June 2008


Cappuccino Gelato

I appear to be caught in a bit of a coffee paradox. I don’t drink coffee… ever. The few times in my life that I have mistakenly drunk a few drops have left me with an impression that most of America is addicted to a beverage that is impossibly bitter at best and patently undrinkable at worst. And yet… I love coffee ice cream. I find that the extreme bitterness of the drink is mellowed with the addition of lots of cream and sugar. Instead of putting a dash of cream in my big pot of coffee, I prefer to put a dash of coffee in my big pot of cream. In the humble opinion of this non-coffee drinker, coffee ice cream allows for the actual flavor of the coffee bean to show through – it is, in fact, how the coffee bean should be enjoyed.

Vitamin D milkCorn StarchInstant Espresso

So when I was flipping through my brand new big yellow Gourmet cookbook, I noticed the recipe for Cappuccino Gelato. While my trusty ice cream maker has been put to use in the service of many of my favorite frozen flavors, it has yet to tackle coffee. The Gourmet recipe was simple – since I was making a gelato, a milk-based Italian version of ice cream, I wouldn’t have to worry about tempering (and perhaps scrambling) any eggs. The recipe used corn starch to thicken the base and provide it with an an almost custard texture.

Gelato Base

The only modifications I made to the recipe were the addition of a teaspoon of vanilla and a teaspoon of almond extract. They helped round out the flavor of the coffee and paired very well with the milkiness of the final product. I only offer one warning – the cappuccino gelato is a tempting confection. It will call for you to scarf it down way past the hour when one should be eating caffeinated anything. So if you’re not used to caffeine, resist the urge in the evening hours or you’ll find yourself bouncing off the walls and unable to sleep well into the night. Not that this happened to anyone I know…

Cooled Gelato Base

Cappuccino Gelato

Adapted from the Gourmet Cookbook

2 1/2 cups whole milk

2 1/2 T. instant espresso powder

2 T. cornstarch

1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 T. sugar

1/8 t. salt

1 t. vanilla (optional)

1 t. almond extract (optional)

Whisk 1/4 cup of milk into espresso powder in a small bowl, whisking until powder is dissolved. Stir 1/4 cup of milk into cornstarch in another small bowl, stirring until cornstarch is dissolved.

Combine sugar, salt and remaining 2 cups of milk in a 3 quart heavy saucepan and bring to just a boil over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir cornstarch mixture again, then whisk into milk mixture and simmer, whisking, for 2 minutes. Whisk in espresso mixture. ( I added the vanilla and almond extract here.)

Transfer mixture to a metal bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally , then cover surface with a round of wax paper and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours.

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.

Salt Potatoes in Butter

Salt potatoes are one of those regional dishes that I didn’t even realize was regional until I moved away from home. Growing up in Western New York, salt potatoes were the quintessential summer side dish. Served with grilled chicken or steak – and alongside equally buttery sweet corn – salt potatoes were always eaten out at the picnic table with the setting summer sun in the distance. It was only when I moved away from Western New York and would occasionally wax poetic on the sublimeness of summer salt potatoes that I realized something – no one knew what I was talking about.Small Potatoes

Apparently a central New York delicacy (thank you Wikipedia), salt potatoes were created by salt mine workers in Syracuse, NY who would boil their potatoes in the leftover salty brine. Growing up, ours always came in a bag with a pouch of salt attached. While I had no hopes of of finding Hinerwadel’s salt potatoes in a Nashville grocery store, I figured I would find an alternative small potato and just wing it.

Potatoes in salty brine

My online research suggested a cup of table salt dissolved in 3 quarts of water would equal the erstwhile super saturated brine (from Hinerwadel’s) that I was used to. I had found tiny Yukon Gold potatoes in the grocery store (fingerling potatoes could work as well). I added them to the brine, brought to a boil and cooked till fork tender. Drained, the potatoes appear a bit odd; wrinkled and salt-encrusted, they look like sad, rejected potatoes not worthy of your time. But just bite through the tight, salty skin and the extremely tender flesh just melts in your mouth. Drenched in melted butter, they taste like nothing else – no, scratch that – drenched in melted butter, the taste reminds me of the long evenings of a Western New York summer….

Salt Potatoes in Butter

Salt Potatoes

1 bag of small potatoes

1 cup of salt

3 quarts of water

Combine the salt and the water and stir to dissolve. Add the potatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer until fork tender. Drain and serve with copious amounts of melted butter.

Chopped Spring Vegetables

I have this weird love of all things pickled. The addition of a vinegary bite to crisp vegetables makes them even better in my mind. And while I will buy pickles by the boatload at the store, I’ve never tried my hand at making them at home. I’ll be honest – it’s the fear that I will unleash toxic botulism into innocent cucumbers, which will inevitably lead to the headline “Home Cook killed by Pickles’ that keeps me from trying home pickling.

