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Well, hello. It’s really been a while this time, but I’m going to try to get back into the swing of this thing for real. It’s been just about two years since I last updated this blog, which is really wild. First life just got in the way, in the form of moving and starting new things and not having a reliable, homey, well-stocked kitchen to cook in. Then, after a while, not-blogging just kept on being not-blogging. I can’t promise that I’ll post here particularly regularly, but hopefully I can follow through on making it at least a once-in-a-while thing to start off with. I’ll see where that takes me.

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I can’t recall the exact moment when I decided to venture into the world of homemade ice cream. Throughout my childhood it was family tradition to make strawberry sorbet in the summer, but our ice cream maker sat unused the rest of the year until I intervened. And once you become that one person in your family who makes ice cream, your ice cream quickly becomes a staple of holiday celebrations. Much like any other holiday food, there is a certain tension between wanting to experiment and wanting to stick with what has proven to work before.

I’ve made pumpkin ice cream for several Thanksgivings, following the recipe from my trusty Ben & Jerry’s cookbook, but it always fell flat. It was too heavy on the pumpkin and rather uninteresting (my new theory is that their recipe was designed to be made with a custard, but it didn’t work right as the egg-free ice cream I prefer to make). This year, finally, I came up with new recipes, one vegan and one dairy, for pumpkin ice creams that I am happy with.

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I originally wanted something a little lighter on the pumpkin, more heavily spiced, and sweetened with maple syrup. The first time I tried it out was the vegan version for our Friendsgiving celebration. I used a mixture of coconut milk and coconut cream for texture, and because I couldn’t find unsweetened coconut cream, I had to scrap the maple (it was already plenty sweet!). I also had to increase rather than decrease the pumpkin so that it could stand out against the coconut flavor.

The second time around, for actual Thanksgiving, I used my standard ice cream base of heavy cream and half and half, reduced the pumpkin, increased the spices, and added chocolate chips. You could put chocolate in the vegan version as well, but for the purposes of this post I’m writing the recipes as I made them.

See you soon (I promise)!

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

4 oz dark chocolate

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup half and half

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

3/8 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp cloves

pinch salt

Melt chocolate, then pour it onto a parchment-covered plate and smooth into a thin layer with a spatula. Freeze until solid. Then, chop the chocolate into pieces and return it to the freezer.

Whisk all ice cream ingredients to combine, then freeze in an ice cream maker. Just before it is done, add the chocolate chunks from the freezer.

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Vegan Pumpkin Coconut Ice Cream

13 oz can coconut milk

15 oz can coconut cream

15 oz can pumpkin puree

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

pinch salt

Whisk the coconut milk and cream over low heat until they are warmed and smooth, then whisk in the pumpkin and spices. Chill in the refrigerator, then freeze in an ice cream maker.

(If you are lucky enough to find unsweetened coconut cream, then you can sweeten your ice cream with maple syrup to taste.)

 

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A friend and I got the idea for this yesterday and knew that we’d have to test it immediately.  You’re probably familiar with peppermint bark, the candy cane-covered chocolate that’s pretty ubiquitous around holiday season these days.  Well, this is salty-sweet kale bark, or, as it has been unofficially dubbed, “bacon chocolate for hippies,” born on a snowy, cloudy drive through the winding roads of the western Massachusetts hilltowns.

This bark consists of kale chips crumbled onto melted chocolate with a hefty pinch of salt.  Pretty simple, and infinitely variable.  For our first attempt, we stuck with a simple salted kale chip, but anything goes, really.  Curried kale chips?  Flakes of coconut sprinkled over the melted chocolate as well?  The world is your oyster…. or your kale patch?  Whatever.

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We used curly kale, which I definitely recommend because it holds a light, crispy texture really well against the chocolate.  After several kale-size experiments, I can say it’s definitely best not to over-crumble your kale onto the chocolate because that compromises its texture.  We also tested out two different types of dark chocolate and found that we preferred the lighter of the two, with 65% cocoa, because it had a nice fruity flavor and didn’t overwhelm the kale as much as the 71% bar we tried.

This is pretty much a dream come true … kale vaulted into the dessert category.  It’s just as good as we hoped it would be.  Happy bark-making, hippies.

