Concord grapes, three ways

WELL, I HOPE YOU LIKE PICTURES OF GRAPES.

This past weekend was the very last weekend to pick our Concord grapes, which have gone completely cuh-razy this year.

They were so ripe, some of them were spontaneously dripping on the vine

and the birds and the yellow jackets were having a continual feast. Buzz buzz buzz, gobble gobble gobble.

So we got some scissors, and some buckets and boxes and bowls

and we snipped off as many bunches of grapes as we could before we got too scared of getting stung.

It was quite a lot!

Last year, we picked about this many, and made grape jelly, which turned out . . . not wonderful. Some of it never set right, and some of it did, but it turns out nobody really likes grape jelly all that much. But we sure did make a lot of it! So this year, my goal was to process the grapes into something people actually wanted. 

The kids voted for juice, and I wanted to try gelato or sorbet, so we split the grapes up and made both. 

The first step was to clean and de-stem them.

This took about two-and-a-half hours. Because I only do this once a year, I’m always shocked and amazed to discover that tannins or histamines or something in Concord grapes make your hands itch all the way up to the elbows. But we forged ahead, rescued several spiders, snails, and other annoyed critters, and finally got through the whole harvest. The green ones you see here are not unripe; they are so ripe that the skins have sloughed right off. 

Toward the end I became fascinated by the many forms taken by rotten grapes, especially those whose innards had been sucked out by birds and bees and whose skins were left intact to wither around the seeds. Sometimes the skins are gone but the translucent flesh remains with the seeds just visible inside, giving it a startlingly embryonic look. I took uhhh kind of a lot of pictures of rotting grapes, but I won’t share any of them! I’ll just keep them for myself, for reasons. 

I lined the cooler with a kitchen trash bag and filled that sucker with clean grapes.

The first project was sorbet. I chose a very simple recipe (non-hinky, with reviews this time, unlike the mysterious blueberry sorbet evaporating recipe). I also treated myself to a larger sieve, after the somewhat unhappy experience making twice-sieved Lucky Charms-infused ice cream.

Grape sorbet is very simple. Two ingredients, and only a few steps. I used this Epicurious recipe. You throw the raw grapes in the blender and puree them. The seeds survive the blender, but part of the skins get pulped up, so you end up with a pretty thick raw grape pulp. This you dump into the sieve

and push it through, leaving the seeds and some skin debris behind

Then you whisk some superfine sugar into the pulp.
Superfine sugar is finer than regular granulated sugar, but not as fine as powdered sugar. I made it by whirring granulated sugar in the food processor for two minutes while whispering “ssssuperfine” to myself.

Several of the comments in the Epicurious recipe said to use half the amount of sugar in the recipe. I tried this, but everyone who tasted it gasped and said “WOW” like in the vodka scene in Stalag 17, so I ended up using about 3/4 the full amount of sugar called for (I made a double recipe). I don’t know if our grapes are just more snarly or what, but they did need some sweetening up. Here’s the grape and sugar mixture.

I don’t know if anyone else is fascinated by the subtle changes in color and texture throughout the process, but I could do this all day, pushing grape mash through sieves, running it through blenders, dumping it in and out of various bowls and pots, blorp blorp. In fact it is what I did pretty much all day, and all weekend. My therapist is going to be so happy.

So you chill the grape and sugar mixture for several hours, and then you can put it into the ice cream machine. I discovered I hadn’t put both freezer bowls in the freezer, though, so I ended up chilling the grape mixture overnight and finishing making the grape sorbet in the morning. 

I also made a double batch of Neapolitan trail mix ice cream with a Ben and Jerry’s vanilla cream base. 

I also had about 2-1/2 cups of grape pulp left over, that I never added sugar to. I just stored that in the fridge to think about. And that was about enough excitement for one day!

The next day, Sunday, first thing in the morning, I put the chilled sorbet mix into the ice cream machine for half an hour, and then into the freezer.

Then after Mass, we got started on the juice. I followed these instructions. (She also took a lot of grape photos.)

The first step is to mash the grapes with a potato masher. We did it in several batches. 

Benny changed into purple, in preparation for splashes. 

A few times, I ran the mixture through the sieve to separate out the solids to mash again, so the skinless grapes didn’t just slip away from the masher along with the juice. 

Then you put the juice and mash, seeds and crushed skins and all, into a big pot

 and bring it to a simmer, and let it go for ten minutes. It looks very dire and occult at this point. Strange purplish frothy scum collects, and then bright raspberry-colored lava seethes up from underneath. It smells ancient and wonderful. 

 

Everybody is impressed by this part.

