The (Next) Best Thing I’ve Ever Made

(I can’t believe this never got posted! I think I was waiting on a picture, which sadly never happened.  I’ll post it now for your enjoyment.  Consider it a flashback to warmer, more relaxing times this summer…an apt description on a chilly, grey September morning.)

If the cherry chocolate chip ice cream I made earlier this summer was the best thing I ever made, this might be second best: peanut butter swirl ice cream. It’s rich, smooth, with just a little bit of stickiness from the peanut butter added at the last minute and little crunches of semisweet chocolate.

As with the cherry ice cream, it’s not for the faint of heart. It involves a fair amount of heating, tempering, heating, cooling, custard-making, peanut-butter-adding, and mixture-straining before you set it in the fridge to freeze. But it’s deliciously worth it.

I made a couple of adjustments to the recipe, and I would do the same next time. First, I omitted the chopped peanuts altogether.  Second, I like my peanut butter better with chocolate. So I tried the same trick that I learned with the cherry chocolate ice cream: I melted 3 ounces of semisweet chocolate over a double broiler, then slowly drizzled it in about 5 minutes before the ice cream was done churning.  Third, instead of mixing the peanut butter in after the machine stopped, I took the lazy route and dumped it in right before turning the machine off.  I let it swirl a bit and used a spatula to break up any giant clumps, then scooped the mixture into containers to freeze.  It might not have achieved quite as much of a “swirl”–it’s a little too blended in to be called a swirl–but it is fabulously peanut buttery.

Here’s the original recipe: Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream

The yearly tomato surplus

photo 2What do you do when you have far too many tomatoes? I always seem to end up with more tomatoes than I know what to do with. Partly because one day, I blink, and suddenly my garden has decided to do something and I get a wave of cherry tomatoes, more than I can devise dinner plans for. Partly because my husband won’t eat raw tomatoes, so I’m on my own. And partly because I love tomatoes, so I end up buying far too many at the farmers’ market, because they look so beautiful and I forget that I’m going to get armloads of cherry tomatoes any day now and I’m the only one who enjoys them anyway.

So, tomato surplus. It’s a yearly occurrence around here.

photo 1_2Last year, I tried Oven Roasted Tomatoes, and they were pretty fabulous.  We used it as a sauce over pasta, and it was so fresh and full of tomato flavor, it was a real treat.  However, what my sad little garden does best (or, the only thing that my sad little garden does at all) is make lots and lots of cherry tomatoes.  And halving and roasting all of my sweet little tomatoes, and taking them out of their little red and golden skins, one by one by steaming hot little one, was…trying.  And time-consuming. Delicious, but time-consuming.

Then I tried Cherry Tomato Jam.  It sounded delicious, though perhaps something more to my tastes than Chris’s, and I envisioned it with some cheese on a nice crusty piece of bread.  It was very good (though, as predicted, Chris was not interested.) Only problem being, I couldn’t figure out what else to do with it.  So I think I still have a few containers of it in the freezer that I never got around to using.

This year, I decided to try something different, hopefully something a little easier and something we’re more likely to actually eat: salsa. I found this great recipe for Three-Ingredient Summer Salsa while searching for dinner inspiration on Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs. And I think we have a winner! It took longer than the 10 minutes of broiling that she suggests, though, in fairness, I did double the recipe. But it was pretty easy to throw everything together; it was just a matter of sticking around the kitchen when the broiler was going so I got a nice char without burning anything.  After a few tries, I turned off the timer and just watched it, so I don’t actually know how long it took.  I used about 4 medium tomatoes and a handful of cherry tomatoes, both red and orange, 2 jalapenos, 5 cloves of garlic, and 3/4 of a sweet onion.  (It was what I had left from last night’s dinner.)  I also added a few things after pulsing everything in the blender: two generous pinches of salt, about a teaspoon dried cilantro (I didn’t actually measure any of this…), about a tablespoon ancho chili powder, and the juice of 1/2 a lime. It was delicious! I can’t wait to eat some with our tacos tonight, and I can’t wait to show off and serve some up for our friends coming over for dinner on Saturday!photo(1)

Does this mean I get to buy more tomatoes at the farmers’ market next week?

 

Chai Snickerdoodles

IMG_1170Time for a recipe post! I’ll admit, it’s not a great picture because the sunlight was a little too bright and you lose some of the detail in the food. Like the amazing sugar and spice mixture that covers these chewy snickerdoodles. But as I was enjoying a book, my coffee, and a couple cookies on the porch during a lovely cool morning (what–you don’t eat cookies with your morning coffee for a little something sweet?), I realized that if I was going to tell you about this great recipe, I should have a picture to go along with it.

We made these cookies most recently for Chris’s annual work picnic last week (and there were a few left over, so we’ve been enjoying them ourselves since then). They’re a wonderful treat.  They really are reminiscent of the spices in a chai tea. And they bake up soft and chewy, with a little crispness from the sugar on the outside.  This time, we used a little disher to measure out the cookie dough.  It had the added bonus of automatically making perfect little balls of dough–no rolling between your hands to get them properly formed!

