Monday, August 27, 2012

Roasted Tomato Tart

Secret Recipe Club

I can not believe that a month has gone by since my last post!  The month of August has FLOWN by like a whirlwind, and I now find myself adjusting to a new school schedule.  In addition to the start of school, it is also time for another round of the Secret Recipe Club.

This month, I was assigned to Bewitching Kitchen written by Sally who is originally from Brazil and has traveled the world.  If you want recipes that feature fresh and healthy ingredients this blog is for you.  I was struggling to choose a recipe because all of Sally's recipes look mouth watering!  I finally settled on the Roasted Heirloom Tomato Tart that she adapted from Just a Smidgen because tomatoes are in abundance right now, and I believe that anything that calls for puff pastry is destined to be delicious!

I was not wrong!  This tart was delicious with the creamy cheese and sweet summer tomatoes atop the light and crispy puff pastry.  I was not able to locate bocconcini mozzarella which is a fresh mozzarella cheese about the size of a cherry tomato and stored in water or whey.  I was able to find a fresh mozzarella with a soft creamy texture, but it was not stored in whey and was about a pound in size.  Another change I made was to use the fresh tomatoes from our church's community garden.  These tomatoes, though not heirlooms, are sweet and delicious and pair wonderfully with the cheeses and herbes de provence.  Please head over and take a look at the beautiful recipes that Sally has posted on her blog, you won't be sorry!  ENJOY!

Roasted Tomato Tart
Recipe Source: Modified slightly from Bewitching Kitchen
(Changes are in italics)

1 package puff pastry, defrosted (use one half for the tart)
5 to 6 heirloom tomatoes (I used fresh garden tomatoes)
olive oil
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1 container of bocconcini mozzarella, drained (200g / 7 to 8 ounces) (I used a fresh mozzarella cut into cubes, though it wasn't stored or shaped like bocconcini mozzarella)
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/8 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
2 tsp Herbes de Provence
1 egg
Heat oven to 400° F.
Roll out one sheet of puff pastry on parchment paper until it measures about  11” x 14”.   Use a fork to poke holes in the dough.  This will help prevent the dough from "puffing" too much.  Roll the edges of the dough to create a border all around.

Spread the tomato sauce inside the border.  Top with the bocconcini or cubed mozzarella.  
To remove the excess liquid from your tomatoes, slice them and place them between two layers of paper towels to draw out the moisture.  Layer the tomatoes over the cheese allowing them overlap a little bit.  If you can, use a variety of sizes and colors.  
Sprinkle the top with the herbes de Provence and the grated Parmigiano.
Whisk the egg with a tablespoon of  water to make a wash, and brush this mixture on the edges of the pastry.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until the puff pastry has risen and lightly browned.   Begin checking around 20 minutes in case your tart is done in less time.  Remember all ovens vary and so do the moisture levels in the tomatoes.

Cut into squares and enjoy with a green salad.

Walking for Inspiration

Quote of the Day:  When we walk, the two halves of our brains converse. ~ Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way

Yesterday, Sunday, I had the urge to take a walk after church. The service was sweet. I played piano. We were a small crew that morning, so the Pastor pulled up a chair and sat close to us. At the end of his message, he said a prayer. When he finished, a four-year-old boy came up to him and gave him a hug. He pulled him onto his lap and held him while we sang the hymn of the day. The songs I chose for the day were about "telling the story" and how God is with us on the journey. No matter where we roam, the Holy Spirit surrounds us. I suppose I was thinking of my oldest boy whose far away at college, starting his first classes today. I thought of my boys who were with me, ready to start a new school year. I thought of myself and all the new experiences I've already had this year, how far I've traveled, inward and outward.

So, my feet were ready for walking. My leg muscles were twitching to go, and my heart was open for inspiration. As I walked, step by step, I started thinking of the next play I'll be writing (as soon as school starts). I figured out how I'd create tension, interruptions, and some of the character dynamics. I heard the music. Ahh. I smiled as I walked along and tucked those ideas in my mind's drawer. This idea has been percolating for a while and it's soon ready to pour out.

