Sunday, July 31, 2011

Crème of the Berry Crop - Crème Fraîche Ice Cream with Fresh Marionberries

This post is technically late.  But I was determined to participate in the July BakeSpace Challenge, since I haven't done one in over a year.  This month just happened to be "Local Produce From the Farmer's Market".  This turned out to be a little more challenging than I anticipated, partly due to the extremely wet weather this spring having delayed crops again, just like last year.  But as luck would have it, I found some Marion Berries.  I love berries.  Logan, Tay, Ollalie, Rasp, Salmon, Thimble, Black Cap, Boysen, or  Marion... All the bramble berries are all delicious in their own way.

The Marionberry is a hybrid black berry created by crossing the Chehalem blackberry and the Ollalieberry at Oregon State University in Corvallis Oregon. Due to the extensive testing of the berry within the Willamette Valley, when the berry was released in 1956 it was named after Marion County, as opposed to being named after Mr. George F. Waldo who was responsible for creating the initial hybrid in 1946.

Marion berries are a wonderful example of traditional hybridization, bringing the best attributes of the parents into one single berry (the flavor of the Chehalem and the production of the Ollalie). Though as intoxicatingly delicious as the Marionberry is, it may carry some latent genes from the parents of the Ollalie, which is itself a hybrid (Loganberry and Youngberry) developed in 1937; again at Oregon State University, but due to Oregon weather patterns, is much better suited to Northern California.  But enough about the Marionberry's "family bramble".

I get fairly touchy about my Marionberries (having been bereft of them for 13 years in San Diego) for they truly are the fine wine of the berry world.  Deep, rich, tart and earthy, like a fine Pinot Noir.  I prefer them in as unspoiled a preparation as possible. (kind of like my Huckleberries)  I am sure that at some point in the future, now that I am back in Oregon, I will get use to having them around again and may begin experimenting.  But for now...  K.I.S.S. is my phiosophy. Thus, I kept it simple by turning to David Lebovitz's recipe for an unassuming Crème Fraîche Ice Cream, to be served with fresh Marionberries from the Farmer's Market.  Sort of a frozen Berries and Cream.

And lemme tell ya this, about that.  The ice cream is positively the most incredible scoop of deliciousness you will ever taste and fully capable of standing alone on it's own merits.  But even better is the fact that the inherent "nuttiness" of Crème Fraîche is the perfect counter point to the tart zip of the Marion's.  I swear I could hear angels weeping for joy as I consumed it with great abandon.

Crème Fraîche Ice Cream with Marionberries

1 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
pinch of Kosher Salt
5 large Egg Yolks
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract (enough to enhance, not to actually flavor)
2 cups Crème Fraîche
Fresh Marionberries 

Begin heating the Milk, Sugar and pinch of Salt over medium heat in a medium saucepan.

Meanwhile, separate the Egg Yolks into a medium bowl and break them up with a whisk.

When the Milk/Sugar reaches about 155 -160 degrees (cause you don't really need it too hot) remove the pan from the heat and begin pouring the hot milk slowly over the beaten yolks, while continuing to whisk.

Pour the resulting mixture back into the sauce pan and return to medium heat.

Whisk the soon to be custard until it begins to thicken slightly... about 170 degrees or until it coats the back of a spoon and leaves a clear line. (you know the drill)

Remove the custard from the heat and stir in the tiny amount of vanilla. (that is the little bitty brown spot)

Strain through fine mesh into a bowl to arrest the cooking.

Cover on the surface with plastic wrap to prevent crusting and chill for 30 minutes.

Remove from the refrigerator and whisk in the Crème Fraîche.

Cover on the surface again and chill again for an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instruction. (Usually about 20-30 minutes)

Spoon into a chilled container and freeze completely.... (about 4 hours)

Now for the topping.....

Some lovely Marionberries from the Farmers Market...

Do you hear the angels weeping?  I do. 

Oh wait! that's me.  Cause my bowl is empty.  hmmm


Friday, July 22, 2011

PB & J's Evil Twin - Peanut Butter & Dill Pickle

My dad introduced me to the awesomeness of a Peanut Butter and Dill Pickle Sandwich when I was very young.  It was a guilty pleasure of my youth to be eaten when Mom wasn't around.  Sort of a male bonding thing. All three of us boys enjoyed them immensely. Seriously, I am not kidding.

I know I sound like I have completely gone off the deep end.  I know is sounds weird and possibly even disgusting.  My mother would agree with that assessment.  Then again, she hates peanut butter to begin with.

