Come Cheer Daisy on at the Brooklyn Bacon Takedown on October 19 at The Bell House

Brooklyn Bacon Takedown!
Dearest Friends,

It’s that time of the year again when the venerable Matt Timms gives me and 19 other competitors 15 POUNDS of bacon to play with for the Brooklyn Bacon Takedown!

Last year, I came up with these Maple-Candied Bacon and Spiced Pecan Nougats for the competition. This year, I really have no idea what to do. With my last class ending at 10pm on Friday and the Bacon Takedown scheduled for 1pm the next day, I don’t have much time for last minute cooking, so for once, I am starting planning early!

Any ideas for what I should make? Let me know in the comments below!

And if you’re in the New York area, please come out and cheer me on! There are only 200 tickets available to the public and they go fast.

Get them here for the October 19th event at the Bell House in Brooklyn:

http://www.thebellhouseny.com/event/380957-5th-annual-brooklyn-bacon-brooklyn/

Looking forward to seeing you there!

The Classic BLT and Where Has Daisy Been?

Bacon makes everything better.
No new post in ages! Where has Daisy been?!

This post was inspired by a recent one by the Perfumed Dandy in which he addressed his own hiatus/absence from the blogosphere.

Never fear, dear Readers! Like the Dandy, I am still here 🙂

However, I did have to put some things on the back burner for a bit. You see, after sweatily fretting that I would have no employment this fall, I seem to have found myself in a situation where I have more teaching than I can shake a stick it. And I can shake a stick at a lot of teaching 🙂

I have classes scheduled every night of the week, except for Monday. Instead of being on one campus, I am divided between two this semester. This means that after teaching one class, I have to run and hop on the train to get to my other one at the other school. Most of my classes finish after 8pm and two finish at 10pm. One of those 10pm classes is on a Friday night 😦

As you can imagine, when I get home, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. One of the perks of living in Manhattan is that I have an embarrassment of places that will deliver just about anything I want, whenever I want, and at a relatively reasonable price. Pizza Napoletana? Tibetan tsampa? Spicy Szechuan lamb with cumin? Georgian khinkali and lobio? Korean tofu stew? Lobster rolls and shoestring fries? Cuban sandwiches? Isreali hummus? Shio ramen? Coconut curry chicken? Souvlaki? Indian dosas with mango chutney? Yes, please!

Best of all? I can order everything online to be delivered ASAP to Ms. Spoiled-New-Yorker on the fourth floor 😉

But how about the weekend, Daisy? You must have time to cook on the weekend!

In theory, yes. In practice? Well, let’s be honest. On the weekends, most of my meals have been liquid alcoholic insubstantial, augmented by the latest nibble at the next it-restaurant.

All of this might sound exciting, but it gets old really fast. After a few weeks, it’s probably the least satisfying way that I can imagine eating. When things get busy, it’s not that I don’t cook at all. It’s rather that my meals become simpler and generally not anything interesting enough to blog about.

This is where the classic BLT comes in. When I get busy, I look for meals that I can put together quickly with stuff that is already in the fridge. In this case, beautiful bacon from my CSA that I cooked ahead of time, a loaf of bread, some nice lettuce, a good tomato (take advantage of them while you still can), and some mayonnaise. If the bacon and tomato are good, the lettuce is crisp, the bread nicely toasted, and the mayo (it must be Hellman’s) is slathered thickly, you really can’t go wrong.

The BLT is such a standby that sometimes I forget about it in my repertoire of meals. When I went up to visit my CSA farm back in July, I was reminded how good they are. I won’t even tell you how many of these I have had since then because a lady never reveals how much bacon she actually eats. I will say that it beats ordering in any day 🙂

Fresh Apricot and Amaretto Sorbet

Tart and refreshing!
The first time that I ever had the combination of almonds and apricots was at a brunch in Paris. It was in the form of pitted fresh apricot halves stuffed with crushed amaretti biscuits, dotted with butter, sprinkled with sugar, broiled until tender, and finally drizzled with heavy cream. The dear friend who served them to me has gone on to open a wildly successful barbecue restaurant in London, leaving small indulgences such as those apricots behind.

However, I never forgot them.

