Better Late Than Never

Man, long weekends really do fly by, don’t they? For those of us with so-called regular 8-5’s, a standard Saturday-Sunday weekend never seems like long enough – no matter how much you like your job. For whatever reason, the few and far between holiday ‘long weekends’ never seem much better, once it’s all said and done.

Except for this weekend – we seemed to cram quite a bit o’ fun into those three days; a tradition I think I can stick to easily, quite honestly.

The weekend started off with a trip to the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market with Chris and my fellow SF transplant via Chicago friend, Judy. While I do adore Chicago’s Green City Market, I have to vote for SF’s markets, hands down, but given the plethora of fresh produce in these parts it’d be hard not to. For starters, I found a stand indoors that specializes in mushrooms and guess what they also brought on the field trip to the market – ramps! Holy hell it took a lot for me to hold it together, but I did – just barely.

Needless to say, ramps were purchased and grilled this weekend. But also! There are fresh oysters at the end of a mere 60-minute line. You don’t get that at most markets, do ya? Probably overpriced, but totally worth it that day.

Saturday ended with an x-box date with Jennifer & Jon (laugh it up, but it is totally awesome), and Sunday was pretty much grill/beer/friends fest. Also, a lot of youtube videos. There was plenty of solid food that will be discussed in a matter of time, but at the forefront of my mind is ice cream.

Oh, right. Saturday also consisted of a trip to The Haight, and Ben & Jerry’s. But that’s not the ice cream that’s on my mind, you see.

It seems I’m grabbing up all of Spring’s produce at the last minute: ramps, strawberries, rhubarb, even fava beans. I figure: better late than never, right? Things stick around a little bit longer out here, and I had to remind myself that even though the produce is more prevalent, it will eventually run out – even here. I got lucky with the ramps, and the rhubarb doesn’t seem to be quite as abundant as I’d expected, either.

Nonetheless, find some I did, and with it I put the ol’ ice cream maker to work for the first time this year. Eating homemade ice cream always leaves me feeling a little bit sheepish, kicking myself in the ass for not making more frozen treats than I do.

Because when your holiday Monday is spent by taking a 2-hour bike trip through the park and to the beach (the beach!) and back, finished off by lounging in the park with a husband, a magazine, and a beer, there’s only one thing that’s missing from that equation, and that’s a pint of fresh, homemade ice cream.

Strawberry-Basil-Rhubarb Ice Cream
adapted from Cooking Light, May 2010; serves 8

time commitment: less than 1 hour for preparing ice cream + at least 8 hours to freeze afterwards

printable version

ingredients
2 1/2 c reduced fat milk
3/4 c half-and-half
1 handful of fresh basil (~1/2 c)
1 c sugar, divided
3 egg yolks
3 stalks of rhubarb
1/3 c Malbec or other red wine
1 lb fresh chopped strawberries

instructions
Combine milk, half-and-half, and basil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat milk mixture to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Combine 1/2 cup sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until pale yellow. Remove basil and gradually add half of hot milk mixture to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Pour the egg yolk mixture into pan with remaining milk mixture; cook over medium-low heat until a thermometer registers 160° (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 20 minutes or until custard cools completely, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, rhubarb, and wine in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and liquid is syrupy. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Combine rhubarb mixture and strawberries in a blender; process until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve over a bowl, pressing with a wooden spoon; discard solids. Stir rhubarb mixture into custard mixture.

Pour custard into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Advertisements

Dessert of Champions

This is an ending to all endings. This is a dessert that’s gonna make you go ‘ooh la la’. This is a dessert that makes you happy for spring and the arrival of those summer days sandwiched in between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Also, you can now wear white shoes. But if you’re a rebel like me, you may have already broken out those white strappy numbers (or flip flops).

Need to make use of bread in your freezer? Make this bread pudding. Or maybe this one, which has alcohol in it. And caramel.

Tired of cereal for breakfast? Have leftover bread pudding. With or without the ice cream. Probably don’t put an egg on top though; this is one breakfast recipe where that might not work so well….

Basically, this is good for just about everything in life.

Come to think of it, ice cream alone solves all of life’s worries. Did the hot sun get you all sweaty and stinky? Eat ice cream – you’ll forget you smell. Did you get in an argument with your spouse? Ice cream makes that seem so unimportant. Did you wake up with a hangover? Yup, ice cream probably makes that go away too. But don’t eat it too fast, because brain freeze is nothing lovely either.

Of course, it helps if that ice cream involves cardamom and vanilla bean. With a side of bread pudding.

