Thursday, July 19, 2007

Peppered Balsamic Ice Cream with Fresh Strawberries

Balsamic vinegar + strawberries = yum.

When I came across this recipe in the L.A. Times I just knew I had to try it. Using the mixing paddle on the KitchenAid, I combined a quart of vanilla ice cream with some freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. Served with fresh strawberries and an extra drizzle of vinegar, for good measure.

The vinegar cuts the sugary quality of the ice cream, lending a more sweet-and-sour, yogurty taste.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Buffalo Chicken and Bleu Cheese Sausages

I wish I could say that I made these tasty sausages, but I haven't been much for scratch cooking lately. Alas, we are packing up the kitchen.

These flavorful sausages, filled with ground chicken, hot sauce and bleu cheese, came from Whole Foods. I served them hot dog-style with tabasco-spiked ketchup, a green salad, and champagne grapes.

I think these could easily be made with a sausage/grinder KitchenAid attachment, and we intend to try it in Tucson. Stay tuned!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Banana Bread

I absolutely love banana bread, so when I spied a few soft bananas in our kitchen, I decided to take full advantage. I've been using a modified version of a Better Homes and Gardens recipe for ages, but I recently found a recipe from Baking Illustrated that intrigued me. It called for a generous 1.5 cups of bananas, like my modified BH&G recipe. But Baking Illustrated also wanted me to use a combination of melted butter and plain yogurt in my wet ingredients. There were other small but significant differences as well. The result was a more bread-like bread (vs. the cake-like bread I usually make), slightly less sweet but still tender and moist. I'm converted.

Now, the Baking Illustrated recipe did suggest adding toasted walnuts to the bread. I will confess here that I am not a fan of nuts in banana bread at all. I'm especially put off by the texture of the nuts after they have been steaming inside the bread for an hour. However, I did have a few leftover chopped pecans in the pantry and, in an effort to use everything in the house before our move, sprinkled them atop the bread.

The pecans remained crunchy and nutty, and the baking brought out their natural sweetness very nicely. I also appreciated the contrast between the crunchy texture of the crust and bread's chewy, soft insides. In short, I may never make banana bread without pecans again.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Spiked Basil Lemonade

Our cross-country move is just around the corner, and Lee and I have been trying to make maximum use of the food and beverages in our cupboards. Among other things, this has meant trying out new cocktail ideas.

When we first moved to Oak Park, Lee and I hosted a small cocktail party, inviting our new coworkers. The party was great fun, but the coworkers were mostly beer and wine drinkers.

Now, about one year later, our little bar is brimming with bottles of neglected spirits. Tossing most of this liquor is inevitable; but in the meantime, we are trying out a few new cocktails so all is not wasted.

Tonight's experiment was a spiked version of our favorite summer drink, basil lemonade. I used an iced tea pitcher for this, but you could easily replicate it with a regular pitcher and a strainer.

Start by mixing half a cup each of sugar and hot water to make a simple syrup. Roughly chop a generous handful of basil (probably two cups, before chopping) and let it steep in the syrup for a little while, maybe 15 minutes or so. Add the juice of two lemons and a couple cups of ice cubes, and let it steep in the fridge for another 15-30 minutes. Remove the pitcher from the refrigerator and strain out the basil leaves. This is one of the fun tricks with this drink--it looks like lemonade but has an added kick from the basil. If you wanted a non-alcoholic basil lemonade, add another 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water and serve. For a spiked lemonade, use vodka in place of the water.

It's a great balance of flavors--neither too sweet nor too strong, grown-up without tasting overly boozy.