Saturday, July 19, 2014

Avocado Lime Ice Cream

I know most, if not all, of us are used to avocados on sandwiches and in salads, maybe eaten halved with a spoon, seasoned with salt and pepper.  One of my favorite incarnations was an afternoon snack in Mexico: fresh corn tortillas from the tortillaria down the road, smeared with perfect avocado, then sprinkled with lime juice and salt.

Now, before anyone balks at the idea of "sweet" with "avocado" let me ask, have you ever tried it?
We have a friend who spent a lot of time in Brazil who said that they never eat avocado as we do. Brazilians are more likely to eat it as ice cream, drink it in a milkshake, or sprinkle a half with sugar before eating.
Remember now, avocado is a fruit.
I tried the sugar-sprinkled version at one point, and I will say I think I prefer to eat half an avocado with salt. I'm not saying it was bad, but I wonder if it has to do with the things I'm used to...

Well, I wanted to try again.

I can't say this is how anyone else makes their avocado ice cream, but I thought I would mix it with a bit of tropical flavor and give it a try.
Yes, you could probably use cream (or maybe half and half) instead of the coconut milk, but this version happens to be dairy-free.
The combination of the rich coconut milk and the smooth avocados yields a creamy, gelato-like feel. Even when melted, it's more of a thick, custard-like consistency.

I love avocados, but the only thing I'm not a huge fan of is the old avocado color. I mean, old as in overripe, and old as in decor and appliances from the 1970s and very early '80s. The closest we came at our house was a set of Tupperware- in shades of tangerine, harvest gold, and avocado. I think it may have been the only avocado-colored thing in our home, though I am recalling some dishtowels with printed designs where the colors were definitely hilighted...
However, down the street at a neighbor's house (that was pretty much a second home to some of us) there was an avocado-colored refrigerator they owned forever. Now, a refrigerator is a pretty big swath of color- a decision that should not be taken lightly.
What I would like to know is how this color combination become so popular?
Why did it completely take over?
Ah, the power of marketing.

Avocado Lime Ice Cream
serves 6 or more

1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
1 c  (200 g) sugar
3 ripe avocados
zest of 2 limes
1/3 c (80 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 t (1 g) salt

Ideas for serving:
toasted coconut
raspberry sauce
fresh strawberries

Place the coconut milk and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium, heating to a simmer and stirring occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool completely.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the coconut milk mixture, avocados, lime zest, lime juice, and salt until completely smooth.
If desired, chill the ice cream mixture completely before transferring to an ice cream maker and freezing per manufacturer's instructions. 
OR, if you do not have an ice cream maker, place in a dish and freeze as indicated in the strawberry basil sorbet recipe.
Once frozen in the ice cream maker, remove the finished avocado lime ice cream to a dish and freeze several hours so that it freezes further and is stiff enough to scoop. 
Serve as desired. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Peach Lavender Tartlets

In between writing essays for some coursework I'm taking this summer to increase my repertoire, I need a little downtime and relaxation so my brain can recover from being fried in lectures and from frantic note taking.
Today was a version of plum-cardamom ice cream from the windfall of plums we were gifted, as well as these tarts.
(Then, of course, back to the grindstone.)

I love the summery peach-lavender combination of peaches in lavender tea, as long as the peaches are ripe, so I decided I wanted to recreate it in a different form.

Any good stone fruit would probably work in this instance, provided it's a soft and sweet flavor, nothing too tart. Ripe apricots or nectarines would be nice. A scattering of fresh blueberries over the peaches to fill in the gaps before baking would also be a good addition. A thin layer of raspberry jam laid down before the peaches, perhaps?

A good sprinkling of vanilla sugar just prior to baking finishes it off for sparkle, an extra boost of flavor and sweetness, and as a slight thickener to any syrupy juices.

Lavender sugar can be made and used instead: about 1 cup (215 g or so) granulated sugar with 1 1/2 t (scant 1 g) dried lavender buds.
Combine in a covered jar at least one day prior to using, better if more. Shake occasionally.

Everything is baked until the crust is golden and the peaches relax and slump a bit, and gain a slight jamminess.

Serve the tartlets with a cup of tea, plain or dressed with freshly whipped cream.
The tarts, not the tea.

Peach Lavender Tartlets
Makes 8, 4 inch tarts

1 1/3 c (150 g) sorghum flour
3/4 c (60 g) almond or hazelnut flour
1/3 c (33 g) tapioca flour
large pinch salt
1 1/2 to 2 t (scant to full 1 g) dried lavender flowers, pulverized with a mortar and pestle
3-4 T (50-68 g) sugar
8 T (114 g) butter
1 large egg
water, as necessary
4-6 fresh, ripe peaches
sugar (plain, demerara, vanilla or lavender infused)
lavender buds for garnish (optional)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the sorghum, almond/hazelnut, and tapioca flours along with the salt and sugar. Pulse several times until well blended. Add the butter, cut into 6-8 pieces and pulse again several times until it resembles damp, crumbly sand. Crack the egg into a small bowl and pour it into the food processor, and pulse several times again until combined. Depending on humidity, the dough may form itself into a nice ball of soft dough, but if it doesn't, drizzle a bit of water (1 t/ 5 ml at a time) on the dough and process again. Repeat as necessary until it comes together into a ball. 
Remove the dough to waxed paper or plastic wrap, wrap well, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. 
Divide the dough among 8, 4-inch tart tins. Either roll the pieces of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to use your fingers or a small offset spatula to smooth the pastry evenly across the bottom and up the insides of the tins.
Freeze the tart tins at least 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350/180.
Arrange peach slices in each tart shell and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the tarts 25-35 minutes minutes, or until the edges are set and golden and the peaches have cooked a bit. 
Let the tarts cool about 10 minutes and carefully remove them from the tins. If your tins do not have removable bottoms, upturning a plate over the top of a tart and inverting will help to ease them out of their tins. Place a plate over the bottom-up tart, and invert both plates and the tart so that the tart is right side up. 
Serve as desired. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Turkish Chopped Salad

Sometimes you want a substantial salad, one packed with vegetables
I know there are times in my life when all I've craved has been tons of good, fresh fruits and vegetables. Off the top of my head I can certainly think of those times when I was home from college (as college dormitories are not notorious for their great produce), and after returning from Africa.

Turkish chopped salad is a great salad for summer with all the fresh vegetables available. Things are even better if you have a garden that can supply you with almost everything you need.

Another plus: this salad is going to keep it's shape, and won't quickly turn into a wilted mess on you.

Turkish Chopped Salad
Adapted from Casa Moro
serves 8 or more

1 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, deseeded, and cut into approximately 1 cm pieces
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into approximately 1 cm pieces
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into approximately 1 cm pieces
1/3 large red onion, cut into 1 cm dice
10 oz (290 g) cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c (12 g) fresh minced cilantro
1/4 c (12 g) fresh minced parsley
1 clove garlic, minced and mashed to a paste with salt
zest of 1 lemon
2 T (30 ml) lemon juice
1/2 c (120 ml) olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
plain yogurt (milk or cream added if not a pourable consistency)
3-4 T (42-56 g) butter, melted in a saucepan on medium low and heated until browned and nutty, cooled slightly
chile flakes

Place the cucumber, red pepper, green pepper, red onion, cherry tomato, cilantro and parsley. Zest the lemon on top of the prepared vegetables.  
In a  small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and and pepper.  Adjust the seasonings as necessary, and carefully fold the dressing into the vegetables until everything is coated.  
If plating the salads individually, place a portion of salad on each plate. Spoon yogurt over the top of each salad, drizzle with a bit of the browned butter, and sprinkle with chile flakes. 
If preparing a large salad, spoon the salad onto a large platter or shallow bowl, add the yogurt, butter, and chile flakes on top.