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Posts tagged ‘homemade’

butternut squash ravioli with toasted pecans & sage

Many of you are well-acquainted with the Italian gentleman whose handsome head pops up on many pages around this neighborhood. Always nattily dressed in dark suit and narrow tie, always raising his glass and leaving kind words to cheer us. He’s known to us as Chicago John. And he’s a legend in these parts.

You’ll find John cooking up a delicious Italian storm in the Bartolini Kitchen, every Wednesday.  The smells that rise from his oven and bubbling pots will make you hungry. They’ll make you wish you could pop into his kitchen and pull up a chair and spread your napkin and toast the cook and lift your fork and stay long into the night! They might make you wish you’d grown up Italian, with family recipes handed down, and down again to you. For sure they’ll make you wish you could cook like John does. And that’s where this little journey began for me…

SquashRavioli-1

Only a handful of times in my life have I made pasta from scratch. I should be throttled for that! The man I married (who calls himself my grateful guinea pig and is such a good sport) is an enormous fan of pasta. Wrong word choice…he likes pasta, a Lot. So it was that when I spotted John’s series of posts on pasta – and then – Ravioli! – I knew I’d just discovered the Holy Grail – no question about it – this was D.i.n.n.e.r. – written in the Guinea Pig’s own Language of Love.

Now you understand, I’m not the one to learn pasta making from. No, no. I’d head over to John’s if I were you. Below is the recipe for the Bartolini’s pasta dough. It’s the one I used (Naturally!) I followed his expert guidance on how to roll and what dies to use as a novice raviol-ist. I prayed the rosary (ok, not exactly), asked John for one more encouraging word and then I dove right in. Fearless! (ok, not exactly.)

(You’ll be able to view this recipe better if you click on it.)

SquashRavioli-4

It all went quite well, just like John said it would. I had mechanical issues with my pasta roller and I think I’m tossing it (but not til I’ve found a replacement.)

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I made a sweet & savory butternut squash filling…

(recipe follows)SquashRavioli-2

Closed those little pillowy parcels up…SquashRavioli-3

Gently boiled them in salted water, drained them and then slid them into a simple sauce of browned butter, garlic & sage, thyme & parsley & toasted pecans. G.P. will probably chime in here and tell you about it, but if he’s still tied up licking fingers, I’ll tell you…

it was pretty fine!

SquashRavioli-12

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Butternut Squash Ravioli with Toasted Pecans and Sage

1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds

Vegetable Oil – just a wee bit for brushing squash

 Cayenne Pepper – a Dash

Freshly-grated Nutmeg – (about 5 passes over the grater – to taste)

Salt & Freshly-Ground Black Pepper

Freshly-Grated Parmesan –  ½ cup

dried bread crumbs – ½ cup

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Freshly-Made Pasta ala Bartolini (recipe above)

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Brown Butter with Pecans & Sage

Butter – 4 to 6 Tablespoons, melted

Garlic – 1 medium to large clove

Chopped Fresh Sage Leaves – 2 Tablespoons

Chopped Parsley – 2 Tablespoons (divided)

Chopped Fresh Thyme – 2 teaspoons

Toasted Pecans, ½ cup coarsely chopped

Freshly Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (I prefer the latter here)

Prepare the filling: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) Slice the squash in two, from top to bottom and scoop out the seeds. Brush the cut surface with vegetable oil and place cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat. Bake until soft – about 40 minutes (though begin checking at 30.) Scoop out the flesh and measure 2 cups full. Drop it into a food processor (or mash well with a fork) blending with 2 Tablespoons butter. Season with a dash of cayenne, grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Season to your own tastes. (It will not need to be fully seasoned with salt since the cheese will bring some of its own.) If the squash seems a bit too liquid-y you can dry it out by dropping it into a skillet on high heat for a few moment. Add bread crumbs and cheese. Set aside.

