August 26, 2011

Toasted Coconut-Almond Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Uh huh. Another ice cream.  This time I'll spare you the whole recipe; it's the same procedure as the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, just different ingredients.

It's been in our freezer for almost a week and it's still rich and creamy.  In fact, that is why it's still in there.  Made with coconut milk, which has approximately 12 grams of fat in a 1/4 cup, and cream, which has 23 grams of fat in a 1/4 cup, it's not for those on a low-fat diet.  (For comparison, whole milk has 2 grams of fat in a 1/4 cup.)  While I don't desire to be on any sort of low-fat diet, it's difficult to break the calorie and fat-gram counting awareness of the nineties.  You could probably substitute whole milk for some or all of the heavy cream and be satisfied with the flavor and texture.  I've made this as a frozen yogurt before, too, without the chocolate chips.

Enough with the nutritional components.  This ice cream has no chunks of almonds, just creamy toasted almond flavor from steeping chopped and toasted local almonds and sweetened dried (obviously not-local) coconut in coconut milk and sugar.  I let it steep about an hour, then strained it, pressing the nuts to extract as much flavor as possible.  Then I used the flavored coconut milk to make a custard with four fresh local egg yolks.  I added a dash of vanilla extract and strained the custard into the cream.  After chilling over night, I churned it, drizzling in melted bittersweet chocolate to form lots of those perfect little chocolate chips.  Oh, and not to gild the lily or anything, but I also dolloped in a couple spoonfuls of homemade caramel sauce, which swirled into the ice cream nicely.

I guess I need a hobby.


Variation: Toasted Coconut-Almond Frozen Yogurt

To make this as a frozen yogurt, omit the egg yolks, cream and chocolate. Toast a good handful of chopped or sliced almonds. Add a good handful of flaked coconut just before the almonds are finished toasting.  Then add one can of coconut milk and 3/4 cup sugar.  Heat to a simmer.  Stir to dissolve sugar, then cover, turn off heat and steep one hour.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pushing on the coconut and almonds to release maximum flavor.  Whisk in 2 cups plain whole milk yogurt.  Chill.  Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

August 25, 2011

I prefer soup that is to be eaten with chopsticks

The first few weeks of school almost inevitably mean I get the sniffles.  I made soup: Better than Boullion (my husband's cousin who is a real-life chef uses it, so why shouldn't I?) plus water, garlic and ginger, with a carrot and a couple sweet peppers cut into matchsticks, some chard from the garden and lots of thick udon noodles.  The perfect slurpy soup to hang a congested head over. 

August 23, 2011

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes with garlic, thyme and rosemary; pureed.  Poured over cheese-stuffed pasta shells and baked. 

August 17, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Funny you should ask.  Yes, I am on an obsessive ice cream making binge. Do you have any compulsive quirks you would like to air on the web?

Grace and I made Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream this weekend with real mint from the farmers market.  If you like pure, natural, unadulterated flavors, you'll like this ice cream, but if you're looking for something to compare to that green stuff in the grocery store, this isn't it.  But I think it's so cool!  To be able to steep fresh mint from the garden or market and use that infused milk to make ice cream, that's neat.  I used David Lebovitz's recipe, so the process is exactly like that lemongrass ice cream I made earlier this month.

Normally, when buying store-bought ice cream, I go for coffee-chocolate-caramel-nut combinations.  I never thought I would be into 'herbal' ice creams, but there's something so pure about their flavor, that I really like them.  If I get a big enough harvest of chamomile from the garden this year, I'm thinking about doing a chamomile-lavender ice cream base with caramel and nuts mixed in.  Sounds a little weird, but I've been so pleased with the lemongrass and mint ice creams, why not try it?

You need a lot of mint to make this ice cream.  I bought a big bunch from the farmers market, but I still had less than the 80 grams of mint leaves the recipe calls for.  I had about 50 grams and those of us who tasted the finished ice cream (Jason, Grace, Abby, my mother, grandfather and me) agreed that the mintiness was sufficient.

I love the technique for making the chocolate chips.  As long as I can remember my very favorite ice cream flavor at Baskin Robbins has been Chocolate Chip.  I love the texture of the chocolate chips.  They are super small and imbedded throughout the ice cream base.  Have you ever folded chocolate chips into ice cream?  It's not so great:  hard little chips that, when cold, you can't really taste that well.  But with this method the 'chips' are smaller so that they have more opportunity to melt appropriately on the tongue, so that you can actually taste them.  Awesome.

