Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

Strawberry Balsamic Ice CreamBerry Different
When you ask most kids what their favorite ice cream flavor is, more often than not it will involve chocolate, and/or caramel, and some sort of add-in like marshmallows or Oreo cookies. My son always had a different answer. Don’t get me wrong, he would never refuse a scoop or three of something gooey and chocolatey. But, if you ask him was his favorite is, he will tell you it’s strawberry.

I like to do as much as possible with the summer produce that’s available. This includes making ice cream out of the best peak-of-ripeness fruits I can find. I am a peach lover. So, it goes without saying that I make peach ice cream at least once during the warm months. Sometimes I whip up a quart of cinnamon ice cream because it’s ridiculous melted on a warm slab peach pie.

Strawberry is the flavor I make most because I like to have it readily available in the freezer for craving emergencies. A “Rescue Ice Cream”, if you will. For the record, I use the phrase “rescue” a lot. I have a stash of “rescue” chocolate in my pantry for those times when nothing but chocolate will do. Alas, I have to constantly move my stash because others in my household freely “rescue’ themselves and they are like bloodhounds on the scent.

Most people think of strawberry ice cream as the sad, artificially-flavored third of the Neapolitan carton that only gets eaten because there are no other options. In fact, strawberry ice cream can be amazing if you use really good and ripe strawberries. Anything less will produce a lackluster finished product. This recipe for Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream is one of my favorites.

And, don’t be scared off by the addition of balsamic vinegar. You don’t really taste it in the ice cream. It’s purpose is to intensify the flavor of the strawberries for a fantastic summer treat.

Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream Recipe
Adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Bi-Rite Creamery
Yields 1 Quart

This is one strawberry ice cream recipe that you can use even if you have slightly out-of-season berries. The addition of the balsamic vinegar adds both complexity and some of the acidity that was lost from freezing the strawberries.

If you want a smoother ice cream, you can also strain the seeds out of the purée—or enjoy the crunch of the tiny seeds. Read more…

Blueberry Salsa à la Amy

Blueberry Salsa à la AmySalsa Berry
I admit I am not a big blueberry fan. I don’t dislike blueberries, but they are not my go-to for a berry snack. I have raspberries for that. That being said, we’re getting into blueberry season when they are really good.

When I eat blueberries, most of the time they are in something and cooked like a muffin or pie. And, almost always it is something sweet. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of sweet blueberry treats. But, I have been on the hunt for a recipe that is as savory as you can be with a sweet berry—but also doesn’t mess too much with the berry itself. I found salsa…

You can never go wrong with fresh tortilla chips and salsa, no matter what the salsa is made out of. Though some might disagree, a blueberry salsa really isn’t that crazy to me. After all I make salsa out of mangoes all the time. So, I know the sweet will work with the spicy.

There are plenty of versions of blueberry salsa out there if you are looking. A lot of them cook the tomatoes. I don’t. I prefer to dice everything up and keep the fresh flavor. But, it all depends on what flavors you like when eating salsa. It also depends on your tomatoes. If you have fresh tomatoes from your garden, just dice ‘em up. Those babies are gold…

Type of chili pepper is another point of personal preference. I like hot salsa but not super hot salsa. If it’s so hot that I can’t taste anything but the heat, what’s the point? I tend to go with jalapeños, or Fresnos if I want a tad more heat. I also add a little bell pepper because that’s what I do in my mango salsa and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Give this recipe a try next time you have some really great blueberries and want a snack, And, if you find this rolls into being your dinner, I won’t tell…

Blueberry Salsa à la Amy
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

Mini Berry Meringue Cups

Mini Berry Meringue CupsBaking Hot Summer
Today is the last day of school—and the official first day of summer if you ask any kid. The trials of distance learning via Zoom can now make way for better things like the Mr. Softee Ice Cream truck and days at the pool. For us, the last day of school also marks the beginning of the calorically perilous time known as Sophie Baking Season.

When there are no classes to attend or homework to be done, my daughter heads to the kitchen to fill her days. For her brothers, this means that there is a better than average chance that they will be eating something for lunch that is not a bowl of cereal. Biscuit sandwiches are one of her go-tos as are any Asian dumplings. But, while there are always exceptions, nine times out of ten, when Sophie is in the kitchen she’s baking something sweet. This makes this time of year a killer on your calorie count. Her weapon of choice? Cookies…

It would be bad enough if she was going with a classic chocolate chip. Because, how can you possibly pass up a chocolate chip cookie? But Soph likes a challenge. Her favorite things to make are French Macarons. And, she’s pretty much mastered them. A friend of the family has even commissioned a few dozen for their graduation party this weekend. (We’ve been in a constant state of taste testing for the past couple of weeks. I know. Oh, the humanity!) If macarons are her first love, meringues would be a very close second.

It makes sense if you think about it. Both desserts require a meringue to make them. The execution is just different. These lighter-than-air treats are so good that you may start with one…but before you know it you have eaten an entire handful. And, with the flavor possibilities being endless—and tested frequently—there’s always seems to be at least a handful available for consumption. (Along with an equal number of dirty dishes and bowls!)

To give the family a break, I have issued her a challenge. Instead of her usual espresso or vanilla flavored favorites, can she use the same meringue to make me some Mini Berry Meringue Cups that I can fill with fresh berries as a lovely and somewhat elegant end to a nice summer dinner? If you have ever eaten a Pavlova, this is essentially that, just made smaller with berries and whipped cream on top. Of course you could always just make the big one to make life a bit easier. And hey, if it breaks you just bust the rest of it up and make a meringue trifle…

Mini Berry Meringue Cups with Lemon Whipped Cream Recipe
Adapted from A Beautiful Plate
Yields 8 servings Read more…

NY Style Bagels

Amy's New York Style BagelsWho Needs Noah?
NY Style Bagels have been a popular topic lately. The rise of the Boichick Bagels from Berkeley (as well as the article in the New York Times) have led to bagel lovers searching far and wide to get a taste of what the Times called the best bagels in the country. That’s what they said. I’m not trying to start a fight. I know how adamant people can be about their bagels. I do, however, propose another way to enjoy a great bagel.

Many of us in the last year have turned to bread making—as anyone looking for flour and yeast last April can attest. Thousands of people were introduced to the world of sourdough. I myself got back into bread making but I went a different direction. A few months ago, I had this idea that I wanted something different for breakfast that weekend, but I was tired of the usual sweeter stuff. My daughter had been making some soft pretzels that she saw online. And, watching her prompted me to want to learn about making bagels. (The concept is somewhat similar)

The idea may sound daunting but it’s really not. It does require an overnight rise in your fridge. So, planning ahead is key. Admittedly, the process would have been harder had I not seen a video on YouTube from NY Times contributor Clair Saffitz. As a visual learner, watching this video made the whole process easier. If you are interested in trying to make bagels, I highly recommend you watch this 10-minute video first.

When making bagels, be prepared for a workout. You will be kneading this dough for at least 20 minutes. It’s the perfect excuse to miss arm day…

My first batch of bagels was kind of wonky. I followed Claire’s recipe exactly and while they tasted good, even though I left them in the oven a couple minutes too long, I struggled with shaping them. Ultimately, I gave up on the rope/snake version and tried shaping by making a hole in the middle of the dough ball and stretching it out. (She mentions that method briefly in the video) The result was a puffy, perfectly chewy bagel that looks more like the bagel shape I am used to seeing. (Not sure if that makes it any less authentic?…) This has remained my go-to method of making bagels ever since.

I have yet to make my bagels with toppings on them like everything seasoning or sesame seeds. Personally, I prefer a plain bagel so that I can go savory or sweet depending on my mood. Also, you may or may not get a full dozen out of the dough. I weigh all of my ingredients on a scale and I have never had the same quantity result. Don’t worry if that happens to you. It is what it is…

I have also learned that doubling the batch is a requirement if you have teenage boys in your home. A single batch is great if you just want bagels for a Sunday morning. If you want to have some, say for the week, it’s best to make a double batch. Whatever you don’t eat that day can be sliced and put in the freezer. All you do is grab one and throw it in the toaster for a perfect weekday breakfast.

Another word of advice? Line your cookie sheets with parchment and/or spray them lightly! The water and malt syrup bath can make them stick to the sheet, which is a bummer.

NY Style Bagels Recipe
Adapted from the New York Times Cooking
Yields 12 bagels (most of the time)
Read more…