Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hail the Solstice

Reaching its zenith
Bathing life. Ripening life.
Stimulating life

Macadamia Nut Lavender Ice Cream – yields aprox. 1-1/2 quarts
2-cup whole macadamia nuts
1-quart whole milk
2-teaspoons lavender
1-cup sugar
3-egg yolks
1-teaspoon orange blossom water
1-teaspoon vanilla extract

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade process the macadamia nuts until it starts to release it oils – it should have the look of pastry dough and be smooth.
In a 2-quart saucepan warm the milk and lavender together over a medium low flame to just below the boiling point.
While the milk is warming whisk the sugar and yolks together to thoroughly combine, and then beat in the macadamia paste.

Add a ladle full or two of the milk into the egg mixture and beat to combine, and warm up the egg mixture. Then whisk the egg mixture into the remaining milk, and return to the heat. Stir the mixture constantly over the heat for about fives. 

Cool the milk mixture completely. Then pour into the ice cream maker and proceed according to the manufacture’s instruction. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

An herbal life

My love of herbs can be traced back to my adolescence and that first herb that put a tolerable haze over those years – I go stoned.

I glided home in order to be on time for dinner – for it was both a requirement and the pot was working its hunger producing magic. I was so grateful that my father was working late and would not to be home for the evening meal for I was sure he would sniff me out – he has the nose of a bloodhound. My eyes were beet red, and I thought very word I spoke at the dinner table was being scrutinized with great relief I got through the meal undetected. That night’s meal glowed, and yet it was the usual salad; my mother made a mixed salad nightly accompanied with an array of dressings, hamburgers and canned French cut green beans. I inhaled five hamburgers before I started to slow down with my sixth.

My friends and I had the habit of pooling our resources in order to secure an ounce of this sweet aromatic burning herb. I did try to grow my own, a frugal attempt, which was thwarted by the gardener who spotted my struggling, pathetically leafy stems by the chimney on the side of the house – they got yanked -- so much for gardening. One weekend some friends headed into Manhattan to get into innocent teenage trouble, and hopefully cop some pot. With their wallets endowed with our collective funds they made a beeline to Washington Square Park where you could not spend a minute without being propositioned. Personally, I was a bit suspect of this public wholesale market, and my suspicions were borne out when the group returned to Long Island with a bag of oregano. Now, if they had the culinary aptitude I possessed they would have easily recognized that that plastic bag was filled with the wrong herb – we all ate pizza how could they that not recognize the contents of the shaker that was always found next to the grated cheese and chili flakes. For me, I returned my resource of a sure thing – my next-door neighbor.

Today, the herbs I score are just as potent except today their addictiveness is due to their heady aromatic presentation then an inhaled chemical released by smoke. 

Verbena-Mango Cake – yields 10-inch cake

8-ounces unsalted butter
2-cups sugar
4 whole eggs
1-egg yolk
1-1/2 teaspoons minced verbena leaves
1-teaspoon rose water
3-cups all-purpose flour
1-teaspoon baking powder
1/8-teaspoon salt
2-ripe mangoes – peeled and sliced (tossed in 1-tablespoon of flour)
1-heaping tablespoon apricot preserves

Butter and flour the cake pan.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a standing mixer mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

In another bowl beat the eggs, egg yolk, rose water and verbena together to combine.
Once the butter/sugar is very fluffy add the eggs to mix well.

In a separate bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt through a sieve. Then on a low speed add the flour to the butter mixture.

Pour half of the batter in to the cake pan and then distribute the sliced mangos over the batter. Spread the remaining batter over the mangoes, and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes until set and a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove to a wire cooling rack and cool the cake completely before inverting.

Once the cake has cooled combine the apricot preserves with ¼-cup of water and over a medium heat stir to completely dissolve. Brush the warm apricot preserves over the cake allowing it to soak in. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Feeding All

These days I welcome a release from the sky for I know no matter how rich the soil and weed free the ground nothing fully activates without water. So essential is this simple compound. I am always dumbfounded by the burst of growth that a gentle, soaking rain produces. I live fear of a wind swept torrent that will most likely topple my corn and those sunflowers that have survived the munching of the deer. Personally, I need the water not just for explosion of growth it facilitates but I need to keep hydrated, if not a bit over. In order to save what remains of the sunflowers and protect the adjacent corn I am peeing around the plants. I know you can buy Coyote urine as a deterrent though that seems a bit extreme, even for me. I am already relieving myself on fire ant mounds I will just add the sunflower/corn as one of my spots. I don’t think I can cajole Hokan in marking the spot, but as always I am hopeful. Pray I smell alpha enough to scare off that ravenous vegetarian.

I cannot seem to keep on top of the aerial beetle that just loves its daily nibbles of amaranth. However, I have so much of it that I am willing to share. I grew a couple of Red Hopi varieties last year that with the first frost immediately died off. And there I thought it would end. No, as spring returned so did those original two plus its progeny. I have never seen a plant want to flower and seed so quickly, and I thought I did a good job dead-heading it. Maybe I did, for instead of a shy dozen I would have a grove. Eating the leaves, and still plucking flowers as best as I can, but I think I will resign myself to be winnowing amaranth seeds come September.

Rolled Chicken Breast – yields 4 servings
4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts
8 large spinach, amaranth or mustard leaves (center rib removed)
4-ounces goat cheese
½-cup basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-tablespoon olive oil

Cut each chicken breast in half along its outside edge, so you have the look of an opened book you don’t want them to separate. If the breasts seem still very thick lightly pound them down – ideally the halves will be about ¼-inch thick.

Lay the breasts cut side up. Season the breasts with salt and pepper. Place to leaves on each breast and along the lower third divide the goat cheese each breast. Then divide the basil as well placing it on top of the goat cheese.

Roll the chicken breasts up making sure to tuck the breast in to make sure the goat cheese is securely in place. Put the breast, seam-side down, on a cast iron skillet. Drizzle the olive oil over the breasts.

Pre-heat the oven to 475-degrees.

Place the chicken in the oven, and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.