Saturday, March 28, 2020

Seville Orange Ice Cream

In my anniversary post I mentioned that the little cake that inspired my chocolate pistachio cake was served with a scoop of ice cream.  So as I considered making my chocolate pistachio cake, I was thinking about ice cream too.  I wanted a flavor that would go well with the chocolate and the pistachio…and also that could be made with ingredients that I already had in the house (since we were in the first weekend after a national emergency had been declared in response to COVID19). 

I love orange with both pistachio and chocolate.  But I have already posted a recipe for “orange scented ice cream” that is made with an infusion of orange zest.  I'm sure that ice cream would be delicious with the cake, but I wanted to make something different.  As I was considering my options, I remembered a stash of sour oranges (also called Seville oranges) that I had in my fridge.  They were a gift from someone who attends my classes regularly, and I had intended to use them for marmalade…and possibly some orange liqueur.  I wondered if they might not be used for a more strongly flavored orange ice cream than the one I usually make with just plain zest.

I looked around a bit and found that no one was really making a true ice cream with Seville oranges.  Nigella Lawson has a recipe that has been made and shared on many different sites.  It is always presented as "ice cream," but it is actually more of a semifreddo (it is not churned and is just a simple, frozen mixture of whipped cream, orange juice, zest and sugar).  I’m sure it’s delicious…but I wanted to make a custard-style ice cream.

I decided to simply use my standard ice cream formula, substituting Seville orange juice for some of the dairy.  Normally I would have replaced the milk portion of my formula so as not to mess too much with the overall fat percentage of the ice cream.  But for several reasons I decided to replace half of the heavy cream with the orange juice.

My first reason was practical.  I had more milk in the house than cream and I didn’t want to blow through all of my heavy cream since I wouldn’t be replenishing my stash any time too soon.  Another reason had to do with the fact that while fat carries flavor, it also softens and mellows flavor.  And I wanted this ice cream to have a front and center orange taste.  Less fat seemed one way to achieve this. 

My final reason was a bit whimsical.  When I first started thinking about orange ice cream I wondered if maybe what I really wanted was orange gelato.  It has always been my impression that there isn't much agreement among "experts" about what makes gelato different from ice cream.  Since I have a little extra time on my hands right now, I thought I would actually look into it.  And as it turns out, my impression was correct.  There is really no consensus other than that most sources agree that gelato has less overrun (is less airy) than ice cream.  But this has more to do with the machine the base is run in than the ingredients themselves.  I did find that there are some who contend that in some regions of Italy gelato has a lower fat percentage than ice cream. And if this is the case then by replacing half of the heavy cream with juice I can get away with saying that I’m making Seville Orange Gelato (which sounds way more cool than Shelter-in-place Make-do-with-what-you-have Seville Orange Ice Cream).

The flavor of my Seville Orange Ice Cream (Gelato) blew me away.  I could not believe the intense and refreshing flavor those oranges produced.  It reminded me a bit of a really good orange sherbet (which is not the same thing as sorbet, since sherbet often includes dairy)…or what I remember orange creamsicles tasting like:  creamy…orange-y…refreshing.  It was so good that I was tempted to just zest and juice and freeze all the remaining oranges so I can make a lot more of this ice cream.  But since I really do want to make Marmalade…and maybe some Vin d’Orange…I’ll just freeze the zest and juice of a couple of the oranges that remain.  If you can get your hands on some sour oranges, you’ve got to give this ice cream a try.  We are nearing the end of citrus season…but I’m sure there are mail order sources that can be used when they are back in season (I will definitely be looking for them).

And for those of you who might be wondering why this ice cream didn’t show up on my anniversary post with the cake, the reason is again practical.  This ice cream was so special, I wanted it to have its own post…not to mention that I loved the version of the cake I made that was finished with a glaze and a few chopped pistachios.  I also didn’t want people to think they had to have Seville orange ice cream in order to fully enjoy those little cakes. I admit though, that I did sample one of the cakes, warm from the oven, topped with a scoop of this ice cream.  And I have to say, it was a match made in heaven.  

Seville Orange Ice Cream

2 Seville/sour oranges, washed and dried
1 1/2 c. whole milk
6 egg yolks
3/4 c. sugar (150g)
3/4 c. heavy cream
3 T. honey (64g)

Zest and juice the oranges.  Strain the juice.  You should have 3/4 c. orange juice.  If you are short, just increase the milk or heavy cream by the amount that you are short.  Put the orange juice in a covered container in the refrigerator until you are ready to run the ice cream.

Place the milk in a medium-sized, non-reactive saucepan.  Add the zest.  Bring to a simmer.  If you like, let the milk and zest steep (covered) for 10 or 15 minutes…but this is not necessary, the Seville orange zest is very flavorful and fragrant and imparts a lot of flavor to the milk even without steeping.  Return the milk to a simmer before proceeding. 

While the milk is heating, pour the cold cream into a chilled bowl, set aside.  Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and pale yellow.  When the milk boils, temper the egg yolks by gradually whisking in about half of the hot milk.  Stir the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan and place the pan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the custard is thickened and forms a path when you draw your finger across the back of the spoon (an instant read thermometer will read between 170° and 180°F.  Immediately strain the custard into the bowl of cold cream.  Add the honey and stir until the honey has melted.  Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

When ready to make the ice cream, stir the juice into the custard.  Freeze the ice cream in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Transfer to a freezer container and freeze for an hour or two before serving.  Makes about 1 quart ice cream.

Note:  I was interested to see that Nigella Lawson recommended substituting a mixture of navel orange and lime juice if you are unable to get Seville oranges.  I have not tried this…but it sounds delicious!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Announcement--Live, Online Class

Because I am for the time being unable to teach classes in person due to the COVID-19 outbreak, on March 26, 2020 I will be teaching my first live, online, cooking class!  The class will be from 7 to 8:30 Central Daylight Time...and will be intereactive in that you will be able to ask questions that I will answer in real time.  A local olive oil shop, Olive Tree, is hosting the class.  You can find out all the details and sign up for the class through their site.

The class will be about cooking from your pantry.  Recipes will include:

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Cream Scones

Chickpeas & Greens in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce

Sheet Pan Chicken Dinner

A Grain Bowl topped with a Poached Egg

I hope that many of you who live outside of the Kansas City area and who have always wished you could take one of my classes will take advantage of this unusual opportunity.  

Thank you!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Chocolate-Pistachio Financiers

One year ago this past week I moved to a new home.  This was my first move in almost 30 years…and it involved a lot of changes and adjustments to routines and responsibilities.  Everything about the move was good…but developing, testing and writing about recipes fell to the bottom of my to-do list for pretty much the whole of 2019. 

As 2020 began, things felt as if they were calming down a bit, but I still struggled to find room for my blog.  I had begun to wonder if I was going to be able to find time to work up a recipe and write a tenth anniversary blog post (which just so happens to be today!), when all of a sudden I have found myself with abundant time:  In the space of four days every piece of business on my calendar for the remainder of March has been canceled as almost all social interactions have ground to a halt in an attempt to stem the tsunami that is COVID-19. 

In light of the current situation, before I share my anniversary recipe, I want to encourage readers to follow me on Instagram or Twitter (if you aren’t already).  I love IG and have been fairly active there for the past few years, regularly sharing the things that I cook at home in hopes that this will provide inspiration for others in the daily quest to put dinner on the table.  As we are entering this time of social distancing and self isolation, I will begin to post this same kind of thing  on Twitter as well. 

I don’t know how long the current situation will last, but as restaurants are today beginning to close their doors many people will find themselves in the foreign territory of having to cook for themselves on a regular basis.  This would be hard enough in normal times—but it’s even more difficult if you are trying to feed yourself from a limited pantry of almost entirely shelf stable items.  So follow me—and encourage your friends (who might not have previously been in the habit of cooking for themselves) to follow me too—as I share the things I’m cooking for myself from a more limited pantry (supplemented by produce from less frequent trips to the grocery store).  It would be fantastic if there could be a truly good outcome from this rather traumatic period:  people rediscovering the pleasures of home, cooking and the table.

As for my anniversary, longtime readers might remember my tradition of making something Pistachio to mark each successive anniversary.  There is no particular reason for this other than I posted a pistachio cake on my first anniversary.  Then on the next one I made another pistachio cake.  At that point I felt like I needed to continue to challenge myself to come up with something featuring pistachios each year.  Besides cakes there have been a couple of cookie recipes, cupcakes, a savory sauce…even pancakes!

This year I made some mini cakes:  Chocolate-Pistachio Financiers.  The idea came to me as I was preparing for a class in February.  The dessert I taught was a “Chocolate Almond Mini Cake” from Patricia Wells’ book Simply French.  When I ran across the recipe I recognized it as a chocolate financier (a miniature French browned butter and almond meal cake).  Served with homemade espresso ice cream, it was a big hit with the class.

At the time it occurred to me that I would like the cake even more if it were made with pistachios.  I like almonds…but I love the flavor of pistachios—not to mention that it is especially good with chocolate.  And like all nut flours, pistachio flour/meal tenderizes and adds moisture.   

So, that was my plan for my anniversary post.  But as the day approached, I still hadn’t made a pistachio version.  Then, suddenly I had the whole weekend right before my anniversary free…with no pressing projects (other than figuring out how I’m going to earn a living for the foreseeable future….).

So I made these little chocolate-pistachio cakes my Sunday project (I’m trying to have a specific project each day while my work has stopped and I’m stuck at home).  And as it turned out, I was right:  I do indeed like them better than the almond ones.  The almond version didn’t get the lovely glaze I put on the pistachio cakes—but even without it, I think the pistachio cakes would still be better.  Pistachios have a natural sweetness that enhances the chocolate rather than diluting its flavor the way added sugar might.  They are intensely chocolate-y, tender and moist.  The perfect little bite of cake. 

If you are a baker, you probably have all of the ingredients for these cakes in your pantry already.  If you don’t have pistachios, but you have almonds…or hazelnuts…you can substitute either of those and have a delicious cake.  Baking is a great thing to do when you are stuck at home.  Besides baking, I’m catching up on other things I never had time to do this past year…and reveling in the extra time I have available to spend out in my garden at one of my favorite moments of the gardening year (when everything is waking up). And hopefully I’ll spend more time getting back into the rhythm of testing recipes and posting them here for all of you to enjoy.

Chocolate Pistachio Financiers

55 g. (1/2 c.) pistachio flour/meal (see note)
30 g. (1/4 c.) all-purpose flour
5 g. (1 T.) cocoa
90 g. (3/4 c.) powdered sugar
1/4 t. salt
90 g. bittersweet (70%) chocolate, chopped
20 g. (1 T.) honey
90 g. (6 T.) unsalted butter
3 egg whites (90 grams)—beaten until foamy
1 recipe chocolate glaze
2 or 3 T. coarsely chopped pistachios

Whisk the first five ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside. 

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and drizzle the honey over.  Place the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. As the butter begins to sputter and pop, whisk occasionally. The butter solids will begin to turn brown. When the solids are a golden brown and the butter has a pleasantly nutty aroma, pour the butter over the chocolate and honey (making sure to get all the browned bits).  Let sit for a few moments.  Whisk until smooth.

Add the egg whites to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Drizzle in the warm chocolate mixture in while whisking until fully incorporated.  Divide the batter among 9 buttered 2 oz. ramekins (or you can use a standard muffin tin--just fill 9 instead of all 12).  Chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.  

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.  If the ramekins have been in the fridge for longer than an hour or two, let them sit briefly on the counter so the ramekins can come to room temperature.  Place on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven.  Bake until the cake a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs—about 18 to 22 minutes.  Cool the cakes for 10 minutes before turning them out. 

The cakes may be served warm:  Dust with powdered sugar and serve with a small scoop of ice cream, custard sauce, or whipped cream.

Or, cool the cakes and decorate with chocolate glaze: Turn the cakes upside down (so the smooth, slightly domed side will face up) 

and place a spoonful of the cooled glaze (see below) in the center of a cake.  Spread the glaze to the edges so that it begins to drip randomly down the sides. Repeat with the remaining cakes.  

When the glaze is just set, garnish with a small mound of chopped pistachios placed on the center of each cake.  

The cakes may be baked up to 24 hours ahead.  Store airtight.

  • I have never found pistachio flour for sale.  I grind raw pistachios in a rotary nut grinder (the kind used for Parmesan) to make nut flour.
  • You can substitute almonds or hazelnuts for the pistachios
  • When I made these cakes I didn’t have any 70% chocolate in my pantry.  But I did have unsweetened (i.e. 100%) and 60%.  So I used 1/4 unsweetened and 3/4 60% to approximate 70%. 

Chocolate Glaze

55 g. (4 T) unsalted butter, diced
85g. (3 oz.) bittersweet chocolate, broken up
1 T. (21 g.) honey

Melt the butter, chocolate and honey together in the microwave or over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth.  Let the glaze cool until it just begins to thicken (the temperature will be about 80°

Monday, March 9, 2020

Harissa Spiced Lamb Chops with Carrots, Dates, Feta & Fresh Herbs

I have been a bit behind lately in coming up with ideas…and consequently syllabi…for my cooking classes.  Recently I scheduled a wine pairing class with nothing but a title (A Late Winter Menu with Wine).  It was gratifying that the class filled anyway.  Unfortunately this allowed me to push coming up with a menu until the last minute.  Testing recipes at the last minute was a little stressful—but a good thing for the class because I taught from a perspective of fresh inspiration.  Several regulars commented afterwards that they thought the menu was exceptional.   

