Blackberry Summer

Raspberry-Vanilla Custard Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings.jpegNow that it finally feels like summer, I’m feeling nostalgic; I’ve just sent my eldest on a trip to visit her Grandmother in Washington.  While we grew up in California, we’d spend a lot of our summers up there; taking long road trips to finally

get there.  I thinks its where my mom always felt most at home and now she’s made it her home.

Memories of being crammed in a car with my mom, grandmother and my two agitating brothers for the long trip from California to Washiington come to mind.  Playing “eye-spy,” finding the alphabet in the road signs, and fighting -mostly with my older brother’s ever-extending air guitar- only to hear him say (with one finger pointing right in my eye), “I’m not touching you.”

These road trips were obviously some of my mother’s favorite things to do with her mom, but for us kids that excitement ran out just passed the wind mills in Tracy.  Mom and Grandma Lee both smoked Terryton Lights and made sure to light one up anytime our fighting in the backseat got to be more than they could handle.  Cracking the window only enough for the smoke to whiffle out and right back in.  I attribute that one-inch crack in the window to my asthma today moreso than the smoke, because maybe if they’d just rolled the windows all the way down, I wouldn’t have lost my appetite on second hand smoke.

While much of those memories are full of rancor and sarcasm, the truth is they’re also some of my most cherished childhood memories.  Although I desperately needed to know how much longer till we get there, my grandmother’s child-like thrill to show us kids the salmon swimming up stream, or an eagle in the sky or the water falls tucked in between a mountain of large trees just off the roadside was utterly contagious once we unmangled our legs, hair and barf bags from the car.  I still remember her story of Donner’s Pass and the people who had to eat one another to stay alive in the freezing snow.  She’d tell us why California was called the gold coast and talk about the history of gold miners, women in covered wagons, farming, Indian Life and loggers.  Later in life when I saw The Grapes of Wrath, I thought that this must’ve been what it was like for my grandmtoher, always moving, looking for work to survive.  A Norwegian father, Cherokee and Belgian mother, fitting in where they could.

She taught us all the old American folk songs like “Old Suzanna,” and “She’ll Be Coming Around That Mountain.” Sometimes I will see something and it will remind me of a time before I was born, her time, but I’d also feel as though it was intrinsically my time too;  I was sitting in her log cabin with her; an invisible witness.

My foot taps. I begin to sing and now I’m completely transported right back to being seven years old, sitting in my mother’s blue Oldsmobile, and the year is 1976.

My grandmother’s sister Anne lived in Washington.  She had a large forest of blackberries along the side of her house and what she did with those was truly American, truly a taste of summer and any pastry chef today would envy her skills in the kitchen.  She baked blackberry pies for us and served them hot with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a glass of milk.

I was a tenacious little kid when it came to sweets and my brothers, not being bashful themselves, would clammor around her kitchen until that pie was ready.  The entire room brightened up with the aroma of butter and crisping dough and a sweet scent of blackberries tickling just under our noses.  She’d pull the pie out, set it on a little counter.  The crust brown and flaky with bubles of purple goop stained around the pie-hole.

“Where’s the ice cream?”

“Get the ice cream!”

“Wait children it has to cool.”

Auntie Anne would have to back us up against a playpen and her dark scratchy sofa where we’d wait to grab a seat at large the table. Sewing patterns, knitting needles, yarn and newspapers we’re swooshed aside.

“Plates! Get the plates and forks!”

“We’ve got the plates and the forks and the ice cream.  Have a seat.”

One bite is all it took, All those hours in the car, the fights with Michael and Danny, the long-winded baseball announcers blaring through the speakers, my mother’s cigarette smoke and grandma’s cracked windows suddenly evaporated.

Silence.

This next recipe is dedicated to the Berg women of Washngton and their ability to love us children unconditionally .  I believe Auntie Anne and Grandma Lee would be proud of this ice cream.  I’d call it Blackberry Pie but there is no crust in the cream.  But feel free to serve it over your own favorite pie.

The sweet-tartness of the berries balances out the richness of the vanilla custard.  We loved it here at home and it’s now one of our absolute favorites.

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Blackberry + Vanilla Custard Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings

Ingredients:

2 pints fresh blackberries
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extra (or vanilla bean)
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks (I saved the egg whites for breakfast)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup dark chocolate shavings (I love the bulk chocolates at Fairway and today I went with one from Spain).

Add blackberries to a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Cook over low heat, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain using a fine mesh strainer, pressing berries to extract as much juice as possible.  I do this by pressing the berries firmly into the strainer with a rubber spatula and this takes a good fifteen minutes.  You’ll be surprised how much you can scrape off the underside of the strainer too.  Set aside.

blackberry mesh strainer-01.jpeg

Heat the half-and-half and 1 cup sugar in a separate saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat when mixture is totally heated and sugar is dissolved.

Add heavy cream to a separate bowl.

Beat egg yolks by hand or with an electric mixer until yolks are pale yellow and slightly thick.

Temper the egg yolks by slowly drizzling in 1 1/2 cups of hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly. After that, pour the egg yolk and half-and-half mixture into the pan containing the rest of the half-and-half mixture. Cook over low to medium-low heat (depending on how hot your stove gets) until quite thick, stirring constantly. Drain custard using a fine mesh strainer.

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Then pour into the bowl with the cream. Stir to combine.  Add blackberry juice puree to the custard mixture and stir.

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Chill mixture completely in the refrigerator.

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Pour the mixture into your in an ice cream maker until thick- about 20 – 25 minutes.

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The last few minutes add the chocolate shavings so they get nice and mixed in.

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Place container in freezer to harden for an additional two hours.

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Then serve and enjoy with someone you love.  Create some good memories too!

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National Ice Cream Month Is Still On!

Strawberries & Cream

Strawberries & Cream

We’re at the tail end of National Ice Cream Month, however all day today was National Ice Cream Day! Jason and I celebrated with some homemade Strawberries & Cream Ice Cream!  What is your favorite flavor?  Or, where’s your favorite ice cream shop and why?  What makes it so unique?  I’d love to hear all about them.

As a child I had several favorite shops.  I grew up in California, so naturally, we had lots to choose from.  Different ice cream shops inspired different cravings too.  There was a small place in Castro Valley, in “The Village,” called Loard’s where I had to have bubble gum ice cream.  Fentons required a hot fudge sundae or banana split, as did Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor.  Baskin Robins always meant Prailines and Cream; my twin brother and I would hurry down Redwood Road after school to buy two scoops before our mother picked us up.  Clancy’s in the Manor, my go-to flavors till this day are still Mint Orea Cookie AND Pralines & Cream together slathered in hot fudge with whipped cream.  Last, but definitely not least, Val’s Burgers is the best stop for the largest two-serving milkshake in your life.  No diner in New York City can even come close.  You know that silver cup they use to make your shake? Yeah, that thing comes to your table practically full -in addition to the tall fountain glass your shake comes in!

These iconic ice cream parlors have all the charm and nostalgia of better times; generous portions, and homemade goodness at reasonable prices.  None ever skimmed on their portions and $4 dollars got you more than one tiny scoop on a plain cone like we get here in New York City. If ever you have the pleasure of making it out to the east bay of northern California and you’re a fan of ice cream, then check out at least one of these places.

My recipe for Strawberries & Cream:

1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
6-8 blueberries (for color)
3/4 cup whole milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 of vanilla bean seeds from the inside of pod

1. Put strawberries and blueberries in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Set aside in a bowl.

2. In a medium bowl whisk or use a hand mixer on low-speed to combine the milk, sugar and salt until dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Last, add the strawberries and any juices. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or place in the freezer for one hour.

3. Pour mixture into your ice cream maker and make according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Apricot Jam Simply Delish

Apricots

Nothing better than a great slice of crusty bread, toasted with butter melting over the sides and a spoonful of apricot jam on the top. It’s a bit indulgent with the butter but I ask, is it any worse than eating a croissant? I don’t think so.

Yesterday, running errands in our beautiful city, a 3-pound carton of farm-fresh apricots caught my eye. Jason humored me as I retold him the story of having an apricot tree in our back yard and filling up on these in the summer until I got a tummy ache. $4 dollars got me the carton. What a great deal. I handed the man my money, (feeling I was getting the better part of the deal) and said to Jason, “These will make great jam!”

The rich sunset color, the downy skin and the sweet meaty fruit on the inside just make me happy. Memories of my Granny Mary fill my mind; it was her favorite too and we always had this for breakfast at her house. She’d give me a glass of milk and she would drink her coffee, which she liked “blonde” meaning, with a lot of cream.

close up apricot

This morning I washed them and cut them into halves to prepare them for canning. I looked to the experts for advice on a wholesome recipe. The last time I’d made jam was when I was just a little girl, along side my Grandma Lee (my mom’s mom). I came across a very simple recipe with a few simple ingredients and set out to make this beautiful, slightly tart, mouth-watering golden-orange elixir.

 

I adapted this recipe from David Lebovitz.  I substituted Kirsch for Vanilla but you could choose your own flavoring additive. Neither is overpowering, but both will enhance the rich, warm goodness of the apricots and give a smooth aftertaste.  I also added lemon zest to my recipe.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 Pounds of Apricots

1/4 Cup Water

3 Cups Sugar

1/4 Tsp Lemon Zest (minced)

1 Tsp Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

1 Tsp Kirsch (I used Vanilla)

Prep:

Wash, cut in half and pit apricots.
washed and halved

 

Cook:

in the french oven with water and lemon zestPut the apricots in your French oven. Add the water and lemon zest.  Cover with the lid. Turn heat to medium high, stirring frequently.  Cook until apricots begin to turn tender and appear cooked through.

 
Place a small plate in your freezer.

 

Add sugar and continue stirring with the lid off.  Skim any excess foam that forms on the top.  Once the jam begins to thicken and reduce stir more frequently to keep the jam from burning on the bottom of the pan.

stirring frequently

When the mixture begins to jelly, remove from the heat and place a tablespoon of jam onto the plate in your freezer. Let sit for about 3 minutes.

 

 

 

You want the jam to wrinkle and mound when you press it. If it doesn’t do this, return to the heat and cook for a while longer. If this isn’t clear then just make sure your jam reaches approximately 220ºF, 104ºC.

220

Add lemon juice and kirsch (or vanilla); stirring in to fold in those rich flavors evenly. Remove from heat; using a ladle, spoon jam into your jars. I reused old jelly jars.

jarring

Since I will be gifting two of the jars and eating one myself, there is no need to use a formal canning method. Cover jars tightly while jam is still hot. Clean any excess jam off the sides. Allow them to cool down to room temperature.

repurposed jars

 

butter and jam

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A Simply Sweet Treat

12 California Dried Apricots
12 Roasted California Grown Pistachios (lightly salted) Chopped
12 Honey-Wheat Pretzel Rods (lightly salted)
12 Dark, Sweet Summer Cherries
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Morsels
1 Tbsp Organic Hawaiian Coconut Oil
1/8 Tsp Pure Lemon Extract (or other flavor)

Melt Chocolate and Coconut Oil.

Dip Apricots in chocolate first on both sides, then dip one side (the plumpest side) in a plate of chopped pistachios.

Lay flat on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.

Add 1/8 Tsp Lemon extract dip pretzels and cherries.

Lay flat on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Place all goodies in the fridge for at least one hour to set and then gently peel and wrap in a goodie bag or gift box.

It’s really that simple and really makes a sweet gift to a good friend.

Prepping the pistachios

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Melting the chocolate

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Lining them up onto parchment paper
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Place them in the fridge to set
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Enjoy!
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And, with the extra pistachios…do it all over again!

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Key Lime Pound Cake: Mouth Watering Overflow!

Key Lime Pound Cake Photo by Jason Homa Photography

Key Lime Pound Cake
Photo by Jason Homa Photography

“Key Lime Pound Cake,” just the name makes my mouth water. As the heat and humidity of summer seep under my skin, my taste buds start to crave tartly sweet treats like this one. I stumbled upon the recipe in Southern Living Magazine; who better to turn to for anything key lime than the south?

