Vanilla bean ice cream

I fiddled with the recipe for vanilla mint chip ice cream to come up with a simple vanilla bean ice cream that would be perfect for any occasion when you want to top some fabulous dessert with a scoop of vanilla. I love that the recipe uses honey for the sugar and that it’s so simple to make. But I don’t love the fact that the eggs aren’t cooked at all. So I sort of combined the recipe with the technique from the Bi-Rite ice creams I’ve made in the past — this will allow you to temper the eggs before you put the mixture into the ice cream maker. The result was just what I was hoping for — thick, creamy, and studded with flecks of vanilla bean. 

I’m sorry I don’t have photos of the process, but I will add them to this post in the future if I get some taken. 

Vanilla bean ice cream
A simple vanilla ice cream for all occasions. Makes 1 quart.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups heavy cream
  2. 1 cup whole milk
  3. 1/2 cup honey
  4. Scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
  5. 2 egg yolks
Instructions
  1. Whisk the cream and milk together in a saucepan set over medium-low heat. When the mixture begins to bubble ever so slightly at the edges of the pan, stir in the honey until it dissolves. Then whisk in the vanilla bean scrapings.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Carefully scoop out 1/2 cup of the milk/cream and very slowly pour it into the bowl of egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Repeat with another 1/2 cup of milk/cream.
  3. Now slowly pour the egg yolk mixture back into the heated pan, whisking as you pour. Continue cooking the mixture until it thickens slightly, maybe 2 more minutes. It should coat a spatula.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat. Pour it over a fine mesh strainer into a big bowl. This will remove any bits of egg that tried to scramble.
  5. Let the mixture cool down before you cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  6. When the ice cream is nice and cold, pour the mix into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Mine took about 25 minutes.
Notes
  1. If your ice cream seems like it still has some lumps after you cooled it in the fridge, go ahead and put it through the strainer one more time.
Adapted from Nourished Kitchen
Adapted from Nourished Kitchen
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Roasted brussels sprouts

Recently I discovered that I love roasted brussels sprouts. The first few times I tasted a brussels sprout I really didn’t like them. Like, so bad I spit it out. And that’s kind of strange because I really like cabbage. But I guess those experiences made me rule out liking brussels sprouts. 

But in the last few years they’ve really made a comeback. I see them all over cooking store catalogs and foodie blogs. So I decided to try making them myself. I used this recipe from Real Simple, and lo and behold, I loved it! 

Roasting the brussels sprouts really deepens the flavor, and you get little crackly caramelized leaves here and there. Plus, there’s a kick of spice from the jalapeno, and the dip in honey at the end gives the sprouts sweetness and a little extra moisture. 

I’ve made these a few times now, and I found that if I strayed from the recipe (used more sprouts, subbed sweet peppers for jalapenos) they weren’t as good. The only thing I left out for good was the ginger because it’s not my favorite thing. But I’ll definitely be keeping this recipe in my book and using it when brussels sprouts are in season. It was so fun to buy one of those stalks full of cute little sprouts! (FYI, one of those provides enough for 2 batches). 

 

Homeroom mac ‘n cheese

Maybe you remember a while back I mentioned trying mac ‘n cheese at a few restaurants in the east bay. One of the places I mentioned was Homeroom, which is a restaurant dedicated to mac ‘n cheese. And their version is great — rich and creamy and even good reheated.

I’ve tried many times to recreate this type of mac ‘n cheese at home, but I’m never quite successful. My guilt-free recipe is great, but I don’t have one for when I want the laced-with-guilt version.


My adorable assistant.

The recipes I’ve tried, even ones with tons of whole milk and cheese come out lumpy or lack the creaminess I see in restaurant macs. So I was really excited when I saw that Joy had posted a recipe from Homeroom’s cookbook for their classic mac ‘n cheese. 

I tried it the other day and it was great. It seems that the secret is more butter and more flour in your roux. When you use their measurements, the sauce cooks up in minutes, so it’s not even hard to prepare. 

I decided to add some bacon to mine, just to make it a little more special. Two big slices, cut in half, cooked, then chopped into little pieces.

I mixed it in right before I put the mac in the oven so the breadcrumbs could toast.

