Monthly Archives: September 2011

Vanilla Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

It’s a mouthful, I know.

Trying saying it 5 times quickly.

Or don’t. Maybe just make the ice cream instead.

Once upon a summer, I had a thriving mint plant in my windowsill. Then I went out of town one too many times and my mint plant died. But not before I had a chance to make vanilla mint chocolate chip ice cream.

I am so glad that I didn’t let the opportunity pass me by.

Chocolate chip mint ice cream was my all-time favorite as a kid. If we were lucky, my brother and I could convince our parents to stop at the ice cream shop where my father would get whatever caught his attention, my mother would get chocolate peanut butter, my brother would get something truly disgusting like bubblegum and I would get mint chocolate chip.  If I were really lucky I would get it in the form of an ice cream cake for my birthday. But seriously, what’s not to love about mint chocolate chip?

So how could I resist the temptation to make my very own homemade vanilla mint chocolate chip ice cream?

I couldn’t.

Since this is like my 87th ice cream since July, I am practically an expert now. Cook some dairy with sugar, a split vanilla bean and gobs of mint leaves. Let steep for at least an hour so as to infuse your cream with minty goodness. Stir into some egg yolks and slowly cook until thick. Strain into some more cream. Freeze in an ice cream maker. Fold in some mini chocolate chips. I could do this with my eyes closed.

This ice cream was phenomenal. Some ice creams I like to make in super small batches because while their flavors are good and interesting, I don’t want to be eating more than about 3 servings of it. Not so with this vanilla mint chocolate chip ice cream. I could eat gallons of if, day in and day out. Maybe it just brings out the kid in me, I don’t know.

Vanilla Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

makes about 1 quart

adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz

2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
2 cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Warm 1 cup milk, sugar, cream and salt in small saucepan until sugar is dissolved and steam rises from the milk. Stir in the mint leaves until completely submerged. Add split vanilla bean. Cover and remove from heat. Let steep for at least an hour.

Strain mint-infused mixture, pressing down on mint leaves to extract as much mint flavor as possible, return to saucepan and rewarm over medium-low heat. Pour the remaining 1 cup of milk into a large bowl and set strainer on top.

Whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour in the warm mint cream into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return to saucepan and cook until thickened. Pour custard through the strainer and stir into the milk. Chill thoroughly before freezing in the ice cream maker.

Once churned, fold in mini chocolate chips.

Practice makes … Pasta?

As you might have noticed, once an idea gets planted in my head – it’s hard to shake it free. For example, take this butternut squash:

Doesn’t it just scream autumn? I had been waiting eight months for this butternut squash. Last winter I went to visit my friend Jenny in Chicago to help her find a wedding dress and to learn how to make chocolates. While I was there, we went to Cafe Spiaggia (the restaurant where the wedding will be) and I had the most delicious butternut squash ravioli. Seriously – I am still thinking about it nearly a year later.

Previously, I had tried to make ravioli using wonton wrappers and it’s just not the same as fresh pasta. I knew this time I wanted to make them right – no shortcuts. I scoured the Uptown area for some fresh pasta sheets and then searched some more with no luck. Out of options, I decided to try my hand at pasta making, I mean, how hard could it be? Apparently no shortcuts means no shortcuts. So I announced my pasta-making intentions over lunch and was immediately offered the use of a pasta roller (Thanks Pete!). I was good to go.

Here’s what I found out: pasta dough is amazingly simple but in no way easy.

Two ingredients, that’s all, two ingredients! Flour, eggs (and I suppose a little water) and a LOT of elbow grease. Only pennies to make, which is kind of absurd.

I most anticipated the rolling part. After the first pass through the roller, I thought I had failed miserably. The dough was dry and somewhat crumbly. Not a pretty sight and did nothing to boost my kitchen ego.

But I kept going (if graduate school teaches you anything – it’s perseverance). Rolling the dough, folding the dough and re-rolling the dough. And at some point, something magical happens and the dough becomes soft and silky and recognizable as pasta.

I was completely enchanted.

Look Ma at what I can do!

