Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

I cannot get enough basil this summer. I'll eat it with anything: pesto, caprese, pasta, frittata, and, yes, even ice cream. I was skeptical about herbal dessert, but basil ice cream is marvelously refreshing (here, basil plays a similar flavor role as mint does). Last summer I made a sweet basil ice cream topped with strawberries in balsamic syrup that went over really well with all who tried it, so when I came across this recipe that combined such great flavors, I couldn't turn away.

Strawberry Basil Ice cream is an ode to summer. The upcoming Labor Day weekend marks the official end of summer, though I have a feeling it will linger for a while longer here in Tucson. So cheers to warmer times, fresh berries, basil from the garden, and ice cream! 

Note: I took these pictures outside when it was 104 F. The ice cream doesn't look this melt-y in real life, I promise :)

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream
adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes

yields 6-8 servings

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar plus additional for strawberries
2 cups half and half, cream, or whole milk
2 pounds strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves 

Scald one cup of half and half along with ½ cup sugar and half of the basil over medium heat in a medium sauce pan. Remove from heat. Allow to sit for a few minutes before discarding the basil.

In a stand mixer whisk together the yolks and ¼ cup sugar until light and fluffy, then gradually pour the scalded half and half down the side of the bowl as the mixer is still going. 

Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened and will coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat, and pour through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Add in the remaining half and half and lemon extract. Chill the custard thoroughly. About two hours. 

Place strawberries in a bowl and dust lightly with sugar. Allow to sit for one hour. 

Puree the strawberries and push through a fine mesh sieve, and into the chilled custard. Puree the remaining basil and add into the chilled custard. Stir gently to combine. 

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker. Allow the ice cream to churn until finished. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Pin It

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mini Vanilla Cupcakes with Blackberry Frosting

Warning: Mini cupcakes are dangerous. You think you can eat five in one sitting because they're only little... Please proceed at your own risk.

Simple, elegant, and flavorful, this two-bite dessert quickly charms its way into your stomach. Any lunch, party, or bridal shower would welcome the arrival of this pretty, petite palate-pleaser.  

I cannot get over the stunning color of this frosting. All praise the blackberry! It reminds me of the blackberry cabernet gelato that Frost sells (probably because it's 105 F outside and I wish I had some ice cream right now... or because I always wish I had some ice cream right now regardless of the temperature...). If you can make this frosting before gobbling up all of the blackberries in the carton (power to you!), then you can make this recipe, and I highly recommend it. 

Vanilla Cupcakes
adapted from My Baking Addiction

yields 2 dozen cupcakes or 6 dozen mini cupcakes

2 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
4 large egg whites
8 tablespoon (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until the butter and sugar are very light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until well incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the batter is smooth. Then add the last of the dry ingredients, beating until, yes, that's right, the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Using a large scoop/spoon, distribute the batter between the muffin trays, filling each muffin liner until 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-24 minutes for cupcakes, and 16-18 minutes for mini cupcakes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. While cupcakes are cooling, make Blackberry Frosting...

Blackberry Frosting

yields about 3 cups of frosting

Ingredients: 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter, softened
1 cup blackberries
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups confectioners' sugar

Beat the butter, blackberries, lemon juice, and vanilla. Add sugar, one cup at a time, until fully incorporated. Slather on cupcakes. Top with blackberries.


Pin It

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cherry Gelato

Light, airy, and eggless, this cherry gelato is a fantasy in foodie form. I still feel guilty for eating something so heavenly (and pink!). 

If these picture don't make you want to try this, then I don't know what else I could say that would...

Cherry Gelato

yields 3 cups of gelato

2 cups half and half
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cherry preserves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped cherries

Mix 1/2 cup half and half and cornstarch in a small bowl until thoroughly combined with no lumps.

Heat 1 1/2 cups half and half and sugar in a medium saucepan until almost boiling. Add cornstarch mixture and cherry preserves. Let simmer for 3 minutes. Transfer to a metal bowl and place in the freezer for at least 1 hour.

Remove from freezer. Add lemon juice. Freeze according to ice cream maker's instructions. At the last moment add chopped cherries. Remove gelato from ice cream maker, and store in an airtight container in the freezer.

Pin It

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lemon Hibiscus Sorbet

I live around the corner from a wonderful Chinese tea shop, Seven Cups. Yesterday, I was looking for a gift to give a fellow tea-lover, when I came across these dried hibiscus flowers. Pictured is Chinese hibiscus, but you can also find hibiscus flowers in Latin specialty food stores (usually in a bag labeled "Flor de Jamaica").

Hibiscus tea has tart fruity and floral flavor, and contains Vitamin C. An added benefit is that hibiscus tea has been linked in studies to reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure, so drink up! 

There's only one problem: my air-conditioner is broken. It's a summer's midday in Tucson. I don't want to drink hot tea. Solution? Lemon Hibiscus Sorbet.

This sorbet is delightfully light and refreshing, and has more depth of flavor than your average glass of iced tea. I cut back the amount of sugar in the original recipe because I really wanted the lemon and the hibiscus to be the stars. I found myself going back for thirds, so I think this recipe is a keeper. Lemon Hibiscus Sorbet is my perfect temporary relief from the sizzling summer.

Lemon Hibiscus Sorbet
adapted from Gourmet

yields 1 pint of sorbet

2 cups water
1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add hibiscus flowers, remove from heat, and let steep for 15 minutes. (You could stop here and drink tea, but the sorbet is so good! I promise it is worth the wait...).

Pour the hibiscus tea through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl and discard the hibiscus flowers (I find the flowers are good for another round, so NOW you can make some tea just to drink :) ). Return tea to saucepan and bring to a boil with sugar and a pinch of salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Transfer mixture to a metal bowl and place in freezer for 20 minutes.

Remove metal bowl from freezer, add lemon juice, and freeze in ice cream maker, adding the lemon zest at the last minute. Transfer sorbet to an airtight container and place in freezer to harden, for at least 3 hours.

Pin It

Friday, August 12, 2011

Seahorses & Sea Scallops (Lemon Poppy Seed Sugar Cookies)

I miss the ocean. Don't get me wrong - the desert is full of beauty, and Tucson sure does know how to set a sun - but nothing quite beats a sea breeze rolling off from the seemingly-infinite, blue horizon...

I have one of those conch shells on my nightstand, and it teases me with the sounds of the ocean. So I was left no choice but to roll out my longing on a lightly floured surface, and squeeze out my wanderlust through a pastry bag. The result are these cute little seahorse and sea scallop cookies.

The base is a lemon poppy seed sugar cookie - a perfect flat canvas for whatever creation you have in mind. With plenty of lemon zest, this sand dollar packs a refreshing punch.

I've traded sand between the toes for poppy seeds between the teeth, but there are worse second-bests... I hope these cookies bring a smile to you, as they do to me :)

Lemon Poppy Seed Sugar Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart

yields about 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookie

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In the bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. While the mixer is running, add the egg, milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and poppy seeds, and mix until well combined. Turn the mixer down to low and gradually add the flour, salt, and baking powder, and mix until just combined.

Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper;.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut twice more. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes, but do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Decorate with royal icing, if you fancy. Enjoy.

Pin It

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Today's Photo: Lost Boy Beach, Again!

Today's Photo is of Lost Boy Beach, the secret beach cove that our beautiful rental perched above, ensconced in a forest in Oceanside, OR. I wish I could have stayed there the entire summer! By taking a little trail (below) lined with wildflowers we could reach this peaceful haven. I've never experienced such breathtaking views of the ocean and jagged rocks before. Our planet is truly a marvel.

Being in a landlocked state for the next five months is not going to be easy, when all I can do is dream of seashells...

Pin It

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Honey Crepes with Black Plums, Mascarpone, and Pistachios

I got plum crazy (punny!) at the market last week and bought a few too many plums, as if such a dilemma exists. I'd been waiting for the right plum recipe to come along, and once again, Smitten Kitchen never fails to provide just what I was in search of: Crepes filled with warm plums. Mmmmm...