And so simple:  All you do is melt semisweet chocolate, and when your ice cream is sufficiently churned, with the machine on, drizzle the melted chocolate into the ice cream.  The chocolate freezes into little ribbons and chips as the machine churns it into the base, and, if you use enough chocolate, incorporates it throughout the whole batch so that each bite is mint-chocolate deliciousness, not just mint... with chocolate chips.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Note:  While David L is the undeniable master of Home-Churned ice cream and should not be questioned... his recipes tend to call for five egg yolks; in my experience four of Farmer Chris' eggs are the perfect amount for making a good custard base without any egg-y flavor.  This recipe calls for 1 cup milk plus 2 cups cream, I used 2 cups milk and 2 cups cream, because I wanted to have a little extra ice cream to try the variation below.  With the additional milk, I imagine it might be less creamy than the original, but it's still plenty creamy for me.  Makes 1 to 1 1/2 quarts depending on how much milk you use.

1-2 bunches of mint to yield 80 grams mint leaves (2 cups packed firmly)
1-2 cups whole milk*
3/4 cup sugar
a pinch of kosher salt
4-5 egg yolks
2 cups cream
5 ounces semisweet chocolate

1.  Rinse mint and pat dry.  Remove leaves from stems.  In small saucepan, heat milk, mint, sugar and salt.  If using only one cup of milk, heat half of the cream with the milk. When mixture is hot and steaming, remove from heat and cover the pan.  Let steep one hour.

2.  Strain milk through a fine mesh sieve into medium saucepan.  Use a rubber scraper or a clean hand to push as much milk and minty flavor out of the mint leaves into the pan.   Discard mint.  Beat egg yolks in small mixing bowl.  Heat milk mixture over medium heat until steaming.  While stirring the egg yolks with a wire whisk, slowly drizzle half of the hot milk into the egg yolks to temper them.  Then scrape egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan.  Heat, stirring constantly with a rubber scraper, until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. 

3.  Strain custard through a fine mesh sieve into a storage container to remove any curdled egg.  Stir in cream.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

4.  Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

5. While churning, melt chocolate.  I prefer to do this in a double boiler (a small glass mixing bowl set over simmering water).  When ice cream has reached the desired consistency, drizzle the chocolate in to the still-churning machine.* Stop the machine and transfer to a ice cream to a storage container.  Freeze at least two hours for scoopability.

*If your machine does not allow drizzling while churning, David recommends drizzling melted chocolate into the storage container, then layering ice cream and melted chocolate, folding the mixture to break up the chocolate.

Mint Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream:  Use your leftover egg whites to make these Cats Tongues cookies.  Sandwich the cooled cookies together with melted chocolate. Cut cookies into bite-size pieces.  You'll want about 1 cup of cookie pieces for one quart of ice cream. You'll have cookies leftover.  Instead of drizzling in melted chocolate, fold cookie chunks into the finished ice cream in the storage container. Let freeze at least a day for the cookies to integrate into the ice cream. 

We can't decide which version we like better.

August 15, 2011

A Weekend in the Garden is a Weekend Well Spent

Well, if my goal this weekend was to have fun with my kids, I failed miserably.  Luckily, I set the bar low, and my goal for the weekend was to get a load of fresh compost from the worm farm and do a little gardening.  Which I accomplished while listening to, "When do we get to go to Cal Skate?  How come we haven't been to Fun Zone Pizza in a while? Could we go there today?...  Can we go to a museum?  How 'bout a museum?  Mom, check the hours for the museum...  No, I can't pick up that shovel.  I'm sorry, Mom, I don't feel good.  My legs hurt.  My arm kinda hurts.  My tummy hurts...  Well, no, I feel good enough to go to Fun Zone Pizza though...  How come we never do anything fun?  How much does it cost to go to Cal Skate?  Well, I don't really know how to skate.  Maybe I should take lessons.  No, I don't know where the trowel is and even if I did, I couldn't bring it to you, because, remember, my legs hurt...  Can I just go watch TV?"

Some weekends are like that.  I'll skip the rant about how entertainment centers host school field trips as advertisements so that now families of post-first-graders can't drive past Cal Skate without a barrage of whining.  And yes, I do see the value in taking my kid to museums, but since her interest in going to the museum was sparked by watching "Night at the Museum II,"  I think she might have been just a little disappointed by the current rice farming exhibit at the Chico Museum.

