Test #test

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Burrata Cheese, Three Ways

Burrata cheese, you… you complete me.  Mozzarella was my summer favorite, then I met you. Burrata (meaning ‘buttered’ in Italian), is made from the same stringy curd as buffalo mozzarella, but it is stretched and pulled into hollow ball and then filled with cream and the shreds of soft stringy mozzarella curds.

I had to poke it before cutting in. Would it spring back? Nope. That indentation stayed right there, as it should. And once cut into, it started oozing right away. How is this better than buffalo mozzarella you might be wondering? And why should you venture away from the nice neat slicing and stacking ability of mozz’ in your next tomato caprese salad?

Well, besides it being literally melt in your mouth luscious (which is selling point enough for me), it becomes saucy and spreads easily. I managed to coax it into wedge slabs for my plate of homegrown  grilled eggplant and peppers with fresh oregano. Once I dug in to eat, it transformed into a creamy sauce with some stringy bits and melded with a syrupy sweet 25-year aged balsamic vinegar, just the thing to counter the earthy slices of eggplant. A squeeze of lemon to finish and I had reached my summer culinary nirvana (see recipe below). The fresh greek oregano pictured in the background is not nearly as strong as dried oregano, usually a little goes a long way but in this dish I found I could use a little more of it.  As not all oreganos are the same,  your mileage may vary.

For breakfast it was burrata on toast with vanilla-honey scented peaches and white pepper. I sliced an 1/8 of a vanilla pod open and scraped out the caviar specks with a paring knife and stirred it into a tablespoon of wildflower honey and drizzled. Then I made some extra vanilla honey, because you really just can’t have too much of that stuff around.

Note: Burrata is best finished after 24-48 hours of opening. The cheese monger at my local Whole Foods mentioned they only carry it the warmer months, ie, spring and summer, so get it while you can. 

Recipe: Grilled Eggplant and Heirloom Peppers with Burrata,  Fresh Oregano and Aged Balsamic  Serves 2


1 large or 2 small eggplants, sliced about a half-inch thick


Olive oil


5 small sweet peppers, de-seeded and cored

1 half of one ball of Burrata cheese, carefully sliced into wedge slabs

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

2 TBS aged balsamic vinegar, (or if unavailable, balsamic vinegar reduction)

1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

Slice eggplant. Sprinkle liberally with salt and drain slices over a colander for 20-30 minutes. This will help to draw out any bitterness in the eggplant. Rinse off excess salt and pat slices dry. Heat grill or grill pan and brush eggplant slices and peppers with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Grill over medium high flame on the first side for 5-8 minutes, or until grill marks appear. Flip them when the purple skin on the sides becomes charred and the tops become somewhat tender and wet looking. Turn peppers a quarter turn every two minutes or as they begin to char.   After flipping eggplant, grill for another 5-7 minutes or until the eggplant looks tender or any moisture bubbles a bit.

Drape slabs of burrata cheese over the plated eggplant slices and peppers. Salt and pepper liberally, drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar, sprinkle fresh chopped oregano and finish with a squeeze of lemon.

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Using up Gifts From the Garden: Lemon Basil Ice Cream

I should call my lemon basil plant  ‘the little herb that could’. It was just a wimpy little thing when I got it from the Herb Society’s annual plant sale, but as I used it more and more it really bushed out and exceeded my expectations. I know it’s big in Indonesian cuisine, but I’ve kind of been scratching my head why everyone doesn’t grow and use it.  It brightens up virtually everything I’ve thrown it at: fish, veggies, eggs, salad, sandwiches, fruit… I could go on.  And its citrusy and touch-of-cool-mint flavor (basil is a member of the mint family) makes a great ice cream that would be perfect with a summer cobbler or on a blueberry pie.

I don’t normally get my ‘mise en place’ when say, making dinner, but when making ice cream, I make it a point to get the various bowls, whisks and ingredients at the ready. You could easily wind up with cream boiling over the pot if you aren’t keeping a close eye, or scrambled eggs if you overcook your custard.  Been there, done that.

After washing and drying 2 cups of the leaves, I brought milk, cream and half of my measured out sugar just to a boil. And then I decided to take a picture, which was frankly almost too late, 2o or 30 seconds more and it would have been kaboom, game over.

I steeped the basil leaves into the hot milk off heat for 10 minutes. If I was set on having my basil ice cream green-tinged, at this point I could’ve put the mixture in a blender. But I’m more a “steep it gently like a tea” kind of person and whatever color it wants to be, it will be.

In the last 2 minutes of waiting I briskly whisked together my yolks and the other half of the sugar for about a minute or so.

I poured some of the hot cream mixture into the yolk mixture while whisking it and then poured the tempered yolk mixture into the cream mixture. Then I returned it to the stove over low heat and slowly and continuously stirred at the bottom.

The custard mixture should be cooked until it coats the back of a spoon; this occurs between 160 and 180F. If you have an insta-read thermometer nearby it can help you to know if you are getting close. Mine looked good on the spoon right after this, at around 170 degrees. (photo courtesy of husband. See, I can learn…!)

I  poured the cooked custard into a bowl over my ‘ready and waiting’ ice bath, straining out the basil leaves on the way into the bowl.

The mixture sat over the ice bath for about 20 minutes to cool to room temp. I stirred it a bit at the beginning to help the heat escape a bit quicker. After it cooled it went into the refrigerator to chill and the next day I spun it in the ice cream bowl attachment on my mixer.

Lemon Basil Ice Cream:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup sugar

1 oz. (about 2 packed cups) lemon basil leaves

8 yolks

pinch salt

1/4 tsp vanilla

Have a strainer in a bowl ready over an ice bath.

Bring the dairy and half the sugar to a simmer in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Remove from heat when it just comes to a boil.  Add basil leaves and steep in mixture, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs, the second half of the sugar, and pinch of salt into a thick paste, for about a minute. Stream a third of the dairy in slowly while stirring the egg mixture and then pour the tempered egg mixture back into the cream mixture.

Return pot to the stove and cook over medium-low heat. Stir gently, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.

The sauce is ready when it looks silky, has thickened so it coats the back of a wooden spoon, and has reached a temperature of about 170 degrees. Strain it (and the basil leaves out) into a bowl set over an ice water bath and stir in the vanilla.

When cooled, freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Actually it was just a dark and stormy afternoon, and then the skies cleared a little, but hang with me, I’m headed somewhere. My husband plays upright bass in a rockabilly band. He has the quintessential bass player personality; calm and cool, and not one to grab the spotlight, he provides the groove around here. He makes a mean classic cocktail, for example.

One of them is a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, a Bermudian mix of Gosling’s Black Seal dark rum and Barritt’s ginger beer. 

To me a Dark ‘n’ Stormy tastes like 1975. Maybe it’s because back then, when my parents would have cocktails, I’d get to have a Shirley Temple which has ginger ale in it. Tasting my husband’s Dark ‘n’ Stormy, suddenly I’m in a wood-paneled bar of a golf and country club, the women have big, frosted Angie Dickinson hair and the men are wearing narrow flat-front polyester pants. They serve toasty BLTs there with frilly cocktail toothpicks and I’m drinking a ginger ale or a Shirley Temple. Crazy how taste memory works.

In that ‘Shirley Temple’ vein (of ginger ale and grenadine), I grabbed the extra half-can of ginger beer from my husband’s drink and made a mocktail I dubbed a ‘JamJar Bizarre’. Katie, master crafter over at JamJar Bizarre , told me her favorite summer drink after a day in the garden is ginger beer and cranberry, so I named it after her (hey, it’s my bar!). It was tart and had a little spicy kick from the ginger beer which I loved, and as you can imagine, it would be perfectly thirst-quenching on a hot day.

For the Dark ‘N’ Stormy:

1 1/2 oz. of Gosling’s Black Seal Dark Rum

4-6 oz. of Barritt’s Ginger Beer

lime wedge garnish, optional

Pour over ice.

Note: Gosling’s actually trademarked the ‘Dark ‘n’ Stormy’ moniker. Today, they recommend using their own brand of ginger beer but purists will accept nothing less than Barritt’s. Regardless of which ginger beer you use, stick with the Gosling’s rum for this one. It’s unique blend of rums from around the Caribbean has a slightly charred character which has hints of vanilla and caramel and is the hallmark of this classic summer mixer.

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Watermelon Feta Salad

I’m curious if you salt your watermelon. I had never tried it until I moved to Atlanta years back. It makes perfect sense, the salt brings the sweetness to the forefront and instead of being a flat kind of sweet, it pops.

