Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Keeping My Cool
What’s cooking? Apricot Sorbet and Peach Frozen Yogurt

Normally, the idea that a giant hotel will, in 6 months time, be blocking part of the view from our condo would be enough to send a person into a deep funk.

The news was worrisome, mostly because it threatened our view of the Statue of Liberty. But in life, I try not to worry about events over which I have no control. I’m not sure it’s saved me any gray hairs, but it certainly reduces the number of things I worry about. So I’ve determined to make whatever lemonade I can out of this little lemon.

Mostly, it’s been really fun this summer watching the crews of construction workers pouring and smoothing foundations, installing windows, framing out rooms, and so on. Last week, when the weather was ghastly and I didn’t want to go out, the ever-changing panorama of workmen and cranes and those elevators that go on the outside of the building was a lot more fun than daytime TV.

The heat outside also encouraged me to generate more cool inside – with sorbets and frozen yogurts. With any fruit I can get my mitts on. OMG. Each flavor seems better than the last. So if you don’t have an ice cream maker, I heartily recommend one. Try one of these, all adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.

But first, a couple of the Kitchen Goddess’s notes about sorbets/frozen yogurts:

1. These recipes call for cooking the fruit in a non-reactive saucepan. Generally, that means anodized aluminum, glass (e.g., Pyrex), enamel-coated cast iron (e.g., Le Creuset), or stainless steel. Highly acidic foods – most fruits (including tomatoes), wine, and vinegars – react badly with aluminum and untreated cast iron, causing a metallic taste to leach into the food, changes in the color of the food, and pits/discoloration in the pan itself. Aren’t you glad you asked? You can use a copper pan, but only if you’re cooking fruit WITH sugar. Me, I just go with the stainless steel pans.

2. My friends at America’s Test Kitchen recommend “super-chilling” your dessert base by freezing a small amount (~½ cup) of it, then remixing it into the larger part  before transferring it to your ice cream machine. That seems to be effective in producing a less granular dessert.

Apricot Sorbet

Makes about 1 quart.

2 pounds really ripe apricots, pits removed
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur

Kitchen Goddess note: The ginger liqueur was my own idea. Or you can just add a piece of fresh ginger to the stovetop mixture. But if you get the ginger liqueur, your life will never be the same. Lebovitz added almond extract instead, which doesn’t sound nearly as exciting.

Chop the pitted apricots into eighths. (Don’t obsess on precise eighths – it’s all just going into a stew.) Bring the apricots and water over medium heat in a non-reactive pan, covered, until cooked through (about 10 minutes). Stir occasionally. When the fruit is completely softened, remove it from the heat and stir in the sugar. Let cool to room temperature.

Purée the mixture in a blender until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger liqueur. Chill thoroughly, then process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

* * *

Peach Frozen Yogurt

Makes about 1 quart.

1½ pounds ripe peaches (about 5 large peaches)
½ cup water
¾ cup sugar
1 cup Greek yogurt (whole-milk, 2%, or fat-free – I used fat-free which makes the sorbet a bit harder to scoop straight out of the fridge, so I let it thaw 12-15 minutes first)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Peel and pit the peaches, then cut them into chunks. Put them with the water into a non-reactive saucepan and cook over medium heat – low simmer – until soft (they’ll start to look like canned peaches), about 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the sugar. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Purée the chilled fruit in a blender with the lemon juice and the yogurt. Depending on your preference, you may want to leave the purée slightly chunky; smooth or slightly chunky won’t matter to the flavor.

Process in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s directions.

Kitchen Goddess note: In a moment of what can only be described as inspiration, the Kitchen Goddess spooned on some of that fabulous Blueberry Syrup from an earlier post. OMG.

P.S. It turns out we’ll still have the best parts of our view, including Lady Liberty.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Surviving Summer in a Small Kitchen
What’s cooking? Roasted Garlic and Honey-Lemon Salad Dressing

As much as I love cooking, I still don’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen. Especially in the summer when I’m consigned to an area that’s about 9 feet by 4 feet of walking around space. I know, it’s a perfectly good size for an apartment kitchen; it’s just really small compared to the kitchens I’ve been cooking in for the last 33 years.

So when I lose my mind at the farmers’ market, as I did last Sunday – okay, most Sundays – I have to find ways to clear fridge space as well as work space, and minimize the time I spend on meals for the rest of the week.

I start with the beets. A bunch of beets with its leafy tops takes up a ridiculous amount of space in the fridge. Turn the oven on to 400º. Cut the stems off the beets and stick them (the stems) in a couple of inches of water in the sink. Put the beets themselves into a covered casserole dish (no need to wash them) and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.