Trust me, I am not insane, (OK, maybe a little, but that's beside the point) there is just something magical that happens to peanut butter when you add the sharpness of a Dill Pickle to it.  It becomes sort of sweet.  That combination of sharp vinegar laced with dill & salt works it's VooDoo on the lowly peanut, creating a whole new flavor that is sweet & creamy, yet salty and savory shot with the pungency of apple cider vinegar.   It is a strange phenomenon that I cannot really explain, but it's delicious. (or at least I think so, but I like Balsamic Vinegar Ice Cream too)

Now mind you, I have only eat this sandwich when I'm fortunate enough to be in possession of a jar of my dad's homemade dill pickles.  But even though I cannot personally vouch for store bought Dill Pickles in this application, I am fairly confident they will work just as well as my dad's do.  The most important thing is the  peanut butter. No JIF, Peter Pan or Skippy.   Just good old peanuts, ground into "butter", with a little salt added.  Me, I prefer the crunchy version, but creamy does work.  It's just the Sugar & HFC laced stuff you need to avoid.  As well as those that include non-peanut oils such as soy bean and palm.

I am also a big fan of seedy bread when doing this... Seriously seedy bread.  Like the bread version of an everything bagel. It adds just a touch of heft to the sandwich.

PB & DP Sandwich

2 slices Seedy Bread, toasted
Natural Peanut Butter
1 Dill Pickle, sliced

First Toast the seedy bread and grab the peanut butter. (It doesn't need to be organic, just natural and untainted) ;)

Your gonna have to stir it up of course, cause it doesn't contain any artificial emulsifiers and always separates.

Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on each piece of toast.

Time to unveil the pickle, and slice it thin.

Lay down the pickle slices.

Place one piece of toast on top of the other and slice in half.

Enjoy...  I know I sure did.  The flavor of childhood memories.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hot Soup, Literally - Tom Kha Het

It has been a surprisingly wet and cold summer so far.  Oh, there have been a few hot days here and there, in particular around the 4th of July.  But for the most part, it has been chilly and wet.  To me, cool and damp means soup time.

Soup has the extraordinary ability to warm the cockles of your heart.  This particular soup, however, has the power to warm you from head to toes with it's chili laced goodness.  I speak of the luxurious Tom Kha, basically Coconut Galangal Soup.  Granted you can make it with Chicken (Tom Kha Kai) or Seafood (Tom Kha Thale) and even Amy's Organics makes a vegetable version (Tom Kha Phak), but I prefer the much more subtle flavor of mushrooms, thus this is Tom Kha Het.

It's truly a delightful soup.  Creamy, gingery deliciousness permeated with the tang of lime and lemon grass and laced with the fruity heat of Thai Chilies.  OK, now I am hungry again... so I am gonna sneak another bowl.  Be right back.

Tom Kha Het

(Coconut Galangal Mushroom soup)

2 cups Chicken Stock (or Vegetable)
2 cans Coconut Milk, divided
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 oz Lemongrass, sliced thinly
2 Kaffir Lime Leaves, sliced thinly and divided
4 dried Thai Chilies, seeds removed and thinly sliced
1 inch Galangal, sliced, or rather chipped
2 oz White Onion, diced
4 oz Carrot, cut on the bias
6 oz Napa Cabbage, shredded
8 oz Mushrooms, sliced (if using straw mushrooms, don't slice them)
1 can of Baby Corns, cut into thirds
Juice of 2 Limes
2 TB Nam Pla (Fish Sauce)
1/2 oz Cilantro Leaves

First you need to chop and slice everything up, cause this is a quick soup.

Combine Garlic, Lemongrass, 1/2 of the shredded Lime leaves, Thai Chilies and Galangal in a medium saucepan.

Add Chicken Stock and 1 can of the Coconut Milk.

Place over medium flame and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Strain the "broth" into a larger pot to remove the woody Lemon grass and Galangal.

Add the remaining can of Coconut Milk and bring back to a simmer again.

Once the broth is simmering, add the Onion, Carrot, Napa Cabbage, remaining Kaffir Lime leaves and Mushrooms.

Cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes to cook the vegetables.

Add Baby Corns and simmer 2 minutes longer to warm them through.

Finish off with Lime Juice

and Nam Pla.

Spoon into a bowl and serve with a sprinkling of Cilantro leaves.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Tiny Dancer in My Hand - Tiny Tayberry Pavlovas

Ya know how your brain sometime works like a bad internet search engine?   ---queue the Bing! commercial here.
A friend of mine, who just so happens to be the extremely talented writer of Ravenmarked, was mentioning a terrible cover of Elton John's Tiny Dancer the other day on Facebook.  I was extremely sympathetic to her plight, as I have heard several "covers" over the years that made my ears bleed.  That was when my search engine kicked in.