That moment – that magical moment when the pasta dough becomes pasta – is utterly addicting and makes the whole process worth it. That is, if it is a Sunday afternoon and you are in no rush to make dinner…

Now, back to the butternut squash. I roasted it, added some ginger, parmesan cheese and finely ground hazelnuts and wrapped it in a ~3 inch square of pasta. First folding the dough in half to make a triangle and then bringing two points together to make a little “hats” (or cappellacci).

Add a little browned butter, sage and toasted hazelnuts … not bad for a Sunday afternoon.

Butternut Squash Cappellacci with Browned Butter, Sage and Hazelnuts
Pasta Dough
2 cups flour
2 large eggs
Butternut Squash Filling
1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cups sage leaves, chopped
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts

1. Mound flour on countertop with a well in the middle. Add eggs to well. With a fork, break up the eggs and start to incorporate the flour. Add water as needed to bring dough together.

2. Once dough is formed, wrap in a kitchen towel and let sit for about an hour.

3. Divide dough in fourths. Flatten dough into a rectangle and feed it through a pasta roller, set at the widest setting. (My dough was very piece-y after the first pass through). Gather dough together and repeat until a sheet forms. Fold pasta sheet in half and continue rolling it until it becomes soft and silky, occasionally adjusting the roller setting to narrower setting. Keep pasta sheets wrapped in a kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.

4. Halve the butternut squash and remove the seeds. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350º for about an hour. Scoop flesh into a medium bowl.

5. Stir in ginger, parmesan cheese and ground hazelnuts.

6. Cut pasta dough into 3-inch squares. Scoop about a tablespoon of filling into the center of each square. Fold dough in half to make a triangle, pinching edges together. Bring two points of the triangle together to form the “hat.”

7. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for about 6-8 minutes and very carefully remove/drain.

8. Cook butter in a skillet over medium heat until it starts to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add sage, toasted hazelnuts and cook for an additional minute or two. Add pasta and toss to coat.

Tickled Pink … Cupcakes

I spent last week thinking about beets. I know it’s not the first time I’ve discussed them (or even the second … and then there was that borscht incident earlier this summer that I thought best not to share). But last week I was thinking about making something sweet with them. Similar to a carrot cake? Or zucchini cake? No … I was thinking about using beets in red velvet cake. (Or cupcakes, as the case may be).

I am not exactly sure why. I am pretty sure that I’ve never eaten red velvet cake and certainly have never made it. From what I’ve read and heard on the street, people just eat it for the cream cheese frosting. But the idea of using my single, solitary beet from the CSA to turn my cake pink, well, it tickled my fancy. And it makes the cupcakes healthy, right?

I’m not going to lie. There was a moment as I was adding the beet puree into the cupcake when all I could smell was the deep earthiness of the beets. And thought Why the hell did I ruin cupcakes by putting beets in them? But, as it turns out, it didn’t ruin the cupcakes. Not at all. It turned them brilliantly pink.

And you know how I love color.

I got the cake recipe here. I chose it because it called for both a bit of lemon juice and vinegar to maintain the proper pH, which is uber-important for maintaining the pink/red color. It also has cream cheese in the batter, not just in the frosting, so it really is more of a pink poundcake than a true “red velvet cake.” But I am more than okay with that – in fact I prefer it.

Beets in cupcakes … who knew?

Tickled Pink … Cupcakes

adapted ever-so-slightly from Sophistimom

makes 1 dozen cupcakes

1 large beet
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup butter
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar + 3 tablespoons
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (not dutch-processed – it will mess with the pH!)
Cream Cheese Frosting
4 tablespoons butter
4 oz cream cheese
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Peel and quarter the beet and place in a small baking dish with 1/4 cup water. Cover dish with aluminum foil and roast at 350º for about an hour. Transfer beets and water to a blender, add lemon juice and apple cider vinegar and puree until smooth. Should make about 3/4 cup of beet puree.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time and add in vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa powder. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients slowly.

Add the beet puree. And watch your batter turn from drab brown to a beautiful burgandy. And try not to smell the beets … or at least don’t be frightened when you do. The cupcakes will be delicious and won’t taste like beets.

