Hooray for summer! And hooray for getaways, holidays, and vacations! Obviously still riding high from my week away, and another little getaway this week up to Port Townsend and Lummi Island, I was feeling so good I barely even blinked when dealing with an irrational customer the other day. A true testament to the power of holidays. But also perhaps a sign that I’m starting to accept that people are crazy…and those are the ones that are predisposed to having Yelp accounts. Seriously.
Regardless though, life is good. Like, really, really good. Happy weekend to you my friends. Kiss!
Our cucumber, tomato salad. We’ve been living off this salad, and as long as we can keep getting the Japanese cucumbers (hidden in the bottom) we’ll continue to make it. Another no-recipe, recipe: sliced cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced spring onion, minced parsley and mint. Drizzle olive oil, red wine vinegar. Salt, pepper to taste. Crumbled Israeli feta. Toss. Eat. (The feta mixes into the dressing in the best possible way to make it oh so creamy. You’ve got to try it!)
A ginger fizz with pineapple weed. Not a gin girl in the least, but a sip from my guy’s cocktail at The Willows restaurant this week might have converted me. Frothy and smooth with a light herbal punch from the gin, and a hint of citrus/pineapple aroma from the weed.
Dinette’s awesome ice cream cookie sandwiches. Housemade cookies and ice cream in combinations like gingersnap with earl grey, or chocolate with salted peanut butter. The best I’ve ever had. (Their summer sandwich menu is also to die for!)
Lilac ice cream. Candied lilacs.
It almost seems like once you’ve been drunk off springs first cherry blossoms that it’s easy to take the consequent lilacs for granted. With the craziness at the restaurant last year I made this mistake, and there was no way I was going to do it again. In fact, after our cherry blossom cream & candied lemon verbena leaves at The Willows Inn we were inspired to celebrate the season with the lovely lilac in ice cream with candied blossoms to top it off. I’m giddy to report that it was UH-MAY-ZING!
We tried a few different methods for candying the lilac blossoms, but really the only real winner is painted-on egg whites dusted with caster sugar. While it was the most time intensive I should also say that it was the most rewarding, and even therapeutic. Add together fragrant flowers, a delicate paint brush, silky egg whites, and crystally caster sugar and there’s no way you could not have a good time.
Ingredients, tools, and mise en place
- Fine tip paint-brush (made of food-grade materials or cleaned really well before use)
- Wax paper dusted with sugar
- 1 egg white slightly beaten, just until there is a collection of small bubbles at the top
- Lilac blossoms, pluck the individual flowers from the bunch selecting the best ones to be candied and leaving the rest for the ice cream
- Caster sugar in a shallow bowl or plate
- Optional: tweezers. (I quickly found the lilacs were sturdy enough for my fingers, so the tweezers may not be necessary for you either.)
1. Hold each flower by the stem and lightly paint the front and back of the petals with the egg white.
2. Dust each side with caster sugar, lightly shake off any excess
3. Set on the sugar-coated wax paper and let dry overnight. No cheating here! They must be completely dry before storing in a container with sugar.
- Only use blossoms that you know have not been sprayed…from your
- Only use egg whites if you’re comfortable with this method. We use local, organic, and untreated farm eggs that we love. Other candy methods include simple syrup in place of egg whites. If you’re more comfortable with this give it a go.
- Washing the blossoms was a difficult call. After some research we found some washed the flowers while others didn’t in order to preserve the fragrance. It’s your call.
Here’s a glance at our recipe for the ice cream. In addition to the lilacs we wanted to add as much springtime flavor as possible so we added an additional egg yolk and chose to use goat milk. It was a good call.
Be sure to read your ice cream machines instructions and adjust if needed.
Lilac Ice Cream
- 2 cups organic raw goat milk
- 1 cup organic heavy cream
- 5 organic egg yolks (initially we planned on 4, but 5 was better.)
- 1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 cups lilac blossoms
- 1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder
In a heavy saucepan mix the cream and goat milk thoroughly and add the lilac blossoms and maple syrup. Bring to a high simmer, but below a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside for five minutes.
In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks and add the combined the sugar and arrowroot powder. Whisk until the color pales and the mixture is creamy.
Strain the lilacs from the milk and cream mixture and bring the liquid up to a simmer again. Temper the mixture by gradually adding it to the egg yolks. Batches of 1/3 worked well. Add the entire combined mixture back to your pot and gently heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and strain again if needed (in the case you notice any gobules of fat that have formed). Chill the mixture for a few hours or until it is cold enough to add to your ice cream maker (my machine recommended 12 hours, but we didn’t need to wait quite that long).
From here, your ice cream maker takes over, so be sure to read the instructions.
One thing I can share is that once you see the consistency you like, don’t wait! Turn off the machine, sneak a taste or two, and freeze overnight (or as long as you can wait).
The ice cream is mildly fragrant with the lilacs and has a lovely, faint taste on the back-end. If you’re looking for a more punchy lilac flavor, that’s where the candied blossoms come in. I’d say aim for one or two in a bite, but also be sure to enjoy a few bites without.
Voila!! Lilac ice cream.
Bellwether Farms Sheep Milk Yogurt
I used to see commercials for yogurt and shake my head when they’d try to sell it as a dessert. Seriously, who closes their eyes and slowly licks the lid and then continues to make out with each subsequent spoonful? It has the same amount of sugar and calories as a candy bar, but come on, no one actually ever enjoyed yogurt in lieu of anything with chocolate. In fact, let’s be honest and talk about how overwhelming the yogurt section is: filled over-processed sugar bombs and dozens of different brands. No thanks.
I’d pretty much given up on yogurt as a desperate snack let alone a dessert substitute. That is…until I had Bellwether Farms sheep milk yogurt. This my friends is the best yogurt out there. I crave it. And when I’m on a health kick this is the best dessert ever. The texture is silky and rich with the perfect amount of sweet (sugar, not high fructose corn syrup) and fruit to balance the tang from the milk.
Sheep’s milk is naturally thicker than cow’s milk, so there are no added stabilizers. It also has twice the amount of calcium and is also often digestible by people who are lactose intolerant. And yes, I do make out with the lid and make sure to get every bit of the cream that’s risen to the top. Promise me you’ll do the same when you give this a go.
Tip: Use the plain instead of mayo or sour cream in salad dressings and dips.
Askinosie’s Malted Milky Dark Chocolate
It seems extra gloomy today, and even with the spring blossoms peeking out it’s one of those graze-on-an-entire-bar-of-chocolate kind of days. It’s actually perfect timing because we came across this awesome bar of Askinosie chocolate yesterday. My friends, this bar (a collaboration with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams) is uh-may-zing! The dark chocolate with malted milk makes this the perfect bar for milk chocolate lovers looking to enjoy dark chocolate without so much of the strong, chalky taste. The texture is also complete perfection, first the chocolate taste with just enough cocoa butter to make it creamy-not waxy.
For me, making enjoying the chocolate that much better is how they work. All of the chocolate is made in small batches using single-origin cacao beans (sourcing directly from the farmers), each of the cacao farmers has a stake in the profits, and interestingly enough, the cocoa butter is made in-house. Who’d have thought that’d an artisan chocolate maker actually making their own cocoa butter was a big deal…but it is! Askinosie is the first small batch chocolate maker in the U.S. to press their own cocoa butter.
Gorgeous chocolate and direct trade with farmer’s makes for a lovely (and meaningful) indulgence. Please, please, please give this a try so we can talk about how awesome this chocolate is!
Filed under: Sweets
Nigella Lawson on the cover of UK’s Stylist magazine. Unbelievably awesome.
[Image via Stylist]
I don’t think I ever fully grasped the concept of Valentine’s Day. It’s just that it all seems so contrived: roses, dinner reservations, chocolate in a heart-shaped box. Bleh. I’m not saying I’m not up for a built-in date night (on a Monday at that!) but I think I’d get the most out of Valentine’s Day if we just kept it low-key (I mean, super low-key) but still meaningful. Here’s my recipe for a mellow evening for two (or just you) with some fun and useful gifts sprinkled in.
1. Sayuri Nigori Sake – One of my favorites. Unfiltered so it has a sweet milky texture.
2. Tea glass – A beautiful Turkish-style glass meant for tea, but would look just as good with some Sake it in.
3. Poco Dolce chocolate squares – A local SF chocolatier specializing in a little bit of sweet and savory in their chocolates. Available at Whole Foods.
4. Cold plate – Comes with a porcelain plate, a cooling pad, and tray to make sure your cold items stay cold. Perfect for sashimi!
- Not pictured – Swing by Whole Foods on your way home from work. You can pick up the Sayuri and Poco Dolce, but even more awesome is their Genji* sushi. This is what puts the low-key in this date night.
5. Reusable chopsticks and case – For on-the-go. No more icky waribashi (disposable) chopsticks. I must have these!
6. Good music played on a nano through a balloon USB speaker – Nothing says I love you (or I love me) like pulling together a playlist.
7. A fun game of Scattergories – Will be extra fun after a few glasses of the Sake!
7a. Solo Valentine’s can replace item #7 with a favorite movie. I’d go with Priceless, a super-cute French movie with Audrey Tatou. But if you’re feeling fragile you could always choose a Michael Bay (as director) movie; the explosions will keep you entertained and distracted.
So what do you think? Super simple and still sweet. Just please promise that you won’t eat your sushi out of the container. If you’re not into the cold plate just find the sexiest plate you can and channel your inner sushi chef for plating.
* Whole Foods Genji sushi uses compostable containers and sustainable fish where possible. And it’s just plain good.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Filed under: Sweets
Super Mario Bros. cake
(Nerd alert!) This really is the coolest cake ever. Revealed during the Super Mario Bros 25th anniversary celebration in NYC earlier this week, this four-tier cake showcases designs from World 8, but honestly I couldn’t have told you that since I never made it that far without warping; maybe that’s why I would have guessed World 4 (there’s a glimpse into my lack of skill in the early Mario games. Super Mario World on SNES is a different story though!)
Filed under: Sweets
After a lazy Sunday morning in the Mission we finally made a stop by Anthony’s Cookies on the way home. I’d heard wonderful things about the all-cookie bakery, and since I don’t bake as often as I cook, it was the perfect excuse to get some gourmet cookies for an afternoon snack before naptime. Plus, anywhere that uses organic ingredients whenever possible always gets extra points in my book.
It’s a cute little raspberry and chocolate brown storefront with the drinks and cookies of the day listed on butcher paper. The bottles of bottled organic milk that lined the wall to the kitchen were calling to me; there’s just something about jarred milk that reminds me of a simpler time, complete with milk mustaches.
I just ran in for the cookies, but there were a few small seats if you wanted to hang out. Anthony himself wasn’t there but I’m eager to head back to meet him as I’ve also heard he’s a really nice guy, (and a self-taught baker if I’m not mistaken). There was a fairly long queue but it moved pretty quickly, and when a couple came in behind me and talked about leaving everyone in line ahead of me whipped around and ordered them to stay: “Trust us, it’s worth the wait!”
We really only needed a half dozen, but of course I opted for a full dozen…you know, just in case. It was so fun running back to the car with a box full of cookies to show my Lova; I was completely giddy, and after he took a peek so was he.
In order of appearance: chocolate chip, Cookies & Cream, organic peanut butter, Ghirardelli white chocolate chip, whole wheat chocolate chip, toffee chip.
I stole a bite of the Cookies & Cream before I remembered to take a picture. It really was a miracle that I didn’t steal a bite from each one, but we decided to wait until we were cozy in bed to sample the rest. Once we were settled with our cups of tea we made our way through each one. They were all so wonderful; a nice crisp outer layer with the perfect soft and gooey center. I think my favorite was the toffee chip, which is surprising because I’m not a toffee girl.
Anthony’s Cookies is definitely a fun stop if you’re in the neighborhood and are craving something sweet. I can’t wait to swing by again to catch Anthony himself and sample a few more of his wonderful cookies.
I mentioned last week that I had quite the food itinerary for the weekend with my soon-to-be-gone foodie friend Brian. We spent Friday night eating around Sunnyvale with his roommate and all day Saturday on a sweets tour of Berkeley.
One of the favorite stops was Crixa Cakes, the cutest little Eastern European bakery with some of the best pastries and pies that I’ve had in a while. Very different from other styles of pastry, Crixa has mastered the art of avoiding the sickeningly sweet treat.
Inside is comfortable and homey with the lovely cases of cakes and pies giving way to the kitchen just beyond. Eight or so marble top tables line near the windows, or if you prefer there are a few tables and chairs just outside. It’s a great spot for a morning alone with a good book if you’re flying solo.
Since it was a farewell visit there was much to be tasted, and we didn’t even make it over to the cake side of the case. Since this was our second bakery stop (Arizmendi was first) I opted to start with a savory treat, so I ordered the dilled cabbage pirog. The cabbage was wonderfully tasty and had salt I was craving after my piece of coffee cake from the first stop. The pastry that encased it was perfectly buttery and flakey, and I only wish I had gotten there earlier so I could have enjoyed it piping hot from the oven. To accompany my pirog Brian ordered the cherry pie and the peach blackberry pie. Both were lovely, and without all of the sugar you’re able to appreciate the seasonal and perfectly ripe ingredients in each. Ah, what a concept
There was also a takeaway container for later, but we kinda got into that too. I believe there was an apricot cake, a cinnamon rugelach, and a peach blackberry pie. I had a bite of the rugelach and it was unbelievably good! Looking back I wish I’d gotten some to takeaway as well, but that would have been dangerous as I would have had to eat it all myself.
I’m already counting down the months until their pumpkin pie returns; my trip before Thanksgiving last year is still haunting me. Poor Brian, he will most definitely need some consoling when November rolls around. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful way to send him off, and an even better way to spend a beautiful Saturday in Berkeley.
I love Bakerella! She never ceases to amaze me with her gorgeous Cake Pops and desserts. I often dream about finding the courage to attempt to recreate these on my own, but my past experiences with cooking/baking disasters has me a bit weary; I can’t help it, I am a complete grouch when my culinary adventures don’t pan out. Her Pop Stars section does give hope since it showcases submissions from her readers. Another great resource (and confidence booster) will be her first cookbook that’s due to hit shelves in September. Hmm, maybe during Christmas cookie season I’ll set a goal to sneak these in the rotation.
Her latest creation celebrates the release of Toy Story 3 and once again she nailed it. How perfect do Mr. Potato Head and Hamm look in cake form?! Brilliant, I say.
Take a peek below at some of her other pops that I call my favorites. (Hello Kitty! and Winnie the Pooh!) And be sure to check out her wonderful site for instructions on each of the pops.
Toy Story 3, Mr. Potato Head
Winnie the Pooh with a pot of Hunny