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on pita & filling our pockets

Making your own pocket bread may not be the thing for you. Do you have some leisure hours on one of your weekend days that you might like to spend playing with soft little pillows of dough? Do you find it a thing of pleasure to create something from scratch, something you can easily grab off the shelf, machine-made and already shrink-wrapped for you in plastic? Would it thrill you (just a tiny bit?) to watch flat pancakes fill like hot-air balloons in your oven while the aromas of a bakery fill your house?   hmmm! – well –

then…

PitaBread-5

Pita  – from your own oven

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makes 16 pita pockets

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1 Tablespoon active dry yeast (or 1 package)

2½ cups lukewarm water

¼ teaspoon sugar

Approximately 6 cups unbleached white bread flour  (or unbleached all-purpose flour)

1½ – 2 teaspoons salt

3 Tablespoons vegetable or extra-virgin olive oil

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 Into a large bowl, pour ½ cup of warm water and stir in the yeast to dissolve. Add the sugar. When the mixture begins to froth (proving that the yeast is still lively) stir in the remaining 2 cups of water. Gradually add 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring vigorously. (You may either do this by hand, or with a stand-mixer.) You’ve now made a “sponge”. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes, or until it too froths.

Stir in the salt and 2 Tablespoons of the oil and mix together well. Gradually add the remaining flouryou may need less than the total amount specified – once you have a dough that holds together into a ball and isn’t sticking wetly to your hands, you’ve added enough flour.

(Because the flour hydrates gradually – and depends on ambient humidity amongst other things – if you add large amounts of flour all at once, you can overshoot the mark. All would not be lost…just add a bit more water – gradually – to find that happy balance.)  

Knead well by hand in the bowl, or on a floured board, ten minutes or so; or in a stand mixer using the dough hook for maybe 7 minutes. You’re looking for a smooth, shiny and elastic dough that no longer sticks to your fingers when held for several seconds. Dust with a bit more flour occasionally if it proves too sticky. Form it into a ball.

Put the remaining tablespoon of oil into the bowl and roll the ball of dough around so as to grease it all over. (This prevents a crust from forming on it.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a comfy warm place free of drafts for about 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C), placing a large baking sheet in the hottest part. (Generally about ¼ of the way up from the bottom.) Allow it to preheat for 20 minutes.

Punch the dough down and then knead again for several minutes. Divide the dough in half. Divide the first half into 8 “equal” lumps and roll these into balls.

PitaBread-1PitaBread-2

PitaBread-3

On a lightly floured surface, using either your hands or a rolling pin dusted with flour, flatten each lump into a “pancake” about 7 or 8 inches across and 1/8 to ¼-inch thick.  Spread a kitchen towel on your counter and sprinkle it with flour. Dust each of the rounds with flour and arrange on the cloth, leaving an inch between them.  Cover these with another flour-dusted cloth and allow them to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. (If your counter is particularly cold, you could leave them to rest them slightly longer.)

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Easter bread – a Greek tradition

This is the bread traditionally made for Greek Easter, and much like the one our Yaya would bring to the table.

Yaya’s kitchen had a converted wood oven, marbled-linoleum floors, tall ceilings covered in tin tiles, and smelled like nothing you’ve likely ever breathed — but should have! I remember, as a young girl, standing in her kitchen, watching in utter fascination as she – wearing an apron over one of her always-black dresses –  would gently wrestle huge batches of dough, her stocky arms covered in flour, her hair wound in blonde-white braids around her head, her face serene. Four boys in that family, and they ate a lot of bread. And we did too, whenever we visited our Yaya and Papou.

I don’t have my yaya’s recipe for bread. But Yaya didn’t have or use recipes. How to make bread was in her body somewhere. She didn’t think it or measure carefully. She poured from glass bottles, scooped with bare hands, smelled and felt and knew when things were right.

