Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Newest Addition to the Kitchen Family

Some people get pets; I collect kitchen equipment. My family ridicules me. My cabinets look like they have been taken over by a permanent Jenga installation, and really, there is no more room for anything else. Yet I was powerless to resist a recent sale and brought yet another appliance into the house. This time, it was an ice cream maker that called my name.

And oh, was worth it. I and my new best friend, the Cuisinart "Pure Indulgence," have been turning out killer ice creams on an alarmingly regular basis. I don't care that the machine is currently stored on the dining room table. Homemade ice cream is the bomb, and it's better than anything you can get commercially. Hands down.

My first flavor was straight up chocolate (because otherwise there would have been mutiny in my house). For a recipe, I went to the source for all things dessert, David Lebovitz, and used his chocolate ice cream recipe. I followed it as written, except I added milk chocolate chunks for the last few minutes of churning. Heaven. Next up, buttermilk ice cream, this time to pair with a blueberry cobbler recipe I was creating for a class. Not wanting to let the machine rest a day, I decided to be a tester for a Food52 Community Pick contest for frozen desserts, and made Cucumber Mint Ice Cream. And most recently, I started experimenting with the flavor that no one doesn't like--salted caramel.

I have found myself thinking about one of my favorite childhood treats, the hot fudge malt from The Malt Shop in Minneapolis. I felt compelled to try to replicate its taste from a thousand miles away. Malt powder is both a sweetener and a thickener, derived from barley, and it's common in the midwest. No one drinks frappes or shakes, you drink malts. Malt powder wasn't easy to find here (I found it, of all places, at Target). But it's worth seeking out, and I have discovered King Arthur Flour carries it as well.

The major difference between the midwestern version and my ice cream is I dialed down the sugar, to try to enhance the chocolate and malt tastes. The result is delish. So if you have an ice cream maker gathering dust somewhere (a wedding present perhaps?), get it out and start churning.

Hot Fudge Malt Ice Cream 

For the base: 
1 c. whole milk
2 c. half and half
1 c. malt powder
4 egg yolks*
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt

For the hot fudge sauce:
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. cream
2 T. milk

Base directions: Place the milk, half and half, and malt powder in a saucepan. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a small bowl, and whisk until combined. Place a mesh strainer over a container that can go into the refrigerator, and place the vanilla and salt into the container.

Heat the milk mixture in the saucepan on medium heat until bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan. Do not boil. Take about 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and mix it into the egg yolk mixture, then pour the yolk mixture into the saucepan. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon without dripping (about 5 minutes).

Pour mixture through the strainer into the container. Stir to combine the vanilla and salt, and allow to cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate until cooled completely, preferably 24 hours.

Sauce directions: In another saucepan, place the cocoa and sugar. Add cream and milk and whisk until combined. Heat on medium heat, stirring, until the sugar melts and the sauce turns glossy. Cook until the sauce does not taste grainy. Allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a container, cover, and refrigerate until cooled completely, preferably 24 hours.

To make the ice cream: Freeze base according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Two minutes before the ice cream is done, mix 1 cup of hot fudge sauce into the ice cream to blend. Reserve the remaining sauce to drizzle on top. Freeze ice cream for 2 or more hours.

Serve ice cream with hot fudge sauce, and, if you are like me, a sprinkle of malt powder on top.

*One by-product of making lots of ice cream is the proliferation of egg whites in the fridge. You could make meringues or angel food cake, but my kids have discovered the joy of the egg white sandwich. And presto, the egg whites are gone. Which means I need to make more ice cream.

Friday, June 14, 2013

In Praise of Pizza

Before the weather gets too hot to turn on the oven, do yourself a favor and make pizza. I live in a town that is teeming with run-of-the-mill pizza joints. Yet we somehow still are compelled to serve this so-so pizza at every kid's birthday party, school event, and team function. When I can, I buck the trend and make it at home, and then I always wonder why I ever bother to eat the usual fare. 

Pizza dough has only a few ingredients, and can be made ahead. Putting the pies together isn't much work either. I don't use a pizza stone. I don't bother with tossing my pie in the air or even a rolling pin. I simply use my hands to shape the dough directly onto the Silpat or parchment paper that it will be baked on. And while choosing toppings can be both participatory and creative, I'm going to admit that the one downside to make-your-own-pizza night is that your kitchen may resemble a war zone afterwards. But for my kids, the pride of ownership that comes with the act of making their own creation is pure gold. 

In terms of what goes on top, the sky is the limit. Sometimes I am haphazard, and pull out any leftover bits of meat, cheese, sauce and veggies and throw them on the dough. If you want to be more purposeful, there are some killer combinations out there. More than once, I've attempted to recreate a pie I've had at Za, my vote for the best pizzeria in my neck of the woods. I'm still trying to perfect a copy of their chorizo, mustard, and dill pickle creation. I've used butternut squash, fontina and arugula; strawberry, pesto, and mozzarella; or my latest creation below, onion confit, gruyere, apple and smoked turkey.