Paths are everywhere. Short ones. Flat ones. Hilly ones. Paths through valleys and across mountaintops. Go to the edge today, and dare to take one more step.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Write about a walk.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

Recipe number 2 from the Regional Cooking Class at Itawamba Community College. From the beautiful town of Amatrice, just Northeast of Rome, comes this classic dish.  My cooking class is about cooking methods and techniques in the Italian kitchen.  Most Italians will always have some kind of cured pork on hand.  Many of my students really wanted to experience typical dishes of Italy and how to make them.   We had so much fun and covered a lot of material in a small amount of time.  We even got to sit down for Lunch or Pranzo, just like we were living in Italy. Hard to believe we were in Tupelo, Mississippi.   We had so much fun.

This is a classic dish for sure.  I know some Romans who insist on using onion for a saute in this dish.  I am not telling. Traditionally,  the dish was made up only of sauteed.Pork Jowl and tomatoes.   In the United States, Pork Jowl is hard to come by.  I substitute unsmoked, salt Pork when  Pork Jowl from New York hasn't arrived in time. Pancetta is a great substitute when you can find it.  If you must substitute, look for a lean variety.  I like to use  Hormel.  Be sure and trim off the rind first.

This is a simple, classic dish you can make in a hurry!

4 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cups salt pork or Italian, salt cured pancetta (this cut is from the lean part of the bacon) cut into a small dice. 
2 cups chopped / diced tomatoes (you may puree in food processor if you like)
1/2 cup water (canned tomatoes are very acidic.  If you are using fresh tomatoes, there is no need to add water).
1/2 cup white wine
12 oz Bucatini Pasta (long, hollow, tube shape Pasta).  If you only have spaghetti, do not worry.  Almost anything will work fine.
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Pasta Pot with 8 quarts of  salted water

Trim the rind off your salt pork and dice. 

  Divide the salt pork in half. Place one half spread on a baking sheet. ( In an effort to get my son to eat this Pasta, he likes a little extra crunch. You can leave this out, as this is my idea).  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until crunchy (10 minutes).   Set aside to cool on a plate.  Place the rest in a  saute  pan large enough to toss your pasta in it when cooked. Place your olive oil in a pan and heat to medium.  Crisp up your pancetta.  At this point, add your tomatoes, water, wine and let the liquid simmer away. Simmer for 12-15 minutes.  After this time, you will notice  a ring of oil around the outside of the tomato sauce around the pan.  This indicates your sauce is done.  Set aside to cool down.
Cook your Pasta until al dente.  Drain and toss in your pan with your sauce.  Place in a serving bowl with Cheese, sauce, and serve.  Add more cheese at the table. If you have baked some extra pancetta in the oven, put a few pieces on top and serve. You can add some fresh parsley if you like or even Basil.   It will be hard to resist a second plate.   Buon Appetito~

Friday, August 24, 2012

Spirits of the Medicine Wheel

Quote of the Day:  Everything the power of the world does, is done in a circle. The sky is round, the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls...the sun comes forth and goes down in a circle. The moon does the same...even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were before. The life of man is a circle...and it is in everything where power moves. The words of Black Elk, a Lakota Sioux elder, from the book Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neibardt

After we left Yellowstone National Park on our Western Motorcycle Tour, the Chef and I rode over the Big Horn Mountains, making a stop at the Medicine Wheel. You have to be intentional about finding this sacred place, located between Lovell and Sheridan, WY, and be willing to make some effort to get there. The walk, uphill from the parking lot, is about a mile and a half. Motorized vehicles can drive on the road and pass the site, but not stop there. We walked it. It was a warm, sunny day. This site is only open during the summer as the roads are not passable in the winter and it would be covered in ice and snow.

You can read about the Bighorn Medicine Wheel at several sites on the internet. According to this site it is estimated to have been constructed between 300-800 years ago by the Plains Indians. Many people from Native American nations and beyond visit this site. Some come just to see it. Others are here for healing. And, some people are drawn to the power of this place.

Totems are left, prayers are said, offers for healing, forgiveness and guidance.
When you enter the perimeter of the wheel, the sign asks you to walk to the left, making your circle from left to right, a slight incline at the most powerful point where you can feel the wind pushing over the ridge and blowing through you. The Chef said he felt the power there was the strongest. At that point, I noticed these little shoes.
I wondered who left these tiny moccasins.
A mother?
What happened to the child who wore these little shoes?
I felt sad when I was here.
As I stood up and walked towards the wind, and rounded the bend, I heard the voice say, "You have to be open." (to the spirits? to what lies ahead? to something unknown?)
Then, we saw this little guy, standing guard, a sentinel, and that's where I heard the voice say, "Remember who brought you here."
Does that mean the Chef because he physically brought me there?
Does it mean me because I felt drawn to this place and experience?
Does it mean the Holy Spirit, or whatever you want to call the spirits?
All three, and maybe something more.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt:  Have you ever felt drawn to a place and/or an experience, like it was a strong pull you couldn't resist? Have you felt a presence or a power in such a visit?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Coconut Layer Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Ganache Filling . . .

Is it really almost September? Really? 

I guess it must be true. My kids are behaving as if they're straddling the border between two very different countries--one's called Summer, the other's called School. Nathan, my just-turned-sixteen-year old,  has been getting up early to attend marching band practice this week. It's an all-day affair, and  despite the need to haul himself out of bed at the crack of dawn, he still has that unquenchable teenage urge to stay up late every night. What's a mom to do? Remember when your kids were about three and a half and they finally gave up taking regular naps? In your chagrin you realized how helpless you were to change that. The nice quiet break, that reliable daily respite, was a thing of the past. I was reminded of this while pondering the staying-up-super-late issue. Sigh. You can lead a teenager to a comfy bed (well, you can try, anyway), but you cannot make him sleep.

Meanwhile, Charlie, my 19-year-old, is psyching up for his sophomore year in college. He's looking forward to being back in Michigan this time around. Last year, as you may recall, he ventured south to Columbus to experience life as an Ohio State buckeye. (Remember those buckeye cookie cups I made in honor of the event? Those babies were so good.) He had a busy year, without a doubt. Joined the OSU men's crew team, made lots of new friends, and generally loved the place, but ultimately decided that it wasn't the best fit for someone whose heart belongs to the mitten-shaped state, so over the summer he transferred to a university in Kalamazoo (yes, that Kalamazoo). It's pretty nice to know he's back in mitten land.

In any event, I think this Summer vs. School nether world has me feeling a little edgy and when I get edgy, I tend to bake. Yes. Bake. What a surprise.

About this recipe . . .

This sort-of-white cake recipe was adapted from this post at Whisk Kid; that's the adorable blog that started the rainbow-cake craze. I reduced, and slightly modified, the rainbow cake's base recipe (and obviously left out all food coloring!) to make just two 9" layers, adding in a little coconut milk in exchange for some of the regular milk. It's a very easy cake to put together, and this was a good opportunity--between the cake and the buttercream--to use up most of the egg whites I had in my freezer. I freeze whites in Ziploc sandwich bags, and I use black permanent marker to mark on the bags how many whites each one contains, along with the date I froze them. Fresh-frozen egg whites are still completely usable in baking even months after their freeze date. I love that!

The Swiss meringue buttercream frosting recipe that I used is from Sweetapolita, baking blog extraordinaire of the endlessly talented Rosie Alyea. I changed nothing in her recipe, except to add in a few drops of Lorann coconut oil for flavoring towards the end of the mixing process to about six cups of the total batch. Because the credit for this frosting is definitely Rosie's, I have just included a link directly to the post where that recipe appears within her blog; it's accompanied by many helpful photos and her invaluable advice (I highly recommend you check it out, especially if you are new to making meringue buttercream).  Be aware that her recipe makes about 15 cups of frosting, enough for a couple of tall layer cakes, at least. I made the whole huge batch and, in one big bowl, it was a fluffy sight to see. I froze the extra frosting for future use.

The chocolate ganache is so simple it almost doesn't require a formal recipe--two delectable ingredients are all you'll need.

Coconut Layer Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache Filling

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Yield: One two-layer 9" round cake

Ingredients for the cake layers:

1 stick and 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 scant teaspoon salt (I used fine sea salt.)
2/3 cup milk, at room temperature (I used 2 percent.)
1/3 cup coconut milk, at room temperature (I used Thai Kitchen brand.)

To make the cake layers:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease, or use baking spray on, two 9" round cake pans (I used the latter, generously). Line the bottom of the pans with rounds of parchment. Grease the parchment and flour the bottom and sides of the pan, or spray the parchment with baking spray.

