Tuesday, August 24, 2010

peach ice cream

i know that increasingly this place is turning into a shrine for all things lebovitz. it's just the natural effect of buying his book, let it run its course and don't complain - you're ruining my mood. and in a mood i am! my job is very stressful. i make it a point of not bringing it up here, lest it take over the place and suffocate everybody, the way it did my friend this afternoon (sorry!). some days can get truly hectic, and when you couple that with the rigors of potty training and the general toddler discourse, you're in for a treat. and not the kind you bake. it's too hot for baking anyway. hence all the ice cream, because making ice cream is relaxing and fits the schedule. i make the custard in the evening, chill it overnight and then churn it before dinner. this one is the easiest ice cream you'll make - no egg tempering required. matter of fact, no eggs required. just peaches and cream, slap me if this combo ever gets old!

what's that it sits on? old habits die hard, that's what. it was 10 PM and i had a ridiculous hankering for mom's apple tart. did the filling before discovering i had nowhere enough white flour, so i used whole wheat pastry flour in an inordinate proportion, and it's not the best crust ever. don't worry, the ice cream made it all better. see how it keeps saving the day? told you it's worth keeping around.

peach ice cream
from david lebovitz's the perfect scoop

4 large peaches, pitted, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 ts vanilla extract
a few drops lemon juice

cook the peaches with the water over medium heat, covered, until the fruit is cooked through, about 10 minutes. remove from heat, mix in the sugar and let cool. puree the peaches and their juices with the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla and lemon juice to a consistency you like. refrigerate the mixture until it's very cold, then churn in your ice cream maker.

it's a divine clean taste. goes with everything, on everything. apotropaic treat, promptly ends toddler meltdowns. the apotheosis of summer's end. somebody stop me or we could be here awhile.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

my beautiful heirloom tomatoes, and the delicious soup they make

remember these guys? well, it's payday. all the fuss planting the tiny seeds, making sure they got enough sun and water those critical first six weeks, then transplanting them in the garden, the constant weeding and watering, staking poles to give them support as they grew - it's all paid off. i now have red, yellow, purple and green heirloom tomatoes ready for picking every day. they are very juicy and sweet, and i can tell each variety by taste alone. i love them all, but my favorites right now are those green-yellowish ones. they have a pale green flesh that is a bit more tart than the others. it's lovely in salads. the purple ones are good slicers for sandwiches. the tiny yellow ones are sweet and flavorful, but soft, so they're harder to slice. they are going to get roasted for passata.
(and by the way: this post is a long time coming! every time i went in the garden, at any hour, i was assaulted by a gazillion blood thirsty mosquitos and it was impossible to stay longer than 30 seconds. today i braved it and i am ravished beyond repair. it's like the 11th plague is ongoing in my backyard. anyone know why they're so vicious this year?)
anyway, they're still worth it.

big gal on the left clocked in 1 lb 13 oz, or 835 gr.

and the best part yet: there's more to come!

the first thing i always make after eating a few of them raw, in salads, is cream of tomato soup. it's as comforting to me as a giant hug, if hugs were filled with summer and sun. it's a very simple thing. these tomatoes are so tasty they require little intervention. i like it with croutons, and i've been know to bake meatballs in it once i've had my share.

summer cream of tomato

2 tb olive oil
2 cups onion, julienne
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup celery, diced
4 pounds heirloom tomatoes, roughly cubed
1/4 cup lightly packed basil, chiffonade
2 ts coarse sea salt
1/3 cup half and half

saute the mirepoix in the oil over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent, but not browned. add the tomatoes and the salt and cook on medium hight heat, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have given off their juices. do not add water. when the tomatoes start to boil lower the heat to low and simmer partially covered 30 to 40 minutes. stir in the basil. remove from heat and go at it with your immersion blender or puree in batches in a food processor. stir in the half and half (or cream, milk, sour cream) and correct seasoning. you're done, enjoy.

lemon cherry cheesecake

i love cherries. each june i tre-pi-date with anticipation. i eat pounds after pounds and i'm unable to cook them, no matter what great recipes i have stashed. nothing beats a bowl of chilled cherries, crisp and plump and so juicy all the t-shirts i own bear the proof. i think their short season is one of nature's meanest way of reminding me who's in charge. local cherries are long gone, but i can still get good washington ones. the monster craving is appeased, so i finally got around to trying this cheesecake that's been on hold long enough.
my husband loved it, and he's not much for cheesecake. i was very pleased with the taste, especially starting on day four, but the texture i think could be improved. it all depends on which side of the camp you reside: if you like fluffy, airy, light, sort of moist, you'll not be head-over-heels for this. if you think cheesecake by all means should be firm and intense, you'll think this is perfect. (and i'd say it kinda is, if i weren't too polite for such tasteless vaunt).

