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Mission: The Ice Cream Smore'wich

As the last big weekend for summer grilling approaches, what's the ultimate summer dessert? The ice cream sandwich? The s'more?

I had a thought this week... why not combine the two? Behold: The Ice Cream Smore'wich!

Ice Cream Smore'wich Blueprint
Click in for the full-size version

I've done a bit of (rich, tasty, chocolaty) experimentation, and I'm here to tell you, there's the fast and easy way, and then there's the longer (but rewarding) way. Your choice.

Ice Cream Smore'wich — The Easy Way

You'll need:
Graham crackers
Chocolate fudge sauce
Vanilla ice cream
Jumbo-size marshmallows
Plastic wrap or wax paper

1. Select two graham crackers and slather one side of one graham cracker with chocolate fudge sauce (or go crazy with Nutella, if you're so inclined).
2. Open a carton of your favorite vanilla ice cream and cut or portion a 1" slice of the ice cream to match the length and width of the remaining graham cracker base.
3. Place the ice cream slice/portion atop the remaining graham cracker base and move both graham crackers to a tray or plate in the freezer to chill.
4. Use a skewer/stick to toast the marshmallow to your liking.
5. To assemble, gently compress the cooled toasted marshmallow between the chocolate fudge and the ice cream-layered graham crackers. Return the completed smore'wich to the freezer for 15 minutes to firm, then wrap snugly in plastic wrap or wax paper and keep frozen until ready to consume.

ice cream smore'wich

Ice Cream Smore'wich — The Homemade Way

First, you'll need homemade graham crackers. Rather than repainting the Mona Lisa, I will merely refer you to Smitten Kitchen's Awesome Graham Cracker Post.

For the chocolate fudge sauce layer:
Simple Chocolate Fudge Sauce (Makes about 3 cups)

1 cup chopped 60% chocolate (or good quality chocolate chips)
1/2 cup butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or brandy
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine the chocolate and butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Melt over medium-low heat, stirring to blend. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Gradually blend in the milk (or cream). Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the vanilla (or brandy) and salt. Serve immediately or store, chilled. (Can be rewarmed in the microwave.)

Finally, the toasted marshmallow ice cream:

Although the Torani company makes a very exciting-looking Toasted Marshmallow Syrup, I wasn't able to secure any for this test. Instead, I've gone with a classic ice cream base with a toasted marshmallow swirl.

Toasted Marshmallow Swirl Ice Cream (Makes 1+ quart)

For the Toasted Marshmallow Swirl:
15 large-sized marshmallows
1/2 cup milk or water

Place the marshmallows and liquid in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the marshmallows melt and the sauce attains a rich brown color (about 20 minutes). Add a little hot water if the mixture seems too thick and scrape the edges and bottom well to pick up the caramelized sugar.
When the sauce is thick and caramel colored, remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool.

For the Ice Cream Base:
2 free-range eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk

1. Whisk the eggs 1-2 minutes.
2. Whisk in the sugar.
3. When blended, pour in the cream and milk. Blend well.
4. Pour this blend into your ice cream machine and prepare as directed.
5. When the ice cream is very thick and nearly ready (about five to ten minutes before completion), fold in the toasted marshmallow sauce.
6. Pack the ice cream into pints and freeze overnight.

To assemble the homemade Smore'wich
1. Select two graham crackers and slather one side of one graham cracker with chocolate fudge sauce.
2. Slather a thick portion of the ice cream across the length and width of the remaining graham cracker base.
3. Gently compress the coated sides of both graham crackers together. Wrap the sandwich snugly in plastic wrap or wax paper and keep frozen until ready to consume.

While my toasted marshmallow swirl ice cream is pretty tasty, it's not quite as toasty as I'd like it to be.

I still want to try out the toasted marshmallow syrup, but in the meantime, if anyone knows a foolproof method for getting that rich caramelized flavor into ice cream, please let me know in the comments!

Have a lovely long weekend, and happy eating!
Miss Ginsu

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9.01.2009

Giddy for Green Tomato Gazpacho

As the family legend has it, on the night before I was born, my mother cooked up a pizza topped with sliced green tomatoes, and the next morning, pop! There I was. (Though, truth be told, it may actually have taken a bit more effort than I'm leading on...)

I won't go so far as to call green tomatoes some kind of folk remedy for inducing labor, but I sure do think they provide awfully good incentive for anyone taking their sweet time in the womb.

Now that I've been out in the world a few years, I've discovered all kinds of other ideas for what to do with green tomatoes.

Green Tomatoes at the Market

My first suggestion would be that you take just a little time and invest it in making a green tomato chow chow. If you can some now, you'll have it this winter, and it really is just divine, especially when mixed into bean soups, egg salads or (my very favorite) served alongside grilled/broiled meat or fish. Nom!

But if you happen to have a few green tomatoes and not much time to spare, I'd recommend gazpacho. It's easy, it's low-key and since it's not a cooked dish, you won't heat up the kitchen. Or even break a sweat, to be perfectly honest.
Supremely Easy Green Tomato Gazpacho (Serves 3 to 4)

2 cups green tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup green or yellow pepper, roughly chopped
2 small or 1 large clove garlic
1 medium Kirby cucumber, quartered
1 jalapeño pepper, halved and seeds removed (optional)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or 1/2 slice stale bread, torn to pieces
1 cup tomato juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1/2 tsp fresh oregano)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Optional Garnish
chopped cilantro, 1/2" cubes of cucumber, sliced green onion and/or cubed avocado

1. In a blender or food processor, chop the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, cucumber and jalapeño, if using.
2. Add the breadcrumbs or pieces, tomato juice and olive oil. Pulse to incorporate.
3. Stir in the chopped cilantro, oregano and Worcestershire.
4. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to adjust to your desired flavor.
5. Chill for at least three hours (or overnight). Garnish, if desired, and serve cold or at room temperature. It's great with chewy baguette slices or garlic bread.

