Tag Archives: Summer

Head Games

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There’s no metaphor tied to this salad. No anxious, overwrought voice in my head that asks ‘How can I completely overthink this dish to best represent my emotions?’ Don’t worry – I’ve barely scratched the surface of my food-as-therapy inclinations. But here and now, this is just a salad. In summers past, I’ve played the ‘how do I use all my vegetables before the next box arrives’ game. Not so this summer – I’m leaving Minneapolis in just FIVE DAYS (!!!) and now is right when the season is hitting its stride. So, to replace the CSA game, I’ve developed a new one over the past several weeks: Clean out the pantry before I move!

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I never meant to have farro in my kitchen. I accidentally bought it during one shopping trip when I meant to get freekah (for the most amazing pilaf), but as always happens when I shop on my way home from work, I forgot my grocery list and relied on my memory. Turns out, my memory isn’t always the most reliable source of information. My pantry has been harboring farro as a fugitive ever since.

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I love a good salad (even if most of you must think I only eat ice cream) only they frequently leave me craving a cookie by mid-afternoon. Particularly at this time of year when I am cycling 6.5 miles to get to campus. But this salad – oh this salad! Who knew something made up on a whim some random summer evening while Skyping with the family would leave me so smitten. It delightfully manages to keep my hunger at bay. Not only that, but it maintains its integrity over several days as the farro just keeps soaking up the juices from the cucumber, tomato and corn.

A win by all accounts.

Summer Farro Salad 

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1 cup farro
2 cups vegetable stock
 
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon black pepper
 
3 ears worth of corn kernels (removed from cob)
2-3 shallots, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon coriander
 
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, chopped
6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 bunch arugula, chopped
3 tablespoons mint, chopped
 
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In a medium pot bring farro and vegetable stock to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain remaining cooking liquid. While farro is cooking, whisk together extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, sugar and pepper. Toss with warm farro.
 
In a saucepan, heat olive oil and cook shallots until softened, ~5 minutes. Add corn kernels and coriander and cook 5 minutes more. Toss with the farro and add tomatoes, cucumber and feta cheese. Serve atop a bed of arugula and garnish with mint.
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Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoon is just about the perfect time for ice cream. (Although I might also argue that ten-thirty Tuesday night or five on a Friday evening are  also the perfect times for ice cream.) This particular Sunday is no exception, in fact it might be the kind of Sunday that begs for an ice cream interlude.

Enter the ice cream of choice this sunny afternoon: Cherry-Almond.

This ice cream took me three days to make. And I don’t regret a moment of it. I took it slowly, working on a piece here (Tuesday morning), another piece there (Wednesday evening) and a finally getting around to finishing it (Thursday) so that I could enjoy it this weekend. It’s a recipe from a new ice cream book I bought, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, from the Bi-Rite Creamery in San Fransisco.

I was drawn to this recipe – mostly because cherries were on sale and this recipe doesn’t require me to pit them. But also because in the course of making it, it creates a cherry simple syrup that is simply delicious with sparkling water. Did I mention it’s also my friend, Laura’s, favorite flavor combinations? And Laura undoubtedly deserves something special. I’ve chewed her ear off over lunch or cocktails or splitting the CSA for the past several weeks while I was working on my manuscript. So I made up a batch of ice cream just for her – although I managed to squirrel some away for myself. I ate some this afternoon with such enthusiasm that I managed to drip all over myself.

But that’s okay. It’s Sunday and I still haven’t dressed for the day.

Cherry Almond Ice Cream
adapted ever-so-slightly from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones
makes ~1 quart
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2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups cherries
 
3/4 cup raw slivered almonds
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
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Poach the cherries:

In a small saucepan bring the 2 1/4 cups sugar and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and add the cherries. Cook until the cherries are soft and cooked through, about 5 minutes. remove from heat and let the cherries cool completely in the syrup. Drain the cherries (Save that syrup … consider it a cherry simple syrup and is an excellent component of cream soda or cocktails) and squeeze the pits out of the fruit. Chop in 1/4-inch pieces.

Prepare the almonds:

Preheat oven to 350º. Spread almonds onto a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until the nuts are fragrant. Cool completely. Combine with 3/4 cup sugar in food processor and pulse until finely ground.
Infuse the cream:

Transfer the almond mixture to a large saucepan. Add the cream, milk and salt. Warm over low heat until small bubbles begin to form around the edges. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for ~45 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk the yolks to break them up. Set aside. Return the almond-dairy mixture over heat and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Slowly pour warm dairy into eggs, while whisking constantly. Pour back into the saucepan and cook until thick, stirring slowly with a heat-proof spatula. Strain through a very fine mesh strainer into a clean batter bowl. Chill thoroughly.

