Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

Strawberry season might be over and done with in New England. Some farms might have strawberry fields ready later in the summer, but there is no guarantee especially when conflicting weather occurs. Other parts of the US might have strawberries at markets - if so, snatch them up and make this ice cream.

What makes this ice cream extra special is the strawberry puree.  Berries cook until they release their sugars and bubble in a not too thick syrup. Use "good" balsamic vinegar, the thick kind that costs a bit more at the grocery or specialty stores. A little goes a long way, and the extra money is worth the spend. Blend the berries and vinegar into a smooth puree and add to the ice cream base once everything is cooled. The rosy, light pink color looks like summer.

PS: if you want to extend this recipe to include ice cream sandwiches, the full cookie recipe is here. Promise its worth the extra effort.
Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream
inspired/adapted from Food52 & Bi-Rite Creamery
yield: one quart of ice cream

1 1/2 pints strawberries, hulled (stem removed) and halved
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole or 2% milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

for the strawberry balsamic puree:

Add the strawberries and first round of 2 teaspoons vinegar to a medium size sauce pot. Put the pot over medium heat and cook for about 8 minutes until the strawberries are soft and a lot of the berry juices are released. This step takes close to 7-8 minutes.

Let fruit cool slightly, then transfer the berries and their juices to a blender or food processor. A hand-held immersion blender could also work. Purée until smooth and hold the puree in the refrigerator until the ice cream base is very cold.

for the ice cream base:

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks and a 1⁄4 cup of sugar.

In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, stir together the heavy cream, milk, salt, and the remaining 1⁄4 cup of sugar and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture has tiny bubbles on the surface (a slight simmer), reduce the heat to medium.

Carefully pour 1⁄2 cup of the hot cream mixture (a ladle works well here) and, while whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the egg yolks. Repeat, adding another 1⁄2 cup of the hot cream to the yolks. This tempering process gets the egg yolks ready to go into the pan with the rest of the hot cream mixture. Not going this would result in creamy scrambled eggs. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan as you slowly pour the egg-and-cream mixture from the bowl into the pan. A kitchen helper helping stir would also be a good idea, if you are a first time ice cream maker.

Cook the egg and cream mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened. You will know the base is done when it coats the back of a spatula and holds a clear path when you run your finger across the spatula.

Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container and cover with a top or place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the egg mixture. Refrigerate the base for at least 2 hours or overnight. You want this mixture to be very cold.

Whisk the strawberry purée and the remaining 2 teaspoons vinegar into the chilled base.

Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Eat immediately or transfer to a container and freeze for at least 4 hours for a more solid ice cream.

Farmer's Market Produce

Moving from Chicago to Boston meant an adjustment in many things including weather, accents, lack of taquerias, and timing of produce.

Working as a farmer's market assistant for Stillman's meant a weekly peek at the lastest and greatest produce offerings. 

Each week new vegetables and fruits would appear. Some berries arrived in limited quantities one week yet the following week tables would be overflowing. 

Colorful beets

Squash, beans and peas by the bushel.

Tomatoes and blueberries await a new home.

Cute boxes of sun gold tomatoes mean summer.

Rhubarb Strawberry Cobbler + Cornmeal Biscuits

This is part 2 of the "what to do with 2 gallons of strawberries" series.  In part 1, I made jam with chiles and black peppercorns.  I had this recipe filed away for about two years and finally finally! decided to make it with some slight changes: swap the raspberries for strawberries and use two types of sugar.  The dessert is delicious hot from the oven or straight-from-the-refrigerator cold. 

Rhubarb Strawberry Cobbler + Cornmeal Biscuits

adapted from the New York Times
yield: 8 servings

filling:
2 cups rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 5-6 stalks)
2 pounds fresh strawberries, washing, hulled, and cut in half
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon raw sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

biscuits:
1 cup all-purpose flour, more as necessary
2/3 cup fine cornmeal
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling, toss together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars and cornstarch in a large bowl. Allow mixture to stand while preparing biscuit dough.

