Monday, July 26, 2010

I made it myself.


Yeah, that’s right.  I made this cucumber.  Pretty, innit?

I’m so proud of my garden this year – it’s thriving.  Cukes, summer squash, green peppers, ichiban eggplant, a million tomatoes, green beans, and tons of herbs including some of the most fragrant basil pretty much ever.  The Thai variety smells so good I almost want to wear it as perfume.  Yum.

As the cucumber vine grows out of control and my little garden plot keeps producing, my challenge is to find something to do with all this beauteous produce.  It’s tricky of course because you don’t want to cover up the natural succulent taste of the fresh veggies with too much sauce, or complicated preparations.  It’s really all about enhancement, making something that is already close to perfection even more heavenly.

To me, fresh cucumber is always begging to be dipped in some nice, garlicky hummus.  Hummus works because it’s not heavy, and its flavor is delicate enough that it doesn’t cover up the green crispness of veggies.  You can find a million flavors and textures at the store, but it’s also extremely easy to make yourself…and way better I would say, because you can put in as much tahini, garlic, paprika and olive oil as you want.  It’s much easier to make than cucumbers actually – no dirt, no moles, no weeds, no weeks of waiting.  So once you’ve “made” the fresh veggies, this is a snap.


5-Minute Hummus
adapted from Real Simple

15 oz cooked, rinsed chickpeas (canned are a-okay, try to find organic)
3 cloves garlic (original calls for 1 but COME ON)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste...again, original called for 2 tablespoons which you can totally do, but I loves me some smooth sesame flavor)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika 

In a food processor, puree the chickpeas and garlic with olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, cumin, and 3/4 teaspoon salt, until smooth and creamy.  Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water as necessary to achieve the desired consistency.

Transfer to a bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika before serving.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups.  

This recipe is very easily doubled, and it's great over the course of a few days as the flavors marry...it makes an amazing sandwich with the aforementioned cukes, and some fresh butter lettuce on whole wheat...so simple and so good.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thai Tea Ice Cream





Usually I feel the need to get clever with my post titles, but this home made ice cream is so simple and so good that it requires none of my schtick.  Three ingredients come together in about 5 minutes of hands on time (longer for chilling and freezing, of course!) to form a sweet exotic frozen miracle that needs almost no accompaniment.  


Thai tea on its own is luscious - a blend of red and black tea leaves, with coconut and warming spices...it's even better when loaded with evaporated milk and ice...and better still when it gets all mixed up with sweetened condensed milk and half and half and takes a ride in the ice cream machine...




Yes, you'll need an ice cream machine to make this happen.  I know, it's unfair.  But this ice cream, being that its major component is tea (also known as water), can't achieve an edible texture when simply mixed then left in the freezer to solidify.  It will turn into an unappetizing opaque ice cube.  So yes, bummer if you don't have a machine, and my apologies for taunting you.


This is probably one of the best desserts I've made in a long time.  It's not super pretty (see pics, there was no time for a glamour shot, it was gone in minutes).  But, that's because it's natural and not full of xanthan gum and other nasty stabilizers.  It melts on the fast side but it is still possible to wrangle into an sugar cone.  It was a hit recently at a dinner party I hosted, served with lemon pizelle and a side of drunken Balderdash.


Thai Tea Ice Cream
barely adapted from Mac & Cheese


2 1/2 cups boiling water
*1/3 cup loose thai tea, or 6 tea bags (I couldn't find the loose stuff, and was hoping for something caffeine free, so I used this)
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half and half


Boil water and steep tea for 20 minutes, then strain (if using loose tea) and let cool to room temperature.  Mix 1 1/2 cups brewed tea with sweetened condensed milk and half and half.  Chill thoroughly.  Freeze mixture in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer instructions (generally this takes about 30 minutes).  Let harden to your desired texture in the freezer.  Makes about 1 quart ~ 6 servings.


*I've also followed this recipe with white peach oolong tea from Stash with great results, but the thai tea route is even better! (so much better)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

...Hawaii



I can't believe I was forced to come back from Hawaii!  I had this pesky plane ticket that said I had to fly away from these magical islands last Thursday...such a travesty.  I could have lived there forever!  But alas I'm back, and lucky you, I've got a bunch of crappy iPhone photos of some of the delicious foods I ate, that don't do them any justice at all!  But please humor me and try to use your imagination...



Above is one of the most delicious pizzas I've ever had, from American Flatbread Company in Pa'ia, on Maui.  Yeah yeah, I've been to the one in VT too...all I can say is that we were starving after our crazy sunset adventure on Haleakala (where 10,000 feet above sea level, in the lava desert, it was 47˚) and wanted something simple and filling.  The above was the Mopsy Pizza - Hawaiian BBQ sauce, pineapple, goat cheese, mozz, red onion, and kalua pig, which is a scrumptious Hawaiian version of pulled pork, cooked underground in banana leaves.  So freaking good...




This is one of the best fish dishes I've ever had, from Mama's Fish House on the north shore of Maui.  The fish here, which I believe is buried under the veggies, is wahoo, or Ono as they call it all over Hawaii.  It is a firm but flakey white fish that I could pretty much eat every day.  The prep here was very traditional according to our waitress - caramelized onions and avocado in a soy glaze, with sticky jasmine rice on the side.  Other amazing fish we had during the trip were ahi, mahi mahi, monchong, uku, opakapaka...heaven.




It probably would have been nice to get a better picture of this delight, but they were honestly gone too fast and no one was thinking much about photography at the time.  A great coffee/chocolate shop called Surfin' Ass served up these amazing chocolate/macadamia nut treats called Donkey Balls...in Hawaii they really don't mess around as far as candy is concerned...what with all the mac nuts, kona coffee, coconut and tropical fruits at their disposal?  Yeah.  




Oh yeah about that fruit.  It was bountiful and growing pretty much everywhere.  We picked limes and pineapples in the yards where we were staying, and could have pick avocados, bananas, mangos, coconuts or papayas if they had been ripe...such a treat, especially coming from our climate where you're super lucky if you can manage to pick a few raspberries in your yard, or veggies from your meticulously maintained garden.  On Hawaii's Big Island, plants and fruits just seem to literally grow out of the rocks.  The smoothies above are 100% fruit - no ice, no dairy, just straight up fruit starting with frozen bananas.  On the left is guava strawberry banana, on the right is papaya strawberry banana, from What's Shakin'? near Hilo on the east side of the island...the perfect treat after a day of hiking in the rain forest.




And when we weren't drinking tropical fruit, you better believe we were drinking beer - particularly beer from Kona Brewing Company.  We visited the brewery one night and did a beer sampling.  I've not been known to be a participant in fruity beer drinking, but their Wailua Wheat, a wheat beer infused with passionfruit, is to die for (so technically I guess we were still drinking fruit...)  If you're lucky you can find it on the mainland, but so far I've only seen it one place, that happens to have island mentality...Nahant, MA.




By the time we managed to get ourselves all nice and relaxed (as shown here, at the Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island) we found ourselves headed home.  One nice thing about that is that I missed cooking terribly after two weeks (really!) and I've been doing a lot of it since then.  So!  More tasty things to come, hopefully later this week.  It's nice to be back in the saddle at Effing Delicious.