Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Leeks vinaigrette with hard-boiled egg


I've read other bloggers' glowing descriptions of leeks vinaigrette, but the dish never really appealed to me. Boiled leeks, really? How could that be good? So I never bothered to try it, until I saw the recipe in Around My French Table. It includes a grated hard-boiled egg - which resembles mimosa flowers, according to Dorie Greenspan - and this made the dish sound just interesting enough that I decided to finally try it...and it was delicious. I should have known better than to doubt a dish that is a French classic. It was nice to let the leeks be the main component of the dish, instead of chopping them up and using them as an aromatic like I usually do - this preparation really showed off their delicate flavor.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Broccoli rabe with garlic and lemon


Broccoli rabe is one of my current favorite vegetables. The stems, leaves, and florets are all edible, so you get a variety of textures. I didn't like it much the first few times I cooked it, but now I've found a method that I love. I chop it up from stems to florets and then blanch it until the stems are tender. Then I saute it really briefly - only a minute or so - with some garlic and red pepper flakes, and add some lemon zest to finish.

p.s. This is my 100th post! I'm going to give myself a little public pat on the back for that accomplishment. I suppose I could have celebrated by baking and blogging about a cake or something, but I think it is appropriate that I'm talking about a seasonal vegetable instead.


Broccoli rabe with garlic and lemon
Makes 3-4 servings
1 bunch (about 3/4 lb) broccoli rabe, cut into approximately 1-inch pieces, from stems to tops of leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or less if you are sensitive to heat)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Olive oil

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add broccoli rabe to the pot and boil for 4 minutes, or until stem pieces are tender, then immediately drain into a colander. In a wide pan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat and saute garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 30 seconds (the wide pan makes it easier to toss the ingredients together, but you can reuse the pot that you used for boiling if you want to minimize cleanup). Add broccoli rabe and saute for about 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in lemon zest, and salt to taste (I find that this dish does not really need added salt).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Strawberry ice cream

IMG_9187_2 by ranjanik1010
The first of the season's strawberries appeared at the farmers' market last week! They would have been delicious on their own, but I was having a craving for a frozen dessert so I decided to make strawberry ice cream. Strawberry is not usually among my top choices for ice cream flavors but I had a feeling it would be really really good with these fresh strawberries, and it was. I used the recipe from The New Best Recipe, which is a bit complicated, but the cookbook has great explanations for how each step of the recipe was tested and decided upon - with the recipes in this book, I trust that the details really do make the final product better. Anyway, enough talk. Go make some ice cream!

Strawberry ice cream
Adapted from The New Best Recipe

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
1 tsp lemon juice
3 tbs vodka
1 tsp vanilla extract

Toss the strawberries with a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Mash berries gently with a large fork or potato masher until slightly broken down. Let stand until sugar is dissolved and berries have released their juices, stirring occasionally, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a strainer over a medium bowl set inside a large bowl containing ice water. Heat the milk, cream, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until steam appears and mixture reaches about 175 deg F, about 5 minutes. While milk mixture is warming, whisk yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until well combined. Slowly whisk about half of the warm milk mixture into the yolks, 1/2 cup at a time. Slowly whisk milk-yolk mixture into the warm milk in the sauce pan. Over medium heat, cook milk-yolk mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until foam subsides and steam appears, or mixture reaches 180-185 deg F. Be careful not to boil the mixture. Strain custard into the bowl set in the ice-water bath and cool custard to room temperature. Stirring occasionally will help the mixture cool.

While custard is cooling, set the saucepan with the berries in it over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally, until berries are softened, about 5 minutes total. Strain berries, reserving juices. Place berries in a small bowl and mix in the lemon juice and vodka. Cover berries with plastic wrap, cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate. Stir reserved strawberry juices and vanilla extract into the room temperature custard, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Custard and berries should be refrigerated anywhere from 3-24 hours.

