Thursday, April 29, 2010

Absinthe Ice Cream

There is a bar in Houston called Absinthe. It has no sign, and you really have to know where it is. Even if you know where it is, you will drive past it several times. As one might expect, they specialize in absinthe cocktails, my favorite being Hemingway's Revenge, a combination of creme de cassis, champagne, and absinthe. So when our favorite wine store had a special on absinthe, Joe insisted on getting a bottle. And then David Lebovitz, ice cream deity, made absinthe ice cream. It was like the stars had aligned.

Most people describe absinthe has having a black licorice flavor. That's not false, but this ice cream brings out all of the herb flavors and even a hint of "vegetal bitterness" (I stole that phrase from a mixologist at Patterson House). The chocolate tempers it a bit. If you don't have absinthe, any absinthe-flavored liqueur would be a fine substitute. All you're missing is the wormwood oil. And note that the alcohol doesn't cook off, so be mindful of who you serve this too.

Absinthe Ice Cream
source: David Lebovitz

1 cup (250ml) whole milk

A pinch of salt

2/3 cup (130g) sugar

2 cups (500ml) heavy cream or half-and-half

5 large egg yolks

3-4 tablespoons absinthe

about 1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate truffles, or chocolate chips


1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan.

2. Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream or half-and-half into the bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

5. Strain the custard into the cream or half-and-half. Stir over the ice until cool, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.

6. Stir in 3 tablespoons of absinthe. Taste, and add another one if desired. 7. Freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once churned, stir in the chopped chocolate bits.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Asparagus and Smoked Trout Frittata

For some reason, the May issues of Cooking Light always knock my socks off. I don't know what it is about them, but they practically hit me over the head with delicious spring food. Radishes! Asparagus! Watercress! Strawberries! Light dinners that you eat on the patio while drinking a glass of white wine and feeling quite French! So that's where this dinner came from. I found the smoked trout near the smoked salmon, and Cooking Light suggests substituting mushrooms if you're the vegetarian type, or if you're just not in the mood for smoked trout.

Asparagus and Smoked Trout Frittata

  • 8 ounces thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 large egg whites (I used the yolks for ice cream.)
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 4 ounces smoked trout, skinned and flaked into large pieces
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup minced green onions


1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Cook asparagus in a large saucepan of boiling water 2 minutes. Drain and plunge asparagus into ice water; drain and pat dry.

3. Combine milk and next 4 ingredients (through egg whites) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in asparagus, 2 tablespoons cheese, dill, and trout.

4. Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add oil and onions to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Pour egg mixture into pan; stir once. Cook without stirring for 2 minutes or until edges begin to set. Place pan in oven. Bake at 450° for 8 minutes or until eggs are just set. Remove from oven; sprinkle evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons cheese.

5. Preheat broiler.

6. Broil frittata 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges.

Nutritional Information

Yields 4 servings, Calories: 186, Fat: 10.2 g, Protein: 19.9 g, Carbohydrate: 4.3 g

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wheat Berry Salad with Raisins and Pistachios

Occasionally, I have these revelations where I am amazed that I can put things together and make tasty, fresh, healthy meals that nourish my body and mind and soul. That might sound cheesy, but you have to understand that I did not grow up in a family that cooked from scratch regularly. And when you think about our gatherer and hunter ancestors, it's pretty incredible that I can combine goat cheese and cilantro and wheat berries in a dish and eat it for lunch.

Last summer, when I was working as a hospice chaplain, I didn't often have access to a refrigerator to store lunches so I made variations on a pasta salad. This would have been perfect for those days or for a picnic, hike, or canoe trip. The variations of texture and flavor, sweet raisins and honey mixed with bright cilantro and lemon, make this extremely satisfying. The fiber helps keep you full too.

Wheat Berry Salad with Raisins and Pistachios
source: Cooking Light April 2010
Yields 6 servings

1 cup uncooked wheat berries (hard red winter wheat)
3/4 tsp salt, divided
3 tbsp shelled pistachios
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp fresh grated peeled ginger
1/2 cup golden raisins (I just used regular raisins)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup (2 oz) crumbled goat cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
  2. Put wheat berries and 1/2 tsp of salt in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to two inches above berries. Bring to a boil, cover, and then reduce heat to low and simmer for one hour or until berries are tender. Drain.
  3. Place pistachios on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, stirring once. Let cool and then chop.
  4. Combine oil, juice, honey, coriander, ginger, and remaining 1/4 tsp salt in a large bowl and stir with a whisk. Add hot wheat berries and raisins, stirring to combine. Let stand until cooled to room temperature.
  5. Add nuts, green onions, and cilantro to wheat berry mixture. Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with goat cheese.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cavatappi with Sundried Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans

One of the great things about being married is that I learn something new about Joe every so often. Like when I was making this dish, and he came into the kitchen and remarked, "I LOVE sundried tomatoes!" Really? Why did I not know this? I had never seen him order anything with sundried tomatoes or particularly seek them out. There was a jar of sundried tomatoes languishing in the pantry, and I didn't know my husband loved them. So, needless to say, this dish went over well.

Sundried tomatoes + fun-shaped pasta + meaty beans = great weeknight dinner. How's that for some math? Also, this has quite a bit of oil in it, so I'm not doing the nutritional calculations. It's most likely a little on the heavy side if you're watching your caloric intake.

Cavatappi with Sundried Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans
8 oz. whole wheat cavatappi pasta, with 1.25 cups of the pasta cooking water reserved
1 Tbsp. oil from oil-packed sundried tomatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 fat cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
heaping 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (I doubled this.)
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, drained and sliced into strips
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
Good extra virgin olive oil for drizzling, if desired


Cook the pasta until al dente in salted water. Set aside 1.25 cups of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the oil from the sundried tomatoes and the olive oil together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and fry it for about a minute before adding the red pepper flakes, and toast those for another 30 seconds or so. Spread the sundried tomatoes out in the skillet and allow them to sizzle for a minute. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Keep it simmering until it reduces down by half.

Add the beans, the remaining 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid and some salt to taste. Bring to a boil and then cook at an active simmer for four minutes. Stir in the pasta. Add the parsley and then, off the heat, add the romano/parmesan. Season with freshly ground black pepper and, if you want, drizzle the plated pasta with some good extra virgin olive oil.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie

You know that rule about how you're supposed to make things that you've made before when planning a dinner for guests? Yeah, I routinely break it. Last year for Easter, this meant a trifle that tasted way too much like chemicals. This year, I left it up to Cook's Country. Joe had suggested a lemon meringue pie, gesturing with his hands just how tall he wanted the meringue to be. I had never made meringue. Or lemon curd. But that didn't stop me.

Like everything in the America's Test Kitchen vein, this lemon meringue pie tastes like a lemon meringue pie should. Lots of lemon juice gives it a great, puckery lemon flavor, and the meringue is silky and light. I don't have a stand mixer, so I just used a hand-held, which took slightly longer than the times indicated in the recipe.

Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie
source: Cook's Country


1 (9-inch) pie shell. fully baked and cooled
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup of lemon juice (from 6 lemons)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
8 large egg yolks (reserve 4 whites for meringue later)
2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces

1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 egg whites
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. vanilla


Whisk sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch and salt together in a large non-reactive saucepan until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture is translucent and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in yolks until combined. Stir in zest and butter. Bring to a simmer and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.

Strain through fine mesh strainer into the baked and cooled pie shell and scrape off filling from the bottom of strainer. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling and refrigerate until set and well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine water and sugar in saucepan. Bring to a vigorous boil over medium high heat. Once syrup comes to a rolling boil, cook for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside while beating egg whites.

With electric mixer beat whites in large bowl at medium low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat gradually increasing speed to medium high, until whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With mixer running, slowly pour hot syrup into the whites. Add vanilla and beat until meringue has cooled and becomes shiny and thick, 5-9 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, mound meringue over filling making sure meringue touches the edges of the crust. Use spatula to create peaks all over the pie.

Bake until peaks turn golden brown about 6 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature and serve.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring Peas with Mint

One day before theology class, I was sitting in the common room at the Divinity School when a friend came up to me and said that he had some food-related questions. On any given day, I would much rather talk food than theology. He asked me about this dish, which his wife had seen in Food and Wine magazine, and wanted to know what it would go with. I imagined a nice lamb dish with these peas as a side for a lovely Easter supper. A few more people started gathering around, and we had a very nice conversation about things that were totally not school-related!

Well, he got these peas stuck in my head, and they ended up as a side for our Easter supper, which also included the free Christmas turkey from Vanderbilt that we didn't have for Christmas because we were traveling. Whether they're for an Easter supper or just a nice spring dinner out on the patio, these peas are delightfully easy and flavorful. The red onion adds just enough bite to the vinaigrette, and who doesn't love mint? It's yet another example of how easy something can be when you have good ingredients.

Spring Peas with Mint
source: Food & Wine Magazine

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cups fresh baby peas or thawed frozen green peas (The frozen peas worked just great.)
1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 cup loosely packed mint, torn
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a bowl, whisk the olive oil with the vinegar. Add the peas, red onion and mint and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer to a platter and serve.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jerk-Rubbed Catfish with Spicy Cilantro Slaw

Slaw is one of those things that I associate with heavy mayonnaise-laden picnic foods, and I often forget what a great light accompaniment it makes for a whole host of things. With just a bit of mayonnaise to cool things down, this slaw is a perfect complement to the spicy fish. We love our spicy food, and I was happy to get to use my jerk seasoning from Penzey's. This meal couldn't come together any faster. Just be careful chopping up the pepper!

Jerk-Rubbed Catfish with Spicy Cilantro Slaw
source: March 2010 Cooking Light
Yield 4 servings

3 cups cabbage-and-carrot coleslaw mix
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbsp canola mayonnaise
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 to 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped habanero or serrano pepper (I went with serrano. Habanero would be hotter.)
Cooking Spray
4 6 oz catfish fillets (I used swai.)
4 tsp Jamaican jerk seasoning

  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl, tossing well to coat.
  2. Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle jerk seasoning evenly over fish. Add fish to pan, cooking 3 minutes on each side or until fish is opaque and flakes with a fork. Remove from heat. Serve fish with slaw.
Nutritional Information
Calories: 256
Fat: 12.6 g
Protein: 26.6 g
Carb: 6.2 g
Fiber: 1.5 g
Sodium: 426 g

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Peppery Pasta with Arugula and Shrimp

Spring has definitely sprung in middle Tennessee. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the pollen has coated everything. That hasn't stopped us from eating outside though and enjoying the weather. And I absolutely love spring food. As fancy as this meal sounds, it was featured in the "Feed 4 for less than $10" section of Cooking Light. Halving the shrimp makes it go further, and the arugula bulks up the pasta. The contrast of textures in this meal is delightful. Make sure you use fresh-ground or other high-quality pepper.

Peppery Pasta with Arugula and Shrimp
source: April 2010 Cooking Light
Yield 4 servings

1 tbsp minced fresh garlic, divided
1 1/2 tsp black pepper, divided
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1 5 oz package fresh baby arugula
4 quarts water
8 oz uncooked linguine (or other long, thin pasta)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb peeled and deveined medium shrimp, cut in half horizontally
2 tbsp minced shallots
3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup shaved fresh Romano cheese

  1. Combine 2 tsp garlic, 1 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp salt, and arugula in a large bowl; toss well.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add pasta, cooking 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain. Add hot pasta to arugula mixture, and toss well until the arugula wilts.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Saute 1 minute. Add 1 tsp garlic and shallots. Saute 1 minute or until shrimp are pink. Remove shrimp from pan. Add broth and juice to pan to deglaze, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 5 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Return shrimp to pan. Remove from heat, and stir in butter.
  4. Arrange 1 1/2 cups pasta on each of 4 plates. Spoon 1/3 cup shrimp mixture over each serving. Top with 2 tbsp cheese each.
Nutritional Information
Calories: 409
Fat: 12.5 g
Protein: 26.1 g
Carb: 46 g
Fiber: 2.1 g
Chol: 107 g
Sodium: 671 mg

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Creamy Barley with Tomato and Greens

The last time I was in Whole Foods, I picked up some barley on a whim. I normally try to stick to my list, but recipes that called for barley kept popping up and I was interested in trying something new, grain-wise. Of course, tomatoes, spinach, and feta are a great combination, though this recipe called for way too much onion, and I don't typically shy away from alliums. I have altered this recipe to reflect that change. The barley adds another dimension and texture, plus it's good for you! Joe was on-call when I made this dish, and when I told him what I had for dinner, he remarked, "That's a good Kira dish." I think that sums it up nicely.

Creamy Barley with Tomato and Greens
source: A Year in the Kitchen
Yields 4 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup pearled barley
2 cups vegetable stock
1 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained (I used Italian-seasoned tomatoes)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 8 oz. bag frozen spinach or 4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, thawed and drained
1/4 cup feta cheese
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of oregano

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add the onion, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the barley, tomatoes, wine, and stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender, about 18-20 minutes.
Add the spinach, crushed red pepper and oregano.
Stir well, taste and adjust seasonings.
Divide among bowls and sprinkle with the feta.

Nutritional Info
Calories: 361.4
Total Fat: 7.7 g
Total Carbs: 54.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 11.1 g
Protein: 12.4 g

Friday, April 2, 2010

Aromatic Noodles with Peanut-Lime Sauce

My file of saved vegetarian recipes is overrun with pasta dishes, which is problematic since I try to only eat pasta one day a week to save myself from carb-overload. But when Joe asked for some type of peanut noodle dish, it gave me an excuse to dig through the file and pick one out that I had saved a long time ago, preferably one with lots of vegetables. I simplified the recipe a bit, blanching the vegetables in the pasta water rather than steaming them in a separate pot. This mixed everything together. Also, just a note of warning, check your nuts. I had these peanuts in the cupboard for WAY too long, and the fats had become rancid. Not tasty.

Aromatic Noodles with Peanut-Lime Sauce
source: Ellie Krieger via Apple a Day

3/4 pound spinach linguine or whole-wheat spaghetti
2 cups (about 9 ounces) broccoli florets
2 cups (about 6 ounces) snow peas, trimmed
2 cups (about 6 ounces) sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 scallion, cut into pieces
3/4 inch fresh ginger, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup shelled unsalted peanuts


1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of water according to the directions on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water.

2. While the pasta is cooking put the broccoli in a steamer basket over a large pot of boiling water and steam it for 3 minutes. Add the snow peas and sugar snap peas and steam for 2 minutes more.

3. Toast the peanuts in a dry pan over a medium heat until they become fragrant, about 3 minutes. Set them aside to cool.

4. Make the sauce by pureeing the peanut butter, soy sauce, water, vinegar, lime juice, scallion, ginger, and red pepper flakes in a food processor or blender until smooth.

5. Right before serving, toss the pasta with 3/4 cup of the peanut sauce. Divide into serving bowls and top each serving with the vegetables. Drizzle the remaining sauce over the vegetables. Coarsely chop the peanuts, sprinkle them on top and serve.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Crispy Coconut Tofu Nuggets

I can't say that the phrase "tofu nugget" sounds particularly attractive, even for someone who is an adventurous eater. I knew they would be tasty, but, to Joe's credit, when I told him what we were having for dinner, he didn't even blink an eye. It helped that I explained that they were "like coconut shrimp" but with tofu. I had been wracking my brain to figure out what I would serve the nuggets with while we were traveling to Houston for a wedding. When we arrived at home, my mother had dropped off a sauce/marinade that my father had brought me: Mango Ginger Habanero Sauce. Yes, it was as good as it sounds, particularly with the nuggets. I served it with some steamed Asian vegetables as well.

Crispy Coconut Tofu Nuggets
source: Cara's Cravings

1 block firm tofu
2 egg whites
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup shredded coconut
zest from one lime

Wrap the tofu in paper towels and place it under a plate, weighted down with a couple cans or jars. Let sit for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven 375F. Set a cooking rack on top of a baking sheet, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Pour the egg substitute or egg whites in a shallow dish. Mix together the panko, coconut, and lime zest and pour onto a plate.

Slice the tofu crosswise into 6 slabs, and then cut each rectangle diagonally into two triangles. (I sliced mine into rectangles.) Season the tofu wedges with salt and pepper. Dip each one into the egg, then dredge in the panko mixture and set on the cooling rack.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, turning halfway through, until lightly browned and crispy on both sides.

Nutritional Info
Servings Per Recipe: 3
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 209.9
Total Fat: 8.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 16.7 mg
Total Carbs: 14.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.3 g
Protein: 14.3 g