On the other hand, a spoonful of caramel powder is probably quicker and easier to make, which is pretty much awesome if all you have at home is a canister of sugar. When all else fails you in this world, you still have sugar. And as long as you have a food processor, you can spin that sugar into pure magic.

And if you can’t quite decide what you need in life, you can make all three – which is exactly what I did. I feel much better about things as a result, and you would too.

Rhubarb-Ginger Cardamom Bread Pudding w/ Cardamom-Vanilla Ice Cream & Salted Caramel Powder

printable version (all 4 components)

Rhubarb, Ginger, & Cardamom Bread Pudding
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2010; serves 10-12

printable version (bread pudding only)

ingredients
rhubarb
1 c seedless raspberry preserves
1/2 c water
1/3 c chopped crystallized ginger
1 T finely grated orange peel
2 1/2 lbs rhubarb (preferably bright red), ends trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch-wide pieces

pudding
3/4 c sugar
3 large eggs
2 c 2% milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
cooking spray
1 loaf cardamom-spiced bread (recipe below) or storebought  brioche or challah
(1/2 t ground cardamom, if you don’t make the spice bread)

instructions
rhubarb
Whisk preserves and 1/2 c water in heavy large skillet over medium heat until preserves dissolve (if using seeded preserves, strain seeds out and toss seeds; add rest back into skillet). Sprinkle ginger and orange peel over. Scatter rhubarb evenly in skillet. Bring mixture to simmer over medium heat, occasionally stirring very gently, until rhubarb is slightly tender but still intact, about 10 minutes. Pour mixture into large sieve set over large saucepan. Let drain 15 minutes. Cover each separately and chill. Can be made at least 1 day in advance.

pudding
Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk sugar and eggs in medium bowl. Place milk in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Gradually add hot milk mixture to egg mixture, whisking custard to blend, but doing this slowly so as not to scramble eggs (add ground cardamom here if using).

While heating milk (above), place bread cubes on a sheet pan and toast for about 7 minutes. However, if you have “old” bread that’s somewhat dry/stale, skip this step.

Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish. Arrange enough bread cubes in dish to cover bottom (will have some gaps). Spoon half of rhubarb evenly over. Repeat with bread and rhubarb. Pour custard over. Place baking dish in roasting pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of dish.

Bake pudding until just set in center, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven. Let stand in water bath 30 minutes; remove. Meanwhile, boil reserved syrup until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Keep warm.

Brush top of pudding with some rhubarb syrup. Spoon warm pudding into bowls; top with syrup and ice cream (or whipped cream, or nothing).

Cardamom Spice Bread
Adapted from Saveur Issue #128; makes 2 loaves

printable version

ingredients
1 1/3 c warm milk
2/3 c sugar
4 t g cardamom
2 1/4-oz. packages active dry yeast
3 eggs, lightly beaten
5-5 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 t kosher salt
5 T unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes, room temp
1 T cream or milk
1 egg yolk

instructions
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine milk, sugar, 3 t cardamom, and yeast; stir together and let sit until foamy, 10 minutes. Add eggs; mix to combine. Add flour (may not need full amount; add until dough forms) and salt. Replace paddle with hook attachment; knead dough on medium speed for 2 minutes. While kneading, slowly add butter in batches, mixing until incorporated before adding next batch, 3–4 minutes; continue kneading for 4 minutes more after last of butter is added.

Transfer dough to a bowl oiled or sprayed with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap; let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down dough; cover again with plastic wrap and let sit until fully risen, 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 F. Transfer dough to a work surface and divide into 2 equal pieces. Set 1 piece aside and divide other piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion between your palms and work surface to create a 16″ rope. Braid ropes together to form a loaf, following the instructions below. Transfer loaf to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Repeat with second dough piece. Cover loaves with plastic wrap and let sit until slightly puffed up, about 20 minutes. (For fancier braids, search You Tube.)

Whisk together remaining cardamom, cream/milk, and egg yolk in a small bowl; brush over loaves. Bake, one loaf at a time, until golden brown, 20–25 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Cardamom-Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Adapted from The Spice House; serves 6-8

printable version (ice cream only)

prep time: 1-2 days before serving

ingredients
1 c half & half
1 c organic 2% milk
1/2 vanilla bean
5 green cardamom pods, crushed slightly
4 egg yolks
3/4 c sugar
1/8 t g cardamom

instructions
pour half/half and milk into medium-sized heavy saucepan. scrape seeds from vanilla bean, and toss into milk with cardamom and vanilla bean pod. slowly bring to a boil, remove from heat, and cover to steep for about 20 minutes.

slowly heat milk mixture up, just to a boil. meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar together until light yellow. when milk is just boiling, remove from heat and slowly add milk, whisking simultaneously, into the yolk/sugar mixture. whisk constantly until all milk is incorporated (you can slowly add milk, then whisk if you’re less coordinated; but work quickly!), then pour mixture back into saucepan. over low heat, stir almost constantly until it thickens (forms a custard). the mixture will coat the back of a spoon at this point, and this means you are ready to go!

pour mixture back into bowl from egg yolk mixture, add ground cardamom, and place that bowl over an ice water bath to cool custard quickly. for best results, chill overnight to develop flavor. once ready, freeze in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions (usually 15-20 minutes). freeze overnight.

Salted Caramel Powder
makes at least 1 cup

printable version (caramel powder only)

ingredients
2 c sugar
Maldon sea salt

instructions
Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. In a large heavy skillet, heat sugar over medium heat. Swirl sugar, but try not to stir. Once sugar melts, it will slowly caramelize. If clumps form, stir to melt sugar. Remove from heat once caramel is light gold.

Pour hot mixture, carefully, onto sheet pan. Move around to make a thin sheet. Let hot caramel cool and harden, about 30 minutes.

Once caramel is cooled, remove from sheet pan and break into small chunks. Add chunks into a (dry!!) food processor and blend until a powder forms. Place in a dry container and refrigerate. Stores for 1 month, if it lasts that long!

The Bandwagon

If you scanned through all the recipes on this blog, paying particular attention to the recipes adapted from various sources (which is most of them), you’d quickly notice that most of them are from magazines. Occasionally, you’ll find one from a website, such as someone’s blog, and you’ll also come across a few from cookbooks.

You see, I get really into my magazines and recipe clippings. They’re easily portable and perusable, and I often use said clippings to figure out what I’m cooking in the week ahead – I grab my stack of clippings, pull out a few for the week, and that’s that. Going through cookbooks seems a bit cumbersome, and the blog recipes I have bookmarked just sit there on my computer as, well, bookmarks.

But every once and a while, I get really really focused on a good cookbook. I become that girl, sitting on the bus reading recipes, staring at pictures of food, and dog-earing page after page. Meanwhile, every one else on the bus is either sleeping, yelling loudly into their cell phones, or eating cheesy hot fries (that’s not a joke, people; the bus-riders love their cheesy hot fries). Recently, this cookbook fixation has happened exactly twice.

One of them, the source of these cutie-patuty tarts you see here, is Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain. The other, I’ll get to later, as it’s chock full of meat that I promised myself I wouldn’t eat this month (because I have a few loose screws, I’ve decided). And it’s a HUGE book that I lugged around town, clutching it closely to my chest like a loveletter from my first boyfriend. I promise, later.

This one though, I’ve managed to read through every last page. I started bookmarking recipes, and I quickly realized it wasn’t necessary, as I’d tagged almost every page, every recipe. The 75 recipes, primarily of the dessert/baking genre, are sorted by grain – with chapters devoted to buckwheat, whole wheat, quinoa, rye, even corn and 7 others. Each chapter of recipes is preceded by a thorough, but fascinating, description of the flour, the origin, the taste, the affinities to other flours and foods. It is educational, but intriguing. Thorough, but concise. And  innovative, but totally approachable.

And by now, if you read as many food blogs as I do, you might even be a little bit tired of hearing about this treasure of a book. So with that, I’ll stop – and finish by saying that this is actually the 4th recipe I’ve made from Good to the Grain. Why haven’t I waxed poetic about it after having it atop my fridge (or rather, on my nightstand) for the last 2 months? A simple answer – I actually forgot to take pictures of two of them, and the other will be posted in good time.

These little rhubarb tarts more or less forced themselves upon me, primarily because it’s the cover recipe that glares at me from my nightstand, and because following our first farmers’ market trip, my countertop became a holding place (by holding place, I mean they sat there for exactly 1 hour, if that) for two beautiful bunches of rhubarb. Plus, I couldn’t head over to dinner with friends without bringing something, right? So, here we are.

As one of those friends happened to be Jon, I also needed to make this recipe gluten- and dairy-free. I made both recipes (“his” and “ours”), comparing taste and textures and I must say that, probably thanks to the corn flour and cornmeal, they were eerily similar. In fact, by looks alone, Jennifer incorrectly picked the gf tart – and for those of you cooking gluten-free on a regular basis, you know that many gf dessert recipes are easy to spot when sitting right beside their non gf counterparts.

In fact, the two finished products here are one of each – can you tell which is which?

Don’t you just love rhubarb too? Try this rhubarb crisp if you need something a little simpler. Got any other rhubarb recipes? Share below!

