July 30, 2012

Lavender-honey frozen custard

It's possible I am getting a little obsessed with making ice cream this summer.... But, really - who can blame me? I mean, it has been so hot and I have been enjoying trying out new flavor combinations that you aren't likely to find in your grocery store's freezer section. There's also something so satisfying about knowing that you've made your own ice cream from real, whole ingredients with no fillers or artificial colors/flavors. This recipe is inspired by the movie It's Complicated where Meryl Streep's character makes a honey and lavender ice cream. Ever since seeing that movie, I've wanted to try it. So, when I went to my mother-in-law's and saw all her lavender in bloom, I knew it was time.

For this recipe, I just read some basic vanilla ice cream/custard recipes and used that base as a start. I used honey as the only sweetener and infused the ice cream base with fresh lavender blossoms. I tasted the base and thought that it was too much like perfume and wasn't sure I would like the end product. But, after the ice cream froze the lavender really mellowed. It was a subtle flavor that highlighted the wildflower honey. It was delicious! 

I call this a frozen custard versus ice cream because of the addition of egg yolks, but it seems that these terms are being used pretty interchangeably when I read recipes. It will make about 1 quart.

July 24, 2012

Zucchini-corn fritters

Finding ways to use up the abundance of zucchini and other vegetables is one of the fun parts of summer, right? Zucchini ends up being grated and put into everything once August hits... I recently read a summer squash fritter recipe on Aggie's Kitchen and it reminded me of fritters I ate as a kid filled with zucchini and corn. Once I remembered them, I couldn't get them out of my head until I made them. Since my basil plant is doing so well this year, I thought it would be a great herb to add to these fritters. Basil screams summer to me and I think it goes perfectly with both corn and zucchini. 

These little fritters are a great way to use up some of that zucchini and other summer squash. They are perfect for an appetizer, snack, or a side dish. This recipe will make about ten 2-3 inch fritters. They are good eaten topped with a sprinkle of sea salt, but even better topped with a dollop of sour cream. I'm already planning to make these again this week (and probably a couple more times this summer).

July 20, 2012

Larb (Lao beef salad)

I've never been to Laos and I never had Larb until I made this dish. When I saw this recipe amongst others I knew that a plate of Larb was in our future. I love Thai food, and pretty much all Asian food that I've tried, so I knew I would enjoy the flavors of this Lao dish. From my brief research, it seems like this is the national dish of Laos and each region has variations on the herbs and accompaniments. Beef is the traditional meat, but you could also make this with ground turkey, chicken, or even pork if you prefer. 

I liked this meal because it was fun to eat. I served it with a side of Jasmine rice, sliced cucumbers, lettuce leaves, lime wedges, and chili-garlic sauce. You can either eat it on the rice with the vegetables alongside, or you can wrap everything in a lettuce leaf. Other vegetables can be served as well such as green beans or bean sprouts. My adapted recipe is below. This recipe will serve about three people, but feel free to double or triple for your next dinner party. Guests will like this fun and unique dish. 

July 16, 2012

Avocado-lime ice cream

Don't be afraid of using avocados in desserts. I've been reading all sorts of ice cream recipes since getting my ice cream maker and avocado keeps popping up and sticking in my head. I used avocado before in chocolate pudding, but up until now that has been the extent of my adventures in the world of sweet avocados (which are a fruit, by the way). The avocados make this ice cream so thick, rich, and very creamy. Most of the recipes I saw used a little lemon or lime juice (to keep the avocados from browning), but I wanted to use the limes to add so extra tartness and flavor punch to the ice cream. A lot of the recipes used sour cream as well. I almost went with just milk, but since I had an open container of sour cream, I gave it a try. It worked.

So if you haven't used avocados in a sweet way before, I hope I am convincing you to give it a try. The ice cream recipe is really quick and easy - no cooking needed. Plus since it's so thick, it sets up pretty quickly. This recipe is inspired by numerous avocado ice cream recipes out there and it will make about 1 quart of ice cream.

July 11, 2012

Currant and lemon cornmeal pancakes

Last year I bought red currants at the farmers' market and was so excited because I had never had fresh ones before. I made my first scones with them and they were delicious. The currants were one of those fleeting finds though as they disappeared from the farmers' market as quickly as they came. The farmer told me they usually only have them for about a week. Over the past weekend, I was at my father-in-law's and happened to mention my desire to find currants again this summer. Well, low and behold, he walks me over the this special spot on his (very large) property to show me his currant bushes that are filled with little red jewels. It was like a secret garden - one that no one has picked since his mother used to make currant jelly many years ago.

So we picked a bunch of currants (not enough for jelly - the birds have been enjoying them) and I brought them home and then wondered what to do with them. I decided on Sunday morning pancakes, one of my specialties. Now that I know about these secret bushes, I'm going to have to get there when they first ripen next year so I can make some currant jelly. This recipe will serve about four people.

July 6, 2012

Creole chicken with cheddar-scallion grits

There are so many places that my husband and I want to visit. Some of them (like the Grand Canyon) are for more nature/scenic related reasons, but some of them are more for food/cultural reasons. New Orleans is definitely one of those places. I love Cajun and Creole food like jambalaya, gumbo, and more. We have a fabulous New Orleans Bistro near us called Shango that makes delicious food and utilizes a lot of local food sources. So we go there when the craving for Cajun food strikes, or sometimes I try to make some on my own such as this dish. This recipe comes from a very lovely cookbook called Harvest to Heat. The original recipe called for using beef, but I opted for chicken. I also read a lot about the difference between polenta and grits.... suffice it to say that I had a bag of stoneground cornmeal and that's what I used to make my grits, for better or worse. I couldn't find any that were specifically called grits, but these did the job and were so delicious.

This turned out to be one of our favorite meals we've eaten lately. It was so packed full of flavor and spice with a good amount of heat. The cheese grits (er, polenta?), were so creamy and they countered the spicy sauce and chicken perfectly. While we haven't taken our trip to New Orleans yet, at least we know we have great meals like this to transport us to another place for a while. This meal will serve about four people and below is the adapted recipe.

July 3, 2012

Pistachio cardamom ice cream

So I finally got an ice cream maker!! I'm quite excited about this because it's shaping up to be a hot summer already. I've been dreaming up all sorts of flavors I want to try, not only in ice cream, but frozen yogurt, sorbet, gelato.... Mmmmm.... I'm really glad that I can get good, local milk, too - not raw, but still non-homogenized, pastured milk. I was flipping through Gourmet Today because there's quite a few ice cream recipes in there and came across this one. I knew it was destined to be my first ice cream because a friend of mine had just given me some green cardamom pods. I didn't realize quite how laborious this ice cream would be. I mean, I knew it would take time to cook the base, chill, churn, freeze - but I didn't realize that I'd basically be making my own condensed milk for this recipe, which took quite a while. The end flavor was superb, don't get me wrong, but a part of me is still wondering if I could have gotten away with using a can of condensed milk.... 

Anyways, this ice cream was quite heavenly and worth the time. The aroma and flavor from the green cardamom were fantastic. I didn't realize the difference there is between black cardamom, pre-ground cardamom, and these wonderful green pods. The pistachios were really second fiddle to the cardamom - it paired so well with the creaminess and sweetness. This recipe will make about a quart of ice cream and is extremely addictive. No doubt there will be more ice cream postings in the near future!