posts tagged: food

happy valentimes!

It’s Valentine’s Day, my favorite annual holiday and time for me to make strawberry ice cream again! We’re taking a low-key approach to the day, like we always do, with no gifts and just a dinner at our favorite neighborhood sushi place, but I had to continue my streak—this is the 4th year!—of making him strawberry ice cream.

Year 1, the year of Neapolitan, was the most transcendent strawberry ice cream ever. I decided to make him strawberry in all subsequent years—no need for the chocolate or vanilla.

Year 2, I followed the same recipe, but it just wasn’t as good. I could detect small ice crystals in the finished ice cream, and that ruined the texture. The taste was still stellar, but something about the process wasn’t working.

Year 3, I tried to solve the icy problem by allowing the entire base to chill thoroughly before I put it in the maker. I made the base (tasty!) and let it sit in the fridge overnight. But alas, the ice cream still had an iciness. WHY.

Year 4. This year. Last week I talked with my gastronomical friend Peter (husband of the Hungry Knitter, Lauren) about it and he suggested the sugar content was too high, not that temperature was an issue. Hmmm. So this year, I didn’t just blindly follow the recipe. In fact, I flat-out ignored some of its quantities. And the result? Rich, creamy, silky smooth ice cream. It is perfection on a spoon. We are going to enjoy this tonight!

Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Ice Cream, modified

1 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk

Get the freezer bowl good ‘n’ frozen—I tend to leave one in the freezer at all times, but give it at least 3 days to fully freeze. No sloshing inside it at all if you shake it! Leave it in the freezer while you prep (get it out only at the very last moment!).

Toss the strawberries with the 1/3 cup sugar and lemon juice and refrigerate for a few hours (at least 2).

Beat the eggs until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. I do this by hand and count it as my workout for the day. Add the 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, until fully incorporated. Beat for 1 minute more. Add the cream and milk.

Get the strawberries out of the fridge and puree to a chunky consistency (I use a stick blender). Add to the cream base. Ladle into the ice cream maker (I have this one by Cuisinart) until the freezer bowl is just 3/4 full. I think pouring all of it in overwhelms the bowl and reduces the temp too much, preventing the base from freezing evenly. I put the extra in a container and it’s in the fridge; I’ll make a separate batch later this week, once the bowl is refrozen.

Let your ice cream maker do its thing—mine’s thing is 20 minutes of churning—and then transfer to a container and put in the freezer to freeze fully. Enjoy!

roasted butternut squash soup

This year, my new year’s resolution is what I’m calling “Sunday Soups.” The idea is to make a soup on Sunday (or thereabouts) and have it for lunch during the week. The goal is manyfold: Get back to soups, which I’ve neglected (my boyfriend categorically does not like soups. Yeah, I don’t understand it either and I’m through fighting about it); have reliable foods around for lunch during the week, so I don’t spend loads of money buying every day; be a bit healthier/less inclined to overeat by having a portioned amount of a delicious soup I made myself; and to help in my new goal of reducing my wheat intake (for health reasons more than anything). A few weeks ago I showed you my chicken soup—this week I made roasted butternut squash!

This soup could not be easier. I cut up a medium-sized butternut and half a giant onion, tossed them with a handful of baby carrots, and a few cloves of garlic (in their skin), olive oil, ground thyme, a pinch of white pepper, a pinch of salt, one bay leaf, a mere pinch of red pepper flakes, and a teeny bit of brown sugar, and roasted it all at 400 for about 30 minutes, until the onions were fully caramelized and the squash was cooked through. Above you can see the before and after for the veggies.

Dumped all of it in the food processor (wait! I squeezed the roasted garlic out of its skins first, of course, and trashed the bay leaf), and pureed it with a touch of warmed chicken stock until it was a nice smooth puree. That was too thick for a soup, but there wasn’t any room left in the food processor, so I transferred it to a bowl and whisked in additional chicken stock (4 cups total) until it was nice and liquid. Still thick, but also easily poured—not gloopy at all. I know it’ll thicken a bit upon standing, and I don’t want to feel like I’m eating squash pudding. Hopefully this picture captures the consistency.

Honestly I didn’t add any additional salt or pepper, but of course you should season to taste at this point. It’s sweet and squashy and delicious!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
makes about 3 servings (6 cups of soup total)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and seeded (roast those seeds for a snack!)
½ large white onion (or, you know, one small. this onion was the size of a softball to start)
7 baby carrots
3 large cloves garlic, in their skins
1 teaspoon ground thyme
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used chipotle pepper flakes)
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
4 cups stock (chicken or veggie; I bet it’d be tasty with plain water too)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil (to save cleanup time). Cut the squash and onion into pieces just a bit bigger than the baby carrots, and toss all the veggies and spices (through bay leaf) with the olive oil. Transfer to the prepared sheet and spread into a single layer. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Roast in the oven, stirring every now and then, for about 30 minutes, or until caramelized and the squash is cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat the stock in a pot and keep warm.

Transfer the roasted veggies to a food processor, squeezing the garlic out of its skin and discarding the skin, plus removing the bay leaf, and process until smooth, adding stock by ¼-cupfuls until the puree is completely smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and slowly whisk in the remaining stock. If serving immediately, transfer to a pot and heat until hot; season to taste if necessary. Otherwise, transfer to your containers for taking to work! You could garnish with yogurt or sour cream, and I bet it would be delicious, but I didn’t think it was necessary when I had a bowlful.

in which i lose my sense of taste

chicken-soup_preview

This is the saddest post I will ever write. Because guys, I have no sense of taste right now. None. Actually, that’s an overstatement—I can just barely discern sweetness. Which means that at least the expensive Savannah Bee Company honey that I polished off wasn’t completely wasted as I loaded it into mugfuls of tea. See, I got a cold. A bad cold. I’m calling it the TNNA flu, because I came down with it on the last day of The National Needle Arts Association’s Winter show, which I was working all last weekend. I honestly cannot remember the last time I was this sick. I’ve had colds, sure, but not like this.

upside-down pear almond torte

pear-almond_preview

It’s no secret ’round the internet that my almond torte is my favorite thing in the world. When I was in college, it was the cake that my mom would make me and send up as a treat. When I got my first apartment and mom made me a little cookbook of my favorite family recipes, the almond torte is the first one in the book. It’s one of the easiest recipes around, so I make it often, but sometimes I want to mess with a good thing. This upside-down pear version is definitely a good thing.

slow-cooked chinese short ribs

short ribs

I only have one picture of this dinner, but I think it’s all you need. My mom’s Chinese short ribs are a family favorite: she makes a giant batch whenever there’s a crowd to feed, and even when it’s just our nuclear family. She simmers them on the stovetop, but I thought they might be a good candidate for the slow cooker. A steaming bowlful is perfect on a chilly day, and the weather has JUST turned cool here in New York City.

When I saw that Fresh Direct now sells short ribs cut into thirds, the way my mom says is best for this dish, I immediately bought some and called mom in Norway to ask her how to make them. Of course, it was vague in the way that mom recipes are, but I tried to quantify it a bit. It’s so dead easy, you’re going to laugh.