Rustic Rhubarb Tarts
Adapted from Good to the Grain; makes 10 tarts

printable version

ingredients
compote
2 lbs rhubarb
1 1/4 c brown sugar
1 T dried hibiscus leaves (optional; can also try vanilla, ginger, etc)

dry mix
1 c corn flour
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c fine cornmeal
1/4 c + 2 T sugar
1 t kosher salt

wet mix
4 oz cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/4 c + 2 T half & half
2 egg yolks

special ingredients: cheesecloth or tea ball, if using hibiscus; preferably a stand mixer or food processor, although dough can be made by hand or with a pastry cutter, if needed (as long as there is available elbow grease…).

instructions
make compote. rinse rhubarb and trim ends. cut into 3/4-inch chunks. dump 1/2 of rhubarb into bottom of heavy pot. place hibiscus leaves into tea ball or cheesecloth, and add with brown sugar to rhubarb. stir, cover, and turn heat to med-low. cook 15 minutes, covered. remove cover and increase heat to medium; cook 15-17 minutes until rhubarb is broken down. add remaining half of rhubarb to mix and stir to combine. remove hibiscus and pour compote onto large baking sheet to cool. makes ~ 3 cups (will have leftover that’s great on toast!).

to make tarts, combine dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer; whisk together. with stand mixer with paddle attachment, add butter and turn mixer to low to incorporate. turn to medium and mix until mixture resembles cornmeal. add half & half and egg yolks, mix until combined. dough will be slightly crumbly but sticks together when pressed (like pie dough).

to shape tarts, divide dough into 10 equal pieces. on a lightly floured surface, working with one piece at a time, smash dough with hands into a rough circle, about 5 inches diameter. spoon 3 T of rhubarb compote in center of disc. fold edge of dough toward compote and up, to close tart. continue all the way around (if this doesn’t work well, you can sort of crimp however you want – notice these here are not elegant at all…).

line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (they will be going into your freezer, so if you have a lame freezer like me, you can instead place these on parchment-lined plates). slide spatula or bench scraper underneath and place on baking sheet or plate. freeze for 1 hour, at least (can keep frozen, unbaked, for another couple of weeks if needed, but wrap in plastic or place in freezer bags).

preheat oven to 375 F. transfer tarts to baking sheets (or remove sheets from freezer and place directly in oven). bake for 35 minutes, until edges brown and compote bubbles.

Gluten/Dairy-Free Rustic Rhubarb Tarts
Adapted from Good to the Grain; makes 10 tarts

printable version

ingredients
compote
2 lbs rhubarb
1 1/4 c brown sugar
1 T dried hibiscus leaves (optional; can also try vanilla, ginger, etc)

dry mix
1 c corn flour
1/2 c sweet rice flour
1/4 c sorghum flour
1/4 c potato starch
1/2 c fine cornmeal
1/4 c + 2 T sugar
1 t kosher salt

wet mix
4 oz cold shortening, cut into small chunks
1/4 c + 2 T vanilla hemp milk
2 egg yolks

special ingredients: cheesecloth or tea ball, if using hibiscus; preferably a stand mixer or food processor, although dough can be made by hand or with a pastry cutter, if needed (as long as there is available elbow grease…).

instructions
make compote. rinse rhubarb and trim ends. cut into 3/4-inch chunks. dump 1/2 of rhubarb into bottom of heavy pot. place hibiscus leaves into tea ball or cheesecloth, and add with brown sugar to rhubarb. stir, cover, and turn heat to med-low. cook 15 minutes, covered. remove cover and increase heat to medium; cook 15-17 minutes until rhubarb is broken down. add remaining half of rhubarb to mix and stir to combine. remove hibiscus and pour compote onto large baking sheet to cool. makes ~ 3 cups (will have leftover that’s great on toast!).

to make tarts, combine dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer; whisk together. with stand mixer with paddle attachment, add shortening and turn mixer to low to incorporate. turn to medium and mix until mixture resembles cornmeal. add hemp milk and egg yolks, mix until combined. dough will be slightly crumbly but sticks together when pressed (like pie dough).

to shape tarts, divide dough into 10 equal pieces. on a lightly floured surface, working with one piece at a time, smash dough with hands into a rough circle, about 5 inches diameter. spoon 3 T of rhubarb compote in center of disc. fold edge of dough toward compote and up, to close tart. continue all the way around (if this doesn’t work well, you can sort of crimp however you want – notice these here are not elegant at all…).

line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (they will be going into your freezer, so if you have a lame freezer like me, you can instead place these on parchment-lined plates). slide spatula or bench scraper underneath and place on baking sheet or plate. freeze for 1 hour, at least (can keep frozen, unbaked, for another couple of weeks if needed, but wrap in plastic or place in freezer bags).

preheat oven to 375 F. transfer tarts to baking sheets (or remove sheets from freezer and place directly in oven). bake for 35 minutes, until edges brown and compote bubbles.

Is There Rehab for Rhubarb?

rhubarb crisp
You’ll hear most people, including myself, get pretty excited about various Spring seasonals such as strawberries, asparagus, and even ramps. Yes, I’ve talked (or typed, or typed and talked, rather) about all of those in previous posts. And why shouldn’t I, right? They’re all sublime in their own way. Why, right this second, if you asked me, I could name at least 20 things to make with each of the above. And whether that’s true or not, you’ll never know because you are reading what I’ve already typed, rather than talking directly to me. So there. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

rhubarb


Speaking of smoking, I can think of one thing I’m totally cracked-out on. Well, one thing for today at least, as every day brings about a new addiction (in food terms only, most definitely. Although..now that I think about it, I am also addicted to things like vacations, sunshine, blogging and so on). And today that one thing is rhubarb. Yup, I said it. Rhu-barb. Oh yummers. If I hadn’t already cooked with it for two weekends straight, I’d re-consider it as the secret ingredient for the upcoming Iron Chef Battle. But I’ve already got that under wraps, and I’m not changin’ it no matter what. Plus, I like having these little nuggets to myself (or at least, for the two of us). Next time, I’ll buy more and freeze them. I’ve recently eliminated freezer space by eating the rest of some tasty pulled pork this week that a special someone sent me for my birthday. Move over piggies, it’s time for rhubarb!!


The first time I ever bought rhubarb was last year around this time. Kris & Jon came to visit for the weekend, and we stayed in for dinner one night. And while I can’t for the life of me remember what we had for dinner, I know I made a strawberry-rhubarb crisp that we all ate on for the whole night. Meaning, between each hand of spades, hearts, or whatever card game we were playing, one of us was in the kitchen wolfing down a bite of that crisp while the others shuffled and dealt. What I also remember was Chris turning his nose up and whining, “I don’t liiiiike rhu-baaaaaaarb.” Well, that crisp sure shut him up! Now if only I could get him to like cucumbers. I also vaguely recall a rhubarb-maple fool that I made for the in-laws’ visit. But before I knew it, rhubarb season was over. I somehow felt cheated – as if I were punished for discovering rhubarb 28 years into my life. Better late than never, right? I mean, give a girl a break! That being said, I’ve been waiting for it [the new rhubarb season] ever since.


crisp mixture

And so this time, I’ve made a point to buy these pretty in pink rods during both weekend trips to the Green City Market. The strawberries were slim pickin’s by the time we made it there last week, so instead I made a crisp with rhubarb & apple which was super scrumptitious. The apples were nice and crunchy and the rhubarb just melted in your mouth. I don’t know that I’d pair rhubarb with granny smiths, but most any other apple variety will probably do – just not the tart ones unless you enjoy that scrunched up look on your face. I don’t.


For my bunch o’ rhubarb from this past weekend, I did have strawberries and whipped up some strawberry-rhubarb frozen yogurt. Next week though, I just don’t know what I’m gonna make. I’m thinking I might get some jars and stock up on preserves, or maybe make a tart although I’m a little tart-ed out, which should come as no surprise.


What do you think? Ya got any bright ideas over there?!


Rhubarb-Apple Crisp
Liberally adapted from various crisp recipes; Serves 6


printable recipe

ingredients
Filling
1 lb rhubarb, cut into 1″ pieces
2 Fuji apples, cored and diced
3 T tapioca
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
2/3 c granulated sugar
1 T orange zest
2 T orange juice

Topping
2/3 c all purpose flour*
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 c regular oats*
1/2 t cinnamon
dash of salt
6 T unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes**

instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients for filling into medium bowl. Let sit 15 minutes. Pour into 13×9 baking dish.
  2. Preheat oven to 375
  3. Combine all ingredients for topping except butter. Cut in butter (with hands or pastry blender) until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over filling.
  4. Bake ~30 minutes. Let sit 10 before serving.


*You can easily turn this into a gluten-free dessert by using gluten-free oats and gluten-free flour. Since you’re not using the flour to develop gluten, you won’t need other additives such as guar gum or xantham gum. Most Whole Foods stores stock both of these products, but they can also be ordered online.

**You can also make this as a dairy-free dessert by using margarine (many brands are dairy-free) or the Smart Balance spreads. I’d recommend the Smart Balance Lite over margarine any day. I’ve also heard Earth Balance brand is a good non-dairy substitute.