In a medium size bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

Stir together the milk and coconut milk in a small bowl. Set aside.

In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until very light in color and fluffy. Pour in the egg whites gradually, mixing until they're completely combined, and stop to scrape as needed. Mix in the vanilla.

On the lowest speed, add in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk and coconut milk, starting and ending with the dry (three portions of dry, and two portions of liquid). Beat only until the batter looks completely mixed.

Divide the batter equally into the two prepared pans, and bake in a preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the cakes no longer look wet and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans on cooling racks for about five minutes then run a thin knife or metal spatula around the edges of the cakes, and invert the cakes out of their pans and onto racks to finish cooling. Peel off the parchment, slowly and carefully, while the cakes are still warm.

To make the chocolate ganache: 

6 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
6 ounces heavy cream

Put the chopped chocolate into a bowl. In a small saucepan, gently heat the cream until it's hot but not boiling. Pour the cream into the bowl, over the chocolate. Let it sit undisturbed for a few minutes, then gently stir the cream completely into the chocolate. The ganache should look smooth and silky. Let it cool to room temperature, when it will be ready to use as a filling between the cooled cake layers. Don't cover it until it's at room temperature or cooler.

To make the Swiss meringue buttercream:
For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe that I used, please visit this link at Sweetapolita for detailed step-by-step instructions in her excellent post, Swiss Meringue Buttercream Demystified. Please note that I added in several drops--to taste--of Lorann coconut oil flavoring. You could also use coconut extract/flavoring if you like, or omit the flavoring/oil altogether and just go with vanilla. Her recipe as written makes a very big batch; you will need perhaps one third of the batch to frost a standard size two-layer cake.

To assemble and frost the cake, you'll need:

2 cake layers
At least one cup of the ganache
At least five cups of the buttercream
1 and 1/2 cups of sweetened, shredded coconut

Place one cake layer upside down onto a cardboard/cake-board or onto the plate it will be served from. Spread a generous layer of room-temperature ganache on top. Add the second cake layer, placing its flattest surface facing up. Spread about a cup or so of buttercream on the top, and frost a generous layer on the sides. Because the cake will be covered with sweetened coconut, it's not really necessary to try and make the surface or sides of the cake completely smooth. To add the coconut, hold your cake, on its board/plate over a baking sheet. Gently press handfuls of coconut into the sides as you turn the cake until it's completely covered, and then sprinkle more on the top. Scoop up any coconut that falls onto the baking sheet and scatter it on as well.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below.)

Pasta con sugo di Salvia e bisteca di Maiale (Sage sauce with Pork chops)

What a wonderful way to inaugurate the growing season. Fresh sage is in abundance in my garden.  Several handfuls is all you need for this intensely flavored sauce, where sage is the main ingredient.   A few extra sprigs is all you need to serve this wonderful dish.  I like to put some fresh in a vase right on the table. 
Ingredients:  2 handfuls of fresh Sage ( you will be discarding the sage in the sauce before serving, so it's best to leave them whole so you can remove them later)
4 pork chops about 1/4 inch thick with bone in
2 cloves of garlic (optional, discard after flavoring oil)
3 tablespoons olive oil
one teaspoon of sea salt
one teaspoon of black pepper
2 cups tomato sauce (freshly jarred or canned, plain, cut up with their juice or pureed in the the blender)
1/2 cup of white wine

Method:  Heat a large skillet of olive oil in a pan.  Add your garlic until fragrant and discard.  At this point add your sage and cook in the oil until soft and fragrant.  Do not fry.  If you do not have enough fresh sage, you may used dry, add about a teaspoon.  Add your meat directly to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes on each side.  Make sure they are golden.  Place your water for your pasta on to boil. Add your tomatoes,  1/2 cup of white wine and let reduce.  Add a few sprigs of fresh sage and keep cooking for about 10 more minutes. In the meantime, cook your pasta.  You will notice a ring of oil will separate from your tomatoes.   Remove your meat from the pan and continue to let your sauce reduce 5 more minutes.  Remove the used, wet sage leaves from the sauce. Set you meat aside in a serving dish.
Grate some Parmigiano cheese to your liking.