This isn’t Yaya’s recipe, but it’s as close as I could come. It’s a brioche-type loaf – tender-crumbed, buttery, with a hint of anise and orange, absolutely delicious. The red egg is optional of course, but quite pretty nestled in its sesame-strewn, braided nest. If you decide to use one in yours, insert it between the twisted or braided ropes after it’s risen but before the egg-wash and sesame seeds have been added. You can insert the egg either uncooked or hard-boiled, but it’s typically not eaten after its baked with the bread.

In a separate post to follow tomorrow, I’ll be sharing a recipe for a – quick & easy – alternative to this loaf.  It’s a Challah that I’ve made for years using the food processor, but with slight variations for this occasion.) 

Easter Sweet Bread – Tsoureki

the recipe can be doubled for 2 Tsourekia

  • ½ cup warm water
  • the zest from 1/2 large orange
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • ½ cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  •  1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cube unsalted butter (1/4 cup) – melted
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 extra large egg, well-beaten
  • ½ t. anise extract
  • 2½ to 3 cups unbleached white flour
  •  1 egg white, well beaten
  • sesame seeds for the top
  • 1 red-dyed Easter egg (optional)

Using a microplane zester if you have one, remove only the zest of ½ orange.  Finely chop the zest and add it to the warm water and olive oil in the bowl of your mixer. Add the warm milk and combine well with a whisk. (It’s important that the zest be very fine here so as to fully infuse the bread with delicate flavor, but no chunks of peel. If you don’t have a microplane, I recommend you put the first three ingredients in a blender first, then add them, along with warm milk, to the bowl of your mixer.)

In a separate bowl, combine the ½ cup flour,  1 T. sugar, the yeast and salt. Add slowly to the wet mixture of the previous step, whisking as you go, until all is well-combined. Set in a warm draft-free place to proof for 20 minutes.

Fit the stand mixer with paddle attachment and return the bowl to the mixer. Turn on low speed, and slowly add the flour. (Yaya knew the amount of flour is always variable in a bread recipe. It’s going to depend on how you measure both wet and dry ingredients, the humidity, the size of your eggs, etc. Last time I made this, it took nearly 3 cups, but if you add too much, your bread will be lacking in tenderness, which would be such a shame!  Add the final ½ cup gradually, as needed. You’ll want to add enough flour so that the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and starts to rise up on your beaters.The final dough should have the feel of a baby’s soft bottom. If that helps??  It’s really not tricky!)

Increase the speed of your mixer slightly and knead for 4 minutes until the dough becomes silky.  (If you don’t have a stand mixer you can do all of this by hand. Because there’s no whole-grain in this recipe, this is not a difficult one to knead – and there are times when kneading just feels so right!)  Take the dough and all its little bits from the bowl, form into a nice ball and return it back to the bowl to rise. Cover  and set in a warm place to double – about 40 minutes. (One nice environment is in your oven – no heat! – just fill another bowl with hot water and put it inside the oven along with your bowl of dough. Or you can rest it on a sunny ledge – if you live in one of those places where the sun shines!)

Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured board. (Or if you like, you can lightly grease it instead.) Roll into a long rope with your hands. Pick up the two ends of  your ropes and set them down close to you. Now, just draw one end of the rope over the other, then under, then up over again. (All you’re really doing is making two complete twists.) Gently squeeze the ends together.

The halfway mark where you first folded the rope is where the egg will eventually nestle. But not yet. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and set in a warm place to double in size, another 40 minutes to an hour approximately.

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bread for tomorrow – the no-knead loaf

Did you know that ¼ teaspoon of yeast can rise a loaf’s-worth of dough just as well as a tablespoon? It’s true. It will simply take longer for it to do so. But there’s a real beauty in that. The old adage good things take time applies. With each extra hour the yeast grows, it adds incredibly to the flavor of the finished loaf. So, though some recipes for home-baked bread will have you adding nearly a tablespoon of yeast, and sugar for it to feast and grow quickly on, and have you rising the dough in a warm place, that’s meant for your convenience and to hurry the process. If you slow it down, you’ll love what happens!