I thought of them again as I contemplated what to do with a container full of apricots that I picked up at the store. I had initially intended to make something Moroccan with them, but then they got too squishy to eat and I earmarked them for sorbet. After waiting too long to do even that, they got downgraded (or upgraded, depending on how you see it) to jam. Finally, life interfered with the cooking once again and the poor things had to be tossed. So I got myself another container of apricots, resolving to not let them go to waste like I had the others (I hate throwing food out).

This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz‘s Fresh Apricot Ice Cream recipe. Although fairly faithful versions of it can be easily found via any internet search, I would highly recommend purchasing his book The Perfect Scoop. It is a must for anyone wanting to tinker around more with homemade ice creams and sorbets.

The original recipe calls for almond extract, but as amaretto — that sweet, almond-flavored Italian liqueur — is often made from crushed apricot pits, it seems even more fitting to use it instead of the extract. The addition of heavy cream makes this sorbet feel rich and indulgent, yet it is still tart and refreshing to eat. I have also kept Susan‘s suggestion to use an invert sugar; I agree that it really does improve the texture and mouthfeel of homemade sorbet. For a better and more convincing argument than I could ever write, I refer you to Susan’s amazing blog post here.

Ingredients:

1-1.25 pounds of fresh, ripe apricots (approximately 10-15 of them)

1/2 cup of water

1/2 cup of sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons of glucose or another invert sugar such as golden syrup or honey

1 cup of heavy cream

2 tablespoons of amaretto

The juice of one lemon

How to prepare:

1. Split the apricots into halves and remove the pits. Cut each half into quarters.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the apricot quarters with the water and the sugar. Cook over medium heat until the apricots just begin to soften. This should take between 6-8 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the glucose, and let everything cool to room temperature.

3. Once the apricots have cooled, purée them in a food processor. Press the purée through a fine-mesh sieve with a silicon or flexible plastic spatula. Discard the solids. Chill the strained purée overnight in the fridge.

4. Once the purée is properly chilled, add the heavy cream, the amaretto, and the lemon juice.

5. Churn the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the mixture is smooth, return it to the freezer to harden.

The sorbet should keep for about two weeks in the freezer.

Backwoods Blueberry Buttermilk Sherbet

The final product!
Have you ever made a claim and promptly regretted its utterance? I often jinx myself with these kinds of pronouncements, also known as “famous last words.” Usually, when I begin a sentence with “I won’t” followed by “get lost,” “be late,” “cut myself,” “fall off this box,” “regret this tattoo,” or “take an unreasonable amount of time to finish graduate school,” I basically ensure that I will.

If you google the phrase “famous last words,” you’ll find the following Urban Dictionary explanation: to say “famous last words” out loud is to invoke “a warning that following the course of action just mentioned will result in impending doom.”

But this is not a story about doom. No, wait. I take that back. It is a story about doom! It is also a story about setbacks, humility, learning, redemption, and WINNING TWO FREAKIN’ ICE CREAM MAKERS BECAUSE I’M FREAKIN’ AWESOME YA’LL!

I offer you Daisy’s long overdue Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown Diary:

Thursday, June 27: I return to NYC after visiting my parents for 10 days and spend the next 4 days drinking heavily decompressing.

Monday, July 1: I finally get around to buying an ice cream maker for the Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown on July 7th. Having the choice between a $59.99 machine, an $89.99 machine, and a $400 machine, I go for the least expensive model. “Frozen Treats in 20 Minutes or Less!” is prominently advertised on the box.  Feeling buoyant and unstressed, I am unconcerned by having never used an ice cream maker before (prior to this experience, I had only made ice cream the old school way by dumping the ice cream mixture into a metal pan, putting the metal pan in the freezer, and stirring it every 30-45 minutes to break up the ice crystals). I am certain that the ice cream maker will make this Takedown a cinch. I leave it unopened on the floor of my apartment.

Tuesday, July 2: I confidently “chat” with Eryn at Ugly Food Tastes Better. She is in the competition too and is fretting about her freezer on the fritz. I mention that I am excited for the Takedown, especially given that the ice cream only takes 20 minutes to churn. I stretch and envision this being a walk in the park, a mere breeze after the HOURS spent baking 250 cookies for the Cookie Takedown or wrapping 250 little bacon candies until my fingers were aching and sore. True, I have to make two gallons of ice cream and the machine only churns 1.5 quarts at a time, but at 20 minutes a batch, I am confident I can knock out all 8 quarts on Saturday afternoon, the day before the competition.

In comparison, this will be so much easier, I say. Then I add the cursed phrase: “Famous last words, right?”

“Hahaha yeah!” Eryn laughs. Then she drops the bomb that shatters my smug peace and calm: “This one is time consuming because you have to refreeze the bowl 24 hours between batches.”

Omg. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTT????????????

I open up ice cream maker and swear that the i’s in “Cuisinart” are middle fingers.

The ice cream maker now sits in pieces on floor. There is the machine element, the freezer bowl, and the plastic dome that covers it all. I only have this one freezer bowl and it is not frozen. I also have a freezer so full of meat that I cannot even fit that one bowl in it. I officially freak out. I am in full panic mode.

At 4:30 am, I cave and order two more freezer bowls from Amazon. Overnight delivery. I pray that Amazon’s overnight delivery is really overnight delivery. When my neighbor across the hall wakes up later in the morning, I transfer the entire contents of my freezer to her freezer, shove the insulated bowl in it and wait.

Wednesday, July 3: The extra freezer bowls arrive in the morning and after a whole day in the freezer, only one of the three seems to be frozen. I hear no sloshing when I pick it up and shake it. I attempt my first test batch around midnight, figuring that I can only do two, maybe three tests before having to pick a final recipe. Sadly, there is no time for tinkering, no time for research, no more time for consulting fellow bloggers and friends.

I decide on a custard based ice cream and my inaugural flavor will be Peach Bourbon Jalapeño.

After much stirring, scorching, sieving, and saving, I come to the horrible realization that custard takes FOREVER to make! Worse, when I finally pour the ice cream mixture into the machine and turn it on, it churns for 20 minutes and produces no ice cream, only soup. It is not even the consistency of a smoothie.

Worst of all? The taste. My Peach Bourbon Jalapeño ice cream tastes like peanut butter-covered pepper jack cheese.

There is no peanut butter or pepper jack cheese in the recipe.

I start crying.

Thursday, July 4: I decide to start fresh in the morning with a different custard base. Test batch #2 is to be a fresh strawberry, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper ice cream. The custard tastes good. I pour it into the machine and turn it on. It churns for 20 minutes. I have soup. Again.

At least it’s delicious soup 😦

Three hours before needing to leave to meet up with Tomoko for fireworks on her rooftop, I decide it’s triage time. I don’t have any time left to set up two gallons worth of custard base. I basically don’t have time for anything cooked. My downstairs neighbor Niki lends me a copy of Martha Stewart Living with a special section on ice cream — the last resort. I thumb despondently through it and my eyes fall on a recipe for Blueberry Buttermilk Sherbet that requires no cooking. The buttermilk catches my attention because being so lean (buttermilk is mostly water), I know it will freeze hard and fast. Blueberries are in the market too, which is fantastic since there are so few elements in a sherbet that you want the best fruit you can find. Best of all? No cooking required.

I do a quick test batch. It sets up better than the custard based ice creams since there is hardly any fat (things that inhibit freezing are gelatin, alcohol, stabilizers such as invert sugars, fat, and sugar). Unfortunately, it is still way too slushy.

As for the taste? The sherbet is a pretty color, but there are too many seeds (blueberries have tons). It’s also too sweet. The lemon zest has clumped unattractively around the ice cream paddle and looks like something found in a drain.

I throw the test sherbet in the freezer and cry all the way to the Upper West Side. At Tomoko’s, we troubleshoot and decide that given the time constraints, a sherbet is still the way to go. We also conclude that the freezer bowls are not getting cold enough to freeze the mixture properly. It does not help that my apartment is too warm and the bowls are loosing chill faster than the ice cream can churn. I go home, throw out everything that can be tossed from my fridge, turn the temperature setting as low as it can go, and hope for the best.

Friday, July 5: After staying up doing research and reading about how to achieve a good, smooth texture, I do the following:

1. I get myself a freezer thermometer. It costs a whopping $2 and tells me exactly what I suspected it would tell me: my freezer doesn’t get cold enough to completely chill the ice cream maker’s insulated bowls 😦

2. I figure that since the ice cream maker can only make slush, the best way to break up the giant ice crystals produced is to churn it as best as I can, let it sit in the freezer for about an hour, stick an immersion blender in the half-set ice cream, whizz it to get a smoother consistency, and let the freezer freeze it the rest of the way. I think I got the idea from Southern Living, but I frankly don’t remember anymore.

3. Contrary to Martha’s recipe, I decide to sieve the blueberry purée twice. If I had the time and patience, I probably would have done it once more on top of that.

4. I add booze. Specifically moonshine. I briefly consider vodka but think moonshine is more interesting. Besides, nothing beats a hillbilly-themed table!

5. I add more lemon juice. The forecast for the Takedown is sunny and hot, and I want something tart and refreshing.

6. I follow Susan’s recommendation and add a stabilizer to enhance mouthfeel and improve texture. She recommends glucose and thankfully, Niki’s candy business has her swimming in glucose. I cadge a couple of cups off my neighbor and hope that the combination of alcohol and invert sugar will prevent crystallization and keep my ice cream stable in the heat.

I put together my boozy blueberry buttermilk mixture, pour it into the machine, and lo and behold . . .

Houston, we have sherbet 🙂

I crank out 4 quarts and put the bowls back in the freezer to refreeze.

Saturday, July 6: I crank out the remaining 4 quarts and collapse.

As for the competition results the following day? I am pleased to report it went well 🙂

Read more about it here.

* A very special thanks to Eryn for the heads-up about the machine! I would have been in serious trouble if not for you!

The next stand mixer I win is yours, Babe! 

And everyone should check out Eryn’s blog on which she has posted her recipe for Honeysuckle Tres Leches Ice Cream with Tres Harinas Cake Crumb and Red Fruit Compote. Delicious!

Special equipment:

A 1-1.5 quart ice cream maker

A fine-mesh sieve

A stick or immersion blender

Ingredients:

2 pints of fresh blueberries

1 cup of sugar

1 tablespoon of glucose or of another invert sugar such as light corn syrup (optional)

2 cups of buttermilk

2 tablespoons of moonshine or vodka

The juice of 3 lemons, strained

How to prepare:

1. In a food processor or blender, purée the blueberries with the sugar and the invert sugar if using. Press the purée through a fine-mesh sieve with a silicon or flexible plastic spatula. Discard the solids and pass the purée through the sieve a second time to get the remaining seeds. You can even choose to sieve the purée a third time if you would like an even smoother texture.

2. Combine the purée with the buttermilk, the moonshine or vodka, and the strained lemon juice.

3. Churn the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If your sherbet fails to properly set up like mine did, 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 to an hour, use an immersion blender to blend the sherbet and break up any larger ice crystals. When the mixture is smooth, return it to the freezer to harden.

The finished sherbet will keep for about two weeks in the freezer.

Our Growing Edge

This blog post is also my first contribution to the amazing 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.

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 Stacey from The Veggie Mama. Thank you so much Stacey! To take a look at the participating bloggers this month, click here.

Guest Post from Lucas: Fresh Mint Tea, Chemist in the Bottle-Style

I Heart Tea!
A note from Daisy: For many of you, Lucas needs no introduction. For those who don’t know him yet, he is the wonderful Polish blogger and outstanding cosmetic chemistry student behind Chemist in the Bottle. Although he writes primarily about perfume, he is also a hardcore foodie. It has been meltingly hot and humid lately and to help beat the heat, I have asked him to share his refreshing recipe for mint tea. It is a bit different from how I prepare it here in the States (i.e., brew something potent, pour it over ice, add more ice), but I love learning about how people elsewhere keep cool via what they eat and what they drink.

As my parents are still visiting, I am very happy to hand the blog over to Lucas this week! I hope that you enjoy his post as much as I do. 

By Lucas

Summer is an amazing season. Once the school year is over and children begin enjoying their vacation, people become more relaxed and everyone seems to be much happier than just a few months ago. Clear skies and sunshine are what give us endorphins, the hormones of happiness. However, when the temperature rises to dangerous levels, summer is no longer so much fun. The constant heat is hard to enjoy — especially when you have to sit in an office building or you don’t have air conditioning (or even a fan).

To counter the heat, I’d like to share a couple variations on my recipe for fresh summer mint tea. It’s a really refreshing drink that is very easy and fast to make.

