Showing posts with label Recipe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recipe. Show all posts

19 August, 2012

Strawberry-Balsamic Ice Pops

When summer temperatures soar, I can't seem to get enough Popsicles, ice cream, and frozen fruit pops. I rarely indulge in a lot of sweets anymore, but I admit that I'm a sucker for frozen desserts. When I saw the book People's Pops, I immediately ordered it with some ice pop trays, and made my own. I've played around with making lots of ice creams in the past but these are a bit different, are incredibly simple to make, and take almost no time to throw together (but then you have to wait 5 or 6 hours to indulge, so you need to plan ahead).

I adapted this recipe from the book by adding cream and not using lemon juice; the balsamic is definitely enough "sour" to brighten the flavor of the strawberries. I've enjoyed strawberry-balsamic ice cream the last couple of years, so felt the cream would give it a great consistency. There are 64 other fantastic and unique ice pop recipes in this book, many using herbs, some have booze, and many have unconventional fruits for ice pops, such as apples, canteloupe, and figs. I will definitely be using this book well into fall, as there are seasonal varieties, depending on what's in season.

People's Pops is an ice pop shop in New York City that is going like gangbusters. With recipes like this, I can totally see why.


1 lb. strawberries, hulled
3/4 cup simple syrup (recipe below)
1/4 cup cream
3 TB balsamic, or to taste (the average supermarket variety is fine in this recipe)


Make the simple syrup several hours ahead by combining 2/3 cup water with 2/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved and liquid is transparent. Remove from heat and cool.

Put the strawberries, syrup, cream, and balsamic in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. (If you like bigger fruit chunks, don't completely puree.)

Pour the strawberry mixture into your fruit pop molds; leave a half-inch of room at the top for expansion. Insert the sticks and freeze for about 5 or 6 hours, or until solid.

To unmold, run some warm water over the outside edges of the molds for a few seconds and then lightly tug at the sticks until they release. Serve immediately, or put into freezer bags and freeze for later.

Makes 10 normal-sized frozen fruit pops.


24 June, 2012

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

My friend Lorna Yee (author of The Newlywed Kitchen) made this recipe, and another friend of mine posted about it. I've been wanting to try it ever since and finally did this last weekend. Now, I don't normally give one recipe triple air time, but it really is too good of a recipe not to share.

I'm not one to make such claims as anything being "perfect." In fact, I think perfection is overrated, which is why I skipped Lorna's step about rolling them into perfectly round balls before baking them--I love a good lumpy, malformed cookie. (If, however, you strive for perfection, roll the balls in the palm of your hands before placing them on the cookie sheet like Lorna does.)

With the bitter dark chocolate, the salty crunch of the sea salt, and the sweetness of three different kinds of sugar, this cookie really kicks all of the various tastebuds into action. It's a total flavor bomb.

I am not going to suggest any alternatives to ingredients listed here because I really do believe that some of the non-traditional cookie ingredients (demerara sugar, bittersweet chocolate, bread flour, fleur de sel) make this the sublime masterpiece that it is. Another ingredient you definitely don't want to substitute is the unsalted butter. If you're like me, and typically just use whatever butter you have on hand, this is one of those times you should definitely make sure to have unsalted butter. The kosher salt in the recipe, and the sea salt sprinkled on top, these cookies have just the perfect amount of seasoning. Using salted butter would make it over-the-top salty and ruin the quality.


1-1/4 cup (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup demerara sugar
1-3/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup + 1 tbsp bread flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
Fleur de sel (French sea salt) for dusting
Extra demerara sugar for dusting
18 oz. 70% bittersweet chocolate, in chunks or coarsely chopped (I used Scharffenberger baking chunks)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars, eggs, and vanilla on medium speed until well incorporated and creamy.

In a small bowl, mix flours, baking soda, baking powder, and kosher salt. On low speed, incorporate the dry ingredients into the creamy mixture to form a dough. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, add the chocolate pieces to the dough.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Scoop heaping teaspoons of dough and drop onto the baking sheet. Press each ball of dough down slightly with the palm of your hand. Dust the tops of each ball of dough very lightly with a pinch of demerara sugar and a pinch of fleur de sel.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 9 - 11 minutes, or until the cookies have a golden brown color all around the edge, but still soft in the center. Remove from oven and enjoy.


22 June, 2012

Naughty Strawberry-Rhubarb Streusel Pie

I cannot stress how naughty this dessert it. SO. MUCH. SIN.

It's got butter, white and brown sugar, copious gooey fruit, and the crust I used is a lard dough that my grandfather sent me the recipe to. (I was living in Germany at the time and was in dire need of American apple pie!) The flaky crust, the oozing, syrupy fruit (with a hint of balsamico), the crunch of the streusel topping, and a dollop of Mascarpone whip is truly a taste-texture explosion. It is sincerely one of the best pies I've made in a while.

Here's the recipe, which I adapted from another recipe I found online.


For the crust:
1 unbaked pie crust of your choice (I used my grandfather's recipe, but most people I know have their own favorites)

For the filling:
6 stalks fresh rhubarb, sliced in 1/2" chunks
1-1/2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 TB balsamic vinegar
3 TB arrowroot or cornstarch (your pie will be a soupy mess without this!)

For the streusel topping:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into pieces

For the Mascarpone whip:
8 ounces Mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup + 2 TB sugar


In a large bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, balsamic, and arrowroot (or cornstarch). Stir well until the strawberry-rhubarb mixture is syrupy.

In a small or medium bowl, add the butter pieces, the flour, and the brown sugar, and using a pastry cutter, incorporate the butter into the flour/sugar mixture until crumbly.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the pie dough and place into a 9-inch pie pan. Pour the strawberry-rhubarb mixture into the pie pan, evening out the contents with a spoon. Take the streusel topping and spread evenly across the top of the pie, covering as much of the strawberry-rhubarb mixture as possible.

Bake at 400 degrees for 50-55 minutes, covering the pie with foil halfway after 30 minutes to prevent over-browning.

While the pie is baking, make the Mascarpone whip. Take the heavy cream and beat until the cream forms stiff peaks. Transfer whipped cream into a clean bowl. Take the Mascarpone and place into the same bowl you used to beat the cream and mix with vanilla and sugar. Beat the Mascarpone-sugar mixture until well aerated, about 2-3 minutes. Add the whipped cream to the Mascarpone, a little bit at a time, until it is well incorporated. Chill until time to serve.

When the pie is done, let cool for two hours, and serve with a large dollop of chilled Mascarpone whip.

24 May, 2012

Bean and Bacon Risotto

This ain't no fancy dish. No surprises. No particularly exotic ingredients. Just straight-up comfort food.

I’ve been a huge fan of risotto for years, decades even. It is honestly my “stranded on a deserted island” food, the one dish I would choose to have for the rest of my life. There are so many variations; you can throw so many things into it. Meats, seafood, veggies, cheeses, legumes, or just plain with saffron strands.

Another favorite food of mine is beans—almost any kind. I like ‘em spicy, mashed, with dirty rice, in soups, and so on. A very versatile staple.

The other day, I was craving bean and bacon soup, a soup my mom used to make when I was younger, but I really wasn’t in a soup mood. I wanted something a little more substantial. It was the flavor I was craving, but more robust. Somehow, it dawned on me to try it out in a risotto. I looked for recipes online but only found ones with lima beans, and tomatoes, and other ingredients I didn’t have right on hand. I had white Tuscan-style beans. And bacon. And some green onions. So, I just kind of threw my own recipe together. Since I was using dry beans, I had to soak them overnight, but you can buy them ready-to-use.

I used a copper risotto pan, but a 4- or 5-quart casserole, or a dutch oven would also work. This recipe serves 4-5 people as a traditional first course, or 2-3 people as a main dish.


1 cup small dry white beans, ready to use*
8 strips high-quality bacon, cut into very thin matchsticks
1/2 cup finely minced shallots (yellow onion will work, too)
1 TB unsalted butter
1 TB olive oil
1-1/2 cups risotto rice**
5 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup white wine
1 cup fresh green onions, green parts chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 TB unsalted butter
Some freshly shaved Parmesan cheese and parsley on top, for garnish

*I used 1/2 cup dry heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, picked over, soaked overnight, rinsed, and boiled for 60 minutes.
**I used Carnaroli rice but Arborio works great, too; if you don't have access to either, use short-grain white rice.


