Gimme candy, gimme ice cream, gimme sugar: honeycomb ice cream recipe

Back in the olden days, i.e., my childhood, we made our own amusements all summer long. Unlike modern mothers—myself and others, you know who you are—our mothers were not particularly interested in how we passed the time. If we were bored, they certainly did not perceive it as their problem.

There’s the door, go out and play.

One summer, a pack of pre-adolescent girls took a bike ride. We whizzed past flowering rosa rugosa, honeysuckle, and mysterious, deep pine woods as we pedaled the flat pavement on the mainland side of Barnegat Bay at the Jersey shore. The morning turned hot, so we veered down shady lanes and sped along without the resistance of hills or wind to slow us, until late afternoon. Where were we? We wended our way back in what we hoped was the direction of home. A posse of station wagons approached. Angry parents! Scolding! We were miles from home! This is the only actual parental intervention I remember from summers of yore.

So, what did we do when we had reached the outer limits of boredom? We made candy. I have a very tolerant aunt to thank for that.  Aunt Eileen allowed, no, encouraged my cousins and me to tear up her kitchen in pursuit of sugar. She had a droll sense of humor and a sweet tooth as prodigious as any nine-year-old girl. She handed us her legendary recipe for fudge—I remember it involved marshmallow fluff—and let us have at it. After fudge, there were rice krispie treats (more marshmallows) and eventually taffy. Burned in my memory is an image as clear as a photograph: three cousins on the front steps, pigtails, short shorts, tiny tee shirts, skinny legs and all. Eat a little, pull a little, eat a little, pull a little. Aunt Eileen in the background, only too happy to test the results.

Recently Elise (Simply Recipes) Bauer posted a recipe for Coffee Heath Bar Ice Cream. Hold the phone! Those are two of my absolute favorite flavors! They called up memories of candy making and summer, and inspired the following idea for honeycomb ice cream. Besides, it is officially National Ice Cream month. 

Don’t be fooled by the name and think you are getting something natural: the candy is all about sugar, even though I used organic cane sugar here. The name comes from the air pockets that permeate the candy and make it look like a honeycomb. It is at least as sweet. The resulting ice cream has edgy, grown-up, burnt sugar flavors, and boy, is it good.  I won’t lie. I am a sucker for edgy, grown-up, burnt sugar flavors.

First you must make the candy. I haven’t made honeycomb candy since, well, since I can’t remember. Maybe I never made it. I can tell you it is quick to accomplish, especially if you avoid the missteps I made, which I willingly share with you forthwith.  After that, make basic ice cream custard. Finally, send the mixture through a painless churn in the ice cream maker and stir in more crushed candy before packing it into a storage container.  Just try to find something like this in the freezer case at your local market.

Honeycomb Candy Recipe

Vegetable oil spray

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 tablespoons water

3/4 cup organic cane sugar or white granulated sugar

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

A pinch of salt

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat it lightly with vegetable oil spray. Set it next to the stove. Sift the baking soda twice into a small bowl and set it next to the stove. Have a silicone, heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon nearby.

2. Pour the water, sugar, honey, vanilla and salt into a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. (The candy will bubble up to at least four times its volume, so the pan should hold at least 2 quarts.) Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Shake the pan from time to time to keep the sugar from burning at the edges, but do not stir. Cook until large, even bubbles form and the candy looks like dark caramel. Theoretically this should measure 300 degrees on a candy thermometer, but pay attention to the way it looks and smells. Your thermometer may not be precisely accurate and you risk burning the sugar. My thermometer measured in at 275 degrees.

3. Pick up your spatula with one hand and sprinkle the baking soda into the pot with the other. Immediately stir as briefly as possible with the spatula, just long enough to mix in the baking soda. The candy will billow up tremendously, which is a good thing. Try not to deflate it by over stirring.  Immediately scrape it onto the awaiting parchment-lined baking sheet.  Let it cool.

4. Break the candy into pieces and store it in an airtight container in the freezer if not using right away. The candy is very hydroscopic, which means, it sucks moisture out of the atmosphere like nobody’s business and becomes a sticky mess in no time.

5. To crush the candy for ice cream, place it between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and lightly tap with a rolling pin. It is light and airy, so it doesn’t take much force to break it up into coarse crumbs.

Look and Cook: How to make honeycomb candy

Pour the water, sugar, honey, salt and vanilla into a saucepan. Cook it over medium heat without stirring.  Shake the pan from time to time, and cook until large, even bubbles form and the syrup looks like dark caramel. With just a few strokes of a heatproof silicone spatula, stir in the sifted baking soda. It will billow up, don't try to stir it down and deflate it.

Immediately pour it onto a baking sheet lined with oiled parchment paper. The baking soda forms uneven air pockets that make it look like a honeycomb when you break it apart.

Don't say I didn't warn you. Even though I hopefully (and generously) buttered a baking sheet, the candy stuck to the pan. Line the pan with non-stick parchment and spray it lightly with vegetable oil for insurance.

If you still don't believe me, this is how the candy looks if you use the oiled parchment paper.

********************************************************************************************************

Honeycomb Ice Cream Recipe

Makes about 1 quart

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup honey

5 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cups coarsely crushed honeycomb candy

1. Combine the cream, milk and honey in a heavy saucepan (2 quarts or larger), and heat over medium heat until scalding (tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pot.)

2. Whisk the egg yolks together in a bowl. Set the bowl on top of a damp paper towel or dishcloth to keep it from sliding around. Whisking constantly, gradually dribble about half the hot cream mixture into the yolks. Still whisking constantly, add the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining cream.

3. Use a heatproof spatula to stir the custard constantly over medium-low heat until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon, about 170 degrees measured on a thermometer.  Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and strain the mixture to catch any little bits of egg that may have cooked and solidified. Stir in the vanilla, almond extract and 1/2 cup of the crushed honeycomb candy. Reserve the remaining 1 cup of crushed candy in an airtight container in the freezer to mix into the ice cream later. Refrigerate the custard until very cold, 4 to 6 hours or overnight. The candy will dissolve into the cream.

4. Churn the ice cream base in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

5. Remove the churning paddle and carefully stir in the remaining 1cup crushed honeycomb candy. Pack into a container and freeze for several hours, or until the ice cream is firm enough to scoop.

More ice cream from around the web:

Salted butter caramel ice cream

(David Lebovitz) and many more

Bitter chocolate ice cream

(Leite's Culinaria)

Dulce de leche ice cream

(Smitten Kitchen)

Coffee heath bar crunch ice cream

(Simply Recipes) and many more

How to make ice cream without a machine

(David Lebovitz)

Mint chocolate chip ice cream

 (Cooking Lessons)

Orange frozen yogurt

 (Cooking Lessons)

Posted on July 20, 2011 and filed under Summer food, Sweets.

Grilled Portobello mushroom burgers and chipotle mayonnaise

Since it’s summer and these mushroom burgers, which appeared in the Boston Globe last week,  are so good, I am going to share the recipe with you. You may think I’m just being a lazy blogger. I am. As I said, it’s summer. I also know that many of you do not necessarily read the Boston Globe, and often the links to the recipes disappear over time. So here is something for you or the vegetarian at your barbecue.  Time to lighten up, grillside. If you want to find out what I came up with for leftover grilled mushrooms (bulgur salad), you can find it here.

I admit, I tried to entice College Boy to eat these by adding bacon. Oh, they were good. Still, the mushrooms were a no-go for the picky eater formerly known as, The Picky Eater. I am not complaining. We have made a lot of progress since his grade school days.

Update: This Memorial Day (2012) you could be grillin' bold and Bush’s has the beans for it. Come join the cookout with

Cookin’ Canuck and Hoosier Homemade sponsored by Bush’s Grillin’ Beans.

Check out more recipes on their blogs. In the meantime, consider serving Bush's Fiesta Beans with your mushroom burgers.

 Happy grilling!

