Nectarine Shiso Ice Cream





One thing about motherhood I didn’t expect, was the friendships you make with other moms you meet along the journey. And one of those friendships, with wonderful Hiromi and her son Dylan, brought me one of my favorite herbs: shiso, fresh from her garden. Shiso, also known as perilla (more useful information on the herb here), is often served in sushi bars as garnish. It is a member of the mint family. When I describe its flavor, I say it is somewhere between basil and mint. But that doesn’t do it justice. It has such an elusive taste that seems to elevate the texture and fattiness of raw fish, but also flavors steamed rice wonderfully. Like lavender, it has a powerful scent, and I’ve been wanting to make ice cream with it for a long time. So when on a hot Tuesday, I met Hiromi in front of the organic fruit stand at the Farmer’s market and she handed me those beautiful shiso leaves from her garden… well, the idea for peach-shiso ice cream presented itself. Life is serendipitous that way sometimes. Or at least, a lot of recipes are.

Pablo had never had ice cream before, and I really wanted to make it homemade, as the ice cream sold in stores is so high in sugar content, and I am wary of sugar more than anything else. The amazing thing about babies and toddlers, is their ability to both enjoy very mild, subtle taste (plain yogurt, plain tofu), and very strong and flavorful things (olives, pickles, blue cheese) at a young age. But if we introduce an overload of sweet flavors at the outset, how can they possibly enjoy pure and subtle flavors, like a simple vanilla ice cream? Conversely, if we wait until they’re older to introduce what we consider to be strong or odd flavors, we take the chance they might reject them for being too unfamiliar. So my strategy has been, from the very beginning: 1/ to avoid anything too sweet (big fan of plain yogurt), 2/ to offer whole foods with every category of flavor (bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami), without the preconceived notion that because he’s a baby, he won’t like it. Exposing him to those flavors (as well as their smell, since smell is an essential component of taste) while still very young (from 6 months on, depending on any allergy risk) has been a key part of my strategy. 3/ To get him to taste the foods pure first, 4/ To keep trying and offering over and over again if he doesn’t seem to like something.

I imagine his tastebuds as these very sensitive and delicate sensors, not to be overloaded or crushed, but to be challenged and exposed to a variety of things (I suppose you could say the same of raising a child, couldn’t you?)

This ice cream definitely fit the bill for exposing Pablo to the subtle flavor of shiso, combined with the known flavor of stone fruits and dairy. It has a very mild taste, it is not that sweet (the only sugar comes from the honey). You taste the fruit first, and the shiso stays as an aftertaste. The whole family enjoyed it, I gave it to Pablo for his afternoon snack (“le goûter”) with a couple of small oat cookies.

Nectarine Shiso Ice Cream

Age : 12 months and up (mostly because of the honey).

6 nectarines (or peaches, white or yellow, whichever are the ripest and sweetest, I mixed both for this batch)

20 leaves of shiso

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

1 cup coconut milk

1/3 cup honey + 1 tbsp for drizzling over the nectarines before roasting

Preheat the oven at 400°F.

Cut the nectarines/peaches in half (remove pits now or later), and place in a roasting pan, cut side up. Drizzle with honey. Roast until golden brown and tender, 30-40 minutes.

Let cool completely, peel the nectarines and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

In a large sauce pan, combine the shiso, cream, coconut milk and honey over medium heat, until it barely boils. Remove from heat, cover and let the shiso steep for about 10-15 mn.

Pour shiso-milk mixture through a colander into a bowl. Press the shiso leaves with a big spoon to let all the flavor out of them. Discard the leaves. Let cool and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.

When the fruit and ice cream base are nice and cold, mash the nectarines grossly, add them to the base. (Note: You can also combine the base with the fruit when cool, but before refrigerating for a few hours or overnight, to let the flavors of the fruit steep even more into the base.)

Churn in the ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

If you like it very creamy, eat it right away. Otherwise, freeze and it will harden.

Alternative to shiso: You could use the exact same recipe with mint, for a peach or nectarine & mint ice cream.

PS: Just added “ice cream” to the food sign list, check it out!

Cream of sardines mushrooms… & the art of being humbled

There are humbling experiences in life. Seeing the Grand Canyon. Admitting life has gotten the best of us
and asking for help. Witnessing true brilliance.

A

nd then, there’s taking a toddler to the snow for the first
time.

There’s parenthood, really.

 

I apologize for being away from this space for the past
week, and hope with all my heart it won’t happen again. Being back here feels a
bit like coming home. And it’s good to be here.

After overbooking myself with a huge work project that
chained me to my desk from morning to night, I was so excited to leave for 3
days of winter wonderland. Being a southern Californian for the past 15 years,
cold weather has become this sort of romantic fantasy of snow angels, warm
fires, hot cocoa, snowball fights and giggles on the slopes. And lovely hearty
meals, of course.

So along with the lovely fires and cocoas and snow play and
yummy cheesy potato dishes we did gratefully enjoy, there was a fair amount of backbreaking, sliding,
snowing, chain-installing, frustrating (anyone has a tutorial on how to put
snow gloves on a 21 months old who isn’t sure what his thumb is?) moments…

I’m sure I’m giving a good laugh to people in most of the
world who are very familiar with kids in cold weather. Part of me was laughing
at me too, as I was actually breaking into a sweat just putting Pablo in his
snowsuit. And by the time I actually had him covered from head to toe and he could
barely move, he was getting cranky and in no mood to try skiing. You get the idea…

Half-way through the weekend, I remembered the first day at
the zoo.

When Pablo was probably about 8 months, I took him to the zoo
for the first time. We were meeting a few other moms. I had planned everything
just right, and was ready for that perfect photo in front of the elephants, and
giggles at the monkeys. Long story short, a few long lines, missed meet-ups, naps
and diaper changes later, we ended up seeing a couple of pink flamingos and a
couple of parrots. And it was over.

Finding a way to be happy and thankful for that day, was
hard. Letting go was hard.

And those couple of days in the mountains were an intense exercise
in adapting to what the situation was throwing at me and making the best of it,
keeping in mind what was important (i.e. having a nice time together as a
family), while quickly mourning whatever expectations I didn’t even know I had.
I guess it could be called rolling with the punches.

This is such an essential skill I am in the process of
honing and which I have sorely lacked in the past. My 21 months old son is
teaching me this. I am humbled by him too, every day.

So yes, parenthood is humbling, in so many ways. What have you found humbling in your life?

Now for a not-so-smooth segue, here’s a recipe for one of
those nights you might need to roll with the punches.

We love canned sardines, they are healthy, delicious, easy. I
introduced them to Pablo around 8 months. They make a nice finger food. And on those
busy hectic nights, simply popping a can open can be a saving grace. I often serve
them just plain with a vegetable and rice or quinoa. A few months ago, I had also shared a sardine eggplant brandade recipe which we always enjoy.

When in France
last summer, I came across a small recipe book with nothing but recipes using
canned sardines. I’m finally sharing this yummy and easy little recipe from it. Its presentation is playful for kids, they can even help spooning the stuffing in the mushroom “hats”. And they make an awesome appetizer or lunch for grownups too. I hope
you enjoy it.

Mushrooms stuffed with cream of sardines

Adapted from “Sardines en boîte, les 30 recettes cultes” by Garlone Bardel

Age for babies: 8-10 months

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 25 min

4 Portobello mushrooms (or 12 white mushrooms)

1 can of sardines in olive oil, drained and fork-mashed

A handful of chives, chopped

1/2 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

Rinse the mushrooms in running water, dry them, cut the stems off. Set aside.

Chop the mushroom stems finely.

In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan, sardines, chopped mushroom stems, chives, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the mixture in the mushroom caps.

Place the mushroom caps on parchment paper on a baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes.

Serve warm. We served it with a mâche pea shoots goat cheese salad.

Cod & Brussels sprouts in garlic cream… & planting seeds for the pleasure of eating well

I was talking to the mom of a 12-month-old boy the other day, and
as we were casually chatting about germs and toddlers putting everything in their
mouth, I mentioned that the old French remedy pediatricians would give to moms
50 years ago in France, was to feed their babies blue cheese, Roquefort and the
like, to boost their immune system and help them with digestion. (I have
certainly followed that advice, and gave Pablo blue cheese fairly early on,
probably around 10 months. Pablo loved its strong flavor.) She was very
surprised at the idea, so I marvelled at how children have such open minds about
flavors and textures at that age, and you can get them to try a wide variety
of foods.

She responded something like, “Yeah, and then at 4 years old it’s
all over, they don’t want to eat anything anymore.”

This isn’t the first time I encounter this sort of attitude,
and have heard the same type of comment from moms of grown-ups, “Yeah sure,
you’re happy your kid is eating vegetables etc, but it’s not going to last,
you’ll see.”

I dare say this attitude bugs me to no end. I guess it does because the subtext I’m hearing is, “Just give up on it now, it’s no use offering your kid a wide
variety of foods because he may reject it all down the road.”

And my answer would be: isn’t it worth it to offer babies
and children good real foods, even if
they taste it and enjoy it just once? Even supposing (and I don’t even believe that
supposition to be valid) that tomorrow, Pablo starts rejecting every single
vegetable or food he eats now, he has been eating good, real, flavorful and
balanced foods for the past 18 months, and those 18 months are completely
worthwhile. It’s not lost or wasted. The enjoyment, the positive food
experience, the introduction of colors, textures, flavors, scents, all that is
in his brain somewhere, it’s a seed that is planted and will somehow grow and
takes its course.

It would be almost like saying there’s no point in playing
with your infant or showing him things because later on, he may be
completely disinterested in these same things and not even remember them.

A few months ago, I blogged about my friends at Gopher Springs Farm, and their desire to grow quality sustainable foods from the soil
up, making the best possible compost to get the richest possible soil to
plant seeds in and let them grow, their roots strong, fulfilled.

It’s kind of the same thing here. We know in child
development the first three years are so crucial in every aspect, how we relate
to our babies, how they learn, how the type of attachment we create during that
time will define them in many ways. And I believe this applies to food and the
education of taste. Those first couple of years of life, exposing them to a
wide variety of real foods, getting them engaged,
interested in the eating
experience in all its sensory glory, showing them the excitement of trying
something new, nurturing their open-mindedness about flavor and textures, sharing
meals with them as an opportunity to be in the moment and focused on the pleasure
of eating and doing so in each other’s company… All these things make up this
rich soil, this crucial foundation in their mind and their body. It’s planting the seeds of a life of balanced,
enjoyable eating. It’s never too late to start the education of taste, it can be done at 1 or 6 or 50, but if you have the opportunity to start early, why not do it?

I don’t even think it is true that all children start to
reject all “good” foods at 3 or 4 or 12. That is definitely not the case for
most French children (including myself), who are expected to eat “everything” – and they do,
mostly (Karen Le Billon explains this in detail in her aptly named French Kids Eat Everything.)
Yes, neophobia (the fear of new foods, an interesting scientific study on it here) can be common among
toddlers, but it usually dissipates by age four. A couple of thoughts on that:

1/ If a child does have this fear of new foods, this is the
time for a parent to hang in there and keep offering and gently challenging the
child to eat good balanced foods, finding fun playful ways to do it, and certainly
not the time to throw in the towel and just give in to the pasta/cheerio diet.


2/ If you expose your infant/young toddler to a wide
variety of foods and vegetables on a regular basis before age 2, these foods
won’t be new to them and not so scary.

I also suspect one of the biggest culprits for toddlers and
young children not eating well is the snacking on demand throughout the day…
I was asked recently how come Pablo eats so well during meals, and part of the
reason is that when he comes to the table, he’s hungry. His body knows he’s not going to be snacking 1 or 2 hours
later, so he eats well. And he enjoys the meal all the more.

Should Pablo go through a more resistant phase, where he
doesn’t embrace all foods as enthusiastically as he does now, I will consider
it exactly as that: a phase. I will certainly not label him as “resistant” and
give up on his education of taste altogether. I will keep challenging him and
offering him new foods, good foods, keep engaging him. Because the seeds we
plant when they’re infants and toddlers, need to be nurtured so they may grow
strong. We don’t just give up on them at the first sign of resistance.  The education of taste is an ongoing, lifelong process.

I guess the other aspect of this “what’s the use?” attitude
that bugs me, is that it feels like putting the blame on the child. “The child
is resistant.” “The child won’t eat vegetables.” “The child refuses.” I don’t think
that’s fair. I believe in the old saying, “There is no such thing as a bad
student, only a bad teacher.” It’s up to us as parents to keep offering, to
model balanced eating habits, to make it possible for our children to keep
experiencing the pleasure and fulfillment that sharing a good meal of real foods, give their body and soul.

All right, all done rambling on. The recipe I’m sharing here is one of those “Really!? You’re feeding that to your kid?” recipes… Yes. Fish with Brussels sprouts and garlic cream, cooked in a parcel… Do not shiver, just try it. If you have never liked Brussels sprouts, this dish might make you a convert.

Cooking them this way takes away the bitterness, and those caraway seeds you might have had sitting on your spice rack for years (as was my case) will find their true calling here (they go well with all types of cabbages).  As for the garlic cream, it makes the whole thing simply scrumptious.

I talked about the benefits of cooking in parcels before. It is very playful for kids, Pablo is always excited to be getting a cadeau (present) for dinner, the excitement when you unwrap it, the fun of pouring the sauce over it, of having your own little mystery package. You couldn’t sugarcoat it any better than that… (sans sugar, that is).

Parcels of black cod & Brussels sprouts in garlic cream

Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes aux Légumes du Potager by Valérie Lhomme

 

Serves 4

Age for babies: 8-10 months, if necessary, mix it into a puree (you could mix the cod/Brussels sprouts and a head of baked garlic adding formula milk to desired consistency)

Prep time: 20 mn

Cook time: 35 mn

4 thin slices of pancetta

4 pinches of caraway seeds

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Grossly quarter the Brussels sprouts and wash them. Plunge them in the boiling water for two minutes, drain them and cool them off under cold running water. Set them aside on a kitchen towel.

Wrap the garlic cloves (unpeeled) in parchment paper and bake them for 15 minutes.

Remove the skin and mash them with a fork. Combine with the heavy cream in a small saucepan and set aside.

Cut the cod into four pieces, and cut 4 squares of parchment papers.

On each square of paper, place a bed of Brussels sprouts, a piece of black cod and a slice of pancetta on top. Sprinkle with pepper and some caraway seeds.

Wrap the parcels hermetically, tying each end with kitchen string.  (Note: you can make these ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until ready to bake)

Place the four parcels directly on the bottom of the oven and bake 10-12 minutes.

Place the saucepan with the garlic and cream over low heat. Add a sprinkle of salt and some pepper. Bring to a low simmer.

Place each parcel on a plate, open it and pour the cream of garlic over the fish.

Pasta in saffron cream recipe

I bought this new shape of pasta called schiaffoni. It is a bit like manicotti but shorter and wider. For some reason I decided that it would be good with a saffron cream kind of sauce and I kept thinking about it until today I finally had the right occasion to cook it.

It’s a simple dish and works well for a quick lunch or dinner.

Pasta in saffron cream

Ingredients

  • pasta
  • 2 oz. diced ham
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • saffron
  • flour
  • – 1 yolk

Directions

  1. I started out as usual by boiling the water and preparing my pasta. While the water was warming up, I started on the sauce. I diced an onion and some ham and put them in a pan with a bit of melted butter.
  2. When the onion was soft I added the milk and the saffron. I also added a yolk and 1/2 a spoon or so of flour to the milk to keep it from separating and to thicken up the sauce. I seasoned the sauce with salt and pepper.
  3. When the pasta was ready, I dressed it with the sauce and sauteed everything briefly so that the pasta would be uniformly covered in sauce. I used schiaffoni, but this sauce would work well with short smooth pasta like mostaccioli, or with long wide pasta like pappardelle.
  4. It turned out exactly as I imagined it!

Yogurt panna cotta (no cream in this recipe!!)

The other day I decided to make panna cotta but I wanted to make it without using any cream (which is king of , given that the name means cooked cream). Anyway I decided to go with yogurt and after a search on line I saw it was doable, you just have to use greek yogurt and milk.

Now I don’t think this makes it a no calorie dessert, but for sure is better than using cream and in any case it does taste super light and summery!

Today I am going to San Francisco for the weekend. Will be back home by Monday….

Yogurt panna cotta (no cream in this recipe!!)

Yogurt panna cotta (no cream in this recipe!!)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 packet gelatin
  • 2-4 tbs sugar
  • vanilla extract

Directions

  1. First soak the gelatin in cold water. In the mean time warm your milk. When the milk is starting boiling add the sugar, the vanilla extract and the gelatin and mix well.
  2. Add the yogurt to the milk and again mix well to combine.
  3. Using a strainer, pour the mixture in 4 small bowls or cups or 3 larger ones. The strainer will allow you to get rid of any undissolved gelatin lump.
  4. Place in the fridge and let solidify for a couple of hours. Decorate using your favorite fruit, jam, jelly, preserve or sauce and serve.