Over medium-high heat, add 1 TB butter and olive oil and sauté bacon and shallots until both are soft but do not brown. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon for about 1-2 minutes, until all the grains of rice are starting to get a little translucent. Add the wine and simmer until the rice has absorbed a lot of the liquid, stirring occasionally. Likewise, add about a half cup of the simmering stock at a time, stirring frequently, waiting until the rice has absorbed it before adding more. At about the 15-minute mark, stir in the green onions. After about 18 or 20 minutes, take a taste test. Rice should be tender but firm. When it is finished, stir in about 2 TB of remaining stock, 1 TB butter, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Serve warm in shallow bowls with parsley and shaved Parmesan sprinkled on top.


24 November, 2011

Savannah High Apple Pie.

Savannah High Apple Pie

I'd never seen a more outrageous-looking pie recipe. And I made it. On purpose.

The recipe comes to you courtesy of the infamous Paula Deen, known in America for her extreme Southern drawl and her unfailing love of butter.

I'd actually been looking for a good salted caramel apple pie recipe. Heavy on the caramel. I'm easy that way. (One time, when I was brokenhearted, I subsisted on almost nothing but caramels and soda crackers for three weeks. I can quit you, baby, but don't make me quit caramels!)

One fine day, while I was sitting here minding my own business, a friend in London--the delectable Jackie Lee who has a magnificent food blog--tweeted a link that went to this outrageously ridiculous recipe by none other than Paula Deen.

The tweet:

“SERIOUSLY PAULA?! Are you kidding me?!

Since I swapped out the shortening for butter, there was a whopping five-and-a-half sticks of butter in this one pie. I was mortified and fascinated and aghast. The ingredients themselves seemed to carry good flavor notes (you really can't go wrong with apples, caramel, brown sugar, pecans), but the freak of a pie was a mile high and looked like it was fished out of someone's toilet. No really, it did.

I knew right then that I had to make it. Toilet Pie.

After contemplating this for a short time, I got a message from Jackie Lee saying "You know, we owe it to the world to make this pie." Yes. Yes, we do. So, on her side of the pond in London, she makes one, and on my side, I do one, as well. As Jackie Lee states "[We] made this Paula Deen pie so you won't have to!"

The link to the recipe is here. With cool-down times, it really takes more like 3.5 hours than the 1.5 hours stated on her web site. The only adjustments I made to the recipe is that I swapped out shortening with butter, I did not use 24 apples because I did not have a bowl that big (I used 20), and I used three different kinds of apples (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Fuji) instead of one, to get sweet versus tart flavors. Still, my pie was only half as tall as it was supposed to be, so a deep bowl (for inverting) and 24+ apples is recommended if you're going for the "real deal."

But how does this monstrosity taste, you ask? Despite the mess, it was actually pretty tasty. (As Jackie Lee said "The flavour wasn't bad. I'd even go so far as to say that it was pretty damn good.") Indeed. It's very sweet (as you'd expect) and its kind of like a pecan pie and an apple pie had a merger.

Jackie Lee's version is here. Neither of us quite got the height required for the tried-and-true version. For examples on how tall it should look, check out these Google images. Feast your eyes on the world's most ridiculous pie.


After assembling the tower.

Oops. I lost half of my pie innards due to oven gremlins.
(Or more likely, I didn't seal off the fluted edges well enough...)
The finished pie in all of its messy glory
God bless America and its ability to mortify me daily!

25 October, 2011

Rabbit and Bacon Pie

Rabbit and Bacon Pie with Garlic Kale

It had been a long time since I'd had rabbit, and had never actually cooked with it myself. Perhaps the last time I had it was as far back as when I lived in Germany in the '90s and my ex-mother-in-law prepared an exquisite rabbit dish every year for Easter. When I'd tell people about this incredible culinary experience, my American friends often screeched "OH MY WORD, you ATE the Easter Bunny!!??" Why, yes. Yes, we did.

