Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Simple Blackberry Ice Cream

Blackberries: Part 1

They are seedy, messy, and small. And I am obsessed.

Stained fingertips and baby fists. Scratched forearms. Precious hours exchanged for a paltry pint or so. But there is something about setting off down the dusty lane that runs by our house and competing with the blue jays, squirrels, crows, and deer for our share of our neighbor’s wild blackberries.

We’ve made a deal with him: We can pick all the blackberries we want, so long as we give him a share of whatever we make. He’s a beef rib and takeout pizza kind of guy, not one to be beguiled by the rustically interesting character of berries in the morning oatmeal. So clearly, I have to work some magic on these seedy little nubs.

It’s taken multiple cartons of heavy cream, sticks of butter, and pounds of sugar. Rough job, but at the end of the day, I can turn the fruits of our labor into something little resembling fruit.

Progress? Maybe not. But lots of deliciousness to be had along the way.

Very Basic Blackberry Ice Cream

This ice cream is ridiculously easy if you have an ice cream maker. It's intensely purple, a little seedy, and not too sweet--rustic. Our neighbor asked if we put food coloring in it to get that shocking purple.

Mix in a bowl:
1 1/2 cups milk and heavy cream, in combination (I usually use 1 cup cream, 1/2 cup whole milk, but sometimes lighten it up a little)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract

Smash with a fork in another bowl:
about a cup of blackberries
2 T. sugar

Chill both bowls in fridge until cool. Process milk mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions until you have a slushy almost-ice cream. Add the berries and let the machine run until you have ice cream that is pretty thoroughly frozen. Eat or store in a container in the freezer.

I've found that if I run the machine a little longer than I think is necessary, my ice cream stays lighter and doesn't turn into a brick in the freezer.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Goleta Peach that wasn't

I got a recipe in the e-mail. Doesn't this sound good?

The Goleta Peach

4.5 oz peach juice (we mashed up some really ripe peaches and strained out the juice)
3 oz vodka
a bit less than 3oz sugar syrup
9-12 mint leaves

Rebecca adds, "It was pretty sweet and juicy, so you guys might want to use more vodka and less sugar." Does she know us, or what?

I came home ready for a Goleta Peach, reminiscing about the good ol' days at UCSB all the while. (Although we rarely drank anything that required more than a bottle opener.)

And our mint plant? Nothing but several leaves dried to a crisp by temperatures over 100 and smoked into inedibleity by the wildfires. Our vodka, always in stock? Nothing but a drop rattling around in the bottom of the Costco-size bottle. Sugar syrup, so easy to have on hand? Yep, nope.

I gave up. The universe had spoken. It was a night for old faithfuls.

Scotch, ice, Haribo...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Secret single spaghetti

I know I'm not the only Sex and the City fan out there (the TV show, and the movie solely for nostalgia reasons). But I am the only one I know who watched all six seasons for the third time while breastfeeding a colicky newborn. Caustic and funny and light and liberally sprinkled with profanity? Just the kind of entertainment I needed after pushing out seven pounds of grouchy.

Tonight reminded me of the show. After W. left to watch the Tour de France at a friend's house, after the baby went to bed, I indulged in my SSB, secret single behavior.

Sure, it revolves around food. A simple spaghetti, with more butter than I would ever serve for a family meal. In the winter, I throw in sausage; in the summer, fresh tomatoes. Then cheese—blue or Parmesan.

I eat at the table with a glass of wine and a book. I take the occasional small bite, trimming a noodle into a small segment, then biting it lengthwise with my front teeth. It's weird and fussy and probably infuriating to watch. But I am alone. I read. I soak in the slight melancholy of solitude and love it, knowing that it's finite.

Solitary Spaghetti in Summer

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Throw in enough spaghetti for one.

While the spaghetti cooks, heat a thinly sliced garlic clove or two with a couple tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan. When the garlic is just this side of turning golden, throw in a cup or so of chopped tomatoes and warm slowly. You don't want them to cook into sauce, just to release a bit of their liquid.

Toss in al dente spaghetti with water still clinging to its strands and some julienne basil, swirl around in the pan over the heat just long enough for the noodles to absorb most of the juice (about a minute).

Top with whatever cheese you have on hand. If it is a particularly lucky night, you will have blue.

Eat with abandon, no one is watching...

Monday, July 14, 2008

How to make sugar syrup

EDITED TO ADD: I changed my mind. This isn't the best way to make sugar syrup. Do this instead.

My sister brought it to my attention that I didn't cover how to make sugar syrup in my previous post. If my syrup was half sugar and half water and hers was two parts sugar to one part water, would that make her cocktail uber sweet? Do proportions matter? Or is one jigger of sugar syrup one jigger of sugar syrup, no matter what?

I have no idea, and it's been over 10 years since my last chemistry class. A good little food blogger would do two test batches and make two cocktails side by side to compare. I, on the other hand, would prefer to drink the one, post my version of sugar syrup, and call it good.