This may be the easiest – and possibly one of the most delicious – breads you’ll ever bake. Start it today, finish it tomorrow, and there will be curtain calls and encores in your future! Do I exaggerate? Occasionally, I have, yes. But here, no.

For full-effect, a true Dutch oven is required for this. Cast iron is best because it creates its own highly-conductive little furnace to bake the bread in. Higher-end brands like Le Creuset or Staub are lovely and come in many colors. But just as effective here are non-enameled (lidded) cast iron pots that you might see hanging over a campfire. The latter are inexpensive but require a bit more care in the cleaning, curing and preventing of rust. Always nice to have options though.

I’m sorry to repeat myself, but a digital kitchen scale makes this process so much simpler too, and with fewer things to clean up after. (See preceding posts if you haven’t already.)

This method (ingenious really) was first developed and introduced to us several years back by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. Since its introduction, this No-Knead method has rather revolutionized home bread-baking. Without terrifically expensive ovens (the kind of which are almost never seen in home kitchens), this bread’s crust wasn’t reproducible at home before. You can see for yourself though, loaves reminiscent of old-world bakeries can now emerge steamy and fragrant from our own rather ordinary ovens.The secret lies in the steam that’s created and contained within the Dutch oven as the bread bakes.

This bread will cost you the equivalent of 3 cups of good-quality flour. We won’t calculate the cost of ¼ teaspoon of yeast or a spoon of salt. Let’s just say this gorgeous bread costs less than a cup of coffee or tea (even a very bad cup.)

Let’s get started.

No-Knead “Artisan” Bread

and you are the artist!

  • 3 cups (375 g) flour (either all-purpose or bread flour)
  • ¼ teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
  • 1¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) water
  • Extra flour, wheat bran, fine cornmeal, as needed for dusting

a NOTE on the weight measurements, this primarily for the readers in the States who are as yet not as familiar as we will one day be with metrics. One beautiful thing about the metric system is that grams and mL’s are virtually interchangeable. In other words 100 mL’s of liquid will weigh 100 grams. Don’t you love that? That makes it possible to weigh out water measurements instead of the more approximate method of filling a glass measure where “a tad above-the line, below the line, eye-level” all makes a difference. Weighing is exact, every time.  (If you have a scale, it will likely convert US measurements to metric with a button-push, but just fyi 375 grams =  13.25 ounces.)

In a bowl, mix the flour, yeast and salt. Stir in the water to blend. If using a scale, place bowl on scale and zero it out. Add 375 grams flour. Add yeast and measure out salt. Zero the scale, and add 375 mL (or grams) of water. Mix loosely. (It will finish the process of blending as it sits.) What you’ll have will be a bit wet, shaggy and messy-looking. Cover bowl with a tea towel and allow to rest (and grow!) for 12 to 24 hours. (If you choose a cooler place, the process will likely take 18 to 24 hours. Room temperature, more like 12 hours.) When the dough is dotted with bubbles and very alive-looking, you’re ready for the next step.

Only 1/4 teaspoon yeast…amazing right?

Generously flour a work surface. Dump the contents of the bowl out onto it.

See all the strands of gluten that have formed while you’ve ignored your dough? This is what will create pockets to contain the gas.

No need to knead, but simply fold the dough over on itself several times. Cover it with a clean towel and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. (Dough that rests like this is much more workable.)

(This next step feels so good!) Using only as much flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers, shape the dough as follows:

Fold in thirds (as if you were folding a letter for an envelope, one fold, then another.) Rotate the loaf, then fold each longer end in again. (You’ve made roughly a square shape with rounded corners.) What you have facing you is the seam that will open later, upon the final rise in the oven. 

After the first two folds

After the last two folds. Ready to rise.