PepperCarrottsAsparagus

Until, that is, I ran across a recipe for Spring Giardiniera in a Cooking Light cookbook. I’ve been trying in vain to eat healthier and this recipe had vegetables out the ying yang. And not only vegetables, but pickled vegetables. Rather than scare me by requiring me to sterilize every inch of kitchen, the recipe only called for a brief (8 hours) pickling period in a big zip lock bag. So I shook loose my fear of botulism and bad press and gave in to the alluring appeal of pickling.

Garlic ClovesBay leafDill

If you merely read the first sentence of the recipe ‘combine first 8 ingredients in a large Dutch oven and bring to a boil’ it all seems pretty straightforward, but it does not begin to convey how the smell of boiling vinegar will permeate every corner of your home nor how the vapors will bring tears to your eyes. This should not dissuade you from trying this recipe; just perhaps save it for a day where the windows in your home can be thrown open and a nice breeze will usher fresh air through your kitchen.

Boiling hot pickling liquid

The rest of the recipe is easy. Put chopped veggies in a ziplock bag, pour in liquid, let sit in a the refrigerator for 8 hours. What comes out is perfectly pickled spring vegetables – a nice healthy snack without even a hint of botulism.

Spring Giardiniera

Spring Giardiniera

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
2 bay leaves
2 cups small cauliflower florets
2 cups (3-inch) diagonally cut asparagus
1 1/2 cups green beans, trimmed (about 8 ounces)
1 cup (1/4-inch) diagonally cut carrot
1 cup red bell pepper strips
6 green onion bottoms, trimmed
4 garlic cloves, halved

Preparation
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Arrange cauliflower and remaining ingredients in a large heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Carefully pour vinegar mixture over cauliflower mixture.Seal bag and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Remove vegetables from bag with a slotted spoon. Discard bay leaves.

It’s been a busy, busy week and tomorrow S and I leave for Florida for his youngest brother’s wedding (very exciting!). But before we head out of town, I have to share this recipe for Chocolate Friands. I have confessed many times my dislike of chocolate, but I believe I have stumbled upon the recipe that has changed my mind.

I don’t often make chocolate things but as S was celebrating his 30th birthday last weekend, I knew I needed to bake something to please his palate. Chocolate he requested so chocolate it would be. I recently picked up a copy of Tartine and remembered pausing at the recipe for Chocolate Friands (friand is French for “small mouthful”).

I love to bake cakes but with just the two of us we usually never make it beyond a few slices. The rest of the cake hangs around the counter begging to be eaten. With any luck the remainder finds its way to friends and neighbors.

The friands remind me a bit of brownies–the best brownies I’ve ever made (without question). I worried that the crown of ganache would be overkill, but I was mistaken. The friands weren’t too sweet at all. The tiny treats were perfect for S’s birthday celebration.

These were a delight to make-buttering and flouring the molds and filling them with the thick chocolate batter. Be forewarned–if you use smaller molds, the recipe will produce quite a lot. We were up to our elbows in friands, but they keep in the refrigerator for up to five days. And it’s much easier to share a cute little brownie with the co-workers than a half-eaten cake.

Chocolate Friands
Excerpted from Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

Batter:
6 oz, bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup, unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp, sugar
3/4 cups, ap flour
2 tbsp, cornstarch
1/4 tsp, salt
4 large eggs

Ganache
4 oz, bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup, heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line up 24 mini-muffin-cup paper liners on a baking sheet, or butter and flour 24 mini-muffin-tin wells, knocking out the excess flour.

To make the batter, place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until very hot. Pour the butter over the chocolate and whisk or stir until smooth. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt and mix well. Add teh flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in 3 batches, whisking well after each addition. Add 2 of the eggs and whisk until combined, and then add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk just until incorporated. Be careful not to overmix the batter.

Transfer the batter to a liquid measuring cup for pouring, and fill the cups three-fourths full. Bake until the cakes just start to crack on top, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, adn then unmold them if you have baked them in the muffin tins and let cool completely. If you have baked them in the paper cups, just let them cool in the cups.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to just under a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for a minute or two. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Make sure the friands are cool before dipping them into the ganache. Holding each friand by its sides, dip the top into the ganache and then shake gently to let the excess run off the side. Return the friand to the rack and let the ganache set up in a cool place for about 1 hour.

Don’t put the friands in the refrigerator to set up if your kitchen is hot because condensation will form on the tops when you take them out, ruining the smooth look of the ganache. The only way to avoid the condensation is to place them in an airtight container before putting them in the refrigerator adn then to leave them in the refriderator and then leave them in the container when you remove them from the referigerator until they come to room temperature, or to serve them right away.

Serve the friands within a day of making, or store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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