When they’re done, let the beets cool until you can handle them, then gently rub the skins off with your fingers. (The Kitchen Goddess uses rubber gloves because God forbid she should get beet juice under her nails.) Store them in the fridge for up to 3-4 days until you find time to make a beet salad.

Beets -- roasted, peeled, ready for whatever

As long as I’ve got the oven on, I grab a head of garlic – which you can do even if you don’t buy beets – for roasting. Roasted garlic is so fabulous that the Kitchen Goddess wonders what she ever did before she discovered it. It can take the place of chopped garlic in a salad dressing or a pasta dish or to enhance the flavor in a dish you might not ordinarily add it to. It has none of that pungency nor the burn of raw garlic, and baking it ahead of use brings out its sweet and savory characteristics. I recently experimented with it in a mushroom risotto, which disappeared like *poof!* when I served it to my family. It’s excellent in mashed potatoes and even on its own as a spread with bruschetta.

For the Roasted Garlic:

Garlic before roasting
Remove as much of the papery skin as you can – or feel like doing – without destroying the bulb.
Slice enough of the top off the head to expose most of the individual cloves. The Kitchen Goddess goes a little overboard here and trims the tops off even the cloves lower down on the side of the head; you should go as far as you want.
Set the bulb in an ovenproof dish. You may want to trim the base of the bulb just enough to let it sit flat.
Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the garlic, and sprinkle on a pinch of kosher salt.
Garlic after roasting
Cover the dish and bake in a 400º oven for 40-45 minutes.
If you’re not planning to use it immediately, store the roasted garlic in an airtight container in the fridge, where it will keep for a couple of weeks.

Back to the beet greens. Once they’ve soaked the dirt off, spin them dry and lay them between layers of paper towels. Stack the layers and maneuver the lot into a gallon-size zip-lock bag. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can and store in the refrigerator until ready for cooking.

Now for those giant heads of lettuce. Follow the same procedure as for the beet greens (or turnip greens or collards, etc.): wash/soak them in a sinkful of cold water to get the dirt off, spin them dry, then layer them with paper towels and – gently – jam the lot into another zip-lock bag. Once you’ve squeezed the air out, they’re like those vacuum-sealed bags you can buy to store your blankets or whatever – they consume a fraction of the space for a head of lettuce, and they don’t even have to be in a vegetable drawer.

The best part about dealing with the lettuce like this is that you can make a salad at a moment’s notice. Moreover, the lettuce stays fresh this way for about TWO WEEKS (you heard me), as long as you remember to squeeze the air out again each time you remove some.

Two heads of lettuce, fresh from the farmers' market.

Now that you’re completely organized, you can make a salad. Summer salads are the best because of the wealth of fresh ingredients available. My favorites start with a bowlful of torn lettuce leaves, and add at least 2 – or as many as you like – of the following (in no particular order):

Avocado (cubed or sliced)
Berries: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
Peas: sugar snap peas, snow peas, or English peas
Corn: no cooking needed, just cut it right off the cob
Cucumber (cubed or sliced)
Peach (½-inch dice)
Radishes, thinly sliced

Then add your favorite not-too-complex dressing, which might even be a bottled dressing. I will confess here to a fondness for Newman’s Own Caesar Dressing. Here’s a great one, from one of my previous posts, with the addition of one of those roasted garlic cloves:

Honey-Lemon Salad Dressing

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon salt
1 clove roasted garlic (optional)
½ cup olive oil
fresh ground pepper

Whisk together the honey, lemon juice, and salt. Mash the garlic into it. Add the olive oil in a stream, whisking constantly as you pour. Add the pepper and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Happy summer!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Save the Greens
What’s cooking? Beet Greens with Bacon and Tomato

I lost my mind at the framers’ market yesterday. It was the first day for peaches, the first for field-ripened tomatoes (or so they said, tho they looked suspiciously like the hothouse variety), and the first for sweet corn. High season has hit for the blueberries, and as I entered the marketplace, a woman passed by me with the most gorgeous beet greens sticking artfully out of her shopping bag. I vowed right then to get some for myself.

So after snagging a bunch of beets along with the peaches, tomatoes and blueberries, and my usual allotment of lettuce and mushrooms and zucchini and fresh fish, I was heading toward the car when I ran into my friend Claudia. She mentioned how nice it was to have sour cherries available for her cherry pies. What the heck, I said to myself – maybe I should make a cherry pie, too. (More on that in my next post.)