As they cook, the plums go from pale yellow flesh with purple skin, to golden flesh with magenta skin swimming in a coral glaze. And the hint of nutmeg is priceless. This has to be the best way to eat plums. I was also happy that I found a recipe that makes no use of the oven, since today's high in dear old Tucson was a balmy 100 degrees.

The light and airy crepes take only minutes to make, and cooked crepes can be kept stacked and wrapped in the fridge for up to two days,. In addition, the sauteed plums can be cooked ahead of time, and gently rewarmed when the time is ripe.

I still cannot get over the beautiful colors in this crepe (I admit that I added the pistachios just for the touch of green), and it is as pleasing to the taste buds as it is to the eyes (I devoured two of these in under 5 minutes. You can judge me, but you're really just jealous). This crepe will be a repeat recipe to be sure, maybe next time with peaches!

Honey Crepes with Black Plums and Mascarpone
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

yields 8 small crepes

2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup milk (I used soy milk)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Two pinches of salt
Few gratings fresh nutmeg
2 tablespoons honey

1 pound sugar or other plums, pitted, quartered, and cut into slices
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Juice of half a lemon

1/2 cup Mascarpone
chopped pistachios
honey, if desired

Make crepes: In a bowl, combine crepe ingredients by whisking vigorously. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or up to two days.

Preheat a medium skillet or crepe pan over medium-high heat. Once heated, brush pan lightly with melted butter or oil. Pour 1/4 cup batter into skillet, swirling it until it evenly coats the bottom and cook, undisturbed, until the bottom is golden and the top is set, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip and cook on other side for 5 to 10 seconds. Transfer wrapper to paper towel covered plate. Continue with remaining batter.

Prepare filling: Melt the butter in heavy, large skillet (or, the one you just used for crepes, because I’m on day 9 of a broken dishwasher and will not create additional work for myself) over moderately high heat. Add the plums and cook them for 2 minutes, tossing them about until they’re warmed through. Add the honey and cinnamon and cook them for 1 minute more. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over them and transfer to a bowl. Cover the bowl with foil if you’re looking to keep them warm for a while.

Assemble: Lay a crepe on a plate. Spread about a tablespoon of mascarpone down middle of crepe. Add a spoonful or two of warm plums. Sprinkle with pistachios. Drizzle with extra honey, if desired. Fold crepe sides over each other, so that they slightly overlap. Enjoy.
Pin It

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Today's Photo: Strawberry Tart

Today's Photo is of the Strawberry Tart I made while in Vancouver, BC. The market down the street had beautiful strawberries that were a match for the gorgeous backyard and deck of my boyfriend's roommate (She does landscaping and indoor plant arrangements). Look at all the flowers and greenery!

Pin It

Sweet Potato Ravioli with Oregano-Hazelnut Pesto

At home, I generally cook vegetarian. Food, Inc. made me weary of buying generic superstore meat ever again, and I think I'm all the more healthier for it. So when I saw this recipe in Saveur, I knew I had to try it.

Oregano and hazelnuts are the stars of this creation, giving much more depth of flavor than your average basil pesto.  The pesto can be spread on pasta, bread, and meats, but I recommend trying it on these easy to make sweet potato ravioli.

With simply wonton wrappers, egg wash, and filling of your choice, homemade ravioli can be made in minutes and only take two minutes in boiling water to cook. What looks like an impressive task is really just a shortcut. Thank you wonton wrappers (though I really do want to attempt making ravioli dough someday...).

This is the lightest, while still being filling, pasta dish I have made to date, and is great for any time of year. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Bon appétit!

Sweet Potato Ravioli with Oregano-Hazelnut Pesto
adapted from Saveur

serves 6-8

Oregano-Hazelnut Pesto
1 1/2 cups packed oregano
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed basil
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Sweet Potato Ravioli
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 cup finely grated parmesan, plus more for serving
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, browned
1 tbsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp. minced sage
2 tsp. minced oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
80 square wonton wrappers
1 egg, lightly beaten
extra sage leaves for garnish (optional)

First, make the pesto. Process oregano, oil, basil, parmesan, hazelnuts, and garlic, in a food processor until finely ground. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Next, make the ravioli. Heat oven to 450 F. Cut sweet potatoes into thirds. Rub garlic and sweet potato with olive oil, and place, cut sides down, on a baking sheet, and bake until tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool briefly, and then remove potato skins and pass the potatoes and garlic through a potato ricer or food mill into a large bowl; mix in parmesan, browned butter, nutmeg, 2 tsp. finely chopped sage, oregano, and salt and pepper. Set filling aside.

