Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fruit pops

Filling the molds with strawberry-lemon fruit mix

Okay, so this isn't really a recipe since it is so simple but let's call it an idea / inspiration for these hot summer days. We had a 3-year-old over this weekend which motivated me to whip up some fruit pops (strawberry-lemon, raspberry-lime and banana). They are so easy I'm not going to write a formal recipe but rather list the ingredients and provide some guidance: fresh summer fruit (whatever your fancy), water, sugar (not too much), and maybe some citrus juice or something else (mint?) for additional flavor. Combine in a blender, pour into molds and freeze for 3 hours to overnight. In terms of molds, Cuisipro has some of the cutest you've ever seen including these star pop-up molds which don't even require additional wooden popsicle sticks; they come with their own plastic sticks as part of the mold design which you can pop in the dish washer and use again and again.

I tried these with uncooked macerated berries as well as tried bringing them to a boil with water and sugar first and then blending. The latter process seemed to work particularly well to bring out the flavors in raspberries. You can add yogurt to make a creamier pop (and swirl or stack flavors if you really want to go crazy) or keep it plain and simple. I could lie and tell you that our little guest devoured them but I think he was somewhat disappointed that he was not getting sugary ice cream and instead got disguised fruit. But we adults were very happy!

Ready for the freezer!

Note: photos courtesy of the toddler's dad who has a nifty little digital camera!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Texas caviar

I happened upon a wonderful recipe for “Texas caviar” in Saveur this month. I had never heard of Texas caviar but a quick google search turned up a million variations on the same theme of spiced, black eyed peas. I’m always game for a good bean/pea salad, especially for one as beautiful as this one looks. What’s more, I’ve been saving dried black eyed peas for Hoppin’ John on New Year’s for some time (without ever executing) so it was about time to make use of them. The original recipe called for a (16 oz) bottle of spicy Italian salad dressing but that seemed a little odd so I tweaked the recipe and we were all happy with the way it turned out.

16 ounces dried black eyed peas (or two 16 oz cans of canned peas, drained)
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and diced small
1 green pepper, cored, seeded and diced small
1 large tomato cored, seeded and diced
8 chopped scallions (or to taste) (white and green parts)
1/3 cup chili sauce (I used Heinz which is mild and slightly sweet)
1/3 cup vinegar (I used champagne vinegar because that’s what we had but I think white or red wine vinegar would both work well too)
¼ cup chopped Cilantro (or Italian parsley if you don’t like cilantro)
¼ - 1/3 cup olive oil Salt and pepper

Cook dried peas (or drain canned peas). Black eyed peas cook fast and will quickly become mushy if you don't keep watch. Combine cooked peas with the rest of the ingredients, season with salt and pepper, and adjust other seasonings to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight to allow beans to marinate and flavors to combine. Serve as a side salad (cold or at room temperature) or as a dip with chips.

Variations: Add 1 (4 oz) jar chopped pimentos
Add 1 garlic clove
Add 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
Add a few dashes of Tabasco, to taste
Breakfast and Brunch

Dinner mains

Starters, salads and sides


Cocktails and other beverages

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Essence of summer corn salad

My mother-in-law visited this week from Texas to help us settle in. I asked her to bring her famous New Orleans spicy shrimp recipe (which she has been making for the past 30 years or so!) so I could add a southern recipe to my repertoire (I will share the recipe soon). We had the wonderful spicy shrimp on Saturday night with “Texas caviar” (to come in a later post). On Sunday, it was back to the barbeque with hot dogs accompanied by fresh corn salad made with local Long Island corn.

I’ve made this corn salad a gazillion times and love it every time. It is the essence of summer – sweet fresh corn and light flavors -- and is a welcome alternative to corn on the cob. The cider vinegar brings out the sweetness in the corn without overpowering it and the red onion and scallions give it just enough kick. The trick is not to over-cook the corn -- the kernels need only be cooked until they lose their starchiness (but still retain their crunch).

Fresh corn salad from the Barefoot Contessa (she says it serves 10-12 but 6 will readily devour this!)

5 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
8 cups fresh corn kernels (10-12 ears)
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup small diced red onion
¼ cup thinly sliced scallion, white and green parts (2 scallions)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup julienned basil leaves

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. When oil is hot, add corn, salt, and pepper and cook for 5 minutes (or less) until just cooked and no longer starchy. Remove from heat and stir in red onion, scallion, cider vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Allow salad to cool; stir in basil before serving. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Chocolate sour cream cupcakes with buttercream frosting

I’ve been slow to post this week because we moved. The kitchen (and everywhere else) needs some serious organizing – that will be the major project for the week.

We rented a house by the beach for the month of July and spent our first weekend out there this weekend. Despite the fact that we had only been in our new apartment for a few days and had lots we wanted to do there, it was wonderful to take a break from boxes. On Sunday we had R’s sister and a friend out for a southern-style shrimp boil (more on this later – I’m still perfecting the recipe). The weather was perfect and we ate outside under the shade of umbrellas. On Monday, my sister and cousin came out and we barbecued and hung out by the pool. I made cupcakes to celebrate the Fourth of July decorating them with red, white and blue sugar stars that I found at NY Cake.

I pulled the cupcake recipe from Elinor Klivan’s Cupcakes which I’ve found to have very reliable recipes and some good ideas. The chocolate sour cream cupcake is moist and scrumptious and is simple to make. I went with a traditional buttercream frosting to keep things easy as we don’t have a lot of baking supplies or equipment in the summer house.

Chocolate sour cream cupcake batter

(Makes enough batter for 18 regular cupcakes, 12 extra-large cupcakes, or 60 mini cupcakes. I could also see using this for a traditional sheet cake)

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream
½ cup water

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water (or the bottom of the double boiler). Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is blended into the batter. Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture looks creamy and the color has lightened slightly, about 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture mixing just to incorporate it. Mix in the water. Mix in the remaining flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter looks smooth. The batter is ready to bake, or for additions such as nuts, fruit, chocolate chips, or other flavorings.

Bake cupcakes at 350 for approximately 20 minutes.


½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons whole milk (I used skim because that’s what we had and that was fine)

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, beat the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla together with 3 tablespoons milk, then add up to 1 tablespoon more milk if needed to form a creamy, smooth, spreadable frosting. Use a small metal spatula to spread about 2 ½ tablespoons of frosting over the top of each cupcake. Decorate as desired.

The cupcakes can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Optional: The frosting can be flavored with ½ teaspoon almond extract or 1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest.