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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Bake Eclairs


The first of the month always generates a bit of excitement in the food blogging world. You see, that's usually the day that the new Daring Baker challenge is revealed. I was especially excited to see that the challenge for August was one of my favorite sweet treats ever - Chocolate Eclairs. And, not just any old eclairs, mind you, but Chocolate Eclairs from the man, himself, Pierre Herme! Woohoo!

I planned my strategy of when and how I was going to create these delectable little confections, and waited with anticipation for the assigned day I had chosen. Then, disaster struck! A few days before "E" Day, my oven just up and died. Yes, dear readers, it was deader than a doornail! After spewing a long stream of expletives, I was sure that I would have to miss this challenge. Then, I thought, "I'm a Daring Baker, for heaven's sake, I can overcome this!" So, I spit in the face of adversity, made all of the individual components of the recipe, and hightailed it over to my mother's house to bake my pastry in her brand new and marvelously functional oven!


Though the original recipe calls for a chocolate pastry cream, I decided to go with what I like best, which is a vanilla cream. For everything else, I stuck with the recipe as written.

Although, the recipe is quite long, with many different components, I sailed through most of it with ease. Everything came together beautifully for me until I actually baked my choux. I followed the directions to the letter, but my eclair shells just didn't puff up as much as I'd hoped. They also deflated quite a bit after I removed them from the oven. I don't know why this happened, but I'm attributing it to the staggering humidity and the fact that I had used an unfamiliar oven to bake them in. Even so, they were still fabulously delicious and well worth the effort!


Many thanks to Meeta and Tony for selecting such a wonderful recipe to challenge us this month!

Please take some time to see what the other Daring Bakers have created. I know you won't be disappointed!


These eclairs consist of 3 elements:
- Pâte à Choux, also known as Choux Pastry or Cream Puff Dough
- Pastry Cream
- Chocolate glaze

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Notes: The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.


1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create
2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.


1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking
sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the
piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.


1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.


1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.


1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.

2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred from Very Good Taste


I've been seeing a lot of this fun little survey around the blogs for the past week or so, and it intrigued me. I thought I'd try it for myself. The survey originated with Andrew at Very Good Taste as a list of foods that he feels every good omnivore should try at least once in their lives.

Here are the instructions:

1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4. Optional extra: Post a comment here linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare (Back in the day before we worried so much.)
5. Crocodile (I'm counting Alligator, which I've had several times!)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart (Nothing like 'em!)
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese (Ew!)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche (Oh yeah, baby!)
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (Cognac, yes - fat cigar, no!)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (in college!)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (Deer that's been accidentally run over)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox (What's a Saturday morning without this?)
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Hmmm. I think I did rather well! I've tried 82 out of the 100 food items at least once. That doesn't mean that I liked them all, though. I don't think I'll ever eat head cheese, rattlesnake, sea urchin or haggis again. The absinthe gave me a killer headache! And, no matter what the cost, I just don't like malt whisky.

So, what about you? Care to play along?

How many of these foods have you tried?

Which did you love? Which did you hate.

Which would you never touch, and why?

Talk to me!

And, when you're through, go and talk to Andrew too!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte


I was so excited when I saw that this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was another ice cream treat, but not for the reason you may think. Yes, this Chocolate Banded Ice Cream Torte is decadent and delicious, not to mention gorgeous. And yes, I do consider ice cream and chocolate to be two of the major food groups. But, the main reason I was so happy about this recipe was because it didn't require any baking whatsoever.

You see, baking is a bit of a problem for me this week, because my oven just up and died on me the other day. Yup, it's dead, dead, dead. Can you believe the audacity? So until I figure out a) what's wrong with it; and b) whether it is worth the money to fix it, I won't be doing any baking around here!


Our recipe for this week was chosen by Amy of Food, Family and Fun, and I've got to say, it is a doozy! Dorie calls it her version of a "grown-up ice cream cake". There isn't any actual cake in the dish, but there are two layers of creamy, boozy, fruit-swirled ice cream sandwiched between three layers of astonishingly rich bittersweet chocolate ganache. This ganache is not for lightweights, my friends. It contains over a half pound of chocolate and eight, yes count 'em, eight whole eggs! Before I'd even let anyone taste this torte, I made sure I had 911 on speed dial!

Dorie's original recipe calls for vanilla ice cream which is mixed together with frozen raspberries in syrup. Would you believe that after checking three different supermarkets, I couldn't find those raspberries? All I could find were the plain frozen berries. So, I cheated a little out of necessity. Instead of buying plain vanilla ice cream and making a raspberry syrup from scratch, I bought some Raspberry Chip Royale ice cream that I was able to find. It was a mixture of vanilla and raspberry ice creams with little chocolate chips mixed in. To that, I added some wild raspberry dessert sauce that I happened to have in my fridge. I think it worked just as well.


When I was a child, my favorite ice cream cakes in the world were from Carvel. Remember Carvel? That was some great ice cream! Their cakes had these wonderful chocolate crunchies in between each layer. Those crunchies were the best part! So, I decided to make my own chocolate crunchies and spread them on top of each ice cream layer. To make them, I crushed up half a package of chocolate wafer cookies and mixed the cookie bits with some chocolate Magic Shell ice cream topping. Magic Shell freezes in seconds when you pour it on ice cream, and hardens into a candy-coated "shell".

Since this torte was pretty messy to work with, I needed to find some way to decorate it that wouldn't require too much "touching". I decided to swirl some shimmery rose pink pearl dust on the top. Not only did the pearl dust give off a lovely, glimmering sheen, it also hid a few flaws and little air bubbles that had made their way to the top.