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Salted Kale Bark

First, make kale chips.  Wash and dry your kale, stem it and break it into smaller pieces, and coat it with olive oil.  It’s important to try to use as little oil as you can, because no one wants greasy kale on their chocolate.  We used half a tablespoon for about half a bunch of kale.  Don’t worry if some chips are more on the oily side, though, because you can always just eat those ones on their own.  Spread the kale out on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until crispy.  Let the kale chips cool completely.

Melt your chocolate in a microwave or over a double boiler, and spread it out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  You want the chocolate to be fairly thin so that it doesn’t overwhelm the kale flavor, but not so thin that it’s not a sturdy base.  Experiment.  Sprinkle the melted chocolate with salt and cover with kale chip pieces.  More kale is better; try to cover all the chocolate and don’t forget about the edges.  Harden in the refrigerator or other cold place (wintertime garages are excellent).  Cut the kale bark into pieces and store in the refrigerator.

Aside from hot apple cider and shuffling through dried leaves, I don’t think there are many things more autumn-y than pumpkin.  I’ve eaten pumpkin cookies before but never made them, so this was an adventure.  I was hoping that these cookies would be less cakey than most other pumpkin cookies I’d had.  They are a little bit cakey — which I think might be almost unavoidable with pumpkin — but not overwhelmingly so.  The cookie itself is surprisingly light in texture, which makes a good contrast with the oatmeal, nuts, and chocolate.

I couldn’t decide if I wanted pumpkin cookies or oatmeal cookies, so I made both.  Because I didn’t have enough rolled oats, I ended up using half oats and half five-grain hot cereal, which is a mixture of oats, rye, triticale, barley, and flax.  Some of those grains aren’t as soft as the oatmeal, so I wondered how they’d work in the cookies and if they’d be able to absorb enough moisture. But they did, and I actually really like having them there because they add a nice variety of texture. (And they also turn this cookie into even more of a “health food”…. it’s got a vegetable plus lots of grains!)

One more note — a lot of pumpkin cookies out there in the world are mound-shaped and slightly muffin-like. This is because they really don’t spread much in the oven. If you want mounded cookies, you can leave them that way, but I found that I prefer to flatten them before baking.  That makes them a little lighter and less cakey, and also crisper on the edges. Flattening the cookies is easiest to do with a fork, like you would a peanut butter cookie.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Adapted from Alice Medrich’s oatmeal cookie recipe in her book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, and guided/inspired by too many internet pumpkin cookie recipes to separate or name.) Makes about 40 cookies.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp cloves

1 1/2 sticks butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cup rolled oats or five grain cereal (the kind that cooks in 5-6 minutes)

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans

Combine the flour, baking soda, and spices in a bowl and mix together with a fork or whisk.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and mix in the sugars, salt, and vanilla. Add the egg and stir briskly, then add the pumpkin and stir until it is thoroughly combined and as many of the lumps are gone as you can manage.  Next, add the flour mixture and mix just until it is moistened. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, and nuts. Let the dough stand for 1 or 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a tablespoon to drop the dough onto a baking sheet, and then press each mound of dough flat with a fork, as you would with peanut butter cookies. (Or leave them mounded if you prefer.) Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Let cool on the pan for a couple minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

I’m assuming that most of you know how to make a grilled cheese, and so this is less of a recipe than an ingredient suggestion.  Many of you share my love of kale (greatest food in the world? perhaps).  Butternut squash is up there as well, and I have always loved grilled cheese in just about any form imaginable.  So, really, this is a winning combination, and I stumbled on it kind of by accident.  It may be the height of my sandwich-making achievements thus far.

I first stuck some kale in a grilled cheese a few weeks ago, when we had a few lonely leaves of kale in the fridge that had accidentally frozen and needed to be used quickly.  It wasn’t until the next time I made a kale grilled cheese, a few days later, that I also added squash.  I roasted a butternut squash as a side dish, and only decided to also put the squash in the sandwich at the last minute.  If you’re not just spontaneously adding squash to your sandwiches like I did, this is going to take a little (but not too much) advanced planning because you need to cook the squash before making the grilled cheese.  I cubed the squash and roasted it with olive oil, a little maple syrup, some chile powder, salt, and pepper.

For cheese, I used cheddar, which tends to be the staple cheese in our house and which I really enjoy in grilled cheese.  The sharpness of the cheddar was really nice with the sweet squash and bitter kale.  But I could also imagine swiss being nice here, or a combination of cheeses.

