Recipes Without a Net

I modify and make up recipes.  Sometimes I take about six recipes from different sources and play with them, test them over and over until I make them my own.  Then I never write them down. Eeek.  Until now.   This blog is making me more disciplined, and I am trying to write things down.  I actually have to sit down as I cook, and write.  So, most of the recipes are my own now, unless I credit someone.  However, I have had many influences.  This is good for me.  I have a recipe that I am making for a dinner party tonight that I will have to write down, as I love the taste, and could replicate it all day long, but it is not written down.  So, this has been an exercise in discipline.  Fun!

Homemade Peach Ice Cream

This recipe assumes that you have an ice cream maker.  I love mine, which is made by Aroma, and has both a mechanical and a hand crank.  It also has a old fashioned wooden bucket, and a 2 quart container. This recipe has been modified, tested, etc., and I think it is a finished work of art.  Personally, (and of course all  of this blog is personal:) I like my peaches to have some chunks, and have the peach flavor be overwhelming, so this is the finished tested recipe.First off, there is such a thing as “ice cream” peaches. They are peaches that are getting soft and probably by the next day would be bad.  However, if you peel them, they are very sweet.  Start with 10 ice cream peaches, and peel, and cut in chunks.  Pour a cup of sugar on them and let sit for at least an hour.  If they are regular peaches (and not “ice cream” peaches), let sit for at least TWO hours.There is a fun chemical reaction that happens when you do this.  There will be a softening of the peaches, and they will expel all their juice. Mush up about 70% of the peaches in a blender or pulverize somehow and reserved.  The other 30% should be chopped up in little chunks and reserved.

So now we have two reserved types of peaches.  The mush and the little chunks in separate bowls.  Ok.  Let’s begin.

In a pot, add 1 1/2 cups of sugar, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of flour to bind. Beat 3 eggs in separate bowl, and add to pot.  Heat GENTLY and only until the sugar dissolves. We do not want scrambled eggs!!  Take off stove, and put in large container. Add 2 cups of heavy cream, 1 cup of half & half, and 3 cups of milk, the peach mush and the peach chunks.  Put in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

When it is good and cold, process in your ice cream maker.  I do 40 minutes on the electric crank, and 5-10 minutes with the hand roated crank to make it more creamy.

This is the best ice cream I have ever had.  Lots of peachy taste!  Enjoy.

Ratatouille

Oh, this is another summer savory dish, and represents summer to me.  And it is summer, so here is my favorite recipe for this delicous summer meal.  It has the wonderful aspect of using up many of the summer veggies that are prolific this time of year, and is light enough to eat on a hot summer night. All veggies are large chop, which is about 1″ square. If fresh herbs aren’t available, it’s ok to substitute dried. I usually make this dish from fresh tomatoes, so realize that the “juice” and “paste” below can be substituted for the real thing–fresh juice or paste.  You will find the paste does help with binding the dish together, however.

There is a wonderful Pixar movie also called “Ratatouille”, and as I’ve worked in a commercial kitchen, it made me laugh very hard.  It would be fun to eat this dish and watch this movie.  Just saying.

1 onion                                                                      2 medium peppers

1 large  zucchini                                                        1 large summer squash

1 eggplant (1 European or a few Ichiban)                 Tablespoon of chopped garlic

4 large tomatoes                                                       1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon each, fresh, basil, marjorum, oregano    dash of fresh rosemary

**1/2 cup of tomato juice& two tablespoons of tomato paste

2 teaspoons of salt (to taste)                                      Black pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil                                                          fresh chopped parley (lots of it:)

1/4 cup red wine (this is the secret ingredient!)

Heat olive oil. Cook garlic. Add bay leaf. Saute.  Add onion, eggplant, red wine, and juice from your chopped tomatoes or your tomato juice. Add herbs. Simmer for about 10 minutes while you taste the red wine (yes, Julia Child:). Add zucchini, peppers. Add all other ingredients. Mix well.

I like to add this on top of polenta (recipe to follow), but it can be served with rice, or dipped in an excellent bread.  Top with some fresh grated cheese.  Finish the red wine.

Polenta–(so easy) or buy your own in the fresh section of most stores.  Make a mush of 1 1/2 cups of yellow corn meal and 1 cup water. Boil 3 3/4th cups water with a teaspoon of salt.  Add the mush in spoonfuls to the boiling water.  Simmer until it looks like cream of wheat.  Add 1 cup of cheddar cheese.  (I’ve experimented with this, and used other types of cheese). Add 1/4 cup grated parmesan.  Serve immediately topped with your ratatouille.  Enjoy!! Happy summer veggies.

Pesto!! (A summer delight in fresh basil sauce)

This is 8 batches of pesto!

 

Pesto is a delight of summer.  The good news is that it can be frozen.  I used my last container of last year’s batch just before the new leaves came in on my basil plants.

Well, the last two weeks made the sweet basil go to seed, so I pulled up all the plants, and harvested three plastic bags full of the leaves. I saved some seeds to replant.  My, my..gave some away, but have so much.  So, pesto time.

Pesto has two expensive ingredients in it, however, I’ve reduced this by getting olive oil at Costco, and having a friend contribute the pignoli nuts (or pine nuts) in exchange for some of the pesto. The rest is available in the kitchen, and of course, I have the basil.  I also grew Thai basil, but that produces all summer. Easy recipe..yummy taste.

3 ounces of pignoli nuts (pine nuts)                           2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup of olive oil (no other kind)                              1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 heaping teaspoon of garlic                                       2 tightly packed cups of fresh basil

To cook:  Cook and drain pasta of your choice.  Keep hot.  For each serving, use two tablespoons of pesto per person.  Add a bit of butter and heat gently, or put in microwave for 30 seconds. Put in large bowl and toss a serving of pasta in it to coat.  Serve immediately.  I only do two servings at a time, as it is hard to toss more than two at a time.  Enjoy so much this fresh taste of summer.

Summer Shrimp Sensation with Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

4 cloves garlic                                                                     1 Vidalia onion, cut in slices

1 large pepper, sliced and halfed                                        2 large fresh tomatoes, cut in chunks

2 cups of fresh spinach                                                       1  pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tablespoon fresh oregano                                                4 fresh basil, but in strips

2 tablespoons fresh parsley                                                2 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley

juice of 1/2 fresh lemon                                                       8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut in small chunks

3 tablespoons olive oil                                                         1/2 pound pasta

Add olive oil to large pan.  Saute garlic, peppers, and onion until translucent.   Begin to cook your pasta water, addling a little olive oil and salt to pot.  When pasta is cooked and drained, keep warm by covering while you saute the rest of the dish.

Add the spinach, and toss until it begins to wilt.  Do not let cook too much, and then add tomatoes, basil, oregano,  and parsley.  Toss to mix for about 2 minutes over medium heat. Add fresh ground black pepper and salt.  Add the shrimp last, and as I am very fond of saying, “do not overcook”.  The shrimp should be translucent, and lightly cooked through. Serve over cooked pasta.  Enjoy!

Overgrown Garden

This is the time of year when the native North Carolians give up their garden and move on to easier things.  That always amazes me, as I came from the land of the small window of a growing season. There is still half of the season left!!  But, oh, my..at this time of year, weeds have tap roots and go to seed, and take over.  So, I figure my mission, should I choose to accept it, it to get out there every day and battle with the weeds, and till up the stuff that is done producing.  It is much easier to contemplate this at 66 degrees than 100 degrees. Last week was brutal heat, and the only time to get out there was in the very early morning hours.

I am going to pull up all of the sweet basil and make a vat of pesto.  Pesto only has six ingredients, and is SO good.  It freezes well also, so I can have the fresh taste of summer all year.  That is one of the plans.

I am going to replant the sweet basil, summer squash, zucchini, and patty pan squash this week.  Then it will be time to consider the fall items that need a long time to grow.  My plan is to be weedless, or at least enough to be able to work the garden again.  We finally got enough rain to get the soil to be less like concrete. I suspect it may be mud though, but I am not complaining.

I am getting eggplants like they were weeds, so I know there will be an eggplant dish in the works.  I would love some feedback if you are a gardener, especially if you have a kitchen garden.  This blog has been a lot of fun thus far.

Fresh Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella

Fresh tomatoes, oh I could go on and on about the amazing taste of a fresh tomato.  However, when it is paired with fresh mozzarella, you have a heavenly combination.  I slice the fresh mozzarella and the tomatoes, and alternate them on a plate.  I then put fresh basil pieces on top, and drizzle virgin olive oil over what is essentially a salad.  Then I grind fresh pepper and a tiny bit of salt over the mix.  This is my lunch today, and I can’t wait.

Fresh mozzarella is found in better grocery stores in the cheese section. The best ones are in water to keep them fresh.  It is such a delicate  taste, and it should be eaten immediately.  I can tell you that this is well worth looking for.  Another wonderful thing to do with fresh tomatoes.  Another alternative is to use balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. Experiment.  Enjoy!