Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy Pleasing Birthday - Corn Ice Cream

I am a pleaser- I always have been and always will be. I remember everything - because I care. I will call you on your birthday even if we haven't talked since...well, last year on your birthday. I will remember your first and our first everythings- because they are special to me. I will ask for your advice not because I am lost and not able to make a decision but because I value your opinion and want to hear it before I leap into anything. And I will cook for you if I love you. I will cook your favorite dish, and any other dish you request, look at longingly, or hint at wanting.

Exactly a year ago I turned 30. I was in a good place: a happy family, a good job, supportive friends, fun things like the blog, salsa dancing, and a medley of volunteer activities. I seemed to be pleasing a lot - others and myself. I knew turning 30 was going to cause me to rethink things. I wanted to make some changes. I wanted to be thinner. I wanted to love what I do every day- not just tolerate it. I wanted to enjoy my time with my family more. I wanted to focus on people that actually made my life richer. I succeeded and failed at all. I am thinner. I quit my job; I still don't love what I do with all of my days. I enjoy my daughter more than I ever have. I still spend some of my time on people who bring me down. I am still struggling to find the balance, to find my place. I always will.

But I did find one insanely happy calming place: the kitchen. Not even my kitchen but the kitchen I have been staging in for the last 5 weeks. I do not fit in - at all; I never will but that is a story for another day. Right now, that kitchen is quiet and exciting. It challenges me and stills me at the same time. It can make me smile and put me on the verge of tears in a minute's span. It thrills and terrifies me. And most precious of all- it teaches me- so much - about food, about people, about myself- my limits, my energy, my weaknesses, my drive. Nothing pushed me this hard and elated me this much all at once. It pleases me - and it teaches me to please others through food.

Pleaser that I am, I kicked and screamed and threw a bit of a fit about how I am not into the idea of corn ice-cream when my husband asked for it. And then I did it. And it was delicious! So- happy birthday to me and all pleasers of the world! Keep doing your pleasing work - I will too. And get a batch of ice-cream going while you're at it!

Colorado Corn Ice Cream - Batali's adapted recipe

Ingredients: 2 ears Munson Farm sweet corn, husked; 1 and 3/4 cups of whole milk; 1/2 cup heavy cream; 1/2 cup sugar; 4 large egg yolks; 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Slice the kernels of the cobs and place in a pot along with the cobs broken up in 2 or 3 pieces. Add the milk and bring to a simmer. Cover and let steep for 45 minutes. Remove cobs and buzz the kernels with immersion blender. Strain through a coarse strainer and make sure you have 3 and a half cups of liquid. If not, add milk.

Combine the milk, cream, and all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Bring to a simmer to melt the sugar. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the salt in a heatproof bowl. Begin tempering the eggs by adding small amounts of the hot milk and whisking. I like to add about 2/3 of the liquid to be safe. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it reaches 185 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer immediately and chill over an ice bath until cold, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate overnight (texture improves so much) and freeze in your ice cream maker. Serve soft. Keep up the pleasing!

Photography by Jennifer Olson.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cianfotta, Like You and I

Analogies run wild in my head. Thoughts run on parallel tracks, fast, furious, finding connections, similarities, associations. Writing, living, cooking always interconnect in my head in the strangest ways. I see the common threads - and sometimes, I need to release them from my head.

Take this soup - Summer Vegetable Cianfotta. Italian: tasty, capricious, never precise. Seasonal, of course. A stew of everything in the late-summer garden, Cianfotta is like every person in your life, a combination of things, a mixture that is overall soothing and satisfying, but flawed, distressed, imperfect. Its depth comes from the prosciutto brodo, but you can't really identify it readily. It is there- if you know about it, it's easy. If you don't, you mind never figure out it existed and even if you do, you might not figure out where it came from- the same as in most people.

The ingredients, like human traits, are a mixed bag. Some you love, others you can't stand. You don't like eggplant. Well, there's eggplant. Summer squash is not your thing- keep chewing. You only eat squash blossoms raw - suck it up. It is the combination that is charming, the good, the tasty, the quirky, the imperfectly flavored or textured.

When I made this soup I thought of acceptance - accepting all that makes a person what that person is, each ingredient that may individually mean nothing blends into one combination that creates a human, one that is perfect and insanely flawed at the same time. I thought of being accepted exactly the way I am: quirky, giving, straight-forward, overbearing, funny, high-strong, kind, relentless, patient, impatient, driven, aggressive, soft, harsh, loving, forgiving, accepting. I thought of accepting myself for what makes me- me- good and bad things, some I can control, some I can't, some I want to change, some I like exactly the way they are.

Writing tonight became more about accepting more of those around me with all they bring to my life- good, bad, painful, and joyful. Invariably I find something to dislike in everything and everyone, but tonight I need to look on the bright side, to savor the flavors I love and mute the ones that bruise my heart. That's all - for now.

Summer Vegetable Cianfotta, an A16 adapted recipe

Ingredients: 1 small eggplant, 2 small summer squashes, 2 small zucchini, all trimmed and diced; 3 yukon gold potatoes, cubed; 1 fennel bulb, feathery parts removed, cored and thinly sliced; 1 1/2 cups olive oil; 5 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled; 4 sprigs marjoran; 2 bay leafs; 2 cups prosciutto brodo; 1 cup cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved (or any other tomatoes you have around); 3-4 zucchini blossoms, thinly sliced; pecorino cheese for shaving.

Make the Prosciutto Brodo first. Easy- just takes patience - same way as most people.
Ingredients: 8 ounces prosciutto hock, diced; 3 quarts water.

Simmer slowly, uncovered, for about 2 hours, or until the fat from the prosciutto melts into the liquid. Freeze what you don't plan on using in 24 hours.

For the soup, preheat the oven to 300 F. Distribute the eggplant and zucchini on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 20 minutes and then drain all the juices off and pat the veggies dry.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, combine olive oil, garlic, marjoram, and bay leafs and sweat over medium heat, stirring for about 3 minutes or until the garlic softens. Add the fennel and a healthy pinch of salt and cook gently until the fennel softens. Stir in the potatoes and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the zucchini, squash, and eggplant and coat everything evenly with oil. Cover and place in the oven for about 45 minutes. Stir every 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven, drain most of the oil, add the brodo and simmer on the stove for about 5 minutes.

Add the blossoms and tomatoes and cook for one more minute. Check for seasoning and serve. Take it all in. Enjoy!

Photography by Jennifer Olson.