I wish I could say this was my recipe, but hey, it is one that inspires a lot of creativity. I’ve gone on to experiment with blueberries and lemon, lavender and more ideas keep coming.

I’m posting my images and what I found when baking this recipe. I really had fun with the batter. Visually it is stunning to work it through its stages of progression to the oven. Seriously, I could have stopped at this point and been satisfied visually. Dare I?  Yes, I did press on and baked this beauty.

Key Lime Cake Batter Photo by Jason Homa Photography

Key Lime Cake Batter
Photo by Jason Homa Photography

I loved the buttery juiciness of the cake and the tiny bits of crispiness that kept bringing my fork back to the dish. The sugary lime zing was exquisite to the tongue and a perfect quencher. My icing ran a little thin and I suspect that was because I didn’t make it thick enough. Maybe adding more confectioner’s sugar or corn starch next time will help. What the frosting lacked in consistency, it did not lack in taste. That icing…well if Beyoncé tried it she might have to write a song about the effects it had on her mouth. Overflow. What? I’m just saying it’s that good!

Prep time
25 mins

Cook time
1 hour 15 mins

Total time
1 hour 40 mins

from Southern Living Magazine, March 2011
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12

Ingredients
• 1 cup butter, softened
• ½ cup shortening
• 3 cups sugar
• 6 large eggs
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ⅛ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon lime zest
• ¼ cup fresh Key lime juice
Key Lime Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
• Preheat oven to 325°. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
• Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch (12-cup) tube pan.
• Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack.
• Prepare Key Lime Glaze by whisking together powdered sugar, fresh Key lime juice, and vanilla until smooth.
• Immediately brush over top and sides of cake. Cool completely (about 1 hour).
– See more at: Southern Living Magazine March 2011.

Key Lime Pound Cake Photo by Jason Homa Photography

Key Lime Pound Cake
Photo by Jason Homa Photography

Love Thy Neighbor with Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

Chocolate Banana Nut Bread, Photo by Jason Homa

I discovered my love for the warm buttery goodness of banana bread following a trip to New York City.  I was staying with my stepmom’s mother, Fania Stone, then in her eighties; still going to work everyday as a textile designer, with silver-white hair cut in a stylish pixie.   She was a delight and quick as a whip on walks to the Farmers Market at Union Square.  We used to walk there on the weekends from her apartment in Gramercy Park to get our fruits and vegetables.

Fania was an avid reader, an eloquent pianist and painter.  Her foyer was filled with books.  Amidst the novels and art books was a small little cook book.  In it I found the recipe for Banana Nut Bread.  I baked it for us weekly and we enjoyed it each night with a little butter on one slice coupled with a hot cup of tea over a highly competitive game of Scrabble.  I learned so much from her about art, culture, music, literature and good wholesome food.  My time with Fania will stay in my heart indelibly as a precious and momentous life experience.

Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit – adding a little hint of vanilla, lemon or some other variation of spice or fruit depending on the season, my mood or just what I had on hand in the kitchen that day.

Today’s recipe was made with a bit of chocolate and some rich vanilla and coconut.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

Pre-heat oven to 325

3 Ripe Bananas
1 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
4 Tablespoons Melted Butter (salted)
2 Tablespoons Virgin Coconut Oil
1 1/2 Cups Flower
3 Teaspoons of Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Chunks

Mix all wet ingredients in larger bowl
Mix dry ingredients in smaller bowl
Fold dry into wet ingredients

Grease and flour large bread loaf pan or 2 small pans
Pour batter into pan(s)
Bake for 1 hour
Check with toothpick in the center to make sure it is cooked all the way through.  Toothpick should come out clean.

What I did with the recipe today was divide it into two smaller loaf pans and checked them at 45 minutes and 55 minutes.  I took them out as soon as the toothpicks came out clean (a little under an hour).

One bread stayed home for Jason and I and the second made the perfect #WelcomeHome #gift for our #lovely #neighbor #Sophie who just arrived from the hospital after a bad fall.  Happy to say she is on the mend, and like Fania, she has strength and vitality beyond her age.
#ILoveMyFamily