I like to use Bucatini Pasta for this dish.  You may use Penne.  Really anything tubular in shape will do, as you want the Pasta to trap the sauce inside, creating great flavor. 
Serve these great Pork Chops with some Crusty Italian bread as a second course.
Always remove your pasta when al dente, drain well and toss with this wonderful, fragrant sauce.  A great way to begin the Spring Season. 
Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano and serve.  Buon Appetito!

My Beef with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Survey

Quote of the Day:  You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don't know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don't know who your friends are, you don't know what you owe anybody, you don't know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

I took my first ever motorcycle tour this summer, traveling from Brainerd, MN out to Yellowstone National Park, and back home via the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in SD, over 2450 miles, on the back of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. (You can read all about it at Ride off the Page!) See the bag strapped to the back? That held all the things I brought including my laptop, Nikon camera and all the chords one needs for all their gadgets these days. It was freeing, actually, to pack light, rewear clothes (same jeans all week, oh, ya), not worry too much about my hair considering it either looked like helmet head, windblown tangles, or pulled back in a headband, and focus on the experience.

I did not bring an ipod, and it seemed impossible to read a book back there with the wind whipping around, sometimes trying to drag my helmet off, so I spent all those miles...thinking. At first, I had to let my responsibilities go, feeling them roll off and down the highway as we speeded along the "super slab", as the Biker Chef called it. By the time we got to the Beartooth Pass, I heard the message that it was okay to be there.

I've been to the top of the world!

So, what's my beef with the Sturgis Rally Survey? I was a first-time attendee, feeling a bit like I was in a foreign country, wondering if I belonged. I got to the page of the survey that has you check your interests. They were all things like attending other rallies and outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, and riding. Only one choice was something different, quilting. I didn't check that one either because I don't enjoy quilting (don't tell my mom). I looked at the Chef and said, "I guess I'm an atypical person attending the rally."

What's the point of having that question if they already assume they know who shows up there? And, really, no other person who enjoys riding also enjoys art? Have you seen the artwork on their bodies and bikes? No other biker is into music?  Hmm....I have proof otherwise.

I knew I'd see someone with a guitar strapped to their bike!
Glad I had my camera handy for this photo opp.

So, I had to wrestle with the Who am I question, and the Do I belong one, too. And, the Sturgis Survey didn't do anything to help me feel more welcome, so I had to keep thinking as I watched the highways and byways roll beneath me and the mountains rise before me and the hot wind tear around me, and discovered that I'm me no matter where I am or what I'm wearing. I'm still the same creative spirit under the leather as I am at the coffee shop. And, I'm grateful for all those thoughtful miles. In fact, I miss them. I haven't had much time to just think since I've gotten home. 

And, hey, Sturgis Rally Survey Writers, if you really want to know who attends the rally, have more variety in your hobbies/interests page.

Thank you.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Have you ever been in a situation where you felt out of place? What did you do to regain your sense of self? Have you attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and taken the survey? What did you think?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer's Over

Quote of the Day:  How do geese know when to fly south? Who tells them the seasons? How do we, humans, know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within if only we would listen to it, that tells us certainly when to go forth into the unknown. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

This weekend marks the passage of time, milestones in life, and the next generation rising up and going forth into the unknown.

I watched my first-born son pack up for college and hugged him good-bye.

Then, we jumped in the van and headed to my nephew's wedding, the first in the next generation.

Realized that my sisters and I are now the "old aunts."

And, I have just three kids to watch over, drag to weddings, help manage their schedules.

Plus, football practice has started, the mornings are cool, and we're getting ready for school to start.

Summer's over. The new season begins, in the year and in life. I wonder where these halls and pathways will take my biggest boy.

I miss him already.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  What season are you in right now, creatively, personally, socially, etc?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Favorite Photo Friday is Back!

Quote of the Day:  Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present. - Buddha

In other words, live in the moment. Not always an easy thing to do. However, it will give you a sense of peace, help you enjoy where you are and the people who are with you.

My little sister flew in from Portland, OR on Wednesday. As soon as I picked her up, we started visiting people and reconnecting. The most important part of life is people and relationships.

Kay showing Joy her fridge full of family photos.

The next day, lunch with old friends, creative spirits and colleagues at
Bugaboo Bay in Alexandria, MN.

