Posts tagged fruit

Peach Buttermilk Soup

Once I get on a roll with something, I can’t stop. You may remember that over the winter I was obsessed with soup, trying out several different recipes in response to the never-ending, freezing weather outside. This summer, in comparison, has turned into my season of the peach.

A stone fruit tea cake packed with peaches was so delicious it inspired me to return to the blog after a long absence. Soon after came my successful attempt at Terra Luna’s imaginative peach carpaccio. And over this past weekend, I was inspired by Martha Rose Shulman of the New York Times to puree my favorite stone fruit into a tangy, Indian-inspired soup. (On second thought, perhaps my winter soup fixation isn’t resolved after all.)

makingpeachsoup

I soon realized that fruit soups are the perfect summer food. With most of them, there’s barely any cooking involved, whether you’re using peaches for this recipe, melons for that one, or even tomatoes for gazpacho. No hot oven is needed, no long-simmering pots on the stove. The peaches for my Sunday soup required only a brief swim in boiling water and then a quick dip in ice water, so that their skins slipped off easily. After peeling them, I quickly chopped the fruit into small pieces, and pureed most of them with some buttermilk, honey, and lemon juice. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and vanilla extract were added right before I put the soup in the refrigerator to chill. It was really that easy.

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Shulman compares this soup to a lassi, which is an Indian milkshake drink. Jim and I sipped it slowly for dessert, after an appropriate home-cooked meal of tandoori chicken and basmati rice. The thick mixture slowly slid down our throats, the slightly sour buttermilk tamed by the sweet peaches and rich, almost warmth-inducing spices. Toasted almonds, added at the last minute as a garnish, provided a crunchy contrast to the smooth liquid. It was just as good for breakfast the next morning, while I sat at my desk and reviewed my work for the rest of the day.

I cut all of the measurements for this recipe exactly in half, so that I only had enough soup for three people instead of six. In retrospect that may have been a mistake, as I was left craving more by the time I emptied the bowl. Obviously I’m not ready for my summer of peaches to end.

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Farmers’ Market Find: Strawberries and Rhubarb

icecream

I know I’ve been absent from the blog lately, but it’s not entirely my fault. I blame last week’s never-ending rain for dampening my blogging enthusiasm. Luckily the sun finally emerged from behind the soggy clouds this weekend, and with one trip to the Park Slope farmers’ market, my excitement for spring—and cooking—returned in full force.

I wandered through the market on Saturday morning, canvas bag in hand, trying to decide what to buy. Piles of bright green spinach and asparagus beckoned from the fruit and vegetable stands. Long lines formed in front of the meat and fishmongers, while small children begged their parents to buy them breakfast pastries. I restrained myself from buying a bouquet of fresh wild flowers, and instead came home with a quart of strawberries and several stalks of rhubarb.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a plan for these seasonal wonder twins. It was time to banish those rainy days with the powerful duo of sweet, red strawberries and tart rhubarb. It was time for ice cream.

Making ice cream has turned into a new hobby for Jim and me. Actually, my husband has turned out to be quite the ice cream master. We joined forces on Valentine’s Day to make a lush blood orange sorbet, but in the past month Jim has experimented with French vanilla and fresh plum ice creams, all on his own. With his guidance on Saturday I churned out my pink-hued treat, asking him for advice on warming the milk and how many egg yolks were needed.

When we finally scooped the finished ice cream from the bowl, small flecks of red strawberries glowed against the frozen mixture of milk, cream, eggs, and rhubarb. A perfect mix of vibrantly sweet berries and tart, electric rhubarb, each creamy bite awakened my weary winter palate. The addition of crystallized ginger added a tingly current of heat to this cold dessert, further preparing me for the fresh flavors we have yet to enjoy this spring. What a way to celebrate the season. And just think, it only gets better from here.

Recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream (adapted from the blog Very Good Things)

  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups finely chopped strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the rhubarb and water to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until rhubarb is very soft. Pulse it through a food processor and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until bright yellow and blended. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, bring the milk and cream to a simmer. Do not scald the milk and cream. Gradually whisk the milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture.

Return the entire mixture to the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick. Do not let it boil. Strain it into a large bowl. Cool to room temperature.

