One of my favorite cookbooks is “My Calabria” by Rosetta Constantino with Janet Fletcher. A favorite cookbook is one I want to read, which draws me into the author’s world, tell stories that are relevant to the food it presents, and provides context for recipes. […]
I picked 42 lbs of strawberries at Green Truck Farms earlier this week. Granted 10 lbs went to Chef John MacPhearson and his hyper seasonal and really excellent restaurant Three Blacksmiths, and 4 lbs went to friends. That still leaves me 28 lbs. 10 lbs went to jam for the newly formed Jam Club, 12 lbs went to the freezer, and the rest we are eating fresh, in mousse, or ice-cream.
Lately I have been craving ice-creams that are more gelato-like with lots of fruit flavors. So I have toned down the cream in my go-to-Philadelphia style ice-cream, and roasted the strawberries to bring out more flavors. They are very good strawberries, much better than anything you can buy in the store because they were picked ripe and are being used within a few days. Still, they are the “Chandler” variety, one rated for “good” flavor not for “excellent” flavor, for high yield and for vigor, able to resist rain damages. But flavor wise, they are inferior to an EarliGlow or a Rutger’s Scarlet or a Sweet Charlie — all of which are more fragile and therefore harder to find in commercial operations or pick-your-own. So I roasted the Chandler strawberries which concentrates the flavors. It’s a trick that you can use with many other fruit whose flavor is not quite there. But pay attention: if there no flavor to start, roasting WILL NOT HELP!
The recipe has only 4 ingredients: strawberry, cream, sugar & honey. Make sure they are the best you can afford. Do not bother making it with supermarket strawberries. Seriously. Once you have the strawberries, it’s a very straightforward recipe.
Roasted Strawberry Ice-Cream
- 2 quarts ripe local strawberries (1 kg) +/-
- 1/2 cup sugar (100 g)
- 2 Tablespoons honey (30 ml)
- 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
- Wash, hull strawberries and spread in a non-reactive baking dish. Cook in a 250F (120C) oven for 1.5 to 2 hrs. They will be very soft, dull red and will have given up some juice. Remove from oven and chill.
- Puree strawberries and juice in blender until very smooth. Keep 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) for the recipe and save the rest for another use. Add sugar & honey to the 2 1/2 cup strawberry puree in blender, and process until sugar is well incorporated. Add cream and blend until just mixed.
- Process in ice-cream maker.
Yields about 1 quart ice-cream
French (or garden) sorrel is a super hardy perennial potherb with a bright pleasant tartness. It grows in my unheated hoop house even in the harshest winters providing refreshingly tart leaves for our winter salads. It is one of the first vegetables I harvest outside: it sends bright green leaves up in mid to late March, dislikes summer heat (unless provided with shade), and comes back in the cooler fall. I have written about how to grow sorrel here.
Sorrel’s acidity livens up green salads,omelets, and potato salads. When the clumps really fatten in March or April with lots of big leaves (and really as long as the leaves are healthy often through June), I make this creamy leek and potato soup. Sorrel is added at the last minute (use as much as you like) to produce a soup the color of a Granny Smith apple. Reheated or cooked, it will turn a darker green similar to a spinach soup—still good, but not as surprising to the eye.
Chilled Sorrel Soup
SERVES 4 TO 6 AS A LIGHT MAIN DISH
- 1 pound leeks, roots and very dark green parts trimmed
- 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 1 pound potatoes, scrubbed clean of dirt and trimmed (peeling optional)
- 1 ½ to 2 quarts good-quality chicken broth
- 2 to 4 cups shredded green sorrel (hard center stem removed, if any)
- Salt, pepper to taste
- baby herbs and edible flowers for garnishes (such as chives, violas, cilantro, kale, primroses, redbuds, bachelor’s button, borage…)
Slice and wash the leeks well by swashing them around in a bowl of water. Lift them out of the water (so any grits remain in the water) and drain.
Heat a Dutch oven on medium heat, add the butter, add the leeks, lower the heat, and cook them slowly, stirring occasionally to make t hem “sweat.” They should not color at all, just become limp. If they start to color, lower the heat more, stir and add a little butter or water. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, dice potatoes. Then add them to the softened leeks. Add one quart broth. Bring to a boil. Cover, and lower the heat. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Purée the soup using an immersion blender, or transfer soup to a blender in small batches to avoid hot overspills, and process until smooth. Use additional broth as necessary to purée and thin to your desired consistency. Chill.
Pour soup back in blender. Add the shredded sorrel, a cup at a time, and puree until smooth. Taste until you have reached a pleasantly tart taste and a nice bright green color. (I like a ratio of 1 cup of packed shredded sorrel to 2 cups of soup).
Salt & peppers to taste. Pour into bowls and garnish withe the herbs and flowers.
I am firmly in the beet lover camp: a well grown garden beetroot tastes of clean sweet earth. And that’s a good taste, intense, earthy, crunchy when raw, silky when cooked, deep garnet. But I know that the beet is as fervently disliked as it is loved. As much for taste as for its uncanny ability to color everything sanguine.
But that perceived flaw is also a strength. One can turn beets into a natural food coloring. Years ago, I made preserved cherries from a Greek recipe that called for dropping a chunk of beet-root in the jar of preserve to enhance its color. The cherries tastes faintly of beet – fine with me since I like beets.
Then, a few days ago, at breakfast, leaving through an older issue of Saveur magazine, I stopped turning the page at the gorgeous photo of icing in the most lovely shades of pink. Colored by beet powder! According to the article, beetroot powder has some earthy sweetness but does not have a strong taste. I was intrigued.
I made beet root powder. Because right now we have beets. The recipe for DIY beetroot powder is here. A mandoline is helpful to slice the beet paper-thin. After drying the beet slices in my yard-sale food dehydrator (they looked like rose petals!), I pulverized the dehydrated slices in my Vitamix. Worked like a charm!
Then I wanted to make icing. And use it. (more…)
Blackberry time is here. The canes in the garden have started to produce, and should all go well, continue to produce for another 4 weeks. Which is good, because blackberries (and eggplants) are one of the consolations of a typical Virginia summer, especially the kinds […]