Grilled Portobello mushroom burgers

Serves 4

One reader asked me for directions on how to cook these without an outdoor grill, so I am filling you in at the end of recipe. You never know, it could be raining cats and dogs or you might be out of charcoal. Or you might not have a grill.

4 thick slices red onion (3/8-inch each)

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 large (4-inch) Portobello mushroom caps

4 small plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

Salt and pepper, to taste

4 ounces cheddar (or other cheese), cut in slices

4 soft rolls, cut in half horizontally

Chipotle mayonnaise (optional, see recipe below)

2  avocados, sliced

4 lettuce leaves

1. Soak four 10-inch bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.

2. To keep the onion rings intact while grilling, thread a skewer horizontally through the middle of each onion ring. With a pastry brush, coat the onions, mushrooms and tomatoes on both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Light a charcoal grill or turn a gas grill to medium-high. Grill the mushrooms (gill side down), the tomatoes (flat side down) and onions on their skewers for 4 minutes. Turn and grill for 3 more minutes, or until they are cooked through. Transfer the onions and tomatoes to a plate.

4. Top the mushrooms on the grill with cheese. Cover the grill and cook for one minute, or until the cheese melts. Toast the cut sides of the rolls just until they begin to brown. If you like, spread the tops and bottoms of the rolls with chipotle mayonnaise.

5. To assemble the burgers, place one cheese-topped mushroom on the bottom half of a roll. Top with 2 tomato halves, 1 onion ring, a few slices of avocado, a lettuce leaf and the top half of the roll. Repeat with remaining mushrooms.

To make these indoors:

1. Set an oven rack 4 inches from the broiler element and turn on the broiler.

2. Brush the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (step 2, above.) You do not need to skewer the onions. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

3. Set the mushrooms, gill side down, on the baking sheet. Arrange the onions and tomatoes in one layer next to the mushrooms. Broil for 4 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften and brown. Turn the mushrooms and onions over. Remove the tomatoes from the oven if they are soft and charred, otherwise, leave them on the baking sheet for a minute or so longer until they are cooked through. Broil the mushrooms and onions on the other side for 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned. Remove the pan from the oven.

4. If you like, toast the rolls: set them on a separate baking sheet with the cut sides up and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until brown. Keep your eye on them to prevent them from burning.

5. See step 5, above.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

Just to prove to you that I am not a total slacker, I am adding a bonus recipe, a recipe for something that might not ever make it into the newspaper.  It involves homemade mayonnaise and some chipotle chilies.

Why do I want you to make homemade mayonnaise? Because it’s good. I mean really, really good. It tastes of fruity olive oil and tangy lemon (or in this case lime) and most importantly, it tastes fresh. It has nothing to do with mayonnaise as we commonly know it. So, if the jar in your fridge is empty and you want to save yourself the time and trouble of schlepping to the grocery store, grab a whisk and follow along. Even if you take your time, it should not require more than 10 minutes.

Into this mayonnaise I am going to suggest you stir some chopped chipotle chilies (oooh, inadvertent alliteration.) Then you are going to spread it on the rolls for your mushroom burger.

If you have more than you can use on the burgers, you are going to spread it on a lovely piece of fish and bake it in the oven.  Or maybe you will slather it on a few ears of corn and sprinkle them with lime juice. If you cook the corn on the grill, so much the better. Trust me, it’s a tried and true Mexican idea. We northerners adorn our corn with butter, so why not creamy mayonnaise with spicy hot chilies and a little lime juice?

Speaking of flavored mayonnaise and summer, you could also chop up some fresh basil or tarragon and add it to your mayo; your basil mayonnaise would nicely accompany the burgers if you decide to use fontina or a more pungent Italian cheese on them.

On the other hand, if you add some chopped pickles and capers and chives, and maybe a bit of mustard to your mayonnaise, you will end up with tartar sauce. Then you will have to fry some fish or clams to go with it. The mayonnaise thing is kind of never-ending.