You’re going to want to butter the outsides of your bread, lay down your cheese, and let that melt in a pan.  When the cheese has mostly melted, it’s time to add the squash to one side (I also sprinkled some pepper flakes on the other).  Pile the kale on top of the squash — I’ve found that about half a leaf of kale is good for one sandwich.  You want to squeeze in as much as you can because it will cook down, and it also helps to make sure that your kale is torn into manageable pieces.  Flip the other slice of bread over on top of the pile of kale, press down with a spatula, and flip it a few times until it’s done.  Adding the kale just before you press the two halves of the sandwich together gives it enough time to cook so that it’s an appropriate texture for a sandwich but still chewy and kale-like.

Happy grilled cheese-ing!

Sometime this past spring, I discovered cold-brewed coffee, and it was a miracle.  I’m sure everyone around me must have gotten tired of hearing me go on and on about it endlessly.  But it really is pretty brilliant.  Making it involves nothing more than mixing up some coffee and water and letting it all sit at room temperature for a while.  It’s a lot smoother and less bitter than coffee made with hot water, and it is mainly really excellent for iced coffee, because it makes a coffee concentrate that you can just store it in the fridge for whenever you want to drink it.  It’s also, apparently, really good in ice cream.

When a friend and I decided (sort of spontaneously) to make ice cream the other day, coffee seemed like a good choice because of the cold brew we had in the fridge.  And I’m happy to report that it was a good idea!  A very very good idea.  This ice cream contains not just cold-brewed coffee, but also some coffee-steeped milk.  It’s nicely coffee-flavored, although to give it a stronger flavor you could increase the coffee/milk steeping time (we only left it for about 45 minutes, the time it took us to go buy some cream), or the amount or strength of the cold brew.  I also really like that it’s not too creamy; instead, it’s light and just a little bit icy from the milk and water, which makes it more refreshing like iced coffee.

Cold-Brewed Coffee (from Smitten Kitchen)

The general ratio for this is 1/3 cup of ground coffee to 1.5 cups of water (adjust to make the amount of coffee that you want).  Combine the coffee and water in a jar, and let it sit at room temperature for 12 hours.  Then strain and filter it, and store it in the fridge.  This makes a coffee concentrate; to drink it, dilute it half-and-half with water or milk.

Cold-Brewed Coffee Ice Cream

2 tbsp. ground coffee

1 cup whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup cold brew concentrate

About 1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine the coffee and milk in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour (or longer, for a stronger coffee flavor).  Strain the milk and add the sugar to it, whisking until the sugar is dissolved.  Whisk in the cream, cold brew, and vanilla, and then freeze in an ice cream maker.

This would be good with heath bars mixed in, or anything else chocolatey, really.  I haven’t experimented yet with different coffee strengths, but you could adjust the amount and/or strength of the cold brew, as well as the milk-brewed coffee.  Depending on how you adjust the coffee, you might also want to adjust the amount of sugar.

Dad’s birthday kind of got overshadowed this year.  It was the day after my graduation, and the day I moved back home.  I was a little (okay, a lot) more sad and mopey than it’s fair to be on anyone’s birthday.  Now that a little time has passed, a birthday pie was in order.

While it’s not quite full-on strawberry season here yet, we had lots of rhubarb in the garden that made its way into this pie.  Mom made crepes filled with asparagus from a farm down the road for dinner.  It’s definitely summer.

I used our usual pie crust, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s from The Pie and Pastry Bible, and a strawberry rhubarb filling recipe from Carole Walter’s Perfect Pies and Tarts.  Only after the pie came out of the oven did I remember that I’d used this filling recipe once before and it had turned out very wet and soupy.  It was the same way this time — basically half pie, half soup.  Not something I’ll do again.  On the bright side, though, we now have plenty of strawberry rhubarb sauce to put on the ice cream.

This ice cream is a new variation on a recipe I started adapting a few years ago from one of David Lebovitz’s vanilla ice cream recipes.  This time making it, I decreased the sugar and replaced some of it with maple syrup, and also cut back the vanilla.  It’s still primarily a vanilla ice cream, with a subtle maple flavor.

Maple Vanilla Ice Cream
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
 
Combine the sugar and some of the cream in a bowl, and whisk briskly for a minute or so to make sure it’s thoroughly combined.  Add in the rest of the cream and the other ingredients, and whisk everything together.  Chill in the refrigerator and then freeze in an ice cream maker.