Lie another towel on your counter and cover with a generous amount of flour, wheat bran or fine cornmeal and then place the dough on it, seam-side down. Be sure the flour extends beyond the borders of the bread as it will be growing. The reason for the generous amount of flour is that you do NOT want the bread sticking to the towel when you go to invert it into a hot Dutch oven.  Dust the dough with a little more flour then cover with a tea towel and allow to rise about 2 hours. In these two hours the bread will have more than doubled its size.  Read more

ruthie’s ought-to-be-famous absolutely fabulous caramel corn

We visited a number of ruins while on our trip to Sedona, Arizona. We’ve been to each of them before, at least once, but each time we learn a little something new, and each time at various points, we’ll look over at each other and shake our heads in awe. It’s simply incredible – to walk amongst the stacked walls and scattered rocks where they had walked, farmed and hunted, prepared their food and ate their meals, had their babies, played and danced, wove from cotton they’d planted, carved tools from stone and bone, traded, worshipped…and then, around 1400 AD, they left…and no one can say to where, or why. It leaves us rather awestruck and feeling like we should whisper amongst these ruins. And we do.

Palatki ruins, Arizona

These are the curved stone tools (metates) in which the women (primarily) and children would grind their grains.

Metates

These people domesticated corn, digging irrigation ditches to bring water to their gardens, carving stone tools to hoe between the rows. Corn was absolutely central to these ancient Americans’ existence. With that on my mind, I turn my own attention to working with corn. But this is child’s play really, nothing serious about it. Well, just one. I’m not one prone to addiction, but this is one thing that comes seriously close to having me in its clutches. It’s my mother’s caramel corn and for years now it’s been showing up at our family Christmas. One or two or more of us will independently prepare it, pack in it tins or cellophane bags and gift one another with it. (We always hope we get one back.) It rarely lasts a day. I’m just sayin’…

Ruthie’s Ought-To-Be-Famous Absolutely Fabulous Caramel Corn

  • 6 quarts popped corn (i.e. 24 cups)
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1½ teaspoons salt (if using salted butter, reduce to 1 teaspoon)
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

to be added later:

  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
Tools: Popcorn popper, candy thermometer, deep baking dish or roasting pan

Preheat oven to 250°F. Place popped corn into a large 4-inch-deep buttered baking pan or roasting pan. Keep popcorn warm in the oven as you prepare the caramel sauce.

In a large saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream of tartar and salt. Measure out the baking soda and have it ready but don’t add at this time.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring continuously. The caramel will begin to boil rapidly. Continue cooking and stirring until the bubbly mixture reaches 250° to 260° F as registered on a candy thermometer.

(For these next steps, you’ll want to act fairly quickly as caramel tends to harden before you know it.)

Remove the popcorn from the oven and have it on the counter nearby. Remove the pan from the stove. Add the baking soda to the caramel sauce, stirring quickly and thoroughly. (It will froth up and fill the pan and look like this.)

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chai for two, & two for chai

We read the other day that locally-based Tazo Teas will be pulling up stakes and leaving Portland for a colder and damper clime. (I know, you thought that not possible. Portland gets such a bad rap.)  We’ll still be able to buy their teas of course, but we’ll be sorry to see them go. Having Tazo in our backyard is a bit like a blanket thrown over the back of the couch, or a delicious book on the nightstand – a bit of a comfort –  there, should you need it. The building that houses Tazo is striking in its simplicity, spare in its details, but rich, warm and inviting. Is there something subliminal in its design that makes one suddenly crave a steaming fragrant cup of tea? Wait here, I’ve got just the ticket!

I’m not claiming to be an expert, not by any stretch, but I did learn from one. My friend Amit from Delhi taught me how chai was made in their kitchen back home and I’ve been making it in ours ever since. It’s very simple to do and I predict you’ll never go back to those cartons of chai after tasting this one. Take ten minutes of your time before you sit down to address your holiday cards, or wrap your gifts, or pay your bills. If your attitude is running a bit sour, you might try chai. A hug around your heart, held in a steamy pot. (I know. Ridiculous you say. But only because you haven’t tried it yet.)

