Monday, July 29, 2013

MM-Inspired Barley Salad for Picnic

I needed a good side dish to take to a bbq, and wanted to take a pasta salad but was worried that everyone else would do the same, so checked my cabinets and saw other delicious grains like quinoa and red rice, but selected barley as my base. I could easily swap barley for pasta and toss with sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and kalamata olives. Or with cherry tomatoes, basil, and corn kernals. But I wanted something with more vegetables and more protein.
This party was BYOM where the grill was fired up by we were supposed to bring our own grillables. I didn't really want any meat so I wanted to build my salad around some beans. A google search of barley and garbanzo revealed these two recipes which I used as inspiration.
Chickpea, Barley, and Zucchini Salad with Mint and Feta
Moroccan Chickpea Barley Salad

1 cup barley
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans
1 small zucchini, diced or cut into matchsticks
3 medium carrots, diced
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 cup fresh parsley (I used Italian parsley), chopped
zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon freshly squeeze lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
couple pinches of ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cook barley by toasting over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically, until some kernels are starting to turn golden and it smells nutty. I added 1 cup broth and 2 cups water, but you can use all water or all broth, and not all will be absorbed, so you can use a little less. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 20-25 minutes until the kernels are tender all the way through. Cool. Toss with remaining ingredients except cheese. Drizzle with about half of dressing, and toss to coat. Add remaining dressing to taste. If not serving right away, reserve remainder of dressing, and toss just before serving, then sprinkle cheese over top and mix in lightly.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dad's birthday blueberry pie

Dad's birthday is always a time for blueberries or peaches. I have tried multiple different desserts for him over the years, generally a blueberry tart or a peach pie. This year I offered up a blueberry pie and his level of anticipation kinda went through the roof. He was pretty pleased with the results, especially with the accompanying homemade coconut ice cream, which is good when you're 67 and have had all matters of different types of birthday celebrations and are getting a bit tired of the chocolate cake your mother buys your or the fancy restaurant your sister wants to take you too when it is the middle of July and all you want to do is sit on your deck in the sun grilling steak and prawns and sopping up buttery pie crust with some blueberry juice and melting ice cream. So go dad for doing what you want one day when all the rest of the year you do for others!

Everyone loved this pie and the coconut ice cream was an excellent accompaniment. I will not make it again, because I thought it was too gelatinous in consistency. It was also a bit sweet, but that could be a factor of the berries and not the amount of sugar - but perhaps 1/2 cup sugar would be plenty. I try to avoid pies in general that use thickeners, but I saw this Cooks Country recipe that calls for the pectin from an apple as part of the thickener along with a bit of tapioca and I might find that more to my preference for next time. Even my tried-and-true Joy of Cooking doesn't really have any berry pie options that sound much better, and that could just be the reason I'm not a huge fan of them. But if any of you readers have suggestions for great fruit pie recipes, please post them in the comments.

I do think the rum added a nice depth to this pie and countered some of the sweetness, and the slices were attractive and not so messy when served, which was also nice. I thought about plums as another source of pectin that might be complementary to blueberries in that they wouldn't be very noticeable but could still add some tartness and deeper notes, particularly in the version made with wine. Readers - try that and let me know! In any case, happy summer baking!

Blueberry Pie
From The Boozy Baker, by Lucy Baker

2/3 cup sugar
3 T cornstarch
¼ t cinnamon
¼ t salt
¼ cup dark rum (or fruity red wine for a “sangria pie!”)
4 cups fresh blueberries, divided
1 T unsalted butter

I used the other half of the Smitten Kitchen all-butter pie crust I had left in the freezer from two months ago. It bakes much more like puff pastry than what I think of as pie crust, meaning that it is totally delicious, but not necessarily always what you would want. As it was selected to accompany cherry pie, it absolutely worked well for an open-faced blueberry pie.

Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, rum (or fruity red wine), and 1/3 cup water in saucepan. Add 1 ½ cups blueberries and bring to boil over medium. Boil 1-2 minutes until very thick and clear. Remove from heat, add butter and stir until melted.