Homemade mayonnaise with optional chipotle chiles

Makes 1 cup mayonnaise

I say optional chilies, because this is a basic mayonnaise recipe with chipotles stirred in. The only difference is that I suggest you use lime juice instead of the traditional lemon juice here. If you want to make a basic mayonnaise, then use lemon juice and add a little mustard (start with 1/2 teaspoon.) The olive oil is a forward flavor in homemade mayonnaise, so make sure you choose one that is not too assertive, or mix it with mild vegetable oil.

Chipotle chilies are smoked jalapeno chilies. That is spelled h.o.t. HOT. Use your discretion. Chipotles in adobe are softened in a spicy tomato sauce. You will find them in small cans near other Mexican products in the grocery store.

2 egg yolks*

1 tablespoon lime juice (or lemon juice if making traditional mayo)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup mild-tasting olive oil

1 to 2 tablespoons seeded and finely chopped chipotle chilies, to taste

1. Set a bowl on top of a dampened paper towel to keep it from sliding around. You will need two hands: one to whisk and the other to dribble in the oil, so the bowl needs to be stationary.

2. Whisk the yolks, lime juice and salt together in the bowl. Pour the oil in a measuring cup with a spout. Gradually, and I do mean gradually, whisk in a little olive oil. When the oil and yolk are emulsified, add a little more oil. Repeat. Keep adding the oil bit by bit, thoroughly whisking it in before you add more. When it is thick, taste it. You may want to add a few more drops of lime juice and some more salt.

3. Set aside half of the mayonnaise for another use. Stir the chipotles into the remaining mayonnaise. (You can always double up on the chipotles and use all the mayonnaise. I’m just trying to give you options.) Homemade mayonnaise will keep for about 4 days in the refrigerator.

*If you are squeamish about using raw egg yolks, you can try to find pasteurized egg yolks at the market. On the other hand, you may be lucky enough to have access to farm eggs. In that case, the best defense is to rinse the shells before you separate the eggs to prevent unsuspecting bacteria from contaminating the eggs. (FYI I am a carefree type and don’t do either unless the eggs are visibly dirty, but then I have a stomach of steel.)

Look and Cook: How to make mayonnaise 

Whisk egg yolks, lime juice and salt in a bowl set on top of a dampened paper towel to keep it from sliding around. (Note: I used farm eggs and boy are the yolks yellow!)

Very gradually whisk in the oil, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring after each addition until the oil and egg emulsify. When you have added about 1/3 cup of oil, you can start to dribble the oil in from the spout more quickly. Stir, stir, stir.

The mixture thickens as you add more oil.

Voila! Mayonnaise! This is not Hellmann's.

Chipotle chilies en adobo look like this. Remove the seeds, they have more heat than you need and interfere with the texture. Stir the chopped chilies into the mayonnaise, to taste.

Now smear it on some corn or spread it on a sandwich. 

The pies have it: blueberry and then some pie recipe and a lattice crust tutorial

In the debate, you know the senseless one about cake vs. pie, I’m declaring upfront that for me, the pies have it.

I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I’ll hazard I turned against cake by the fifteenth children’s birthday party. You take your kid to a party—you’re new at this game—and lo! There it is, the ubiquitous supermarket cake with….God knows what’s in it. Sometimes it’s a cake from a bakery better than Stop and Shop’s, but there are undeniable neon colors on top of that cake. Go ahead. Call me a cake snob. But those fluffy, flannely cakes weren’t fooling me. Their insidious presence has spoiled the whole idea of cake, not to mention the reality of getting hold of a decent slice on occasion. Before I knew it, those cakes had shoved me in the direction of pie.

Look, I’ll be honest. My friends don’t bake. Hell, my friends don’t even cook. The idea of  baking a child’s birthday cake would make some of them laugh out loud. I was repeatedly apologizing for my homemade cakes. Like my son was a spoiled little prince because his mother had nothing better to do all day than make him a birthday cake. (I ate bonbons, too.) So, maybe I was a little SENSITIVE about being a stay-at-home mom. And as everybody knows, stay-at-home moms have nothing much to do. Except make birthday cakes every so often.

Empowerment through pie.

Now listen up, if you can make a pie, I mean if you can make a really freaking good pie, you will be queen (or king) of the world. Who knows how to do this anymore?

Most people are afraid of piecrust. Well, not the crust, but making it. I assert that this is an irrational fear. It is like my fear of ending up as a bag lady, or some other ridiculous worst-case scenario in the future (I missed my calling; I should have written that book.)

If you have an unconscious fear of making pie dough I can help. Your fear is telling you that you have no interest in making it. But I’m telling you, you do. You do want to make pie! Why? Because pie is beautiful. Pie is iconic. Pie is the American flag, summers at the beach and your grandmother all rolled into one. (Well, maybe not my grandmother, but the idea of grandmothers.)

My mother never conquered pie. I remember the swearing and the sweating.Dammit,  dammit, dammit, who ever said easy as pie? This from the woman who would wash your mouth out with soap for cussing and considered geez! an irreverent expression. Apparently the domestic gene skipped a generation.

But that was then, and this is now. The age of plastic wrap. I think Mom would have mastered pie if she could have gotten her hands on some plastic wrap. It is especially convenient to use in hot weather, because you can lift it up, set it on a baking sheet and throw it in the freezer for a few minutes until it’s ready to behave. I’m not trying to show off, but after making literally thousands of pies in a restaurant, I have mastered rolling without a pie canvas or plastic wrap. In the look and cook tutorial below, I show you how to get the pie off the counter and into the pie shell by rolling about one-third of it around a rolling pin and lifting it into the pan that way.

Wait! You don’t have to go to extremes. Just buy the damn dough for starters. No one but you needs to know. Be sure to buy a good buttery one and put it in your own pie pan. Those aluminum tins are a dead giveaway. That is your first step towards pie glory. And when you cross that threshold, who knows, maybe you’ll want to make your own crust.

And when you have made your pie and are eating it, you will be queen of the world. Or king. I don’t want to leave anybody out. Empowerment through pie!

Blueberry-Raspberry-Blackberry Pie

Makes one 9 or 10-inch pie

Blueberry pie has its place, but sometimes the berries can be bland. When you add tart raspberries and blackberries, now you have what I consider a killer pie combination. You will need 5 to 6 cups of berries, singly or in combination. You can use frozen (unsweetened) berries if fresh berries are not available. Don’t defrost them, just mix them with the rest of the filling ingredients and bake the pie a little longer. You may have to cover the top loosely with foil to keep the crust from burning while the filling cooks.

This is actually a cheater lattice top, since lazy bones here does not want to weave the strips, especially since the dough becomes soft quickly in hot weather. I think the effect is close enough, but that is up to you.

Pie dough for a double-crusted pie

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon

3/4 cup (6 ounces, 170 g) sugar (granulated or natural cane sugar)

Pinch of salt

2 1/2  tablespoons (26g) granulated, quick-cooking tapioca

3 cups (18 ounces, 510g) blueberries

1 heaping cup (6 ounces, 170 g) raspberries

1 heaping cup (6 ounces, 170 g) blackberries

2 tablespoons (1 ounce, 28 g) unsalted butter

1 egg, beaten with 1tablespoon water

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Read the look-and-cook section of this pie tutorial: if you need a refresher on rolling out the dough (even if you don’t use the dough recipe).

2. Roll out the bottom crust and fit it into a 9 or 10-inch pie pan (either one will do). Trim the edges so they are even with the outer rim of the pie pan. Refrigerate while you make the filling and roll out the top crust.

3. In a large bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers. The lemon oil will soak into the sugar to provide you with extra-zesty lemon flavor. Stir in the salt and tapioca. Add the berries and gently fold them into the sugar with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. (If you are using frozen berries, don’t defrost them; just mix them in now.)

4. Roll out the top crust and with a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut it in 3/4-inch (2 cm)-wide strips for the top of the pie. You can make skinnier strips and use more of them if you prefer.