Freeze ice cream in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions until ice cream reaches a soft-serve texture. Add the strawberries and churn for 1-2 more minutes, until berries are fully incorporated. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Perfect lemon meringue pie

Remember last time I made lemon meringue pie? It looked good (before slicing anyway) and it tasted good, but the custard didn't set. I was determined to try it again and get it right, so when we had some friends over for dinner last week, I took the opportunity to make lemon meringue pie for dessert. This time I used the crust and meringue recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook with the lemon filling recipe from The New Best Recipe...and the pie came out perfect! The custard was solid enough to cut out slices of pie but still had a great silky texture and bright lemon flavor. And while the old recipe used 6 egg whites and 4 yolks, the new one uses 6 of each, so there are no leftover egg yolks to deal with. Unlike the last one, this recipe is a definite keeper!

Lemon meringue pie
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook and The New Best Recipe
Serves 8

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 stick (6 tbs) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tbs cold vegetable shortening
1/4 tsp salt
3-4 tbs ice watrer

Lemon filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cold water
6 large egg yolks
1 tbs grated lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tbs unsalted butter

6 large egg whites
1/2 tbs cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar

Using a food processor, pulse together flour, butter, shortening, and salt until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-sized lumps of butter (you can also use your fingertips or a pastry blender to mix). Drizzle 3 tbs ice water over mixture and pulse or stir until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful of dough - if it doesn't hold together, add more ice water 1/2 tbs at a time, pulsing or stirring until mixed in. Try not to overwork the dough.

Turn dough out onto a work surface and divide into 4 portions. Use the heel of your hand to smear each portion forward once or twice to distribute the fat. Gather all the dough together into a ball, press into a 5-inch disk, and sprinkle with flour if dough is sticky. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour, or up to 1 day.

After dough has chilled and is firm, roll it out into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface using a floured rolling pin. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, and crimp edge decoratively. Refrigerate shell for 30 minutes.

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 deg F. Lightly prick shell all over with a fork, then line with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake shell for 10 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and bake shell until golden, about 15 minutes more. Transfer to a rack and reduce oven temperature to 350 deg F.

Mix the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and water in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking frequently. When mixture begins to simmer and turn translucent, whisk in egg yolks two at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in zest, then lemon juice, and then butter. Bring the mixture to a good simmer, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to keep it from forming a skin.

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed just until whites hold soft peaks. Beat in sugar 1 tbs at a time at high speed, and continue beating until meringue holds stiff peaks.

If pie shell has cooled, place it in the oven until just warm. Pour lemon filling into warm shell. Spread meringue on top all the way to the very edge of the pastry, making sure to completely cover the filling. Use a spatula to form peaks in the meringue. Bake until meringue is golden, about 12-15 minutes.

Cool pie on a rack at room temperature for 2 hours, then refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours more.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Green garlic pesto

The local farmers' market opened up for the summer season last weekend. I'm so happy the summer markets have started - my trip to the farmers' market is a big part of my Saturday morning routine and I look forward to it all week (as you have probably noticed if you come here often, I really, really like vegetables). At the last market, I picked up some green garlic, which I had not tried before. Green garlic is young fresh garlic that has not yet developed thick, papery skins around the cloves. The flavor is much milder than mature garlic, and you can eat the stalks and leaves as well as the cloves. I decided to make a pesto with my bunch of green garlic, using hazelnuts instead of the traditional pine nuts, and pecorino romano instead of parmesan. It came out really nice - flavorful and subtly garlicky but not enough to be hazardous to your breath. We ate it tossed with some asparagus and white beans, but it would also be lovely tossed with pasta, spread on hearty bread, or as a dip for veggies or crackers.

Green garlic pesto

1/2 pound green garlic, roots removed
3/4 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
3/4 cup olive oil

Roughly chop cloves, stalks, and leaves from green garlic. Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until mixture forms a paste. Water or additional olive oil can be added if a thinner consistency is desired. Add salt to taste.