Monday, September 27, 2010

lavender honey ice cream

Though Julie and Julia got more culinary attention, it was another Meryl Streep movie, It's Complicated, that really left me hungry for more. Meryl plays a chef and bakery owner, and the movie is filled with enough buttery croque monsieurs, rich chocolate cakes and flaky apple pies to make anyone's mouth water. And don't even get me started on the scene where she and Steve Martin sneak into the bakery after hours to make fresh chocolate croissants or I may have to run out and buy one right now. But there was one dish that stuck in my mind long after the movie was over. When Meryl's character can't sleep, she makes ice cream. And on one particular night she made a lavender and honey variety that I haven't been able to stop thinking about since. It didn't help that I spotted this at the Farmer's Market:

And this when I ducked in to Dean & Deluca to grab a coffee:

Clearly, it was a sign. So I did some late night ice cream making of my own, and the results were "incredible," as Alec Baldwin calls the movie version. This ice cream is sweet, herbal and totally delicious--and there's nothing complicated about that.

Lavender Honey Ice Cream
Adapted from Gourmet, via Epicurious

1 cup heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons dried edible lavender flowers*
2/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine cream, milk, honey and lavender in a heavy saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is boiling, cover the pan, remove it from the heat, and let steep for about 30 minutes.

Pour the cream through a sieve to strain out the lavender. Discard lavender, and return the cream to the pan to reheat it. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and the salt. Add 1 cup of the hot cream to the eggs in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Pour the eggs into the saucepan of cream and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. (At this point, the custard should be about 170 degrees). Do not let the cream boil.

Pour the custard into a bowl and cool completely. Chill for a few hours, then process in an ice cream maker according to machine instructions.

*Edible lavender is available at Dean & Deluca and online at Penzeys.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

peach cinnamon preserves

I'm not letting summer off so easy. Don't get me wrong, after the brutally hot weather we've had in New York, I'm more than ready for some cooler temperatures. What I'm not quite ready for? Bidding adieu to stone fruits for another year. The logical solution was to make preserves so that I could continue enjoying peak season peaches year round. Unfortunately, one taste of these Peach Cinnamon Preserves and I realized they're so good that there's no way they'll last me through September, let alone until next summer.

On the bright side, since I'm going to be using this jam immediately there was no need to seal and process the jars. I'm a bit of a worrier (those who know me are laughing out loud at the words "a bit") and thus canning and preserving rank high on my list of irrational fears (my family is still traumatized by the Great Lemon Curd Incident of 2009, in which I tasted some spoiled preserves, researched the symptoms of botulism online, and ran around for days demanding to know whether my facial muscles looked like they were becoming paralyzed. They had some fun with that one, let me tell you.)

Hypochondria aside, come winter I'm certainly going to be sorry that I don't have a few extra jars of these preserves stowed away. The sweet peach flavor is brightened by the addition of lemon juice, while copious amounts of cinnamon add depth and a bit of spice. I've already tried them on pancakes, toast, and okay fine, eaten straight from the jar. I'm sure they would also be delicious stirred into oatmeal, or even warmed up and drizzled over ice cream. On that note, I'm going to go start counting the days until peach season begins again.

Peach Cinnamon Preserves

3 lbs peaches
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

To Make the Preserves
Bring a large pot of water to boil, and fill a large bowl with ice water. Drop the peaches into the boiling water for just under a minute, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the ice bath in order to stop the cooking process. Once the peaches have cooled, slip off their skins and cut each peeled peach in half. Remove the pits, and chop each peach half into large chunks. Put the peaches, cinnamon sugar mixture and lemon juice into a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat just a bit and continue to simmer the mixture for about an hour, or until the peaches have broken down and the preserves have thickened substantially. Make sure you are stirring often to ensure that the preserves are not sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. If foam forms on top of your preserves as they are cooking, just skim it off and discard it. When the preserves are done, the peaches and sugar should form one single stream. To check for doneness you can also place a spoonful of the hot preserves on a plate in the freezer. When ready, they should gel within a minute or two.

To Store the Preserves
If you are using your preserves immediately (within a few weeks) you can put them in the fridge or freezer.

If you want your preserves to last longer, can and process according to standard safe canning practices.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

{twd} peanut butter crisscrosses

For the first several years of my life, my diet included large quantities of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Fruit Roll-Ups, and Super Golden Crisp. And then my brother came along. Allergic to nearly all packaged foods, he turned our family's eating habits upside down. Instead of neon cheese for dinner and sugary cereal in the morning, thanks to him we were suddenly facing down spinach quiche after school and soy milk at the breakfast table. Clearly, I'm not responsible for anything I did or said to him between the ages of five and fifteen, right?

Amidst all of the carrot soup and carob chips, I had one saving grace: the now defunct Pam Sherman's Cafe in Uptown Minneapolis. Everything on the menu was all natural and made from scratch, so when we went there for dinner (which was often) we were given free reign with our orders. Someday I will tell you all about the main courses, but for today, all you need to know is this: every and I mean every single time we went to Pam Sherman's Cafe, my brother and I ended our meals with one of her peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies.

Pam's cookies were huge, chewy, and packed with milk chocolate chunks, and to this day, I've never had a cookie that measures up. But that doesn't keep me from trying to recreate Pam Sherman's perfect peanut butter cookie at home. Each time I test a new peanut butter cookie recipe, I try to Pam-ify it a bit, and these Peanut Butter Crisscrosses were no exception. I halved everything in the recipe except for the peanut butter, so it was packed with twice as much creamy, peanut-y goodness. (I also added a little extra sugar as I used a natural peanut butter). I omitted the nutmeg and the peanuts, and added a heaping cup of chocolate chips (I prefer milk chocolate but used semi-sweet since that was all I had on hand).

Pam's perfect cookie still eludes me, but Dorie's version made for a satisfying substitute. This week's pick comes to us from Jasmine of Jasmine Cuisine and you can find the recipe here.