I'd recently acquired the book "Great British Food" at Seattle's brand-new Book Larder cookbook store and had noticed an incredible pie recipe in it that I desperately wanted to try: Rabbit and Bacon Pie. I wasn't even sure if I could find a rabbit. It's found in a lot of European cuisines, but you don't see it a whole lot around here. So I put out an online inquiry and got tips on where I might find a whole rabbit. As I was on my way to check out various recommended gourmet butchers, I decided just for fun, I'd check out my local butcher who is a mile from my home "Fischer Meats" in Issaquah. Lo and behold, they happened to have a 3.2-lb whole rabbit with my name on it. It was gutted and cleaned, but strangely still had some of its innards attached (ie. kidneys, heart) which I ended up using in the recipe for more flavor.

I adapted this recipe a bit, and instead of one big pie, I baked individual 4-inch pies (I had two ramekins and four miniature springform pans, so I used two different kinds). I served the pie with a simple garlic kale dish on the side.

Side note: I had a couple of large spoonfuls of the filling left over and it made a fantastic sauce over pasta. Also, I think a great addition to this recipe would be to use a handful of chopped wild mushrooms in the filling, perhaps chanterelles.

Makes six 4-inch pies.

(For another savory pie recipe, check out Pamela's "Shepherd's Pie" blog at: My Man's Belly.)

Braised Rabbit Ingredients.
1 rabbit, skinned, gutted and cleaned
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery root, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 sprig fresh sage
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/4 cup cider
salt and pepper

2 TB butter
5 strips thick-cut streaky bacon, cut into small matchsticks
1 leek (whites with trimmed greens), finely sliced
2 TB flour
2 TB fresh parsley, chopped

Pastry Ingredients.
4 sheets (approx. 2 lb.) puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Season the rabbit inside and out with salt and place in a dutch oven. Add onion, carrot, celery root, garlic, herbs, stock, and cider. Season the whole thing with pepper. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and remove only the rabbit from the dish to a cutting board. Cut or pull off all the meat, discarding the bones. Cut the meat into small chunks and return them to the dutch oven with the vegetables.

In a frying pan, melt butter and fry the bacon for five minutes until lightly browned. Add the leeks and let them sweat for 5 minutes until soft. Sprinkle in the flour (or, if you are gluten-free, your own thickening agent, such as arrowroot), stir well, and cook together for two minutes.

Add the bacon and leeks to the dutch oven and bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Add the chopped parsley, stir, and remove from heat. Check the seasoning and allow to cool somewhat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the inside of 4-inch ramekins or springform pans. Roll out a sheet of the pastry on a well-floured surface to about the thickness of a tea towel (3 mm or .1"). Cut big enough squares to fill each baking dish or pan, with a little bit of dough hanging over the side; trim corners.

Fill the pies with the rabbit-bacon filling. Cut another piece of pastry for the lid of each pie, letting a little hang over the edge; trim corners. With floured hands, pinch the edges of the lids to the edges of the pastry lining (I pinched together and rolled in toward the center of the pie) to make sure they are well-sealed together. Cut a couple of small slits into, or stick your fork through, the top of each pie a couple of times to allow steam to escape.

Brush the lid of each pie with the beaten egg. Bake for 35 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Serve hot.

Adapted from Great British Food

Whole rabbit being prepared for cooking (l), pies being assembled (r)

The finished pies served with garlic kale

19 July, 2010

Citrus Risotto with Garlic-Chili Prawns

This recipe is supposed to have a definite kick to it. Mine was milder than I wanted. That's because the ingredient list for the recipe I followed only said "2 red chili peppers" so I bought fresh ones. Apparently, they should be dried ones. There's a definite difference when it comes to hotness. If you buy fresh, be sure to use all the seeds. Also, as usual, I added a lot more garlic than they called for, and a bit more lemon juice. It needed it for the full flavors to come through.

Risotto is traditionally served as a first course in Italy. If you are serving as a first course, this serves 4. If you do it like me, and serve it as a main course, and it serves 2. Your choice.

This is really an easy recipe and I enjoyed the colors and flavors.

Ingredients for risotto.
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced (I used two shallots instead)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 lemon, finely grated zest
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
Ingredients for garlic-chili prawns.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 20 medium-sized fresh prawns, shelled and deveined
  • 2 small dried red chiles, crushed
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • sea salt
  • lemon wedges

Heat the stock in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the rice and stir until the rice is well coated with oil.

Gradually add the stock, a cupful at a time, stirring constantly. Make sure the stock is mostly absorbed before adding more stock. The whole process takes 18-20 minutes. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest after about 15 minutes. The rice is done when it is creamy but still al dente. Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover, and let stand for two minutes before serving.

