Sunday, July 18, 2010

no-ice-cream-maker raspberry sorbet

I like to find ways of jimmy-rigging my way around expertly specified instructions. Why use a hammer and nails when there's duct tape aplenty? Oh. Well. Now that I think about it, I may have gotten this attitude from my father. He's a man who never takes a direct route- because that's what builds character. Living in constant frustration, I mean, builds character. Personally, though, I'd like to think that my "alternative" solutions are ingenious, and save either time or money. I imagine my father also thinks the same thing... but I'm trying to avoid this vortex of introspection I'm starting to open up over here. Anyway! This recipe costs me very little to make, in terms of money, because I do it with inexpensive ingredients and no fancy ice-cream maker. The lack of an ice cream maker, however, makes it somewhat time-intensive, so I recommend making it if you'll be home for most of the day. You know, hiding from that big yellow thing in the sky, wishing you had something cold and delicious in the freezer...

I get my raspberries for free because they grow in my backyard. This is the only reason I can allow myself to take such a huge quantity of them and not shove them directly into my mouth. Not that you should be jealous, since I'm the one who picks them (I'm less delicious to mosquitoes than my mother, so I get the brave the wild), raspberry bushes have many tiny thorns all over them, and while I am not too attractive to insects, I'm not entirely unattractive either.
The raspberries are ripening quickly, and we've got so many that I'm sure there'll be more than one blog entry about raspberry-themed dishes. This one in particular came from the fact that we still have frozen raspberries from last year to deal with, and I figured the best thing to do with frozen berries is keep them frozen in a sorbet. This is one of the earliest recipes I've ever made and it is easy, tasty as all hell, and probably somewhat nutritious. I think. I've been using this recipe for years, and originally got it from an old Cosmo Girl at the library, they credit the recipe to the Ciao Bella Gelato Company. You'll need simple syrup. To make it, combine 2 cups water with 2 cups sugar, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and stir frequently for about 5 minutes before taking it off the heat. Yields 3 cups, and now you, too, will get annoyed when you see pretty glass bottles of it in Trader Joe's. It's a ripoff, people, since it's cheap-as-free in your own home.
Raspberry Sorbet, makes 6 servings:
3 cups simple syrup
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
5 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup water
1. Combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth (might need to do this in two batches)
2. Remove seeds by pouring through a strainer or fine mesh sieve. I mix it in the sieve with a wooden spoon so it strains faster
3. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours, pour into ice cream maker and follow machine directions*

*If you don't have an ice cream maker, which I don't, pour the mixture into a wide, flat container. Freeze until slushy, stirring it up every 15-30 minutes with a fork so you don't get a 12x12 ice cube (happened once; risking frostbite on your fingers isn't worth it, even for tasty sorbet). When slushy throughout, transfer to a plastic container and allow it to freeze. Enjoy!
(** I wonder whether you can just freeze the mixture in ice cube trays, turn it into slush with your blender, and then freeze it in a container. Try it and tell me. I don't have ice cube trays! Alternatively, freeze it in large freezer bags, laying flat, so its easy to crack into pieces. After cracking, blend in a blender or food processor, and spoon it into a container to allow it to freeze. Jimmy-rigging really works! And you don't have to babysit this one all day.)

Mango Sorbet, makes 6 servings: (This is on the same page as the raspberry sorbet recipe. I've never made this because mangoes go very quickly around here, but I want to)
4 medium-sized mangoes, washed
2 cups simple syrup
3 tbsp lime juice
1 cup water

Directions: peel mangoes, scoop and cut out the flesh, combine all ingredients and puree in a blender, follow directions as above.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cold soup for hot days

I like cold soups in the summer because they combine the complete-mealness of a hot soup, with the don't-use-the-stoveness you desire on these 95-degrees-in-the-shade days. This particular soup is a semi-original invention that was spawned when I saw recipes for yogurt-based soups and tried to find a way to make them without actually using yogurt. I'm not a yogurt eater, with the exception of the frozen, Pinkberry variety. I know, yogurt is great; it's full of healthy bacteria and bone-building calcium, and I'm even told it tastes good, though that last part is highly dubious. But you know what else has all those health benefits without the yogurt taste? Buttermilk. Okay, I know, when you think of buttermilk, what comes to mind is that thing you add to pancake and cake batters, and not a soup base. But try it. This soup will taste suspiciously like tzatziki sauce, and I have been reading up on Wikipedia, and apparently, some cultures do make a chilled soup with similar ingredients, including buttermilk. (Of course, those cultures also have a history of this and this, but that's not to discount their soup expertise)
Friends, I assure you, on balls-hot days, it is air conditioning in a bowl.