I am sure it was triggered by the fact that as soon as "Tiny Dancer" was mentioned, the lyrics began flashing through my cortex. And the random search began.  My engine focused one particular line; "Ballerina, you must have seen her....  Dancin' in the sand..."    OK try to stay with me as I take you through the recesses of my hypothalamus.  For some weird reason, the sand made me think of surfing in Australia.  I really don't know why I have never surfed in my life much less been to Australia... But then the connection with dancing was made to Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.   You see, when Anna Pavlova toured through New Zealand and Australia, they names a dessert after her.  OK, so now I moved on to making a Pavlova (I just happen to have some Tayberries, which will be GREAT on top)  But I wanted them to be individual sized.... "Tiny Pavlova in my hand"   

Now that I have everyone convinced that I am certifiably insane, or at least that there is something wrong with the way my synapses fire, on with the Tayberry Pavlovas....

I will warn you that I am cheating... I had egg whites in the refrigerator, but I didn't want to wait for them to warm to room temperature, so I decided to use the Swiss Meringue method, instead of French or Italian.  One other thing.  What distinguishes Pavlova Meringue from other hard meringues is the addition of some cornstarch.  It helps to keep the center a little more marshmallow-y even after drying, thus giving the Pavlova it's unique texture.

Pavlovas have 3 steps - Meringue, Cream or Mouse, and finally the fruit topping and garnish.

Miniature Tayberry Pavlova

(with Blood Orange Glaze)

Meringue Base:
6 large Egg Whites
1 1/2 cups of Granulated Sugar (that is 4 TB per large egg white)
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp Cream of Tarter
2 tsp Corn Starch
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

On a piece of parchment, use a pencil to draw or trace a 4 inch round.

Turn the parchment over (cause you don't want graphite in your meringues) and use the rounds as guides.

Place a sauce pan of water over medium-high flame.

Place the Egg Whites, Sugar, Salt, Cream of Tarter, Corn Starch and Vanilla Extract in the bowl of your electric mixer and set this over the simmering water.

Heat the mixture, while whisking constantly, until it comes to 120 degrees. (this ensures that the sugar is dissolved completely, thus creating a more stable meringue)

Remove the bowl from the simmering water and place it on your mixer base that has been fitted with a whisk attachment.

Whisk on high speed until a thick shiny meringue is formed.

While you are beating the meringue, begin heating your oven to 200 degrees (it will only take about 10 minutes)
Spoon about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the Swiss Meringue into the middle of each traced round.

Smooth to the edges of the lines with a spatula or a spoon (alternatively, you can use a piping bag and pipe rounds)

Place the baking sheet into the oven and "dry" the meringues for 1 1/2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven to cool for 1 hour longer.

Remove them from the oven and peel them from the parchment very carefully.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or continue with the next step. (this will make 12 4-inch pavlova bases)

Lemon Cream filling:
1/3 cup Confectioners' Sugar
3 TB Lemon Juice
1/2 cup (4 oz) Crème Fraîche 
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) Heavy Cream
Zest of 1 Lemon

In a medium bowl, combine Confectioners' sugar and Lemon juice.

Whisk until the sugar dissolves,

Add Crème Fraîche and whisk until smooth

Add Heavy cream

and Lemon zest.

Whisk the Mixture until it just begins to thicken. (you want a fairly "soft " whipped cream, to contrast with the crisp Meringue)

Cover with plastic and chill for 2 hours (it will thicken a little more in the refrigerator because it contains Crème Fraîche)

Blood Orange Glaze:
Before I get into this, mind you I was in a hurry, I was having an obsessive moment and Blood Oranges are not in season right now.  (sigh)  Luckily World Market's Blood Orange Soda is made with juice and cane sugar, so in a way, it just saved some steps.  I will admit it's still a little cheesy in a way, but it worked fairly well.  Next time though, I want to make Blood Orange Coulee instead of a glaze

12 oz Blood Orange Italian Soda
1 TB Lemon Juice

Pour soda and lemon juice in a small sauce pan.

Simmer over medium-low flame until reduced to a mere 3 oz.

Cover and chill.


Meringue disk
Lemon Cream
Blood Orange Sauce

So what is a Tayberry?  It is a bramble berry hybrid from Scotland created by crossing a Logan Berry with a Black Raspberry.  Logan Berries in and of themselves are a hybrid, being a Blackberry crossed with Raspberry.  Tayberries have an incredible scent and flavor almost like a rose, but not quite. 

Place a Meringue disk on a plate.

Spoon Lemon Cream on top of that.

Top with fresh Tayberries.

Drizzle with Blood Orange Glaze.

And consume with great vigor.... Thus the mini-pavlova or tiny dancer in my hand.

Though in all honesty, you should probably leave is on the plate and eat it with a fork.