For the prawns, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Season the prawns with sea salt before adding to the hot pan. Cook for 2 minutes and then add the chile and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with parsley.

Place the prawns on top of the risotto. Serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy!





Finished dish.

18 July, 2010

Rustic Strawberry-Balsamic Ice Cream

Add caption

I first saw this flavor offered at Molly Moon's ice cream shop in Seattle a while back. Since then, I've seen it everywhere. It is THE flavor pairing of the year.

I was intrigued by it, because back in the 90s, when I bought one of my (still favorite) cookbooks "The Splendid Table" by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, she mentioned that the people of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy put balsamico on top of their ice cream. At the time, I remember turning up my nose at the idea, but over the years, I've come to realize what a great ingredient a good balsamico is, even for sweets!

For this recipe, I used the Gold Quality small jar from Trader Joe's, but I'd suggest even getting a better quality than that. The finer the balsamico, the tastier your recipes will be. Just like with wine, balsamico varies greatly by producer and with age. A really old balsamico from a good producer? Gold, Jerry. Gold!

I can't tell you how incredible the flavors of this ice cream are. The balsamico really brightens up the flavor of the strawberries, much like lemon does to fish, or lime does to cocktails.

You do not need to make a custard for this recipe, which makes me love it even more. It's just about the easiest homemade ice cream recipe ever. Enjoy!

  • 2 cups (over a pound) fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced 
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used 1 TB stevia and almost 1/2 cup xylitol)
  • 2 TB good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 3 TB kirschwasser (brightens the berry flavor and keeps the ice cream from freezing too hard)
  • 3 drops raspberry extract (optional)
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or 1 1/2 cups cream and 1/2 cup sour cream)

    Mix the strawberries with the sugar (or sugar substitutes), balsamic vinegar, kirschwasser, and raspberry extract in a large bowl. Cover and let marinate at room temp for one hour.

    Add half of the cream and process strawberry mixture in a food processor or a blender. I leave the mixture somewhat chunky, as I like pieces of fruit in my ice cream. But if you want it smoother, puree and then strain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove and seeds and bits. Mix in the rest of the cream (and sour cream, if using).

    Chill the mixture for one hour and then freeze according to the instructions for your ice cream maker.


    Fresh berries

    Ingredients, and strawberries soaking in them

    Good old-fashioned chunky ice cream
    Who needs perfect scoops? 

    29 June, 2010

    Just Straight Up Banana Gelato

    I was going to make banana-stracciatella gelato last night (and will, at some point) but I was caught up in the fact that my bananas in the custard had turned brown (as bananas, out of their peel, are wont to do) and completely forgot about the chocolate.

    The recipe, which I adapted from the book "The Ultimate Ice Cream Book" -- a book that's gotten rave reviews so I wanted to like it -- said to put the bananas in the custard before chilling. Since the bananas turned brown, I cannot recommend this. Simple solution: I pressed the liquid of the custard through a fine-mesh stainer to remove the brown particles, and added new mashed bananas before immediately freezing it in the machine. This worked perfectly.

    I used three eggs. Eggs are your friend, when it comes to creamy, custardy gelato. Some use only the yolk, and some use the whole egg. This particular recipe called for the whole egg. You can also make this custard with any fruit or add-in. Since you will add the main flavor ingredient(s) at the end, it doesn't really matter what you add, and the gelato texture will likely have the same result as with the bananas.

    Also, I made this a sugar-free, lower-fat recipe, but will give the alternatives for those using the real thing. As usual, I use a combination of Xylitol (birch) and Stevia leaf as sugar substitutes.

    Without further ado, I present a delightful gelato custard with banana. This recipe is easy, but it takes several hours to make (includes cooling times for the custard), so take that into consideration.

    • 3 eggs
    • 1/2 cup Xylitol (sugar substitute) + 1 TB Stevia (or use 3/4 cup sugar, if desired)
    • 1 1/2 TBs arrowroot powder or cornstarch (optional)
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/4 cups fat-free milk (use whole milk, if desired)
    • 1 cup light cream (use heavy cream, if desired)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 TBs banana liqueur (optional)
    • 2 bananas, mashed with the tines of a fork

    In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, arrowroot or cornstarch, and salt. Set aside.