Stir in the cooked rhubarb, strawberries, and ginger. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I used my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, and I think I should have churned the ice cream in 2 separate batches. The amount of ice cream mixture was slightly too much to be churned in one batch. Anyway, this recipe serves 8. Enjoy!

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Valentine’s Day Hits and Misses

Poor Jim. February deals him a double whammy each year: First comes my birthday on the 9th, then Valentine’s Day less than a week later. To take some pressure off this celebratory one-two punch, instead of going out we cook dinner at home on Valentine’s Day. Some meals turn out wonderfully, like last year’s rack of lamb and chocolate pots-de-crème. This year was, well…okay. Let’s start with not-so-great and save the best for last:

lambshanks

The Miss: Greek-Style Braised Lambs Shanks
I knew I wanted to make some sort of braised meat for the main course. Doesn’t a slow-cooked, rich piece of red meat sound like the perfect foundation for a romantic meal? (Sorry, vegetarians.) I stubbornly thought so. Lamb shank, a tough cut that responds well to braising, had been on my to-cook list for a long time. I sent Jim off to the butcher with a wave and a smile while I looked for a recipe.

To my surprise, my cookbooks were no help, providing not a single recipe for my desired meal. I turned to the trusty Internet and came across these Greek-style braised lamb shanks. (I still don’t really understand what is so Greek about this recipe; there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly Greek about the dish apart from the lamb. Whatever, I’m not here to argue with Epicurious.)

I’ll cut to the chase: I halved the recipe from 6 shanks to 3, and in a dumb move I decided to reduce the braising liquid without reducing the cooking time. So, after 2 hours in the oven, my extravagant, Merlot-based sauce reduced down to almost nothing, resulting more in a roasted lamb shank dinner instead of the braised-meat-falling-off-the-bone-and-swimming-in-a-deep-romantic-sauce type meal I was hoping for.

Now I am also wondering if there was a mistake in the recipe, which instructed me to cook the shanks in the oven uncovered. Aren’t most braised dishes cooked with the cover firmly in place in order to prevent evaporation of the cooking liquid? The shanks tasted fine, but I have learned my braising lesson. Oh, we also made some lemon orzo and a spinach salad on the side. sorbet2Meh.

The Hit: Blood Orange Sorbet
Jim gave me a copy of Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook for my birthday, and we decided to break it in with the recipe for blood orange sorbet. Making this frosty treat gave me the opportunity to try yet another birthday gift I received, this time from my sister: the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer.

As always, simple recipes yield the best results. After squeezing the juice from several crimson blood oranges, we mixed it with some (a lot of) sugar and threw the entire mixture in the fridge to cool. About half an hour later we put the ice cream attachment to work on the mixer. We didn’t have to lift a finger. The KitchenAid simply twirled away for about 20 minutes, and suddenly our fresh, sparkling dessert was ready. We placed it in the freezer for the end of our meal. 

And as I mentioned above, we truly saved the best for last. Cool, sweet, and simply pretty to look at, this refreshing sorbet cheered me up after my braising adventure gone bad. I can’t wait to see what other kind of sorbets and ice creams we come up with. Maybe I should start planning for next year. Jim, are you ready yet?

Recipe for Blood Orange Sorbet (adapted from Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook)

  • 6 medium blood oranges
  • 1 regular medium orange
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • fresh mint, for garnish

Wash 1 or 2 of the blood oranges and grate 2 tablespoons of zest from them. Halve and juice all of the oranges, discarding any seeds that fall in along the way. This will leave you with about 1 cup of juice. Put the orange juice and the zest in medium bowl. Add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Refrigerate the mixture until it is very cold, around 40 degrees. Add the mixture to the ice-cream churner or machine. Churn the mixture until it starts crystallizing, about 15 to 30 minutes. You can stop churning it once it has reached your desired consistency. Transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and place it in the freezer until firm. When ready, scoop the sorbet into 2 bowls and garnish with fresh mint. (The sorbet can be stored in the freezer for 2 days.) Serves 2. Enjoy!

