Muhammara + Feta

P1070929A couple of months after we started dating, Joel went on tour for about a week. For that trip, I packed up a large picnic basket of home-made treats for him, his bandmate, and his former bandmate to eat on the road.

Did they eat them? No.

My elegant snacks made from local produce and fair-trade ingredients could not compete with the savory crunch of Andy Capp Hot Fries, and the saline tang of gas station wieners.

Sigh. Punks.

That doesn’t mean that my food went to waste. Joel chowed through the whole lot. He came home reasonably nourished and scurvy-free. In my imagination, I want to picture him declaring that everyone in the van was a loser for preferring garbage to real food, but since Joel is so low-key, he probably just ate the food and left them alone.

He did rave about this red pepper-walnut dip that I had tucked into the bag. To this day, it remains one of his favorite spreads.

Muhammara is a hearty dip of Syrian origin. Like hummus, there are numerous versions, but almost all include roasted red peppers, walnuts, breadcrumbs, and olive oil. My variation is a twist on Heidi Swanson’s version on 101Cookbooks, which I basically follow, but add about 3 ounces of creamy French feta.

Why the feta? This muhammara recipe is wonderful without it, but when I tried the recipe for the first time, I think I had an extra lump of cheese in the fridge and thought, “Why not?” When combined with the other ingredients, the feta adds a wonderful creaminess to the spread, and creates a harmony between the sweetness of the peppers and the earthiness of the walnuts.

Ever since, I have never made muhammara without it.

Another word about one of the ingredients: pomegranate molasses. Pomegranate molasses is simply a reduction of pomegranate juice, sugar and water. Wait, you must be saying, isn’t that grenadine? No, grenadine and pomegranate molasses differ in that grenadine is really more like a flavored simple syrup, and pomegranate molasses is much thicker, tarter, and denser.

Pomegranate molasses is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern, Persian, and Turkish cooking. Usually, you can find it in the ethnic foods aisle of the supermarket, next to the rose water. You can also order it online. However, if in the case that you can’t find it, or don’t feel like ordering it, you can easily make it at home by reducing pomegranate juice (check the label to make sure that it is 100% pomegranate juice, and not a blend), sugar, and lemon juice until you get a thick, dark syrup.

Pomegranate molasses, like miso, basically lasts forever in the fridge. In fact, the giant jug that I have in my refrigerator was made by my friend and fellow blogger, Siobhan at Garden Correspondent: Letters from a gardener in southern Turkey, and hauled back to the US by her wonderful mom — who is also a dear friend.

Even if it is trickier to find, or kind of a hassle to make, I strongly recommend not omitting the pomegranate molasses from the recipe. It adds an undefinable tart fruitiness to the final product, making a simple spread into an extraordinary one. Plus, you will find that pomegranate molasses is an excellent addition to salad dressings, sauces, and for rubbing into the skin of chickens before roasting (your reward will be the most burnished bird to ever come out of your oven).

This dip travels very well. It is great for picnics, and for eating on the road to hard-core punk shows when the gas station is sold out of Hot Fries 🙂

Ingredients : 

2-3 red field peppers, or red bell peppers

3/4 cup of walnuts, toasted

1/4 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs

≈ 3 ounces — about 3/4 cup — of creamy feta (French, preferably)

1/4 cup of tomato paste

2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Salt to taste

≈ 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil + more to drizzle

Warm water

Za’atar or dukkah to serve

Essential equipment:

Food processor

How to prepare: 

1. If you have a gas range, set the red bell peppers directly on the gas burner with the heat on high. Turn the peppers periodically to make sure that the skins char evenly.

If you have an electric range, rub the bell peppers with olive oil and place them on a cookie sheet set underneath the broiler. You can also rub the peppers with olive oil and pop them into a 450° oven. Remove them when the skins are blistered and blackened.

When your peppers are nice and charred, put them in a clean plastic grocery bag or a small paper bag and wait for them to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, you should be able to gently rub off all the charred skin from the pepper. Seed the pepper, and discard the seeds and the stem. You can rinse the peppers of any stray bits of charred skin and/or seeds if necessary.

2. Add all the ingredients to the food processor bowl. Purée the peppers, the walnuts, the bread crumbs, the feta, the tomato paste, the pomegranate molasses, the spices, the seasoning, and 1/4 of a cup of olive oil together until the the mixture is smooth and even. With the machine running, slowly add a drizzle of warm water to the spread to thin it (up to 1/4-1/3 of a cup of water). You will notice that the dip will become creamier and a little lighter in color. The final consistency should be like thick yogurt. Adjust the seasoning.

3. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of za’atar or dukkah.


Avocado Fudge Pops


A few years ago, I used to help coordinate a CSA in Manhattan. For those of you unfamiliar with CSA’s or farm share models, in brief, they are a way for farmers to sell directly to consumers without pesky middlemen or distributors. Standing for “Community-Supported Agriculture,” you generally agree to pay your local farmer a set fee up front for the season. This amount can vary between a couple hundred dollars to several hundred dollars. Known as a membership fee, your membership entitles you to “shares” of the harvest over the course of the season. These shares are usually picked up once a week from a designated location like a church or another community-friendly site.

If you can manage the up-front fee, a CSA is a win-win for both you and the farmer. The farmer gets more money to work with, and in exchange, you get a much better and better tasting product. The majority of CSA’s are either fruit or vegetable CSA’s, but of course my CSA was all about the meat: cows, pigs, chickens, sometimes lamb, sometimes duck. Basically anything cute with a face 😉

Running a meat CSA, you meet a lot of people: bankers, academics, writers, publishers, editors, lawyers, non-profit organization directors, retirees, beer distributors, you name them. It was also the first time that I ever encountered people on the Paleo diet, a modern diet that basically aims to mimic what our paleolithic ancestors ate.

I know.

At the time, I asked myself the same thing: is this a group of carrion-eaters that spends most of its time starving and the rest of its time fearfully living in caves? 

Nope! Apparently, what “going Paleo” really means avoiding processed food, lowering the amount of carbohydrates you eat, increasing how many fresh fruits and vegetables you consume, hunting and gathering in the bulk foods section of the Park Slope Co-Op, and eating a lot meat.

A. Lot. Of. Meat.

Now in all honesty, avoiding processed foods and being more mindful of what we consume are things that we could all do. But a few of these members kind of scared me.

There was the guy who asked me multiple times on multiple occasions if it was okay to eat raw sausage — it’s not. I mean, you can. You won’t die, but I’m pretty sure that it tastes better cooked.

There was another guy who told me that he went through 8 dozen eggs a week because he had a twelve-egg-omelette-a-day habit.

There was the guy who called his personal trainer in a panic because I wasn’t sure if our CSA beef was just grass-fed, or grass-finished (it turned out that it was grass-finished).

A few outliers notwithstanding, for the most part, our Paleo members were a great bunch of super-enthusiastic home cooks who were really into being conscious about what they put in their bodies, and being strong advocates for local farming and agriculture. I loved hearing what they did with their shares and would eagerly trade tips and recipes with them at each pick-up.

Chocolate avocado pudding is one of those freaky Paleo food experiments that I was always curious about, but never tried out of skepticism. Then, one day over the summer, two things serendipitously coincided:

Given that my inner 50’s house-wife cannot abide by wasted food, I thought that now would be the time to see if whizzing avocado and melted chocolate together in a blender would indeed be the dairy-free pudding of feverish vegan dreams.

It was high summer too, so I had to freeze it 🙂

How was it?

If this is what it’s like to eat like a fringe-y food cult member who likes lifting kettle bells for fun, set my place at the table 🙂

This recipe is truly fantastic. The result is not overly sweet, and the intensity of the chocolate really shines. The avocado adds a vague fruitiness to the pudding, but it gives it a texture that is as smooth as silk. It’s great as a pudding, and even better as a pop. Be warned though: you can freeze it in a tub, but you will need to remove it a good amount of time before you serve it. Otherwise, it will be very hard to scoop.


1 can of coconut milk

A pinch of salt

1/3 of a cup of honey

3.5 ounces of dark chocolate (discs or bars broken into pieces)

1/3 cup of Dutch process cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)

2 very ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into cubes.


A blender

Popsicle molds

How to prepare:

1. In a medium-sized sauce pan, gently heat the coconut milk until it just begins to boil. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate pieces or discs. Whisk everything together. Once the chocolate is completely melted, whisk in the cocoa powder, the honey, and the pinch of salt.

2. Pour the chocolate mixture into a blender (I used a blender bullet) and add the avocado. Whizz everything together until the mixture is soft and shiny. You should not be able to see any more avocado. The mixture should be smooth and even.

3. Carefully spoon the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze.

Hummus + Zhoug

The best hummus is homemade.

The first time that I made hummus from scratch, I had no idea what I was doing. I was 22 and had just moved back to New York after college, living on my own for the first time.  Armed with a brand new food processor that I had scrimped and saved for, I remember that the chickpeas that I used came straight from a can. Too much garlic was thrown in as whole cloves. There was no lemon juice; in its place was lots of olive oil of dubious quality.

Needless to say, that batch of hummus was gritty, harsh, and unpleasant. At the time, I couldn’t figure out why anyone would possibly want to go through the trouble of making hummus at home when you could buy a tub of much better stuff at the supermarket just a few dollars.

Fast forward almost 15 years and times have certainly changed! The thought of store-bought hummus now makes me gag a little. Far superior hummus is so ridiculously easy to make that it boggles my mind why anyone would bother with the other stuff unless they were pressed for time, lacked a food processor, or were camping in the woods.

So what is so different now?

First of all, I know much more about food and cooking than I did when I was fresh out of my undergraduate university, the happy result of having read more, traveled more, eaten more, and cooked more. Secondly, I’ve had some really amazing hummus — more amazing than anything that came out of a supermarket tub. Those experiences alone have given me benchmarks against which to judge my own.

Finally, I have recently had much more practice because my hardcore punk rocker boyfriend is a vegetarian and is addicted to hummus.

You read that right: he’s a VEGETARIAN.

The universe can be very ironic 😉

For the first few months we were dating, I would always feel a little stab in my foodie heart every time  I opened his fridge and saw half-empty containers of mass-manufactured hummus. That little stab soon became a nagging inner voice : “You should do something about this,” it whispered, “No one should have to eat this way.” Once the semester was over, I resolved to stock his fridge and freezer with enough dip to keep him properly fed for weeks.

Homemade hummus is not hard to make, but it does require some advanced planning. You need to soak the dried chickpeas overnight (always use dried ones for superior hummus, never canned). Once soaked and drained, you need to cook them until they are almost, but not quite mushy.

And for truly ethereal hummus, you need to remove the chickpeas’ skins before puréeing them. Ah, the chickpea skins. They don’t need to go. In fact, it’s fiddly and annoying to get rid of them. However you set out to accomplish it, the act alone will make you feel like you need to be treated for OCD.

But trust me when I say that it makes a big difference. If you want hummus the texture of velvet, get rid of those skins!

So how do you do it? You can either rinse the cooked chickpeas under cold water until they are cool enough to handle and then pop each one out of its skin with your thumb and forefinger, keeping the peas and discarding the gross membranes (sometimes I think they look like sad, used bean condoms).

Or you can try another technique that I learned from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s recipe for hummus in Jerusalem: toss the soaked and drained beans in baking soda, the grit of which loosens the skins from the peas. With this method, after you cook the chickpeas to a very tender state, the skins kind of disintegrate into a nasty slurry that you can pour off in repeated changes of water. It’s kind of like rinsing rice until the water runs clear.

I’m not sure if making your own hummus is as cost-effective as buying it already made, especially if you use nice tahini and fancy dried chickpeas to do it. I think that because of the volume that I make each time, it works out to costing about the same. That being said, the results are really incomparable.

When my boyfriend dragged a tortilla chip through that first silky, creamy batch and popped it in his mouth, his eyes went wide and he said, “I can’t go back!”

Trust me. You won’t be able to either.

* That is my boyfriend impatiently holding his bowl of hummus because, when you date a food blogger, the camera always eats first.

** You can top hummus with almost anything: harissa, chopped eggs dusted with dukkah, tofu :-(, shawarma or, as pictured, zhoug. Also known as zhug or skhug, it is a spicy Yemeni condiment made from parsley, cilantro, garlic, chili peppers, and olive oil. The recipe is also included below.


For the hummus (recipe adapted from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s recipe in Jerusalem:

1 lb. bag of dried chickpeas

1 teaspoon of baking soda

2 cups of good tahini

The juice of four lemons

4 plump cloves of garlic, crushed.

Ice water


For the zhoug:

1 bunch of parsley, thick stems removed and remaining leaves and stems coarsely chopped

1 bunch of cilantro, thicker stems removed and remaining leaves and stems coarsely chopped

2-3 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander

1 plump garlic clove, crushed

The juice and zest of one lemon

A pinch of sugar

Olive oil


Additional garnish:


To prepare:

1. Place the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with about 2 inches of cold water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let them soak overnight.

2. Before cooking, drain the chickpeas. Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the chickpeas and the baking soda. Cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly to loosen the skins. Add enough water to cover the chickpeas completely and bring everything to a boil. Be sure to watch the pot carefully as it can easily boil over. Reduce the heat to a simmer and as the chickpeas cook, skim off any foam and skins that rise to the top. Depending on how fresh the dried chickpeas were, it can take anywhere between 20-40 minutes to fully cook them. You will know when they are done when they are very tender and break up easily when you use a wooden spoon to press them against the side of the pot. Once fully cooked (they will be soft but not mushy), carefully pour off most of the liquid. Any remaining skins will have morphed into a sticky, unappetizing slurry that you can eliminate by very gently rinsing the chickpeas in several changes of fresh, cold water, kind of like rinsing rice until the water runs clear.

3. Once rinsed clean, drain the chickpeas and process them in your food processor with a pinch of salt until it you have a thick, stiff paste. Add the tahini, the lemon juice, and the crushed garlic and process everything together. Adjust the seasoning, including adding extra lemon juice or extra garlic if you want your hummus brighter or more garlicky. With the food processor running, add ice water, a little bit at a time, to thin the hummus out to your desired consistency. Your hummus is now complete!

4. For the zhoug, process the parsley, the cilantro, the serrano peppers, the crushed red pepper flakes, the ground cumin and coriander, the garlic, the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and a pinch of salt together. With the food processor running, add olive oil in a thin stream until you have the consistency of pesto. Add a little ice water to even out the consistency and adjust the seasoning.

5. To serve, top the hummus with the zhoug and a sprinkle of sumac.

Will it be a three-peat??? I’m in the 2015 Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown on July 12th!

2015 Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown

Dearest Friends,

It’s July and it’s Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown time again! As many of you know, two years ago I took home awards from both the people and the judges for my Backwoods Blueberry Buttermilk Sherbet with Moonshine That netted me TWO ice cream makers + Anolon and Microplane goodies, ya’ll! Last year, the People awarded me the grand prize of a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer + Ice Cream attachment and more for Y Tu Mango Tambien, my mango-tequila-lime sorbet with Mexican chili spice topping!

Can I do it again? Will it be a three-peat? Can my kitchen accommodate any more appliances? Do I stick with sorbet? Do I go crazy with custard? Do I finally make that gazpacho sorbet that grosses some of you out?

There are no guarantees, but I will try my best! If you would like to come out and support me and my perennial ice cream bitch helper David, the Takedown will take place this Sunday, July 12th at the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn from 12-2pm.

Tickets for the Ice Cream Takedown usually sell out, so if you’re interested, I would jump on tickets soon! Here is the link:

To Everyone, I sincerely thank you so much for all support you’ve given me for these competitions. You all inspire me and I couldn’t and wouldn’t do this without you!

Looking forward to seeing and feeding you at the Takedown! For those of you too far away to join us, full updates coming soon!


Ramp Pesto


Few seasonal foods make a locavore’s heart go pitter-patter as quickly as ramps. Ramps — the word is spoken in hushed, reverential tones — are a foraged food that hits the markets in early spring. Their appearance marks the definitive end of winter and the beginning of the growing season.

IMHO, ramps also win the award for World’s CUTEST Vegetable as its soft, tender leaves always remind me of floppy bunny ears. Added bonus? Its stems are often tipped the prettiest shade of oxidized pink.

In terms of flavor, ramps taste garlicky and green onion-y at the same time. They taste young, new, and freshly-sprouted: the essence of spring.

It’s the very end of ramp season here in the Mid-Atlantic, but if you’re lucky enough to still be able to get your hands on a few bunches for pesto, buy as many as you can and freeze the sauce for later! Ramp pesto is lovely tossed with warm pasta or used to dunk hunks of crusty bread. You can also drizzle it on steak, or anything really.

This post also marks the end of a looooooooooong hiatus! For those readers who are still with me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

For anyone new who stumbles on this blog: Welcome!

To both old friends and new acquaintances, it feels good to be back.


2 bunches of ramps, roots trimmed and cut into 1.5/2-inch pieces

1 knob of butter

1/4 cup of pine nuts

The zest and juice of one lemon

1/3 cup of grated Parmesan

Olive oil


How to prepare:

1. Heat the butter in a large frying pan set over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the ramps and sauté them until the leaves are just beginning to wilt and turn a shade darker. Season them gently and transfer them to a small bowl.

2. When the ramps have cooled, process them with the pine nuts, the lemon zest, the parmesan, and a pinch of salt. With the machine running, add the lemon juice and slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the consistency is nice and creamy. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice. Adjust the seasoning for a final time and transfer the pesto to another container.

You should plan on using the pesto in about three days, but it will also keep frozen for about a month.

Brooklyn Bacon Takedown 2014 on October 19 at Littlefield! I’m in!

It's bacon, it's Brooklyn, it's the Brooklyn Bacon Takedown!

Dear Friends,

It’s that time of year when Matt Timms gives me and 19 other amazing home cooks 15 pounds of Hormel Bacon to play with: it’s the Brooklyn Bacon Takedown!

Last year I served up some some blue bacon crystal meth rock candy dubbed Bacon Bad and won a year’s worth of bacon from Hormel. That was FIFTY-TWO POUNDS YO! Fifty-two pounds that I ate in one sitting shared with family and friends!

I have no idea what I’m doing yet, but I do know one thing:

I would be thrilled to feed smoky, fatty, crispy, pork belly to you all again!

Now the deets:

When will you guys be serving up your insane bacon creations? October 19th from 2pm-4pm

Where will all this bacon revelry go down? Littlefield in Brooklyn! 622 Degraw Street!  Please note that we have a change of venue to this year’s Brooklyn Bacon Takedown!

How much are tickets? $20 for 20 samples from 20 cooks! The event always sells out so be mindlfull! You can get tickets on Littlefield’s site here!

Esquites (Mexican Corn on the Cob in a Cup)

It's elote for people who don't like to eat with their hands!

Who doesn’t love elote, that roasted Mexican corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise, chili powder, and cheese, spritzed with lime juice, and served on a stick? I’ve come to associate it with summertime, when sweet corn is in season and I have my pick of local food trucks to sit in front of, snacking away.

As much as I love it, I have to admit that the fastidious Virgo in me doesn’t always love how sloppy elote is to eat. I get annoyed with how the grated cheese smears all over my chin, how the corn inevitably sticks in my teeth, and how glops of mayo always end up on my dry clean-only shirts. It’s the kind of annoyance that makes me hang my head in foodie shame as I go back to the truck to ask politely for a steak knife to cut off the kernels so that I can eat them with spoon.

That is why I really love esquites, which are essentially elote in a cup (or, as I prefer, a large bowl or a trough). Here, the messy work is done ahead of time and all you have to do is eat it, calmly and neatly.

Both elote and esquites are essentially street food and like most street food, there isn’t really an official recipe per se. The general consensus seems to be that there must be corn, it can be boiled but it is better roasted, there should be some kind of fat like soft butter, crema Mexicana,  or — even better — mayonnaise (I like my street food a little on the trashy side so it’s mayo for me). There should be some heat, some lime juice, and some salty, crumbly cheese like Cotija, but grated Parmesan or aged feta does the trick too.

Unlike eloteesquites often includes some chopped epazote, a traditional Mexican herb whose flavor is hard to describe. If pressed, I would say it kind of tastes like what would happen if cilantro and tarragon romped in a dusty field and had a herb baby. Epazote is worth seeking out; a little is all you need to add a wonderful earthy dimension to the corn. If you can’t find it, chopped cilantro is a good substitute.


2 ears of corn

1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped

Olive oil



1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, crema Mexicana, or sour cream

The juice of half a lime

Cayenne pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of epazote, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of grates Cotija, Parmesan, or crumbled feta

Tajín Clásico Mexican chili seasoning (or you can experiment with a combination of Ancho chili powder, more lime juice, and salt)

How to prepare:

1. Remove the corn kernels from the cob. To do this with minimal mess, stand each ear of corn in a large shallow dish and slice down the length of each ear with a sharp knife. Keep the knife as close to the cob as possible. Rotate the ear and continue to slice down each exposed side until all the kernels are removed.

2. Sauté the kernels and the chopped serrano chili in a large skillet or cast iron pan with about 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

3. Once the kernels have started to brown, transfer them to a bowl and add the mayonnaise, lime juice, and enough cayenne pepper to suit your taste. Stir in the epazote and the grated cheese. Adjust the seasoning, dust with Tajín, and serve.

Y Tu Mango También: Mango-Lime-Tequila Sorbet with Mexican Chili Seasoning

Go Shorty, It's Sherbert Day!

Summer is ending too soon. The weather is still warm, but college students are already filtering back into the city and the streets are starting to fill with people who have been out of town. Despite not having gotten away, this summer has been a great one. I’ve seen good friends and made a few new ones. I’ve eaten, drank, and danced. There have been rooftop parties, intimate dinners, and a lot of laughter. As a bonus, the weather has been unusually clement, so this summer has been a pleasure instead of a hot, sticky pain. All in all, it has been the best stay-cation that I could have asked for — and a sorely needed one at that.

Before work resumes and teaching takes over my life again, I want to fit in a few more blog posts, so …

Here is my write-up of this year’s Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown and the recipe for my  Mango-Lime-Tequila Sorbet with Mexican Chili Seasoning.

How did I come up with the idea?