A stop at Carlos Creek Winery to visit with another friend who brought gifts and ideas.

One book he gave me is Truth in Comedy. He's been studying acting and theatre and emphasized that no matter what is going on in the scene, the most important thing is the relationship between the characters.

And, a stop at the Beilke farm for a delicious snack, a chance to share photos and stories, and time to look around.

We had one more stop at my friend's house to drop off borrowed items from graduation, do a quick catch-up, and watch her grandson love up the farm kittens, nearly to death! Wow. Talk about tame kitties.

That's all just the first 24 hours. I wonder what today will bring?

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Make your best effort to live in the moment today, this weekend, or whenever you are with important people in your life. What did you do, where did you go, what did you talk about?

Revisiting favorite places and familiar faces is also a reason to Ride off the Page! Check out whose there.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Inspiring Story of Hope in Guatemala

Quote of the Day:  I realized there's so much more going on in the world to be aware of and learn about. Brianna Jensen who spent a year in Guatemala working for Common Hope and helping fight the battle against poverty.

Hello, Fellow Blog Friends,
I know I've been MIA for a while. I've been off exploring the world in leather, as a friend commented, on the back of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. You can read all about those adventures at my new travel blog: Ride off the Page!

In the meantime, the newest edition of Her Voice is out, a local magazine that focuses on interesting, successful, and adventurous women in and from the Brainerd lakes area of Minnesota.  My latest article is about Brianna Jensen, a young woman who spent a year of her life volunteering for a program called Common Hope in Guatemala. She made a difference in the lives of many people, made great connections, and learned so much from her experiences in a third world country. The article, Living with Less, Finding More, can be found at the Her Voice site of the Brainerd Dispatch.

Here's a teaser from my motorcycle travles. This sign represents where I've been, but doesn't tell you where I am when I took it. Do you know where this sign hangs? To find out the answer, go to Ride off the Page!

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Have you ever gone far from home to do mission work or help in some other capacity? Do you support any local organizations that help others?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Choffee Chip Chunk Ice Cream . . . (Coffee Ice Cream with Chunks of Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies)

Let's have a show of hands. Of all you folks out there, who among you likes ice cream, likes coffee, and also likes chocolate chip cookies? Please keep 'em up while I count . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . um . . . . . . . . . . okay . . . still counting . . . . . . still counting . . . whew . . . lots of hands . . .

Just as I thought. You can put your hands down. I'm gonna go ahead and round the total up to about a zillion people or we'll be here all day. Clearly, the vast majority of us are of the same mind on this issue. After all, what's not to like?

About this recipe . . .

If you are a fan of that flavor trio, you'll love this. Adapted from the formula for Black Coffee Ice Cream in Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, a compact book by Jeni Britton Bauer (that I first mentioned to you in this post, on vanilla mascarpone ice cream with roasted cherries, several weeks ago), this is another recipe that's too good to ignore. Expect an absolute premium result, and prepare to experience superb creaminess.

As for the cookie chunks, I recommend using this fail-safe chocolate chip cookie recipe, using all milk chocolate chips/chunks instead of an assortment of chocolate. I suggest baking the cookies slightly longer than normal, so they'll be crispier and will easily break into small pieces. You'll need about eight, thin 3" cookies to add into the ice cream. This is an excellent chocolate chip cookie recipe for any purpose, and one that I've made dozens of times over the years. (My kids are crazy-cuckoo-nuts for these cookies.)

So, love coffee? Love ice cream? Love chocolate chip cookies? Yes? Then it's settled. You've got to try this. That's all there is to it.

Choffee Chip Chunk Ice Cream (Coffee Ice Cream 
with Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie Chunks)

(For a printable copy of this recipe, click here!)

Yield: Slightly less than one quart

2 and 1/2 cups whole milk (I didn't have whole milk, so I used 2 cups 2 percent milk, and 1/2 cup half & half instead.)
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) cream cheese, softened (I used Philadelphia brand.)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup of coffee beans, ground coarsely (I used French roast beans.)
About 8 thin and crispy milk-chocolate chip cookies, approximately 3" in diameter,
       broken into small pieces and frozen

In a very small bowl, stir together two tablespoons of milk with all of the cornstarch until smooth (this is the "slurry").