The beauty of a gazpacho is that it's so flexible and so forgiving. You can leave it chunky or make it really smooth. You can really even drop half the ingredients here and still come out with a tasty soup, though this happens to be the formula I like.

And on that note, you might notice that this recipe is almost identical to the Red Tomato Gazpacho I blogged a few years ago, or maybe even the Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho from last August.

Huh! Funny how that happens! Yes, folks. You're on to me. It's all about theme and variation here at Chez Ginsu...

Salud!
Miss Ginsu

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8.17.2009

How to Stuff a Zucchini Blossom

With so many fruits and vegetables available year-round, it's rare in the modern world to enjoy a food that's really, truly a limited-time offer.

You can get an apple in June, when, by all rights, all the apples from the previous autumn should be long gone. But it seems it's always apple season somewhere, and we've come to rely on that constant availability.

But due to a brief season and great delicacy, the zucchini blossom is, I believe, one of just a handful of what I like to think of as "now or never" foods.

Zucchini Blossoms

But the blossoms are a-blooming right now at the farmers' markets (and in gardens, presumably), so friends... your once-a-year opportunity has arrived.

Quick, now! Snap up a half-dozen and a little crottin of goat cheese or maybe a mild, creamy feta — you'll need just over an ounce, but get two to three ounces of cheese, and you'll have a bit extra left over for topping tasty summer salads.

When it comes down to it, it's very simple to stuff a blossom. I didn't know this until I worked in a restaurant, but after having now stuffed more blossoms than I care to count, I can assure you, the process is dead easy. Like breading a fish fillet. You really can do this, and the results are lovely.

Interior of the zucchini blossom

Just take a sharp paring knife (or a pair of kitchen shears) and slice (or snip) into the blossom along one side. Gently open the petals and remove the pollen-covered pistil inside (that's the yellow tube-shaped part).

Fashion a small, football-shaped portion with about a teaspoon of the cheese and place it where the pistil once was. Close the petals firmly around the cheese. Voila! You're half-way there.

I like to remove the green leafy bits from the base of the flower (I believe they're called sepals) before moving on. If you like, you can do this much ahead of time and just keep the stuffed blossoms chilled for a few hours before it's time to make dinner.

Goat cheese stuffed zucchini blossom

When the time for cooking arrives, you have a few options as far as the breading goes. I've always loved to dip the blossoms in a simple egg wash (one egg beaten with a teaspoon of water), then roll them in panko. Simple as that.

This summer, J requested a version made without wheat flour, so we've been coating zucchini blossoms in seasoned spelt flour.

It's such a flexible recipe, I'll be so bold as to use this rule of thumb: if you can use it to bread a fish or chicken breast, you can probably coat a blossom in it, too.

The cooking process is simple pan-frying. Just dip a stuffed blossom in the egg wash, roll to coat in the panko/flour/crumbs, then move the prepared blossom to a skillet heated over a medium-high flame with a few tablespoons of olive, canola or veg oil.

Cook each blossom about a minute before turning. Continue cooking and gently turning the blossoms until the whole surface crisps, about three minutes total.

Move the cooked blossoms (a pair of tongs helps for this) to a paper towel to cool slightly. Serve hot alongside your favorite entrée. Stuffed blossoms go especially well with grilled meats and seafood or as garnish atop pasta dishes.

We had them with sautéed zucchini and the supremely tasty pork chops of Tamarack Hollow Farm.

If you're in NYC, you can pretty much score the whole meal — blossoms, goat cheese, eggs, zucchini and those superb chops — at the Union Square Market on Wednesdays and test your newfound stuffing skills right away.

But hurry... summer is short, and zucchini blossoms really are a limited-time offer.

Bon appetit!
Miss Ginsu

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8.03.2009

Summer Ceviche Salad with Fresh Papalo

The vendor had noticed us ogling her herbs. "It's papalo! Here, take some with you." she chirped. "I'll write the word down for you. It's from Mexico. Use it like cilantro."

At the next stand over, we scored some gray sole and returned home with arms full of tomatoes, onions, lettuces, cucumbers and this unfamiliar herb.

A quick web search revealed that papalo is indeed native to Mexico, and it grows like a weed across the Southwest US as well as Central and South America. Generally eaten raw, is often added to things like guacamole, salsas and sandwiches.

Fresh Papalo

This site claims the flavor is "somewhere between arugula, cilantro and rue," but having not eaten rue, I thought I tasted something slightly citrusy and minty, like something between cilantro and the sushi bar staple, shiso.

Homesick Texan makes a very pretty salsa verde with it, but on this particularly hot, humid day, we had our minds set on a cool ceviche salad for lunch.

This is just a variation on my basic ceviche recipe. I think the only thing that could have made it more delightful would be a sliced avocado on the side.

Ceviche Salad

Summer Ceviche Salad (Serves two)

2 sole fillets (or another white fish) sliced in 1/2" wide strips
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp honey (or a pinch of sugar)
1 tsp chopped papalo (or cilantro)
1 tsp chopped epazote (optional)
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 radishes, sliced very thin
1/4-1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced very thin
1 green onion (white section) sliced very thin
4 cups mesclun or chopped leaf lettuce

1. Combine the lime juice and salt in a glass/pyrex dish or another non-reactive container.
2. Add the fish slices, tossing well to coat the fish with juice, and chill (for up to, but not more than an hour), stirring once or twice during that time to make sure all the fish surface area comes in contact with the juice.
3. After 20-30 minutes, the fish should look white and opaque. Drain off most of the lime juice and incorporate the olive oil. Coat the fish well.
4. Mix in the honey (or a pinch of sugar) and taste the lime juice-olive oil blend. Adjust the flavor, to taste, with salt/sugar.
5. Toss in the herbs, tomatoes, radishes, jalapeño slices and onion.
6. Divide the lettuce greens and make a bed on each plate. Spoon the ceviche on top of the lettuce and drizzle the greens with the lime juice.

Because it's often used as a substitute for cilantro or culantro, you won't be surprised to learn that the papalo was delicious in our ceviche.

I think it'd also make a delightful addition to fish tacos. That citrusy aspect is bound to make papalo welcome anywhere you'd use a pinch of cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

If you happen to be in NYC, you can get your very own papalo (and epazote and other good-lookin' herbs and veggies) at the Angel Family Farm stand at Tompkins Square on Sundays. Looks like they're based in Goshen, NY, and they run a local CSA, as well.

Salud!
Miss Ginsu

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7.30.2009

Vive la Clafoutis!

Ah, the 14th of July! The season of fresh, local cherries. The celebration of Bastille Day. The time to bake a fruity dessert for this week's Dessert Corps project.

Oh, hey... look at that. It's like a cosmic alignment of forces telling me it's time to make a cherry clafoutis, the traditional custard pudding of Limousin in the heart of la belle France.

Rainier Cherry Bowl

As it happens, the fantastic Dessert Corps volunteer crew provided me with a half-dozen eggs and more than a pound of gorgeous, blushing Rainier Cherries — sweet, fragrant and fresh from the Greenpoint farmers' market.

Not familiar with the Rainier? It was developed in Washington state in the 1950s, as a descendant of the big, beautiful Bing Cherry and the smaller, more obscure (but very hardy) Van Cherry.

Apparently the Rainier fetches princely prices because the birds eat about a third of the crop and because they bruise easily, so there's some waste in transit.

By that measure, a Rainier Cherry Clafoutis is a dessert (or brunch treat) that's fit for kings! Or perhaps just recently deposed royalty! Or maybe even friends who happen to be a bit down on their fortunes and need a bit of home-baked comfort.

Rainier Cherry Clafoutis

You choose the audience. I'll provide the recipe:
Golden Rainier Cherry Clafoutis (Makes one 8" dish)
2 1/2 cups (roughly) pitted Rainier cherries
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup toasted almonds
4 large eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cream (or milk)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)

Confectioner's sugar (for dusting)

1. Preheat oven to 325°F and butter an 8" round or square baking dish.
2. In a medium bowl, gently toss the cherries with the cornstarch and spread evenly across the bottom of the buttered dish.
3. Blend the flour and almonds in a blender or food processor until nuts are very finely chopped.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and salt. Whisk in flour until just mixed.
5. Blend in cream, melted butter, vanilla (or almond) extract and lemon zest (if using), whisking until smooth. Pour this mixture over the cherries.
6. Bake until the center sets and the top begins to turn golden, about 55 minutes.
7. Cool to room temperature before dusting the surface with powdered sugar. Serve with vanilla ice cream or yogurt, if desired.

Bon appétit, mes amis!
Miss Ginsu

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7.14.2009

This Is Just To Say...

The Season's First Tomato

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the tomato
that was on
the fire escape

and which
you were probably
saving
for your return

Forgive me
it was delicious
so rich
and so ripe

Apologies to William Carlos Willaims

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7.13.2009

The Mysteries of Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho

I've known those who salt their watermelon, and those who sugar their tomatoes. I once thought these practices were madness.

After culinary school, I become more flexible in my appreciation of these summer flavors. Yes, watermelon could get along happily in a savory salad. Yes, tomatoes could represent the sweet aspect of a dish.

Tomato & Watermelon

Once I'd gotten past the prejudices of my youth, I learned that tomatoes and watermelon could be great friends in salads.

And yet, tomato and watermelon match-ups still seem like strange bedfellows to me. An odd couple.

"But why is this pairing so strange?" I ask myself. They're both fruit. They grow and ripen together.

In fact, under-ripe watermelons taste quite like cucumbers. Since I think nothing of combining cucumbers and tomatoes, tomato-watermelon dishes should be second nature.

Then each summer tomato + watermelon is a minor culinary revelation. These cautious notions must be simply be old habits dying long, hard, tortured deaths.

Tomato & Watermelon Gazpacho

When I finally do take that terrifying leap and add, gasp! watermelon to my gazpacho... the result isn't horrifying at all. It's truly lovely.

For that matter, this dynamic duo is economical. Since both are simultaneously in surplus at the same time, it's a quick (and rewarding) task to blend them up together into soup.
Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho (Makes about 6 cups)

1/2 cup water or tomato juice
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
1 cup watermelon, seeded & cubed
1 small cucumber, peeled and quartered
1/4 small red onion
1/2 jalapeño pepper (or substitute 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper)
1 slice whole-grain bread, torn into small pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh lime juice (optional)

Optional Garnishes
1-2 Tbsp cilantro or mint, chopped
1 Tbsp small-diced cucumber
1 Tbsp small-diced watermelon
1 Tbsp crumbled fresh cheese or feta

1. Combine water or juice, tomatoes, watermelon, cucumber, onion, 1/2 jalapeño, bread pieces and salt in a blender or food processor and purée smooth. (You may need to do this in batches.)

2. Taste the gazpacho and adjust the seasoning with 1 tsp fresh lime juice and a little more salt, if desired.

3. Chill one hour or until ready to serve (the flavor will improve overnight). Garnish with chopped herbs, mint, diced cucumber, diced watermelon and/or crumbled fresh cheese.

I find that crunchy fresh-baked croutons are really nice in a gazpacho as well. Or go crazy and throw on some bacon bits. It's a flexible dish.

This is actually a great dish for brown bagging. Just skip the garnish. It'll hold up well for a few hours without refrigeration and won't require on-site heating. Serve it with a salad for a lovely light lunch at some lunching locale of your choice. Like, say... the park.

Salud!
Miss Ginsu

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8.28.2008

Simplicity, Thy Name is Bruschetta

Friends, it appears to be Tomato Week here at Chez Ginsu, so if you're not a love apple lover, I'd encourage you to stop back next week, when we'll see some tantalizing sweet stuff and a post on the tastiest yogurt I could find in these parts.

But for now, it's all about that juicy little god of the gardening world.

Tomatoes in the market bins

Truthfully, I'm so crazy about good, ripe tomatoes, I don't touch them for most of the year.

Late fall through early summer, I'll get by with cherry tomatoes, dried tomatoes and canned tomatoes. But when the lush, fresh, local tomatoes start rolling in, woo-hoo! Apologies to snow bunnies, but I feel tomato season really marks the most wonderful time of the year.

Time was, I used to believe that the open-faced, sliced tomato sandwich was probably the ultimate tomato-worship recipe (and no, biting into a tomato or just eating the slices doesn't count as a recipe).

Grilled ciabatta bread

But I did some rooftop garden-sitting for my boss last week, and now I've gone even more puritanical. No compound-ingredient spread necessary. Just grilled bread, olive oil and tomatoes. (Maybe salt, pepper and some fresh basil, if it happens to be on hand.)

This is the kind of recipe that's so simple, highest quality in each ingredient is key to success. Mealy tomatoes, off-flavored oil, gummy bread? Any flaw ruins the whole dish.

It's also the kind of recipe that seems to occur to just about anyone who has bread, olive oil and tomatoes on hand. In Spain, they might call it pa amb tomaquet
and in Italy, you might see it served as a bruschetta, but it's the same tasty idea. Go all crazy with this line of thought, and you'll soon find yourself eating pizza.

Grilled Tomato Bruschetta

Cherry tomatoes? Beefsteaks? Green zebras? Brandywines? Tomato type doesn't matter, as long as they're luscious.

The bread? I like a ciabatta or a baguette, but that's also negotiable. Just make sure it's good bread and the holes aren't too big.

Pick an olive oil you love (grassy, buttery, spicy... it's up to you), and while the grill's heating up for your entrée, throw down some generously brushed slices of bread.

Easy-peasy. Pour a glass of wine, munch a tomato-topped slice and offer a toast to simplicity.

Miss Ginsu

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8.26.2008

Mad for Peaches

Millions of peaches, peaches for me...

With July now ripe and full, I believe the whole world's tipping at the brink of peach madness.

Over at the White On Rice Couple blog, one finds adorable dogs licking peaches.

I myself just received 15 juicy little darlings in last night's CSA box. They're about to become peach compote or peach pie or maybe just peaches with yogurt if only I can keep myself from devouring them all in a dripping, fleshy mess over the sink.



Then, of course, I stumbled over this entertaining peach reverie (from The Chronicles of Clovis by Saki [H. H. Munro]) at Project Gutenberg while eating a particularly fine specimen myself:

"How nice of you to remember my aunt when you can no longer recall the names of the things you ate.

Now my memory works quite differently. I can remember a menu long after I've forgotten the hostess that accompanied it. When I was seven years old I recollect being given a peach at a garden-party by some Duchess or other; I can't remember a thing about her, except that I imagine our acquaintance must have been of the slightest, as she called me a 'nice little boy,' but I have unfading memories of that peach.

It was one of those exuberant peaches that meet you halfway, so to speak, and are all over you in a moment. It was a beautiful unspoiled product of a hothouse, and yet it managed quite successfully to give itself the airs of a compote. You had to bite it and imbibe it at the same time.

To me there has always been something charming and mystic in the thought of that delicate velvet globe of fruit, slowly ripening and warming to perfection through the long summer days and perfumed nights, and then coming suddenly athwart my life in the supreme moment of its existence. I can never forget it, even if I wished to.

And when I had devoured all that was edible of it, there still remained the stone, which a heedless, thoughtless child would doubtless have thrown away; I put it down the neck of a young friend who was wearing a very décolleté sailor suit.

I told him it was a scorpion, and from the way he wriggled and screamed he evidently believed it, though where the silly kid imagined I could procure a live scorpion at a garden-party I don't know. Altogether, that peach is for me an unfading and happy memory--"


Now, I wasn't going to offer up a recipe at all, because, after all, a summer peach is a glorious thing. Why mess with success, right?

But then I realized that I've been needlessly cruel. In checking through my online recipe file, it's clear that I've never posted my glorious Ginger Peach Pie. For shame! It's a delight that never fails to please a crowd.

And, after all, one who is blessed with peaches should at least consider sharing them. Especially with ice cream. Or crème fraîche.
Spiced Ginger Peach Pie (with or without crumble topping, below)

2 Tbsp dry tapioca pearls
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2-3/4 tsp garam masala blend (or substitute 1/4 tsp ground allspice, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/4 tsp ground dry ginger or cinnamon)
1/4 tsp salt
3 large peaches, sliced in 1/2" wedges
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger (about 1" piece)
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp lime zest

1 pie crust
Crumble topping (use a double crust if you're not doing the crumble topping)

1. Heat oven to 375°F and blind bake* the pie shell for 10-15 minutes.
2. Pulverize the tapioca pearls with a clean coffee grinder, a mortar/pestle or a food processor. Blend the powdered tapioca with the brown sugar and garam masala (or ground spices) and salt.
3. In a mixing bowl, gently combine the peach slices with the freshly grated ginger, brown sugar/tapioca blend, lime juice and zest.
4. Pour the peach mixture into the baked pie shell, packing the slices into place.
5. Sprinkle evenly with the crumble topping (if using) or lay on the top pie crust. If using a pie crust top, be sure to open up several holes to allow steam to escape.
6. Bake the pie on a cookie sheet for about 45 minutes (or until the filling bubbles), checking the pie after 20 minutes to make sure the edges aren't overbrowning. (If the edges do start looking a bit brown, cover them with strips of aluminum foil.)
7. Cool the pie on a rack for approximately 1 hour before serving.

*Blind baking is a process that involves pre-cooking the pie shell a bit (usually with pie weights or dry beans in the shell to keep it from bubbling and rising). This keeps the crust more crisp, which is especially nice for juicy fruit pies.

Crumble Topping
3 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, optional
1 dash salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup pecans, walnuts or pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut in 1/2" pieces

1. In a mixing bowl, blend together flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, oats and nuts.
2. Cut the butter into the mixture with a fork until the blend resembles a uniform gravel. Sprinkle atop the pie filling and bake as directed above.


Cheers!

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7.24.2008

Apricots, Apriums, Plumcots, Pluots & Plums



Am I the only one that's confused by exactly what the difference is between a pluot and a plumcot?

Heck... It was only very recently that I discovered the existence of the aprium.

As it turns out, pluots and apriums aren't just recently popularized fruits. They're the result of hard work by the Zaiger family of Modesto, California, who for the last 30 years or so, have been quietly marrying apricots and plums — among other stone fruits — in an effort to create crazy new fruits (with Zaiger-registered trademarks, of course) for the marketplace.

As it turns out, apricots, like plums are actually members of the same species, Prunus. Who knew? Well, apparently the Zaigers knew.

In general, I find any in-season stonefruit to be so delightful, a recipe is hardly necessary. Just a napkin, please.

That said, you can dress up any stonefruit just a bit by making a quickie summer pastry with it. For little tartlet, don't even fuss with making up a pastry base. Just thaw some puff pastry, mount it with macerated fruit (use whichever ones you happen to run across) and bake. Voila! Stonefruit perfection.
Plum/Apricot Tartlets (Servings Vary)

Frozen puff pastry (thawed)
1 Apricot, Aprium, Plumcot, Pluot or Plum per serving (cut in 1/2" slices)
1/2 tsp sugar per fruit
1-2 shakes ground cinnamon (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 400°F.
2. Cut 1 4"x 4" puff pastry square for each serving. Rewrap and freeze any remaining puff pastry.
3. Place pastry squares on a baking sheet.
4. Stir sliced stonefruit, sugar and cinnamon (if using) in a mixing bowl.
5. Pile sugared fruit in the center of each pastry square, leaving a 1" pastry border.
6. Fold up the edges to create casual pastry cups around the fruit, and bake for 30 minutes, or until pastry is golden.

As you can imagine, these are really nice served warm with plain yogurt, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

Cheers!

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7.08.2008

Recession-Proof Recipes: Summertime Succotash

It's really, truly summer when the sweet corn arrives. Then we see the the zucchini and tomatoes. And that's when it's time for summer succotash — one of the most lovely, fresh and versatile of seasonal salads.

summer succotash

By definition, a succotash consists of beans and corn — sometimes baked.

But the succotashes I've always known have been simple summer salads composed of just-shucked sweet corn, ripe tomatoes, beans (sometimes green beans, sometimes lima beans or kidney beans) and maybe even some jalapeño, slices of zucchini, fresh-chopped basil, fresh parsley or cubes of smoky bacon. Some people use sliced fresh okra.

In theory, this is an inexpensive dish. Everything should be in season, and very little is absolutely required, so unavailable or unattainable ingredients can be skipped.

Clearly, I'm no succotash purist. But it's summertime, and the livin' is supposed to be easy.

So use this recipe for a basis and then go crazy. Add in yellow squash, sliced scallions or red bell peppers. Maybe you'll toss in some cooked salad shrimp. It doesn't matter. Succotash is going to be delicious any way you choose to do it.
Easy Summertime Succotash (Serves 6-8)
4 ears corn
1/4 cup fresh basil and/or parsley, chopped
1 15oz can lima beans, kidney beans or canneloni beans, rinsed well
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 lb sliced bacon, cooked crisp (optional)

1. Cut the kernels away from the corn and hold in a large mixing bowl.
2. Mix in the drained beans, chopped herb(s) and tomato halves.
3. While whisking, drizzle the olive oil into the cider vinegar to incorporate the two into a simple vinaigrette.
4. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with crumbled bacon, if desired. Serve immediately or hold at room temperature for an hour or two until serving time.

Summertime succotash also won't wilt like green salads, so it makes a good barbecue side or a "make it & take it" dish for potlucks and picnics.

Cheers!

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7.03.2008

No stove, please. I'll have ceviche.

Bah! Cooking... Who needs it? With the temps the 80s and high humidity all week, I just can't get excited about turning on the oven when I come home from work. Raw-food diets suddenly begin to seem more attractive.

J and I try to maintain a Fish n' Film Friday dinner (it's a great mnemonic device to keep fish in our diets), but the thought of turning on the stove last week was just... too... much. So then, our thoughts turned to tangy, spicy bits of ceviche.

Grouper ceviche
Grouper ceviche with radishes, jalapeño and cilantro

Ceviche (sometimes spelled seviche) is simply thin-sliced (or cubed) raw fish that's marinated in a strong acid, usually citrus-based, such as lemon, lime or grapefruit juice. The acid pickles or "cooks" the fish, turning its appearance from translucent to opaque.

Ceviche can be made with salmon or mackerel, of course, but those are fattier, more fully-flavored fish. I prefer the white fishes or ceviches made with shell-off shrimp and scallops. My recommendation? Go with snapper, grouper, sea bass, flounder, halibut, sole or mahi-mahi and doll it up with whatever tasty things you have in the fridge.

Chopped herbs or minced onions are a natural. Peruvian ceviche is very minimalist (and usually served with onions, sweet potatoes and corn), while Mexican ceviche is often mixed with a sort of pico de gallo of chilies, tomatoes and onions. I recently discovered it's also delightful when mixed with chopped-up pickled onions or pickled ramps.
Basic Ceviche
1 pound white fish (sliced uniformly thin), shelled shrimp or scallops
1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 4 limes)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp olive oil

Optional extras
1 Tbsp chopped pickled ramps
1 small red onion, sliced very thin and rinsed in cold water
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
3-4 radishes, sliced very thin
1/4 red pepper, diced
1/4-1/2 jalapeño pepper, sliced very thin

1. Combine the lime juice, salt and cilantro.
2. Put the fish in a glass/pyrex dish or another non-reactive container.
3. Pour the lime juice mixture over the fish and chill for up to two hours, stirring once or twice during this time to make sure all the surfaces are covered.
4. After two hours, the fish should look white and opaque. Drain off the lime juice and toss the fish with olive oil to stop the "cooking." Season to taste. (You may wish to mix in the tiniest pinch of sugar if the mixture seems too tart.)
5. Toss in your choice of optional extras, or simply serve as-is, over fresh greens or piled in a cocktail glass.

For my own personal tastes, I find that ceviche cries out for some tortillas (fresh or fried), a crisp salad of fresh greens or even avocados and a cold beer. Wheat beers like Hefeweizen seem to work very well, as do classic Mexican beers like Sol, Corona or Negra Modelo.

Salud!

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6.17.2008

Oh, Yes... Apricots!

Apricots

Goodness! What's to be done with three pounds of apricots?

Well, you could eat apricots until you never care to see another apricot again. There's also salads, crisps, tarts, jams, pickles and purées, of course.

But what of chutney? Sweet, savory, spicy and simple. You really can't go wrong with a few pints of chutney stacked in storage.

It's fantastic straight up on lamb, chicken, pork, salmon or duck, you can thin it a bit for a glaze or a fruit salad drizzle, mix up a tablespoon with a bit of canola oil and cider vinegar for a first-rate vinaigrette.

It'd be fun on vanilla ice cream or in a tart. Not to mention a pairing with cheese. A blue, perhaps? A friendly goat?

Here's my version...
Apricot-Ginger Chutney

3 Tbsp canola oil
1 dried chili
2 cinnamon sticks
5 star anise
1 large onion, minced
3" piece fresh ginger, chopped
2 cups sake (or dry white wine)
3 lbs fresh apricots, pitted & quartered
1 1/2 Tbsp ground, dried ginger
1 1/2 Tbsp ground black pepper
1/4 c rice vinegar (or to taste)
3 T brown sugar (or to taste)
1/2 Tbsp salt (or to taste)

1. Heat the canola oil with the chili, cinnamon and star anise (no more than 1-2 minutes).
2. Add in the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add in the ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
4. Pour in the sake/wine and add apricot slices. Simmer until the apricots are tender. (Simmer a bit less if you like a chunkier chutney.) Blend in the pepper and dried ginger.
5. Strain the mixture through a colander, reserving juices. Pick out the spices and discard. Pour the reserved juices back to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and bubbly (about 15-20 minutes).
6. Taste the thickened chutney liquid, adjusting the acid-sweetness-salt balance with a touch of rice vinegar, sugar and/or salt.
7. Incorporate the apricot pulp in the colander into the liquid in the pot. Transfer to sterilized jars (if you're canning), or cool the mixture and transfer it to prepared pint containers (for short-term refrigeration or longer-term freezing).

Makes enough to fill three pint containers, and takes around an hour from start to finish. Slap a cute homemade label on the jar, and it's great for gifting!

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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8.24.2005

Hello, Summer! Goodbye, Summer!

Fresh Currants
black currants

Bing Cherries
sweet bing cherries

Sour Cherries
tart cherries

Haiku for a Fleeting Moment

A flash of color!
berries strut in the market's
sweet summer moment.

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7.26.2005

Sweet-Tart-Cool-Fresh-Bliss!

A composed dessert

J. made this for me because he's full of good things and has to share some of them in order to avoid bursting open, which would be terribly unattractive and inconvenient.

A splendid summer sweet, this dessert is lovely to look at and tangy-sweet-refreshing to consume. Some of the nicest dinner-endings are more like delightful assemblies of good ingredients and less like cooking or baking

Thus, I will attempt to relay the assembly list for you:

A Quick & Lovely Summer Dessert
Lime-Basil Gelato (Il Laboratorio del Gelato)
New Jersey Blueberries
Torn Fresh Mint Leaves
Drizzle of Lime-Blossom Honey

If you were serving this to a crowd, I'd ask you to consider chilling the plates in the freezer and putting down a gingersnap or a teaspoon of poundcake crumbs before plating the gelato. That keeps the melty-ness at bay while you do up a series of plates for your lucky guests.

Bon appétit!
Miss Ginsu

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7.25.2005

mel·on·cho·li·a

mel·on·cho·li·a (n.)



A mental disorder characterized by hopelessness and withdrawal stemming from a realization that the melon season is short, while the rest of the year is filled with charlatans masquerading in the market stalls.


Six melons you need to befriend:

1. Crenshaw... seductive, sexy, sweetly spicy with rich, gold-pink flesh
2. Charantais... queen of the melon patch reigns in a cloud of delicate, floral scents
3. Casaba... custard-smooth sweetness with a hint of its cousin, the cucumber
4. Juan Canary Melons... honey-perfumed and creamy white-fleshed
5. Ambrosia... intensely orange, sweeter and muskier than the muskmelon
6. Persian... firm, orange flesh that blends the fragrant flavors of air and earth

It's also handy to keep in mind that melons love to be near: ginger, prosciutto, manchego, mint, lime, lemongrass, chili, nutmeg and arugula.

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7.19.2005

Eat This Now: 8-Ball Zucchini

8-Ball Zucchini

More fun at the farmers' market... my produce girl recommended these lovely 8-ball zucchini. What veg lover could bypass such adorable little squashes?

Besides boasting a beguiling green skin, they also have a satisfying heft in the palm. (No squash tossing allowed, kiddies.)

The name is whimsical fun, but in fact, these little babies are closer to the size of a baseball than an eight.

Produce Girl likes 'em sliced, fried and used in sandwiches, on pizza, in wraps, etc. Online, dominant theories seem to lean toward scraping out the insides and stuffing 'em. They'd be fab with a ratatouille, but here's a handful of other fillings to try...

Orzo Stuffing
Sausage & Fennel Stuffing
Feta & Basil Stuffing

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7.05.2005

Eat This Now: Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums. Look for 'em next time you're at the farmer's market.

Quiz your Great Aunt Bea to see if she sprays hers for pesticides and, if not, plot a midnight raid on her flowerbeds.

Prime your window-box or fire escape flowerpot now... there's still time for a late-summer harvest.

Nasturtiums are wholly edible — flowers, stems, leaves, flowerbuds and seeds — and they add a peppery kick to salads, sandwiches, cream cheese and compound butters.

Infuse some in your favorite white wine vinegar to lend your winter days a touch of color and cheer.

Praise their beauty. Appreciate their vigor. Devour them whole in front of an astounded six-year-old and grin devilishly.

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7.01.2005

Ladies & Gentlemen, the BBQ will be televised...

Oh yes, my friends... it's that time of year again.

Here's my tips for surviving the 3rd annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party in NYC this weekend.


The Susquehanna Tool & Die Company sweat in their costumes before hitting the stage.


Don McLemore (Big Bob Gibson's grandson) slings smoky piles of pig at their mobile pit. McLemore, his wife, Caroline, and their son-in-law, Chris Lilly, have braved this madhouse event three years running.


Eleven Madison provides chocolate-chocolate cupcakes with cow and pig sprinkles.


Early attendees scarf down swine samples on the wing.

1. Show up before it begins at noon. By the time the dinner bell rings, you'd better be in line. With cash. (There's always that $100 Bubba Fast Pass for those who have money to burn, of course... and if you happen to know any of those people, please be a doll and send 'em my way.)

2. If you'd like to sample multiple 'cues (seize the day, people!), divide and conquer. Send someone out to each pit you want to taste. Have 'em buy multiple boxes.

3. Bring your own bottle of soda or water (or, hey! lemonade!) in your bag. No sense in paying a premium price and then having to carry it around. You'll need your hands for barbeque.

4. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.

5. Bring a blanket and stake out a spot in the shade on the lawn. From there, you can listen to music, revel in your superior attack plan and pity all the poor, sweaty masses queued up for 'cue.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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6.11.2005

Chilled Spinach Soup. So cool. So refreshing.

Cool Spinach Soup
Hot day, cool soup.

Martha Stewart's May issue contained an enticing Chilled Yogurt-Spinach Soup with Shrimp.

It was pretty steamy and warm today, and although I didn't have the requisite cucumbers, Greek-style yogurt, chicken broth, red onion or fresh spinach, I really couldn't face going grocery shopping or doing any actual cooking.

So I changed her recipe up a bit. Never fear! It's still really lovely and couldn't be faster or more satisfying on a stuffy June evening.

I served mine up with a few steamed shrimp and felt blissful. Now if only my landlords would let me out into their backyard...

Chilled Yogurt-Spinach Soup
1 pkg frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
2 cups plain yogurt
8 oz sour cream
2 scallions (chopped roughly)
2-3 fat garlic cloves
Juice of one lime
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups light stock (I used a fish stock, but chicken would be fine)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Pea shoots for garnish

Blend spinach, yogurt, sour cream, scallions, garlic, lime juice, olive oil and stock in blender until smooth. Garnish with fresh pea shoots, chopped parsley, fresh mint, basil or maybe croutons and serve immediately.

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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6.05.2005

Gazpacho redemption

Sadly, one of my favorite local joints recently charged me $6 for the pleasure of a cup and a half of poorly made gazpacho... gazpacho with far too much raw onion and nearly no spice or salt.

Worst, it just tasted flat. It needed a shot of acid. It came with a little sprinkle of chives, but no pita, no cracker, no toast tip. Alas!



Above you see the gazpacho I was hoping for. Nicely spiced, mouth-wateringly zesty, with rich tomato flavor and hints of celery, cucumber and fresh jalapeño.

All it took was a quick trip to the farmers' market and a spin through the blender. Some stuff out of the pantry... salt, pepper, a shot of lemon juice... Adjust seasoning and add a couple slices of awesome garlic cheese bread on the side.

Heavenly. Inexpensive. Satisfying. A'la Scarlett O'Hara, I'm compelled to alert the world, "With god as my witness, ah will never suffer substandard gazpacho again!"

Just Good Old Gazpacho (Serves 3-4)
2 cups ripe, red tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup green or yellow pepper, roughly chopped
2 small or 1 large clove garlic
1 medium cucumber, quartered
1 jalapeño pepper, halved and seeds removed (optional)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or 1/2 slice stale bread, torn to pieces
1 cup tomato juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar (or substitute lemon juice)
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1/2 tsp fresh oregano)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Optional Garnish
chopped cilantro, 1/2" cubes of cucumber, sliced green onion and/or cubed avocado

1. In a blender or food processor, chop the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, cucumber and jalapeño, if using.
2. Add the breadcrumbs or pieces, tomato juice, olive oil and vinegar. Pulse to incorporate.
3. Stir in the chopped cilantro, oregano and Worcestershire.
4. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to adjust to your desired flavor.
5. Chill for at least three hours (or overnight). Garnish, if desired, and serve cold or at room temperature.

As I mentioned, I served it with the garlic cheese bread I picked up at the farmers' market, but you can go with croutons, baguette or whichever loaf you love.

Bon appetit!
Miss Ginsu

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8.28.2004

A Moment of Tomato Bliss



Anything you're forced to eat over the sink or off the edge of the deck has got to be good eats.

Case in point: the Summer Tomato Sandwich.

My landlord leaves tomatoes and cucumbers on the ledge of my kitchen windowsill. These strange (but very welcome) offerings make their way into my meals in a whimsical, offhand fashion.

The Summer Tomato Sandwich is maybe the most simple, most beautiful of these celebratory dining moments.
1. Take one perfectly ripe garden-grown tomato.
2. Slice fresh-baked bread (my current favorite is the farmer's market garlic-cheese loaf).
3. Slather bread slices with a thin layer of mayonnaise for use as a flavor and moisture-barrier component.
4. Season tomato slices with salt and freshly-ground pepper. Place tomato slices atop slathered bread slices.
5. Close sandwich and eat immediately over the sink, astride the fire escape, or off the edge of the patio. Experience bliss.
6. Lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

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8.18.2004

Mi Horchata = Cold Comfort

Our cool, damp spring screeches to a sudden halt with a day so muggy it's like walking around in someone's mouth.

And of course the air conditioner's out at work. Can't think. Can't focus. So sweaty and gritty I want to peel my skin off. A cool, white, liquid beacon hovers in my mind like a shimmering promise of sweet refreshment. Horchata.

Horchata

In Mexico, horchata is a creamy, lightly sweetened rice milk blended with flavors of cinnamon and almond. The drink was brought to Mexico from Spain, and was probably brought to Spain by the Moors, who made it with the chufa — a root pod also known as the “tigernut.”

I’m told that chufa horchata is liquid ambrosia, but since my corner market doesn’t sell a lot of chufa, I can’t corroborate that rumor. The sad fact of the matter is, I can’t even find a rice-based horchata ‘round my pierogi-rich ‘hood. What’s an overheated girl to do?

Luckily, horchata is extremely simple to make, and since there’s so many variations out there, it seems nearly impossible go wrong.

Some recipes use a little milk or coconut milk. Some add in a bit of lime zest or a squeeze of juice. Some use a little vanilla. Some instructions recommend grinding the dry rice to a powder before adding water. Others tell you to cook the rice nice and soft first, then blend it to a smooth consistency. (You could, of course, skip the rice preparation altogether and just use a commercial rice milk like Rice Dream.)
Mi Horchata (Makes enough for 4-6 folks)

White rice (1 cup per roughly 8-10 cups of water)
Whole raw almonds (maybe a cup)
Cinnamon (1-2 sticks)
Sugar (1/2 cup or more, to your taste)

1. In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, simmer the rice, almonds, cinnamon and water until very tender (about 30 minutes).
2. Remove the cinnamon stick.
3. If a thicker version is desired, blend the mixture smooth in batches in a blender or food processor.
4. Strain through layered cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Chill well. Pour in an ice-filled glass and revel in the cool, creamy (non-dairy!) goodness.

Some folks like theirs with chewy rice at the bottom, something like the tapioca pearls in bubble tea.

Personally, I find that it's lovely blended, strained and poured over crushed ice like a cocktail. Throw in a touch of rum or tequila if the mood strikes you. Oh, what's that? The heat index is up over 100? Bring it on.

Miss Ginsu

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6.09.2004