A couple of notes about tackling the recipe. First, the 1/4 cup sugar-spice mixture that you reserve to roll the cookies in will not look like a lot. It will be enough. Don’t be afraid to really roll them.  Second, we’ve had mixed luck with the baking time.  It might be because our cookies were a little larger this time–the disher might have been a tad bigger than it needed to be, but it was so worth it for the time it saved–but I feel like I had this same struggle last time and I ended up overcooking them.  I have not found 8-10 minutes to be enough. I cooked them closer to 14 this time, and they were just barely cooked through. They could have stood another two minutes or so.

The only downside? The go stale more quickly than most other cookies I’ve made.  The upside? That just means you have to fully savor them while you can.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have a cup of coffee that needs some accompaniment…

Here’s the recipe:

Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies at My Baking Addiction

Another Successful First: Cherry Pie

I especially enjoy success baking firsts, as they necessarily end in something delicious.

Two weekends ago, we took care of our neighbors’ dog, Dottie. As a thank you, they brought back a handmade, hand painted pie plate they picked up at an arts festival they went to. It’s a pretty little plate, cream-colored glaze with blue dragonflies painted on to it, and only about half as big as a traditional pie plate.IMG_1034

So last weekend, I put it to good use and made a cherry pie with those amazing cherries I was raving about a few posts ago. It was a bit of work—making the dough, pitting the cherries, rolling out the dough—but the end product was great! I love a good cherry pie, and this was the best.  Between the pectin in the cherries and the corn starch, the pie held together perfectly, no filling oozing out into the pie dish.  And it was absolutely packed with delicious sweet cherries.  A wonderful little bite of summer.

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Okay, I’ll be honest: the dough wasn’t perfect. It was a bit more chewy than flaky, especially on the bottom.  (This was even more pronounced the second day.)  I blame myself for not reading the recipe closely enough and adding too much water, then trying to cover it up by adding some more flour and probably over-kneading the dough in the process.  Despite all that, the taste was still buttery and delicious, especially the bits along the crust.  In a store-bought crust, I always end up tossing those bits.  Without the fruity goodness of the filling, those crusts are just dry and uninteresting.  But this crust was one of the best bites–the taste of browned butter, a little crisp, mingled with the sweetness of the cherries.

And the small size of our pie dish means we can eat it, relish it, and finish it before it goes stale or before we tire of it.

(Though it would be hard to tire of something this good!)

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Here’s the recipe at Smitten Kitchen.  I used her pie dough recipe, too.  I’m sure if you actually followed what she said to do, your crust would be that much more amazing than mine. 🙂

Planning a Menu Around a Trip to the Farmers’ Market

We tried a new farmers’ market over the weekend.  Well, that might not be entirely fair. It was still part of the farmers’ markets that are  organized by the city (and I love that they do that!), but we tried a new location.  I would be totally sold on this new one, except that my favorite fruit vendor isn’t there. And he is worth a trip across the city–his strawberries and peaches are the best around.

But, because of a play date on Monday, I wasn’t able to get to the East Liberty farmers’ market this week, so we tried out one right in our neighborhood, and we came home with some great food! This is me, planning around all of the beautiful fresh things in our fridge.

  • Monday: Fresh pasta (from the market–two nests of tomato-basil and one nest of garden herb) with sauteed zucchini, yellow squash, and other veggies
  • Tuesday: Rotisserie chicken, sauteed zucchini, and mashed cheddar cauliflower (not just because of the cheese–the cauliflower itself is a beautiful golden color!)
  • Wednesday: Baja cod, coriander potatoes, and green beans
  • Thursday: Slow-cooker Spaghetti Bolognese (thanks, Resa!) and a salad
  • Friday: Pan-seared pork, sweet potatoes, and beet salad.

The blog’s still here, and so am I…

I’ve been missing blogging lately, and I thought I might try to get back into it.  I’ll be modest about it (not that it was ever some grand project…), but I miss thinking critically about food, challenging myself to find new adventures, and looking for ways to describe what I’ve experienced.

Plus, it’s summer, and most of my exciting adventures necessarily happen over the summer.  I’ve been trying at least one new recipe a week, sometimes even two or three! So let’s get started, shall we?  First thing I’m going to do is just list off what we’ve been eating lately, with some links to the new things I’ve tried.  More details to follow! Stay tuned, and cook smart, cuz FoodieSuzy’s back. 🙂

Last week:

This week:

  • Monday: Leftovers from sesame pecan chicken strips, green bean salad, re-purposed potato-salad-turned-mashed potatoes
  • Tuesday: Bourbon-glazed salmon with polenta and roasted carrots, cauliflower, and beets
  • Wednesday: Tortellini sauteed with zucchini, squash, and red pepper
  • Thursday: Tilapia in Thai coconut sauce over rice and green beans
  • Friday: Chicken tortilla roll-ups and leftover veggies