Tuesday, July 22, 2008

the best dish I have ever made, EVER.

You guys. For REAL. This is the best thing I have ever made, ever. EVER.

Before I get too far into this, I have to say-- I am not an ice cream lover. Sure, I'll grab a pint of coffee-heath-bar-crunch every now and then, but generally speaking, ice cream just usually doesn't make the cut. It's not worth its weight in calories to me, when I could have cheese, or olives, or a nice martini. But this ice cream? It's in a league of its own. Sweet and tangy homemade peach buttermilk ice cream. I took one bite, and put my bowl down, walked away, and came back. It's so good I couldn't handle it. I just... well, I have no words for how good it was. I might not even finish this post without sneaking into the freezer for another taste. And I've already had thirds tonight.

You know, I honestly believe that canned peaches have practically ruined the taste of a real peaches for the rest of the world. There is no way a canned peach, although somewhat tasty in its own right, can ever prepare you for what a real peach tastes like. And they're not like bananas where they taste the same year-round. When you eat a peach, it is just... fresh. It is ripe. It was hanging on a tree mere days ago. And it tastes like summer.

It's stone fruit season in Northern California. Last week the farmers' market was overflowing with plums, apricots, cherries, nectarines, and peaches. My LORD, the peaches. I went to Greens and that goddess of a chef served me grilled peaches with fresh ricotta and sage honey. So this week, when my mom & I were at Whole Foods in Columbus, Ohio, and walked under the big banner advertising California Peaches, I raved like a broken record until she put half a dozen in the basket.

Honestly, A) if you live somewhere that grows fresh peaches and B) have an ice-cream machine, make this tomorrow. Your life will never be the same.

6 large peaches, very ripe (I put mine in a brown paper bag on the sun porch for 24 hours)
1/2 C white sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 C buttermilk
1 1/2 C heavy cream
1 t vanilla

Directions: Peel and chop peaches into a large bowl. Add sugars, cinnamon, and lemon juice, cover, refrigerate, and let macerate for several hours (up to 24, but allow at least 4-6). When you're ready to freeze, mash with a potato masher to desired consistency (I like some chunks, but you want the peach flavor to be evenly dispersed throughout the ice cream, too). Add buttermilk, cream, and vanilla, and freeze according to the instructions for your ice-cream machine.

Voila! Easy-peachy. My parents and I ate daintily from our glass bowls, then went straight into the machine with our spoons and kept eating and eating, and then licking our fingers, until I asked my mom if I could just stick my face straight in there for the rest. She, in no uncertain terms, let me know I would have some serious competition. There was a long discussion over who paid for the ingredients vs. who prepared the ice cream, and I believe the terms "summer pregnancy" and "labor" were thrown around as leverage, and rebutted with things like "favorite child" and "nursing home." Rest assured, however, that we all ended up with full bellies and sticky faces, and smiles all around.

Please, make this ice cream. Make it now, and thank me later. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

stuffed mushrooms

I have a confession to make. I am not a meal-planner. I go to the market and am seduced by the smells and colors and I buy what I think looks good, and next thing you know, I am eating arugula pesto over mushrooms and red onions with a side of corn on the cob.

However, when I don't meal plan, I am forced to be creative, and I hate wasting food, so I usually end up with a meal I call "Making Do With What You Have." Some of them have turned out well, some not so much... but tonight I have to confess I rather outdid myself.

I pulled together my last 2 portobello mushrooms (I had brilliantly thought ahead and saved the stems from the previous 4), a handful of weary rainbow chard, a clove of garlic, a sad shallot that I actually had to trim a bad spot from, some quinoa, the last splash of vegetable broth, and the remainder of my peppered chevre from the Cowgirl Creamery, and voila! Stuffed mushrooms that were beautiful, nutritious, and extremely satisfying. Try to think of this recipe in broad strokes; you can easily recreate these mushrooms with a variety of grains, greens, and cheeses. Think brown rice, spinach, and blue cheese, or couscous, sundried tomatoes, olives and feta!

Stuffed Mushrooms with Quinoa, Chard, and Goat Cheese

Ingredients: I am not going to give measurements here. I was cooking for one and your amounts will depend entirely on the size of your mushroom caps and how many you're making. Enjoy playing around with the fillings you have on hand!

olive oil
vegetable broth
portobello mushrooms, caps cleaned and stems chopped
shallot or onion, minced
garlic, minced
rainbow chard, or other green, chopped
goat cheese or other soft cheese
salt and pepper, to season

Directions: In a large skillet, heat your garlic and shallot in a glug of olive oil until fragrant. Add the dry quinoa chopped mushroom stems, and toss to coat. Season well and add broth or water, a little at a time, then cook as you would risotto, waiting for the liquid to absorb and adding more, stirring frequently until the quinoa is al dente. Add the greens toward the end of the cooking process so they wilt without overcooking.

Heap your stuffing into your mushroom caps and top with cheese, then broil until golden brown and delicious. Enjoy!!

olive bread

Yesterday, inspired by some leftover tapenade and a container of various olives from the Ferry Building, I decided to make olive bread. It's an Alton Brown recipe that I had tucked away some time ago, as I am allergic to yeast and always have my feelers out for non-yeast breads.

Olive bread is something we don't really do in the south. I'm not sure why, but I never really had it until I moved to New York. And as you know, olives are my absolute favorite food, and I prefer savory/salty to sweet almost all the time, so the thought of a baked good full of salty, olive-y goodness? I just can't pass that up. (In fact, I think I'll go heat up some for breakfast. Be right back.)

Rosemary Olive Bread, adapted from Alton Brown's Olive Loaf


3 1/2 C AP flour (I wanted to use whole wheat but was unsure if that would affect the texture... can anyone tell me if it's an acceptable substitute?)
3 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

2 C roughly chopped mixed olives (I used green, kalamata, and tiny dried oil-cured black ones)
1/3 cup homemade tapenade, my recipe here
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup whole milk (I used 1/2 & 1/2 because I don't drink milk and didn't want to go out, *snort*)
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1 t ground rosemary

1 T fresh rosemary, needles left whole


Preheat oven to 375.
Spray a standard nonstick loaf pan with olive oil spray and set aside. Place flour and the baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for 5-10 seconds. Pour the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the olives and tapenade. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, milk, honey, salt, and rosemary. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine, but do not mix until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and place in the oven. Bake for 80 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the loaf from the pan and allow to cool on a rack before serving.

The texture is like that of a buttermilk biscuit, and honestly, I think next time I'll just make biscuits. Mostly because I'm lazy and it's just always easier to grab than cut. Serve with... anything. YUM.