I decided to prepare lamb for the main course.  I found my inspiration in Diana Henry’s delightful cookbook Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors.  I picked this book up a couple of years ago and have not really had the time to spend in it that I would like.  I remember making a delicious baked pasta with chestnuts and cream when I was looking for some fresh ideas for chestnuts…but that’s about it.  While preparing for this class I spent a little bit more time in my perusal…and will definitely be returning to the book.  “Effortless Food, Big Flavors,” is a truly appropriate title. 

It was the bold flavors of this Mediterranean-style lamb dish that attracted me:  Spicy lamb…  tangy yogurt…  salty Feta… soft, sweet dates… and loads of fresh herbs.  Basically a flavor party on a plate.   I used all of these great contrasting flavors in the dish I ultimately taught…with a few touches of my own. 

The first thing that struck me as I considered the original recipe was that Harissa would have been a perfect condiment.  I didn’t have any Harissa on hand…and because I was in a bit of a rush I didn’t want to make any.  Instead, I augmented Henry’s cumin and cayenne spice rub with coriander, caraway and paprika (basically making my own harissa spice blend).

I also decided to add a few carrots, roasted with this spice mix, to the plate.  I always want more vegetables.  As a bonus, the carrots add great color—and they are delicious with dates. 

I served it all with a simple farro pilaf. Call me old-fashioned, but I always like to include a starch of some kind with an entrée.  Henry suggests olive oil roasted potatoes, bulgur, or couscous as go-withs.  And I think any of these would be good…but I was particularly pleased with how the farro added a subtle nutty and sweet earthiness to the whole dish.  I will probably always serve it with the farro.

As an aside, the farro recipe I made yields a bit more than you will probably need to go with the lamb.  But this is not a bad thing.  I always love having extra cooked grains on hand since I then have an excellent foundation for a quick lunch.  While testing the recipes for this class I used it for just that, topping the leftover farro with a poached egg and some Harissa roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots (an excellent combination).

Since we are heading into spring…and my class menu was planted firmly in  winter in terms of ingredients…I will probably wait until next fall or winter to post the appetizer and salad (both of which were delicious).  The dessert doesn't really need its own post (at least not for the near future (it was the banana cake from my last post...baked in layers, filled with salted butter caramel, frosted with white chocolate cream cheese frosting and garnished with candied pecans).   But I wanted to go ahead and post the lamb entrée now.  Doing so allows me to present it with the fresh enthusiasm that was, I think, so appealing in the class.  Plus, I tend to eat lamb more during the spring and summer months, and I think this particular dish would be wonderful during the early part of the growing season when young carrots and soft, fresh herbs are available.  When the weather warms up, this lamb will be fantastic prepared on the grill.

Harissa Spiced Lamb Chops with Carrots, Dates, Feta & Fresh Herbs

4 lamb loin chops (see notes)
2 T. Olive oil
2 t. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 t. Harissa spice (see below)

1 lb. carrots, trimmed and peeled
2 T. olive oil
2 t. Harissa spice (see below)

1/2 c. (125 g.) Greek Yogurt, preferably full fat (5%)—see notes
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice (more or less, to taste)
1 clove garlic, smashed to a purée with a pinch of salt
4 t. olive oil
3 to 4 t. water                                                                                         

3 to 4 oz. Feta in brine, drained and broken into small and medium chunks
6 to 8 Medjool dates, pitted and cut into 6 strips each
1/2 c. of very coarsely chopped fresh herbs—a mix of Italian Parsley, Mint, and Dill (if the leaves are small, you may leave them whole)
1 T. finely sliced chives

If possible, salt the lamb 12 to 24 hours ahead.  Up to two hours before cooking, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and harissa in a shallow dish.  Add the lamb, turning the chops to coat with the marinade.  If cooking within half an hour, leave at room temperature.  Otherwise refrigerate until a half hour prior to cooking.

