovels, let me say that this soup was quite good. In fact, I was rather craving a broth like this with wilted spinach - squeaky green and healthy. This soup is mild and slightly sour with big spoonfuls of spinach and tender onions and garlic. The wine doesn't cook off much, so there's a little headiness there as well, and I put in some fresh nutmeg, which gave it a nutty aroma. I think I would have preferred this with a more robust homemade chicken stock; the vegetable stock was organic, but it was still from a box.

Mainly, this soup tastes of spinach, that most deliciously olive green and leafy vegetable, rounded out with garlic and onion and the salty, intensely flavorful addition of grated Parmesan, sinking and melting into the soup at the last minute. Not bad for a leftovers night; my fridge is now officially clean; I am officially possessed of not one but three healthful meals, and my economic little soul is officially rather pleased.

Spinach soup

Spinach Soup

2 tbsp of butter
Half a red onion
2 cloves of garlic
Red pepper flakes, to taste
6 ounces of spinach
2 cups of stock
1 cup of white wine
0.5 cup cream or milk
Fresh grated nutmeg, to taste
Salt, if needed

1. Melt butter over medium heat and sauté chopped garlic, onion, and pepper flakes until soft and aromatic, about 5 minutes.
2. Sauté spinach until slightly wilted, then add stock, wine, and cream.
3. Simmer for about 5 minutes, partially covered.
4. Taste and add nutmeg and salt, if necessary.
5. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan.

Posted by Faith at 6 June 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack

An extravagantly fruity, spicy, creamy cake of a muffin

4 June 2006

Strawberry Apricot Lime Muffins

Sometimes O Anonymous Readers of mine, you get out of the game. You let the dishes stack up in the sink, deliberately turning your back on them while you heat up takeout leftovers in the microwave. You slink out of the kitchen at night, flipping off the lights to hide the sprawl on the countertop. You leave the oven cold and dark, the cooktop spattered with grease from the solitary egg you ate for dinner two nights ago; and, as a singleton, alone in an apartment, you have that luxury of willed ignorance, leaving one more smeared glass in the sink. I mean, I don't need to be so arch about it - sometimes you run late, run early, run hard, and you just don't cook for a week or so and you let the dirty dishes fall where they may.

But then, eventually, you just have to get back in the game. I cleaned the kitchen today, cleaned it down to the floor. And then I wanted to bake, I really did. I wanted to make something yummy and juicy and tantalizing, something I'd never made before, but with the comfort of familiarity. The problem was, when you've been out of the game for a day, or two, or ten, everything sounds intriguing. New cookie cutters! Let's use them! Citrus - that sounds good! How about chocolate? Yes! What about something soft? Oh yeah baby! Something crunchy? Definitely! Sweet! Sour! Gooey! Crumbly! This does not add up to inspiration, unfortunately, but rather to a paralyzed jumble of twitching nerve ends, cook's intuitions yanked this way and that.

I finally had to pick one constant, just one thing. Something for breakfast, for my work buddies - especially one pregnant friend who lights up when I mutter out loud, So, I'm thinking about baking... So easy to please!

Then I saw Mahanandi's lovely strawberry scones, and something clicked. Yes! I'd make those. But I have these new silicone muffin pans! Hmm. OK, strawberry muffins. Too insipid - needs something else. Dried apricots, cheap at the produce stand. OK! Still a little too bland - how about some lime? Right, OK. In fact, let's macerate all the fruit in something! It just kept going, with a smattering of spice (I can never resist) and a creamy filling flavored with my precious apricot jam from Bakerina.

Strawberry Apricot Lime Muffins

These are not a quick muffin for a quick breakfast - they're the kind of muffin you make when you have time to mess around, to improvise, to play. They are ridiculously extravagant, with a cascade of textures and little fruity bits, a not-too-sweet yet rich, moist, cakey crumb, and a little kick of booze to soften the apricots (again, can't resist) plus a luscious, creamy center. They certainly aren't models of restraint or discipline - I threw just about everything in and hoped it would all hang together. I almost finished them off with a tart lime syrup, but caught myself just in time. That would have been too much, over the top, like the hazelnuts I just avoided tossing in too. These muffins already had too much going on, a veritable model home of muffin features.

But sometimes, you know, you got to get back in the game, and the best way to do that seems to be to just play.