Scoop into a lined muffin tin. Bake at 350º for about 30 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

Beat together cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla until well-blended and smooth. Frost cupcakes and enjoy!

Apple Cranberry Cabbage Salad

I love this salad. It’s something of a cross between a waldorf salad and a slaw … but without the heavy, gloppy mayonnaise. I originally made it for our lab picnic earlier this summer (along with this Rhubarb Cobbler Cake) as I had a head of cabbage from the CSA box. And I made it again this week because I found myself with another head of cabbage and because I am love with apple season. It’s got some serious tang – the dressing has two different vinegars in it but is balanced by the sweetness of the apples, cranberries and sweet and spicy walnuts.

It feels hearty, because for some reason in my mind cabbage has much more substance than lettuce, but not heavy. A great dish for the transition into autumn. I’ve been savoring the local Ginger Gold apples and they are great in this salad because they keep well once cut (i.e. won’t turn brown). I used half a head of cabbage and it was perfect for two decently sized salads … but this is easily scaled up if feeding more than a mouth a or two.

Apple Cranberry Cabbage Salad

1/2 head of cabbage
1 apple
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup sweet and spicy walnuts, recipe below
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Thinly slice the cabbage. Peel, core and thinly slice the apple into large, bite-sized pieces. Throw in a bowl with the dried cranberries and sweet and spicy walnuts.

In a small jar (I think this one had red curry paste in it originally) combine the olive oil, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar and dijon mustard. Salt and pepper to taste. Give it a good shake.

Pour dressing over salad and toss. It doesn’t get that much easier or delicious.

Sweet and Spicy Walnuts

makes ~1 1/2 cups

I love, love, love these nuts. Sometimes I used pecans instead and will throw them on salads or eat straight out of the jar.

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups walnuts
freshly ground black pepper
dash of cayenne pepper

In a small pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the sugar and walnuts, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir until the walnuts are evenly coated and the peppers are distributed. And wait. Eventually (~5 minutes) the sugar will start to melt. At that point, make sure to be constantly stirring the walnuts into the melted sugar until all of the sugar is cooked and the nuts are evenly coated, about 2-3 minutes.

Transfer to wax paper to let cool. You can store these nuts in a jar for a couple of weeks.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

I am not even close to finished with my homemade ice cream obsession. Despite my disappointment with the end of summer, a secret part of me has been patiently waiting for the weather to turn cooler so that I can start making some more hearty ice creams. Including Cinnamon Ice Cream. No other spice says autumn quite like cinnamon does.

I love this ice cream … although to be fair, I have only eaten it with Apple Brown Betty. But I am okay with that.

Hooray for apple season!

Unsurprisingly, I got this recipe for The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebowitz. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the man knows his ice creams. Similar to vanilla ice cream, cinnamon sticks (in lieu of a vanilla bean) are steeped in the milk/cream/sugar before the egg yolks are added to make a custard. David’s recipe calls for only cinnamon sticks, but I used both sticks and ground cinnamon and thought the cinnamon flavor came through nicely, but I should point out I was using Vietnamese cinnamon, which is more intense that regular old ground cinnamon.

FYI: 1 stick = 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Make this ice cream. And then make this apple brown betty. It’s almost enough to make me fall in love with fall….

Cinnamon Ice Cream

adapted from The Perfect Scoop

makes about 1 quart

2 cups whole milk, divided
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
5, 3-inch cinnamon sticks
2 1/2 teaspoons ground Vietnamese cinnamon
5 large egg yolks

Warm 1 cup milk, cream, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Once warm, steam should be rising from the milk and the sugar should be dissolved, remove from heat and cover. Let steep for at least an hour.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and re-warm the mixture. Pour remaining milk into a batter bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly, but steadily pour the warm cinnamon milk into the eggs, whisking constantly. Pour the egg-cinnamon mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until it starts to thicken. (Again, whisking constantly). It’s fair to say that all of this whisking burns the ice cream calories, right?

Pour the custard through the mesh strainer and into the milk. Stir and chill thoroughly. Freeze in your ice cream maker.