I was very pleased with the way my torte turned out. It looked really pretty and it tasted great. That said, there was a little too much chocolate ganache for me. I love the stuff, but a little goes a long way, and this just went too far. I think that this torte would make an impressive presentation at a party or other special event, but it's just too much for an everyday dessert. I really wish I had halved the recipe and made minis. I still have three quarters of the torte in the freezer and no hope of finishing it all. Ice cream is kind of hard to give away, because it melts so fast. I think I'll probably palm some off give some away to our neighbors!

If you'd like to see some other great variations of this torte, click on over to the Tuesdays with Dorie web site. If you'd like the recipe to try it for yourself, visit Amy's site. And remember, all of our great TWD recipes can be found in Dorie Greenspan's, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Is Truth Really Stranger Than Fiction? You Betcha! (and the Ultimate Ice Cream Indulgence)


Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as America's most famous literary icon, Mark Twain, once said that truth is stranger than fiction. Many times over the years, especially when I was actively practicing law, I've found these words to be quite true. Believe me, I could tell you stories that would make your head spin! Sometimes real life can be so freaking bizarre, that even the most fantastic fiction pales in comparison.

I had planned to write a whole different post today, but something happened to me on Friday night that still has my blood boiling, and I just had to share it with you.

Mini SGCC was off at the movies with friends, so the Hubs and I were on our own. We set out for a hot night on the town! We had a fabulous and cheap meal (under $50 for king crab, fresh oyster stew and jumbo wild Florida shrimp - and beer), at a casual neighborhood seafood place that we like, and were slowly shedding off the accumulated stress of the week. After dinner, being the wildly sophisticated and cosmopolitan couple we are, we decided to mosey on over to Borders to hang out for a while.


We arrived at about 7:00 - a little too late for the after school crowd and a little too early for the after dinner crowd - so we had the place almost all to ourselves. We popped over to see what was percolating in the coffee bar (shut up!) and threw back a few double White Chocolate Mocha Macchiatos. We love to live on the edge. Then, we leisurely browsed through the stacks, me in the cookbook section and Mr. SGCC, over by the DVDs. I picked up copies of Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes and The Home Creamery (I'll tell you about those later.), plus the new Fall fashion issues of Vogue, Elle, Allure and W. What! Did you think that all I cared about was food? A girl still has to look good when she trolls the farmer's markets, you know!

Later, I headed up to the check-out counter while Mr. SGCC scanned the New Releases one more time to make sure there was nothing he missed. There was only one register open and it was manned by a mild-mannered, pleasant twentysomething girl. As she scanned my purchases, a book on display at the counter caught my eye. It was an adorable children's book titled How Are You Peeling?. The book was filled with beautiful and enchanting photos of different fruits and vegetables carved into faces reflecting different feelings and emotions. It was delightful and I had to have it! might be a good time to mention that I have an inexplicable and unnatural fascination with animated and personified food. The clerk had already scanned my credit card and as I signed the receipt, I asked her if she could quickly ring the book up for me as a cash sale. She happily obliged.


I looked around and there was only one guy behind me in line, flipping through a magazine. I turned to him and said (very politely), "Do you mind? This will only take a minute." And then, my friends, is when my truth became stranger than fiction. Here are the highlights of the exchange that followed.

Him: Sure, go ahead. I'm just standing here waiting for you to finish so I can get on with my life.

Um.....okay, then. I proceeded to dig out money to pay for my book.

Him: After all, you're the most important thing here, right? Don't worry about me. It's all about you!

Huh! I was a little taken aback. Surely, he must be kidding, so I turned, laughed nervously and said,

"Er...hehe...I guess so. Thank you for noticing...hehe." I turned back to the clerk.

Him: Yessiree. It's all about you, isn't it. You are more important than everyone else. You probably own this store. That's it. You own this store, don't you? THAT'S WHY IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU!!! NO ONE ELSE IS IMPORTANT HERE, BECAUSE IT'S FUCKING ALL ABOUT YOU!!!



I looked at the sales clerk. The sales clerk looked back at me with an open mouth and wild, frightened eyes. Mr. SGCC came rushing over to the rescue.

Mr. SGCC: What the hell is going on here!

Me: I'm just trying to check out and this guy is yelling at me!

Mr. SGCC (to Mr. Nasty Crazy-Eyes Man): Hey, Pal. (Yes, he actually uses the word pal.) What's your problem?

Mr. Nasty Crazy-Eyes Man: My problem? You want to know what my problem is? YOUR FUCKING WIFE IS MY PROBLEM. SHE THINKS EVERYTHING IS ALL ABOUT HER!!!

I looked beseechingly at the sales clerk for help. She and her wild, frightened eyes just stared blankly at me. She was incapable of speech. Where the hell was a manager? Didn't anyone else in the store have EARS!?!?

Mr. SGCC puffed up his chest and stood up tall. So did Mr. Nasty Crazy-Eyes Man. Mr. SGCC is 6' 2" and was twice his size. He is a body builder and can bench press 350 pounds. Mr. Nasty Crazy-Eyes Man was not only nasty and crazy, he was stupid too. Mr. SGCC could easily trounce his a$$!


Just then a scrawny little bird-like woman came rushing up. She grabbed Mr. Nasty Crazy-Eyes Man's arm and started talking to him in hushed tones. He just kept yelling expletives at us over her shoulder.

Me: Look. It's not my fault that they only have one check-out line open. I don't know why you're being so insulting!


And with that, he started towards me. Yikes!!! Both Mr. SGCC and the bird-like woman, who I assumed was Mr. Nasty Crazy-Eyes Man's wife, jumped between us.

Mr. SGCC: (growling) I'm warning you. BACK. OFF.

Mr. Nasty Crazy-Eyes Man: OH YEAH.....OR WHAT!

I feel it's relevant to mention at this point that the poor sales clerk had not moved or uttered a sound since this whole incident began. No other employee or manager had made an appearance either.

Both men were poised to strike - fists raised and nostrils flaring. I even think I saw smoke coming out of Mr. SGCC's ears. I couldn't believe what was happening! We were in a book store, for chrissakes!

Just then, Mrs. Scrawny Little Bird-like Woman turned around to face us. She looked completely panic-stricken.

"Please!" she begged, "Don't do this! Just let it go..... please!"

Me: Hey, we were just trying buy some books. HE attacked US!

Mrs. Scrawny Little Bird-like Woman: I know, I know. But, please just go now. It's not worth all this trouble. Don't provoke him. Please!

I looked at her face and I had seen it many times before in my career as a divorce lawyer. It was the face of fear and abuse. I had my suspicions that Mr. Nasty Crazy-Eyes Man had taken his frustrations out on her in the past and might even try it again that night. Mr. SGCC saw it too. He spends his professional life dealing with abuse victims. We decided to end it there.

Mr. SGCC: Lady, your husband needs mental help. He has some serious anger management issues.

Mrs. Scrawny Little Bird-like Woman: Yes. Fine. Please, just leave.

The sales clerk was still in a state of suspended animation. No one from management had ever materialized.

Shell-shocked, Mr. SGCC and I walked out to our car. I commented to him that I was pretty annoyed that none of the staff in the store did anything to help. He said that most of those stores have a panic button behind the counter in case of a robbery or other emergency, and that maybe someone had pushed it. I didn't know that.

As we were driving out of the parking lot, a police cruiser pulled in and parked right in front of Borders. Too little, too late. Mr. Nasty Crazy-Eyes Man and his wife had already left the building.


Let me tell you, after that ordeal I was in need of some serious ice cream therapy! Unfortunately, I was too shaken up to go anywhere else but straight home. The only thing left to do was to take my mind off things by making some homemade ice cream. Either that or drink heavily, and I'm not much of a drinker. And it couldn't be just any old ice cream, either. It had to be the best freaking ice cream in the history of the World!

So, dear readers, if my story about our encounter with Mr. Nasty Crazy-Eyes Man didn't shake you to your core, this ice cream will. In fact, you should probably sit down now, if you haven't already. Please. It's for your own good, because once you read about this phenomenally decadent, mind-numbingly delectable ice cream I have created, there's no telling how you might react. I can't have that on my conscience, so for heaven's sake, please SIT DOWN!


I've gorged on gelato in Italy, glace in France and frozen custard anywhere I could find it. I know my ice cream, and this is probably the best ice cream I've ever had. It starts with a custard base containing milk, cream, egg yolks, white and brown sugar, fragrant vanilla bean and a generous pinch of sea salt. Once the ice cream is churned, crunchy toffee bits and thick, gooey dulce de leche are swirled in. It is like Prozac in dairy form! After a few bites of this stuff, I was asking myself, "Mr. Nasty Crazy-Eyes who?".

I started with the French-style vanilla ice cream recipe in David's book, The Perfect Scoop. From there, I played around with different measurements and ingredients and ended up with what I think is the ultimate ice cream indulgence. I hope you like it. If not.....more for me!


Brown Sugar Toffee Ice Cream with Dulce de Leche Swirl ..................................(Printable Recipe

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 generous pinch sea salt

1 vanilla bean, split with the seeds scraped out

4 egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2-1 cup toffee bits (according to your taste)

1 cup dulce de leche

Heat the milk, 1 cup of the cream, salt, and both sugars in a saucepan. Add the vanilla bean seeds and pod to the mixture. Cover the saucepan and let steep for about 30 minutes.

Pour the rest of the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Set aside,

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks together and slowly pour in the warmed milk mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the contents back into the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula until the custard thickens. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Put the vanilla bean back into the custard and cream. Stir in the vanilla extract and chill thoroughly.

When chilled remove the vanilla bean and freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

During the last few minutes of churning, add the toffee bits to the ice cream so that they can be evenly distributed.

Whisk the dulce de leche in a small bowl. When the ice cream is finished churning, pour it into a freezable container, alternating scoops of ice cream with scoops of dulce de leche. Gently swirl ice cream mixture a few times to mix things up.

Freeze to desired consistency.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Me So Crazy for Misoyaki Salmon!


Okay, okay! You can stop groaning over the cheesy title of this post. Admit it. It made you look, didn't it? Besides, I prefer to think of it as a clever play on words. To each his own, I guess. This is what happens when you're working on an accumulated sleep deficit. After a blissful summer of sleeping in until eight or nine every morning, the harsh reality of a new school year and a 6:00 a.m. wake up time stings a little. My body is still running on summer vacation time, which means staying up way too late at night. It's going to take a few weeks to get used to it.

Back to the food. We all dine out at restaurants from time to time, some more than others. Although, I love to cook, I also really enjoy not having to do it all the time, especially on weekends or special occasions. The problem I run into is, that so many times the food just isn't that good. I really resent it when I've paid twenty or thirty dollars for a meal at a "fine dining" establishment that I could have made better and cheaper for myself, at home. I suppose that this is the burden that we, as "foodies", must bear.

On the other hand, every so often I find a restaurant that really does live up to its hype, and I'm pleasantly surprised. A couple of years ago, we were fortunate enough to have one such place open up practically in our own backyard. While Roy's Hawaiian Fusion is a chain restaurant (and I usually hate chains), I have found the quality of food and service there to be exceptionally good. It's a little too pricey to be a weekly hangout, but it is definitely one of my top choices for special occasions.


One of my favorite items on Roy's menu is their Misoyaki Butterfish. What exactly is butterfish? Actually, I'm not sure. My research on the subject yielded conflicting results. Some sources say that butterfish are small, bony fish weighing just over a pound, with thin, deep bodies similar to flounder. Others profess them to be in the pompano family. Still others say that butterfish are a fish called black cod, which is actually not even a codfish at all. Then, there are those who say that butterfish/black cod are actually a type of sablefish, which has a high oil and fat content. Are you confused yet? Most agree, however, that these sablefish are probably called butterfish because of all that oil and fat they have.

Hmmm..... Now, where was I going with this? Oh yes, Roy's Misoyaki Butterfish. Anyway, from what I've gathered, this dish is prepared by marinating the fish for up to a couple of days in sake (Japanese rice wine), mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine), sugar and white "Shiro" miso paste. Then, it is seared until cooked through producing a golden, caramelized crust on the outside and sweet, buttery flavor and delicate flaky texture on the inside. This fish justs melts in your mouth - like buttah!


Since I truly love this dish and can't afford to eat at Roy's every night, I decided to try and replicate it at home. I was surprised to find several recipes online for Roy's exact (I think) recipe. I also found many other recipes on the web for Misoyaki Butterfish and Black Cod, including some great ones by other food bloggers. Never one to leave a good recipe alone, I took a little from one and some more from another and came up with my own version.

Instead of butterfish, I used wild salmon, because it looked so beautiful that day (and because I couldn't find butterfish). Since salmon is also an oily fish, I felt it would translate well to the recipe. You could also use sea bass, halibut or cod in this recipe with great results. I also added some fresh orange juice to the marinade, thinking that the sugar in the juice would help give the salmon even more caramelization. Another tweak I made to the marinade was to add a tablespoon of red "Aka" miso paste too. Red miso has a deeper and saltier flavor than its white counterpart, which would be a nice contrast to the sweetness of the other ingredients. This idea came courtesy of Kirk at mmm-yoso!!!


After I mixed up my marinade, I let the salmon swim in it for 24 hours. Even though, some recipes advocate letting it sit for up to three days, I wasn't comfortable with keeping fresh fish in the fridge that long. After I seared the fish in a hot cast iron skillet, I finished it off in the oven for a few minutes until just cooked through.

Let me tell you, this dish was To. Die. For.! It was seriously the best salmon I've ever made. I have to say that my Misoyaki Salmon could definitely give Roy's butterfish a run for its money. And the best part is that now, I can have it anytime I want!

So, are you a snooty foodie like me and think that your food is just as good or better than most restaurant fare?

What's your favorite restaurant dish?

Have you ever tried to recreate it at home? If so, how did turn out?

Talk to me!


Misoyaki Samon (Inspired by Roy Yamaguchi and mmm-yoso) (Printable Recipe)

4-6 fresh wild salmon filets (about 1-1 1/2 pounds)

1 cup sake

1 cup mirin

1/2 cup orange juice

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups white "Shiro" miso paste

2 tablespoons red "Aka" miso paste

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon cooking oil

To make the marinade, combine mirin, sake, orange juice and sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Continue to simmer for 3-5 minutes, until the alcohol burns off.

Remove from heat and whisk in soy sauce, white and red miso paste until until mixture is creamy. Set aside to cool.

When marinade is cooled, pour it into a bog zip-loc bag with the salmon and seal. Gently massage the marinade into the salmon, coating the fish well. Marinate in the fridge for 1-2 days.

When ready to cook the fish, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Take filets out of the plastic bag and wipe off the marinade. Pat fish dry.

Heat oil in a large fry pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Sear salmon filets 2-3 minutes on each side.

Remove the pan to the oven and bake until fish is cooked through.

Serve plain or with the sauce of your choice.


For some other great miso fish recipes, check out these other great blogs:

Miso Fish from Nook & Pantry

Broiled Halibut with Orange and Miso Glaze from Closet Cooking

Sakana-no nitsuke from Gild the Voodoolily

Black Cod with Miso from Rasa Malaysia

Broiled Chilean Sea Bass Collar in Miso Broth from Julie's Kitchen

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

TWD: Granola Grabbers (And a Visit From Fay)


Well, we've battened down the hatches and have hunkered down for the long haul. The cars are in the garage (thanks to a feat of engineering and physics). We've got gallons of water and ice-filled coolers lined up in the laundry room. There are scads of canned goods in the pantry (including lots of Spam). Flashlights and lanterns are armed with fresh batteries. And, our "safe room" is stocked with pillows, blankets and reading material. If Hurricane Fay comes a callin', we're ready for her. We're good at this. We've done it before.

Something else we have plenty of around here are Granola Grabbers. A Granola Grabber is basically a granola bar masquerading as a cookie. It's also this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. When I first read through the recipe, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I'm not much of a granola fan. I don't dislike it, but I don't really love it either. However, Mr. and Mini SGCC both like granola, so I figured that these cookies would be a nice breakfast treat for them.


Granola Grabbers are made with flour, butter, white and brown sugar, egg, granola (hence, the name), wheat germ, raisins, almonds, peanuts and coconut. I found a vanilla-almond granola at the market that I thought would be perfect for this recipe. Since my husband doesn't like raisins, I decided not to include them. Since I don't like peanuts, I left them out too. Instead, I added some dried raspberries and chopped pecans. I wanted to add some chocolate chips too, but I forgot to buy them. The dough for these cookies is a snap to make and comes together quickly. There is also enough for a ton of cookies!

I was pleasantly surprised with the way these Granola Grabbers turned out. They were good. Really, really good! I knew that my family would love them, but I really didn't expect to like them so much myself. They were crunchy and nutty and fruity. Even though there is a quite a bit of butter in them, all of the other good stuff made them seem a lot healthier.


Thanks to Michelle of Bad Girl Baking for choosing this recipe. If not for her, I probably never would have tried it. To see what all the other TWDers did with these cookies, check out the blogroll here. If you'd like to try making Granola Grabbers for yourself, you can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.


Monday, August 18, 2008

And So It Begins.....Again (With Raspberry-Orange Cream Scones)


Today is the first day of school. It hardly seems possible. Summer vacation has flown by so quickly, that I hardly had time to blink, and now, it's over! I should be thrilled, like any self-respecting, harried mom/taxi driver would be, but I'm not. You see, this isn't just any old, regular, run of the mill, first day of school. Today is Mini SGCC's first day of high school. Oooh! I got goosebumps just writing those words. High School! My baby's in high school! How did this happen? When did my angelic little curly-haired moppet trade in hair bows for lipstick? Fingerpaints for Algebra? Stuffed animals for boys?!?!

