Thursday, October 28, 2010

Monthly micro-batch: candy striped fig ice cream

I'm not much of an ice cream girl. Everyone else on earth, their favorite part of Italy? Gelato. Me. Meh. As a result, the new shared ice cream machine has really only been used for sorbet.

Until today.

All summer, we have beautiful mission figs. But one day, I found candy striped figs. These beauties look like candy, with the bright yellow and green on the outside, and the luscious red, seedy interior. It just made sense to use them for ice cream.

Ingredients (adapted from Fun and Food Blog):
  • 2 cups fresh figs, cut into quarters
  • 2 T honey
  • 1/8 cup sugar (or adjust to taste, I don't like mine so sweet)
  • 1/4 C brandy
  • 2 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 eggs, beaten
In a small saucepan over medium high heat, saute the figs until they start to soften. Add the brandy, honey, and sugar and mix well. Continue to cook until the sugar is totally dissolved. Take off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

You can either mash the figs up by hand or put them in the blender for a quick whirl (not too long to preserve the chunkiness).

Meanwhile, in a separate medium saucepan over medium high heat, warm up the milk and whipping cream. Stirring frequently with a whisk, bring it to almost boiling, but don't let it boil. Hint from Alton Brown, as soon as you see a bubble hit the surface, take it off the heat. Let this cool to almost room temperature, too.

Whisk the eggs into the milk mixture. Then stir in the fig mixture. Mix well, but note that the fig mixture will likely clump together a bit. Put in the fridge overnight. The next day, process the mixture in an ice cream maker until doubled in size. (I should have remembered to take a picture of this part. I'm still mesmerized watching it and must have been distracted.)  Then allow to sit in the freezer for another hour or so to harden up a bit.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


It happens to all of us. It's nothing to be ashamed of. We all grab the fresh, warm, beautiful crunchy baguette at the bakery, or fill our kitchens with the lovely smell of our own fresh bread, fully intending to eat the entire thing in one sitting. Sometimes we do. But oftentimes we end up the next day with a half-eaten loaf that resembles a broken wooden bat. Now what?

My mother always used to keep all the heels of bread in the freezer for future use. After a few months, we ended up with a freezer full of plastic bags with a few slices of bread each. When we reached critical frozen bread mass, she'd take them all out and make homemade bread crumbs.

Like my mother, I also throw hard bread in the freezer for future use. When in Italy I found a new use for old bread - ribollita. This traditional Italian dish is another one of those things where you pretty much use what you have on hand in terms of vegetables and meat. It usually contains pancetta, but I chose to make it vegetarian.


  • 1/2 C cannellini dried beans, rehydrated for 8 hours (or a can of beans)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped (add a few chopped carrots and celery if you have them)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped (use a can of tomatoes are not in season)
  • 1/2 bunch rainbow chard (kale in the original recipe, but chard is tasty and in season)
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 2 C vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you want it to be meatier)
  • 4 C stale bread, cut to pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra special olive oil, for drizzling

Cover dry beans with water in the morning and place covered on the counter while you're at work. They'll be ready to go when you get home.

After rehydrating the beans, cook the beans in about 5 cups of water over medium heat for between 45 minutes and an hour, till tender.

While cooking the beans, blanche the tomatoes and cut up all the other ingredients.

When the beans are almost done, saute the onions (and carrots and celery) over medium high heat in olive oil till translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two more. Then add the rest of the vegetables and white wine and cover. Season with salt to taste.

When the chard wilts, add the stock and bread and mix thoroughly. Cook until the bread is soggy and well integrated. Add water as needed, but note that this shouldn't really be soupy. Add the beans.

To serve, place in a bowl. Crack pepper on top and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, either Italian or Greek style to add that extra earthy, spiciness.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Stuffed zucchini flowers

I was at the farmers' market on Saturday and did my normal freak out where I buy almost more food than I can actually carry home. But even though I had more than I needed, I couldn't pass up the zucchini flowers. Partially because they're so beautiful, but also because I love the farmer. He's the nicest guy I've ever met, always giving great advice and always selling his stuff at a reasonable price (I got 5 flowers for one dollar). The thing that kills me is that whereas other farmers bring truckloads of food to the market, he only has a few baskets, but it's always amazing quality and often times, quite intriguing. One week he was selling beautiful mature ginger and ginger leaves. This week he had zucchini and zucchini flowers.

I asked me trusty farmer how to cook them and he suggested to saute them with olive oil, even though, he said, most people like to stuff them with goat cheese. He prefers to eat them sans goat cheese, because the flower is delicate and subtle, and can be overpowered by the strong flavor of goat cheese.

Even though I love cheese, I was not discouraged, but I did take his advice to heart when searching for recipes online. I ended up with a variation of a recipe from Jamie Oliver that uses ricotta instead of goat cheese. Instead of using mint, as Jamie suggests, I substituted sage, which goes well with winter squash and also added some soft, warm sweetness to the dish.


  • 10 zucchini flowers
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese
  • 6 leaves sage, minced
  • 1 chili pepper, minced
  • dash nutmeg
  • lemon zest of one half lemon
  • salt to taste
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of flour
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 2 C cooking oil
  • lemon wedges

Mix the cheese with the spices and herbs.

Pull or cut the stamen out of the flower. Stuff the cheese mix into the flower gently close the flower.

Heat the oil in a deep, but narrow pan to approximately 350ยบ F. Mix the flour, wine, and a bit of salt till it makes a batter the consistency of heavy cream (mix a little bit at a time and adjust as necessary to get the right consistency). Dip a flower into the batter, completely covering. Then allow the excess batter to drip off.

Put the flower into the hot oil. Ooooh, watch those puppies sizzle! Cook for a minute or two on each side, until golden.

Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pioppini and a poached egg

I am an absolute maniac for mushrooms. Fortunately there's an awesome mushroom farmer at my local market. I've seen the most amazing mushrooms there. I'm talking some pretty crazy stuff - like something that truly resembled blanched brains. I ended up in a love affair with the velvet pioppini. Yes, it is absolutely inviting with its long, lean stems and tiny, deep brown heads. Also, its texture is firm in your mouth, regardless of how much heat you give it. But the best thing for me, as someone who tries to forgo meat, is that it makes the perfect pairing with bold red wines.

You can use the pioppini anywhere you would use mushrooms. Atop a pizza is perfect. I like them lightly sauted, as in this recipe. Served with a poached egg on top and more veggies below, I end up with the perfect small dinner that feels a lot bigger than it is.

  • 1/2 head chard (or spinach), stems removed
  • 1 pint pioppini mushroms, bottoms chopped off
  • 1/s t fresh thyme and rosemary, minced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 poached egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
Put a large sauce pan over high heat and add 1 T olive oil. As the oil heats up, thinly slice the chard. Add the chard to the pan and saute, stirring continually, till fully wilted, approximately 2 minutes. Remove from pan, lower heat to medium, and add the rest of the olive oil. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil for the egg. Add 1 T white vinegar right before adding the egg.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and then the egg to the boiling water and turn down slightly. Use a wooden spoon to keep the whites of the egg from separating from the rest of the egg. Stir the mushrooms and add the herbs and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep stirring approximately 2-3 minutes (until the egg is done to your liking).

Make a pile of the chard in a deep bowl. On top of that, pile your lovely pioppini. Then place the poached egg at the very top, like a poached egg cherry on a vegetable sundae (hmm, that sounded better in my head).