i had a single meyer lemon, incredibly perfumed and sweet, and i used both juice and peel. you'll want to reduce the juice by half if using a different variety. the cherry topping is better than this picture may lead you to believe. it only has one prerequisite - use fresh fruit. it's easier to make then opening a can, anyway. and lots tastier. no goop. this cheesecake is based on an old raspberry white chocolate recipe i have, but heavily adapted to accomodate the lemon and the cherry topping. don't forget to take the cream cheese out of the fridge a few hours beforehand. i left it out overnight.

for the crust:
9 graham crackers, or 5 oz, or 145 gr;
1 cup or 4.2 oz or 125 gr toasted blanched almonds;
4 1/2 tb or 2.1 oz or 60 gr butter, melted.

for the cheesecake:
2 x 8 oz packets or 450 gr cream cheese;
2.8 oz or 80 gr white chocolate, melted;
2/3 cup or 5.4 oz or 150 gr sugar;
2 ts pure vanilla extract;
2 eggs;
juice and zest of one lemon.

for the sour cream topping:
8 oz or 225 gr sour cream;
3 tb or 45 gr sugar;
1/2 ts vanilla extract.

for the cherry topping:
3 cups or 450 gr cherries, halved and pitted;
1 tb cornstarch;
1/3 cup or 75 gr sugar.

preheat oven to 325F. get your 8 inch springform out. grind the grahams with the almonds and when they're pulverized add the butter and mix. line the pan with this mixture, pushing it all the way up the wall. (this is my personal preference, if you like your crust on the bottom only, or half-way up the wall, that's your business. you can freeze leftover crust mixture.) when you have an even layer (some plastic wrap helps) bake it until golden, about 10 minutes. maintain oven temp.
melt the chocolate in the microwave, in 10 second bursts, mixing after each one. mix cream cheese with the sugar, lemon juice, the lemon peel (very finely grated), and vanilla. then add the eggs, beating well after each one. mix in the white chocolate. pour in the crust and bake 40-45 minutes, until the edges are set but the middle still jiggles when you give it a shove.
prepare the sour cream topping by mixing all ingredients together. let sit on the counter while the cake bakes.
pit and halve the cherries. sprinkle the sugar over them and let sit a few minutes. mix every now and then and the juices will melt it. sprinkle the cornstarch through a fine sieve and mix. put the pot on the stove and cook over medium heat just until the juices thicken some, about 5 minutes. the cherries will not be cooked through. you should still have a bite to them. the point is only to tie the juices. set aside to cool.
when the cake is baked, remove from the oven but maintain temp. let it cool 5-10 minutes, then pour the sour cream and spread it in an even layer. return to oven and bake 5 minutes more. let cool until the topping is set. then arrange the cherry topping all over the cake. refrigerate overnight. heads-up: pace yourself, because it peaks on day 4. believe me, you want to still have a slice on day 4. you're welcome.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

seared mahi mahi with green tomato-pineapple sage sambal

in thai and filipino cuisine a sambal can designate a multitude of sauces or sides. usually it's gonna be a scorching red sauce, but it varies greatly in components and there's green sambals too. the usual suspects are peppers or chillies and shallots. they can incorporate tamarind, fish sauce, mango leaves, all sorts of unexpected ingredients, depending on region. mine was gonna be a casual pineapple salsa, but i had this green tomato that had fallen to the ground during the last storm. (i think one more of those and my garden is going to rot from the roots up, jeesh).  maybe it's a bit improper to name it sambal, because i can't add any heat to stuff i feed my daughter, but the methodology is the same - you chop up whatever you want in, and then you stir-fry it quickly on high heat. 
the fish is a very simple story - you just rub some coarse salt on it, you heat up a tiny bit of oil in a pan, and when it's very hot you sear the fish about 2 minutes on each side. done. the sambal has a bold profile, so to avoid conflicting flavors we season the fish simply.

for the sambal:

2 shallots, or 1 onion, chopped finely;
1 green tomato, cubed, about 1 cup;
1 cup pineapple, cubed;
1/4 cup packed fresh pineapple sage leaves, minced, about 10 to 12;
1 hot pepper, finely chopped, optional;
2 ts sugar;
2 ts sherry vinegar.

once you have everything cubed bite-size, heat up two teaspoons of olive oil and saute the shallot. when it's soft, add the green tomato and the sugar. once it's melted stir in the vinegar, then add the pineapple and mix.  finally, stir in the chopped sage and remove from heat. if you wish to add heat, use your favorite pepper - a mild poblano or a gutsy habanero - throw it in after softening the shallot. the whole thing will take you about 5 minutes, and it should all be done on high heat. spoon over the fish and serve.

this was a big hit over here. my daughter eats fish pretty well, but the great thing about this was that she ate the side rice, too. the rice had green beans, carrots and mushrooms, and she really doesn't like the green beans, but when i perched a piece of pineapple on top it had a whole new allure, and for once there was no drama.