When my parents were in town a few weeks ago, we went to the Old Town Home & Garden Show. It was the 80th annual show, and it was a lot more fun than I expected. Walking back to the car, we stopped in a cooking store and I got a new ice cream book (because really, can you ever have too many ice cream books?).
One recipe that caught my eye was Coconut Gelato. And since we had to go to the store for eggs for the pasta <link>, we picked up a coconut. Unfortunately, I hadn't read the recipe carefully enough, and didn't notice we also needed coconut milk. As a result, my parents didn't get to try this while they were here. (Sorry mom and dad- next time.)
One of these is a fresh coconut; the other is canned coconut milk. I needed both.
On to the recipe:
The first thing you need to do when making coconut gelato, given you're using a fresh coconut, is open the coconut. This immediately presented me with a problem. My first instinct was to turn to my trusty chinese cleaver, with visions of splitting the coconut open in one blow, like you might see in a movie. But (surprisingly?) that failed.
Luckily, Google came to my rescue: Opening a coconut
. This approach worked perfectly. I even had my younger brother in town to smash the coconut-filled bag on the balcony (Rob is an experienced coconut-opener, having honed his technique on the beaches of the Caribbean).
Step #3 in that article is Bake the coconut @ 375 for 10 minutes, until you see a crack. Like this one.
Good job, Rob!
With the coconut in pieces, I combined it with a can of coconut milk in the food processor, and immediately made a (small) mess of the kitchen as coconut milk shot out of the machine (through the space between the base and the top). Not easily stopped when in pursuit of ice cream, I wrapped the towel (that had previously held coconut shards) around the seam, and kept at it.
Then I made some simple syrup (sugar, water, and a little lemon juice), combined it with the coconut/milk, and blended some more (this time with my trusty stick blender- there's a reason the food processor spends most of its time buried in the cupboard). After an overnight chill, I froze it in the machine.
The result? Coconut gelato.
I like it, but I don't love it. Next time, I'll skip the fresh coconut in favor for some shredded (unsweetened) coconut from the store. That might help me get the coconut pieces finer, and it'll be a lot less effort to open.
My parents were in town last weekend, and we decided to take a quick culinary trip to Italy: homemade pasta and rice (riso) gelato.
A couple years ago, we got my parents a pasta maker attachment for their mixer. It's pretty cool- you make the dough (flour, egg, water, salt), combine in the mixer, and then (after a quick rest) run it through the pasta attachments. The first one thins it out, and the second slices it into noodles. Depending on which model you get, you can make different kinds of pasta. Theirs makes spaghetti, linguine, and fettucine.
Check it out:
Make the dough, and form it into balls.
Last, change attachments, and slice it into noodles. Easy!
After dinner, we had rice gelato. Rice is one of those flavors that sounds weird, but tastes pretty good- like a frozen, blended, rice pudding. I first had it in Florence, at the suggestion of Rick Steves
. This is one of the more labor intensive flavors I've made (and anyone who's read any of my posts knows how I feel about labor intensive recipes). Luckily, my mom was there, and she did the heavy lifting. (Thanks mom! ..Although thinking about it, she did the heavy lifting for the pasta too.)Start by baking the rice with some milk, sugar, salt, a vanilla bean, and an orange peel. Sounds like it would make a good rice pudding, right?
I think this could have used more milk, but it still tasted good.
One surprise here is the addition of raw egg yolks, after the rice/milk mixture is baked. I don't know if the milk is supposed to be hot enough to cook the eggs, but we decided to return the whole thing to the oven until it was 165 degrees.
Then blend half the rice mixture (pouring it into a separate bowl makes this step a lot easier).
Chill in the fridge and then churn in the machine. This ice cream freezes really hard, even right out of the machine (most recipes come out like soft serve). When you take this out of the freezer, give it 5-10 minutes to warm up a little (Or pop the whole thing in the microwave, if you're really impatient).
Adapted from Perfect Scoop.
- 1/2 cup Italian Arborio rice
- 3 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 vanilla bean, split in half lenghtwise
- Two 1-inch-wide strips of orange zest
- 5 large egg yolks (save the whites for use later)
- 1 cup half-and-half or cream
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 350. In a 1.75 to 2 quart baking dish, mix together the rice, milk 1/4 cup of the sugar and the salt. Add the vanilla bean and strips of orange zest (I made the mistake of actually scraping out the vanilla, but it’s not really a mistake… it’s delicious.)
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove the rice from the oven and remove the foil. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, then continue to bake the rice, uncovered for another 30 minutes.
- Remove the rice from the oven a second time, remove the vanilla bean and orange zest and briskly whisk in the egg yolks at once. Then whisk in the half and half or cream and nutmeg.
- Puree half of the rice mixture in a blender or food processor until chopped fine then stir it back into the cooked rice.
- Chill the mixture in the fridge then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Last Saturday witnessed an impressive site: an intrepid crew of eight men and women striding through Chinatown, partaking in a guacamole and margarita crawl. These hardy souls braved the weather, pineapple-laced guacamole, and pre-mixed margaritas, in the name of adventure, a drink, and having nothing better to do.
For those not familiar with the crawl concept, it goes something like this:
- The organizers (and I use the term loosely) select a focus for the crawl. The focus this time was, obviously, guacamole and margaritas. Past crawls have included beer and burgers, fried chicken, hot dogs, crepes (in Paris, no less!), and barbecue.
- The lucky few who receive an invitation congregate at a friendly neighborhood restaurant, where we share some of their finest consumables.
- Then, having sampled their wares and finding them wanting (or wearing out our welcome, whichever comes first), we move to another restaurant, where we do it again.
- Since practice makes perfect, we do it a third time.
- At that point, the crawl ends, and most people head home. The degenerates among us (and you know who you are) typically stumble to the nearest bar, in a vain attempt to recover from eating and drinking too much.
What follows is true*. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
We started at Cuba Libre. When we asked for margaritas, guac, and chips and salsa, we learned two important points: Cuba Libre is, in fact, a Cuban restaurant. And Cuban restaurants, it turns out, don't serve chips and salsa. Nor do they typically serve margaritas.**
Our friendly Cuban server (whose name, he assured us, was John***) advised that we sample either the tequila-based mojito or a rum-based margarita (both of these have names- I just don't remember them, nor can I find them on their menu online. Sorry.). Not wanting to be rude, we tried both. For the record, John's advice was excellent- both drinks were superb.
Unfortunately, the guacamole got mixed reviews. We liked the presentation, but it had a lot of (too much, most people felt) pineapple. As experienced crawlers, however, we ate it all, knowing we would need our strength to survive the day.
Our next stop was Rosa Mexicana. Justly renowned for their table-side guacamole, we felt confident we were in good hands. Except, table-side, it turns out, means 'at a table across the room'. Here are some action shots:
It even comes in this cute little pig-bowl
The margaritas were good, but not as good as Cuba Libre's Cuban versions.
Leaving Rosa, everything was in good shape except our wallets. So we called an audible and went to Austin Grill, where they were serving happy hour for college basketball. (Go Cards!)
Austin Grill was about what you'd expect: full of tourists, overly-processed food, and frozen margaritas.
Okay, I admit. I switched to the swirl too.. the regular drink had too much mix.
Leaving Austin Grill, we did what we always do- we went to get something to eat. We headed for the sole remaining block and a half that makes up Chinatown, and had dinner. How anyone was the slightest bit hungry escapes me, but that's what happened.
All told, this was yet another successful crawl. We sampled some of DC's finest, survived Austin Grill, and left no man behind. Well done, all.
* Mostly. I might get carried away and take some poetic license.
** See my point above, about the "organizers".
*** One of our party, who shall remain nameless, didn't seem to believe that a Cuban guy could be named John, and interrogated him on it. But yup- John.
As we've discussed, Valentine's Day is a made-up holiday. I don't think anyone would argue this point. But that doesn't absolve those of us in relationships from having to exchange gifts. Katie and I discussed a price range, but that cuts both ways. I don't need to go to the jewelry store, a clear win (as anything she would want is above the agreed-to price ceiling), but without specific guidance from her (eg, I want that), I end up looking at stuff that she doesn't really want.
This year though, I found a solution. A really impressive one, too. Ready? Check this out:
That, my friends, is a collection of the finest olive oils, vinegars, and assorted goodies (olives, honeys, and spreads) from Ariston Specialties
. Ariston makes and sells a wide range of this sort of thing, so even if you don't like olive oil (and if that's the case, really, why are we friends?), they can probably find something you want. I've sampled most of what we got, but we still have a couple more to go. Their website isn't perfect, so I suggest calling on the phone. They're really knowledgeable, and helped me pick all of this out (and even threw in a couple of extras!).
The more astute among you may guess that this is really a gift for me, since I'll get to use and eat all of this goodness. And to you, I say ... well, I can't really argue with you. But Katie liked it, so that's all that mattered.
Oh, and don't forget flowers. Girls like flowers.
Every once in a while, you'll have a need to go above and beyond your usual weeknight fare. There's nothing wrong with roasting a chicken (a weekly occurrence in my house), but as the weeks pile up, even your best dishes start to feel over-used.
I roast a mean chicken, but I can see how having it every week would get old.
This brings us to Valentine's Day. Although it's an artificial 'holiday', manufactured jointly by the flower, candy, and note card industries, many of us feel pressured to reach past our hackneyed go-tos, for something better, something more romantic than usual. While this year's Valentine's Day is safely behind us, I'm sure each of us has our own red-letter day approaching on the calendar. And in preparation for that day, I offer my strategy for this past Valentine's day: dinner and the gift. Let's start with dinner.
Katie likes scallops, to the point where they're a mainstay of her fancy-restaurant order. I don't think I've made them more than once or twice over the years; I guess you could say I'm intimidated by them.. so small and seemingly simple, yet correspondingly easy to overcook.
But this year, I was ready for the challenge. Armed with this recipe for Seared Scallops
from FoodWishes*, I cranked my stove up to High, opened a window to stop the fire alarm from going off, and went to work.
- Rinse and pat dry the scallops.
- Heat the pan on High. Keep going.. really, keep going. It's not hot enough yet. (It'll take a good three to four minutes)
- When the pan is hot**, add some fat. Vegetable oil is a good choice, since it has a higher smoke point than olive oil.
- Add the scallops to the pan, turn the heat down to medium-high, and don't touch them for about three minutes. In the video, Chef John makes the point that you can't really give a universal recommendation for time- go watch the video.
- Salt and pepper this side.
- Flip the scallops, and cook until done (salt and pepper this side too).
- Let them rest, serve, and eat.
Obviously, you can't serve the scallops alone on a plate. You need something equally classy to complement them.. something like polenta.
Here's Alton Brown's recipe
- it's really good, but I'm too lazy to spell it out here. Basically, you saute some onion and garlic in a big pot, bring some chicken stock to a boil, add the cornmeal, then bake, stirring occasionally.
To round out the meal, consider some vegetables, like kale chips and artichokes. If you did it right, it should come out something like this:
It tasted even better than it looked, too.
Coming soon.. part II of my Valentine's Day Strategy- the gift.
* Jump to about 2:50 in the video for cooking the scallops. I didn't make the orange and jalapeno dressing.
** This Quora thread includes a cool video that shows you how to tell when your pan is hot enough. http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-trick-technique-for-cooking-with-stainless-steel-pans
Brussel sprouts, like Hansel, are so hot right now. This recipe is a great winter dish, full of garlic and heat- and, much like the Heaven and Hell pasta, not a good choice before talking with someone you're trying to impress.
My dad sent me the recipe to try from the New York Times
, and I'm a huge fan. Like everything else I make, it's really easy (although you will probably need to make a run to the store for the pancetta). While you're there, make sure you've got brussel sprouts, a jalapeno, plenty of garlic, and a box of penne (although while Katie was gone I made this without the pasta, and it was still good).
1. Do your prep work now, and everything else is simple.
- Start a big pot of water boiling (if you're making the pasta)
- Wash, dry, and slice the brussel sprouts
- Chop the rosemary
- Crush and peel the garlic (I chopped it into big chunks- you don't want to mince this, or it'll burn)
- Chop the jalapeno (and be sure not to touch your eyes)
- Chop the pancetta (or bacon).. I did this step last, since I wasn't sure if cured bacon counts as raw meat
2. Heat a large pan on medium high, add the oil, and when it's hot, cook the pancetta and rosemary until the fat from the pancetta starts to lightly brown (1 min)
3. Add the jalapeno, garlic and some fresh black pepper until the pancetta is a rich brown (3 min)
4. Add the sprouts, a large pinch of salt and a splash of water, and saute the sprouts until they start to soften (2 min)
5. Spread the sprouts in the pan and press them down with the spatula- you want them to brown.
6. Let them sear for a minute, toss and repeat.
7. When pasta is almost done, add the butter and toss.
8. When the pasta is ready, drain it and add to the pan. Toss and drizzle on some olive oil, and serve.
The timing above comes from the Times recipe- I found it all to take significantly longer than they did, but I didn't weigh my brussel sprouts, so maybe I was using more than they did. For that matter, you should buy your sprouts on those huge stalks, not in a bag. Not because I think they're any better (although they probably are, right? I mean, they're still on the 'tree'), but because it looks a lot cooler.
If you're not into the pancetta or bacon, you could probably just use more olive oil, but you'll lose out on the porky goodness. Maybe you could try turkey sausage? And if you're a vegetarian- I'm sorry. (What? Oh- you could probably make this dish without the meat and it would still be good. I was just commiserating with the vegetarians for missing out on meat, one of life's great pleasures).
My mom is awesome. Now, I know what you're thinking- your mom is pretty awesome too. And okay, she probably is. But did your mom just send you a bag of homemade chocolate-covered pretzels? Didn't think so.
Check these out:
An unsuspecting observer might look at these and shrug- they look like chocolate-covered pretzels. But what you don't know (and unfortunately can't tell from the pictures) is that there's a layer of homemade caramel in between the pretzel and the chocolate. Making these chocolate- and caramel-covered pretzels!
See that stuff in between the white chocolate and the pretzel? That's the caramel.
Mmmm.. caramel. That's what puts this over the top.
Even better, she takes requests. So I get white chocolate, and Katie gets dark. (Don't worry, she gave us equal numbers; Katie just ate hers faster).
Thanks mom- you're the best!
I'm not a writer. I don't want any confusion about that, so I'll say it again.
I'm not a writer.
But I can
recognize genius when I see it, and Albert Burneko's
Foodspin column at Deadspin is hilarious. I liked his Barbecue chicken thighs
post, but this is better.. possibly because I'm seriously thinking of making it. Maybe for the Superbowl, if someone with a big enough TV invites me over.
Here are a couple of excerpts. They don't really do the piece justice, but I didn't want to have a post that was just a crappy intro and a link.
People will bring all manner of dips and such to the party: There will be that unpleasant-looking but tasty spinach and faux-crab dip served in the bowl of Hawaiian bread; there will be guacamole; there will be a tub of sour-cream-and-onion dip and a bag of potato chips; some bozo will bring a jar of Old El Paso queso dip as if that weren't ridiculous and kind of insulting. All of these are perfectly tasty—the only real problem with all of them is that they are not refried-bean dip.
The first thing you need to do is to soak a pound of pinto or black beans (but really: pinto beans) overnight in a large bowl filled with enough water to cover the beans by a couple of inches. In the morning, you'll be able to tell that the beans are sufficiently soaked by the agonized groaning noise and throat-blistering surge of profanity you will utter when you realize that you altogether forgot this step. Now, remove your still bone-dry and utterly un-soaked beans from their unmolested bag, cover them with a couple of inches of water in a pot, boil them for a couple of minutes, and then remove the pot from the heat and leave the beans to soak in it for an hour and a half.
...mash the hell out of the contents of the pot. You're not aiming for perfect smoothness, here, or anything like it, but you do want to give the beans a thorough mashing—to the point at which your pot no longer contains beans and also water, but rather a spectacularly unappetizing integrated watery beany mixture. This is an opportunity for you to discharge some of the pent-up hostility you are undoubtedly feeling after the draining-and-refilling step and the cooking-a-ton-of-bacon step and the hanging-around-a-simmering-pot-of-fucking-beans-all-goddamn-afternoon step and the reckoning-with-the-end-of-another-wasted-year-of-your-life step. Really give it to those beans. They have it coming. For what they did.
I'm glad the powers-that-be understand what they have here, and are working assiduously to offer us biscoff
in an ever-increasing number of ways. I for one look forward to the biscoff-via-IV product, coming soon to a market near you.
I suspect most ice cream shops' business suffers in January. After all, who wants to brave the frigid January weather to go get ice cream. Hot soup, sure, but ice cream? Not so much. Luckily for me, I'm my own best customer, so business has been booming.
Pho 75 is the best in the city, but if you're suffering from Pho-withdrawal, this will do the job.
DC just kicked off its first cold spell of the new year and the weather men are threatening snow (always sure to throw the city into gridlock). So I decided to buck the seasons and make strawberry sorbet, as a reminder that Spring is on its way.
Okay, that's not true- I wanted ice cream, didn't have any milk in the house, and an excavation of the back of my freezer revealed a bag of frozen strawberries. So strawberry sorbet it was!
I based this on David Lebovitz's recipe from The Perfect Scoop, but I've upped the amounts. His recipe yields only about half a quart, and that isn't enough for me, let alone enough for me to share with anyone else. Full disclosure: I haven't tried this with these amounts. I used his recipe as written in the book and was unfortunately reminded how little it makes, a few short hours before bringing it to someone's house for dessert. These amounts are what I'll use the next time I make this. For the purists, I've included his recipe below. Feel free to use that- you won't hurt my feelings.Strawberry SorbetIngredients:
- 2 lb. strawberries, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup sugar
- 2-3+ tbl of liquor (optional; I've used dark rum to great success, but a splash of vodka works well to prevent it from turning into a brick)
- 1 tbl lemon juice (Most recipes call for fresh squeezed, and if you have it, great. But really, who keeps lemons in the house? I bought a large bottle of concentrate lemon juice awhile ago, and I use that as needed).
- Pinch of salt
- If you're using frozen strawberries, let them mostly defrost in a large bowl. (If you can get rid of most of that melted water before continuing, go for it. If not, don't worry about it. This isn't rocket science.) If you're using fresh strawberries, wash, hull, and slice the strawberries.
- Toss the strawberries with the sugar and liquor, if using, stirring until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand for 1 hour, stirring every so often (I've skipped the hour wait, with no harm done).
- Puree the strawberries (I use a hand blender, and it works great- just watch out for stray bits of strawberries making a desperate break for freedom onto your kitchen counter) with the other ingredients until smooth. If you don't want seeds in your sorbet, press the mixture through a strainer. (Anyone who knows me even slightly knows I never both with this step.)
- Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (One thing the manufacturer's instructions aren't likely to tell you is when to stop freezing sorbet. For years, I treated sorbet like ice cream, and I ended up with crumbly sorbet. No good. Instead, stop churning when its the consistency of a thick smoothie. You'll get a much richer, thicker and smoother end product.)
And here, for the sticklers, are the original amounts:Ingredients:
- 1 lb. fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. kirsch (optional)
- 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Pinch of salt