I made this ice cream—a cherry gelato, speckled with bits of pureed bing cherries and softly scented with almond extract—on Sunday night. I made it to serve for dessert with some friends on Monday night, but it really tasted best right out of the ice cream maker, when its texture was at its lushest and flavors at their brightest. It got a little icy and grainy in the freezer, which made me a little sad, but our guests were generous about it on Monday (nudged along, I have a hunch, by the chocolately treat I served with the gelato: stay tuned).

By Tuesday, the last bits of gelato had gone even further south, but my sister, Kevin and I had some anyway, as we alternately watched the NBA finals and the Cubs game. I thought my sister, who is not a big cherry fan (which, to me, is akin to lunacy, but—hey—she’s family), was being polite as she slurped thoughtfully through her bowl. A couple bites in, she looked over at me and said,”Do you know who this reminds me of?” As a spoonful of the gelato melted on my tongue, I knew exactly who she meant: Grandpa. And we both had a good smile thinking about a man we both adore, and the fruit-flecked pink ice cream (usually strawberry, but we were close enough) that he adores. Is there anything better than a broad-shouldered man who is more than six feet tall cradling a bowl full of pink ice cream in his truly enormous paws? I think not.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Wild and Crazy Crisp

June 18, 2008

Crisps were one of the first things I wanted to make when I first started to cook and bake. My first crisp unfolded much like all my other early cooking excursions: I’d be hit with an idea (pesto! lasagna! banana bread!) and would have to make it as soon as humanly possible. These excursions usually involved a mid-grocery store cell phone call to my mom, who would get as excited as I was and patiently dictate her recipes to me.

I got the brilliant idea to make a crisp for the first time a couple falls ago, when Kevin and I were driving home from an orchard in Virginia, where we’d wandered through the rows of squat apple trees, plucking a peck of apples. My mom walked me through the method: butter, oats, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. And don’t forget the salt. I probably don’t have to tell you that I was in autumnal heaven shortly thereafter, pulling a bubbling dish of softened baked apples, topped with a rustic, undulating lid of sweet, buttery oats.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Read the rest of this entry »

In both the cities I’ve lived in since growing up in Minnesota—Chicago and Washington, DC—I’ve been forced to grow accustomed to days that are an ungodly kind of hot. Days where the digital displays outside banks flash temperatures that begin with nines or even sometimes climb into triple digits. On these days, I cannot be bothered to wear much more than a gauzy, swishy sun dress and I refuse all shoes that don’t flip and flop. I’ve also been known to ban all physical contact, even though I’m generally an avid hand-in-hand stroller. And as if this isn’t all bad enough, these days even make me lose my appetite, which is truly a hold-the-presses type of occurrence.

Okay, so I don’t lose my appetite completely. But my palate undergoes a serious reduction and my desire to cook nearly evaporates. On such days, it’s not uncommon to find me standing in front of the open refrigerator or freezer, basking in the icy emanations and also pawing around for a bite of ice cream or crisp slices of cucumbers or a bite-sized cherry tomato that will cooly burst in my mouth.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Read the rest of this entry »

I think that every family has its version of a barbecue. Growing up, the elements of my family’s standard barbecue included potato and pasta salads from Byerly’s, golden cobs of buttered corn, and, if we were really lucky, a trip to Dairy Queen at the end of the night. But the clear star of the show was the giant platter of grilled meats, charred from the grill: burgers, chicken breasts (during my sister’s and my red meat strike that regrettably lasted throughout much of our teens), and, sometimes, brats. The most homesick I ever was during college was at the end of my freshman year in late May, when I called home and learned that my family was grilling. Without me. I could practically smell the grill’s smoke and hear my family’s laughter (mingling, most likely, with the sounds of a Twins game playing in the background). And I could just taste the brats.

With Kevin, my version of the barbecue has evolved to include some elements of his family’s barbecues (skirt steaks, for one) and to incorporate some new ones of our own. These usually include attempts at healthing things up: adding more vegetables, swapping turkey for ground beef in our burgers, opting for whole wheat buns. I suppose that’s where these brats come in. You see, they’re chicken brats. I can only hope that an admission of this magnitude will not prompt my family to disown me.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Beer Can Chicken

June 13, 2008

I had altogether too much fun making this meal. Maybe it’s because my brain is fried from too much studying. Or perhaps my threshold for finding comedy is extremely low, after listening to legal lectures for hour after droning hour. Whatever it was, these grilled chickens were a real riot.

First, the whole project was like a Jeff Foxworthy bit, only backwards. As in: You know you’re not a red neck when you insist that your beer can chicken is organic. You know you’re not a red neck when you grill your beer can chicken on your gas Weber, which resides on your condo’s roof top deck, which affords a Chicago skyline vista. And you really, really know you’re a not a red neck when your beer can chicken requires trips to several stores because the first couple you tried don’t even sell beer in cans. So, right, I’m not a red neck, then.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the method.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Devilish Angel Food

June 12, 2008

Ali’s request for this week’s FDD (Family Dinner Dessert), conveyed in a mid-morning text message on Monday, was simple and open-ended: chocolate and strawberries. Then, in an unusually social butterflyish turn of events, we ended up out to dinner that night, capping off the night by digging four spoons into a wedge of pie so large it almost made me blush. And let’s not even mention the a la mode-ness of it all. Then, on Tuesday night, we had Kevin’s sister over for dinner and closed out the meal with mini molten chocolate cakes (more on those very, very soon). So come yesterday, I was feeling a bit glutted in the dessert department.

Given this state of glut, I suppose it’s no surprise I turned to angel food cake to grant Ms. Ali’s wish. It would be feather-light and summery, not to mention fun to make. Angel food cake, you see, requires some of my favorite baking tasks: separating egg whites, which I love to do by cracking the egg into my cupped hand, letting the whites ooze between my fingers while cradling the sunny yolk; whipping egg whites into a frenzy in the stand mixer, always having a Strega Nona moment wondering if the whites will billow right up and over the bowl, flooding the kitchen; and using my tube pan, which I inexplicably love, with it’s trick bottom and it’s tripod spikes. (I think this would be a good time to note that I should get out more.)

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Show Stealin’ Slaw

June 11, 2008

Do you ever feel bad for coleslaw? It’s always upstaged by its meatier counterparts on the picnic table—always invited but never the guest of honor. It wilts in the heat, growing more sad looking with each rising degree or passing minute. It doesn’t even warrant two whole syllables, instead being truncated to simply: slaw. Given this sad state of affairs, I usually heap a spoonful onto my plate at a BBQ, purely out of pity. And then I nudge the mound around my plate, trying to staunch the flow of its mayo-y rivulets from dampening the bun upon which my burger sits. And, inevitably, the slaw goes mostly uneaten.

I think cabbage deserves better, frankly. So I’m happy to bring you a slaw recipe that will prompt you to sit up a little bit straighter when you take a crunchy bite, wondering what exactly has imparted the faint heat (cayenne) or the sweet snap (granny smith, julienned). And it won’t suffer from the pitfalls of so many slaws before it: saccharine amounts of sugar, insipidly diluted mayo and a pale green color palette. Instead, it gets a tangy perk from Greek yogurt and a flavor boost from the toasted caraway seeds and an eye catching addition of red cabbage strands.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Read the rest of this entry »