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Cooling Off {CtBF}

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.

You can find the recipe for Apricot Kernel Ice Cream on page 312 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  Reviews of the ice cream recipe by other members of Cook the Book Fridays can be found here.

If you want to make a delicious peach tart before summer ends, here’s my latest favorite dessert concoction.

Peach Tart

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.



ffwd: duck breasts with fresh peaches

Duck Breasts with Fresh Peaches

Another Friday, another recipe for French Fridays with Dorie. Each week, I have the best intentions of blogging about all the other things I make during the week. Summer produce is flooding in, and I’m cooking like crazy. Somehow I only have the time and energy to write and depict this one.

This week’s Dorie recipe is for Duck Breasts with Fresh Peaches. If you asked me to name my Top 3 takeaways from Around My French Table, one would definitely be the confidence of searing duck breasts at home. It was nearly two years ago, Friday November 4, 2011, when duck first appeared on the FFwD calendar. I had always been a frequent orderer of duck in restaurants, but for the first time, I realized that I could make this for myself at home, and quickly. A revelation for sure. I have made duck breasts many times since then. It’s replaced lamb chops as my go-to special occasion meal. With peaches at their peak, I was excited to try a new variation on the theme.

All the ingredients

By now, many of you understand the food quirks of my household. The name of this recipe indicates the problem. It’s not the duck, but the fruit in a savory dish. You know that Howard will not eat peaches with his dinner. Fortunately, the peaches in this dish are more of a side or hearty garnish. I was able to make a peach for myself and none for my husband. The sauce with its sweet and tangy blend of flavors offered no offense to his culinary sensibilities. I plated my plate with the delicious browned peaches, and Howard’s without.





Cooking the duck breasts, scoring the skin and then searing them for a few minutes on each side, was as easy as usual. I like duck breast on the rare side, but I’ll admit that I overcooked it slightly, not perfect, but still delicious. I enjoyed the flavor and texture of the browned fruit. The sauce complemented both the meat and the fruit. On the side, I served Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains blend, a combination of Israeli couscous, colored orzo, quinoa, and baby chickpeas.

Once again, I was delighted to be making restaurant fare in my own kitchen! To see how my fellow bloggers did with their duck breasts and peaches, check out their links here. I can’t find the recipe on-line this week, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.