In terms of flavors, I had two in mind: a tomato sorbet resembling frozen gazpacho, and a tart and juicy mango sorbet with limes and tequila.

I personally thought that a tomato sorbet would be amazing, but the general consensus was that it might be a little too weird for the competition.

My vision for a mango sorbet? I wanted it to taste just like those sliced mangoes topped with either hot sauce or dried Mexican chili seasoning. The kind that you get in plastic bags sold from pushcarts by those mango ladies in and around the city.

And that is exactly what I made 😀

Kitchen stories of triumph over adversity are terrific, but this is not one of those. This story is actually pretty humdrum because after the drama leading up to last year’s Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown, I swore that I would never again:

This isn't like some paper that you can write the night before!– Grossly underestimate how long it takes to prepare 2 gallons of ice cream at home.
– Fail to read the directions accompanying any new equipment in advance.
– Not have enough equipment to begin with.
– Wait until the last minute to start recipe testing.
– Have no back-up plan in case my freezer doesn’t get cold enough and/or my air-conditioner stops working.

I am happy to report that I took all the lessons I learned last year and this year, I started and finished early with (almost) no tears and minimal stress! Hooray!

What I have learned since the 2013 Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown:

1. Start early.  Those stupid insulated bowls — which never really work that well to begin with — need at least 24 hours to freeze hard enough to churn your ice cream satisfactorily. So make room in your freezer, lower the temperature as much as you can, and park those things in the very back of it until they are frozen rock solid.

2. Buy all of your ingredients at the same time. Don’t wait. Don’t come back later. Just get them all when you see them. And buy enough to make an extra batch. Trust me. Once I had settled on a recipe and calculated how much I needed to buy in terms of ingredients, I realized that I would need 36-38 mangoes and about 80 limes. Does anyone want to haul home that much squishy fruit all at once without a car? No. What did I do? I only bought half of what I needed.


I went to 4 different Whole Foods before finally being directed to one of the buyers who told me that, sadly, the season was over. There were no more Champagne mangoes.

As tears began to prickle the backs of my eyelids, I asked him if he could suggest another variety.

“Those Champagne mangoes,” he sighed and shook his head. His eyes went soft and dreamy, “You can make anything with those mangoes.”

He jabbed his finger towards the current display, “Not like these green rocks.”

This is one of those moments when I am so thankful that I live in New York. After calling almost every specialty fruit vendor in the city, I tracked down one of the last pallets in town.

Marry me, Manhattan Fruit Exchange.

3. K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid. I agonized over this one after doing just one test run and loving the results. But a single test batch? Was it possible to find the one after just one try? There were a ton of super creative, delicious, and mind-blowing ice creams at the Takedown like Chicken and Waffles, Cherries and Sour Cream, Blueberry Pancakes with Hot Maple Syrup.

But I know my limitations and, more importantly, the limitations of my kitchen.  I would have loved to have done a crazy flavor, but making it in a kitchen the size of a shoebox would have driven me crazy.

“Maybe it’s not wacky enough?” I asked myself.

Maybe that’s fine.

4. Use a stabilizer. Unless you are playing with liquid nitrogen, you will need something to smooth out the texture and prevent your ice cream or sorbet from having an icy or chalky mouthfeel. Stabilizers are additives to frozen treats that work to inhibit the formation of bigger ice crystals. Within that category, you can use guar gum or xanthan gum. However, a stabilizer does not necessarily need to be so exotic. You can use gelatin, alcohol, fat, sugar, and invert sugars such as glucose, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, and corn syrup.

5. Ripe ripe, Baby. If you are making a fruit sorbet, you want your fruit to be very ripe — verging on overripe. How will you know if your fruit is ripe enough? It will feel like . . . well . . . let’s try to keep this forum as family-friendly as we can.

6. Strain. Evenly-textured ice cream and sorbet doesn’t just happen. Smooth base in = smoother frozen dessert out.

7. A watched ice cream maker never churns. Ari watched me swear and smack my stupid ice cream maker on the side after it failed to churn sorbet after . . . 5 minutes.

“Daisy, it says it will take ‘as little as 25 minutes’ on the box. It hasn’t been 25 minutes!”

She was right. Go, go watch an episode of 30 Rock and come back later.

8. So your ice cream maker fails to churn satisfactory frozen dessert and you have a slushie instead of a sorbet. This is what happens when your freezer bowl is not cold enough, your kitchen is too hot, or the freezer bowl is so overfilled that it loses chill faster than it can churn your ice cream or sorbet. This is when you get creative. This is when you let the ice cream set up more in the freezer, stick your handy stick immersion blender in it, and use it to break up the ice crystals before letting it freeze the rest of the way. Do this a few times as it continues to set up and you will be rewarded with some super smooth sorbet.

An important word on stick immersion blenders:


One only needs to google “immersion blender accidents” to be scared.

The worst kitchen accident that I have ever had did not involve an immersion blender (knock on wood). I had put a saucepan in a hot oven and after about an hour, I reached in, grabbed the handle and hefted it onto the stovetop. As I had been cooking all summer, I had “kitchen hands,” tough, calloused paws that didn’t register that the handle was over 350° until it was too late. I left some skin from my palm and my fingers on that handle. I spent the rest of the week with my hand in a tub of arnica cream.

In any case, when dealing with immersion blenders, TREAT THEM WITH RESPECT AND ALWAYS UNPLUG THEM WHEN THEY ARE NOT IN ACTIVE USE!

Although I realize that some of these pointers are most applicable if you are churning out a massive amount for something like an ice cream competition, I think that many of them are equally as valid for smaller batches

A word on the recipe that follows: What is that chili powder stuff on top?

Tajín is the brand name of a Mexican fruit seasoning consisting of only three ingredients, three flavors: a chili spice blend, salt, and dehydrated lime juice. As the components are few, I imagine that you could probably hack the recipe pretty easily using a basic Mexican chili spice blend, salt, and either dried, powdered lime zest or squeezing lime juice on top before serving. That being said, Tajín is so darn inexpensive (mine was $1.25) that it seems silly to hack it. I got mine at the Mexican supermarket, but I have also seen online forum posts about people seeing it at Walmart, Target, and at their neighborhood supermarket in the “Ethnic Foods” aisle. For a few bucks more, you can also score it on Amazon.

Of course, this sorbet tastes amazing without it, but the seasoning really does make a difference. It is definitely worth seeking out! You can also use it on just about any kind of fruit or vegetable (delicious on corn).

Another word on the recipe that follows: Why are there so many mangoes in the pictures?

As I have scaled the recipe down from the one that I used for the competition, you will see more fruit and more ingredients in the photos than are listed below. My competition recipe was for 2-quart batches and this scaled down recipe given will make a third of that. To make a full 2-quarts, simply triple the recipe. For example, instead of 2 mangoes, you will need 6, etc.


2 very ripe Champagne mangoes

1/4 cup of water

1/2 cup of cane sugar

1 tablespoon of agave syrup

1 tablespoon of tequila (I used Olmeca Altos Plato)

1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 4-5 limes), strained

Tajín Clásico Seasoning

How to prepare:

1. Gently peel the mangoes with a sharp paring knife and cut the flesh away from the pit. Do this in a bowl so you don’t lose any of the precious juice.

2. Purée the mangoes with 1/4 cup of water in a blender or using an stick immersion blender. Press the purée through a fine-mesh sieve with a silicon or flexible plastic spatula. Discard the solids.

3. In a large bowl, combine the mango purée with the cane sugar, agave syrup, tequila, and strained lime juice. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.

4. Churn the mango sorbet mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If your sorbet fails to set up properly, churn it as best as you can in the machine, transfer it to a sturdy container, and let it harden in the freezer. After 45 minutes, use an immersion blender to blend the sorbet and break up any larger ice crystals. You can do this a few times to ensure that you have a really nice texture. When the mixture is smooth, return it to the freezer to harden completely.

5. To serve, scoop the mango sorbet into bowls and sprinkle liberally with Tajín.

Our Growing EdgeThis blog post is another contribution to the Genie De Wit’s Our Growing Edge. Our Growing Edge is a monthly event that aims to connect food bloggers, broaden our horizons, and encourage us to try new things. I am so happy to see Genie’s project grow and reach a larger and larger audience of bloggers and readers! Anyone can be a part of the party! For more information, please go to the page Genie has set up on her blog Bunny. Eats. Design.

This month’s host is Lindsey from Sneaks & Sweets. Thank you so much Lindsey! To take a look at the participating bloggers this month, click here.


Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown Update: “Y Tu Mango También” takes 1st Place! The People Chose Me!

¡Y Tu Mango También!

Yeah, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown was a week and a half ago.

Yeah, it was okay.

Oh, who am I kidding?



A big write-up to is to follow but in the meanwhile, I would like to extend a giant thanks and many hugs to my friends who came out to the to support me. Thank you for letting me feed you full of frozen treats! Thank you as well to everyone who voted. It is such an honor! Thanks as well to all my fellow Takedowners! You guys make me excited for every event!