Place 1 wonton wrapper on a work surface and place 1 tbsp. filling in center; brush edge of wrapper with egg and top with another wrapper; seal edges. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Working in batches, add ravioli, and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with pesto until evenly coated. Arrange on a large serving platter or plates and top with sage leaves.
Pin It

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Today's Photo: Sand Ripples

Today's Photo is of sand ripples at Cape Lookout State Park in Oregon! And what a Lookout it was:

We were blessed with a beautiful, sunny day to enjoy the coast. More Oregon pictures are soon to follow...
Pin It

Poppy-Seed Danishes with Cherry-Neufchâtel Filling

I just got back from the Northwest in all of its beauty, and cherries. Bing and Rainier cherries were everywhere by the cheap, so I snagged some lovely cherry preserves at a fruit stand near Mt. Hood. On my multi-stop plane ride back from Seattle to Tucson I did a dangerous thing: I read five cooking magazines full of recipes (many, many more posts are on the way!). This recipe, which makes use of my cherry preserves, was featured in Martha Stewart Living.

I'm a sucker for breakfast pastries... and all pastries... but especially danishes, sticky buns, and cinnamon rolls. They are sweet, savory, fruity, and filling all in one bite. With this recipe, it was clear that my cherry preserves would be used for a greater good.

The danish dough is fool proof and could easily be used for all sorts of breakfast pastries. However, this specific combination of cheese, cherry, and poppy-seed is well worth simply sticking to the recipe, and the danishes resemble beautiful poppy flowers (of the buttery variety...).

And in case you're wondering what the heck Neufchâtel cheese is, it's that cheese that looks and tastes exactly like cream cheese, located right next to the cream cheese in your grocery store. The only advantage is that is has less fast without losing flavor, so any kind of cream cheese will do, but maybe you might like something new, too!

This recipe came through for me and my cherry preserves, making breakfast all the more delicious. I hope Martha's creation can do the same for you.

Poppy-Seed Danishes with Cherry-Neufchâtel Filling
adapted from Martha Stewart

yields 9 danishes

Danish Dough
1 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, plus more for bowl
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (one 1/4-ounce envelope) active dry yeast
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and hands
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/3 cup cherry preserves

1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk or cream

First, make the danish dough. Warm milk, butter, and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat until mixture reaches 120 degrees on a candy thermometer. (Butter will not melt completely.) Pour warm milk mixture over yeast in the bowl of a mixer; whisk to combine. Cover with 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt (do not stir). Let stand for 5 minutes.

Using the dough-hook attachment (I don't have a stand mixer - donations welcome :) - so I did the following all by hand), mix dough on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl, until a sticky dough forms. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time. Reduce speed to low, and mix in 1 1/2 cups flour. (If dough is too sticky, mix in an additional 1/2 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Continue to mix until dough is smooth and pulls away from sides of bowl, about 5 minutes more.

Using floured hands, turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough into a ball, and transfer to a large buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place until dough is doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Return dough to lightly floured surface, and punch down. Reshape into a ball. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Beat Neufchâtel cheese, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolk. Add poppy seeds, and beat until evenly distributed.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 16-inch square. Trim edges using a sharp paring knife to form a 15-inch square. (If dough seems too warm or too elastic, refrigerate or freeze for 10 minutes.) Cut dough into nine 5-inch squares, and divide between 2 baking sheets.

Cut a 2-inch line from the 4 corners of each square into the center. Spread a heaping tablespoon filling onto each. Dollop centers with a heaping teaspoon preserves. Fold the 2 top corners into the center of each square. Repeat with remaining corners to form petals. Brush petals with egg wash. Bake until deep golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, make the glaze. Mix together confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use. (If glaze gets stiff, add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.)

Drizzle Danishes with glaze, and let stand for 10 minutes.

Pin It

What's Hot This Week?