For those who’ve never enjoyed the treat that chai is – imagine steaming milk (cow’s milk, soy, rice, coconut – whatever your preference) – into it fragrant cardamom, allspice, freshly ground pepper and grated fresh ginger root – allow it all to steep so that the milk itself is imbued with all the fragrance and warmth these spices impart – then the tea (black or green or a combination of the two) for the last 3 minutes. Strain and serve. Warm your hands, warm your soul.

(And though I’ve strongly advocated for your chai to be served steaming hot, I can tell you that over ice in the summer, it’s refreshingly delicious and wonderful!)

Chai for Two

  • 2 cups milk (I’ll use any milk, but for chai I think soy might be my personal favorite.)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root (see NOTE)
  • sugar to taste (see NOTE)
  • 2 teaspoons tea (see NOTE)

Directions:

Into a medium saucepan, over low heat measure the milk of your choice and water. Add allspice, cardamom, freshly-ground pepper. Grate the ginger, measure and add. Bring the pot slowly to just steaming, stirring frequently. (Don’t allow soy, rice or coconut milk to boil as it will separate which is never pretty.) Turn heat to lowest setting or turn off entirely. Spill the tea(s) over the steaming milk. Stir once then leave undisturbed for 3 minutes. (After 3 minutes, the bitterness of the tea leaf begins to leach into your brew.)

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the chai of its solids.

This will cool it off some, so return to the pot and gently rewarm. (Again, careful not to boil.)

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Serve steaming. Or chill, and serve over ice.

See below for NOTES on Ginger, Sugar and Tea. Read more

a bowl of irony & a jar of sunlight

Spree’s been down with a stomach bug – blech! The doctor has called for bland. For the last several days, no appetite at all. My husband’s gone to the store (twice) to fill my wish list – and then, not meaning to be ungrateful – I turn my nose up. How in the world does spree do bland? What an irony!

Spree’s White Rice

  • 2 teaspoons clarified butter (or olive oil if you haven’t any)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • chopped cilantro as garnish, optional, but just about perfect

Put clarified butter (Ghee, in India) into a heavy pot. Add cumin, fennel and coriander seeds and toast over medium-low heat until (as my friend from India says) “they go chit chit,” which is to say they crackle and get medium-toasty brown. Add the rice, salt and stir to coat with butter. Add your water and bring to boil. Stir once. Reduce heat to simmer for 18 minutes. (Don’t peek.) Turn heat off and allow rice to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and serve with something colorful and savory…if you can. (But even unaccompanied or unadored, it satisfies.) A sprinkling of chopped cilantro over top, nice!

A Jar of Sunlight – Clarified Butter

Butter is a combination of butter fat, milk solids and water. Clarifying removes the water and milk solids, leaving pure buttery goodness and elevating the smoking point. With clarified butter, you can now turn up the heat without risk of smoking up your kitchen or blackening your lovely meal plan. It has an absolutely wonderful aroma and delicately-toasty taste. It keeps well in the refrigerator for at least a month. (Some grocery stores will sell ghee in the refrigerated section.)

a jar of sunlight

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • a heavy pot
  • a jar
  • a piece of dampened cheesecloth

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Vanilla Cardamom Ice-Cream with Grilled Peaches

It seemed like such a good idea. The organic peaches had just arrived at the market and were irresistibly beautiful! Plump and fuzzy little things in colors of  the summer sun, deep coral, and bright, flushed cheeks. Gently going through dozens, I found six or seven that were perfectly ripe.
I held a notion that peach galette and vanilla-cardamom ice-cream would be a heavenly combination. With the taste already in my mind, I was anxious to get started. I set the bags of groceries on the counter and began making the dough for the galette. I prepared the beautiful peaches, assembled that rustic little pie and popped it in the oven. In the meantime, I made the ice-cream. When everything was done, it all looked quite pretty so I snapped some photos. Then I plated it and took that much-anticipated bite. Everything about it was lovely…except the taste. The ice-cream was fragrant-like-a-flower delicious! But the galette – I don’t mean to be rude – but she was boring! It really didn’t matter how pretty she was…once you got past her looks, there was nothing there.

I knew it wasn’t the fault of the peaches. (Naturally, as I was slicing them I’d slipped a few into my mouth.) I’d sweetened them some and spiced them nicely. Maybe somebody out there has a better idea, but I concluded that peaches and galettes, no matter how good they are on their own, don’t make a good pair. I haven’t had much experience cooking peaches…I love them fresh and bright and dripping juice.  My thoughts then went to, Well, how do I cook them in a way that all those lovable things about peaches are preserved? How about if I grill them?!  Of course this could be another good idea gone bad, but I had to find out.

I headed back to the store, found a few ripe peaches I’d missed before, brought them home, and fired up the grill. Just a few short minutes later, I was sitting in the sun with my bare feet up, eating heavenly mouthfuls of cold ice-cream and warm peaches!

Vanilla Cardamom Ice-Cream

The very first recipe I posted for this blog was an apple crisp. Here’s the ice-cream I’d promised to go with it. It’s almost indescribably good. Its speckled with black bits of vanilla bean and its flavor is carried on a cloud that touches your nose before the spoon meets your mouth. And if you try it, you’ll know what I mean when I say you’ll never be in a rush to swallow it. Its one of those things you’ll want to savor until the very last, melted spoonful.

  • 2 cups milk or light cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 8 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed (see NOTE)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (see NOTE 2)

Preparation

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A Fruity, Nutty Kind of Granola

I mentioned in an earlier post that we have two granolas we enjoy for breakfast. But this is the one full of memories and sweet associations.  This is the one we have a history with. It’s a rainy morning and I have a new batch baking now. The aromas floating through the kitchen take me back years and plop me down at an old wooden table, with its slightly creaky top – a table that was once “Yaya’s” and around which her four hungry boys gathered to be fed. (The third of these would one day be our Dad.) Many years later, it was the round, creaky table where my girls and I ate our meals and grew up together. Often our breakfasts would include small bowlfuls of creamy-smooth yogurt on which this crunchy granola was toppled, theirs with an extra shimmer of drizzled honey. We’d eat, planning our days, sometimes practicing spelling, finishing math or editing essays, chattering or giggling with mouths still full. There was a lot of happy around that table.

My daughters have the same honeyed aromas filling their kitchens these days, and new memories are forming in other cute little heads. In fact, today three little girls eat around that very same creaky-topped table, ambered and dented with years of living.

Even after all this time, my husband and I love when a fresh batch of granola is pulled, all crackly hot, from the oven. We can barely wait for it to cool. I suppose by now it’s obvious, this is the granola we favor.

Spree’s Golden Granola

Preheat oven to 300°F.  Into an ample-sized glass or metal cake pan, scoop the following:

  • 3 cups rolled oats (the slow-cooking, old-fashioned sort)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded (see NOTE)
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw almonds (or hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened raw wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup of ground flaxseed (optional)
  • To the above ingredients stir in
  • 1/2 cup honey (or real maple syrup, or 1/4 cup of each)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • Stir to combine well, and then add
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

Pop the pan into your oven and plan on cooking for about an hour (though it may be to your liking in less), stirring every 15 minutes or thereabouts to toast it evenly.  When it’s the kind of crunchy that suits you, remove and cool.  Once cooled, add a total of

  • 1 cup or so of dried fruits

My favorites: 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped raisin-size (I have a strong preference for Trader Joe’s apricots, full of tangy flavor); 1/4 cup dried cranberries; and 1/4 cup or more of raisins.  But I also like dried cherries or blueberries in place of one or two of the others. Make it as fruity as you like.  Like all good granolas, it’s nice on yogurt with fresh fruit, or in a bowl with milk, or out of the hand for a quick little munch.

NOTE: The coconut you’ll see featured here is from Bob’s Red Mill – these ribbons of coconut look pretty, toast up beautifully, and put a distinct bite of coconut in your mouth.

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