You will need:

  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Salt

Let’s make a cold mint tea first! There are two methods to make it:

METHOD 1 – hot brew – cold drink

Take two fresh mint leaves if you’re making a single cup, or 5-6 leaves if you want to prepare a liter’s worth of tea. Put the mint leaves into your cup or pot. Boil some water. When the water is hot, pour in just enough to drown the leaves. You only want to cover the bottom of your cup or pot. Let it sit until the water is cool. During this time, the leaves will transfer their flavor and a little bit of their color to the water. Next, add enough cold water to fill your cup or pot and put it in the fridge to chill. After about 2-3 hours, your icy mint tea should be almost ready. Now you can add a slice of lemon and lime to add a citrus taste to your drink. Voilà! The tea is ready!

METHOD 2 – cold brew – cold drink

Take the same amount of fresh mint leaves and crush them with a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle in your kitchen, simply chop the leaves roughly with a knife or use scissors to cut them into smaller pieces. Fill the pot with the water and leave it in the fridge overnight. The next day, your water will have a light green tinge. The color will be more intense than if you had used the hot brew method, as cutting the leaves helps the pigment and flavor to transfer more easily to the water. Pouring hot water over cut or crushed leaves will cause your tea to taste more intense and be darker. This is called infusion. Add a slice of lemon and/or lime for an even more refreshing twist. For this cold beverage, ice cubes are optional. Please be aware that if you add a lot of them, the tea will be more diluted. I rarely add ice to my cup but when I do, it’s usually only 2 ice cubes. Neither of these methods (infusion or hot brew) make a very strong tea so you don’t want to lose the charming flavor of fresh mint by adding more frozen water to it.

METHOD 3 – hot brew – hot drink

Both of the methods above produce a cold drink. However, you must believe me when I say that it’s sometimes good to drink something hot when it’s hot outside. This might sound ridiculous and ridiculously unappealing (I mean, who wants to have a hot drink when it’s scorching outside?) but I have found that when it’s 35°C (that’s 95°F) outside, you can feel refreshed and less tired of the heat after you treat yourself to a hot liquid.

Once again, take 2 fresh mint leaves, 5 for a pot’s worth, and cover them with hot, but not boiling water. Wait about 10 to 15 minutes for the tea to be properly infused. Toss in a slice of lemon, lime, or both and enjoy your hot beverage. Did you notice that the heat isn’t so tiring now? 🙂

As a matter of taste, I have to mention something about lemons and limes: if you prefer your tea to be less bitter, cut off the rind of your slice before you add it into your mint tea. The limonene present in citrus fruits is at its highest concentration in the yellow, orange or green rinds. If you have nothing against tasting a refreshing bitterness, feel free to include the rind. Its limonene and tannins are responsible for the sensation that you are enjoying.

One more thing: did you notice sodium chloride, or salt in the ingredients? On super hot days, you should always add a tiny bit into your tea. We sweat more when it’s hot out and our bodies lose their necessary minerals faster. Just a few crystals of salt will help to keep the balance of chloride anions and sodium cations in your body. Cl- are especially important in our body cells. For just a cup of tea, a pinch is enough (that should be just a couple of grains, no more!) For a liter, add about a ¼ teaspoon salt. Regardless of how you brew your tea, the salt should be added at the end, either with lemon or lime, or right afterwards. Don’t forget to stir your tea to ensure that all the crystals are properly dissolved.

In Poland, mint is a pretty seasonal garden plant so when I get some leafy sprigs of mint, I like to keep some fresh and dry the rest on my balcony in the sun. If you have fresh mint, you can do this too and enjoy your mint tea made from fresh leaves even after the summer months are over. If you dry your own leaves, remember that you should use a hot brew preparation for them. A cold method will take ages for the dried leaves to infuse the water.

If you can’t get fresh mint, you can use regular mint tea packed in bags or sachets. Use one sachet for one cup and two for the pot. If using tea bags or sachets, the hot water method of making iced tea is better. The cold infusion method works well too, but it will take longer — around 24 hours — and will give a very light brew with gentle flavor. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it is ideal for summer evenings when you want something calming before going to sleep.

