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!

Apple Recipes

On another beautiful day spent at Gopher Springs Farm with Franka, Eric, Dexter and Pepe the cat, we were invited to help with the making of apple cider.

Grandmothers wheel Dexter and Pablo on a cart around the property as they happily munch on apples, and watch, unphased, teamwork in action. Next to a high pile of red & golden apples, Franka and her father-in-law wash and cut the fruit. These are some of the apples we harvested a couple of weeks ago, from the many fruit trees here. There are three varieties of apples, and the trees are still full to the brim, apples falling and rolling downhill to our feet.

Eric has designed and built a wooden apple crusher requiring a high level of coordination for the novice that I am. Turning and crushing. After going through the crusher twice, the apples are put inside a cheesecloth, and placed in the apple press, to produce unfiltered apple juice.

With the help of some yeast from Austria and time, about a month, this apple juice will become cider.

In the meantime, when you have lemons, make lemonade. Or in our case, when you have apple juice, make turnip gratin. This is a very simple gratin recipe, where the sweetness of the apple juice compensates the slight bitterness of the turnip, with a touch of salt and crunch brought by the pancetta.

Turnips au gratin with apple juice & pancetta

Adapted from Idées futées pour inviter
Serves 4 people

Age for babies: 8-10 months, the turnip can be given as finger food, cut up in small pieces (though I wouldn’t give baby any pancetta)
1 cup + 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup + 1.5 tbsp unfiltered apple juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1.5 lbs turnips
6 strips of pancetta
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven at 400°F.

Peel and slice the turnips.

Pour the cream and apple juice in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper and the mustard.

Put the turnip slices in the juice-cream mixture (stirring to coat all pieces, if needed) and cook for another 5 minutes.

Cut the pancetta in small pieces, and sauté in a non-stick frying pan for a few seconds.

Pour the turnip / cream / apple juice mixture in a baking dish. Sprinkle with the pieces of pancetta.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the gratin is golden on top.

Gnarly roots recipes

I like gnarly things. Gnarly faces. Gnarly trees. Gnarly
truffles. Gnarly vegetables. Earthy, rooted, tough, intricate, complicated. Yet beauty
and nuance come out of gnarly things. And that wonderful contrast is perfectly illustrated by the celery root.

I don’t know that there is a more gnarly-looking root (and if
there is, do let me know asap!) than the celery
root (though the sunchoke gives it a run for its money, plus it’s got a
cool alias, “Jersulem Artichoke”, but I digress… more on sunchokes very soon).
That thing looks like it’s going to jump out and bite you, doesn’t it? A far cry from its ham of a sibling, the celery stalk, all sleek and leafy up
top. And yet it has such a delicate subtle
taste, which makes wonderful purees, for baby or the whole family (My truffled celery
puree is always a family favorite at Christmas dinner).

Aside from their many health benefits (lots of fiber, lots
of potassium, vitamin C and a flurry of other good stuff), roots have very unique
flavors. Sometimes on the sweet side (rutabaga, parsnip, beet, carrots),
sometimes on the bitter (turnip), or just unlike anything else (celery root,
sunchokes), they add a very interesting set of flavors to a baby’s palate.

A roots puree can be any combination you wish, depending on
your baby’s taste. If your baby tends to like carrots or have a bit of a sweet
tooth, start with a rutabaga/parsnip/celery puree. Beets (of various shades) or
carrots add a nice color component to these purees. For a pretty pink color,
add a touch of beet (though the color of beet quickly takes over, so if you’re
going for light pink, go easy on the beet! I used a whole, albeit small, beet
in the puree below, and see the result…)

Three Roots Puree

Age: 6-8 months, consult with your pediatrician. (As always,
start by offering a puree of each root individually for any potential allergies,
and then mix and match…)

Makes 5 x 2 oz containers

1 small beet

1 medium celery root

½ turnip

Some fresh sage and chives

Peel the celery by cutting off the rough outer edge and
stalks, and cut it up.

Peel the turnip and beet, and cut up in pieces.

Steam the roots with the herbs for about 15 mn, until

Mix in food processor, adding some of the cooking juices to
obtain desired consistency.