Then you run the mixture through a sieve, or through cheesecloth. I know I have cheesecloth in this house somewhere. I remember bagging it after the jelly debacle, grimly thinking “Next time will be different.” I looked for a while, then gave up and called the convenience store and made them look, was delighted to hear that they do have some; gave Benny some instructions for how to keep the pot from boiling over, grabbed my purse, and . . . remembered I don’t have a car. So, sieve it was. This is fine, except that you’re supposed to let it sit for several hours or overnight, and the sieve was only big enough to hold about 1/3 of the grapes. I ended up putting some grape mash in the sieve over a bowl and the rest carefully in a colander, just hoping the seeds wouldn’t slip through the holes. 

After a while, I started smushing the pulp in the sieve to help it finish dripping, and then I transferred the colander pulp to the sieve and smushed that too. I’ll smush you all, eventually. 

And that, my friends, is how you make grape juice. Everything that drips through is 100% pure, powerful, pungent, tart, extra-purple grape juice. It’s the grapiest. It tastes the way it feels to dive from a hot sunny rock down into a cool dim pond. Sploosh!

Look at those beaded bubbles winking at the brim.

I have to say that at least once a year, to prove I went to college. 

You can add some sugar if it’s too tart, but we thought it was great the way it was. I don’t know why the grape juice was sweet enough without sugar when the grape sorbet was too sour. I suppose the cooking brought out the sugar in the fruit.

We got about three quarts of juice.

Of course it was still hot from cooking, so I put it in the fridge to cool. You’re supposed to run it through a sieve a second time to get any sediment out, but I forgot.

Then I remembered that last bit of leftover raw pulp! I briefly considered grape pie, but I just don’t think people want that. At least, not on the same night as we have grape juice and grape sorbet. 

So I found an old sheet and tore it until it was about the size of a curtain. I mixed the 2-1/2 cups of grape pulp with four cups of water and four heaping tablespoons of salt, heated that up, and then started simmering the cloth.

It made me feel extraordinarily thrifty to be using up every last bit of the grapes we picked. Basically Kristin Lavransdatter over here, whipping Husaby into shape. I simmered the cloth for about three hours. There wasn’t quite enough dye to submerge it, so I knew it was going to come out somewhat splotchy, but all I had to lose was a torn sheet and some leftover mashed grapes. 

It was covered with gritty little bits of grape crud when it was done

so I rinsed it off in the shower and let it dry. Tah dah! On Monday morning, after drying overnight, it was most definitely a pleasant lavender shade, and seems to be colorfast. 

But back to Sunday. After supper, we had the trail mix ice cream and the grape sorbet. I was delighted at how it came out. It was luscious. Dusky and tart, but not sour, just very intense and refreshing. 

Will absolutely make again, and we’re getting ideas for other fruit sorbets. Next time I make Indian food, I think a mango sorbet would be so nice. Possibly even . . . . superfine. 

And that is the story of how I used up all the grapes, and I didn’t get stung, and I didn’t even yell at anyone! Please clap. 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 308: A kind of Koyaanisqatsi mouthfeel

This week starts so well.

But, dear reader, read on. 

SATURDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Always a tasty option. A variety of cured meats from the deli, some jarred pesto, olive oil and vinegar, basil and tomatoes, and plenty of fries. 

And cheese! Do not forget the cheese. 

SUNDAY
Bagel, bacon, egg, cheese sandwiches, OJ

Ran out of eggs; was not sad to have to send a kid to go get some fresh local eggs, some with those lovely blue shells. Fresh eggs just fry up different, especially in bacon fat. 

I set a timer for eighty seconds to toast the bagels in the oven, and immediately forgot they were in there, so if you were wondering how quickly I can forget something, it’s much shorter than eighty seconds. 

This reminds me of a joke Irene once told when she was four, when she owned a riddle book and would adjust most of the jokes to make them funnier:

Irene: Will you remember me in a year?
Me: Yes.
Irene: Will you remember me in eight years?
Me: Yes.
Irene: Will you remember me in a million years?
Me: Yes.
Irene: Knock-knock.
Me: Who’s there?
Irene: HIYA, GRAMPAW!!!!!!!!!
 
Anyway, I didn’t burn the bagels OR the bacon. 

 

Still some chances to eat outside. The hummingbirds have departed, though. 

On Sunday I also made two batches of ice cream for Monday, as I will describe shortly. 

MONDAY
Smoked pork ribs, coleslaw, grapes; homemade ice cream

Monday was Labor Day, and the two moved-out kids came by for dinner, which was lovely. Damien smoked three racks of pork ribs for several hours using his sugar rub and Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce. (This recipe says “chicken thighs,” but it’s the same rub)

Jump to Recipe

An absolute pile of luscious, juicy, tender ribs, so good. Lena made a bowl of wonderfully tart coleslaw and I contributed by washing off some grapes. 

We all liked the ribs, but Corrie really enjoyed them. 

Then for dessert, we had ice cream sundaes. I made two kinds of ice cream: Chocolate and Lucky Charms. I just now had to google “Marshmallow Mateys vs” to remember the phrase “Lucky Charms,” because my brain is too smooth to remember the name of rich person’s cereal at this late date.

I followed the recipe at We Are Not Martha because they told a sad story about how they once got picked up by Bon Appétit but now the food blogging world is clogged with Pinterest copycats and people who put all their effort into photography, and I guess I have a soft spot for people who lead with a kvetch. 

The recipe was fairly labor intensive, because they are trying to get the taste of cereal without including actual cereal, which would be gross. So you have to infuse some milk with Lucky Charms cereal for half an hour, then strain out the cereal

and then use that milk to make a custard

Any time I use a thermometer in a recipe, I feel so put-upon. I feel like I’m using a bellows or an Erlenmeyer flask or forceps or something. Of course this was all 100% my idea, but never ind. I have the ability to create resentment against nobody at all, out of thin air, and to sustain it for hours. So you whisk and heat this custard and then mix it with heavy cream and push it through a sieve again, cover it with plastic wrap, and chill it for four hours. And then you can actually put it in your ice cream machine. 

I churned it for thirty minutes, then added some marshmallow fluff and the marshmallows I suddenly realized I needed to pick out of the remaining box of cereal; and then I refrigerated it overnight. I have to admit, it turned out great. It’s very cute ice cream. The ice cream has a very cozy, custard-y taste that absolutely reminds you of watching cartoons on a Saturday morning, which is something I don’t think I ever actually did. We did not have a TV when I was growing up. I remember once my father brought home a film projector from the college where he worked, and he tacked up a sheet on the living room sliding doors and we watched Koyaanisqatsi, and that’s why I am the way I am.

The marshmallows softened slightly, but some of them still had that peculiar cereal marshmallow crunch. I skipped the sauce and whipped cream and just had ice cream with a cherry. 

I also made chocolate ice cream, which I somehow haven’t made yet, in all our ice cream-making adventures. I was reading over the various recipes and Corrie was looking over my shoulder and reading the little recipe descriptions. 

Corrie: ‘Mouthfeel?’ What’s mouthfeel? 
Me:  It just means how it feels in your mouth. I think I’ll make this simpler recipe, instead.
Corrie: Dang. I like mouthfeel.
So obviously you know how this story ends. I used the Ben and Jerry recipe for Jerry’s Chocolate, which is the version with, as the book says, “a more complex texture. Jerry refers to this as ‘mouthfeel.'” 
It’s a slightly more time-consuming recipe than some of the others I’ve been making, but mainly just because you have to chill the cream mixture for a few hours before you pour it into the machine to churn. I froze it overnight and our freezer is having some kind of personal crisis, and parts of it are MUCH colder than others, so this one came out so hard, I couldn’t scoop it at all. I had to pry it out of the container with a pancake flipper and then carve it into blocks with a knife. Yes, I covered it. I bought a special container with a lid, and lectured the family about how it was just for ice cream, and everything.
 

It was delicious, though. I already had a migraine, so I had a spoonful, and it was very rich, like the ice cream version of very good hot chocolate. And that mouthfeel! Superb. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday!

Back to school. My car mysteriously broke down, so we had to do a rigamarole with borrowed cars to get everyone to school. I shalln’t keep you in suspense: We just got the call today that my car will need an ennnnntirrrrreee newwwww enginnnnne. Yes this is my “nice” “new” car, which I took out a loan to pay for for the first time in my life, which I have had for less than a year and a half, and which already required, among other major repairs, a new t i m i n g c h a i n, which takes twenty hours of labor. My feelings about the car are . . . not very mouthfeel, let me tell you. 

Unless you would like to buy it from me. In which case it’s a great little vehicle, very clean, hardly driven. DM me. 

Anyway, we had tacos. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken shawarma with pita and yogurt sauce

On Tuesday, because I was carless at home, I decided to prep Wednesday’s meal ahead of time, so I marinated the shawarma meat. Then on Wednesday, all I had to do was cut up some cucumbers, wash a bunch of little tomatoes, chop up some parsley, make a batch of yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

open a bunch of cans and bottles of various kinds of olives, cut up a bunch of feta, pile up a bunch of pita bread, and slice up a bunch of onions. I’m making it sound like a lot, but it’s like 20 minutes of work, and the rest is just fishing the meat out of the marinade where it has been resting all night,

Jump to Recipe

spreading it in a pan, festooning it with onions, and cooking it just nicely. This is such a low-skill, high-reward meal. Look at this lovely chicken. I included some breasts, some thighs. Red onions are better than yellow, but it’s all good. The thighs are the superior meat for this dish, but it’s all good. 

And here’s my lovely tasty plate. 

Just a fantastic meal. Everybody likes at least a few elements of this meal, and several people like every last bit of it. Everyone’s happy on shawarma night. 

THURSDAY
Pulled pork, cheesy cabbage, hash browns

On Thursday I industriously got the pork into the slow cooker bright an early. I added half a liter of Coke, some onion quarters, a few chopped jalapeños, and bunch of cumin, salt, and pepper, and I set it to low and went away happy. 

Several hours later, I realized Suzy Homemaker here never plugged the damn thing in.

Luckily, the Coke was very cold and the crock pot kept it chilled, so the meat was okay. I moved it all to the Instant Pot and pressure cooked it on high for 22 minutes, then moved it back to the slow cooker for the rest of the day. Came out looking promising.

and it shredded well enough.

I had been planning coleslaw, but I’m a little tired of coleslaw, so I looked up other cabbage recipes, and guess what? They all suck. The only one that seemed remotely tasty was a kind of au gratin idea, with a cheese sauce and maybe a buttered crumb topping. But I was caught between some obnoxiously high brow recipes that called for gruyere and heavy cream and braising, and some distressingly trashy ones that wanted you to smother the whole thing with Cheez Wiz and top it with Ritz crackers. Caught between two worlds, story of my life, very tragic.

So I ended up cutting the cabbage into eight wedges, drizzling it with olive oil and salting and peppering it, and roasting it for about 45 minutes. Then I made a white sauce and added in plenty of various kinds of cheese, plus paprika, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. This I spread over the roasted cabbage, and topped it with crunchy fried onions and parsley. Then I baked it in a high oven for about 20 minutes until the cheese was melted. 

It was disgusting. Never making this again. I don’t know what I was thinking. Cabbage can go screw. 

Here’s a nice picture I took before I tasted it.

I mean it was not the worst thing I’ve ever had in my face. But the cabbage was underdone and the cheese only reached the top layer, so most of it was just plain cabbage; and the cheese sauce had a flavor I can only describe as . . . bricky. It tasted like if you ground up a brick and tried to pass it off as seasoning, with cheese. Maybe put some pennies in there. I don’t know what happened. 

I also served some hash browns. Well, that was the plan. I bought four bags of what it said were hash browns (and this may actually explain what was up with the freezer. That is too many bags), but which turned out to be just straight up shredded potatoes, nothing else. Which is fine, but look, I don’t know, I guess I can’t read. I definitely cannot think. By this time the sun was low in the sky and I was already worried about the cabbage, not to mention the demoralizing Suzy Homemaker situation, so I just spread the potato shreds in a pan, drizzled it with oil, and sprinkled it with salt, and cooked it at a high heat until some of it was burnt and some of it was pale and limp, and it was just going to have to do. Good grief. We did have some leftover Baby Ray’s sauce and everyone was very nice about it.

FRIDAY
We have two different school cookouts that we’re supposed to be at, and we were going to try to split up and go to both, IF the mechanic was done with my car by now. And you know how that story ends! It ends well! My car is diagnosed as having a terminal case of cheesy cabbage and there is no hope. Oh well, maybe there’s some ice cream left. 

Speaking of ice cream, this weekend I intend to hide from reality and spend my time picking the millions of concord grapes we grew for some reason, make some grape juice, and see about making grape gelato. The only reason people don’t make grape gelato more often is that they are cowards, I’m sure of it. 

God save the queen. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

Jerry's Chocolate Ice Cream

This is the more textured chocolate ice cream from the Ben and Jerry's ice cream recipe book. It has a rich, dusky chocolate flavor and texture. Makes 2 quarts. This recipe requires some chill time before you put the cream mixture into the machine.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Melt the unsweetened chocolate. I used a double boiler, but you can use a microwave if you're careful. Whisk in the cocoa and continue heating until it's smooth. It's okay if it's clumpy. Continue heating and whisk in the milk gradually until it's all blended together. Remove from heat and let cool.

  2. In another bowl, whisk, the eggs until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the sugar and continue whisking until completely blended. Add in the cream and vanilla and continue whisking until blended.

  3. Add the chocolate mixture into the cream mixture and stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate for about three hours, or until it is cold.

  4. Use the cold mixture in your ice cream machine. I used my Cuisinart and let it churn for thirty minutes, then let it cure overnight.

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

The Stupids buy an ice cream machine

I know it’s just about the end of summer, but I promised a homemade ice cream report in my last What’s For Supper, so here it is!

First of all, this is the machine I got: A Cuisinart ICE-20P1.

It is about $70 new, but I got mine on Facebook marketplace for much cheaper.  There is a newer model of this same basic machine, the ICE-20P1. There seem to be lots of like-new ice cream machines for sale for cheap, probably because people get them as unwanted presents, or decide they’re not worth the counter space. I have decided no such thing. I love making ice cream.

The other kind of machine in my price range were hand-cranked ones that require salt and ice and tend to have a much larger capacity. The smaller, automatic ones are smaller, but they are automatic (no, I don’t have a writing agent, why do you ask?), and I am definitely at a point in my life where I want to push a button and walk away for a while.

The machine is very simple. The bowl has liquid inside its walls, and you put the bowl in the freezer for many hours, preferably 12 or more, until the liquid is completely frozen. When you’re ready to make ice cream, you fit the bowl onto the machine, put the dasher inside the bowl, fit the large plastic guard over both, turn it on, and pour your ingredients in while it is running. And that’s it. The machine turns the frozen bowl and the dasher stays in place, so the ice cream freezes and gets churned.

You can peek in the top and watch it churning, and maybe even stick a spoon in and grab a taste. 

After about 25 minutes, the ice cream is like soft serve and you can eat it that way if you like. If you want harder ice cream, you pour it into a container and return it to the freezer for another 4-6 hours. (If you are going to leave it in the freezer longer than that, cover it with wax paper.) 

The machine makes 1.5 quarts of ice cream, which is about as much ice cream as one of those oblong cartons from the supermarket.

In theory, you can make one batch, empty it into a container, and re-use the still-frozen bowl to make a second batch of ice cream. But every time I try this, it just doesn’t freeze properly, probably because my kitchen is just too hot and the bowl thaws out too much. So I bought a second bowl on eBay (the same size works for the older and newer model of Cuisinart), so I can make one batch after another. They do take up room in the freezer, but nobody has complained yet. 

Okay, on to the ice cream! Here is what we have made so far:

VANILLA

My first foray. I just used the recipe in the Cuisinart booklet, which is:

Whisk together 1 cup of milk and 3/4 cup of sugar. 
Stir in 2 cups chilled heavy cream. 
Add in 2 tsp vanilla extract. 
Pour into machine and mix 25-30 minutes. 

We ate it right out of the machine, so it was soft serve consistency. It was delicious, but it was then that I discovered that 1.5 quarts was not as much as I thought. 

PEACH

I followed the recipe from Like Mother Like Daughter. (Totally different mother and daughter, FYI. She doesn’t even yell at you or try to sell you a set of expensive books while reminding you that working women inevitably raise crack whores; she just gives you the recipe for peach ice cream. Who knows, maybe it’ll catch on.)

Nice and easy. You peel and chop fresh peaches and macerate them in sugar, then throw them in the food processor, then mix the blended peaches with a standard mixture of milk, cream, vanilla, and more sugar, and then churn and freeze.

It came out very pleasant and peachy with little bits of fruit all through it, and the ice cream itself was mildly peach flavored. This time, I let the ice cream harden up, but I served it in wedges, which blunted its appeal somewhat. It also didn’t help that it was on the plate next to this– well, you’ll see.

Buying an ice cream scoop and being able to serve nice curled-up scoops of ice cream made a big difference for how well the ice cream was received. I might make this recipe again with a little cinnamon and/or ginger or maybe rum, especially when the peaches on our tree ripen up. 

BLUEBERRY GINGER MINT SORBET I GUESS

So I made one batch of peach ice cream and wanted to make a second batch of something contrasting to go with it. I found this amazingly, suspiciously simple recipe for a blueberry mint ginger lime sorbet. My spidey sense told me the website looked hinky, but as you may know, my specialty is forging ahead through hinkiness, for no reason at all. 

Yeah, so, it turned out terrible. It was kind of gritty and pulpy and much too gingery, and it certainly didn’t freeze right, so it was kind of like a very chilly . . . relish. The crazy thing is, I can’t find the recipe at all now. I can’t find it online, and it’s somehow not in my search history. I swear I did not hallucinate this dreadful recipe, and yet. Let’s just move along. 

NEAPOLITAN TRAIL MIX

After the blueberry relish debacle, I promised the kids something yummy and fun would be next. Aldi had these bags of trail mix with chocolate chips, vanilla chips, strawberry chips shaped like ice cream cones, cashews, almonds, and freeze-dried strawberries. 

What really sold me was the ice cream cone-shaped chips. I really needed it to be crystal clear that this was ice cream we were dealing with. Ice cream!

By this time, my Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book had arrived

so I used the recipe for Sweet Cream Base 1, which is what they recommend for fruit, cookies, and candy. It is similar to the recipes I’d used before, except it has eggs. The recipe:

Whisk 2 eggs for 1-2 minutes. Gradually add in 3/4 cup sugar and continue whisking for another minute. Add in 2 cups heavy cream and 1 cup milk and blend. This makes a quart of ice cream.

I churned up a double recipe of this and then stirred in the trail mix, which I had been keeping in the freezer. This turned out just excellent. I built in time to let it sit in the freezer for four hours before dinner, and I even bought an ice cream scoop, so it came out just like “real” hard pack ice cream.

Very rich, smooth, and creamy. I was afraid the whole nuts would be too big and I should have chopped them up, but they were just right. The only flaw was the freeze-dried strawberries, which were somewhat hard to chew, being both freeze-dried and frozen. But everyone liked this ice cream and said I should make it again. 

By this point, I was in the habit of washing out the freezer bowls, drying them off, and returning them to the freezer as soon as the ice cream was done churning. 

LEMONADE SLUSHIES

On a whim, I made a big pitcher of lemonade (water, bottled lemon juice, and sugar), and dumped it into the machine and let it go for 25 minutes. It came out just a tiny bit more watery than a frozen drink you’d get at the 7-11 or whatever, but there were no complaints. There was a bit left over, which I poured into a cup and froze. Voila, an Italian ice with which to bribe an intractable child the next day. 

My only sadness is that no one in this house is young enough to call them “Flushies” anymore. 

GINGER ALE SLUSHIES

Next day, we tried the same thing with ginger ale, and it did not work at all! The dasher froze to the bottom of the machine, and we just ended up with very cold ginger ale with some drifts of slush floating in it. I have no idea why this happened. 

SAFFRON ROSEWATER PISTACHIO (BASTANI) 

Back on my bullshit. You can see, I have been alternating between cute, fun, summery, silly ice cream, and effete, exotic, difficult frozen confections. Time for something difficult!

There were many recipes for this ice cream, which is Persian and is called “bastani,” so I listened to my heart and chose the one from the site called The Delicious Crescent. One mark against it is that you have to stand there whisking a custard for a long time until it thickens up. Most people can manage this, but I have custard problems, and it always takes eleven times longer than normal, if it thickens at all. 

One mark in its favor was that it has you grind up saffron with salt using a mortar and pestle, which I got for mother’s day and haven’t had a chance to use yet. That was fun! Here is a nice handful of saffron threads

and here it is, all ground up in the mortar with a little salt

You make a simple custard and chill it in an ice bath, and then soak the ground saffron in rosewater

then stir that into the custard along with cream, and chill that in an ice bath. Lots of exciting changes in color along the way!

Then you pour the final chilled saffron rosewater custard into your ice cream maker and churn it. You add the pistachios in afterward, and then continue freezing. The recipe called for unsalted pistachios, but I had salted, and I thought they were great. I also omitted the vanilla that the recipe called for, and did not miss it at all.

I made a triple batch of this recipe and to me it seemed like the most successful yet. Wonderful, silky, creamy consistency, and a very rich flavor.

Many of the kids just didn’t like it, because saffron and rosewater, but I thought it was lovely. I don’t know how to describe it, because nothing else really tastes like saffron or rosewater. The flavors intensified over time, especially the rosewater, which I discovered because I kept going back for more over the next few days, and I did valiantly eventually manage to eat the whole thing. 

Next! Orange slushie!

We gave slushies another chance, this time with orange soda, and it worked great. 

Nice and frozen, very refreshing. It comes out more frozen along the edges, and you stir it up to even it out the consistency before ladling it into cups. I like knocking on kid’s doors and they groan, ” . . . whaaaaaaat” thinking I’m going to say “Can you please take the garbage out?” but instead I say, “Do you want a little orange slushie?” They do!

VANILLA M&M

Yesterday morning, I made a double recipe of Ben and Jerry’s basic cream base plus a little vanilla, and threw in a bag of M&M’s when it was done churning. The M&M’s got a little blurry as I stirred them in, and gave the ice cream a kind of swirly pastel effect, which wasn’t terrible, but it was a little unexpected. I think I could have prevented this, and kept the M&M’s more intact, by freezing them for an hour or so. I just forgot to do that, and they were probably pretty warm from sitting on the shelf.

I put the churned ice cream back in the freezer for about four hours, and it came out somewhere between hard pack and soft serve. Solid enough to cut into wedges, but a tiny bit softer than I would have liked for our purposes. Benny made chocolate chip cookies, which she spread into pans and cut into bars, so people could make ice cream sandwiches.

I didn’t taste either, because me and chocolate don’t get along, but everyone said it was good, except for one kid who was inexplicably complaining about HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE M&M ICE CREAM SANDWICHES. It’s hard to believe a child of mine would turn out to be a complainer, and yet here we are.

NEXT! 

Next up: My plan is white chocolate chips, maraschino cherry halves, and cashews. Eh? Eh? I think that sounds like party ice cream, and yes it will give me a headache, but probably not a migraine. Gonna remember to freeze the white chocolate chips this time. 

I have also bought a few bars of baker’s chocolate, so I can make some chocolate ice cream. It is absolutely time to start experimenting with something besides the basic sweet cream base. 

I’m also looking, heaven help me, at recipes for Lucky Charms ice cream. They have brought home a box of actual store brand Lucky Charms and requested that I made it into ice cream. All the recipes require you to make a bowl of Lucky Charms-infused milk, run it through a sieve, and then make a custard out of that, and hey ,why not make your own bespoke marshmallow fluff as long as you’re insane? and for some reason I’m thinking about how much fun it would be to clean the dusty grease off the top of the refrigerator, instead. But I guess if I can make rosewater bastani, I can make Lucky Charms ice cream. 

I actually have a kid who works in an ice cream shop, and the other day a customer was asking about various toppings, and she was trying to explain that one of the choices was Fruity Pebbles; but having been brought up in dire poverty, she kept saying “Fruity Dyno-Bites” instead, and they had to call the manager over the clear up the confusion. You know, people are always going on and on about lead paint and predatory landlords and no running water, blah blah blah, but you never hear about the devastating hardship of growing up so poor that, when you talk about cereal, you speak Malt-O-Meal, and nobody knows what you’re talking about. O, the humanity!

I’m also looking at my grapes.

This is the view from my murderboat, which has been utterly consumed by grapes in the last few years.

Last year, we made grape jelly, for reasons that are kind of unclear, because we don’t super duper like grape jelly, and we sure did make a lot of it. I’ve been promising the kids we would just make grape juice this year, which people actually want to consume. But I’m thinking grape gelato could be pretty wonderful. We’ll see! And the war between fun and effete wages on. Maybe I should buy a second ice cream machine. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 304: It’s souvlaki all the way down

Happy Friday! The name of the game this week was souvlaki! We didn’t really have that much Greek food; I just like saying “souvlaki,” and apparently so do Greek people, because every time I look up a recipe for something Greek, they let it slip somewhere in the recipe that this is souvlaki. No matter what it is. I have looked it up, and apparently the main ingredient necessary, in order for a dish to qualify as authentic Greek souvlaki, is “various meats.”

This is what makes me take a dim view of arguments that such-and-such dish isn’t really authentic. I mean, if it’s made of sawdust, then no, it’s not authentic cuisine. One time I told my kid I was eating imitation crab meat, and she said with great condescension, “Weww, Mama, I woudln’t eat wubba cwab if I was you.” But that is as far as I’m willing to go. Beyond that, it’s all authentic souvlaki as far as I’m concerned. (This is a complicated joke about fake meat, mock turtle soup, and turtles all the way down, if you like. If you don’t like, you can just keep reading, and eventually there is a nice picture of pork.) 

Weww, Mama, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, veggies and dip, chips, cherry pies with ice cream

My sister and five of her kids came over on Friday. On Saturday, we had a lovely guest for lunch, Fr. Michael Eades, a Toronto Oratorian who was passing through, so we had a little cookout in the middle of the day, and then we went to the beach, and then we came home and had another little cookout, because It Is Summer. 

I had a lot of fun making the pies. I do recommend sitting down in the afternoon and pitting several pounds of cherries while chatting with your beloved sister, and all your kids goof around playing cousin games and being silly. It’s just nice. Then I made the pies and Corrie brushed them with egg wash for me

and of course I managed to burn them, but they still got ate up. 

Here’s my reliable pie crust recipe:

Jump to Recipe

SUNDAY
Spaghetti al carbonara 

Other meats have gotten more expensive, but bacon, which was always expensive, has stayed about the same, so I convinced myself this counted as a cheap meal, because I hadn’t gone shopping yet and it was literally the only dinner I could think of. 

Just about everybody likes it, and I managed not to burn the bacon, anyway. I bet you haven’t made carbonara for a while! Why not make it this week?

Jump to Recipe

Just pasta, bacon, parmesan, eggs, butter, and lots of pepper. Sticks to your ribs, as my grandfather used to say. You can make it fancier if you want, but the basic version is so easy and good.

MONDAY
Chicken drumsticks, pasta salad

Drumsticks really are cheap, to my sorrow. I hate drumsticks. I mean, they’re fine. On the drumsticks, I put olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and paprika, and roasted them, turning them once. The pasta salad had olive oil, wine vinegar, black olives, red onions, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, minced garlic, and I imagine salt and pepper. 

Not a sophisticated meal, but I went shopping in the afternoon, got home late, got the food put away because the grocery-put-away kid was at work, and then cooked supper, so everyone has hungry and appreciated food. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday!

I used to think Taco Tuesday was so silly. The kids would get so excited if I served tacos on Tuesday, and I just could not see what the big deal was. It was just tacos, regular tacos, and it happened to be on a day that also started with T, big deal. 

But you know what? Taco Tuesday performs the valuable service of letting me not figure something out. What day is it? Tuesday. What are we having? Tacos. What are people? Happy. Take a little nap, brain. THIS IS WORTH FORTY MILLION DOLLARS.

To the drained ground beef, I added lots of cumin, lots of chili powder, salt, plenty of garlic powder and onion powder, and some water. I guess I am officially weaned off using those little packets of taco seasoning. The secret ingredient is, as I suspected, salt. 

I went to take a picture of my tacos, and the camera was open the other way and captured this somewhat portentous photo of myself, looking like I am considering devouring not only the tacos, but the entire world, because the world is asking for it.

 

And here is the picture of my tacos.

WEDNESDAY
Pork gyros (souvlaki), homemade vanilla ice cream

The star meal of the week. I had a pork loin that I cut into thin slices and marinated in the morning. I sorta kinda followed this recipe (souvlaki), except I used a lot more garlic than it says, skipped the thyme, and went with fresh rosemary and fresh oregano. The one important thing is that this marinade includes honey, which he claims (and which I have no reason to doubt) breaks down the pork fibers. I marinated the meat about five hours and then pan-fried it in batches, and it certainly came out amazingly, yieldingly tender. 

I also made a big batch of garlicky yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

and cut up a bunch of tomatoes and cucumbers, and we cooked some french fries and I sent the girls out for a bunch of wild mint leaves, we and wrapped it all up in pita with feta cheese and hot sauce. 

Hot damn, it was delicious. (Actually I skipped the fries because I ran out of room and I secretly think it’s kind of gross.) I forgot to take a picture of it actually wrapped up like a wrap, because I just gobbled it up. You really cannot beat fresh herbs in a wrap. I think I’m going to take another stab at growing herbs inside this winter, because it makes such a difference. 

THEN, my ice cream maker arrived! Actually it arrived on Tuesday. I’ve been haunting Facebook Marketplace, and found a great deal on a Cuisinart ice cream maker (this one, and I didn’t spend any $83.10 on it!). We dashed out (that’s an ice cream maker joke) for some heavy cream and decided to just start with vanilla. I had put the bowl in the freezer in the morning (this is the kind you don’t need ice or salt for, but you do need to freeze the bowl for at least six hours ahead of time), and we made one batch that came out great, but the bowl did not stay cold enough in our sweltering kitchen to make a second batch. So I went ahead and ordered a second bowl from eBay, plus the Ben and Jerry’s recipe book everyone is telling me is the best. 

Benny always strives to dress appropriately for the occasion. 

So, no thrilling ice cream tales so far, but our first foray was pleasant enough. The machine is very simple to use. The ice cream comes out of th machine like soft serve, but I spread it in a pie plate and put it in the freezer for a few hours, and it came out like high quality hard pack ice cream.

There are some peaches on our peach tree, and we intend to make them into ice cream when they’re ripe; and we’re planning some ginger ice cream for next time we have Asian food, and probably, oh yes, blackberry ice cream when we get back from vacation and haven’t been scrounging away at the blackberry bushes for a whole week. 

THURSDAY
Pork ribs, cheezy weezies

Just good old oven broiled ribs with salt and pepper with the fat crisped up, nothing better. I was planning mashed potatoes, but it was and is way way too hot, so cheezy weezies it was. It’s been so hot all week. Hot hot hot. I actually got a bunch of work done on Thursday morning and then did something I haven’t done in decades: I draped myself over a floatie and just drifted around in the pool thinking about nothing. Just drifted like a screensaver, drift, bonk, driffffft. 

Actually before that, I went to jump off the little deck, got caught on a nail, and left most of my swim suit bottoms behind. Straight out of Looney Tunes. The kids may never recover. 

I’ll show you various meats. 

One of my kids immediately climbed out of the pool and went to find me a towel to cover my modesty. And another of my kids immediately shouted, “Not that one! That’s my towel!” And I am taking notes. 

Anyway, after that is when I decided I would just drift for a while. For some reason, the kids got out of the pool after my comic mishap. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

And now, I can hardly believe my luck, but we are getting ready to go to the ocean for a week. I planned (and, in a stroke of good sense, pre-paid for) this vacation back in the middle of winter, and boy oh boy. Are we going to swim in the ocean. We usually go to Hampton Beach, but we’re venturing a little further down the coast this year. I bought Aldi’s entire stock of oversized towels on clearance, and we have our shark-spotting app all fired up, and we might not have our absolute favorite kind of insulin, but we do have insulin, and the check engine lights are on but are not flashing, so off we go! The house we rented has a small balcony and a SPIRAL STAIRCASE in it. And is near the ocean!!!!!!!!!! It allegedly has a little boardwalk leading to a private beach 300 yards away, but many of those words can mean all kinds of things, so we shall see. But still. The. Ocean. I’ll probably be posting photos on Facebook and possibly Instagram if you want to see what we’re up to.

Yes, there will be someone watching the house at home, so please do not feel free to rob us of all our cool and valuable possessions, such as our, um, our very valuable, you know what, go for it. I guess the printer is only a few years old if you want. I may have a Creedence tape in there somewhere.

 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

 

Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs spaghetti
  • 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • lots of pepper
  • 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc.