Monthly Archives: August 2018
What a hot week! Temperatures were high in the nineties and the muggidity was stifling for a big part of the week. On the hottest day, a team of lawn guys, wearing black hooded sweatshirts, were working hard grading our backyard for a much-needed new lawn. Ugh!
I chose to live in New England to escape the “Hazy, Hot, and Humid” summers of my childhood in Maryland. Due to climate change, these many years later, more frequent, longer stretches of the Maryland summers have caught up with me in Boston. The difference, I don’t live in a house with central A/C now.
Frozen desserts like ice cream and popsicles are an antidote to the hot weather. It was fortuitous that the recipe chosen for Cook the Book Fridays, an Extra Edition on this fifth Friday in August, was ice cream!
The actual recipe was for Apricot Kernel Ice Cream. I didn’t have any apricot kernels to use. Instead, I remembered that Italian amaretti cookies, the ones that come in the red tin with pairs delightfully wrapped in paper, are made NOT with almonds but with apricot kernels. Without apricot kernels, I went the opposite way and simply made Almond Ice Cream by adding almond extract instead. I realize the flavor isn’t the same. The almond flavor was smooth where it would have had a bitter note with the kernels. However, I was in the mood for ice cream and didn’t have readily available apricots.
Without needing to steep the kernels makes the recipe simper. I added the sugar to the milk and cream which I warmed to dissolve the sugar. I immediately proceeded with the recipe by whisking the warm milk into egg yolks and heating to for a custard. I might have overcooked it slightly as it seemed to curdle at the end but pressing it through the strainer smoothed it out. I added a teaspoon of almond extract to the final mixture of custard and cream.
After chilling the custard for most of the day, twenty minutes in the ice cream maker froze the custard for a smooth ice cream. I let it sit in the freezer for a few hours to firm up further.
Almond ice cream was a refreshing topper for the last slice of the peach tart I made this week.
Note that when I was searching for a picture of the amaretti tin, I found this article in the New York Times archives that indicates I could have substituted peach, nectarine, or plum kernels for the apricot. That never occurred to me. Apparently, the inner kernel of all these stone fruits share the bitter almond flavor of the apricot. I wish I’d known that. I could have tried out the real thing. Next time.
If you want to make a delicious peach tart before summer ends, here’s my latest favorite dessert concoction.
One batch of your favorite Sweet Tart (shortbread style) Crust. My favorite is Dorie Greenspan’s recipe (I added ½ tsp almond extract with the egg yolk for an extra boost of flavor)
½ cup turbinado or demerara sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp almond flour
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup peach jam
3-4 peaches, pitted and sliced (I don’t peel them)
First, prepare the sweet tart dough. Press into a 9- or 9½-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze for at least 30 minutes. Line with foil and bake at 375F for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 3-5 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
To make the topping: Whisk together sugar, flour, almond flour and salt. Use your hands to work butter into the dry ingredients until it’s crumbly.
Spread the peach jam on the bottom of the crust. Top with peach slices, arranged in concentric circles. Sprinkle with the topping.
Bake for 45 minutes until fruit is bubbly.
I like relatively unstructured summers. Even though I’m no longer in school or have anyone in my family in school, my whole frame of mind changes when Memorial Day arrives. Summer feels like a lazier time than the rest of the year.
I wait all year for August, a solid month of perfect tomatoes. Meal preparation becomes conflicting. I’m torn between the simplicity of enjoying the tomatoes sliced and raw and the desire to transform them into something more. Caprese salad, Panzanella, tomato tarts of many forms, sauce, salsa. The list goes on and on.
Insert into my tomato frenzy, recipes for Cook the Book Fridays. I’ll be honest that I haven’t been inspired. I did cook the two recipes selected so far for August, but in the heat of the dog day afternoons, sitting at the computer is not high on my list of activities. I’d rather be gardening or playing with tomatoes. This afternoon is rainy, so I’ve managed to sit myself in my chair and start to write.
The first assignment for August was Stuffed Vegetables. David Lebovitz suggested stuffing zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes. Given that Howard doesn’t eat zucchini or eggplant, and even if I were filling a tomato, that filling contained the dreaded zucchini and eggplant, I had to get creative. Actually I wasn’t that creative. My solution was to scale back and stuff one zucchini just for me. The filling was delicious! Ground beef was extended with diced zucchini, eggplant and tomato along sautéed onion and garlic and lots of herbs. An egg binds the mixture together. I filled both halves of a single zucchini for two satisfying lunches for myself. The filling would be delicious in stuffed pepper, though I’d have to keep quiet about the full list of ingredients…
The second recipe assigned in August was Kirsch Babas with Pineapple Cherries. Howard wasn’t excited about this one. I wasn’t either. Despite the tropical fruit, babas seemed much more like a winter dessert. And what’s a baba anyway? It’s an eggy yeasty cake doused in alcoholic syrup. See, doesn’t that sound like something you’d enjoy around the holidays?
Knowing I was the only eater, I halved the recipe. What I set aside for the first rise was much more like batter than dough. I didn’t know if that was a result of halving the recipe or some other mistake. It did rise, and once the softened butter was whipped in, it miraculously transformed into a soft, sticky dough. The little cakes rose again, quickly (less than an hour). My kitchen in the summer is a very warm place.
The finished cakes are soaked in a light simple syrup spiked with alcohol. In my case, it was a mixture of kirsch and rum (I ran out of kirsch). I’ve never soaked cakes in this way before. They were like edible sponges.
These babas were meant to be accompanied by sautéed pineapple, however, the kirsch (cherry brandy) inspired me to substitute cherries that I already had on hand. In the end, I thought the babas were interesting though unremarkable and certainly more work than they were worth, even if it had been winter.
If either of these recipes interest you, they can be found in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Stuffed Vegetables is on page 160 and the Babas on page 279. Follow the respective links for my friends’ impressions of Stuffed Vegetables or Kirsch Babas.
And for those of you I’m not connected with on Facebook, I want to share the sad news that on the last day of July, we said an unexpected farewell to our beloved dog Bella. Her distinct personality filled our life with love and joy and, of course, exercise. In our grief, I know that she adored us as much as we did her (though maybe she preferred Howard more than me), and her life, at least since we rescued her 9 years ago, was a good one.