David Langkamp, you are the best ice cream bitch helper ever! Thank you for hauling all of my sorbet and for being the world’s best scooper!

And to Matt Timms, organizer extraordinaire, thank you and never stop rocking!

Recipe to follow soon!

Homemade Basil Limeade

Tastes like a summer.

Like many people who love cooking, I loathe throwing food away. This is partly the reason why I have never been a member of a summer vegetable CSA: it’s just too much food for one person, maybe even too much for two or three. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t love to be a part of one and when T. asked if I could pick up her Roxbury Farm share in her place, I jumped at the chance.

As expected, the haul was huge: two giant heads of lettuce, bagfuls of tender leaves, a big bunch of lacinato kale, an arrowhead cabbagepurple kohlrabi, zucchini, yellow squash, garlic scapes, green onions, Italian parsley, cilantro, and basil.  That wasn’t even the entire share; I had to leave some of it at the pick-up site because I couldn’t carry it all.

Back at home, it was food prep triage as I decided what needed to be eaten right away and what could be stored longer and consumed later. Of the most perishable, the basil was at the top of the list.

It is tough to keep basil fresh. If not used quickly, the leaves rapidly and easily oxidize; what starts off as vibrant and green can quickly turn grayish and sad. I’ve found that the best way to keep basil in prime condition is to treat it as you might fresh-cut flowers: stems trimmed, in water, in a vase, and covered with a loose plastic bag. It looks a little awkward on the countertop, but it does the trick. However, even with this nifty storage method, basil doesn’t stay fresh indefinitely.

A giant bunch of basil is a lot to work through unless you are planning on making pesto. As I am frantically trying to empty my fridge and freezer in time for the Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown, I wasn’t looking to make an excess of something to store. Instead, I was trying to think of a way to use up all the basil and consume it in the same day. That’s when the thought came to me: don’t eat it, drink it. Should it be lemonade? No, limeade.

Basil and limes are a lovely pairing. Pungent, herbaceous basil finds its perfect counterpoint in aromatic, tart and juicy limes. There is something that feels a little Thai, a little Vietnamese, a little Mexican in the pairing too — something reminiscent of a tropical beach vacation. Toss in a splash of gin and you’ve got yourself a pretty nice gimlet-esque summer sipper as well.

A word on one of the ingredients in the recipe that is to follow: who would ever have guessed that innocuous-looking agave syrup (nectar, Wikipedia informs me, is a marketing term) was worse for you than high-fructose corn syrup? Whereas high-fructose corn syrup, the bête noire of conscious eaters everywhere, is around 50% fructose, agave syrup can clock in at a whopping 90% fructose.

Consider for a moment how much processing has to occur for that to happen. Nope, it’s not pretty. Furthermore, your liver apparently turns all that almost-pure fructose straight into fat. Joy.

But like that poor pair in Brokeback MountainI wish I knew how to quit you, Evil Agave Nectar. You and your clean, bright-tasting sweetness. You and how easily you dissolve in cold liquids.

*shakes fist at sky*

The only defenses that I have is that I use it rarely: only when I make lemonade and, I guess now, limeade. Either of which only happens once or twice a year. Plus I hardly eat any processed foods (so abstemious of me, I know!), so my yearly fructose intake is likely low enough that I don’t need to worry about turning my liver into foie gras every summer.

However, if what I just wrote about agave syrup gives you pause, I would recommend making your own simple syrup with cane sugar to use instead. It’s a 1:1 ratio, which means that there are equal parts sugar and hot water. Simply stir the sugar into hot water until it dissolves, and then wait for the syrup to cool completely before using.

Alternatively, you could sweeten your limeade with honey or maple syrup, but I don’t really know what that would taste like as both have strong and distinctive flavors. It might be interesting . . . or it might be gross.

If you have a relatively low-in-fructose diet like myself or just want to throw caution to the wind, by all means reach for the agave!


The leaves from 1 bunch of fresh basil

1 cup of cold water

1 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 6-8 limes)

Simple syrup or agave syrup to taste (I used about 2/3 cup of agave syrup)

A scant pinch of salt

Special equipment:

A blender or a stick immersion blender

A fine-mesh sieve

How to prepare:

1. Using either a blender or an immersion blender, blend the basil leaves with one cup of cold water until you have a uniform slurry.

2. To this, add the lime juice, the simple syrup or agave syrup, and the scant pinch of salt. Stir everything together and let sit for about 5-7 minutes.

3. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and add enough cold water to make one liter of basil-limeade.

4. To serve, pour over ice. As fresh basil oxidizes quickly, try to drink the basil-limeade the same day it is made.