I included dill and parsley as the herbs, but I'm sure it would taste great with cilantro, mint, or even arugula leaves sliced into thin ribbons. I did not add lemon juice, since the buttermilk is already tart, but that's another option.

1 quart buttermilk
5 cucumbers (give or take) cut into small cubes, seeded if desired
2-3 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced
2 tbsps sour cream
1 tbsp mayonnaise
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tbsp fresh dill
cayenne pepper to taste
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Garnish (optional)
sliced or crumbled hard boiled eggs
thinly sliced or cubed radish
scallion slices

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive container, cover and chill for several hours to let the flavor develop. Taste just before serving, and adjust seasoning as needed. Top with garnish of choice. Serves... lets say 6-8? Depending on bowl size? Okay. 6-8.
Note: if when you first combine the ingredients, they seem a little thick, dilute with a little water at a time until it's at the desired consistency.

 (I'm not a good photographer, but you can tell by the jaunty placement of that napkin that I'm trying my darnedest)

Enjoy! Next time I'll have a dessert.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In which mysterious dental woes may affect diet! (Also, a leftover-chicken-meat idea.) (Also, this isn't a food-only blog! Books, baby!)


I was trying to find the least appetizing picture of mashed potatoes on the internet, so as to better communicate the possibility of my need to eat them, and only them, in the near future. Turns out, the worst you can find is a slightly awkward picture of mashed potatoes (see above) because they look and taste good almost no matter what. But the reason I wanted this photographic representation of squishy, unappetizing foods is that I went to the dentist complaining about a shooting pain in one tooth when I chew; the doctor drilled and filled and said that if that doesn't make it better, he'll have to try something else. Well, long story short, it still hurts, which means I may be due for some exotic dental work in the near future.

Worry not- in anticipation of this, I did two very responsible things. 1. Located the oxycodone-based painkillers in the medicine cabinet (so much cheaper than filling a prescription, and more effective than wuss-strength Rite-Aid brand acetaminophen! Plus, if I don't develop an addiction, I get to rub it in Rush Limbaugh's face) aaaand 2. I bought a cheap ice pop mold! Yay! So stay tuned for some potentially colorful stay-cool summer recipes that call for 2 cups yogurt, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup diced strawberries and 800mg Percocet.*
Hopefully, the dental thing will work out quickly, though. I'd really love to be able to chew on both sides of my mouth again soon. Until then, there are lots of delicious, tooth-friendly things I can make (and blog about). Gee, I hope you like eggplant. In every form imaginable.

Enough griping, though. I promised a leftover-chicken-meat idea, and here it is. Bear with the shaky sales pitch, please. I was channeling my inner Sham-Wow Guy...

CHIKIN: You know when you make too much chicken, and you thought leftovers were a good idea, but by the third day you'd rather chew drywall? Or when you buy a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, compliment yourself on your savvy dinner solution, and then end up confronted by the half-eaten carcass every time you open the fridge? Here's what we do, and it's not bad at all: 

1. Pull chicken off the bones, if there are any, and mince it with a knife, or pulse it in a food processor
2. Dice up an onion (depending on how much chicken there is, you want about 1/4 amount of onion per amount of chicken, depending on how much you like onion) and saute in a frying pan in a generous amount of oil until golden brown.
3. Throw in the minced chicken and give it a good stir, to mix the onions and let it absorb all the tasty onion-y oil. Taste, and adjust seasonings as you see fit
4. Toss with some kind of short pasta. I like tri-color rotini because it traps the meat in its folds and looks pretty.
Behold! Cheap, easy and very delicious comfort food. I made some today and threw a little shredded cheddar into it. I suppose I could have put the meat into puff pastry, or fried it in wonton wrappers and made something a little more impressive, but there'll always be leftover chicken to experiment with, so what's the hurry?

The nice thing about visiting the dentist, though, is the rummaging I got to do at the Salvation Army store not far from his office. I've recently taken a liking to Housing Works thrift stores, but this SA location is the only thrift store near me. ANYWAY- the thing about Housing Works is that, probably because of its locations in Manhattan, it gets raided by the hip, and all the good stuff goes fast. This Salvation Army store is in a working-class/immigrant neighborhood, and  is inconveniently open during normal working hours, so most people go for the clothing and housewares, and a lot of the books and CD's probably sit on the shelves for a long time before anyone who would be interested spots them.***  Anyone with a face full of Novacaine and a sense of adventure, that is. AND- it was "family day" so most items were half off. Hurray!
So here's what I bought, and will review:

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Nifffenegger (although it never bodes well when fairly recent books end up in a thrift store... which makes me wonder why the shelves weren't filled with more copies of Twilight), Fiction Writer's Handbook (preface by Norman Mailer, Epilogue by J.D. Salinger, and I may even read the stuff in the middle), Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff (because the cover looked appealing, although this book-choosing strategy has lead to a fair amount of disappointment), Cervantes' Don Quixote, Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeny's Humor Category (intro by Dave Eggers), Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel, The God of Small Things by Arundathi Roy, I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci, and, finally, a copy of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, which, as it turns out, will be a duplicate at my house, because my brother already owns a copy. oops. At least it only cost me 49 cents. OMG, I know!

"See Deez"- The Rentals, two CDs- "Seven More Minutes" and "Return of The Rentals" (I listened to the latter and remembered that, actually, I don't like The Rentals that much. I think I grabbed the CDs out of sheer surprise of seeing them) Reel Big Fish's "Keep your reciept"(- just listened to that, too. I liked it, and was sad to see that it's only a 5-track sampler.) Gin Blossom's "New misterable experience" (yes, it's the one with "hey jealousy" on it. I like that kind of thing, okay?), and finally, my coup de grace, Stroke 9's "Nasty Little Thoughts" which I had uploaded on my old computer, before it died, and I'm very happy to have replaced it. So maybe my taste in music is sometimes questionable. At least I didn't buy the Smashmouth CD out of a misplaced sense of nostalgia, right?
Anyway, that's my to-do list for the summer. Read all of those books. Write a little about it. Find gainful employment

(My camera battery died and I asked my brother to take some "food porn pictures" for my blog. He did, though not in the way I had in mind. He says we have different definitions of "food porn".)

* directions: combine all ingredients in blender, add more sugar if desired, pour into ice pop molds, freeze & enjoy.**
**Don't really do this. I didn't try this recipe out, and I suspect in needs lemon juice.
***That's not to say that the working class and immigrants don't read, it's just that here, you're not cheek and jowl with 60 year old men in tweed jackets with liberal arts degrees in obscure fields of historical and literary study, who have time to read and money to buy full-price books, let alone the discounted ones. See: Upper West Side used bookstores. But if I've offended not one but two social strata, whoopty-doo to me.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Your-Best-Friend-Is-Leaving Seafood Paella

I'm not too sure how it happened, but my best friend, who is driving to Kansas in a van filled with two cats and other, less furry belongings as I write this, bribed me into posting this as my first recipe. I think the way she did it was she said she'd help me make it, take pictures, and eat it. A clever ruse.

So, because she's on the road to new and exciting things right this minute, I thought it would be appropriate to post the recipe. Originally, I found it on the internet, but I made enough adjustments (9 1/2 cups of liquid for 3 cups of rice??) to not feel like taking credit for it would be copyright infringement. I added peas, increased the paprika,and added scallops and found out that you can make "fish stock" by combining one quantity of clam juice with one quantity of vegetable stock. This is great to know, because while I felt brave a few weeks ago and froze some fish heads for stock making, the idea of boiling fish remnants is soooo unappealing to me. This clam juice and veggie broth solution greatly reduces the ick factor. And so-- here you are, surprisingly easy, pescatarian friendly, and all-around tasty Seafood Paella:

1 large pan
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (or not peeled because there is flavor in the shells)
1/2 lb clams, well scrubbed
1/2 lb baby scallops
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups rice
8 oz bottle of clam juice
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 tsp saffron
2 tsp Spanish paprika
1 cups red bell pepper, in smallish dice
3/4 cup frozen peas, frozen
salt & pepper, to taste
lemon wedges, for serving

1. Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add onion and red pepper, cook until onion begins to soften. Add garlic, cook 5 more minutes.
2. Add rice to the pan, cook stirring constantly, until rice is translucent, about 5 minutes.
3. Mix in the seafood, peas, seasonings and clam juice and broth. Cover and cook for 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.
4. Taste, adjust seasonings as necessary, and let stand, covered, for about 5 minutes before serving. Serve with lemon wedges.
Makes 6 servings. They will go quickly.

Note: If you see that some of your clams have not opened, throw those out.

And good news! I just took my "after" pictures of a thing I made, so I'm good for at least one more entry!