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese and the salt. Set aside.

Fit a piece of cheesecloth into a strainer and place that atop a medium size bowl (this will be used to strain the coffee-bean particles out of the still-in-process hot liquid). Set aside.

Fill a large bowl about halfway with ice cubes and cold water. Set aside. Place a large, clean Ziploc bag, opened and ready, near the bowl (you'll pour the finished hot liquid into it, then place the closed bag into the ice water to cool).

In a large saucepan, combine the rest of the milk, the heavy cream, sugar, and corn syrup. Over medium high heat bring the mixture to a steady low boil. Boil for four minutes. Take the pan off the burner and pour in the ground coffee beans. Let it steep for five minutes. Pour the liquid through the cheesecloth-lined strainer into the medium bowl. Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the beans, wrapped in the cheesecloth, then discard the beans and cloth.

Pour the liquid back into the saucepan and whisk the cornstarch in slowly. Return the liquid to a boil over medium high heat and cook just until it's slightly thickened, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom and sides with a heat-proof spatula. Take the pan off the heat.

Slowly pour the hot liquid into the bowl with the cream cheese and salt, whisking as you do so until it looks quite smooth.

Pour all of this into the Ziploc bag, zip it closed tightly, and place that into the bowl of ice water for about half an hour or until decidedly cold, adding more ice to the bowl as needed.

Remove your frozen cookie pieces from the freezer. Have the container into which you will put your churned ice cream close at hand. Following the manufacturer's directions for your own ice cream freezer, churn the ice cream until it thickens. (I use the ice cream attachment for my KitchenAid mixer and usually need to churn ice cream for about 20 minutes or longer.)

Quickly layer the churned ice cream into its container along with the broken cookie pieces; don't stir the cookies in, just sprinkle them over the ice cream more or less evenly, remembering to sprinkle some atop the last layer.

Seal your container well, and freeze your ice cream until very firm (I let it freeze for about 16 hours before trying it, but you don't have to wait that long!). Enjoy!

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Shrimp Fritters (Crocchette di Gamberi)

I found some Frozen, large cocktail shrimp in my freezer, about 10.  Yes, you can use fresh Shrimp if you like.  The texture will be different.  Starting off with cooked shrimp (thawed), yields a better cake or fritter texture   I had just a few roasted red peppers that I needed to use up in a jar.  Just not enough to serve, but enough to add to a recipe.  A good Home-cook is a creative one.  Making the most out of very little.  I was craving something similar to a crab cake, so why not use Shrimp cake?  These cook in a hurry.  It will be hard to resist just one.   I must admit, a little tomato Compote is the perfect little dipping sauce.  I am not sure the infatuation with dipping sauces in this Country, but it works for these fritters, so why not?   Truth be told,  you can eat them,  once cooled,  without anything at all,  just pick one up with your hands.
About 10-12 Large, cooked shrimp, peeled, tails off, cut into a small dice (they should be tiny pieces)
1/2 cup plain bread crumb (plus extra for your plate before frying)
1/4 cup diced roasted red peppers
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons diced parsley plus more for garnish
One egg
Method:  In bowl combine all your ingredients.  You should see a thick paste.  Roll each 2 inch spoonful  into your hand, then into a little ball and flatten.  Pass each fritter in additional bread crumbs and lay on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Keep going until they are all done.
Makes 12 small appetizers:

At this point they can either be placed in the refrigerator to harden and set some.  Otherwise just put them in a container into the freezer for a later date.   They didn't last very long in my freezer at all. 
You can pan saute or fry.  I elected to pan saute until golden in a little sunflower oil.  They cooked in a hurry.  Just a few minutes in hot oil,  on each side until golden.  
For the sauce: 
Ingredients:  1/2 cup diced Spanish onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh Roma tomatoes and all the juice
1/2 cup white wine
1 teaspoons of salt
Optional basil for garnish
Pepper to taste
In a medium saute pan, heat your oil and  cook your onion until fragrant and almost golden.  (Just like you would any tomato sauce for pasta).  Add your tomatoes and cook.  Add your white wine and let boil away.  Add your salt and pepper and let cook for about 8 minutes until thick and the oil separates from the pan.   Pour into a small serving cup and serve beside your fritters.  Enjoy!

Buon Appetito!