My dough recipe feeds four, with some leftover to make dough knots sprinkled with parmesan. I use a stand mixer, but you can make it all by hand if you want to work your arms. I've given instructions for the oven, but another great option is to grill your pizza (that solves the hot oven problem in the summer). This lesson from The Kitchn is a great resource to get started. 

Pizza Dough
makes about 2 pounds of dough

1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
3 t. yeast
pinch of sugar
2 c. white flour
2 c. white whole wheat flour, or whole wheat flour
1 T. salt
3 T. olive oil

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place yeast, water, and sugar. Let stand about 5 minutes, or until the water starts to bubble and you can smell the activated yeast.

Place the white flour, white whole wheat flour, and salt in a small bowl. Have some extra flour nearby for kneading.

Add olive oil and 2 cups of the flour mixture to the bowl. Using the paddle, stir on medium speed until mixed. The dough should still be shaggy at this point. Switch to the dough hook, add another 1 1/2 cups of flour, and mix again until the dough should start to come together. If it's still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides. Continue to mix, using the dough hook, on high speed, about five minutes. Stay near the machine, as it tends to jump around when it's working this hard! 

Turn the dough onto a clean work surface. Knead by hand for about a minute, adding additional flour if needed so it isn't sticky. Stop kneading when the dough is smooth and elastic, and springs back when you poke it with your finger.

Line the mixer bowl with a small amount of olive oil, and place the dough ball in it. Spread a small amount of oil on top. Cover with a towel and let rest in a warm place until doubled in volume, usually about an hour.

(You can make the dough the night before you need it, and place it in the fridge overnight. It will still need to finish the rise in a warm room, so take it out of the fridge as soon as you get home, and let it rise while you get everything else together.  I often put the dough on top of or near my stove while it's preheating to cook the pizzas.)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In the bowl, punch the dough down and turn onto a clean surface. Divide into 4 to 8 pieces with a bench scraper. Place a silicon sheet or parchment on a baking sheet, and place a piece of dough on top. Using your fingers, start pushing the dough from the middle until it is your desired thickness. Brush the top with oil and top with your toppings.

Bake until crust is browned, about 10-12 minutes.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wrapping Up a Great Summer Meal

As the weather turns warmer, I am noticing more locally grown produce arriving at the grocery stores, and my long-awaited CSA share is starting next week (we are members at the dynamite Lindentree Farm). June is a perfect time to start pulling out my favorite veggie-heavy, warm weather dishes.

I love all sorts of Asian flavors and cuisines. One concept I think is genius is using a lettuce leaf as the vehicle to wrap up your food. I first encountered the idea when eating Korean bugogi and French-Cambodian rouleaux. When it's hot out, using lettuce or cabbage as a wrap is especially refreshing.

I created these hoisin beef wraps on a day when I didn't want to use the oven and I didn't want to eat anything too heavy. The wrap combines a highly flavored meat with all sorts of crunchy accompaniments. I relied on a few pantry staples like hoisin and ramen noodles, but sometimes that's how I roll, especially when I'm trying to cook dinner in a hurry. A special plug for hoisin--it's a bit of a magic sauce, something like a sweet Worcestershire, and it's always on the fridge door in my arsenal of secret weapons that can create robust flavor quickly.

This recipe seems like it has a lot of moving parts, but in fact you can get this on the table in about a half hour. Start with draining the cucumbers and washing the lettuce, and end with the croutons and meat. And I guarantee once you make crunchy ramen croutons and quick pickles, you will start looking for ways to incorporate those in to other meals as well.

Hoisin Beef Wraps with Crunchy Ramen Croutons and Quick Pickles
meat adapted from Food Network; pickles adapted from How to Cook Everything

Serves 3-4. 

For the wrap: 
1 head butter (Boston) lettuce, leaves separated

In a large bowl or sink, soak lettuce leaves for 10 minutes in cold water to remove dirt. Dry leaves, but leave them whole.

For the pickles: 
1 pound cucumbers
1 T. salt
1 t. sugar
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 t. rice vinegar

Slice cucumbers as thinly as possible (if you have a mandolin you should use it). Place cucumbers in a colander and toss with the salt. Let sit for 30 minutes in the sink, squeezing them occasionally with paper towels.   

Toss with sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce and rice vinegar. 

For the meat: 
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 T. grated fresh ginger
2 scallions, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 c. hoisin sauce

In a skillet, cook meat over medium high heat until browned. Drain off any excess fat. Stir in ginger, scallions, garlic, soy sauce, and hoisin and cook for one minute. Remove from heat.

For the croutons:
2 packages ramen soup, flavor packets discarded
3 T. canola oil
2 T. sugar

Remove dried ramen noodles from the packaging, and gently break the noodles into small pieces, roughly 1/2 to 1 inch. In a skillet, heat oil and sugar. Add noodle pieces and cook, stirring constantly, until noodles turn golden, about 5 minutes. Cool on a buttered plate.

To eat this delectable dish, take a lettuce leaf in your hand, spoon in a small amount of meat, and top with a few pickles and croutons. Eat as delicately as possible, but I warn you it's hard not to stuff the whole wrap into your mouth in one bite. Repeat as many times as needed.