Sugar Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Measure into a saucepan. Turn on heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Cool and store in fridge.

You can steep herbs in this to make all sorts of yummy varieties. We add a sprig of lemon verbena in the summer, strain it out before storing, and use the syrup over pancakes or in lemon drop cocktails.

(Disclaimer: We don't always have sugar syrup on hand. We don't always take the five minutes to make it. Sometimes we toss a couple spoonfuls of sugar into the cocktail shaker and swipe the grainy sweetness out of the bottom of our glasses with our fingers. Very classy.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Another reason to drink

Have you seen this New York Times blog? I love a list that opens the door for a little self-congratulation… “The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating”? How about “The 11 Fantastic Foods You Do Eat, You Healthy Earth Goddess You”?

Beets? Check—grated raw with carrots and dressed with salt, pepper, olive oil, and Sherry vinegar.

Cabbage? Red, organic, on the menu plan as coleslaw.

Cinnamon and canned pumpkin? On and in pumpkin pancakes Sunday morning. (Extra credit for topped with plain yogurt?)

Swiss chard? Appears regularly in soup and pasta, and to neutralize the nutritional nightmare of boxed mac and cheese.

Pumpkin seeds? Sprinkled over every Mexican meal we eat.

Frozen blueberries? Tossed in pies, pancakes, smoothies whenever we can.

Prunes, sardines, and turmeric? Well, no one's perfect.

And my favorite…pomegranate juice. Every day! In a cocktail! Mixed with gin! And sugar! It’s healthy, whee!

The Deliciously Gin-Soaked Cocktail That You Can Pretend Is a Healthy Choice

--serves two

3 1-1/2 ounce jiggers gin, plus a splash for good measure
1 jigger sugar syrup (or superfine sugar to taste)
1 generous jigger pomegranate juice
juice of one lime or half a juicy lemon (Meyers are especially good)

Put into a cocktail shaker with lots of ice. Shake the hell out it. Strain into glasses.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Ugh, this photo could be prettier, sharper--look at this. I made Orangette's basil mayo, and it was awesome. But the photo of green mess sloshed in a Tupperware? Smeared all over the baby's high chair tray? On this roll, reflecting the low summer sun outside? Not such a pretty picture--and without the Photoshop skills to polish out the imperfection.

But it was pretty, in a visceral messy way, in real life, where these kinds of these matter more. Basil mayo mingling with smooshed first-of-the-season tomato, juice running down wrists, the crisp of bacon and slight grainy creaminess of blue cheese:

Basil Mayo, Blue Cheese, Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato

No recipe--this is exactly what it sounds like, ya'll. If you can pick your basil and tomatoes from your summer garden, so much the better. (Yes, I have a summer garden, and an herb garden—it's how us financially disadvantaged people afford piles and piles of heirloom tomatoes and summer savory on tap.)

If you can get some Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon and cheap-ish but good blue cheese from a nearby Trader Joe's, you'll be ruined for those diner-style, three-layered, desiccated bacon mayo bombs forever.

The mayo does take some fussy time and requires the use, and wash, of the blender. You'll have to destem basil, press garlic, juice a bit of lemon. But then you're set—deliciousness for the week. We had leftovers for dipping steamed green beans and carrots from Saturday's farmers' market. The baby dipped her beloved broccoli florets. I'm resisting the urge to scoop it directly from the Tupperware with a spoon.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

^%@$%ing shingles, or what I did on my summer vacation

I got shingles. David Letterman, after a month off work due to shingles, celebrated his return to the "Late Show" with a top 10 list:
#10. There's nothing good about the ****ing shingles. The ****suckers are so ***damn painful, every minute you pray some giant son-of-a-bitch will shove a red-hot poker up your ***.
Um, yeah. And I'll bet Letterman didn't have to deal with a cheap breast pump clamped right over the blistery rash. Or a baby desperate for "mama milk."

I hope you came here for culinary inspiration, because this shit is freaking app-et-i-zing!

On to the next course.

I came home from my trip to visit the baby's grandparents with shingles and a total lack of desire to cook anything. So I decided to make something my sister's been telling me about forever and always sounded kind of unexciting to me. Until I tried it—it is exciting, so good, so easy: Sweet potatoes, baked in the jacket at 375 degrees until tender (about an hour), with butter, salt, a squeeze of lime, and a sprinkling of cilantro. Really, it's awesome. Thank you, Alice Waters.

I looked forward to it all day. And isn't the setup pretty, especially in front of get-well flowers and fruit harvested from my parent's trees? The baby and W. sat in eager anticipation of the soft, sweet, goodness.

And then the bad health-food store produce strikes again. The sweet potatoes (yams?) were hard in some places, grainy mush in others. We missed the farmer's market this week and paid the price. They looked like this:

We ate salad and apricots, put the cilantro away for tomorrow's tostadas, put the baby to bed, and made a pie.

Nothing like pie to ease the pain of shingles and sweet potato disappointment.