Please don't get the impression that Grace was ignored all weekend.  She and I went to the farmers market together.  She helped me choose cherry tomatoes, okra, nectarines and a fat honeydew melon.  She bought a honey stick and she helped me remember that the two things we couldn't leave without were mint and lettuce.

She went with me to the grocery store and the worm farm on Saturday and to three home and garden stores on Sunday.  There she picked out a strawberry plant and two broccoli plants, while I chose a tomato plant and a pepper plant.  Together we made cookies on Friday evening and homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream on Saturday and Sunday.  But the togetherness ended abruptly when I asked her if she wanted to help shovel compost from the back of the pick up into the wheelbarrow.  No way!  So Dad got out a big plastic sheet and turned on the sprinklers.  Presto, a makeshift slip'n'slide!  Who needs Cal Skate?

This weekend, we didn't do anything "fun," but we did some gardening.  We (Grace, Abby and I) removed the spent corn stalks and the bean vines-that-haven't-produced-anything from Bed #1.  I refreshed it with compost and planted our broccoli starts and a bunch of seeds:  parsley, cilantro, parsnips, carrots, lettuce, beets, cabbage, collards and sage.  From Bed #2 I harvested the potatoes that were threatening to take over, added some fresh compost, and planted a bell pepper plant, a tomato plant, Grace's little strawberry plant and an artichoke plant.  Yeah, I know it's a bit late in the year to start those things, but I figured I'd rather have something planted than not.  We'll see if there's time for them to produce a harvest before the frost.  There wasn't anything to do with Bed #3.  The squash vines have spread out nicely across the untended dirt next to their bed.  So far we've counted three pumpkins.

After the kids went to bed Sunday I transferred a few more wheelbarrow loads of compost to two long beds by the patio, where Jason is going to plant decorative horsetail.  And, shh, don't tell Grace, I high-jacked her makeshift slip'n'slide and used it to cover Bed #1.  I'm hoping that the plastic will keep neighborhood cats out while keeping moisture in so the newly planted seeds can germinate.

Goal for this week:  Eat those freshly dug potatoes before they become just another veggie in the crisper drawer.

August 11, 2011

Dill, Cucumbers, Bell Pepper

I like the Wednesday morning Farmer's Market at the North Valley Plaza.  It's less crowded than the Thursday Night and Saturday Morning downtown markets, but it's big enough to have a variety of produce.  It's definitely for the food-oriented crowd.  Tin Roof Bakery, Wookey Ranch and the tamale people have booths, along with all the vegetable and fruit sellers.  What's missing are the arts and crafts booths and the hippies.  There's plenty of parking, so it's feasible to stop by for just one thing or to fill up your vehicle with everything you want, not just what you can carry in one armload.

I stopped there yesterday to get some nectarines and I picked up a bunch of dill.  I never seem to find dill when I look for it, but it was there yesterday, so I got some.

That night Grace helped me make an easy summer salad:  salmon (we used canned, but for a nicer meal, you could poach a fillet) with chopped cucumbers, bell pepper and onion, dressed with Greek yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper and a handful of chopped fresh dill.  It would be perfect on a bed of fresh lettuce or in a sandwich.  We kinda pulled out all the stops with "help Mommy make dinner night" and made homemade Ritz crackers in fun duck and star shapes. 

I know, I didn't know I was that maternal either.

August 10, 2011

This + this = Love: White Chocolate Ice Cream

My quest to churn a homemade ice cream that my husband likes may be over!  White Chocolate.  He said it was okay, maybe even good.  And since the ingredients for one quart cost over $12, he better like it!

He thought it could be improved with some kind of strawberry sauce ribbon.  But we didn't have strawberries; we had white nectarines.  So I marbled half the batch of White Chocolate ice cream with half a batch of White Nectarine Sherbet. (Note that I whirled the sherbet base in the blender, because chunks of fruit will freeze into hard lumps when the finished sherbet is stored.)  The tang of the nectarines balances the creamy indulgence of the white chocolate wonderfully.  And the White Nectarine Sherbet is such a pretty pink color.

So what did we do with the rest of the White Chocolate Ice Cream?  Iced Coffee Floats!  Insert smiley face here.