Icy Treats

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It has been a long, hot summer, and it’s not over yet. This was our South facing deck 4 days ago; fortunately we have had some huge thunder, lightning and rain storms since.

So Strawberry season came and went, as did Blackberries, Blueberries, and Peaches (pretty much). And other than baking a few pies, I froze most of what I picked. Of more interest to me has been the figs, which seem to be a big deal in this part of the South.

It started with some friends mentioning to me that they used to enjoy a Fig and Rosewater Ice Cream at a local restaurant. I haven’t seen it there, but it sounded like a challenge I could meet! However our fig tree is still young and doesn’t bear enough fruit for a recipe like that. So I made the ice cream with dried figs from the grocery store. And it was quite nice! Then a neighbour happened to mention that her fig tree was bearing and asked if I wanted any? Did I????????? Long story short, since then I have made the ice cream a number of times – with figs dried, fresh, stewed, and with preserved ginger added. And they were all good. But I’m done with that now!

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In the meantime, I was in Florida a few weeks ago, in the area known for Tupelo Honey (and oysters!) I am actually not a huge fan of honey; maybe it was growing up with that waxy white stuff in the plastic container that you scooped and spread on toast. Since then of course I have tasted other, shall we say artisanal, honeys – alfalfa, clover, orange blossom, wildflower…….apparently there are 300 different types of honey in the US (and probably many of the same in Canada). But I must say, unprocessed, unfiltered Tupelo Honey beats any that I’ve tried. The flavours are complex, more so than my palate can grasp, but I certainly get lime and roses and maybe oranges as well.

I was thinking of using it to make ice cream and when I started looking at recipes, I was inspired by one from Gourmet Magazine September 2003, Honey Lavender Ice Cream, using dried food-grade lavender blossoms. I’ve made a few “adjustments” to the recipe, including one version with Earl Grey Lavender Tea bags which give just a hint of the bergamot as well. Fortunately they are all small batches, about a quart/litre each, so they go pretty quickly (especially if we get invited to friends for dinner!)

Speaking of dinner, I sure miss those oysters!

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Strawberry Season!

I still can’t get used to the idea that strawberry season here starts in April! Which is why last year I missed it. But this morning my neighbour and I were at the field by 10 am and picked 2 gallons each in about 20 minutes. Then I spent the past few hours washing and hulling them, and preparing most of them for freezing. Not all though! Definitely strawberries and something for dessert tonight!

I’m still here……..

……..and I’m still having culinary adventures. Last summer and fall were quite busy with travel and visitors, but I managed to explore making ice cream and frozen yoghurt. I bought the Coolhaus Ice Cream Book initially for its recipe for “Bourbon Brown Butter Candied Bacon Ice Cream”, but stayed for the “Gin & Tonic Sorbet”.

Bourbon Brown Butter Candied Bacon Ice Cream

Bourbon Brown Butter Candied Bacon Ice Cream

Between recipes from this book and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”, I think I have all the worthwhile frozen desserts covered! I also “discovered” how easy it is to make Panna Cotta! Thank goodness for Lactaid tablets (for my lactose intolerance), otherwise I would be in BIG trouble! More recently I played around with baked meringues, as gluten free tart shells, and attempted to make a Pavlova, with mixed results. There is also a dish called “Eton Mess” which is great way to use crumbled meringues from other failed desserts!

Pavlova: The cream and fruit cover a multitude of sins!

My 2nd Pavlova: The cream and fruit cover a multitude of sins!

I finally found a recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits that works for me! Yaaayyyy!  It’s a recipe for mini biscuits, and I cut them a wee bit bigger and used butter instead of shortening. But they were just what biscuits should be! I served them with small slices of smoked chicken and I thought they were delish. (The smoked chicken is an annual Christmas gift from a Board member). My current adventure (literally, it is cooking as I write this) is ramen, not the noodles but the dish. There are so many quality fresh and dried noodles out there that I have focussed on the broth and the other ingredients. My recipe is a based on David Chang’s Momofuku Ramen recipe as interpreted by 2 blogs: foodiebuddha.com and foodnwhine.com. The former has a recipe for Taré, which is the soy sauce/mirin/sake sauce used to flavour the finished broth. It includes a whole chicken. The latter has a quick version, no chicken. Otherwise they are more or less the same. This started for me because a local restaurant has a ramen night one night a week, and it is fairly pricey. So I wanted to find out why, which led to me googling recipes, and now I understand why (the meat version anyway). First, it’s pretty much a 2-day process. Second, the broth alone takes close to 8-10 hours to make, including simmering time. Third, it’s expensive to make! If I was making it again (by no means certain!) I would skip the pork shoulder (expensive) because the pork neck bones that I used (cheap) were very meaty and still flavourful and can be used for the meal. I’m not sure that I would give up the pork belly tho! SO good!

