Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chocolate Sorbet

I picked up an ice cream maker at a garage sale last week. A strange purchase for someone recently discovered to be lactose intolerant, but I wanted it.

You know. The way I wanted that easy-bake oven when I was little (which I never got, by the way).

And there's always sorbet.

I broke it in with some watermelon sorbet, but the texture was wrong, too icey. I even added a bit of alcohol (Pernod) which I'd read could help the texture, but no dice.

So for my second attempt I thought I'd go with something more sure. I made smittenkitchen's chocolate sorbet (which is really from "A Perfect Scoop").

With such lineage, how could I go wrong? And I happened to have on hand exactly the perfect amount of superamazing Droste cocoa and Guittard chocolate chips.

It was fate.

I must say I was unprepared for how good this would turn out. It has no dairy. It's just cocoa, sugar, vanilla, chocolate and water. But when hot it tastes like the best hot chocolate you've ever had, like chocolate puro in latin america. When cold it is frozen mousse. Or gelato. I licked the pan clean while pouring it in the ice cream maker.

Make it. You won't be sorry.

Recipe here

Friday, July 25, 2008

Zucchini Carpaccio

I never used to like zucchini. Not surprising, given that my only experience of zucchini as a child was those overcooked seedy rounds. Marcella Hazan turned me onto the beauty of zucchini. You cut it lengthwise, cook it till just done, and pair it with parmesan, or mix it in with risotto.

It was a revelation. Zucchini has a beautiful flavor, almost floral.

But I still find it a challenge.

I grilled some the other day, and it just wasn't right, too vegetal. It tasted like green.

So last night I was searching for new zucchini options (we are deep into zucchini season, and the market was flooded) when I happened upon zucchini carpaccio.

This is so beautiful, so simple. You have to try it. In reality, the flavors are mostly is a showcase for beautiful olive oil, good grey salt, some basil and the best parmesan. But it still speaks a zucchini language, underneath. It whispers zucchini, as only a true italian can.

Zucchini Carpaccio
(adapted from Gourmet 2003)

1 zucchini, very fresh
glug of olive oil, about 2 T.
1/2 lemon
sprinkle of grey salt or fleur de sel
sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper
parmigiano reggiano
fresh basil or mint
pine nuts (if desired)

Only make this if you have beautiful zucchini. And by all means use really good extra virgin olive oil (so good that you'd eat it alone on toast). My favorite is Frantoia (which you can get at Big John's PFI) The best cheese too....reggiano is my favorite, but anything hard and sharp would work. Grana padano would be good too. It has to be fresh basil (or mint, something light). And definitely fresh lemon juice.

Cut the zucchini on a mandoline at a slight angle as thin as you can. Mandolines are a life-saver---invest in one. There are cheap japanese ones that will run you $30.

Lay the slices out on a plate. Sprinkle with the olive oil, trying to coat each piece. Now sprinkle with grey salt. Then squeeze the half lemon over the top, again trying to coat all. Sprinkle on fresh ground black pepper. Chiffonade the basil.

Like this:

Stack up the leaves.

Roll them up like a cigar.

Cut them thinly.

Sprinkle the basil on top of it all.

Zest some of the lemon (or use a rasp) and sprinkle on top. This adds a different flavor than the juice, more floral.

Lastly, cut shreds of the cheese with a vegetable peeler (makes them nice and thick) and scatter over the top.

Let sit maybe 10 minutes, then eat.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It's only canning

I'm going through those phobias one by one, like smitten kitchen talked about on her blog. Last week jam, this week canning.

I decided to make more jam, because I brought the cherry plum jam to a party and it all got eaten. This time I went for peach, as I had some softish peaches and apricots rolling around in my fridge. I added a little amaretto and some sugar and cooked them down.

It melded beautifully, the amaretto and peach. It added an adult edge to the jam without dampening the soft peachy flavor.

Here are the key things I've learned about canning:

1. Use clean (or new) jars
2. Use new lids each time
3. Add whatever you're canning after you've boiled it to minimize bacteria
4. Place jars on something to keep them slightly above the bottom of the pan
5. Fill with water 1/2- 2/3 up the side of the jar
6. Simmer for 10 minutes with lid on

I did all this (used a strainer to keep it off the bottom) and it worked great, that bubble pop top went down like magic. And now I am the proud owner of one can of jam.

(Likely if you were going to can more than one jar you might need some fancy apparatus)

Peach, apricot and amaretto jam
Makes 1-2 small jars

3 big peaches, very ripe
2-3 apricots
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
splash amaretto

Peel peaches, leave peel on apricots. Cut and put in pan. I left the pits in there and pulled them out later. Put in sugar, salt, and amaretto, cook x 15 minutes on low heat until sugar dissolves. Turn heat up to medium, simmer until thickened. Pull out pits. Taste and adjust sugar/amaretto/salt. Pour into jars while still hot. Can as described above (or eat right away, or freeze).

So easy to play with this. Use whatever fruit you have leftover, add whatever flavorings sound good to you (liqueurs, spices, lemon/lime zest). Cook til done!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just a little jam

Jam is one of those things that intimidates me. Or that used to, until last week.

Don't get me wrong, I grew up in a jam making family. My grandmother had jars and jars of jam in her basement, all carefully sealed with a layer of wax. My mother only made strawberry freezer jam, but we always had a container of that in our freezer.

But for me jam was always a BIG DEAL. You had to go and buy the pectin and canning jars, pick a flat of strawberries, and then spend your whole Saturday over the stove with a bag of sugar.

This is just not true at all. Jam is a way to use up leftover fruit. Throw in those plums that got all mushy, those cherries that weren't quite sweet enough, cook down the whole shebang with a bit of sugar and you have jam. It's that easy.

No need for pectin either. Fruit has its own pectin. If you cook it long enough, the jam will just gel, like cranberry sauce does.

Canning is nice, of course. But you could also just freeze whatever you're not going to eat right away. Or you could make it in small batches, whatever you happen to have.

So liberating! Oh and from what I hear, you don't need any fancy gizmo to can either, just the mason jars and some steam. That's for next time.

Cherry Plum Cinnamon Jam
(adapted from Bon Appetit)

NOTE: this makes a very small amount, like 1 cup. If you want more increase the fruit, but you likely don't have to increase the sugar too much. I like the idea of just making enough jam for me.

4 plums
1 # cherries
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup-1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh lemon

Cut plums into quarters, throw into pan (including pit). I threw in the cherries whole and pitted them after I'd cooked it down. You could pit them before you put them in, but I hear rumors that the cherry pits add a lot of flavor (almond like). Messy before or messy after--your choice.
Then put in vanilla bean and cinnamon stick (if using) and sugar. I made this with a cup of sugar which was too much really, but I haven't tried it with less so I couldn't swear to that. Add salt.

Cook over low heat for 15 minutes until the fruit releases its juices and sugar dissolves. Then turn up to medium and cook about 30 minutes until it thickens. Wash hands well and dig out all the pits (I told you, messy after). The plum pits are easy to find as the plums just dissolve, the cherry pits are harder. If too sweet, add some lemon for contrast.

Enjoy! Freeze the leftovers or try your hand at canning.