Cut the carrots on the bias in 1/3-inch thick slices.  Cut these slices lengthwise into two or three strips (approx. 1/3-inch wide).  The carrots should look like quills (or penne pasta).  Toss with olive oil and the harissa spice mix.  Spread on a rimmed sheet pan and roast in a 400° oven until tender and nicely caramelized—about 25 minutes. (If serving with farro, it works well to add the water to the farro when the carrots go into the oven).

While the carrots roast, make the sauce:  In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, water and a good pinch of salt.  The consistency should be like regular plain yogurt—add more water or olive oil if it is too thick.  Taste and correct the acidity with lemon (the sauce should be very tangy).  Check the seasoning and correct as necessary. (The sauce may be made ahead.)

When the carrots are almost done, heat a cast iron skillet over high heat.  When the pan is hot, add the lamb chops (there should be enough oil on the chops…but if the pan seems dry, add a bit of oil).  Allow the chops to cook until they are nicely caramelized on the first side before turning them over (2 or 3 minutes).  Cook in a similar fashion on the second side, regulating the heat to prevent scorching.  When the chops are well browned, tip them on their sides to quickly sear (on all sides).  Check the temperature of the lamb so you’ll have an idea of how close it is to your preferred doneness (see temperature guide in the notes below).  If necessary, transfer the pan to the oven to continue cooking until they are the way you like them.  For small chops, even if you like them well done, this won’t be much longer than 7 or 8 minutes.  If you like your lamb rare, you may not need to put them in the oven at all. 

To serve, place a spoonful of sauce on one side of each plate, spreading it out into an arc.  Place a small mound of farro next to it (on the other side of the plate)…or a mound of couscous, or roasted potatoes, etc.  Scatter half of the carrots, dates and herbs over the sauce.  Place the chop on top (leaning against the farro), followed by the remaining carrots and dates.  Scatter the Feta and the remaining herbs over all.  Drizzle with olive oil if you like.  Serves 4

(Recipe inspired by a recipe in Simple by Diana Henry)

  • I have written the recipe assuming one loin chop per person. Many would consider this to be a very small portion. Recipes frequently give quantities assuming 2 per person. In my experience loin chops weigh about 4 to 5 oz. You should prepare as many as you like. Simply adjust the quantity of marinade to cover the number of chops you will be preparing.
  • You may use lamb rib chops (cut from the rack) in place of the loin chops. As with the loin chops, you should prepare as many as you like, depending on appetites. When I use rib chops I think 2 is a nice portion. But as for the loin chops, many people would prefer 3 or 4.
  • I have made this recipe using both commercial Greek yogurt and my own homemade Labneh. Since my homemade yogurt is quite tangy, it didn’t require near as much lemon juice. You should add lemon juice to taste, remembering that the sauce needs to be very tangy.
  • Lamb temperature guide (remember that the temperature will continue to go up a few degrees after the lamb is out of the oven/pan): Rare—120°F; Medium Rare—125°F; Medium—130°F; Medium Well—135°F; Well Done—140°F.
  • Substitute a few halved Brussels sprouts for some of the carrots.

Farro Pilaf

2 T. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 medium shallots, peeled and finely diced
1 c. pearled farro, rinsed
1 T. picked thyme, roughly chopped
2 1/2 c. water

Warm the olive oil in a medium sauce pan set over moderate heat.  Add the shallot along with a pinch of salt.  Sweat until the shallot is tender—about 5 minutes.  Add the farro and thyme and continue to cook and stir until the farro is well-coated in the fat, lightly toasted and hot through—about 3 minutes.

Add the water, along with some salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and cook until the farro is tender but still has texture (al dente)—about 25 minutes. Let the farro rest, covered, off of the heat for a few minutes.  Drain and return to the pan to keep warm.  To serve, taste and correct the seasoning.   Drizzle with a bit of olive oil (for flavor and moisture) if you like. Serves 4 generously (I always have some left over—which I love having to make a grain bowl or a salad for lunch).

Harissa Spice

4 t. cumin seed
2 t. coriander seed
2 t. caraway seed
1 t. cayenne
4 t. paprika

Pound the cumin, coriander and caraway until fine using a mortar & pestle—or grind in a spice grinder.  Add the cayenne and paprika.  Recipe makes a generous quarter cup of blended spice.

  • If you prefer, you may substitute pre-ground cumin, coriander and caraway, but the flavor will not be as vibrant.
  • Harissa should have some heat. I find this mix to be sufficiently spicy, but if you like a lot of heat, feel free to increase the cayenne. Conversely, if this is too hot for you, simply decrease the cayenne.