Roasted Pork Belly

Roasted Pork Belly

I took the skin off myself, cut it into pieces, and rendered them for homemade pork rinds. No carbs! At the moment I am roasting the boneless shoulder (picnic part, the recipe doesn’t specify which part and not sure it matters) and I will probably freeze the leftovers and later mix them with sauce for a pulled pork dinner. I saved the bacon that was simmered, and we fried some for breakfast to see what it’s like. The smokiness is gone, but it still tastes “porky” and edible. I froze the meat from the chicken legs that I used to make the broth and it will go into a chicken curry. I also froze the chicken used to make the Taré and that might be nice in a Chinese stirfry. I will post a photo of the finished dish tonight, when we have it for supper. We can compare it to the luxury version, below.

Ramen, restaurant version

Ramen, restaurant version

Later:

Not as pretty, but just as yummy!

Mine: not as pretty, but just as yummy!

And finally, I got a new popcorn maker. I got tired of the hot air popper with its unpopped kernels and I was trying to purge my diet of carbs (now I just limit them), so we got rid of the popper. But recently I felt the urge for home made popcorn again, and I bought a stovetop popper, kind of vintage looking.

Whirley  Pop

Whirley Pop

I love it! I used only 1 teaspoon of oil for 1/8 cup of kernels, which gave me a full popper and virtually NO unpopped kernels! Then I got creative and ended up with a panful of this:

Chocolate drizzled salted caramel corn

Chocolate drizzled salted caramel corn

Good thing we had company! Til next time……

Tomato Jam

It was only as I was preparing this post that I realized that, relatively speaking, I focus quite a lot on tomatoes. Which is odd because good tasting tomatoes are so difficult to find. Or maybe it’s not odd; maybe I focus on them so much exactly because of that, like a yearning hardly ever gratified. In any case, there I was, with a bunch of home grown tomatoes ripening at once, and in the mood for something different. I meant to make my own catsup, but then ran across this recipe for Tomato Jam. I made it exactly as written, except that I cut down on the sugar by about 1/3-1/2 cup. I didn’t want to cut down too much because of course the sugar helps it gel and I had no liquid pectin. However, I had some powdered Sure-Jell for low sugar jams, so at the end I threw in a few tablespoons of that, cooked the jam some more, and it was still great. It’s more like chutney than either catsup or jam: a bit sweet, a bit spicy, a bit tangy……….I think that it would be especially good with chèvre or on cold meats.

Tomato Jam

 

Summer Harvest

Summer is almost over (altho you wouldn’t know it with temperatures in the 90s here and in the 30s Celsius further North). And we have had great fun growing some lovely tomatoes and cucumbers! Last year I had a good crop of herbs from the pots on the deck: lots of lovely basil with which to make pesto sauce, which I did, and froze, and we are still eating it! This year the herbs were meh, especially the basil and parsley.

Earlier in the season I bought Campari tomatoes and made sun-dried tomatoes……..in the car. I read about it online; you halve and seed the tomatoes, sprinkle them with salt, and put them on a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment. Then I lay the cookie sheet in the rear window of the car, covered it with some cheesecloth (in case of insects), and left it there for a couple of days. And, ta da…….

Sun Dried Tomatoes

I had to be careful not to leave them too long because then they turn into tomato chips! Since then I have read that it’s better to use a drying rack lined with cheesecloth for better air circulation. Next summer!

Our own grown tomatoes are bigger and, also, I need my car from time to time, so those have led to other culinary adventures. Last week I made Gazpacho. And yesterday I made Tomato Jam.

I didn’t use a recipe for the Gazpacho. There ARE lots of recipes, and I read many of them. What I took away from them was that you should have 3 parts tomato to 1 part other vegetables; you need acid, such as red wine vinegar or lemon juice, or both; and you should keep some of the vegetables behind, diced small to add back to the other veggies after they have been blended into a soup. Mine had the tomatoes, cucumber, half a white onion, celery (not too much so not to overpower), garlic, a chopped red pepper and, to taste, the acid, the oil (olive), salt, pepper, and a wee bit of hot sauce. I blended it all together, then added the reserved handful of small diced cucumber and tomato. Very refreshing! I guess that it was so good, I forgot to take a photo!

But here is a photo of the other cold soup I made, this time with our cucumbers. It’s called Tangy Cucumber Soup, recipe from the Food and Wine website, here.

Spicy Cucumber Soup

Next time I’ll post the recipe for Tomato Jam. Eat well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer In A Glass!

Or as the French might suggest, “Viva L’Apéritif!”

I have just discovered St-Germain Liqueur. Perhaps you already know of it? Around here it sells for under $40 a bottle but at 750 mls (about 24 ounces) you will get quite a few “servings” from it. And, yes, there are less expensive versions, but having reviewed the reviews, I think that I will recommend the “original”.

Such a lovely bottle, too!

Such a lovely bottle, too!

The liqueur is made from elderflowers and you can find out all about it at www.st-germain.fr. In the meantime, here is a recipe for The St-Germain Cocktail (for one):

2 parts (or ounces) Brut Champagne (not the real stuff but something dry).                        1-1/2 parts St-Germain Liqueur                                                                                               2 parts sparkling water or club soda

Stir in a tall, ice filled glass, mixing completely. Garnish with lemon twist.

Repeat as desired!