    In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. When all of the milk has been beaten into the eggs, pour the entire custard mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens slightly, about 4 or 5 minutes.

    Remove custard from heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir in the cream, vanilla, and liqueur. Cover and refrigerate until cold. When custard is cold, stir mashed bananas into the mixture and immediately freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. The gelato will be soft when finished. For firmer texture, freeze for at least two hours in a freezer-safe container.

    21 June, 2010

    Rustic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (Sugar-Free/Fat-Free)

    I've been experimenting. A lot, actually. I'm using alternative sweeteners to traditional sugar. I'm also trying to cut excess fat out of my diet.

    Against the recommendations of the ice cream expert, David Lebovitz, I used nonfat Greek yogurt, instead of the full-fat variety, for the base. It does make it a little lighter and less creamier (something between a sorbet and a yogurt), but it's so good, it doesn't matter. In place of the sugar, I used a combination of Stevia Leaf and Xylitol (Birch), but you can just as easily use the real thing in this recipe. If possible, don't skip the vodka or kirsch, as it stops the mixture from getting too hard in the freezer; it keeps it nice and 'scoopable'.

    Adapted from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop.

    • 1 pound fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
    • 1/2 cup Xylitol + 1 TB Stevia (or 2/3 cup sugar)
    • 2 teaspoons vodka or kirsch
    • 1 cup nonfat Greek-style yogurt (or whole-milk yogurt, if you so desire)
    • a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • pinch sea salt

    Slice strawberries into small pieces and put them in a bowl. Add the Xylitol and Stevia (or sugar, if using), stirring until the sweeteners dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

    Puree strawberries with their juice and the lemon juice. Add the yogurt and pinch of sea salt and mix well.* 

    Refrigerate for 1 hour and then freeze in your ice cream maker, according to your manufacturer's instructions.

    *If you want a smoother version, strain the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds.

    22 May, 2010

    Paola's Oxtail Ragu with Creamy Sage Polenta

    About a month ago, I wrote a status update on Facebook saying how I wish I liked Polenta, but that I just have never been able to get into it. Paola left me a message saying that her favorite way to eat it was with her Italian family's oxtail ragu. My interest was piqued. I'd never made anything with oxtail before, and I was determined to find a way to love polenta, so I asked her for the recipe, which she gladly sent me.

    This is a really good one. I'm a sucker for a really flavorful sauce. And the creamy version of the polenta (something I got from Rouxbe Cooking School, and tweaked it a little to make it my own) was absolutely outstanding. I can't imagine not liking polenta anymore, now that I've had the real deal - a version that isn't grainy. The trick is to use finely ground polenta (cornmeal). It also needs a vigorous stirring every minute and a half for a full 30 minutes. I also added more liquid than Rouxbe's version called for, to make it extra creamy.

    The trick to the oxtail ragu is to cook it for 8 hours in a crockpot on low heat. If you can make it a day ahead, you can put it in the refrigerator and skim the fat off the top the next day. I did it that night, but it's not as easy when it's in liquid form.

    Serves 4.

    Oxtail ingredients.
    • 1 oxtail (2 - 3 lbs), dredged in flour
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 3 cloves crushed garlic (I used 8, because I'm garlic-crazy like that)
    • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
    • 1 can diced tomatoes
    • 2 TB tomato paste 
    • white or red wine (I used red)
    • stock (I used beef)
    • 1 TB fresh oregano
    • 1 TB fresh thyme
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 TB olive oil
    Polenta ingredients.
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 shallots, diced
    • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock 
    • 4 1/2 cups milk (I used 2 cups milk + 2 1/2 cups heavy cream because I ran out of milk)
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp pepper
    • 2 cups finely ground cornmeal (polenta)
    • 3 TB fresh sage, chopped (can substitute with thyme) (I used 2 TB sage and 1 TB thyme, both fresh)
    • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
    • 1 TB butter
    Oxtail instructions.
    In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, brown the surface of the oxtail on all sides in olive oil, about 8 minutes. Remove the meat.