Freeze in an ice cream maker. Fold in chopped cherries.

Two days off …

That manuscript I’ve been working on? I submitted it on Friday afternoon. Then I took the whole weekend off.

And did the most everyday things like … laundry and cleaning out the fridge. A walk to the bookstore and the kitchen store. There was a lot of time spent on my couch – watching movies and taking naps (sometimes taking naps while watching movies). You know, weekend stuff.

Unsurprisingly, there was some thought about food and time spent in the kitchen. And future plans. In less than a couple of weeks my dear, dear friend Robin is coming to visit and play in Minneapolis for the weekend. The last time she was here was January 2011 and it was beyond cold and snowy. We drank wine and cooked dinner and watched terrible movies. We made a peach shortcake with canned peaches and cinnamon scented whipped cream.

(What does it mean that I remember dessert from a year and half ago, but cannot for the life of me remember the movie we watched?)

That dessert was humble, thought up while standing in the grocery store. It was cozy and homey and perfect for the frightful weather. However, the weather right now is anything but frightful. And peaches are coming into their own. I spent a good part of Saturday conjuring up a summer version of that shortcake with canned peaches. I admit, there was an appetizer my friend Laura cooked up last weekend that I haven’t quite been able to get out of my head – prosciutto-wrapped peaches with basil. Savory, sweet, salty and screaming of summer. So I hijacked the idea and turned it into a dessert.

Bacon Buttermilk Shortcakes with Minted Balsamic Peaches (and sweet basil ice cream if you’d like). Sometimes I have food ideas that disappoint with my execution of them. This is not one of those times. It’s a dish that works easily at the start of the day, or the middle of the afternoon or as a finishing thought late at night. It’s possible that it’s not so great and I am simply smitten with it because I had the time and the inclination to think about food after so many science-centric weeks …

Bacon Buttermilk Shortcakes with Minted Balsamic Peaches
makes 2 shortcakes
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1 cup flour
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
7/8 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled in bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon heavy cream
 
2 ripe peaches, peeled and cut in bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
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Preheat oven to 400º. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Pulse a couple of times. Add butter and pulse for about 30 seconds, until dough resembles cornmeal. Add buttermilk and process until just combined, adding more flour if too sticky. Turn dough over onto a floured surface, sprinkle bacon pieces and knead together a couple of times until bacon is well distributed. Pat dough out to 1-inch thickness and cut into two 3-inch rounds. Brush with heavy cream and bake for 25 minutes.

While the shortcakes are baking, toss diced peaches, sugar, balsamic vinegar and mint in a small bowl. Slice baked shortcakes in half, spoon peaches over and top with remaining biscuit.

 

Mint + Lemon + Ice Cream

It’s full blown summer. Temps are soaring into the 90s and the heat index is beyond that. I finally caved and bought two small window AC units for my apartment. Summertime life is about eighty seven times better with air conditioning. My cats agree.

Summertime is better with ice cream as well. Especially when it’s a combination of two of my very favorites, mint and lemon. What a marvelously magical combination of flavors. Bright and sunny, tart, and oh-so refreshing. You know how some ice creams leave a heavy film inside your mouth after your finished. Not so here. Wham-bam lemon right of the bat, juxtaposed by a sweet lighter-than-air creaminess (thanks to the use of half and half instead of heavy cream) and finishes with a mellow minty-ness. I predict this will become one of my summer staples. In fact, I am looking forward to it.

An added bonus: a minimum of time spent at the stove. A quick heat to warm up the dairy so as to steep the mint, but that’s it for cooking time. No eggs, no cornstarch, no cooking until thick. I have a beautifully fragrant pot of lemon balm that I clipped from, in addition to my mint plant, but feel free to double up on the mint in this recipe if you don’t have lemon balm.

Lemon-Mint Ice Cream
makes ~1 1/2 pints (3 cups)
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2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup packed mint leaves
1/2 cup packed lemon balm leaves
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (~3 lemons)
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Heat half and half, sugar, and salt over medium heat until steam starts to rise. Remove from heat and submerge mint and lemon balm leaves. Cover and let steep for an hour. Strain through a mesh sieve, pressing hard on leaves to extract as much flavor as possible. Finely zest 2 lemons directly into mint-infused half and half. Juice lemons and whisk into dairy. Chill throughly. Freeze in ice cream maker.

CSA Week 6

The vegetables are here!

This week’s CSA was heavy (literally), especially compared to the previous weeks’ salad-centric boxes.

Spinach, green beans, salad greens, cucumber, garlic, beets, summer squash and zucchini, broccoli and yukon gold potatoes, oh my!

Whatever shall I make?