I hope you enjoyed this post and will enjoy your homemade fresh summer mint tea, which is delicious and all natural. Let me know in the comments if you decide to prepare it. I would also love to hear what you think after you drank a cup or two!

One last note from Daisy: All these photos are courtesy of Lucas! I’m sure you’ll agree with me that if he ever decides to drop out of school, he could be one heck of a great photographer and/or food stylist 🙂 Thank you so much, Lucas!

Happy 90th Birthday, Grandpa!

Image

This is my grandpa.

He turns 90 years young tomorrow.

He’s in great shape. Today, he freaked me out when I noticed red drops all over his shirt and pants. I thought that he had cut himself, but it turned out to be paint (as per city regulations, the pipes that feed the his emergency sprinkler systems must be painted red). How many grandpas do you know are still climbing ladders in 100° heat to paint pipes that run across the ceiling? My grandpa rules!

He has been talking about his birthday for the past six or seven months. Mostly, he has been asking about who is coming and where we are eating. You know, the important things 🙂

With the celebration in full swing and with all of my family in town, I haven’t been able to keep up with many of your wonderful blogs and comments as often as I would like. Many apologies to you all! I look forward to getting back to you soon!

In the meanwhile, I hope that you will also have a wonderful, food-filled Wednesday!

Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown Update: Blueberry Buttermilk Moonshine Sherbet Takes Home 2nd Place Twice!

They're taller than I am!
Dear Friends,

Here is the update on the Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown last Sunday! As many of you know, this was my third Takedown, the first being the Brooklyn Bacon Takedown and the second being the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown.

Needless to say, I think that I have become addicted to the adrenaline rush of coming up with a recipe and prepping massive amounts (250+ samples) of it for a day filled with old and new friends, large quantities of booze, and lots of fun!

In all honesty, the event is kind of a blur to me since the participants had a head start on the open bar before the doors opened to the public. Once people started pouring in, I was drunkenly scooping like a fiend! There were so many people coming to the table at once that I didn’t even notice that Tyra Banks was there! In my hurry to get everyone served, I just plunked a sample cup on her plate, said that it was Blueberry Buttermilk Moonshine Sherbet, and waved her on.

Only afterwards did someone say, “Daisy, you just threw sherbet at Tyra Banks!”

Whoa!

The decision to make a sherbet was a last minute one, forced by an uncooperative freezer and a look at the weekend forecast which predicted a RealFeel afternoon temperature of 107°. Full details to be revealed when I post the recipe, hopefully later this week.

Unpacking at the venue, I was certain that my entry was too simple and too plain to attract much attention — even with the moonshine.* Win or lose, I thought, I learned so much about making frozen desserts and being surrounded by so many talented and creative home cooks was gravy. That made the experience well worth it.

In the end, guess who was awarded second place by the judges AND by the people? Me 🙂

What did I win? More ice cream makers!

Just what I need 🙂

Even though I didn’t come in first place, I was the only one to win in both categories and the only one to take home two machines! However, I do have to give a shout-out to all the other incredible cooks. The team next to me actually made 275 cannoli shell ice cream cones. Isn’t that amazing? Other contestants make jam toppings and delicious drizzles in squeeze bottles. As for the two first place winners? Angie Anicgacz’s Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream and Russell and Karen Berger’s Butterscotch Beatdown were truly divine!

So what about those two ice cream makers? I kept one and gave one to my ice cream bitch helper and good friend, David. He earned it for coming to my apartment early and schlepping all my stuff to the event like a trooper!

Then I went home and collapsed.

The Takedowns are the brainchild of my friend, the incredibly gracious Matt Timms. He is certainly the host with the most and it has been wonderful to see him and his events get such great press. I’ve never known anyone to walk away from a Takedown unhappy and this event was no exception. Thank you, Matt!

For those of you who are interested, here are some links with much better write-ups than my own!

Wall Street Journal Metropolis Blog
Second article in the Wall Street Journal
Local Bozo
Jennifer Baker: A Baker with an Appetite for Writing
Brooklyn Exposed
Serious Eats

* Yes, there was real moonshine in the sherbet! No, I did not make it. Yes, you can absolutely buy corn whiskey. It comes in Mason jars 🙂

Puréed Fava Bean and Pecorino Spread

Viva la Fava!
I think that fava beans are one of those things that you need to prepare yourself in order to truly appreciate them. I’m sure that I came across them before I lived in France, perhaps randomly poking out of a spring ragoût or crushed and smeared on some olive oil-brushed toast. However, it wasn’t until that spring in Paris that I actually bought some of my own.

Fava beans appeared suddenly and seemed to overwhelm the markets overnight. They overflowed from round baskets made of thin slats of wood that were stapled together. To fill your flimsy paper bags, you had to first elbow your way through ruthless matrons who did not care if they knocked off your glasses as they pinched and squeezed each pod to see which had the biggest and juiciest beans.

They were ridiculously cheap, mere centimes for a kilo.

You needed kilos of them too. Given that one kilo equals roughly 2.2 pounds, 2.2 pounds of pods would yield slightly more than one cup of beans once shucked. That cup would be reduced again to a mere 2/3 of a cup after removing the waxy, unappetizing membranes from the beans.

Fava beans were so abundant and economical in France that I just assumed that they were as available and inexpensive everywhere else.

Wrong.

Priced somewhere between $2-3 per pound, fava beans in New York are not the budget treat they were in France. However, once I developed a taste for them, I began eagerly anticipating their springtime arrival. Given that a small 2/3 cup serving of fava beans tends to run me about $5-6, I tend to favor recipes that prepare them simply in order to let their earthy, nutty, slightly bitter flavor and buttery texture shine.

Fava beans are still available at the markets here in New York, but elsewhere the season may be ending or has already passed. If you can’t find them easily or find the price prohibitive, I imagine that shelled edamame makes a respectable substitute.

This is one of those recipes where I encourage you can feel your way through it and modify it to fit your tastes. I used Pecorino Romano, a sharp, tangy, and salty sheep’s milk cheese that traditionally partners up with fava beans in and around Rome. However, using grated Parmesan in place of the Pecorino Romano results in a very nice spread too. For a little more smoothness, you can add a soft dollop of good ricotta, or maybe even a spoonful of thick, creamy yogurt.

However you make it, this dip, spread, or whatever you want to call it, is a terrific thing to dunk vegetables in, particularly radishes. You can also slather it on crostini.

Ingredients:

About 2 pounds of fava beans in their pods

1/3 of a cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano

1/3 of a cup olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

How to prepare:

1. First of all, you will need to remove the beans from their pods. This is easy to do and is much like shelling peas. Once shucked, discard the empty pods, and blanch the beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes — any longer than that, and they will be mushy. Have an ice bath ready to shock the beans after draining them. By submerging the beans in ice water after cooking, you will retain their beautiful green color. When the beans are cool, remove the waxy outer-covering of each one by nicking the end of a bean with your finger nail and easily squeezing each one out of its peel. Discard the peels.

2. Combine the beans with the grated cheese in a food processor. While the machine is running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until the consistency is nice, smooth, and thick. Transfer the spread to a bowl and season it freshly ground black pepper to taste. You shouldn’t need to add any salt because the cheese should be salty enough.

The spread should keep covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Unrelated query to Readers: Had a problem where this recently published post reverted back to a much earlier draft and “unpublished” itself. Spooky! Has this ever happened to anyone else? 

Pan-Roasted Lamb Rib Chops with Mint Chimichurri

Ewe should come for dinner!
Several years ago, I spent an entire month in Argentina and I do not recall ever seeing chimichurri sauce on the table.

How could this have been possible? Was I blind? How could I have traveled from the grassy Pampas to the Bolivian border without once encountering this iconic sauce?

I have no idea.

Since that trip, I have yet to see a something about Argentinian steak-eating that doesn’t make reference to chimichurri — that fabulous amalgam of parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, vinegar, and olive oil — as being the ever-present condiment. However, I can honestly and sadly say that I never had it until I returned home.

It’s not like I wasn’t eating meat over there. After a leisurely breakfast of sweet, flaky medialunas and large cafe con leche, I would wander out into the street and try to figure out where to have my next meal — which would always be steak.

Yes, this was the decadent month where I had steak for lunch and dinner every single day, washed down with gallons of highly-alcoholic Malbec. Did I get sick of the repetitiveness? No. Did I eat anything else? Yes. Empanadas (both the meat and the cheese-filled varieties) and dulce de leche-stuffed alfajores filled in the nooks and crannies in-between meals.

Was it healthy? Most definitely not! By the time that me and my travel companion ended our trip, our alcohol tolerance was through the roof and we could document how much we had swelled in pictures. Looking at them chronologically was like seeing time-lapse photographic evidence of weight-gain.

Was it one of the most delicious vacations of my life? Most definitely yes.

Perhaps if I had seen either a bottle or a bowl of chimichurri sauce, I would have foregone the pathetic green salads that we would order in an effort to ingest something healthy. Who were we kidding? Those little bowls of greens were only gestures, mere tokens of the balanced diets we left behind in favor of steak, steak, more steak, and llama carpaccio.

Chimichurri is an excellent accompaniment for grilled and roasted meats. It’s green, garlicky, and salty with a little heat from the pepper and a little tang from the vinegar. It is amazing and beyond easy to make.

This version of chimichurri is a twist on traditional chimichurri. Instead of oregano, I have substituted fresh mint leaves to complement the lovely lamb chops that I get from my CSA. My introduction to the combination of lamb and mint — the mind naturally conjures up images of adorably delectable baby lambs fattening themselves on tender sprigs of mint and other herbs as if to say, “Here I am and I am pre-seasoned!” — came when I was spending a lot of time in Wales. A slick of mint sauce, usually store-bought and straight from a jar, was used to coat salty little marsh lamb chops in a sheen of jelly. Looking back, those chops would have been much better served by something fresher and more spring-like.

In lieu of red or white wine vinegar, I have opted for unfiltered apple cider vinegar which adds a little bit of sweetness to the final result. I actually got the idea to swap vinegars from the wonderful Hannah over at Inherit the Spoon, whose recipe inspired this one. As you can tell, chimichurri is quite flexible; you can adjust it to your personal tastes as you go along. What is given below is a reflection of what I like to eat, namely more salt and less tart, but you should feel free to play around with it. If the sauce feels too chunky, add more olive oil or more vinegar. Too tangy? Too garlicky? Too spicy? Add more herbs.

As a useful gauge, the final consistency should be like fine pesto. That being said, you can leave the sauce rougher if you prefer. It will still taste wonderful.

Ingredients:

2 thick-cut lamb rib chops per person

Kosher salt

Rice bran oil

1/2 a bunch of Italian parsley, trimmed so that the longer stems are removed

1 handful of fresh mint leaves, stems removed

2 cloves of garlic

Red pepper flakes to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

1-3-1/2 of a cup of good extra-virgin olive oil

How to prepare:

1. Generously salt both sides of the lamb chops and let them come up to room temperature while you prepare the sauce.

2. Combine the herbs, the garlic, the red pepper flakes, and the apple cider vinegar in a food processor with a hefty pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper. As the processor is going, add the olive oil in a steady stream until you reach your desired consistency. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Keep the sauce covered in the fridge until you are ready to cook the chops.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°.

4. Once the lamb chops have come up to room temperature, pat them dry with paper towels. In a heavy-duty, oven-safe skillet large enough to hold the chops without crowding them, heat about 1-2 tablespoons of rice bran oil or another kind of oil with a high-smoke point until the surface of the oil begins to shimmer. Arrange the chops in a single layer and let them cook undisturbed until you have a nice sear on them. When properly seared, the chops should release easily from the pan if the pan was hot enough to begin with. Flip the chops and move the pan to the oven.  You want to aim for them to be medium-rare. An instant read thermometer should read 135° when inserted in the thickest part of the chop. This should take about 7-10 minutes depending on how thick your chops are (mine were about 1.5 inches thick) and how many are in the pan. When the chops have reached the appropriate level of doneness, remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chops to a plate to rest for 5 minutes.

5. When the meat is done resting, serve them along with the chimichurri. Any uneaten sauce can be kept in an air-tight container in the fridge for about a week. There will likely not be any uneaten sauce 🙂

Come cheer me on at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown on July 7th!

I scream, we all scream for ice cream!
Dear Friends,

It’s that time again where I make an absurd amount of something crazy for your tasting benefit! Come cheer me on at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown on Sunday, July 7th.

Tickets go quickly so I’m letting you all know now. Please bring your friends and vote for me!

Mama needs a new stand mixer 🙂

Tickets available here.