Ginger Ice Cream Sandwich

February 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sometimes I think crazy thoughts.

Such as …

-Will the universe implode if temperatures reach 0 Kelvin?

-How would civilization be different if we only had four fingers per hand and foot?

-Could we all just be toys in the toybox of some celestial kid?

Over the years, my crazy-deep thoughts have turned toward the culinary. And more recently they have focused on the pinnacle (at least in my book) of creative dessert forms: the ice cream sandwich.

I do have a soft spot in my heart for those vanilla-soft-serve-between-soft-chocolate-cookie creations. They’re reliable and the eater has no expectations at all—except perhaps to have chocolate goo between their front teeth for at least 10 minutes afterward. But when it comes to a real ice cream sandwich created by hand, the vanilla and chocolate combo becomes passe.

And dare I say it, so does the chocolate chip cookie and vanilla combo. It’s a good starting point. But there’s oh-so many possibilities. Start by staring at the Ben & Jerry’s selections.

Ginger Ice Cream Sandwich

Ginger Ice Cream Sandwich

Credit for this Ginger Ice Cream Sandwich’s inspiration comes from a friend – let’s call her Ginger – who is the spice’s biggest fan. The Ginger Ice Cream is courtesy of the local Jamaica Plain ice creamists at Batch. And yes, there are bits of crystallized ginger scattered about its creaminess. A generous 1/4 cup—more, perhaps—is sandwiched between two massive Ginger-Molasses Cookies, whose recipe comes from Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook. And here’s a key step to keep in mind for anyone constructing an ice cream sandwich: Let it firm up in the freezer for about a day so the ice cream doesn’t escape when you bite into it.

Oh, yeah. It’s good. And there’s one in my freezer right now.

Other crazy ice cream sammy combos are on my to-bake list. And if Ginger has any say in the matter, each sammy will have a corresponding cupcake. One person’s crazy is another’s brilliance.

 

 

 

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A second try at hummus

February 17, 2012 § 3 Comments

“Second” is the key word here.

The first attempt was not documented by Dainty. You can guess the reason. Not that great. Boring. Thick. Spackle-like. Did I say tasteless? And it was surprising, too, since it was a Moosewood recipe.

Live and learn. And when it comes to reliable recipes for basic stuff, I have learned to turn to Alton Brown.

I’ve also learned that recipes are not brought down from on high by Moses—they are flexible. And I’ve become way more willing to be flexible with them. And I certainly had to in this case. It turns out that when using the amount of chickpeas the recipe calls for, I had to double the amount of liquids, too, in order to get it to a consistency I preferred. No more hummus spackle for me.

The recipe calls for 1 lb. of dry chickpeas soaked and brought back to edibleness. Jennifer had pressure-cooked a batch on Sunday—adding some carrot, celery and bay leaf—to add to a curry dish we had earlier in the week. But we had lots leftover. Hummus, I thought. Perfect.

But as I’m making the hummus—and it’s not the consistency of typical hummus—I’m thinking … Hmmm, maybe the recipe is wrong or I have way too many chickpeas here.

That said, I’m revising Alton’s recipe a bit.

Ingredients  hummus ingredients

  • 1 lb. dry chickpeas, prepared as directed on the bag (it’s not the equivalent of canned chickpeas, keep that in mind!)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice – or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup water*
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup evoo*
  • powdered sumac or paprika
  • salt and pepper

*these were the ingredients I had to double for a smoother, less spackle-like consistency

1. Whir up the chickpeas, garlic and salt in a food processor for 20-30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and whir it up again for about the same time.

2. Scrape sides. Add lemon juice and water. Whir it up again for 30 seconds.

3. Scrape sides. Add tahini and do it again.

4. With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil – not the entire thing, though. Stop and scrape when you’ve added 3/4 of it, check the consistency, add 4 good-sized pinches of salt, a half-dozen grinds of fresh black pepper, some shakes of sumac if you have it or some paprika, and whir it up again, adding the rest of the oil if you need it. You may need more oil, so go for it. Remember to adjust seasonings if you do. It’s okay to add a pinch and grind and shake here and there. Be moderate.

5. Enjoy it on a chip.

hummus

hummus with the consistency just the way I like it

For some reason, when I taste this it reminds me of egg salad. And I think that’s because of the pepper. If you despise egg salad, don’t judge—that was just my memory playing tricks on me. It’s perfectly tasty hummus, and my guinea pigs agree.

By the way, this recipe makes the perfect amount if the 5th Battalion is coming over, or if you’re having a party. Seriously, way too much for just having around the house.

Enjoy. And if you have comments, there’s a big box below just waiting for you.

 

 

A Sister’s Visit

February 14, 2012 § 6 Comments

I have a sister. Two, actually. The sister in question, Karen, called me last Monday.

“Ellen, we’re calling from Mom and Dad’s. No, don’t worry, nothing’s wrong with them. But since we’re so close, Chris and I thought we’d drop by for a visit.”

And by close, she means 4 hours.

“Um … uh … okay…?”

“If it’s not too much trouble of course. We’ll be there Wednesday.”

“Um … sure …” Really? Is she really asking to come visit? “Uh, yeah, that’s fine … um, you’ll get a hotel room, right? Our place is kinda small …”

“If you’ve got a spot on the living room floor, that’s fine with us – we won’t be a bother!”

Jennifer and I have lived here for eight years now. This would be the first time Karen and Chris came for a visit.

This would be the first time that any of my five siblings visited me in my adult life. And I’m 42.

I know this isn’t the norm. I know there are siblings that visit each other all the time, or at least as often as distance allows. The distance in my family is pretty expansive—and I’m not talking the distance you measure by miles. We’re not a close family, and to visit one another is just not and has never been expected.

That little girl is me. And the bride is my sister. I’m 3, and she’s a few days away from 20. When I think of my family, I think of this photo: Me, with a bag of rice, the others doing what they do, separately. In the distance.

My sister called and invited herself to sit on that step with me, a step I’ve been very comfortable occupying alone for 40 years. I’ve lived all sorts of lives there, none of it she knows, or any of the others really know. Sharing that spot on the steps seems so foreign.

Two days to prepare for the visit, but I really had much more time than that, didn’t I?

Vegetarian Chili with a touch of chocolate

February 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

Chocolate. I knew I’d hook you with that ingredient. And yes, there really is chocolate in this version. Two types of chocolate, actually. But first …

Vegetarian … yeah, vegetarian. We’re pretty much completely meat-free now. Seafood being the exception. And chicken stock, although we have been doing a good job of keeping ourselves supplied with homemade vegetable and seafood stocks. The reason for ditching the fowl – the last remaining terrestrial flesh I ate – was simple. I just don’t trust where it comes from and what’s in it. Sure, I could purchase meat from Whole Foods or a retailer that sources only organic and local foods. News alert: That stuff is expensive.

Local fish and seafood is, too. I get that. But somehow I feel the seafood is a better value for the protein we get. And we use it all—from tip to tail (or claw). And we enjoy being members of our local Community-Supported Fisheries. I guess that’s a big part of it, too—it makes us feel good to support the local folks who definitely could use our dollars.

Okay, back on track. We’re talkin’ veggie chili here. I wish I could take credit for this but I can’t. This is one of Jennifer’s signature dishes (one of many). I have made it now and then, but she does it justice. And Jennifer, if you see anything wrong with the recipe, please correct me in the comments section.

vegetarian chili

Vegetarian chili with a touch of chocolate - we added green beans in place of the corn (we were out!).

vegetarian chili

Vegetarian chili, two minutes later.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs oil (olive will do)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 peppers, whatever color you prefer but red is nice
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don’t like it so spicy)
  • 1 bag of frozen soy crumbles
  • 1 28-oz. can of whole chopped tomatoes (or whole tomatoes that you squish with your hands)
  • 1 15-oz. can of red kidney beans
  • 1 15-oz. can of black beans
  • 1 cup (or small can) of whole kernel corn
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 1 tbs cocoa powder
  • 1 tbs lime juice
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 small block (2 oz?) of Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tbs chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil to medium and add chopped onion and garlic. Saute until translucent.

2. Add both types of peppers and cook until tender – about 5 minutes. Add the bag of frozen soy crumbles just so it thaws out a bit before adding other ingredients. It’ll take just a couple of minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, beans, corn, chili powder, cocoa powder, lime juice, cumin and oregano—and a general sprinkle of salt— stir thoroughly, and let it come to a boil. Turn heat down a bit and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. During that time it will thicken a bit.

4. Add in the 2-oz. block of chocolate and stir it around, helping it to melt and incorporate into the chili. Add the cilantro, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, guacamole, grated cheese or straight up. Give it a taste. Good, right? And you know that flavor that’s right on the edge of being familiar? It’s the chocolate. Serve it to guests and when they ask what that ingredient is, don’t tell them. It’ll be our secret.

Some notes:

1. Feel free to soak and use dried beans of any kind. I would use 1 cup of two different types of dried beans—we’ve used pinto, cranberry, garbanzo.

