Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 134.5 Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream with Pomegranate Sauce

When a beloved elderly neighbor knocks on my door with a bag of his own home-grown rhubarb, there's only one thing to do - make something special and share it with him. Which is what I did today. It was way too hot  (did I miss spring?) to even think about turning on the oven to bake strawberry rhubarb pies, so what to do? Concoct a hybrid ice cream recipe and let my trusty ice-cream maker do the heavy lifting. The result? Strawberry Rhubarb bliss in a bowl with ridiculously divine pomegranate sauce that tastes as good licked straight off the sticky spoon as it does drizzled on your favorite ice-cream.

Once it was made and frozen to just the right consistency, I loaded up a bowl and sent my son off on his long board to deliver the goods. Thank you Mr. Higgins - you're the man and I so appreciate you and your kindness.

Ice Cream


Pomegranate Sauce

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream (way adapted from Williams Sonoma, Ice Cream Cook Book)

2 cups chilled heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup fresh strawberries, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 cup rhubarb, ends trimmed and  chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
1 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar (for rhubarb)

In a bowl combine the cream and milk. Add the sugar and salt and whisk until the sugar begins to dissolve. Stir in the vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for about 3 hours (and up to 8).
In a bowl, using a fork, or potato masher, mash half the chopped strawberries into chunks.
Add the remaining coarsely chopped strawberries to the bowl and toss.
Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
Meanwhile, chop rhubarb.
In a medium sized non-reactive sauce pan, combine rhubarb, lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar.
Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer stirring constantly until very soft (about 6-8 minutes).
Pour into a bowl and refrigerate for an hour.
Pour the milk mixture into an ice-cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer instructions. When ice-cream reaches the consistency of thick whipped cream, add the strawberries and rhubarb.
Churn until just blended. Cover and freeze until firm.

Pomegranate Sauce 
(Hardness up on contact with ice-cream)

1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar

Combine pomegranate juice and sugar in a non-reactive pan.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until syrup becomes thick.
Pour into a clean jar.
Serve at room temperature or warm (can be microwaved for a minute or two to soften)
Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 134! Paraguay - Milanesa (Breaded Fried Steak) and Sopa Paraguay (Cheesy Corn Bread) - Up Next, Peru

It's the long Memorial Day weekend, so between planting my vegetable garden and yard work, this tasty Paraguayan meal got made and DEVOURED by the menfolk who tromp around my house. The beef recipe, was pretty close to the American version of chicken fried steak, which holds a special place in the comfort food category my guys gravitate to. About the I write this up, I hear angels singing on high. How could something with eggs, cheese, onions, cornmeal and corn be anything but off the hook awesomeness? That was a rhetorical question if I ever asked one. Aside from being loaded with flavor and texture, when spread with (very) generous amounts of butter I made last week, this cornbread rocked my world. My beautiful (and I mean that literally as well as figuratively), Brazilian friend Juju and her husband were here hanging out last night, and she proclaimed this bread better than her mother's -- now that's a serious compliment. I planned to serve the steak and cornbread with a salad, but it was so good, we just cut up hunks and slices of meat and bread and chowed sitting at the butcher block.

Officially the Republic of Paraguay, this Latin American country is often referred to as the "Heart of America" due to being so centrally located. Bordered by Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia, Paraguay gained independence from Spain in 1811. The country's official language is Spanish, and about 90% of the population speak Guarani. A little over 50% of the country are Mestizos (mixed European and Amerindian). The country's climate ranges from subtropical to temperate and so is home to a wide range of plants and animal species.

Cuisine in Paraguay varies somewhat by region, but throughout the country, cassava and corn are the basis for much of the food. Fruit, meat, vegetables, beef, rice, stewed chicken and pork are all part of the Guarani diet.

Sopa Paraguay (Cheesy Cornbread)

Milanesa (Breaded Fried Steak)

Milanesa - Breaded Fried Steak (Adapted from

2 lbs. beef (I used round steak)
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup milk
flour for dredging
fine bread crumbs
oil for frying

Cut the steak in half horizontally, then pound each side until it's thin. Season.
Beat the eggs and add the milk and parsley.
Dredge the meat first in the flour, then the egg mixture, and then the bread crumbs.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan it's good and hot.
Fry until brown, turn and brown the other side (it doesn't take long at all)
Remove and keep hot while frying the remaining pieces.

Sopa Paraguaya - Cheesy Cornbread (Adapted from

6 Tbsp. butter
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 16 ounce bag of frozen white shoepeg corn (I used yellow corn)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 cups corn meal
1 cup salted queso fresco or farmers cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
5 eggs, separated
Salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper
Melt the butter in a heavy skillet, then add chopped onions and saute until soft and golden brown.
Add the frozen corn and the evaporated milk and cook at a simmer for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Stir in the cornmeal and the cheese and mix well.
Stir in the egg yolks.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the egg whites into the batter, until just barely mixed. It will look lumpy.
Spoon batter into the loaf pan.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and loaf springs back slightly to the touch.
Cool a wire rack, then slice and serve as is or with butter.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 133 - Papua New Guinea - Mumu in a Drum - Up Next, Paraguay

Tonight's meal from Papua New Guinea is a traditional, rural dish that I have slightly westernized via the Fair Trade Cook Book. A slow-cooked, layered dish that is typically simmered over a grated open fire using a 5 gallon drum and banana leaves, I had to substitute a cast iron dutch oven and spinach leaves. I couldn't find a clean drum and my grocery store was out of fresh or frozen banana leaves, which is a first.  Other than that, I stayed true to traditionally used root vegetables, greens and fruit. Mumu can be cooked on the stove, but since I dug a fire pit last year, I was able to cook Mumu on an open fire as is traditionally done. The combination of meat, fruit, root vegetables, greens and coconut milk cooks up beautifully, and the prep involved is minimal, as you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand to make this delicious and traditional dish.

Located in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean, the Independent State of Papua New Guinea is closest to Australia to the south and the Solomon Islands to the east.  The eastern half of the island is owned by New Guinea and the western portion is a part of the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. The majority of the population live in rural areas, many in extreme poverty.

A mountainous country with a tropical climate, the island is one of the most culturally diverse in the world, with 850 indigenous languages and societies. The country also has one of the richest eco-systems in the world, and boasts over 3,000 varieties of orchids along with 9,000 varieties of plants, species of birds and animals, many of which may yet to have been discovered.

Cuisine in Papua New Guinea includes many root vegetables such as taro (yucca), sweet potatoes, palm, bananas, kau, kau, avocado, mango, pineapple and many leafy greens. Chicken, pork and sea food are typically eaten, often wrapped or layer using banana leaves.

Mumu (Adapted from The Fare Trade Cookbook)

1 lb. assorted root vegetables (sweet potato, yuca, carrots)
3/4 pound pork (I used pork butt)
3/4 pound chicken (I used boneless, skineless thighs)
3/4 pound fruit (I used pineapple
3/4 pound green vegetables (I used green beans, spinach and kale)
1 onion, sliced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)
1 can coconut milk

Lightly oil a large metal casserole dish or dutch oven.
Line with spinach and/or kale leaves (or banana leaves)
Make a layer of root vegetables, hardest at the bottom
Make a layer of pork
Make a layer of fruit
Make a layer of poultry
Make a layer of green vegetables, onions and garlic
Add in the coconut milk
Cover everything with spinach and/or kale leaves

Cover and place the casserole or dutch oven over a grated open fire or over a medium flame to bring the juices up to cooking temperature (about 15 minutes)
This dish is traditionally never stirred.
Turn the flame down to the lowest setting - or make sure open fire is burning slowly and simmer gently for about 1 hour or until the meat and vegetables are tender and cooked to your taste.
Traditionally, the meal is eaten with your hands.

Final Assessment: We all loved this meal, and the combination of fruit and meat is always one I enjoy. The yuca and root vegetables are satisfying and the spinach and kale just make you feel good. I love that any vegetables and fruits you have on hand can be used. I'll definitely make this again.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

132.5 - Hand Churned Sweet Cream Butter and Herbs de Provence Sea Salt

Hello? Antique kitchen tool rehab? It all started out so innocently -- just a quick trip to Lowes to pick up a few window boxes and flowers. Check. But on the drive home, an "Estate Sale" sign lured me from afar. I know, I know, the first step is admitting I have a problem.

If you're familiar with Sigmund Freud's developmental theory, you know that we're basically simple creatures whose psyches revolve around 3 conflicting forces: the Id=I want; the Ego=reality check; and, the high and mighty Super Ego=do the right thing. Sadly, even in my adulthood, when I see a yard sale sign, my barely dormant Id kicks both my Ego and Super Ego straight to the curb in short order. So into the estate sale I went.

The first thing I spotted was a mint-condition antique butter churn. It was way out of my price range, so I did the right thing (Super Ego momentarily activated) and left.  But when I got home, I began obsessing. Id  I really wanted that butter churn to make butter the old fashioned way. Plus, I have a thing for simple machines. To say that I'm not the slightest bit mechanical is an understatement, but I love the utility and ancient genius behind gear-driven tools. Knowing that I'd be impossible to live with until it was mine, my sweet husband sent me back to buy it. And now it is. Mine. A big thank you to the Sherman-Ghelli family, whose Mother, Wilma, was an avid antique collector. I promise to treasure and use your Mom's butter churn with care and deep appreciation.

So that's how the butter got made. But next to my family and my dog, the only thing I love more than butter is salt, which is how the Herbs de Provence got made. The lavender I used to season the salt mix was purchased in 1983 in Aix en Provence when my dear friend Marylou and I traveled to France together on a whim (B.C. kids and mortgages, and such). I've kept it tightly stored in it's original packaging and it still smells as good (and French) today as it did 23 years ago.

Hand Churned Sweet Cream Butter

Herb de Provence Sea Salt

Hand Churned Sweet Cream Butter 
(You can use a jar, stand or hand-held mixer or a hand hand held beater in lieu of a butter churn)

1 pint very cold heavy cream
Pinch of salt (optional)

Pour cream into butter chilled churn (or container you're using). Churn for 15-30 minutes until cream becomes chunky and cream takes on a soft yellow tint. You will see liquid separate from the chunks (butter), which is buttermilk.
Strain the butter, reserving the buttermilk in a clean container. Refrigerate and use later for dressing, pancakes, biscuits,  etc...
Now turn the drained butter into a clean bowl and cover with very cold water to firm it up. Rinse and repeat until the water runs clear.
Once the water runs clear, use your hands or a rubber spatula to press out any remaining liquid. If you like your butter salted, add a pinch or two of salt to taste.
Spoon the butter into a clean container and smooth with a spatula or knife to remove air bubbles.
Refrigerate and use liberally and without guilt.

Herbs de Provence Sea Salt (Adapted from The Splendid Table)

4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup sea salt
1 Tbsp. Thyme
1 Tbsp. Rosemary
1/2 Tbsp. Savory (I improvised with ground savory because I forgot to buy it)
3/4 Tbsp. Lavender

Cut each garlic clove lengthwise through the center.
Mound the salt and garlic on a cutting board. Use a large chef knife to mince the garlic, blending it with salt as you work.
Coarsely chop all the herbs, then add them to the garlic salt mixture and continue chopping until it resembles coarse sand.
Place salt on a cookie sheet or plate and leave near an open or sunny window for a couple of days to dry.
Store in clean, dry jars.
Use to season chicken, fish, potatoes, vegetables or anything your heart desires.