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What a Difference a Year Makes: The Carroll Gardens Farmers’ Market

I know it might seem crazy to write about food with all this election madness going on, but I can’t help it. I just got back from voting, I’m too jittery to sit still, and I can’t bring myself to watch any election coverage just yet. So, in an effort to calm myself down while hoping for the best, I thought I’d write a post about a subject I’ve had on my mind for the past few months: my local farmers’ market.

As some of you already know, last year Carroll Gardens finally got its own farmers’ market. Starting in July 2007, a few tables of vegetables and fruit lined a short stretch of Carroll Street between Court and Smith Streets every Sunday through last November. While I lamented the lack of cheese, meat, and fish vendors, I remained optimistic for these changes in the future. I figured that once the market became more established, perhaps we would see more vendors on the block.

Well, it pays to think positively, because our little market has expanded quite a bit in just one year. Now when I make my weekly visit to Carroll Street, I bring two bags and indulge in a variety of local food products.

Similar to my shopping pattern from last year, I begin by stocking up on fruit from Fishkill Farms. While over the summer I focused on fresh plums and peaches, in October I scooped up apples and pears. My next move is usually towards the piles of fresh greens and other vegetables from Alex Farm as I supplement my CSA shipment with whatever other produce I might need for the week. Jim seems to prefer the vegetables from W. Rogowski Farm, so in the end we actually wind up supporting several stands at the market. I can’t forget my weekly chocolate croissant from Amy’s Bread, although sometimes I try to be healthy and buy a loaf of whole-grain bread as well.

But in addition to all of the wonderful produce and baked goods, we can now peruse products from various local meat, fish, dairy, and cheese vendors. About a month ago, Jim and I bought grass-fed, spicy Angus sausages from Grazin’ Angus Acres for the first time. We broiled them, sliced them up, and cooked them on top of one of our homemade pizzas. Raised without antibiotics or hormones, this beef was happily enjoyed with less guilt than usual. Grazin’ Acres’s sausages were so earthy and full-flavored that Jim and I went back for one of their grass-fed chickens a few weeks later.

I’ve yet to buy fish from Seatuck Fish Company, or pasture-raised eggs from Fishkill Farms, but both are on my list. Once in a while I’ll pick up some goat cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm, and a few weeks ago local honey was for sale. There are so many options, I find it’s impossible to try them all at once.

On another note, I’ve also enjoyed seeing how our farmers’ market has increased its role in the community. Every Sunday the lines seem to stretch longer and longer at each stand. A few months ago a chef from the soon-to-open restaurant Buttermilk Channel prepared a fresh vegetable pickle for the market’s shoppers. On this past Sunday, piles of mussels from Seatuck Fish Company were being prepared at one of the stands, encouraging people to linger and enjoy the day with each other.

So as you can see, our little farmers’ market has grown quite a bit in a year. I may not have tried the wares from every stand, but it’s not a problem; I have something new to look forward to every week. I just hope I can get through the rest of election day…

The Carroll Gardens Farmers Market, located on Carroll Street between Smith and Court. It runs on Sundays from July through November.

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Good-bye Summer

Sorry I’ve been so slow about posting this week, but I think I’m in denial that summer is over. I shouldn’t be so shocked, considering that it starts and ends the same way every year: Around the 4th of July it seems like the languid months of July and August will last forever. And then, just a few weeks later, Labor Day abruptly (and rather rudely, I might add) signals the end of beach parties and backyard barbeques.

So as I think back to how I celebrated the beginning of summer, I’m surprised at how similar it was to its farewell. On our nation’s holiday I whipped up Cook’s Illustrated’s buttery, crumbly Blueberry Buckle, while I prepared Food & Wine’s slightly less buttery Spoon Cake with Peaches for summer’s closure.

There’s no need to pit these fruity confections against each other; both admirably celebrated summer and its seasonal produce. Cook’s blueberry cake was chock-full of luscious berries from one end to the other, and the few remaining leftovers were enjoyed at breakfast the next day. Likewise, my family and I devoured the sweet, juicy peaches supporting Food & Wine’s spongy spoon cake during our Labor Day get-together.

As you can see, both desserts were winners in this head-to-head comparison. But now it’s time to say good-bye to summer and start dreaming about apples, pears, and pumpkins. Actually, now that I think about it, things could be a lot worse.

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