Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Tale of Two Ice Cream Sandwiches

For my birthday this year, I got an ice cream maker and a copy of David Lebovitz's great book, The Perfect Scoop. Because my birthday is in the dead of winter and it's pretty cold here in Boston during the winter (and throughout much of the spring), I haven't yet gotten a chance to take full advantage of these two presents, but I am beginning to. Recently, I didn't just make ice cream - I made ice cream sandwiches.

My first attempt at this was inspired by the Fanny of foodbeam. Her brownie-like cookies with banana ice cream looked delicious, and I even found a recipe for Roasted Banana Ice Cream in The Perfect Scoop. But, unfortunately, while the ice cream was delicious, my cookies didn't look nearly as pretty as Fanny's, and the overall ice cream sandwich had a cookie-to-ice-cream ratio that was too high for our taste:

Luckily, Smitten Kitchen can always be counted on, and Deb had recently posted a recipe for chocolate wafers that looked like they would be sufficiently thin for our ice cream sandwiches. At this point, I didn't have enough Roasted Banana Ice Cream left for a second decently-sized batch of sandwiches, so I had to go back to David's book to get the recipe for Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream. This time, the sandwiches were much more to my liking - the cookie no longer overpowered the ice cream but added a nice chocolatey crunch:

As for the ice creams - I liked both very much but preferred the strawberry one because it was more tangy (while the banana one was sweeter).

Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop

1 lb fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
¾ cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (I may have added more)

1. Slice the strawberries and toss them in a bowl with the sugar until the sugar begins to dissolve. Let stand at room temperature for at least an hour, stirring from time to time.

2. Pulse the strawberries and their sugary liquid with the sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a blender until almost smooth but still chunky. (After two presses of the button of our blender, there weren't very many chunks left, which was too bad because I would have liked bigger pieces of strawberries in the ice cream).

3. Refrigerate for 1 hour, and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Roasted Banana Ice Cream
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop

3 medium-sized ripe bananas, peeled
⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
1½ cups whole milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon coarse salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

2. Slice the bananas into ½-inch pieces and toss them with the brown sugar and butter in a baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring once during the baking, until the bananas are browned and cooked through.

3. Scrape the bananas and the thick syrup in the baking dish into a blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and purée until smooth.

4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend in Cape Cod

This past weekend we drove out to Cape Cod for Memorial Day weekend and the wedding of one of my good friends from school. I fell in love with Cape Cod the first time I visited it many years ago, but it takes a while to get to if you live in New York - long story short, Mihai had never been at all and we'd never gone together before. Also, I had only visited in the peak of summer, which is great for swimming in the ponds, but means that I had no idea the peninsula is covered with lilac bushes, which is definitely one of my top five favorite flowers (if not the most favorite ever). The hardy beach roses were also in bloom and, just like the lilacs, deliciously fragrant.

We stayed at the wonderful Pleasant Bay Village Resort Motel, which is a motel in name and the convenience of parking your car outside your room only. I highly recommend it - the beautiful pictures on their site do not lie, there is a good chance you'll run into the gigantic and friendly Newfoundland called Bear if you go for breakfast there, and my only regret was forgetting to bring a swimsuit for their heated pool.

The wedding we attended was both a very tasteful and a very fun affair, and we enjoyed it thoroughly. If the food we had is any indication of what the restaurant can turn out on a regular basis, the Outer Bar and Grille at the Wequassett Resort is worth going to (especially given the view of Pleasant Bay from the restaurant). The other memorable meal of the weekend was at Vining's Bistro in Chatham - a hidden gem of a restaurant on the second floor of a shopping complex (the sign downstairs doesn't even have the full restaurant name, just "Bistro Restaurant"). Hopefully, the emptiness on Saturday night was due only to the rainy weather throughout the day, because the food (linguini with clams, tomatoes, lemon, and parsley, and a baked clay pot with fish, clams, scallops, and shrimp in a Thai coconut curry) was delicious, the service was warm and fast, and the prices were reasonable. Maybe they just need a bigger sign downstairs to alert everyone to their presence upstairs.

It did rain intermittently throughout the weekend (until we had to leave on Monday morning), but that didn't stop us from enjoying the beauty of Cape Cod - as usual, I cannot wait to go back.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cucumber and Feta Salad

We do occasionally eat things other than salad around here (more on that soon), but recently it has been very tempting to just stick to easy, light, and spring-y salads on the nights when we are at home to cook. The beauty of this salad is that it can actually be enjoyed year-round, since none of the ingredients are particularly seasonal. The original recipe does call for mint (which does first appear in the spring), but I must say that I've made it without the mint plenty of times (since it's hard to come by at our local Whole Foods even in the spring), and I don't think the end result is any less delicious. (I also skip the red onion given my aversion to uncooked onions).

And, since I cannot seem able to stop taking pictures of flowering trees and bushes around school, here's another one for you:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Spring Weekend and Salad

This weekend our friends Adam and Lisa came to visit us from New York. Luckily, the weather was really cooperative on Saturday and allowed us to spend a lot of time outside. We went to Formaggio Kitchen to try out their Saturday BBQ, and then spent a fair amount of time walking around some scenic parts of Cambridge. That evening, we finally made it to the South End and had a tasty dinner at B & G Oysters. (I am a firm believer that the old rule of not eating oysters in months without "R" is no longer applicable.)

By Sunday night, we were in the mood for something light and had our current favorite stand-by salad:

Making this couldn't be easier - just chop up a few radishes, an english cucumber, an orange or yellow pepper, and then add some mâche, ricotta, fruity olive oil, and sea salt. What you get is a colorful, crunchy, and delicious salad - enough for a medium-light dinner for two people. Speaking of colorful - I cannot resist inserting another picture from this relaxing weekend: