Friday, October 28, 2016

Cardamom Carrot Ice Cream

Ever since I discovered the book, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, I've been somewhat obsessed with making ice cream. I prefer a custard-based ice cream, made with eggs, to the so-called Philadelphia-style (without eggs) because it has a smoother texture, but hate having to use so many eggs. Egg yolks, rather, which leaves 5 or more whites to use in something else. Yeah yeah, egg white omelets, meringue, yadda yadda. Still - it makes more work for me to think of another application. Jeni's recipe is just as smooth and creamy as an egg custard based ice cream, but is thickened instead with cornstarch and cream cheese. A pack of cream cheese lasts long enough in the fridge to make several batches of frozen treats, and can always be put into service as a bagel schmear.

Of course, me being me, I haven't made any of Jeni's recipes, but I have used her technique several times already. The Key Lime Pie ice cream I made in August was a huge success. Last month I made a Peanut Butter Pie ice cream, upping the cream cheese and adding both peanut butter and peanut powder. This time, I wanted to do something with cardamom. Cardamom is an underutilized spice, at least in this country, but it's popular in both Scandanavia and India. I wanted to make an ice cream that was flavored only with cardamom, but with some sort of textural interest. There's an Indian dessert that I love called gajar ka halwa, made with carrots and milk and seasoned with cardamom. I thought adding some of that to the ice cream, along with crushed cashews, would work nicely.

And it did. It was rich and cardamom-y, tasting a lot like kheer, an Indian rice pudding, which made me think I should have added some basmati rice as well. But we're not making frozen rice pudding here....

Cardamom Carrot Ice Cream

For the ice cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, or to taste

For the carrots:
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
2 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons milk
6 tablespoons sugar
Big pinch cardamom

To finish:
1/2 cup cashews, lightly crushed

For the ice cream: Mix 2 tablespoons of the whole milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together until smooth. Prepare a shallow ice bath: in a large bowl or baking pan, place an inch or two of cold water and several ice cubes. Set aside.

Cook the remaining milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and cardamom in a large saucepan until it comes to a rolling boil, Bring for 4 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn't boil over (stir when it starts to expand), remove from heat, and slowly whisk in the slurry. Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Blend a few tablespoons of hot milk mixture into the cream cheese to loosen it, then pour the cream cheese mixture into the pan of milk. Whisk well until smooth. Taste for seasoning and whisk in more cardamom if you would like a stronger flavor. Pour into a container with a tight-fitting lid and place the container into the ice bath until cool, ensuring that the water level doesn't come up as far as the lid. When the mixture seems mostly cool, refrigerate until completely cold.

For the carrots: Combine all ingredients except cardamom in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the carrots, about 10 minutes. Season with cardamom. Scrape into a lidded container and refrigerate until ready to use.

To finish: Freeze ice cream according to manufacturers instructions. Once ice cream is mostly done, start adding the carrot mixture a little at a time. It will have chilled into a mass, but you can crumble it with your fingers into the ice cream maker. Once the carrots are combined and the ice cream is done, scoop some into a lidded storage container. Layer on some of the cashews. Continue to add ice cream and cashews to container until both are used up. Press a piece of wax paper onto the surface of the ice cream. Seal container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Order&Chaos Coffee

Planit is a creative agency. They do ads, branding, marketing, graphic design, everything. Their space on Key Highway is full of insanely creative people doing award-winning things. Mr Minx and I do business with the good folks at Planit Agency all the time. They are unfailingly helpful, kind, and generous.

And now they sell coffee.

Well, Planit doesn't sell coffee. But Order&Chaos does. This new coffee shop owned by Planit founders Matt Doud and Ed Callahan shares Planit's new digs, and the PR side of the business can be seen in action through the shop's large glass windows. But don't go for the view--go for the coffee, which is roasted nearby at 100+ year-old Locust Point stalwart Pfeffercorn, making Order&Chaos a true neighborhood coffee shop.

After sampling their wares at a recent media event and leaving with a can of ground coffee to make at home, I gotta say that Order&Chaos is worth the drive to South Baltimore. Their espresso drinks are made in the only Slayer espresso maker in the Baltimore area, and include cappuccinos, lattes, and everyone's favorite fall drink, the pumpkin spice latte. (I had one - it's very good, with a much more rounded and less-bitter flavor than Big Coffee's PSL.) There are other interesting drinks on their menu as well, such as the Cafe Gommosa, which is an espresso shot poured over marshmallow, and a "dirty" chai--chai tea with an espresso shot. The brewed coffee is smooth and rich and packs a deep flavor. Their decaf as well has been blended and roasted with care and stands up to the very best caffeinated brews.