To prepare biscuits, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter and use two knives to cut butter into flour mixture. Pour in cream and continue stirring until dough starts to come together, scraping down sides of bowl if necessary.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it together. Divide it equally into 8 balls, then flatten them slightly into thick rounds.

Pour filling and accumulated juices into a 2 1/2-quart gratin or a 9 by 12 inche baking dish. Arrange biscuits on top of filling and brush with cream. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and biscuits are golden.

Chocolate Oatmeal Dried Fruit Cookies

In the continuing journey to find a cookie that combines chocolate, fruit, and oats, this one takes the cake, err, cookie. 

Chocolate Oatmeal Dried Fruit Cookies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
yield: three dozen (using a 1" cookie scoop)

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or powder
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips
1/2 cup dried fruit mix (raisins, cranberries, cherries)
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, chocolate, dried fruits and pecans.

Either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet pan and then freeze the whole tray, bag the dough scoops, and freeze for future enjoyment.

If baking immediately, bake the cookies two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes, taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.  If baking from the freezer, add 2-4 minutes of additional baking time. 

Meyer Lemon & Blood Orange Marmalade

Citrus season is in full swing.  Take advantage of all the varieties of oranges and lemons piled up at markets & grocery stores.   This marmalade is composed of two of my favorites: a blood orange and a Meyer lemon.  Spread the marmalade on toast or serve with biscuits, especially these cream biscuits.  The recipe makes enough to fill two small jars, so keep one in the refrigerator and either give the other jar to a friend or store in the freezer. 

Meyer Lemon & Blood Orange Marmalade
taken from the New York Times
yield: 2 cups

3 medium Meyer lemons, ends trimmed
1 medium blood orange, ends trimmed
1 cup granulated sugar (*note: original recipe said 1 1/2 cups - thought that would be too sweet)
1 cup Demerara (raw) sugar (*note: original recipe said 1 1/2 cups - thought that would be too sweet)

Place a small plate or saucer in the freezer.

Wash the citrus well under warm water. Cut the lemons and orange in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 1/8-inch segments, lengthwise. Cut out any exposed membrane and remove the seeds.

Measure the cut citrus; you should have 2 1/2 cups.  Place the citrus and the same volume of water into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the peels are very soft and fully cooked, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Add the sugars to the pot, stir to combine. Turn the heat up to high and bring back to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and let the marmalade simmer until set. It should take about 20 to 30 minutes, but start checking after 15 minutes to see if it is set by spooning a little onto a chilled plate from the freezer. If it looks like jam and not runny syrup, it’s ready.

Allow marmalade to cool to room temperature before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and use within a month.

Olive Oil Granola with Dried Cherries & Ginger

Everyone has a favorite granola recipe.  Some are hodge-podge versions of ingredients thrown together; others are riffs on restaurant or cafe offerings.  I have made some batches based on whatever I have in the pantry and freezer. Taking advantage of the bulk bins at Whole Foods can make granola-making a bit easier on the grocery budget. 
 
What I like about this recipe is the use of the extra virgin olive oil combined with (my addition) maple syrup.  (Note: no pancake syrup here, please.  Use the real deal.  Your taste buds will thank you.)   If flax seed and wheat bran aren't your thing, feel free to omit.  They were just hanging out in my fridge.  I like to spoon the granola over plain Kefir or Greek-style yogurt with a drizzle of honey. 
 
Olive Oil Granola with Dried Cherries & Ginger

adapted from: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/dining/151arex.html?_r=2&ref=dining

yield: 4 1/2 - 5 cups

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup walnut

pieces

1/2 cup raw pistachios, hulled

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled

1/4  cup pure maple syrup

1/4  cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tbls flax seeds

1 tbls wheat bran

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries

1/4 cup chopped dried cherries

1 tbls chopped crystallized ginger

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds,  walnuts, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, flax seeds, and wheat bran. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

2. Transfer granola to a large bowl and add cherries, cranberries, and ginger, tossing to combine.

3. Store in the freezer for optimal freshness.