Strawberry Apricot Lime Muffins

As you can see, these don't have much of a domed top or high muffin rise. They are more like little cakes with a strawberry slice on top like a thumbprint. The spice doesn't come through too strongly - just a hint - so the first taste is of sweet strawberry and apricot, with a lingering fresh taste of lime, then the lush cream cheese and preserves in the center. Next time I might try putting the strawberry slices on at the end of the baking process, with a sugar glaze to lacquer them on.

Strawberry-Lime-Apricot Muffin Cakes with a Jammy Cream Cheese Filling
Makes 24

Mix-ins & Filling
8 oz. of dried apricots
2 oz. of whisky
16 oz. fresh strawberries
0.25 cup of fresh lime juice
2 tbsp sugar
2 small limes
1 pkg. of cream cheese
0.50 cup apricot preserves
2 eggs
0.25 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Chop the apricots into small bits, cover with the whisky and refrigerate overnight.
2. Chop 3/4 of the strawberries into chunky bits and macerate in the lime juice and sugar overnight.
3. Slice the rest of the strawberries into thin, delicate slices. Sprinkle a little sugar on them and put them, covered, in the fridge.
4. Zest two limes into long spiral curls and reserve.
5. Zest two more limes and chop the zest finely.
6. Whip the cream cheese with the eggs, sugar, apricot jam, and vanilla.
7. Reserve all the above preparations and put in the fridge overnight.

Muffin Base
1 stick butter, at room temperature
0.25 cup dark brown sugar
0.50 cup white sugar
2 eggs
0.5 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
0.5 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh ground coriander
1 tsp. fresh ground cardamom
1 tsp. vanilla
Lime zest
Chopped apricots
Chopped strawberries

1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add eggs.
2. Add vanilla and lime zest.
3. Mix dry ingredients and add to the butter, alternating with the milk.
4. Mix in the apricots and strawberries until just combined. Don't overmix.

Muffin batter
Cream cheese filling
Sliced strawberries and lime zest curls
Coarse sugar

1. Heat the oven to 350 F.
2. Fill the muffin tins a quarter full with batter.
3. Put about a tablespoon of the cream cheese filling in the batter.
4. Fill the cup with more batter until just about full.
5. Top it off with a sliced strawberry, a couple curls of lime zest, and some coarse sugar.
6. Pop those babies in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. (They smell so sweet!) Don't overbake them; they are good when they are soft and warm with a light brown top.
7. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then on a rack. Best when they are slightly warm, but not hot.

Posted by Faith at 4 June 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rotini with Endive, Bacon and Thyme

1 June 2006

Rotini with Bacon

So, I still had bacon left over after my last pasta + bacon meal, and it didn't take long to sidle back up to it. Why waste a good thing? I like keeping bacon around because it's easy to cook, long-lasting, and a cheap, quick source of protein. Oh, and it's darn tasty too.

This recipe made use of one more fridge-hangabout that I had to use up, too; I had bought a pair of Belgian endive from the produce stand, seduced by their pale, pointed shapes, like the palm of a hand, or the trowel you use to turn over the earth in your garden. I tossed one, sharp, white and crunchy, in a salad with some cucumber, but I found its bitterness disconcerting, too much at once to eat raw. So its companion was left to wait about until I decided to take a chance on cooking it.

I don't have any experience with cooking things that normally go in salads, except for spinach, and I was apprehensive. But this is wonderfully delicious, the bitterness tempered and softened by a slow cooking session in sweet bacon fat and savory thyme. I felt the small thrill of victory that comes when I use something old in a new way - I might even buy endive again.

Rotini with Bacon

Rotini with Bacon and Thyme
serves one or two

A few handfuls of rotini
Olive oil
6 thick-cut slices of bacon
Half a red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 head of Belgian endive
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, shredded
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook the rotini according to package directions. Reserve half a cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta. Stir in the reserved water and some olive oil, then set aside.
2. Slice the bacon into 1-inch bites, and sauté over medium heat until cooked through, but not crispy.
3. Add the garlic, onions, thyme, and endive, chopped into bite-size pieces, and sauté over medium heat, slowly, until softened and slightly transparent.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste, then put on top of pasta and add Parmesan cheese to taste.

Posted by Faith at 1 June 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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