I love panko breadcrumbs, but I think they might toast even a little better if you added a drizzle of butter on top before toasting. Then your mac will become truly evil. 

This recipe is a great base, and you can certainly add whatever other toppings you like, or change the types of cheeses to your liking. We were thinking more cheddar might make it more like the color of traditional mac ‘n cheese.

Guest recipe: Mike’s eggplant parm

This photo does not begin to do justice to my husband Mike’s eggplant parmesan. It’s transcendent, as food bloggers love to say. Instead of just baking the eggplant slices, which often leaves them undercooked and tough, he adds cornmeal to the crust and deep fries them. They end up silky soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.

You can even eat the eggplant slices plain like a fried green tomato, before you put them in the casserole dish with the sauce and cheese. That would be a great appetizer for a football viewing party, with some marinara on the side for dipping. 

I’m an impatient cook, so I don’t often make recipes that require triple dipping and deep frying at a specific temperature. Too much precision, too big of a mess to clean up. But once in a while it’s fun to make something that takes a little more effort. And trust me, you’ll be rewarded with this recipe. 

Here it is, with Mike’s signature humor. 

Mike's What Once Was Baked Has Now Been Fried Eggplant Parmesan
Serves 8
The best eggplant parm you'll ever have.
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Ingredients
  1. 2 medium to large eggplants, peeled and sliced into just under 1/2-inch rounds
For dredging
  1. 2 large eggs
  2. All-purpose flour
For coating
  1. 3/4 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
  2. 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
  3. 1/2 cup corn meal (more or less if you want, adds crunch)
  4. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  5. 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  6. Coarse salt and ground pepper
For topping
  1. 48 oz jar of tomato sauce
  2. 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
Instructions
  1. Congratulations, you have decided to spend your afternoon on eggplant.
  2. Slice eggplants and lay out on cookie sheets. Sprinkle salt liberally onto the slices, let sit for 15 minutes to draw water and bitterness out of the eggplant. Pat thoroughly dry, flip them over and salt the other side, 15 minutes again, dry them. Look, they need to be dry, ok?
  3. Set up three bowls or trays with high-ish sides for breading the eggplant. Put flour in one; beat the eggs in the next; mix breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, corn meal, oregano, basil, salt and pepper into the third.
  4. Heat oil (olive oil will not work well for this: it has too low of a smoke point) in a cast-iron skillet to 375 degrees for deep frying. Use a candy or probe thermometer -- keeping the temp between 350 and 400 is important.
  5. Now bread the eggplant slices, 3 or 4 at a time, however many will fit into your skillet at one time. Dredge in flour, shake off excess. Dip in egg, let excess drip off. Dredge in breading, shake off everything that's loose. There's a lesson here about shaking off excess. Pause to ponder. Then slide slices carefully into the oil, and fry on each side until golden-brown. An Asian-style wire frying basket works well for turning the eggplant. After frying on both sides, place on cookie cooling rack to drip.
  6. Fry all them eggplants. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Spread a layer of sauce on the bottom of a deep lasagna-size dish. Arrange a layer of eggplant on top of the sauce. Cover with more sauce, then half the mozzarella. Repeat: eggplant, sauce, mozzarella. Add Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is appropriately melted/browned to satisfy your particular innermost desires.
  8. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/
 

Cooking with apples

Even with our ridiculous weather (today’s forecast: “abundant sunshine”), you can still feel a chill in the air as it turns to fall. I love this time of year. It reminds me of new school years and football games and pumpkins. Don’t even get me started on the idea of putting Harper in an adorable costume for the first time…

But one of fall’s greatest gifts is the apple harvest, and I’m excited to get cooking with mine. If you’re lucky enough to pick your own at an orchard, you’re guaranteed to have way more than you know what to do with. So here are some ideas for ya:

Recipes: apple tart / stuffed turkey tenderloins / mini apple crisp / caramel apples / homemade applesauce

Buttermilk skillet cornbread

The other night when I was making Shipwreck Stew, I remembered that we always used to make it with cornbread. So I decided to whip up a batch in one of our cast-iron skillets. I combined a couple recipes I had saved in my recipe book, and I thought it turned out really well.

My skillet was 8 inches in diameter instead of 9, so it made a really tall cornbread, but that’s OK. Next time I would actually use frozen corn instead of fresh off the cob. The fresh stuff was so watery it didn’t have much flavor when it baked.

So here’s what I came up with:

Buttermilk skillet cornbread
Serves 6
Soft and slightly sweet cornbread that pairs well with comforting stews.
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Cook Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups AP flour
  2. 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  3. 3/4 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  8. 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  9. 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  10. 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch skillet and place it in the oven to preheat.
  2. In one bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and oil.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and corn and stir it all together.
  4. Remove the hot pan from the oven (carefully) and pour the batter in. Return to the oven and bake for one hour, or until the top is browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Notes
  1. I found that frozen corn worked better than fresh in this recipe.
Adapted from The New York Times Magazine
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Blue Bottle waffles, first attempt

After we got the waffle maker, I was wondering if I could recreate the amazing hand-held waffles at Blue Bottle Coffee.

They have this nice crunch of caramelized sugar on the outside, so you don’t need any toppings. After a bit of online research I found this recipe for Belgian liege waffles that seemed like it would work great.

They made it clear that you need to have pearl sugar to get the authentic crunchy sugar bits within the waffle. I looked everywhere, but could not find it (there is something the Berkeley Bowl doesn’t have?!). So eventually I just ordered it online.

The morning I decided to make the waffles I realized too late that I didn’t have enough time to make the yeast batter. So I thought I would just go ahead and use my go-to waffle recipe with the Belgian waffle technique. You mix some pearl sugar into the batter.

Then after you put the batter in the waffle maker, you sprinkle on some granulated sugar that will caramelize the outside.

We realized that the best waffles had tons of sugar on the outside and were nice and crispy.

Our waffles were really tasty, but they didn’t really resemble the Blue Bottle ones. So I went back to the Internet for more advice and discovered that I bought the wrong kind of sugar! I bought the Swedish pearl sugar, but I should have bought the Belgian pearl sugar, which comes in much bigger chunks.

So I guess it’s back to the drawing board, and we will just have to make waffles again.

Buttermilk biscuits + sausage gravy

If you’re a new parent with barely any time to cook, but you’re craving a home-baked goodie, biscuits are perfect. They are ridiculously easy to make, especially if you take a couple of shortcuts like I do. If you have a little more time, sausage gravy is not a bad way to turn your biscuits into a meal. We like them as a breakfast for dinner.

My recipe makes a lot of gravy, perhaps too much for this amount of biscuits. But since Sadie jumped up on the counter and ate some off the tray, I’m not really sure. I guess she is back to her old self again.

One other note about milk. It really pays to use whole milk in recipes like this. You get a nice creamy sauce that thickens quickly. I used to think whole milk was so gross. Now it’s skim that seems totally wrong to me. Plus I can always say I need the extra fat for breastfeeding. 😉

Aaaand, one last thing. I did make the biscuits one time with half whole-wheat flour. They were still good, but a little drier. If you go that route, maybe add in a little more buttermilk.

Buttermilk biscuits
adapted from Joy the Baker
makes 12 medium or 8 large biscuits

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute half whole-wheat flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 ounces unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk
Melted butter or buttermilk to brush on top (optional)

Whisk your dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Then add in the butter cubes and start mashing them with a pastry cutter. (I prefer that over a food processor because it works really well and doesn’t require nearly as many dishes to be washed.) You can also just use a fork or your fingers. You want to work until you have about pea-sized butter pieces.

Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the buttermilk.

Work the dough together with your fingers. At first it looks kind of like shreds. But eventually it will come together into a ball.

Spread out some flour on a flat surface and dump out the dough. Here’s shortcut #2: just press it out with your fingers until it’s about 3/4-inch thick. No need for a rolling pin.

Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter. I got 12 with the standard size. You could also use a glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter.

When you get down to the last one, you can press the dough inside the cutter so it becomes the right shape.

Lay out the biscuits and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown on top.

When the biscuits come out of the oven, brush them with melted butter or buttermilk.

Sausage gravy

1 pound mild Italian sausage (you could also substitute veggie sausage)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until it browns. I like to use a potato masher to separate the pieces.

Remove the cooked sausage to a bowl, leaving any pan drippings behind. I didn’t get many, so I added 3 tablespoons of butter.

