Archive for August, 2009

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Buy another kitchen tool? Yes, and make Peach-Brown Sugar Sorbet.

August 24, 2009

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Over the years, my husband has accumulated some kitchen tools. Wait, that’s a major understatement. Over the years, my husband has accumulated mass amounts of kitchen tools. Our kitchen (and dining room and garage) is literally littered with tools. A blender hidden under here. A rice cooker over there. A mandolin tucked in there. A tagine on the floor in the dining room. A hand mixer. A stand mixer. A bigger stand mixer. A waffle maker. A Belgian waffle maker. A vacuum sealer. An immersion circulator. Need I say more? (Note that I did not make up the former list. I am not exaggerating. And it could have been a lot longer, but this post is supposed to be about peach sorbet.)

Anyway, I might roll my eyes when I step over the giant pot used for canning that sits on the dining room floor. And I might swear when I stub my toe on the tandoor. But I will never, ever curse the counter space taken up by my husband’s ice cream machine. That, my friends, is a kitchen tool worth having.

Yes, my husband’s ice cream machine churns out desserts that are absolutely divine. This blog has chronicled some masterpieces. Blueberry. Mint. Pistachio. Ginger. What could be next? I’ll tell you: Delicious, fresh, perfect peach-brown sugar sorbet.

I’m a fan of ice cream. Who doesn’t like its creamy, luscious, cold, sweet goodness? But fruit often gets lost in those creamy depths, playing  second fiddle to the sugar and milk. Not so with sorbet. And definitely not so with my husband’s peach sorbet; it preserves this season’s juicy ripe peaches in a frozen matrix of sweet sorbet-ness that transports you to the sun-drenched groves where these peaches must have grown up. It’s that good.

Nothing is better than eating a warm, fuzzy, fresh, fragrant ripe peach… the kind whose juices spill all over your mouth when you sink your teeth into its sweetly yielding orange flesh. For those times, though, when such a peach just isn’t handy, this sorbet is a suitable — and delicious — alternative. It may not be warm and fuzzy, but it is just as satisfying to wipe off your mouth.

Take it from me: Get yourself an ice cream machine — the one essential kitchen tool — and churn yourself up some peach-brown sugar sorbet.

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And now, the husband’s take…

Summer is really moments from over. I know because I was driving down the street past a local elementary school… and there were kids getting off a bus. And my little Jack is just moments from starting pre-school a couple days a week. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to this summer ending. But alas, I’ll have comfort for at least a few more weeks as I stretch the last of the season’s peaches out with this sorbet.

I don’t know about most of you, but here in Northern Virginia I’ve felt we’ve had a pretty good season for peaches. Lots of truly ripe, beautiful and juicy peaches this year seemed to come my way. The result has been lots of time to experiment with them and think of ways to manipulate and extract every delicious ounce of juice from them.

This is probably one of my favorites and one of the most simple. Really, it comes down to this: Peel, blend, cool, churn, and freeze. You are done. And you have an awesome result. So, not much advice here, except to pick the sweetest and juiciest peaches you can find. When you no longer can eat them fresh, dripping, and about to be lost forever to the natural state of things, turn them into sorbet.

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Peach & Brown Sugar Sorbet
Ingredients:
800g/6 medium peaches (pitted, pealed, chopped)
200g/1 ¼ cup sugar
125g/ ½ cup dark brown sugar
125g/ ½ cup water
½ tsp. salt
juice of 1 lime

Directions:
1. To peel the peaches, you can simply use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin on firmer fleshed fruit. However, if the peach is too soft, you can bring a pot of water to boil and prepare an ice bath. Cut an ‘X’ in the base of each peach and then drop them gently in the water for 10 seconds before moving them to an ice bath. The skins should pull up easily. The same technique can be used to peel tomatoes.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until mixture is homogeneous. Move to small container and refrigerate overnight or move to the freezer for about 2 hours.

3. Churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions, and then move to the freezer. Let set for two to four hours in the freezer before serving.

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Beans, glorious beans!

August 10, 2009

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I love, love, love green beans. Their snap. Their crunch. Their verdant, subtle sweetness. (The only form of green bean I can’t stand is, honestly, the canned variety. Such sadly abused beans make me sigh, not swallow.)

So when the husband concocted a salad that starred one of my favorite vegetables, I insisted that he make it again. And again. And again. This green bean salad elevates the slender green minxes to new heights. It features a tangy, sweet, light dressing that makes all the green bean’s best qualities stand out in relief. Think you’ve got some fresh, tender, delectable green beans from the grocery store? They’ll be even more mouthwatering when lightly dressed with this precocious concoction, and made lovely with a smattering of sweet, acidic grape tomatoes.

Doesn’t the humble green bean deserve some star treatment? (Especially after years of abuse at the hands of bean canners and cafeteria ladies?) I should say so.

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And now, the husband’s take…

This salad was really just an idea I whipped together. Now, it’s become a staple and a frequent demand from the wife. A couple of months ago we were visiting family, and I decided to throw together a barbecue as a quick way to feed a good number of people. I found some great green beans and wanted to serve them cold, but needed a dressing. A few minutes later I put this together, and was surprised to hear the very satisfied, “Mmmms…” and “Can I have this recipe?” requests that started coming my way.

Of course, I hadn’t a clue at first what “exactly” I had done. I had made it thinking I wanted a sorta-vinagrette for the salad… but nothing too tangy, watery, or sweet so that the beans and tomatoes were still the focus. Once again, it took insistence by the wife to have me sit down, think about it, write it down and then of course make it “bloggable.”

A few notes about the recipe. First, when I originally made it, I had yellow wax beans in as well. I would have loved to have put them in this version and in the photos; I think they add a great variety in presentation and texture. However — and I don’t know why because they seemed pretty ubiquitous growing up in the Midwest — I cannot seem to find them easily in Northern Virginia. My family in North Carolina says they don’t see them much either. (So, bean farmers, what’s the deal?) Anyway, I’d recommend them if you can get them. Just use equal parts green beans and yellow wax beans.

Second — and this is crucial — you want the beans to be “al dente.” This salad is all about crunch. Better to slightly undercook the beans than overcook them. Therefore, it’s important to pull them from the boiling water and shock them in the ice bath or under cold running water. If you lose that satisfying crunch, I’m not sure even a good dressing makes it worth the effort.

Third, the recipe below produces at least twice as much dressing as you need. I simply keep the rest handy for people to add extra themselves or for a quick version later (currently, I’ve a batch sitting in the fridge in an old Dijon mustard jar). But, with all that extra dressing, use it sparingly. When I overdressed it once, I really felt the green beans and the tomatoes became lifeless and worthless. So, use a careful hand when preparing.

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Green Bean Salad with Dijon Dressing
Ingredients:
2 lbs. green beans
1 cup grape tomatoes (quartered)

Dressing:
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup sherry vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Directions:
1. Bring to a boil a large pot of well-salted water (it should taste like the ocean).

2. Prepare an ice bath of equal parts ice and water.

3. Trim the ends off the green beans and then cook them in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Transfer to the ice bath. Once the green beans are cool, drain and allow them to air dry.

4. Whisk together the ingredients in the dressing and set aside. Note: The dressing should be just slightly salty. This allows the whole salad to be well dressed.

5. In a large bowl, toss together the beans, tomatoes and dressing. Move to a serving dish and enjoy. Note: In dressing the salad, I typically put very little on the beans, but most along the sides of the bowl and toss the beans to coat. This recipe likely makes enough dressing for twice the number of the beans, but I always make extra and it keeps very well.