Sunday, July 27, 2014

P.S. Heart: Vanilla Bean Blueberry Chip Ice Cream

I am so bad with produce.  I see something amazing at the store or the farmer's market, and I get so excited.  I buy whatever beautiful fruit or vegetable it is, and then a couple of weeks later, I find it in the back of my fridge growing a penicillin colony.  Horrible.  I've tried to do better (really!), but I almost ended up losing a pint of organic blueberries that I had coveted.  Since they weren't perfect like they were when I bought them and should have used them, I figured a different application was in order.  And what's better in the summer than homemade ice cream?  NOTHING.

Vanilla Bean Blueberry Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from P.S. Heart blog

4 egg yolks
1½ cups sugar
3 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half
1 cup whipping cream
2½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 pint blueberries, cooked down with a little water to about 1 cup (do not add sugar when cooking them down!)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Whisk ½ cup of sugar into the egg yolks. Combine the egg yolk mixture with the milk, half and half, whipping cream, remaining sugar, and vanilla bean paste. Stirring constantly with a whisk, cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens slightly and lightly coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and add the cooked blueberries. Cool slightly, then refrigerate until cold.

Pour the cold mixture into the bowl of an ice cream maker and run. When the mixture gets thick, about 25 minutes, add the chocolate. The mixture will still be only soft-serve texture. Pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container, and freeze until solid.

Friday, July 25, 2014 Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Punch)

When I was in Guatemala, I kept seeing this beautiful drink everywhere.  Finally I decided to grab a glass.  Holy schmoly!  Who knew that some dried hibiscus flowers could make such a delicious drink?  It's a little tart, a little sweet, a little floral.  Very refreshing during the heat of summer.  Grab some dried hibiscus flowers on Amazon or at an ethnic grocer.

Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Punch)
Adapted from

3 quarts (12 cups) water
1½ cups dried hibiscus flowers (also known as flor de Jamaica)
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 large lime)

In a large pot, bring water to a boil over high heat.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the hibiscus flowers and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Let steep 10 minutes.

Strain through a chinois or fine mesh strainer into a large heat-resistant bowl or pot. Stir in the lime juice and set aside to cool. Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve over ice.

Makes 3 quarts

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Platanos en Mole (Plantains in Mole Sauce)

When I went to Guatemala with a friend years ago, the old lady we were staying with in Guatemala City made these amazing things for breakfast.  It seemed a little extravagant to have something so sweet and delicious so early in the morning, especially in a city where black bean puree rules.  I had to know what it was...plantains in a mole sauce.  Of course!  I latch on to chocolate like a drowning child.

Later in my visit, I was able to watch how these were made.  Along with some translation assistance from my friend, I even managed to get everything written down.  And then I never made them.  After everything that nice lady went through to show them to me.  Well, no more shame here, because I made them, and they were just as fabulous as I remembered.

Platanos en Mole (Plantains in Mole Sauce)

3 ripe plantains
1 heaping tablespoon pepitas (raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds)
1 heaping tablespoon unhulled sesame seeds
1 inch cinnamon stick
2 plum or Roma tomatoes
1 Mexican chocolate tablet
5 to 6 tablespoons sugar
3 cups water, divided
1 champurrada cookie (or 10 vanilla wafers)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt

Peel plantains and cut in diagonal slices. Fry in oil until browned. Scoop from the oil using a slotted spoon and set aside.

In a small pan, heat the pepitas, sesame seeds, and cinnamon stick, covered, over medium heat until the seeds brown slightly. Do not let them burn! Pour the spices into a blender with 2 cups of water and the chocolate tablet.

Using the same small pan, heat two plum tomatoes over medium-high heat until the skin is evenly charred. Dump the tomatoes into the blender with the spices. Add the sugar and blend until smooth, approximately one minute. Pour the liquid through a sieve to catch the seeds and press with the back of a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid.

Empty the liquid into a large pot. Heat until boiling. Add the plantain slices one at a time to keep them from sticking together. Add the vanilla extract and salt and bring the mixture back to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for about five minutes. The mixture should reduce by about a fourth.

Blend the cookie with 1 cup of water for about 30 seconds and then strain into the mole. Cook the mixture for another couple of minutes until the mixture is thickened.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tex-Mex Summer Slaw

The beauty of summer is that I can walk into pretty much any produce section or farmer's market, randomly grab some vegetables, and know that when I get home, it's all going to taste AWESOME.  Everything is at its peak.  Its point of perfection.  I think that's why I wither a little in the winter.  My only options are winter squash and kale.  But for now I can eat beautiful salads like this one.

Tex-Mex Summer Slaw

4 ears fresh corn
¼ cup canola oil
½ head red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, seeded, deveined, and minced
3 carrots, peeled and grated
3 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Handful of cilantro, chopped

½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1½ tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon Colman's dry mustard
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons sea salt
2 small cloves garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Husk the corn and remove as much of the silk as possible.  Rub the corn cobs with the canola oil.  Grill until the cobs have some good dark grill marks and the corn softens slightly.  Set aside to cool.

Combine the cabbage, carrots, jalapeño, green onion, and cilantro.  Cut the kernels off the corn cobs and add to the vegetable mixture.

Combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk well.  Pour over the vegetable mixture and toss well.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.  Best served the day it is made.  If there will be a long delay in serving, wait to toss with the dressing until just before serving.

Makes 8 servings

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vanilla Bean Almond Rice Pudding

Sometimes you just need a big 'ol vanilla and almond hug.  Because let's be honest.  That's really what rice pudding is.  A big, warm food hug.  It gets down in your middle, all creamy and warm, and just makes everything seem not so bad.  Highly recommended.  Why pay for that expensive therapist when you can just make this?

Vanilla Bean Almond Rice Pudding

½ cup Arborio rice
2 cups whole milk
½ cup half-and-half
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon almond extract
Toasted sliced almonds, for sprinkling

Combine rice, milk, half-and-half, butter, and sugar in a medium pot and cook over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.  Stir in the vanilla bean paste and almond extract.  Serve warm, sprinkled with toasted almonds.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, July 07, 2014

Kraft Foods: Seafood Pasta Salad

It's too hot to turn on the oven.  Really.  And I don't want to crank my air any lower, or I might blow out the THIRD unit I've had in three years.  True story.  So what do you make when it's hot outside, and you're inside being all lethargic?  Salad.  And why not a seafood salad.  That's very summery.  Though I have to tell you, the original recipe called for 8 ounces fake krab.  Yes, I spelled it with a "k".  Because it's not real crab.  So I substituted canned tuna and shrimp.  Because that's one less thing to cook.  Win-win.

Seafood Pasta Salad
Adapted from Kraft Foods

½ to ¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Zesty Italian salad dressing
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups corkscrew noodles, cooked, drained, and cooled
1 (5-ounce) can tuna, drained and flaked
1 (4-ounce) can tiny shrimp, drained
1 cup broccoli flowerets, blanched
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cup tomato, seeded and chopped
¼ cup chopped green onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine mayonnaise, dressing, and cheese; mix well.  Add next seven ingredients; toss lightly.  Season with salt and pepper.  Chill before serving.

Makes 6 servings

Friday, July 04, 2014

Tom Perini: Texas Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket

Okay, confession time.  I don't know how to grill, smoke, barbecue, or whatever else you want to call it.  Cooking meat over flame is not something I learned how to do.  (I swear, someone is going to come and take my honorary Texan card one of these days.)  That doesn't mean, however, that I don't love meat cooked over an open flame.  I just have to find alternate ways of making it until I figure out how this darn grill I inherited actually works.

I would say this recipe gets you about as close as possible to a good smoked brisket as you can get without the whole trailer smoker setup.  And that's saying something.  If it's pouring down rain, you don't know how to grill/smoke/barbecue, and you're too lazy to drive around town looking for some decent brisket, this is your savior.

Texas Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket
From Tom Perini

2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 bay leaf, crushed
4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed
1½ cups beef stock or a mixture of stock and Guinness beer
1 tablespoon liquid smoke

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make a dry rub by combining chili powder, salt, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, sugar, dry mustard, and bay leaf. Season the raw brisket on both sides with the rub. Place in a roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add the beef stock, liquid smoke, and enough water to yield about ½ inch of liquid in the roasting pan. Lower oven to 300°F, cover pan tightly, and continue cooking for 3 hours, or until fork tender.

Trim the fat and slice the meat thinly across the grain. Top with juice from the pan or barbecue sauce.

Makes 10 servings