Add remaining 2 ½ cups berries and pour into piecrust, then chill until set.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Coconut Ice Cream

Perfectly divine. Salted caramel is a trendy craze whose time - in Seattle at least - is over-the-hill in my opinion. But that doesn't make the salty sweet caramelized flavor of this decadent dessert any less delectable. I offered to bring homemade ice cream to a small dinner party and didn't have any guidance on the menu or other taste preferences. So I wanted to break out of the vanilla mold, especially since I wasn't trying to pair with a cake or pie or other baked good. I wanted a flavor that could stand on its own as dessert.

This ice cream is incredibly rich, and it is quite sweet, but I did not find it cloying and in spite of the heavy ratio of cream to milk, because of the caramel it did not have that greasy coat-the-spoon texture of some ice cream that is really just TOO rich.

When it was finished churning, it still poured out of the freezing canister (rather than being scooped) so I was a bit concerned about how it would set up. But what that really meant is that after a couple of hours of freezing, this ice cream had an absolutely perfect, creamy, scoopable consistency. Just don't expect to make and serve this right away, you'll want to plan enough time to return the churned product to the freezer.

I like to add a bit of alcohol to my ice creams, to preserve the consistency by preventing a completely solid freezing of the mix and to inhibit the particular formation of ice crystals that diminish an ice cream's consistency. In this case, dark rum - even in such a small quantity - adds a lot to play off the deep notes of caramelized sugar. This is absolutely a full-star recipe and I can't wait to make it again.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Adapted from
Gourmet Magazine

1 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt such (I had fleur de sel)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs

1 tablespoon dark rum (or brandy)

Heat 1 cup sugar in a heavy, dry 10-inch pan over medium heat, stirring to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt. Stop stirring and allow sugar to melt to a dark amber, swirling occasionally. Once it gets going, it happens quickly, so watch the pan carefully.         

Add 1 1/4 cups cream (mixture will spatter) and cook, stirring, until all of caramel has dissolved. This can take awhile, and at first the sugar will all turn into a hard clump, but jut keep stirring the simmering cream and it ultimately will all dissolve. Strain caramel into a bowl and stir in sea salt and vanilla. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring milk and remaining cup cream just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.

Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then add a bit of hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until custard coats registers at least 160°F (do not let boil).

Note: most of my ice cream recipes use a maximum of two eggs and 3 cups of milk/cream so the ratio of this step of the custard making is much different. As a result, the eggs come to temperature much more quickly and it's easy for them to curdle, so be sure to whisk constantly and watch carefully.

Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, then stir in cooled caramel. Chill overnight, then stir in 1 scant tablespoon dark rum before freezing in ice cream churn. Allow enough time to return churned mix to the freezer to freeze for a couple of hours before serving. Mixture will still be quite soft after churning but will firm to the perfect consistency.

Coconut Ice Cream

I chose coconut ice cream to accompany blueberry pie for my dad's birthday. It was an excellent accompaniment with good strong coconut flavor, but the consistency of this batch was not comparable to the few I've made. I can blame it on coconut, which is not my favorite flavor to begin with, or I can blame it on the fact that I "upgraded" to heavy cream (which is 40% fat) compared to the 36% fat whipped cream that I usually use. I very carefully calculate the percentages of fat in all my recipes, accounting for whole versus skim milk, and I did not do that this time, and I think it makes a real difference. It could be an improvement that I am just not used to, or it could actually be what pushes it over-the-edge to "too rich." In any case, it worked great with sweet, fruity, berry pie but Will will have to work through the leftovers in the freezer on his own.

Bring 1 1/2 cups cream to simmer then stir in 2 cups toasted shredded sweetened coconut. Cover, and steep 30 minutes.
Strain mixture and stir in 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup milk, return to simmer. Separately beat 2 eggs, then slowly whisk in part of hot cream mix, then return egg mixture to remainder of cream and whisk constantly over medium heat until it reaches 160 degrees. Remove from heat immediately and stir in additional half cup milk and half cup cream, along with 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract and 1 tablespoon light rum. Chill overnight then churn and freeze.