2. Want to speed up the cooking? Use a pressure cooker. It’ll shave off 10-15 minutes from the simmering time.

An easy DIY green wall

February 3, 2012 § 6 Comments

As soon as I whispered under my breath that I would post EVERY day in February, I promptly skipped a day.

But I have a great excuse. Really, I do. I was working.

Now, I don’t normally share my work stuff here. I’m making an exception, however, because a) I feel I need to make up for yesterday and b) I spotted a pretty cool product that is applicable to both food and garden topics. Trust me on this, it’s something you’ll think is neat. And you may even be inspired to buy one.

First, the details. Where was I? I was at a trade and educational show here in Boston called New England Grows. Lots of inspiring seminars with landscape designers, plant breeders, horticulturists, arborists, etc etc. And it has a pretty big trade show attached to it, too, with aisle upon aisle of vendors exhibiting everything from plants and pavers to forklifts and whimsical garden art. The trade show is the reason I go—to find new stuff.

Green Walls Made Simple
Green walls—whether outside along the side of a building or installed on an indoor wall—are a big thing nowadays, very trendy. I’ve seen them in stores, in and outside restaurants, in botanical gardens, in museums and all sorts of places. And they’re usually large and decorative and have intricate irrigation systems. But really, can these things be everyday items for everyday people?I had serious doubts.

But a product I saw yesterday has made me reconsider. It’s called GroVert. And it’s simple, really. It consists of a plastic tray with a number of cells. Think of it as a big ice cube tray with the cells angled a bit. When the tray is filled with potting soil and hung with just two screws on the wall, the cells, because they are angled downward, don’t lose any of the soil.

GroVert vertical garden

GroVert vertical garden

Within each cell you can plant small plants—whatever plants you want, but ones that stay kinda small are best. If the GroVert will be installed outside, then any type of colorful bedding plant will do, or fill with small evergreen groundcovers. If the GroVert will hang indoors, then the typical houseplants will work best.

Here’s a culinary twist: Plant herbs in the cells and hang near your outdoor grill or on the wall in your kitchen. Brilliant!

How do you water it? Another simple concept. Above this tray is a water reservoir. I’m not positive how it works, but I think the water slowly drips from there, trickling downward from cell to cell. And there’s a basin at the base to catch anything that leaches through.

Another cool thing about GroVert is that you can buy a wood frame that fits over and around the tray and reservoir, basically covering the black plastic and turning it into a living piece of art.

Why stop at one? Place two or more together to expand the footprint of your GroVert green wall.

The things I like about GroVert are: 1) it seems easy to install, 2) maintenance is basic enough, 3) there’s options to expand and 4) if the plants don’t do well, removing individual plants and replacing with new ones seems simple.

Where do you find GroVert? Good question! This is a new product and should be appearing in local garden retail stores soon. If I hear of where you can find it, I’ll try to let you know.

Think this will inspire you to create your own green wall? Flowers, foliage or herbs? Leave me a comment and weigh in on the subject!

Homemade Oreos: Even better than the original

February 1, 2012 § 6 Comments

“Dainty, where have you been?”

Well, I um … I’ve been around.

“Around? I haven’t heard from you in ages. What’s up? I mean, is something wrong? We’ve been kinda worried. Is it us? Did we do something? Or not do something?”

What? No! No no no. I’ve just been … well, remember when I said I wanted to read more? I’ve been reading. Every morning for an hour. And that was usually the time I hung around here.

“Oh. Well, what about switching it up to some other time?”

Yeah, about that … I’ve also gotten really into yoga. Like, every day or as much as I can. It’s exactly the thing I’ve been missing in my life and I love it. Time’s tight …

“No kidding. Well, what about that – yoga. Good for you. So … you’re here again … ”

I am. Absolutely. Here again. With some changes in the works over the next month or so. I know … I know, I teased y’all about that before. “Major stuff in the works!” But this time the ball is rolling – actually rolling – and there will definitely be bigger and better Dainty stuff to interest everyone in the coming weeks.

I promise.

Meanwhile, let’s talk homemade oreo cookies. It could be the most awesome childhood-memory-inducing cookie ever. That’s to Joanne Chang at Flour Bakery in Boston … literally at the end of my block … adults now have a decadent deep-chocolately lustful version to dream about. Seriously good stuff.

Now, with food blogging, printed cookbook recipes are shared all the time. And I really don’t like publicly posting recipes from bakeries in my neighborhood or who I kinda/sorta have a connection with. They gotta make money, right? How can they do that if their recipes are out in Googlespace?