While you're at O&C, try one of their liege waffles. Liege is a style of Belgian waffle that is sweeter and chewier than a standard waffle. They're made with a yeast-raised dough that's studded with pearl sugar. The sugar melts in the waffle iron (which doesn't get as hot as a standard waffler) and forms crunchy caramelized bits that make these waffles an ideal afternoon snack. You know, when you need that little extra jolt of energy to get you through the rest of the day. They are perfectly acceptable for breakfast, of course, but then you might miss out on one of Order&Chaos' other pastry offerings, which include items by Patisserie Poupon.

Right now, Matt and Ed want Order&Chaos to become an integral part of their South Baltimore neighborhood, but I say look out for future world domination.

Order&Chaos Coffee
1410 Key Highway
Baltimore MD 21230

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Indonesian Fusion

The Indonesian dish, Gado Gado (literally "mix mix") is a potpourri of various ingredients served with a spicy peanut sauce.  Though traditionally a salad, I decided that gado gado would make a fine burrito filling. (Actually, pretty much anything and everything tastes pretty good wrapped up in a flour tortilla.) I was heavily inspired by the yummy bulgogi burritos I get from the KoCo Truck that parks in front of my office once a week. If that Korean dish of meat, rice, and fiery gochujang sauce can translate into a Cal-Mex favorite, why can't a favorite dish from another Asian nation?

My Gado Gado Burrito is cheap, filling, and easy. You really only have to make the peanut sauce. Leftover rice is fine, as are leftover veggies. You can use cold roast chicken in place of the tofu, if you want. Hate cilantro? Use basil or arugula. Use all three. Hate burritos? (Seriously? How can you hate burritos?) Then assemble all the ingredients in a bowl, top with the peanut sauce, and eat it as a salad. Allergic to peanuts? Sub in almond butter. Allergic to almonds, too? Well, then you should probably eat something else.

Gado Gado Burrito

For the peanut sauce:
1 tablespoon grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons brown or palm sugar
1 cup coconut milk
4 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Hot sauce

For the burrito:
4 large eggs
2-3 small potatoes (I used heirloom All Blue potatoes, which is the purple color you see in the pic)
Burrito sized flour tortillas
1 cup cooked jasmine or basmati rice
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges and seasoned with salt
1 package baked tofu in plain, sesame ginger, or teriyaki flavor, cut into strips

To make the peanut sauce: In a medium saucepan, cook the ginger and garlic in a bit of oil until fragrant. Stir in the peanut butter and the brown sugar. Whisk in the coconut milk to thin the mixture, then season with the lime, soy, and fish sauce. Add your favorite hot sauce and additional salt to taste.

To make the burrito:  Bring a saucepot of water to a boil over high heat. With a slotted spoon, gently lower the eggs into the water. Set a timer for 7 minutes, and cook the eggs at a simmer. Prepare an ice bath by putting several ice cubes and cold water in a medium bowl. When the 7 minutes is up, gently remove the eggs to the ice bath and allow to cool completely before peeling.

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender. Allow to cool, then peel and cut into small cubes. Set aside until ready to use.

Place a tortilla on a microwave-safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Nuke on high 30-45 seconds until the tortilla is hot and pliable. Top with a few spoonfuls of the rice, some tomato wedges, a few strips of tofu, one of the boiled eggs, cut in half, a couple spoonfuls of potato, and a healthy drizzle of the peanut sauce. Top with several sprigs of cilantro. Roll up, burrito style, then cut in half. Serve with additional peanut sauce for dipping.

Makes 2-4 depending on how generous you are with the fillings.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Mediterranean Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese is a southern specialty. A fairly simple combination of shredded cheese, mayo, and chopped pimento or roasted red pepper, it's great slathered on everything from crackers to burgers. Not being particularly southern, I am willing to take liberties with the recipe and make it my own.

We had a jar of fairly mild harissa paste in the fridge looking for things to do. I decided to employ it in a pimento cheese that could hail from a land in the vicinity of the southeastern Mediterranean sea. Most pimento cheeses use cheddar as a base, but I wanted something more neutral so the feta cheese could be prominent. The harissa stands in for the pimentos, but you could certainly add red pepper to your cheese if you choose. Don't forget to add the herbs, which add more character to the salty cheese.

I spread it on ciabatta and topped it with an over-easy egg, and it was mmm! Next I'll use it on a lamb burger with lots of red onion and fresh tomato.

Mediterranean Pimento Cheese

4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2-3 teaspoons harissa paste (or to taste, depending on the strength of your harissa)
3 heaping tablespoons mayo
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 teaspoon dill seeds, crushed

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until fairly homogenized in texture. There will still be small lumps of feta. Pack into a lidded container and refrigerate for several hours so the flavors can mellow. Serve with crackers or as a sandwich spread.

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