She's been gone for five hours now, and I'm sitting here, wondering.....worrying. Did she find her way to her first class okay? Was she able to get into her locker? Will her teachers be nice? Will the other kids be friendly? Will she find someone to sit with at lunch? Oh, please God, let her find some nice kids to sit with at lunch!


Last night, as I tucked her into bed, (Yes, I still do that. You wanna make something of it?), I could tell she was anxious. Our eyes met in the dark and I knew. For all her bravado and outward poise, deep down inside there still is that little girl, vulnerable and unsure, stripped of her cloak of teenaged coolness. We talked a little and I hoped that I said something to ease her mind.

Later, as I tossed and turned and tried to get to sleep, I remembered my own high school days. Things were so much simpler then. A few new outfits, a looseleaf binder and some sharpened pencils and you were good to go. Do you know that in our school district, entering freshman actually have to declare a major? Can you believe that? This world has gotten so complicated that kids are already supposed to have their lives mapped out by the time they're fourteen! I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up!

So, this morning, as I heard Mini SGCC rustling about at 5:00 a.m., I wanted to do a little something to mark the occasion. It had to be something understated and completely devoid of sentimentality and mushiness. She is way too cool for that! I decided to make these lovely cream scones.


I got the basic recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours, and added a few small tweaks to it. The original recipe calls for dried currants, but I didn't have any. Instead, I threw in a handful of tiny dried raspberries. I also added some fresh orange zest and a few drops of pure orange oil to the dough.

Despite the fact that it was the brink of dawn and my taste buds weren't fully awake yet, I was very pleased with the way these scones turned out. Warm from the oven, they were slightly sweet, delicately crumbly and light as a whisper. The orange flavor was discernible, but subtly so. With a smidge of mascarpone and raspberry jam, they were worth getting up at five in the morning for.....well, almost!

Raspberry-Orange Cream Scones (Printable Recipe)

1 large egg

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tablespoons fresh grated orange zest

1/4 tsp orange oil

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled

3/4 cup dried raspberries

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Stir the egg and cream together. Mix in the orange oil.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly.

Pour the egg, cream, zest and raspberries over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until the dough, which will be wet and sticky, comes together. Still in the bowl, gently knead the dough by hand, or turn it with a rubber spatula 8 to 10 times.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, pat the dough into a rough circle that's about 5 inches in diameter, cut it into 6 wedges and place it on the baking sheet. (At this point, the scones can be frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight. Don't defrost before baking- just add about 2 minutes to the baking time.)

Bake the scones for 20 to 22 minutes, or until their tops are golden and firmish. Transfer them to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving, or wait for them to cool to room temperature.

Yield: 12 small or 6 large scones


If you like this recipe, check out:

Apple Cheddar Scones

Bacon, Cheddar and Green Onion Scones from Confessions of a Foodie Bride

Strawberry and Chocolate Chip Scones (gluten free) from Karina's Kitchen

Lemon Yogurt Scones from Tartelette

Cherry Almond Scones from Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases

Coffee Glazed Chocolate Chip Scones from Baking and Books

Thursday, August 14, 2008

You Asked & I Delivered: Blueberry-Almond Crumble Bars


The other day, when I posted about that fantastic Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream for my weekly Tuesdays with Dorie gig, I also posted this photo.


The tasty looking little confection peeking out from underneath that oozy purple mound of ice cream is a blueberry-almond crumble bar. After I made the ice cream, I wanted to make something to go with it. It had to be something easy, because I was watching the spectacular opening ceremonies of the Olympics and didn't want to miss any of it. I'd seen these on Smitten Kitchen's site a while back and had bookmarked the recipe. It was the perfect thing!

These bars are ridiculously easy to prepare and the end result is a buttery, crumbly shortbread-like crust filled with plump, sweet and juicy blueberry goodness. They were absolutely delicious, with and without the ice cream. In fact, they were so good that I decided they really deserved a post all their own. Apparently, many of you felt the same way, because I had a lot of requests for the recipe. Little did you know that I was planning to write a separate post about the bars all along!


The original recipe calls for fresh lime juice and zest. I decided to switch it up a little bit and swapped out the lime for orange. Since orange and ginger go so well together, I added a little ground ginger to my blueberries for some oomph. With orange and ginger in the game, I just had to somehow fit almonds in too. I ended up substituting a half cup of almond meal for regular flour. I think the almond meal added a subtle nuttiness to the crust, and gave it an even more crumbly texture.

I've never been very successful with a pastry cutter. Also, a car accident a few years ago left me with a permanently damaged rotator cuff. For these reasons, I chose to mix up my dough in the food processor. I've never made it the other way, so I can't tell you how the dough compared, but I can tell you that it worked just fine. So, if you're not up for a shoulder workout, use the processor.

These Blueberry-Almond Crumble Bars were a big hit here in SGCC Land. They were going so fast that I had to hide a few to save for the pictures! While they are certainly terrific paired with ice cream, don't let that stop you from making them on their own. They really are wonderful all by their lonesome!


Blueberry-Almond Crumble Bars (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from and Smitten Kitchen

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 cup cold butter (2 sticks)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of 1/2 of a small orange
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
4 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9×13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup sugar, flour, almond flour and baking powder. Add in salt and orange zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. The dough will be crumbly. Alternatively, you can pulse the dry ingredients in a food processor with the butter until pebbly, and then mix in the egg until it all comes together. Pat half of the dough into the buttered pan.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, ginger and orange juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the dough in the pan. Crumble remaining dough over the berries.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until top is a light golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

TWD: Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream


This week's Tuesdays with Dorie assignment was to make her Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream, located on page 434 of Baking: From My Home to Yours. I was psyched for this one! I've had my eye on it ever since Double Crusted Blueberry Pie week, when several of my TWD colleagues made it to go with their pies. Not only is ice cream one of my favorite things in the whole world, but this particular ice cream looked so pretty in the pictures, and I was dying to try it. Now, those of you who follow my TWD posts, know that I'm usually scrambling at the last minute to complete the weekly recipes. Nope. Not this time. This week, I actually had my recipe made, photographed and eaten before Happy Hour on Friday! Yes, folks, that is how much I love ice cream.


