Friday, August 24, 2007

Anniversary Biscuits

DH and I always celebrate birthdays and anniversaries the same way: we go out to eat. This year, though, our anniversary is on a Friday, and we can't go out on Shabbat, so we're postponing our celebratory meal until Sunday evening.

Still, I thought it would be nice to do a little something on the Big Day itself, and as you all know, I'm always looking for an excuse to bake. There was no question of doing something for dinner, since we've been invited to a friend's, so I decided to make a nice breakfast. I didn't have to wake up early or start the night before. These biscuits can be prepared in about ten minutes, plus 10-12 minutes in the oven.

The recipe is adapted from "Baking Powder Biscuits" in Betty Crocker's Homemade Quick Breads. I substituted butter for the vegetable shortening and used a food processor instead of a pastry blender. I also cut the recipe in half, since there are only two of us.

Buttery Biscuits

1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, in slices
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tbs sugar
1`1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
about 1/3 cup milk

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the slices of butter and continue pulsing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer to a bowl. Add milk gradually, stirring, until the dough forms a bowl.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently roll in flour to coat. Knead lightly. Pat 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a 2 inch cookie cutter or an overturned glass. Gather any leftover scraps of dough into a ball, pat it out, and cut more biscuits until the dough is used up.

Place the biscuits about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until brown around the edges. Serve hot.

Makes about 6 biscuits.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ben & Jerry's Raspberry Ice Cream

Raspberry isn't the first flavor that comes to mind when I think of Ben & Jerry's, but it's listed in the "Greatest Hits" chapter of their recipe book, so I figured I'd give it a whirl. I'm glad I did. This ice cream is delicious, creamy, and very fresh-tasting, with little juicy bits of berry throughout. And the raspberries came from the farmer's market, so I get to use Blush again!

One thing I should mention about the Ben & Jerry's book is that the recipes couldn't be much easier. They'd never ask you do anything as complicated as tempering eggs or seeding berries. I'm okay with a few seeds, but I'm not comfortable feeding my guests raw eggs, so I substituted their egg-free sweet cream base for the one with eggs. If you're willing to live on the edge, you can add two whole eggs and substitute one cup of milk for the half-and-half. Ice cream with eggs supposedly keeps better long term (not that I would know).

Since my raspberries were pretty mild, I also reduced the sugar from 1 1/2 cups to 1 cup, and I thought it was about right. Use your judgment.

Without further ado:

Raspberry Ice Cream

1 pint fresh raspberries
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
2/3 cup half-and-half

Combine the raspberries, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

Pour the cream into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the remaining sugar, a little at time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the half-and-half and whisk to blend.

Drain the juice from the raspberries into the cream mixture and blend. Mash the raspberries and stir them into the cream mixture.

Transfer the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions.

Makes a little over 1 quart.

(Cross-posted to the Kosher Blog.)

Farmer's Market Finds

We foodies tend to get excited when summer comes around and farmer's markets start popping up everywhere. Summer's almost over, though, and so far, I've found very little at my local farmer's markets that seemed blog-worthy. Maybe it's because it's been a drought year, or maybe I've been making lousy choices. Either way, most of the the produce I've picked up has been no better than what we get at the supermarket. A few times I bought "interesting" items, such as shungiku, which the sign at the market said was "good in stir-fries." When I got home to my computer, I learned that shungiku is also known as "edible chrysanthemum," and that's what it tastes like -- a flower. (Sorry, but eating flowers has never been my thing.)

Then, recently, the yield started to improve, culminating in this batch of heirloom tomatoes, which I bought on Monday:

They were a mixed bag, but the good ones were very good. As I collected the tomatoes at the market, I scribbled down their names with little descriptions (such as "big bumpy red"); if my notes are accurate, the ones in the picture are (from top, left): Green Zebra, Black Plum, Red Zebra, Speckled Roman, Brandywine, Pineapple, and Costoluto Genovese. The Speckled Roman was decidedly the sweetest and most flavorful (though this probably has more to do with the individual crop and even the particular tomato I selected than the cultivar). The Black Plum and Green Zebra tomatoes were also very good. In general, the greener tomatoes were crisper and easier to slice, but otherwise they tasted very similar to the red ones.

Between Monday and Tuesday lunch, I ate most of the tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil, basil (another farmer's market purchase), and Cappiello mozzerella. Next week, though, I plan to get a little more creative. If you're looking for ways to use great summer tomatoes, there are some ideas in today's New York Times Dining & Wine section; some simple pasta recipes from the Boston Globe Magazine; and, of course, lots of recipes in A Veggie Venture's Alphabet of Vegetables.

Another vegetable I've done well with this year (as on previous years) is Asian eggplant. Asian eggplants come in a variety of shapes, sizes and hues, but the ones I've seen have generally been thinner and more purple than globe eggplant and Italian eggplant, which are rounder and almost back. I like the Asian varieties much better, and have only been able to find them at farmer's markets. They have few seeds and tend not to be bitter, so there's no need to salt them. I've used them in tofu stir-fry, pizza, and pasta sauce.

And here's another nice find: kohlrabi.
Kohlrabi is one of the vegetables I learned about from A Veggie Venture. It looks exotic with all those tentacles, and mine had the added allure of being purple (they are more commonly light green, as in the Wikipedia pic), but kohlrabi is actually quite mild and approachable. Just cut off the stems with a paring knife and use a good peeler to peel it, and you have a nice, crunchy, low-calorie snack.

It may be too late for perfect strawberries, but I have hope for the end of the season. The corn is already here, and before long we'll be seeing that fabulous winter squash. I'll try to keep you posted on my finds. Feel free to share yours. (If you have a blog, you can even use Blush, the Sweet Tomato).

(Cross-posted to the Kosher Blog.)