We grew watermelons for the first time last year. The vines spread and spread, escaping their boundaries, encroaching upon our driveway. It was all very exciting.

In a matter of days little hairy peanut-sized melons grew exponentially, almost unbelievably so, and my husband and I would give each other daily watermelon updates. “They definitely look bigger today, definitely! Did you see that other one?  It’s like, ‘feed me, Seymour’ out there!”. The melon weighed more (about 30 lbs.) than our toddler, and all of us – the dog included, took turns getting photo-ops with it.
We made various cocktails, juices, agua frescas, salads, and of course ate them plain too (with and without salt). My counters, floor and refrigerator were sticky for weeks.
I like this watermelon feta salad so much because it seems so balanced.  While I chop up the watermelon, the normal uber-sharpness of red onion gets macerated and mellowed in lime juice for a few minutes, but it still offers pepperiness. Feta brings the salty tang, and a chiffonade of basil, ensures I get some in each bite. And an extra pinch of salt, just ’cause.
Watermelon Feta Salad (serves two)
juice of one lime
1/4 to 1/2 of a red onion, sliced thinly
3 cups of  cubed watermelon, about one-inch sized
1/4 cup of feta cheese, crumbled
8-10 basil leaves, chiffonaded
pinch kosher or sea salt, optional
Combine red onion with juice of one lime and let sit  in a medium bowl while cutting watermelon and basil. Toss in bowl gently with feta. Serve immediately.

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Warm Zucchini Ribbons, Lemon Basil Pesto and Goat Cheese

I am guilty. You can completely miss a zucchini if you aren’t looking underneath those umbrella leaves.  I wasn’t looking outside the box, and I am pretty sure there is a life lesson metaphor in there somewhere for me.  My husband found this big zucchini an hour after I had done my lap checking for goodies.  I would’ve picked it when it was a little smaller if I had noticed it, the seeds can get bitter on the bigger ones. But I am grateful and glad to have it regardless.

Over in the herb box, they are duking it out for space. I use this lemon basil often but am having trouble using it all before it is goes to flower. I am nipping those buds off every day.

At this point I can’t keep up, better make some pesto. I made a quick one in the blender, adding the usual suspects, olive oil, garlic, some toasted pine nuts, pecorino romano…

Zucchini is so neutral it can be the vehicle so that other flavors can take the driver’s seat, much like with pastas (Credit to Justcook NYC for the zucchini ‘pasta’ inspiration). I peeled the zucchini into ribbons, giving it a quarter turn each time I arrived at the seeds.

I sautéed them with a little olive oil for two minutes in the pan, adding the pesto and some tomatoes near the end to warm them through. A fork scraping of goat cheese, and a good squeeze of lemon to brighten it up. Salt and pepper, a handful of torn lemon basil leaves. It came together fast, and I have pesto left for future quick fixes.


Zucchini Ribbons with Lemon Basil Pesto and Goat Cheese

For the Lemon Basil Pesto:

1 oz olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 oz. pecorino romano or parmesan cheese

1/2 oz. toasted pine nuts

1 oz lemon basil leaves

Add all ingredients to blender or small food processor, blend for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides and then pulse several times more, ensuring there are no larger garlic chunks. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator. To avoid discoloration, pour a thin layer of olive oil on top before storing.

For the zucchini ribbons: (serves two)

1 TBS olive oil

1 large, or two small zucchini, peeled into ribbons

salt and pepper to taste

1 heaping TBS lemon basil pesto (see recipe above)

1 cup cocktail or cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered if larger)

1 TBS goat cheese, crumbled

1 TBS fresh squeezed lemon juice

Heat large sauté pan over medium high heat with 1 TBS olive oil until glistening. Add zucchini, heat for 1 minute, add a pinch salt and pepper and turn with tongs. After another 30 seconds to a minute, as zucchini begins to glisten, add pesto and tomato halves and toss in pan until warmed through, about 30 seconds.  Remove from pan and add lemon juice and sprinkle of goat cheese. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

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Guest Post at Chez Chloe Today! Blueberry Tart with Creme Fraiche Sorbet

I am delighted to be guest posting over at Chez Chloe today, sharing my favorite tried and true blueberry tart recipe, along with a refreshing and easy-to-make creme fraiche sorbet. Come on over and check it out!  While you are there, be sure and take a look at Wendy’s latest desserts like her Coffee and Kahlua Pot de Cremes …mmm.


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