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We all scream for (gourmet homemade) ice cream

My sister gave me a wonderful book for Christmas with recipes for sorbets, ice creams, granitas and frozen desserts appropriately called “Ice Cream & Frozen Desserts” by Peggy Fallon. My favorite recipe thus far (and my boyfriend concurs) is this recipe for cinnamon basil ice cream. The basil flavor is very subtle, but fragrant and delicate on the tongue. I lightened up the recipe a little bit, using half-and-half instead of whole cream, but the result is still rich and sumptuous.

Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream

2 1/2 cups whole milk

1 bunch basil, well-rinsed

1 cinnamon stick

4 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

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1. Bring the milk to a simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the basil and the cinnamon stick, cover, and remove from the heat. Let steep for 15 minutes, then strain through a sieve, pressing down on the basil to extract all of the liquid.

2. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the cinnamon basil-flavored milk. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (170-175 degrees F).

3. Immediately pour the custard back into the mixing bowl and let cool in the refrigerator, until the custard is very cold. Whisk in the half-and-half.

4. Pour the mixture into the canister of an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a covered container and freeze until it is firm enough to scoop (at least three hours or overnight).

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2009 in Ice Creams and Frozen Desserts

 

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Olive, Feta and Basil Flatbread in a Flash

Yesterday afternoon, the boy casually informed me that his cousin was coming over for dinner. Tonight? I asked. I had been thinking of throwing together a quick pizza with the ready-made pizza dough from Trader Joe’s and calling it a day. But this cousin of his had worked at a New York restaurant and was a foodie himself. I couldn’t just make a quick pizza meal for this guy!

So I set to work. Instead of the pizza idea, I decided to put together a tasty flatbread that would pair together with a tomato and garlic stew with prawns I was thinking of making. Both are easy to make and are impressive. Add a nice salad and you’ve got a nice meal for company.

I scrounged around the apartment for some ingredients for the flatbread. Black olives? Check. Feta cheese? I knew there was some in the fridge… Herbs? Ah, yes, there was still some fresh basil left. Nuts? I knew I had some toasted pine nuts in the pantry. I picked up a couple of slices of prosciutto we had left and grabbed a bottle of olive oil.

I whipped out the herbed pizza dough from Trader Joe’s and assembled the whole thing in a matter of minutes. I would most definitely make this delicious flatbread again, either to pair with a soup or as an appetizer.

Ingredients:

1 package of Trader Joe’s herbed pizza dough (find it in the refrigerated/prepared food section). You can substitute any prepared pizza dough or make your own.

1 can of pitted black olives (packed in water)

4 Tablespoons of feta cheese (I used the Trader Joe’s light feta)

I good handful of toasted pine nuts

1 good handful of fresh basil

olive oil

2 slices of prosciutto

flour

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1. Take the herbed pizza dough out of the fridge and let sit out in room temperature for 20 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss flour or cornmeal over a pizza stone or baking sheet and stretch and spread the pizza dough to a thinness of your liking.

3. Pour a little olive oil over the top of the dough. Tear the prosciutto slices into little pieces and sprinkle on top. Chop the olives into small pieces and spread over the dough. Sprinkle the feta cheese and the pine nuts. Chop the basil and spread over all of the toppings. Add a couple of dashes of chili flakes and pepper.

4. Pop it in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Voila! Gorgeous-looking flatbread in no time!

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2008 in Breads

 

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Spanakopita Reinvented

Spanakopita — the crispy, flaky, tender, Greek spinach-feta pie — has a special place in my heart. Back when I was running around the mean streets of Chicago covering crime for the Chicago Tribune, I arrived home one night utterly exhausted. So exhausted, in fact, that I had no energy to eat, much less cook. C came over with a plate of Spanakopita and as I ate each bite of the flavorful spinach pie, my energy reserves were slowly recharged. I begged him for months to show me how to make it and a few weeks ago, he finally caved.

The basic recipe is pretty straight-forward. You can purchase frozen phyllo dough at your local grocery store. I like Athens’ twin-pack, which is perfect for making two spinach pies. Always a fan of experimentation, I modified the recipe a little bit and added roasted red bell peppers for color and basil for flavor. Although it looks intimidating, spanakopita is really easy to make and perfect for packing for a picnic or a take-away lunch.

Michelle’s Spanakopita

Ingredients:

1/2 package of Athens’ twin pack phyllo dough

1 bag of frozen spinach

2 jars of roasted red bell peppers (from Trader Joe’s — you can find them next to the olives), drained. Dry the bell peppers with paper towels to remove the rest of the liquid.

handful of basil leaves

1 3.5oz package of low-fat feta cheese

3 Tbsp butter or Smart Balance, melted

1 egg yolk

Ground pepper

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A good tip to know before you start. In between layers, cover your phyllo dough first with plastic wrap and then with a damp cloth. This will keep it from drying before you finish.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Select two or three sheets of phyllo dough and, using a pastry brush, carefully brush over with butter. Place the sheets of phyllo dough butter-side down into a glass or ceramic pan and brush the top sheet with butter.

2. Add about a half-inch layer of frozen spinach on top of the buttered phyllo and sprinkle cheese on top of the spinach. Sprinkle with a little ground pepper.

3. Butter another two or three phyllo sheets and cover the spinach.

4. Flatten the bell peppers and add a layer on top of the buttered phyllo dough.

5. Repeat the layering until all of your spinach and bell peppers are gone.

6. After the last spinach layer, cover the pie with another few sheets of phyllo, butter the sheets and spread a thin layer of basil leaves and a sprinkle of black pepper before covering the pie with more buttered phyllo.
7. If you have any phyllo left, butter every few sheets and continue placing on the pie until you’ve finished.

8. Create an egg wash by whipping the egg in a small bowl and then dip your pastry brush into the wash, adding a layer of egg yolk on the top layer of phyllo dough.

9. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the top layer of phyllo is a nice golden brown.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2008 in quick dinner

 

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