    Add the meat and the remaining ingredients to a crockpot. If the oxtail is not completely covered, add more wine or water to cover. Cook on high for 1 hour and then turn down to low and cook for another 7 hours. The ragu is done when the meat literally falls off of the bones. Discard bones and bay leaves. Skim the fat off the top before serving. (It's easiest to skim the fat off when it has cooled down overnight, and it is eaten the next day. However, this time I skimmed it off when it was still in liquid form and it worked okay.)

    Polenta instructions.
    In a 4-quart saucepan, fry the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until glossy, about 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to brown them. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add stock and milk, and then season with salt and pepper. Using a whisk, stir in the polenta cornmeal in a very slow, steady stream, whisking constantly in one direction. When all of the cornmeal has been incorporated, switch to a wooden spoon, and stir the polenta every 1-2 minutes for about 30 minutes. When you stir it and the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan, it is done. I also tasted it and it was creamy and not grainy.

    A couple of minutes before taking it off of the heat, stir in the sage, butter, and parmesan. Spoon into bowls and top with a healthy ladleful of oxtail ragu.

    Gallery of images.

    Frozen and thawed.

    Oxtails dredged in a little bit of flour.

    Put it in the crockpot and let it cook all day, stirring occasionally.

    Polenta (fine cornmeal) and grated parmesan

    Fresh sage from our herb garden - polenta in the cooking process

    Creamy polenta covered with its perfect mate: oxtail ragu!

    Thanks to Paola Thomas for her fantastic family oxtail recipe. It will probably become our family recipe now. It received a 10 out of 10 rating from both me and my partner, Rick.

    21 April, 2010

    Lemon Risotto (with Tuscan-Style Tuna Steaks)

    Risotto al limone
    from the Risotto cookbook
    by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman

    I had a bowl of lemons on my counter and was contemplating what to make with them. One of my all-time favorite lemon recipes is not a dessert recipe, rather a savory dish -- lemon risotto. I'd made it many times before, but this time, I actually used the Risotto al limone recipe from the aforementioned cookbook. To my surprise, it was a notch above the usual. I'm guessing it's the brandy and cream that did it. (I usually use white wine and tons of parmesan, while this one was a bit reserved on the cheese, opting instead for cream.) Wow.

    Photos were done on the fly; my apologies for not taking better "after" shots of the risotto itself (I kind of focused on the tuna), but we were in a hurry to eat!

    Note: I did not have peas for this recipes, so I substituted baby spinach for the greens in the risotto.


    • 5 cups broth (I used chicken)
    • 2 TB butter (I used salted)
    • 1 TB olive oil
    • 1/4 cup onion, finely minced
    • 1 1/2 cups arborio (or pearl) rice
    • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about two lemons)
    • 1/4 cup brandy
    • 1 cup fresh peas (I used baby spinach)
    • 1/4 cup light cream
    • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

    Bring the broth to a simmer on the stove. Heat the butter and oil in a casserole or pot over moderate heat. Add the onion and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, until it begins to soften. Don't let it brown.

    Add the rice and, using a wooden spoon, stir for one minute making sure all the grains are well-coated.

    Set your kitchen timer for 18 minutes. Add the brandy and lemon juice and cook, while stirring, until the liquid is almost completely absorbed. Add in a portion of the broth (1/2 cup at a time) and stir frequently until the rice has absorbed it before adding more, reserving about 1/4 cup for the very end. 

    After approximately 18 minutes, when the rice is tender but still firm, add the rest of the broth, the peas, cream, and parmesan. Stir vigorously for about 1 minute and then remove from heat and serve immediately.

    Tuna Steaks.

    For the tuna steaks, I put two in a glass casserole dish with about a cup of olive oil and the following: the zest of one lemon, 2 TB rosemary, 6 cloves crushed garlic, a good coating of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of dried parsley (fresh would be better). Marinate for two hours, turning the steaks once during that time. Grill or fry in a heavy skillet on high heat for 2 - 5 minutes on each side, depending on how done you like it. (I like it a little bit pink, but I overcooked it with 4 minutes.)

    Freshly grated parmesan cheese and superfino arborio rice


    Lots of garlic for the tuna steak marinade.

    Tuna steaks marinading.

    Coating the rice with oil and then adding liquid a bit at a time.

    Tuna steaks are already a bit too done here.

    Finished tuna steaks with garlic/herb bits

    The finished dish