5. Take the pie shell out of the fridge and fill it with the berry mixture.  Dot with butter.

6. Use a pastry brush to coat the rim of the dough with water. Lay 5 to 6 strips of dough evenly across the top of the pie. Turn the pie 45 degrees and lay 5 to 6 more strips over the first strips (see illustration below.) Trim the edges with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors. Brush more water along the rim of the pie. Lay 2 to 3 strips of dough around the rim of the pie to cover the ends of the lattice top. Crimp. Brush the edges and all the lattice strips with the beaten egg.

7. Set the pie on a baking sheet (to avoid oven disasters if the filling bubbles over.) Bake for 15 minutes. Decrease the oven heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the filling decidedly and unequivocally bubbles in the center. Total baking time is 1 to 1 1/4 hours, longer if you have used frozen berries. Check every once in a while to make sure the crust is not getting too dark. Place a piece of foil loosely over the pie (or a strip around the edges) if the crust threatens to burn before the filling is fully cooked.

8. Remove the pie from the oven and place on a rack to cool to room temperature before cutting. If you cut it sooner, it will be runny, but it will still taste divine.

LOOK AND COOK

How to make a lattice top for a pie:

Roll out the dough into a circle that is 3 inches larger than your pie pan. It doesn't have to be perfect. Don't be afraid of using too much flour at first, you can brush it off with a dry pastry brush. Or, if you prefer, roll between sheets of plastic wrap. Slide an offset spatula (pictured) under the dough from time to time  to keep it from sticking to the countertop as you roll.

Set a pie pan next to the dough. Place the rolling pin at the edge of the dough and roll about 1/3 to 1/2 of the dough around the pin. With both hands, lift the dough onto the pie pan. Unroll it.  

Lift up the sides of the dough gently as you fit the dough into the pan to avoid stretching it. With a sharp knife or scissors, trim the edge of the dough so that it is even with the edge of the pan. Refrigerate the dough while you make the filling and roll out the top crust.

Roll out the top crust as you did the bottom crust. If you are right-handed, set the rolling pin on the right side of the dough 3/4 inches from the edge. Place a pizza cutter or pastry cutter along the edge of the pin and roll it alongside the pin to cut the first strip. Roll the pin to the left, positioning the edge where you want to cut the next strip. Repeat rolling and cutting  until the dough is cut into strips. (Reverse if you are left-handed.) Sliding the pizza cutter alongside the rolling pin is a quick and easy way to make straight and even strips.

With a pastry brush, coat the rim of the pie crust with water. Lay 5 or 6 strips evenly across the top in one direction.

Rotate the pan 45 degrees and lay more strips across the pie. Brush the rim with water again and use 2 or 3 more strips to cover the edge of the pie.

Crimp the edges and brush all the strips and the edges with beaten egg. Place the pie on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven.

You did it!

P.S. there's a pie party today. Go to "pie party" on facebook to see the event, add your recipe or find more recipes. Happy pie day!

Strawberry fields forever (not): a recipe for strawberries Romanoff

Did you blink? I hope not. You might have missed strawberry season. That’s the way it goes. A few perfect summer days squashed between rainy spells provide a very skimpy opportunity for strawberry picking.

One really shouldn’t complain about the weather.  There’s no future in it. You can’t do anything about it anyway.  And as I often say, there’s always an upside to a downside. You just have to look around a little to find it. My garden, for instance, was gloriously happy with a few weeks of rain in the middle of June.

A few years ago, I tore out some unfortunate run-of-the-mill hostas that lined our patio. I swear there were at least five hundred of them, giving me yet another insight into the minds of the former custodians of my back yard. What a bargain! Let’s buy a thousand of them! Put five hundred in the back and another five hundred in the front! Now don’t get me wrong, I have gained an appreciation for this often-maligned plant, but enough is enough. I have narrowed them down to two.  I replaced them with herbs a few years ago and lo! They are coming into their own. The sage is winning the power struggle with the thyme, the lady’s mantle is showing off like a strumpet, and the lavender has painted the view from my kitchen purple. Thank you cool June rain.

As for the strawberry fields, well, maybe not so much thank you in the cool June rain department. Finally, a nice day, so I found myself driving to Verrrill Farm to pick some strawberries. It was past 11:00 when I got there. Note to self: when picking strawberries on a Saturday morning, arrive early. Though the rows were picked over, they were not picked out and there were still plenty of small berries, perfect for preserves. I got the jam underway as soon as I came home.

Sunday was another glorious day, so off I went again, greedy strawberry picker that I am.  This time the allotted rows were bursting with berries of all sizes and I picked a quart in five minutes flat. Home again, home again to make strawberry rhubarb jam (I must make a lot, there is jam thief in my house.)

Then I made sorbet for dessert from Alice Medrich’s cookbook Pure DessertI’m just going to tease you with that. I can’t tell you everything! It takes the adventure out. If you love desserts, you should at least get the book out of the library and look up the recipe. You will probably want to buy it since Alice Medrich’s sensibilities are very refined and you can learn a lot from her books. While you’re at it, take a look at David Liebovitz’s

Perfect Scoop

. You’ll want that, too so you can try out lots of ice cream recipes this summer.

What’s left after strawberry jam, strawberry sorbet and strawberry ice cream? Strawberry tarts, of course. Here is my recipe from the Boston Globe.

And another thing: here’s a recipe for Strawberries Romanoff. See, I’m not that stingy. It’s a rather fancified way of eating strawberries and cream. It is pretty, and simple, and with the sweetest berries of the season. Life is unpredictable. Things change. Carpe diem. Those berries, like everything else, will not be around forever, as it turns out.

Strawberries Romanoff

Serves 4

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar (granulated or natural cane)

1/4 cup Grand Marnier (orange flavored brandy)

1 quart strawberries

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon orange flower water (if you have it), or vanilla extract

Candied violets or lavender flowers, for garnish

1. Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. (Alternatively, combine in a Pyrex measuring cup and heat in the microwave for 1 minute) Stir in the Grand Marnier. Cool in the refrigerator until chilled.

2. Wash, hull and quarter or halve the strawberries. Combine them in a bowl with the Grand Marnier syrup refrigerate for up to one hour, until ready to serve.  Spoon the berries and their syrup into pretty stem glasses.

3. Whip the cream with 1tablespoon sugar and the orange flower water or vanilla until it forms soft peaks.  Spoon some whipped cream on top of each dessert glass. Garnish with candied violets or lavender flowers.

More stories and recipes you might like from around the web

Strawberry picking from

La Tartine Gourmande

Strawberry update from

Tea and Cookies

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars from

White on Rice Couple

Strawberry Shortcakes from

Simply Recipes

Alice Medrich's

Buckwheat Strawberry Shortcakes

Old-fashioned strawberry shortcakes from

Fresh New England

Posted on June 28, 2011 and filed under Fruit desserts.

Pickled beets and onions

My grandmother always kept a jar of pickled cucumbers and onions in the back of her fridge.

Now Grandmother wasn’t what you would call the cuddly type. For instance, at Sunday Mass, when it came time for the ‘peace-be-with-you-shake-hands’ part, she would tilt her head skyward and study the stained glass windows with arms glued to her sides. Grandmother preferred to receive her peace directly from above if you don’t mind. Touchy-feely she was not.

Never mind. God bless her, Grandmother knew her way around food. You could gaze into her empty refrigerator despairing of a meal, yet in a few minutes she would, tah dah!, set out a humble plate worthy of an honored guest: A few odd cold cuts, some liverwurst, stale rye bread resurrected in the toaster, maybe a bit of cheese and some fresh butter. And, of course, pickles from the deepest recesses of the icebox.

wondered how she made those pickles, but don’t think for a moment I could stand next to her in her kitchen hoping to learn something. Children nearby made Grandmother nervous. Too close for comfort. Anyway, for much of the time her own children were growing up, Grandmother had a cook, to whom she gave strict, rigid and arbitrary weekly menu instructions that varied only with the seasons. For someone who had such a magical way with ingredients that seemed like a terrible waste.

When she was older, after her children were grown and my grandfather died, Grandmother fended for herself. She was a petite, pretty woman, with enough vanity and self-respect to take care of her looks and watch her weight well into her nineties. On her eighty-eighth birthday she quipped, “ugh, so many wrinkles.” In fact she looked seventy-seven if a day. Her refrigerator was barer than ever by then, yet in her hands, a plate of something tantalizing would still emerge as if it were Aladdin’s cave. I attribute it to the pickles.

I finally was able to prise the secret of Grandmother’s famous pickles: Shake together 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup white vinegar in a large jar. Fill it with sliced cucumbers and onions and leave for a day or so in the refrigerator. It seems as if it should have been more complex than that.

I have followed my grandmother’s pickle habit, but changed it a bit. Sometimes I use both sweet and red onions, and I always tame their harshness with boiling water before adding them to the brine. Or maybe I’ll use beets, as I do here. Ah, the younger generation! They just can’t leave well enough alone.

Still, I think you will enjoy these and certainly they are easy to make. (I confess that my absolute favorite pickled onion recipe comes from Judy Rogers’

Zuni Café Cookbook

—a must have for your library—but they require a bit more time and members of my household complain of the reek of vinegar steam that clouds the windows.) I’ve devised a way to make the brine without cooking it on the stove to avoid filling the house with the offending

parfum de vinaigre.

Pickled beets and onions

Makes 2 quarts

You can vary the proportions here. Sometimes I use cucumbers, or add more onions than beets, depending on what I have around. The older the beets, the longer they take to roast. If you buy them with the tops on, they will probably take an hour in the oven. I found out the hard way, trying to roast some old topless specimens: it took an hour and a half, and in the end I finished them in the microwave with a little water in the bottom of the pan. You can always nuke them for a minute if they cool too much and the skins prove difficult to slip off.

I guarantee these will disappear quickly. They’re good alongside a sandwich, on top of a burger (onions only, but hey, maybe the beets would be good too), in a salad with some goat cheese, or even all by themselves on a piece of really good buttered rye bread for a snack. A jar of these would be welcome at a friend’s barbecue, too.

3 pounds beets (about 12 medium), tops removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

Herb sprigs like thyme or savory, optional

2 Vidalia onions (about 1 1/4 pounds), sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds

2/3 cup natural cane sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

6 whole cloves

6 whole allspice berries

2 wide strips lemon zest made with a vegetable peeler

2 sprigs fresh dill

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking dish with a large enough piece of foil to enclose the beets. Place the beets in the dish and drizzle them with olive oil. Top with herb sprigs if you happen to have some. Fold and crimp the foil to make a packet.  Roast for 1 to 1&1/2 hours, or until the beets are tender (pierce them with a sharp knife to test.) The older the beets, the longer they take to cook. Remove from the oven, open the packet and cool to lukewarm. They are easier to peel while still warm. Slip the skins off the warm beets and slice them in 3/8-inch thick rounds or wedges.

2. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Separate the onions into rings and place them in a bowl. Cover them with boiling water.  Let stand for 10 minutes; drain and cool to room temperature.

3. Stir the sugar, salt and 2 cups of boiling water together in a large measuring cup until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the vinegar, peppercorns, cloves, allspice, and lemon zest.

4. Layer the beets and onions into two 1-quart jars. Pour the brine over the pickles, top each jar with a sprig of dill, cover and refrigerate. Leave for a day before eating. They seem to last forever, though I haven’t tested that.

More pickled beets and onions: 

Pickled Beets from 

Simply Recipes

Pickled Red Onions from

Simply Recipes

Pickled Beets with Feta from

A Thought for Food

Pickled Red Onions from

David Lebovitz

More pickles (Vietnamese style) from

Simply Recipes

Sugar Free Pickles from

Recipe Renovator

Posted on June 10, 2011 and filed under Condiments and Jams.