Couscous salad & Lentil salad

Here are two salads we had recently. They're made with things that we usually eat hot: couscous and lentils. Here, they're chilled and delicious in salad form...

This is Lemon couscous salad with macadamia nuts. I recently found the recipe in Ginny Callan's Horn of the Moon Cookbook. (It is a vegetarian cookbook--from the Montpelier, Vermont restaurant--that I have been using for years, despite its lack of photographs and my claim that I must have pictures in my cookbooks.)

As usual, I don't like to post other people's recipes cuz it's not my intellectual property. But I'll recap the ingredients: whole wheat couscous, macadamia nuts, cherry tomatoes, kale sauteed with garlic and dill, diced celery, parsley, all dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. We were shocked at how good this was--maybe it's those high-calorie macadamia nuts that hide in the couscous. The flavors were great and the different textures pleasing. We definitely had seconds. (One note: the original recipe calls for broccoli, but we used kale. Afterward we couldn't even picture it with broccoli because the kale seemed so perfect.)

Here's a Simple Lentil Salad from The Nourishing Gourmet. This is yummy--cute Puy lentils with cucumber, orange pepper and basil tossed in a garlic-kissed vinaigrette. I usually get boring brown lentils and I am loving the tiny, soft French ones. The Nourishing Gourmet also suggests adding feta, and I can see this being good with any number of other veggies: zucchini confetti, chunks of tomatoes, thin pieces of radish, maybe even some sauteed greens like the couscous salad.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

This is based on a recipe that came with our Cuisinart ice cream maker, but I made a few changes. One was to use raw milk (though any kind of milk or cream or milk substitute will work fine). Another was to green things up.

  • 1 cup raw milk
  • 2 cups fresh mint leaves, packed
  • 2 drops green food coloring
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups cream/milk combined
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

  1. Heat the cup of milk until just starting to foam at the edges. Turn off heat and press in mint leaves. (Object--to submerge as many leaves as you can in the milk.)
  2. Wait 30 minutes. Strain out mint leaves, squeezing them well to get as much milk out as you can.
  3. Add 2 drops of food coloring. If you want a less modest green, add as many drops as you like. Also, stir in the sugar and salt and keep stirring until dissolved.
  4. Add the 2 cups cream/milk (see note below) and the vanilla. Chill for 2 hours or more.
  5. When ready, process the mixture in your ice cream maker following the manufacturer's instructions. In the last 5 minutes of mixing, add the mini chocolate chips.


To get 2 packed cups of mint leaves I used a whole shopping bag of mint on-the-stem that had been collected by a kind mint donor (thanks mom!). I stripped off the leaves and rinsed them, but wasn't too fussy about what they looked like... or how clean they were.

By "cream/milk" I mean you can add 2 cups of cream, or 1 cup of cream and 1 cup of milk, or some other combo, including 2 cups of 100% milk. The raw milk that I used had a raft of heavy yellow cream floating on top, so we tried to use as much of that as we could. We probably got about a cup, then made up the difference with milk. (Does that make sense? Hope so.)

My ice cream maker seems to take 20 minutes before the ice cream stops moving and the frozen container just spins uselessly. The trick is to add the chips before the spinning stops so they get mixed in. I wasn't entirely successful with this and had to do some stirring with a spoon. No big deal. Here's what it looked like after I'd served a bowl and packed it up for freezing and eating later.

How did it taste? DELICIOUS. The real mint flavor was amazing. Bold, but not too overpowering. I have never purchased mini chocolate chips before this--they were perfect. This recipe is a keeper.

Rainy Day Menu: Chicken stew & cookies

Late summer is here: rainy gray skys that presage autumn, perceptibly shorter days, cooler evenings and nights. Time to put away the air conditioner and get out the cardigans. And time for me to start coming back to life. Since I don't function well in extreme cold or extreme heat, spring and fall are the brief periods when my brain actually works and I feel normal and productive much of the time. (Then everything gets ruined by extreme weather coming again, and I have to put things on hold for a few more months. If I ever found a place where it is spring/fall all the time, who knows what magic I might wreak! Where would that be... the American Northwest? London? PARIS? Hmm...)

Cool rainy days are also cooking weather. I no longer have to be afraid of a hot kitchen or trying to think of cooling summer dinners. So I made a stew. It was a big hit.

Recipe in brief: cut up 5 small potatoes, 2 carrots, 3 celery ribs and add to crockpot. Saute one small diced onion in olive oil, add 5-6 chicken thighs in chunks and stir until all sides of chicken have started to cook. Sprinkle chicken/onion with a generous tablespoon of flour, and mix. Dump into crockpot. Deglaze frypan with 1/2 cup white wine and 3/4 cup water. Add liquid to crockpot. Stir everything together, then tuck 2 leafy sprigs of summer savory into the center of stew. Cook on low for about 8 hours, stir occasionally if you want. I served with a slice of homemade sourdough slathered with soft butter.

Recipe link: Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. Making these was a multi-generational project and a lot of fun. For the chocolate we used 2 kinds of semi-sweet chips I had left over from other projects, plus some "regular" chocolate chips to make up the difference. For the nuts we combined almonds and walnuts. I regret not having any fancy flaky French salt to add, but that just means I'll have to make these again sometime!

I hope you enjoy the seasonal transition, whatever hemisphere you're in!

Homemade peach ice cream

Get ready for an ice cream party, because when this peach ice cream comes out of the ice cream maker, you need to eat it NOW. It's best when it's fresh! David Lebovitz agrees with me. I've been reading his blog for awhile now--it's about food, often dessert, and also Paris. And he's the author of The Perfect Scoop, a great ice cream recipe book that I got to go with our new ice cream maker.

The first thing I learned from The Perfect Scoop is that "Philly-style" ice cream is made without eggs--as opposed to the custard style that takes 4-5 egg yolks per recipe. I was immediately interested in Philly style recipes because eggs are expensive. Also, I hate having to find uses for egg whites (angel food cake is too decadent, egg-white omelettes are too Nicole Kidman). Then, by sheer coincidence, the New York Times published the article "Egg-Free Ice Cream Lets Flavors Bloom," with recipes included. Our very own David Lebovitz is quoted as saying that fruit ice creams in particular are better egg-free, because the custard flavor can mask the fresh taste of the fruit. (On the other hand, eggs seems to help with consistency. An egg-free ice cream is more likely to become rock hard when kept in the freezer for more than a few hours. One solution is to add more sugar--or to add booze. 3/4 of these New York Times recipes do the latter. Or use my approach: just eat the stuff as quickly as possible so there are no leftovers.)

We've made peach ice cream twice now cuz it's peach season. We're using the Perfect Scoop recipe, which contains sour cream and lemon juice. It also calls for cooking the peaches beforehand (just a simple 10 minute simmer). This would not have occurred to me, but the resulting ice cream is definitely delicious. The second time I also added a dash of almond extract because that's what my mom always did back in the day when preparing peach ice cream for our old salt-&-ice crank ice cream maker. After all, I was trying to mainline one of the summer tastes of my childhood.


The recipe requires blending the ingredients after the peaches have cooled. The first time we used the food processor with good results. The issue is controlling the texture of the peach bits. The ice cream shown at the top of this post was made this way--not huge chunks, but definitely discernible peach pieces. The second time I decided to use the blender, below. My problem was that the sour cream was at the top and the peaches at the bottom, so by the time the dairy ingredients got sucked into the mix, the peaches were already finely pureed. It had made a peach slurry before I knew it--took just a few seconds. The resulting ice cream was still delicious, but was just peach-coloured rather than looking peach-laden.

Next ice cream up? Vanilla.

Corn is coming to get us

I checked out the documentary King Corn from the library and watched it last night. I liked it. I learned a lot. As a result, I might change some of what I purchase and eat. But I don't feel brow-beaten. The two dudes in the movie, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, don't have a holier-than-thou self-righteous thing going on, like "corn is BAAAD and you are bad for eating corn-based products." They just show what it takes to grow the average acre of corn these days, and where the corn goes after harvest. The answer: it is processed into ethanol (not food, so not discussed in detail), high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or animal feed. Neither of the latter are really necessary or healthy parts of our diet, unless you consider cheapness a necessity. HFCS is just empty calories. Corn-fed beef is apparently higher in saturated fat than grass-fed beef, for one thing. Also, cows aren't really supposed to eat just corn... or be fattened up in confinement... or eaten regularly for $1 a burger... and so forth.

Anyway, these guys actually eat McDonald's food onscreen, so they are definitely not preachy. They act kind of earnest and starry-eyed and sweet. I like that they wear ties when visiting important official-type people. They seem to enjoy stop-motion sequences involving corn kernels and Fisher Price farm toys. Instead of fancy Al-Gore-PowerPoint figures, they demonstrate various facts and figures just using markers and big pieces of paper. It was a little painful to watch them trying to eat the "cow corn" that they were growing. (I get their point, but where I come from one wouldn't even pretend to eat that stuff.) The movie is very effective and yet quite PG (no slaughter onscreen THANK YOU). I recommend it.

Afterward I went through our kitchen cupboards to read labels and look for corn, particularly HFCS. Here's what we had that contained corn:
  • corn starch and popcorn, obviously (I let these stand)
  • generic apricot preserves (threw this out)
  • Chinese takeout soy sauce packets (threw them out)
  • Girl Scout cookies (uhh... did not throw these out)
  • Worcestershire sauce (kept it, but will look for some hippie alternative)
  • Bob's Red Mill 10-grain pancake mix (kept it, I guess you gotta get those 10 grains from somewhere)
  • every box of cereal (not a surprise, though I want to start eating more oatmeal)
Also, there's some ground beef in the freezer; I'm not sure if it's corn-fed or not. Probably it is because it is not labeled "grass-fed" or otherwise. Resolution: try to get grass-fed beef more often (or just avoid beef completely).

I was pretty proud of us having very little "hidden" corn. Most of our sweet stuff is sweetened with sugar. Now I wonder how horrible is the sugar industry? Everything in moderation I guess, whether it's good or bad or in between.

Homemade HUGE Burger Buns

Trying to save money again, I decided to make my own hamburger buns. I used King Arthur Flour's recipe for Beautiful Burger Buns. Here's my report.

After rising the dough had more than doubled. This yeast was having a lot of fun!

The instructions suggest rolling the punched-down dough into a log, then cutting it "like a jellyroll" into 8 rounds. Unfortunately when I cut my log, it smooshed down and created little mini logs, not "rounds."

You're supposed to then tidy up the rounds and set them to rise again on a cookie sheet. (The recipe makes 8, but my "rounds" were so gigungous that only 6 fit on a cookie sheet.) I tried pulling my mini logs into round shapes, but they look pretty bad. Note for the future: letting them rise again will not solve the shape problem. They will still be the same weird shape, just puffier.

After a second rising and then baking, these burger buns were HUGE. This one has 2 hamburgers in it; I cut it in half to acommodate both. (Those are organic Cascadian Farm Spud Puppies by the way, not the school lunch thingies.)

Conclusions: I would definitely make these again, but go for 12 or even 16 smaller buns instead of 8 huge ones. They taste great--a nice sweet-ish egg-bread vibe, like challah but sturdy and savory enough for burgers.

Now I wonder if I can make my own hot dog buns...?

Ice cream machine!

As a summer gift to ourselves, we invested in an ice cream machine. We dithered so long about whether or not to buy that Cuisinart came out with a new model in the meantime, so we snatched that one. According to the review/comments, it makes a slightly less-soft or runny product than the earlier model, so that's good.

My first batch of ice cream was chocolate of course. I followed the recipe in the booklet that came with the machine. It was very simple--cocoa powder (I used Dutch process), sugar (I used light brown instead of dark brown and it seemed fine), vanilla extract and milk. Here's where I found that big advantage of making your own ice cream: you can customize the fat content and the dairy (or non-dairy) source. Instead of using 1 cup of whole milk and 2 cups of cream, I used 1 cup of raw milk and 2 cups of 2%. The resulting "ice milk" was excellent--rich chocolate flavor, nice not-too-soft texture, and oh my goodness the excitement of making my own ICE CREAM. Also I bet it is cheaper than store-bought. Perhaps I was addled but I thought it cost about $1.50 to make a quart.

May this be the first in a long series of fabulous ice cream adventures.