This recipe was really simple to put together. It's a Philadelphia-style ice cream, which means that it doesn't have a custard base containing eggs, so there was no tempering or straining to worry about. The berries are simmered with sugar and lime zest until they begin to release their juices, and then are blended with sour cream, heavy cream and fresh lime juice. After several hours chilling in the fridge, the mixture is poured into an ice cream maker where the magic happens. What you end up with is a rich, smooth and creamy mountain of gorgeous purple-hued lusciousness.


This ice cream is absolutely wonderful all on its own. Add some homemade blueberry-almond crumble bars to the equation and you've got heaven on a plate! It totally made me forget all about my little kitchen mishap where I forgot to snap the lid down tightly on my blender before I pureed my blueberries.

Many thanks to Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity for selecting this week's recipe. If you'd like to see some more versions of Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream, check out the TWD Blogroll. You won't be disappointed!


Monday, August 11, 2008

Waiter! There's a Hand in My Food! (And a Great Sandwich)


Last week, my friend Cathy from The Noble Pig, wrote a great post about her experience with a rude diner in a restaurant. It struck a chord with me, as well as many others, judging by the large number of comments the post received. The issue of restaurant etiquette is a very sticky wicket indeed! Mr. SGCC and I are constantly at odds over it. He thinks that I am a big, fat troublemaker. I think he is a big, fat wimp. In fact, some of the biggest conflicts we've had in our twenty year marriage have been over incidents that happened in, around and because of restaurants.

I believe that if you're plunking down your hard-earned cash for a meal, it should be good. At the very least, it should be edible. And, it should be your inalienable right to be served what you actually ordered - with a smile. I also believe that if these basic criteria are not met, then you are entitled to complain. Mr. SGCC, on the other hand, believes that these things are mere perks. He seems to think that, as a restaurant guest, you should take what you are given, right or wrong, good or bad. If your order comes out all screwed up, you should just suck it up and eat it anyway. And, never, ever should you send it back to the kitchen. After all, you might hurt the server's, or worse, the chef's sensitive feelings.

Honestly, I don't understand how a man with a reputation for being a pit bull in the courtroom can turn into a total shrinking violet once he sets foot into a dining room! Is it some kind of cosmic, karmic phenomenon? Or maybe post traumatic stress resulting from some deep-seated emotional wound suffered at the hands of an unbalanced fry cook? You tell me.


I could give you a million examples of situations where this man and I have ended up at odds over some incident that happened while dining in a restaurant, but I'll limit myself to the latest (and probably the worst) one.

Two weeks ago, we were over on the other coast visiting my in-laws for their 50th wedding anniversary. We wanted to take them on a weekend trip or have a party with all of their friends around, but all they wanted to do was go out for a nice dinner with the three of us. Okay. Done. We decided to go to an old, established and very kitschy restaurant from the sixties on Daytona Beach that they used to frequent when Mr. SGCC was a child. We all piled into the car and made the twenty minute drive there.


The place hadn't changed a bit since the last time I was there as a college student in 1985. I think I even recognized a few of the stains on the carpet. Ahem...Is that what they mean by local color? Anyway, a seedy salty old waitress brought us some drinks and took our order. I ordered a grouper dish topped with a creamy seafood sauce containing crab, scallops and shrimp. I also ordered the "special" Lyonaise potatoes to go along with it. Everyone else's order is irrelevant for the purpose of this story.

When my dinner plate was set down in front of me, I noticed two things. First, the half congealed "seafood" sauce on my fish consisted of a lot of orangey-colored goo and one-half of one shrimp. Where were the crab and the scallops? And more alarmingly, where was the rest of that shrimp? I pulled a face and started to say something and I immediately got "the look" from my husband. You know the one. The look that says, "If you say one more word, I'm going to dump that plate of food right on your head." I said nothing.


The second thing I noticed was that there was a shriveled up baked potato sitting on the plate where the Lyonaise potatoes were supposed to be. Before Mr. SGCC knew what happened, I struck.

"Um, excuse me. I believe I ordered the Lyonaise potatoes with my dinner. This is a baked potato."

The waitress looked down and said, "Oh yeah. Sorry about that." Then, she reached down, stuck her bare hand in my plate of food, grabbed the baked potato and walked off. WTF?


I was shocked! I was appalled! I was shocked and appalled! Not only that, I was totally and unequivocally grossed out! I mean, who the hell knew WHERE that hand had been before. The prospect was too frightening for me to imagine.

I started to say something, and I not only got "the look" again, but I also got a little warning kick under the table. I didn't want to start an argument with Mr. SGCC in the restaurant, and I certainly didn't want to ruin my in-laws anniversary dinner, so again, I said nothing.

Needless to say, I didn't eat a bite of the food on that plate. I was fuming. Tears of frustration stung my eyes. I felt that Mr. SGCC should have supported me. At the very least, I felt that he should have let me say something to the management about it.

Now, the biggest burn of this whole thing was that no one else liked the food either. My in-laws complained about it for the rest of the evening and into the next day.


So, what do you think? Should I have said something or should I have sucked it up to keep the peace?

Did I overreact?

Has anything like this ever happened to you in a restaurant before, and if so, how did you handle it?

What would you have done in my place?

Don't hold back. I'd really like to know how you feel.

While you're mulling this over, let me leave you with this fabulous sandwich I made for dinner the other night. It's really simple to make and there is no set recipe. You can pretty much put whatever you want in it.


I started with a loaf of ciabatta bread from the bakery. I toasted it in the oven at 300 degrees F. for about 10-12 minutes. Then I sliced it in half, lengthwise. I drizzled each side with a little balsamic vinaigrette. I made my own, but any good bottled dressing would be fine.

To assemble the sandwich, I layered slices of prosciutto, capicola ham and sopressata Calabrese (which is like a spicy salami) on one side of the ciabatta. On the other side, I spread a generous layer of crisp, peppery arugula. Then, I added thick, ripe, juicy slabs of heirloom tomatoes and slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella. I drizzled more of the vinaigrette on top, closed up the sandwich and voila - dinner!


You can use any assortment of meats in this sandwich, but I recommend staying with the cured Italian meats. They add the perfect salty/spicy component. If buffalo mozzarella isn't available, you can substitute regular cows milk mozzarella, as long as it is the fresh kind. That really is key. Also, try to find the freshest, sweetest tomatoes that you can. You won't regret it.

I served this sandwich with an equally easy and delicious white bean and pancetta soup. But, that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Beat the Heat with Mango-Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream


If it seems like I've been posting a lot of frozen dessert recipes lately, well......that's because I have. In this sweltering Florida heat, the less I have to turn on the oven, the better. Besides, ever since our house was struck by lightning a few months ago, my oven has been suffering from some quirky mood swings. Let's just say that, like a hormonal teenager, it doesn't always cooperate. So, I'm more than happy to post a recipe today for cool, fruity and delicious Mango-Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream.

In the backyard of our first house, we had two big, beautiful mango trees. During the growing season, they would be so swollen with fruit that their branches bowed under the weight. I didn't care much for mangoes growing up, so I never paid attention to the fruit on those trees. Everyone else went wild over them, so for years, I just gave them away. Even then, there were a lot that were wasted. One day, I decided to give mangoes another try. Wow! I loved them! What a fool I was to have wasted them all that time? Needless to say, I didn't give too many away after that.


One of the wonderful things about mangoes is their versatility. They are great in both sweet and savory dishes. Ever since my mango epiphany, I've used them in salsas, curries, crisps, salads and now, ice cream.

I decided to pair my mango ice cream with a blackberry swirl. I think that the two fruits go really well together. For the ice cream itself, I borrowed bits and pieces from several different recipes. For the blackberry swirl, I used David's method from The Perfect Scoop. The end result was a really smooth, creamy and dense ice cream with ribbons of sweet, blackberry goodness running through it. A delightful way to beat the heat in the dog days of summer!


Sadly, when we moved into our new digs several years ago, we had to leave our beloved mango trees behind. Don't worry, though. I've still got my sources for scoring luscious, ripe mangoes. And, I'm not telling!


This recipe is going to my good friend, Grace from A Southern Grace, for her Beat the Heat event. The deadline for submissions is August 8th, so you still have a couple of days left if you want to get in on the action.




Mango-Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream............................................................... (Printable Recipe)

For the ice cream base:

2 large ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream

For the blackberry swirl:

1 pint blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cassis (The original recipe calls for vodka.)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

In a small sauce pan, heat 1 cup cream with sugar until bubbles start to form and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.

Puree mango, lime juice, and remaining cream in a food processor until smooth. Add heated cream/sugar mixture and mix well. Chill for several hours.

Freeze the ice cream base according to the instructions for your ice cream maker.

While ice cream is churning, make the blackberry swirl mixture. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mash and smush it all together. Chill until ice cream is ready.

Alternate spooning ice cream and blackberry mixture into a freezer safe container. Carefully swirl it around with the handle of a wooden spoon. Freeze until firm.

Makes about 1 quart.


If you like this recipe, you may also enjoy:

Dragonfruit Watermelon Sorbet

Drunken Cherry-Vanilla Ice Cream

Roasted Peach Ice Cream

Blood Orange Basil Mint Sorbet


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

TWD: Black and White Banana Loaf


Well, here it is, Tuesday again, and we all know what that means. Another Tuesdays with Dorie baking adventure! This week's assigned recipe was Black and White Banana Loaf, chosen by Ashlee of A Year in the Kitchen. I wish I had an interesting banana story or kitchen disaster tale to tell you to make this post a little more interesting, but I don't. Even though, many of my fellow TWD bakers reported having issues with this recipe, I did not. Good for me - bad for you, because that makes for a post a little on the dry side. Fortunately, that doesn't apply to the cake itself, which was very moist and tasty!

Actually, it was a lucky thing that I didn't run into any problems while making this recipe, as I didn't get around to baking it until two o'clock this morning. Yeah, you read that right. 2:00 a.m. I know, I know, I must be insane, but it really couldn't be helped. I was out of town most of last week, and we had houseguests over the weekend who didn't leave until yesterday. Then, I had a pile of work to catch up on at the office, errands to run, clothes to wash, dinner to cook and dishes to wash. Before I knew it, both the big and little hands on the clock were on the twelve. Are you feeling sorry for me yet? When I finally got around to making the loaf, my butter was rock hard and the rest of my ingredients were ice cold. It took another hour before everything warmed up and I was actually able to whip this baby up. It took an hour and forty minutes to bake, so you see, there was no room for error.


This Black and White Banana Loaf is a very dense brick of a cake flavored with chocolate, rum, and of course, bananas. Half of the banana cake batter is mixed with melted bittersweet chocolate and the two are swirled together for a marbled effect. I was leery about the marbling part. I've never had it work for me, but somehow, this time it did. I wish I could tell you how I did it, but by the time I got to that part, I wasn't even sure where I was, much less what I was doing! Just trust me. It worked.

I stayed pretty true to the recipe. The wee hours of the morning is not my most creative time. The only adjustment I made was with the bananas themselves. Instead of using regular yellow bananas, I used these cute little red ones that I found at the market. Why? Because they were there and happened to be just at the right level of ripeness. Also, because my weekend guests ate the other ones. I don't think it made much of a difference, though.


We cut a few slices off for breakfast this morning and it was good. Not great, but "just right with a nice, hot cup of coffee" good. It wasn't my favorite Dorie recipe, or my favorite banana cake recipe, but I liked it.

If you'd like to see some other versions of this Black and White Banana Loaf, check out the Tuesdays with Dorie Blogroll. If you'd like the recipe, you can find it on Ashlee's site. Stay tuned for next week when the recipe du jour will be Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream. I'm really looking forward to that!

Friday, August 1, 2008

What Inspires You?


What inspires you? Where do you get your best post ideas? Is there a special place you like to go to create?  Does it come to you in dreams? 

I get inspired at farmers' markets, the supermarket, restaurants, magazines and of course, by my fellow bloggers. Many of my best ideas for posts come to me while I'm out and about, especially while I'm driving around in my car. This can be a problem, as it is difficult, not to mention dangerous, to write and drive at the same time! Sometimes, I'd call my home phone from my cell and leave voice messages for myself, so I wouldn't forget my ideas. That is, until I picked up this new, fun toy.


Isn't it cute?  It's a Sony digital voice recorder. I've been using it like an old-fashioned dictaphone. When I'm out somewhere and I get an idea that I want to remember, I just tell it to this little guy he saves it for me. I also use it a lot while I am cooking, to remember what I've done when it comes time to write out a recipe. I can't tell you how helpful it has been! This model also has a lot of nifty features, including allowing you to playback MP3 files and record using the MP3 file format. It also has a USB Direct Connection, so that you can plug it directly into a USB port on your computer and download files right into your laptop or PC. And, it comes in RED!


As I was strolling up and down the aisles in the produce section of the supermarket a few weeks ago, something rather unusual caught my eye. It was a bin full of vibrant magenta, oval-shaped orbs with big neon green scales, resembling flames, jutting out from them. I had never seen anything like them before and I was intrigued! The sign on the bin where they lay said "dragonfruit". Hmmm. Dragonfruit, eh? I had no idea what a dragonfruit was or how to use one, but they were just so damned pretty, that I had to grab a few. I figured that even if they tasted like crap, they'd at least make for some gorgeous pictures.

The first thing I did when I got home with my shocking pink little beauties was Google them to find out exactly what they were. The dragonfruit, also known as pitaya or pitahaya, is the fruit of the the vine of a cactus called Hylocereus. The Hylocereus is a night-blooming, climbing cactus, native to Central and South America, with spectacular large, white and fragrant flowers.


The fruit itself is sweet, juicy, and crisp and tastes like a cross between a pear, kiwi and watermelon. There are numerous varieties of dragonfruit and the color of their flesh varies as well, from deep red, to pink, to white. They all have tiny black seeds inside, kind of like a kiwi. The fruit is commonly eaten chilled and cut in half so the flesh may be scooped out. The red-fleshed fruits are said to be high in lycopene which is a natural antioxidant that is known to fight cancer and heart disease.

At this point, I had no idea which kind of dragonfruit I had. Would their flesh be red, pink or white? Resisting the urge to slice one in half right then and there, I pressed on, looking for some other ways that I could use the fruit. I found that quite a few bloggers were pretty savvy about dragonfruit. My good friends, the White on Rice Couple, have written a very informative post about them here, with lots of beautiful photos, including some of those magnificent flowers.

From cheesecakes to tea cakes, to sorbets, salads and cocktails, there were all kinds of recipes to discover using these unusual fruits. Being in the midst of a sweltering Florida summer, I decided to go for a cool and refreshing sorbet. Rachel from Coconut & Lime had a nice, simple recipe on her site for a dragonfruit sorbet served in the shell of the fruit. It looked so lovely! I really wanted to try it. So, I used it as my inspiration.


When I finally did cut my fruits in half, I saw that the flesh was white. I was slightly disappointed not to see pink or red, as I read that they tend to be sweeter, but I was still excited about making my sorbet. I had a container full of fresh, sweet watermelon chunks sitting in the fridge, so I decided to add it to my sorbet as well.

David Lebovitz has a recipe for Watermelon Sorbetto in his fantastic frozen dessert bible, The Perfect Scoop. To make my sorbet, I took elements of both David's and Rachel's recipes and combined them. The result was a gorgeous, pink-hued, fruity, frozen and very delicious treat! I served the sorbet in the empty fruit shells and got lots of "oohs" and "aahs" from my guinea pigs taste testers.


I'm so glad that I took a chance and bought those dragonfruit when I saw them. So many times, people are hesitant to try new and unfamiliar foods. I've never understood that. I have been inspired more times than I can count by picking up something at the market that I've never seen before. Sometimes, it turns out great and sometimes, not. But, you never know what gastronomical delights you might be missing if you don't experiment. Lucky for me, this one was a winner!
Dragonfruit-Watermelon Sorbet
Inspired by Coconut & Lime and The Perfect Scoop

(Printable Recipe)


2 cups watermelon puree (seeded flesh from 1/4 med sized melon)
2 dragonfruit

3/4 cup sugar

pinch of salt

juice of 1/2 of a lime

2 tablespoons vodka


Puree watermelon in a food processor until it turns into juice.

Remove 1 cup of juice, put in a sauce pan and mix with the sugar. Heat just to boiling and remove. The sugar should be dissolved.

Scoop out dragonfruit flesh and puree with remaining melon. Rub the inside of the empty shells with lemon or lime juice and save in the fridge.

Add the hot mixture to the pureed fruit and add salt, lime juice and vodka. Stir and remove to a bowl. Chill for several hours.

Make sorbet in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Freeze until firm.

Scoop into dragonfruit shells and serve.