BUT … I’ve made Flour’s version of oreos—and with several different additions—for several events now and I keep getting requests for the recipe. I owe it to my peeps to share. So, Joanne, please do forgive me for what I’m about to reveal.

A note before I get started: I make a Christmas version of these with 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract in the cream filling. And for my most recent batch—whose cream filling was made in an ice bucket in a hotel room in Louisville (no kidding)—I omitted the milk and added a full shot of bourbon. And believe me, the chocolate pairs really well with bourbon.

bourbon oreos

A shot of bourbon in the cream filling pairs really well with the chocolate.

So, with full credit going to Joanne and her sheer brilliant baking skills, here’s the recipe.

Homemade Oreos ala Flour Bakery

Chocolate Cookie Ingredients and Recipe

  • 1 cup (2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
  • 150 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 200 g semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled a bit
  • 1 egg
  • 210 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 90 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt (kosher)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend butter and sugar with the whisk attachment. Add in the vanilla and chocolate, then the egg, and mix until thoroughly combined.

2. In a different bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. With the stand mixer on slow, carefully add the mixed dry ingredients. Turn up to low-medium for a bit until the dry and wet ingredients are well combined. Let the mixture sit at room temp for about an hour so it firms.

3. This is the tricky part so pay attention. Where going to take this dough and make it into long logs. And from these logs  you’ll slice off individual rounds that’ll bake up into the chocolate cookies. Got it?

First, let me say that Joanne makes these logs with a diameter of about 2.5 inches. That’s a pretty big cookie—and a fine cookie size, actually. But when I bake these, I am typically taking them to a party or something, and I find that smaller bite-sized cookies are better suited for partytime. That said … once the dough is firm, I split the dough into three or four equal piles. Place one pile onto a half-sheet-sized piece of parchment paper or waxed paper. With your hands, shape it into a log of about 1 or 1.5 inches in diameter. Roll the paper around the log a bit and roll it along the counter to make it a bit smoother, trying to get the air bubbles out (you can see them through the paper). Repeat with the remaining piles of dough, and then place the rolled dough into the refrigerator for 2 hours. You might find it helpful to reroll the logs a few times during the 2 hours so keep that log shape.

4. Preheat the oven to 325 and position a rack smack-dab in the middle. Prepare a couple of half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Remove a log from the fridge and unwrap. You might want to trim off both ends of the log so they are flat. Then slice the log into 1/4-inch thick rounds. With a 1 or 1.5 inch log, you’ll end up with about 30-35 slices. Place the slices onto the parchment paper about an inch apart. I can fit one whole log’s worth of cookies onto one sheet.

5. Pop them in the oven. For Joanne’s 2.5 inch cookies, they bake about 20-25 minutes. These smaller cookies will be done in 18 minutes. They’ll just be firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then put them onto cooling racks. Chocolate cookies: Done.

Cream Filling Ingredients and Recipe

Peppermint oreos

Slightly overfill the oreo so the filling oozes out a bit, then roll in crushed candy canes. People won't stop calling you Martha.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 230 g confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • suggested additions: 1/2 tsp peppermint extract for Mint Oreos; a shot of bourbon for Derby Oreos (omit milk)

This is awesome and easy to do while your cookies are hangin’ out and cooling.

1. Remember that stand mixer? Wash out the bowl, give it a dry, attach the paddle to the mixer and then beat the butter on low for about 30 seconds. You want it to be smooth.

2. Carefully add the confectioner’s sugar (you don’t want to make a cloud of it!) and the vanilla and beat until it’s perfectly smooth. Add the milk and salt and beat yet again until smooth. At some point the concoction will go from a butter yellow color to a whitish, and it’ll be stiff. You’re done!

Note about adding bourbon: I made two batches with bourbon. The first I included the milk and the filling was too soft. The second batch sans milk was much better. You need about a shot’s worth of liquor in order for the flavor to be apparent.

3. Now the fun part: filling. What I do is pair lay out the cookies – top side down – and match them up in pairs, hopefully getting them partnered with someone about their same size. I then put the filling into a Ziploc bag, seal it up, and push the filling down into one corner, creating a makeshift piping bag. Cut the corner, and carefully pipe out however much filling you want – about 2 tsp should do for a small cookie – onto one cookie in the pair. Top with the other and there you have it—an actually homemade oreo cookie.

Use a great-quality chocolate chip, vanilla and other flavorings and these can be orgasmic. I’ve had nothing but raves. These are truly a spectacular cookie. Thanks, Joanne!

Given the realm of possibilities here, what flavorings would you add to make these cookies your own? Leave a comment and let Dainty know.

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