While your pan’s still hot, melt the butter. Then whisk in the flour and keep whisking until it starts to turn light brown.

Whisk in your milk and stir occasionally until the gravy starts to thicken and bubble, about 10 minutes.

Add the sausage back in. At this point, season with salt and pepper. I don’t specify an amount because your sausage will be seasoned differently.

Serve over those fluffy biscuits.

Buttermilk biscuits
Yields 12
Flaky biscuits that pair perfectly with sausage gravy.
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Cook Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute half whole-wheat flour)
  2. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  3. 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. 1 teaspoon sugar
  6. 6 ounces unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  7. 3/4 cup buttermilk
  8. Melted butter or buttermilk to brush on top (optional)
Instructions
  1. Whisk your dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Then add in the butter cubes and start mashing them with a pastry cutter. You can also just use a fork or your fingers. You want to work until you have about pea-sized butter pieces.
  2. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the buttermilk.
  3. Work the dough together with your fingers. At first it looks kind of like shreds. But eventually it will come together into a ball.
  4. Spread out some flour on a flat surface and dump out the dough. Press it out with your fingers until it’s about 3/4-inch thick. No need for a rolling pin.
  5. Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter. You could also use a glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter. When you get down to the last one, you can press the dough inside the cutter so it becomes the right shape.
  6. Lay out the biscuits and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown on top.
  7. When the biscuits come out of the oven, brush them with melted butter or buttermilk.
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/
Sausage gravy
This creamy gravy is the perfect companion for buttermilk breakfasts.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound mild Italian sausage (you could also substitute veggie sausage)
  2. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 4 cups whole milk
  5. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until it browns. I like to use a potato masher to separate the pieces.
  2. Remove the cooked sausage to a bowl, leaving any pan drippings behind. If you don't have any fat left, add 3 tablespoons of butter.
  3. While your pan’s still hot, melt the butter. Then whisk in the flour and keep whisking until it starts to turn light brown.
  4. Whisk in your milk and stir occasionally until the gravy starts to thicken and bubble, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the sausage back in. At this point, season with salt and pepper. The amount depends on how salty your sausage is to begin with.
  6. Serve over buttermilk biscuits.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Vanilla mint chip ice cream

As I mentioned before, Mike got me an ice cream maker for Mother’s Day, so I was really excited to try it out. We’ve experimented with a few different ice creams, with varying results. But this recipe was a total winner. I’m thinking I could use it as the base for a lot of other ice creams (with fruit, nuts, caramel, really any toppings).

This is one of those recipes that succeeds because it’s simple and uses high-quality ingredients. We’ve found that even though it’s a little scary, it pays to use egg yolks in your ice creams to achieve that authentic creaminess.

The recipe I used comes from the Nourished Kitchen, a site that my yoga teacher has recommended several times. The flavor of the fresh mint comes through without being overpowering and the flecks of vanilla bean add that classic vanilla taste.

The only thing I changed was to add 1/2 cup of Scharffen Berger chocolate chunks so it became mint chip ice cream. I didn’t think you could have mint ice cream without the chocolate, and we just happened to have that bag of chocolate chunks in the cupboard.

The technique is pretty simple. You heat the cream and milk just until they start to bubble and then you stir in some honey to sweeten it up. Isn’t that awesome? No refined sugar, just honey.

Then you add in your mint leaves and vanilla bean and let that steep for 20 minutes.

Then you strain out the leaves and refrigerate the cream for at least two hours. After that, you whisk in the egg yolks so it becomes nice and thick.

Then you’re ready to add it to the ice cream maker. Ours makes ice cream in about 20-30 minutes.

We usually put our ice cream back in the freezer for another hour or so to let it harden before we eat it. This batch turned out perfectly after a little extra freezing. I think we will be eating this all summer!

Sole Meuniere

Sole Meuniere sounds fancy, but it could not be easier to make. Mike bought sole at the grocery store last week because it was on sale, so I went looking for a recipe and found this one.

You dredge the fillets in flour, salt, and pepper, then pan fry them in butter and lemon juice. The key part is definitely the butter, which gets browned and more flavorful after a few minutes in the pan.

Sole fillets are huge, but they are also very thin, so they cook quickly.

I can see us making this again next time sole is on sale. It’s not something I would usually look for, but I may have to start.