Friday, June 18, 2010

buttermilk lime ice pops

buttermilk lime ice pop
i had one of those moments recently.
you know what i'm talking about -
you go into home goods,
crossing your fingers that the perfect rug
or lamp or outdoor furniture has arrived,
only to leave $7 poorer and the
proud new owner of ice pop molds.

it was kind of inevitable that they -
or something similar -
would one day find their way into our house.
larry likes cold desserts. a lot.
i'm not sure, but i think he would pass up
cake or a slice of pie or maybe cookies,
for a bowl of ice cream. a few months ago,
he was looking through the latest
williams-sonoma catalog and he pointed out
a mold machine that was very tempting,
but was absolutely overpriced. and last month,
when visiting my sister, she pulled
mickey mouse molds - procured earlier in the
year in disney - out of the freezer.
it was only a matter of time.

we are in major money watching mode,
thanks to the whole house buying/moving thing.
we cannot make frivolous purchases.
but, when i saw these molds, i knew that it
was a decision that meant more than spending
out of turn. it meant taking a stab at being
a good wife. if the tables were turned and i held
a deep love for anything icy,
larry would have bought them without pause.

he was away and i instantly envisioned filling
and freezing them, greeting him with a pop
upon his arrival. but then, it was three days later,
he was due home in about 4 hours and i hadn't
done anything. i started looking at recipes
and saw a lot more work than i was expecting:
simmering, blending straining, partial freezing.
i was not up for this.
but, then, i had one of those fortuitous moments
that i always think only happens to other people.
i saw a recipe for buttermilk and lemon ice pops.
two days before, still unsure which hamburger buns
i was going to make (these or these),
i picked up a carton of buttermilk. afterward,
i was lingering somewhere at annoyance at myself
for the unnecessary purchase and the desire to make
a chess pie, but it was still sitting in the fridge,
but now, ice pops.
it seemed too good to be true.
there was only one thing: lemon.
i spent a long time anti-lemon.
as you can see here, here and here,
i've grown out of that. but, i still got annoyed
this year when the irish soda bread that i picked
up was lemon-scented and i wasn't so
sure that i was up for lemon ice pops.
luckily, i love lime.
saying that i love lime is probably an
understatement. i can never have enough.
and so, buttermilk-lime ice pops were born.

have you ever tasted buttermilk?
not good, right? and, yet. i can never resist
sampling just a tiny bit, even though i always
regret it. i just can never get over how unpleasant
it tastes. yet by adding just a couple ingredients
to make a dressing or a glaze, or now, ice pops,
it's harshness turns into tangy deliciousness.
lime zest
a lot of zest
limes, zested
and for these,
it really is only a couple of ingredients:
lime juice,
lime zest,
sugar and salt.
you zest,
you juice,
you mix,
you pour,
you freeze and
you're done.
about to freeze
but, i'll be honest with you
about one thing that's not
so much fun:
then, you wait.
for at least four hours.
or, if you're like us,
you wait for three days,
because well, you are really
tired and dessert is the last thing
on your mind once you start commuting.

but when you finally take a lick,
or a bite, if that's how you roll,
i think you'll find they were worth
the wait: tangy, tart, sweet and,
yes, icy. for an ice pop, they feel indulgent,
but they're not so bad as these
things go. and, they're bordering on
mysterious. larry guessed sour cream,
cardamom and many other things
before i told him buttermilk and lime.

and, now, i think i'm up for pops
that might take a little more work.
but, it's important to say that when
i made these, i hardly felt like a slacker.
specks of lime zest
buttermilk lime ice pops
adapted from bon appetit magazine
i have a confession: i have no idea what size molds i bought. and i thought they were big, but after using them once, i'm now thinking they're normal. so when i was making this recipe, i doubled it, but it was probably unnecessary, considering i had a ton left over. my mold makes six, this recipe originally called for eight 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup capacity molds. as for the lime zest - i learned after several botched attempts at perfectly distributing orange zest in the olive oil pound cake that it's best to take a minute and use your fingers to separate, before adding zest to your liquids. otherwise, they clump up around the whisk, or just settle into lumps into the final product.

3-4 juicy limes
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 2/3 cups buttermilk

zest enough limes to measure 2 tablespoons (this took me two limes). juice enough limes to measure 1/3 cup lime juice.

in 4-cup measuring cup or bowl with pour spout, whisk together sugar, lime juice, lime peel and satl. whisk in buttermilk. divide mixture among ice pop molds, leaving 1/4 inch space on top. add tops; cover and freeze 4 hours, or until firm.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

a new start

buns, cooling
memorial day was a new start for me.
so many holidays have happened
since i moved away six years ago.
they all resembled each other.
i, on the brink of frantic, would
cook as much as i possibly could in my
kitchen, before arriving at my mom's,
an hour away
with a couple of half-prepared dishes,
various cooking utensils,
baking vessels and
plastic baggies filled with mise en place:
toasted nuts,
measured baking soda or cinnamon,
chopped onions
and bottles of things.

while my family sat and socialized,
my mom and i would cook.
and i, who usually cooked a lot
before i came, would be tired.
mom, too, i'm sure.

but, this year.
this year, for memorial day,
i found myself in our new house,
just 10 minutes from my mother's.
by myself. larry had left
for a bachelor party two days before.
i had this brand new space to myself
and i did not have to dream up ridiculous
plans to get the food from
point a
point b.

i was going to get to know the kitchen.
sure, i had cooked a couple times earlier
that week - reaching into the drawer with
foil when i needed flatware, opening up
the cabinet for olive oil and finding mixing bowls
and trying to figure out how much money we're
willing to set aside for an electrician to install
new lights in our crazy dark kitchen.

but, this time was different.
i was on my own timetable
(not trying to rush to finish before
the sun went down and the room was
rendered too dark) and i had the day to
not be spastic.

and i used it.
i woke up in the morning with
all ingredients for the hamburger buns
and potato salad already in the house -
for me, this is the real secret to organized
success. the second i have to leave, go to the
grocery store, come back and get started
is the second my day somehow always goes
awry. i went downstairs and i cooked.

it went well.
extremely well.
i learned where everything was
and i discovered that the counter to
the right and left of the sink are
pretty good for prep work. i realized
that it is nice to have a modern oven,
with buttons instead of dials,
and that i can appreciate the ugly
ceiling fan that the former owners installed.

but, i didn't, i realized too, late,
take pictures with the intention of blogging.
the dough for the buns had already risen
before i remembered to grab my camera
and even though i started early with potatoes,
i still missed some crucial shots, like um,
maybe a pretty one.

still, i got some good ones to commemorate
my first holiday in my new home, near
my family.

as as i read the recipe for hamburger buns last year in the new york times, i wanted to make them immediately. then, they started showing up in blogs and i just kept waiting for my chance. this memorial day, it happened. my mom made feta and spinach turkey burgers, erin squeezed shredded cucumbers for tzatziki and i finally made some buns - successfully on the first try. i can't believe that three years ago, i was so afraid of yeast that i ignored any recipe that called for a packet.

hamburger bun dough, after the rise
still dough
dough rounds, egg wash, sesame seeds
hamburger bun

i made potatoes gribiche a couple months ago after staring at potatoes on my counter for way too long and remembering that that's exactly how luisa, from the wednesday chef, originally came across the recipe - guiltily ignoring potatoes nearing their expiration date in her kitchen. the first time, i made them, adding a bit more mustard and vinegar, and served them soon after, warm, as intended. it was the perfect dish for me, tangy, salty, crunchy and all surrounding crisply roasted potatoes. the next day, even though it was cautioned otherwise, i had the leftovers and didn't mind them one bit. that's why last week, i took a chance and made a double batch of them for the barbecue, not at all worried about the fact that they wouldn't be served for hours. my family loved them and reinforced that this is a great alternative to well, any side dish you might otherwise make.
eggs in ice water
shallots, hard-cooked eggs, chopped cornichons
all chopped up
teeny potatoes
potatoes, egg, cornichons, capers, mustard, smoked paprika

next up - a real blog post with a real honest to goodness recipe.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

cleaning house

i wish i had known
when i wrote about sardine sandwiches
that it would be my last post for quite a while.
i don't think i could have tried harder to post -
if you saw my blog drafts,
(there are many)
all started,
never finished and soon to be deleted,
you would believe me.
but maybe, i would have told you
about something else.
i mean, really. who goes out with a post
about canned sardines?

the thing is, i didn't anticipate what
packing, and emotionally dealing with moving,
would do to the rest of my life.
in short, it crimped me.
in long, it forced me to live amongst boxes,
with the guilt of
not packing enough,
not packing quick enough,
not packing smart enough.
it left my feelings alternating between
just wanting to walk into a room without kicking
a box, or without losing the room assigning marker, or
worry about how to cryptically label my grandmother's crystal,
lest the movers decided to steal it,
thank you very much,
feeling incredible sadness when i realized again and again
that i was leaving our apartment.

so while larry
packed parts of the liquor cabinet,
dealt with the spices and dismantled the things that
made our everyday lives our everyday lives,
i cooked.
because i can deal with cooking.
and unlike packing, or emotional distress,
i am good at cooking.

i even took pictures for a little while there -
thank goodness, because they give me something
to blog about now that all the dust has settled,
we're on the other side and i've decided that
unpacking is a significantly better proposition -
but blogging? it just wasn't happening.

here, a few highlights:

i made homemade nutella for my friends, tricia and lauren, two people who deserve more than a little dinky jar of chocolate-hazelnut spread and a tiny mention. they were always good friends, but i have to tell you that after helping us move out of the apartment, one hour later lauren jump-started the kitchen unpacking in the new house, then stayed for six more hours in an attempt to get it in order while tricia talked me off the ledge on the first night home of my very trying commute.
toasted and skinned hazelnuts
homemade nutella
nutella and strawberry crepes

three times i tried to tell you about the black garlic and preserved lemon hummus i made using leftover cooked garbanzos. three times! but for some reason, it wasn't meant to be. i'll give you a little bit now: this hummus uses one of my new favorite things (black garlic), it's nice and briny (thanks to the preserved lemon) and it tasted really lovely drizzled with a bit of walnut oil.
from a distance
black garlic cloves
black garlic and preserved lemon hummus

probably, most people, when strapped for time, don't want to deal with cooking beans, even those as beautiful as christmas limas by rancho gordo. i kind of didn't. but, i did to decent, but not brag-worthy, results. i made tacos sprinkled with an unbelievable sheep's milk feta, thick broiled scallions and a fresh, tart and citrusy tomatillo salsa. the tacos, though - they weren't so pretty. and the apartment was hot when i was finished.
cooked christmas limas
red onion, tomatillos, jalapeno, lime, cilantro
giant scallions

on one of those nights in which i just had to get home, cook, eat and then think, i tossed together a modified (read: i really needed to use up the wild arugula in the fridge and why in the world does the recipe call for all that butter?) version of this pasta with a tomato-gorgonzola sauce. yum.
wild arugula
sadanini regate
pasta, plum tomatoes, onion, garlic, arugula, gorgonzola

i've often read that umami-rich shiitakes make a good, meaty and flavorful replacement for bacon. i think i've tried it in the past to my satisfaction, but it was probably not the best move when making this mild egg-topped asparagus-tossed soba. don't get me wrong, the mushrooms were as great as usual, but they weren't really able to carry the whole dish the way i'm sure bacon could have. like often happens, the noodles (sans egg) were much improved for the next day's leftovers.
shiitake mushrooms
egg, soba, asparagus, shiitake

i don't think i can adequately explain to you my excitement, when after enjoying a great dim sum mother's day with my family, we walked into the chinese market next door and i finally found a green papaya. i've been to korean, japanese and very modern grocery stores and i've never been able to find one (nor have i been able to find a thai store, where i'm sure they would have been waiting by the bin-full). even though we were knee-deep in boxes, i bought it, along with some very tiny dried shrimp, and cobbled together a recipe.
green papaya
green beans

and, here, no food, but a small area of boxes, in between our living room and our dining room. now, sadly, i kind of remember our apartment like this, instead of how it looked when we lived in it. just seeing the stacks make me shudder.