Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream (with homemade buttermilk) and Fresh Strawberry Sauce

Strawberries topped with toasted almond slivers and drizzled with honey, strawberry ice cream, strawberry sour cream coffee cake, strawberries at their pique ripeness, more sweet than tart, washed and allowed to come to room temperature, totally naked in a bowl, sigh. I LOVE strawberries! Wouldn't it be great if raindrops tasted like strawberries. Okay, so maybe that's pushing it, but rain does helps strawberries to grow. So in essence, strawberries taste a bit like rain.
That time of the year, when everything springs to life, ostensibly instantaneously, is a welcomed occasion here in New England. Colors and smells and tastes that have hidden themselves away from our finding become new and available to us again; Fresh and locally grown! Two days ago, I planted my first strawberries of the season. They've already begun budding. The reason I mentioned the rain earlier is because that's what we've been experiencing the past few days, and nearly all of April. Though, for some, this may be a downer, I offer for your consideration one glorious bright side...Strawberries! And the vast many things that grow verdant, plush, sweet and fragrant. Come in out of the rain, pull up a chair and I'll make you a sundae. You'll have no choice but to smile. And after one bite, you'll have a whole new appreciation for the magic of what falls from those April gray skies.

Making your own buttermilk is really simple.

All you'll need is:

1 cup whole milk

and either 1 & 3/4 tablespoons cream of tartar OR 1 tablespoon white vinegar OR 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Add one of the three to milk (cream of tartar, or white vinegar, or fresh lemon juice), stir and let stand for fifteen minutes at room temperature. After fifteen minutes the milk should have begun to curdle. Stir well before using.

*For this recipe, I used buttermilk made with lemon juice.

Homemade Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

Recipe courtesy and Adapted from


2 cups cream or half and half Plus 1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup whole milk (to be mixed with cornstarch later)

1/2 cup buttermilk

Scant 3/4 cup sugar (just under 3/4 cup)

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 Tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 cup strawberries, cut into small cubes

2 Tablespoons sugar Plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (for macerating strawberries)

Fresh Strawberry Sauce

To make strawberry sauce, simply repeat the method of cutting strawberries into small cubes. Once you've cubed 3/4 cup of strawberries, place them in bowl with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. Stir until incorporated. Cover bowl and refrigerate until needed.


Clean strawberries under cold water. Cut strawberries into small cubes. Place strawberries in bowl with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, stir. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Pour 1 1/2 cups of cream plus 1/2 cup of whole milk into a small sauce pan. Add the sugar and salt and heat the cream over medium low heat. Stir cream often to prevent it from scalding.
Now that your cream and 1/2 cup of milk is heating on the stove, measure out buttermilk and vanilla extract and set aside. Also measure out the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Stir the cornstarch into this 1/2 cup of milk until smooth and all the lumps are dissolved.

At this point, the cream you've been heating should be gently steaming. You do not want it boiling, just hot and producing a gentle steam. While the cream is over medium low heat, add the milk and cornstarch mixture to same pan as cream. Stir continuously until cream starts to thicken. It should feel heavier on the spoon and appear thicker to the eye. *See picture below.

Once the milk and cornstarch mixture is added to the cream, it should only take a minute or two to thicken up. If not, keep stirring until it does.

Once the cream mixture is thick, remove from the heat, Add vanilla extract and 1/2cup of buttermilk. Stir to incorporate.

Strain the cream milk mixture into a large bowl, cover with plastic and allow to cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Once the mixture is cooled, remove from the refrigerator and stir in ONLY the accumulated juices from the strawberries and NOT the strawberries. Stir to incorporate juice and add cream mixture to your ice cream maker. *See pictures below.

Five to ten minutes before ice cream is done churning, add the remaining small cubes of strawberries to ice cream machine. When ice cream is done churning, place in freezer safe container, cover and allow to freeze for up to four hours.

Homemade ice cream always tastes best after it's been allowed to "ripen". This is when the flavor has deepened.

My budding strawberry plants.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lime-Ricotta Cake (with Blackberry sauce?)

In cooking, as in life, I aim to break or make as many of my own rules as possible. My grandmother once told me that if I was born in the 1600's I would have been suspected a witch. She meant it as a compliment. Suggesting that my independent nature would have gotten me into trouble. I'm relentless in that way. I was never one for "fitting in" even when it was uncomfortable not to.
So imagine my delight when I come across recipes that allot enough room for me to tailor to my own taste, or as is often the case, what I have on hand.
This cake is the perfect example of that. Originally called "Lime-Yogurt Cake," As it called for whole milk plain yogurt, I changed that to include whole milk ricotta, simply because it's what I had in the refrigerator. I'm sure the yogurt version would have been lovely, too. After making the blackberry sauce, I realized I'm not particularly fond of blackberries. That's just a matter of taste. The following day I made a strawberry sauce in its place. And was it ever delicious! I even found a use for the left-over blackberries...Ice Cream!

Lime-Ricotta Cake with Blackberry Sauce Strawberry Sauce

Recipe courtesy and Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen


1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (you can use one cup whole milk plain yogurt in its place)
1/3 cup canola oil (you can use vegetable in its place)
1 cup sugar
zest of one large lime, or two small
1/4 cup lime juice
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk (leave out the milk if using yogurt instead of ricotta)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
Powdered (confectioners) sugar for sifting over cake *Optional

" Sauce:

12 ounces fresh blackberries, or strawberries, or blueberries, or pineapple (Anything you think you'd like on a pound cake, you'd love on this)
*Note: If using frozen fruit, start with half the water and add more if needed.
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

To make sauce:

Add the fruit you've chosen, water, sugar and lime juice. Pour into blender or food processor. Set to purée until very smooth. If using a seedy fruit, like blackberries, over large bowl, press puréed fruit mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Cover and refrigerate until cooled.

To make the cake:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9-inch cake pan in thin layer of butter. If not using a springform pan, add parchment to bottom of pan to prevent cake from sticking.

Using a large mixing bowl, add ricotta, oil, sugar, lime zest and 1/4 cup lime juice. Stir until combined, using whisk or fork. Add eggs one at a time, mix well after each egg is added. In a separate smaller bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients, using a large spoon, mix until thoroughly combined. *As original recipe directs, dry ingredients could also be sifted directly over bowl of wet ingredients and then stirred until combined. I'm just a creature of habit.

Pour batter into the buttered springform pan or buttered and lined cake pan you prepared earlier. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until cake has become golden brown in color and a knife inserted into center of cake pulls out clean. Allow cake to rest in pan for 10 minutes. To loosen cake, run a knife between the cake and pan, around the circumference. Stay closer to the pan with the knife as not to cut the outer crust of cake. If using springform pan, simply unclasp the hooks.

Prepare your ingredients

Stir wet ingredients until combined. Next, add your sifted dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until combined

Sift cake with powdered sugar

They are beautiful

But strawberries are my kryptonite

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Easy Jam Tart

Long-distance relationships are tough. Long-distance relationships that span the Atlantic ocean, a language and 6 hour time difference, maybe doubly so. Missing my Daph is the hardest part of all. I attribute the joy I share with him with sparking new...and rekindling some old passions, like cooking. After an 8 year spell of pre-packaged, processed, preserved, frozen, companies-should-be-ashamed-to-call-this-???-food, food, when Daph visited Boston this past November, that nightmare ended. I really wanted to impress with him with real, good, home cooked meals. It worked! He loved them. And so did I. I've been reaquainting myself with my old friend, the oven, ever since.

Fruit tarts are quintessentially French, in terms of desserts. It is my deep hope that I'll get to taste all the French pastry I desire this summer in Paris. In the mean time, however, I'll make something of my own that's sweet, like love, and French, like Daph. Cheers to amour and France.

Easy Jam Tart

Recipe courtesy The amazing David Lebovitz
Adapted slightly from:
Ready for dessert: My Best Recipes
(c)Ten Speed Press

9 tablespoons (110g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups (190g) flour
1/2 cup (70g) stone-ground cornmeal or polenta
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)
1 3/4 cups (450g) apricot, raspberry or other jam

Coarse sugar for sprinkling over tart.

1. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until well-combined, using either a stand or hand mixer. After the butter and sugar are combined, add in the whole egg, separated egg yolk and almond extract. Mix until combined.

2. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder. Carefully add the dry ingredients to butter mixture just until combined. The look you're going for is crumbly. *See picture below.

3. Separate one-third of the dough and form this into a log shape, approx. 2 inches around. Wrap the log into plastic and put in refrigerator to chill, about an hour. Form the remaining two-thirds of dough into a flattened round shape. *See picture below. Wrap it in plastic, and put in the refrigerator to chill, about an hour.

4. After an hour, remove the flattened round from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature slightly, about ten minutes. Press the dough into the bottom and around sides of a buttered tart or spring form pan, patting it evenly. It's okay if you don't have either of these pans. I, myself used a traditional cake pan.

5. Cover pan with plastic and put back into the refrigerator to chill again, about an hour.

6. When dough in pan has been chilled, remove from refrigerator and spread jam evenly over the bottom. *See picture below.

7. Remove the log of dough from the refrigerator, cut into thin slices (about 1/8 inch thick) and lay them over the jam in a circular motion until the jam is covered with slices (It's okay if you miss a few spots, just try to get them as close as you can.). *See picture below.
Sprinkle top with coarse sugar, about two tablespoons. I omitted the coarse sugar.

8. Bake until the tart is golden brown, between 20-25 minutes. Let come to a cool before serving. Serve at room temperature.

After the butter and sugar have been combined and the dry ingredients added and mixed until coarsely crumbled.

After the butter and sugar have been combined and the dry ingredients added and mixed until coarsely crumbled.

The log and flattened round.

When the dough is ready, with the palm of your hand, press it into the bottom and around the sides of the pan, you may need to use your fingertips to form around sides.

I ran out of peach preserves so I rummaged the refrigerator and found two nearly empty jars of the strawberry sort.

Covering the jam with thin slices.

Did you get it?

Here's Mon Amour, Daph and I this past November, downtown Boston.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Espinacas Con Garbanzos, Empanadas

Espinacas Con Garbanzos (Spinach and Garbanzos), Part 2: The Empanada Chronicles.

I know what you're thinking: 'Oh no she didn't!' But I did! I took something healthy and totally delicious in its own right, added cheese, wrapped it inside of dough made primarily of butter and deep fried it. I'm shameless in that way, I admit. I've always been a bit of a rule breaker. I'm not saying I'm proud, but nobody's perfect. Nobody is perfect and that's what makes life so delicious. Things that seem so wrong on the surface can be oh so right.

Making empanada dough is super easy. You only need a few ingredients and either a food processor, or a stand or hand mixer. You can tailor the dough to match your ingredients by adding different spices. You can make them sweet or salty by adding things like fruit filling and cinnamon sugar on the outside or chicken, spinach and cheese with thyme dough. The possibilities are endless. And of course, you don't have to deep-fry your empanadas. Empanadas can be baked in an oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. The key is to work quickly once your dough has been refrigerated.

Ingredients for 15 medium size or 25 small empanada discs:

3 cups all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 oz unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cold and cut into 12 pieces

1 egg

4-5 tbs water (More if needed)


1.Mix the flour and salt in a food processor, or in large bowl with hand mixer.
2.Add the butter, egg and water until a clumpy dough forms.
3.Form a ball and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
4.Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut out round disc shapes for empanadas (use round molds or a small bowl).
5.Use immediately or store in the refrigerator( for no longer than a day) or freezer to use later.

Prepare your ingredients

Roll out refrigerated dough and form circles. I used a small bowl to create the shape and cut out circles with a knife.

Add your filling to center of circles, leaving enough room to fold dough and crimp edges

Fold over top half of dough and use fork to crimp edges

You can deep fry your empanadas or bake them in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown in color.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Espinacas Con Garbanzos (Spinach and Garbanzos)

This is a simple tale about a girl and her love of garbanzos. After making hummus about a month back, starting with raw beans and not the canned sort, I have made it my mission to find recipes and make as many things as I can that feature the garbanzo. I'm in love! Other than the aforementioned hummus, which I only discovered about a year ago, salads, and a few scattered about with minor supporting roles in a soup, I've never made real use of them. I guess I never saw their potential before now. Well that has that changed. My eyes have been opened to the possibilities of this glorious bean. You know how the old saying goes, "Once you go bean, you never go back." Or something like that.

I soaked the beans for a few hours, maybe four. I find the process of soaking the beans overnight breaks down the quality of the bean too much for my liking. If you're using a slow cooker to cook your beans, you can bypass the soaking method altogether. Break the rules! As many as you can without getting arrested. Especially when it comes to cooking.

Wash and Drain Spinach

Espinacas con garbanzos (Spinach and Garbanzos)

Recipe courtesy and adapted slightly from: Smittenkitchen

1/2 pound (8 oz.) dried chickpeas, cooked until tender or two 15-ounce cans of low-sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound (450 grams) spinach, washed
1/2 cup (4 ounces) tomato sauce, canned is perfect
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Place a large sauté pan over medium heat, allow to get warm before adding olive oil. When pan has warmed, add three tablespoons olive oil. When it is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt (In two batches, if needed) and stir well. Remove when the leaves have just wilted, drain and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, add the garlic, cumin and pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute, or until the garlic has slightly browned.

Add vinegar to pan, Add drained chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas have heated through and absored the liquid. Season with salt and pepper.

If the consistency is too thick, add a little water. Add the spinach to pan and and cook until it is hot. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve with paprika on top. You can also serve this over fried bread.

Squeeze fresh lemon juice over top before serving. *Optional.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

After such an exhausting week, of which I'll spare you the boring details, I spent this past weekend completely burnt-out and recovering. I slept right through a good portion of the "Bewitched" marathon on TV Land and couldn't bring myself to lace up my cross-trainers and workout. I knew I needed a pick-me-up to start off the new week with some gusto. I thought it a perfect time to bake that chocolate chip coffee cake I was craving. Is it odd to have such a specific craving? Anyhoo, I gathered all the ingredients and proceeded to bake. An hour later I removed a vision of chocolaty goodness from the oven and left it to cool. Twenty minutes later I returned only to discover the entire center had collapsed. I started to panic a little when it dawned on me, I should have listened to my instincts and let it bake longer. I had two options at that point 1.) Toss the cake and call it a loss, Or 2.) Put the cake back in the oven and hope for the best. The eternal hopetimist, I put the cake back in the oven and let it bake for an additional forty-five minutes. As both the oven and cake had cooled I knew it would need the extra time. To my great delight, not only did the cake bake to completion, but the collapsed center rose back to her former glory. In an event that could only be described as Divine Intervention, the cake was moist, perfect and delicious in every way. And just the pick-me-up I needed.

Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake
Recipe courtesy Smitten Kitchen

1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
16 ounces sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

12 ounces chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In stand mixer or a large bowl with hand mixer, add butter and mix until creamy in appearance, add 1 1/2 cups sugar, then mix in the egg yolks and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda and baking powder together. Alternately add sour cream and dry ingredients into butter mixture, beginning and ending with sour cream. In separate bowl, beat eggs whites until stiff, then gently fold into batter. On separate small plate, mix remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon together.

In a greased 9″x13″ pan, pour in half of the cake batter. Sprinkle the top with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and half of the chocolate chips. Pour remaining batter on top, sprinkle the top with the remaining cinnamon-sugar and chocolate chips.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fresh Tomato Salsa (Pico de Gallo)

Salsa is a go-to recipe when I want something quick and healthy, but also really tasty. It's especially great during the spring and summer months. I only wish I made Bacardi Lemon sorbet to go with it! Yum.

This recipe can easily be doubled.


3 large or 4 medium Roma (Plum) tomatoes, diced
2 tsp. fresh, raw jalapeño, finely chopped
1/2 White or Red Onion, diced
1 large Or 2 small Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp. fresh cilantro, minced (Or Parsley) (I use a mix of parsley and salt-free garlic and herb seasoning)
Squeeze from 1/2 lime
3-4 tablespoon whole kernel corn (Optional)
3-4 tablespoon red or black beans, fresh or low sodium canned (Optional)
Half teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt (salt to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (pepper to taste)
Squeeze from 1/2 lime

*I'm one of those people for whom cilantro tastes like soap.
In place of cilantro I use 1 teaspoon of salt-free garlic and herb seasoning


Mix all these ingredients in a bowl and let refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Red Sox & Big, Chewy, Soft Pretzels

It's that time of the year again! The buds are blooming. Windows that have spent an entire season closed to keep out the siege of winter frost are now opening to let in the much welcomed perennial return of beaming sun and warm air. And let us not forget... BASEBALL! Nothing says 'spring' in Boston like our beloved Red Sox back on the field, for better or worse.

I LOVE big, chewy, soft pretzels. When I was a little girl, my grandmother would bring me to Fenway Park a few times a year and I would always get a pretzel to eat while I watched the game.

Once you get the hang of it, they're super easy to make and really delicious. The fact is, game day or not, Pretzels are a good anytime food, especially if you're having friends over. But after one bite, you just might want to keep them all for yourself.

P.S. The picture above is my Dylan >^..^<~

Soft Pretzels

Recipe courtesy and adapted slightly from Alton Brown, Food Network
He knows his stuff!


1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
2 tablespoon dark brown or white sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water (I used butter instead)
Pretzel salt


In large bowl, or bowl of standing mixer, combine the water and sugar. Stir and then sprinkle yeast on top. Allow yeast to sit on top of wet ingredients for five minutes, until it begins to foam. In large separate bowl, mix flour and salt. Once the mixture has foamed, add flour and butter to yeast-water mixture and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Turn the speed up to medium and allow dough to knead until it appears smooth and pulls away from sides of bowl, about 4-5 minutes. Remove dough from bowl and set on clean surface. Clean and dry bowl completely, cover inside of bowl with canola or vegetable oil. Return dough to oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave bowl to sit in a warm place until dough has doubled in size, this will take about an hour.

*Note: If not using stand mixer, combine ingredients completely using wooden spoon or hands. Remove dough from bowl and place on clean surface, knead dough with hands until dough is incorporated, smooth and soft to the touch, about 4-6 minutes. Return dough to oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size in warm place.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper, brush paper lightly with canola or vegetable oil. Set pan aside.

In large pan, such as a dutch oven, bring 10 cups of water and baking soda to rapid boil.

While you're waiting for the water to boil, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a large U-shape with the rope. Holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U, forming the shape of the pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet pan.

Once all your pretzels are ready, place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds each. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Place boiled pretzels on cookie sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture or butter and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Once done, transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

After the yeast has foamed (five minutes).

After the dough has been mixed and kneaded.

After the dough has risen (one hour).

After the dough has been cut into eight pieces, begin rolling out the ropes.

Forming ropes into the Pretzel shape.

They're ready for the bath.

After the Pretzels have been bathed, basted with butter and salted.

The final product. Enjoy!
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