Other possible variations with roots:

Celery puree
Steam 1 cut up celery root with 1 small red potato and mix with some cooking
juices (I even go as far as adding a tiny drop of truffle oil now, which
marries itself so beautifully to celery. You can also mix it with a bit of
fresh goat cheese in the processor, adds a touch of tanginess, calcium and

Turnip-carrot puree
– A good way to introduce baby to turnip, since it’s slightly on the bitter
side, the carrot makes up for it. Steam ¼ turnip with a few carrots and mix.

Beet – I usually
steam, puree and freeze one large beet into 1 oz container, that way I always
have some when a recipe calls for a bit of beet, you can just add a touch for
color and taste.

Parsnip &
can be steamed and pureed on their own (or together). The purees
come out very smooth, nice for a young baby who isn’t used to chunks yet.

Three great French recipes

For this guest-post, I wanted to share three recipes for a French meal – appetizer, main course and dessert. The dessert is a little more elaborate than a typical school night meal, but it is so delicious and summery I couldn’t resist sharing it with you. So here’s your menu, if you choose accept this little challenge of eating like the French for a meal
Cold Sorrel Cucumber Soup

Cooking time: This is fairly quickly made, 10-15 minutes, but does need to chill for a few hours. You can make it the day before or a few hours ahead.

4 slices of bread, crusts removed
1 bulb of fennel, stalks removed, bulb sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
A large handful of sorrel leaves
1/4 green bell pepper, cored, seeds removed
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin
3/4 cup of cold water + some to soak the bread
1 1/2 tsp salt

Soak the bread in cold water.

Meanwhile, chop all the vegetables.

Drain and squeeze the water out of the soaking bread. Place wet bread in a blender.

Add the fennel and some of the cold water and blend on high until liquefied.

Add the cucumber, sorrel, bell pepper, cumin, vinegar, olive oil, salt and rest of water, blend on high until very smooth.

Place the blender pitcher, covered, in the fridge for a couple of hours at least, until chilled.

When ready to serve, blend it one more time for a few seconds, and pour in bowls.

 Veal Blanquette

Adapted from At Home with French Classics by Richard Grausman, as well as my mother’s recipe.

Cooking time: Ok, I’ll admit this is a bit involved. You should count about 90 minutes to complete this dish, with some downtime while it cooks. But it is well worth it and is even better the next day!

3 pounds of veal shoulder, cut into bite-size cubes
1 onion, studded with 2 cloves
1 large carrot
2 leeks, washed
1 turnip
2 stalks of celery
3/4 lb mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 Bouquet Garni: 1/2 stalk of celery, 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, 4-5 sprigs of Italian parsley
25 – 30 pearl onions (the easiest is to buy them frozen if you can find them. Otherwise, peel, trim the root end but the onions must stay whole)
2 1/2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups (dry) of rice of your choice

Place the veal in a large casserole or Dutch oven and pour 8 cups of cold water over it. Bring to a boil, skimming the foam from the surface frequently.

Meanwhile prepare the bouquet garni: take a piece of celery stalk, cut it in half lengthwise. Place 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme in the hollow of the stalk, cover with 1 bay leaf and 4 or 5 sprigs of Italian parsley. Cover with the other half of the stalk and tie together with kitchen twine (see photo above).

As soon as the water with the veal boils, add the studded onion, the carrot, leeks, turnip, celery and the bouquet garni (all the vegetables go in whole, as they are not meant to stay in the dish, but to give the stock flavor). Reduce the heat* to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

(*It is important not to let it boil very strongly, or the broth will evaporate and you will not have enough to make the sauce and cook the rice.)

Add the pearl onions (if they’re frozen, just run some cold water over them first) and simmer (still covered) on low for another 35 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

Drain the meat and vegetables, reserving the stock. Put the veal, pearl onions and mushrooms in a large saucepan. Discard the bouquet garni.

The remaining vegetables (leeks, celery, turnip, carrot, half of the onion) are typically discarded, but I find that to be a shame. If you have a baby, toddler or young child, mixing all those veggies makes for a very tasty soft puree with lots of vegetables. You can mix in a food processor and place in 2 oz container (or ice-cube tray), and freeze if needed.

Cook the rice in a saucepan or rice cooker, using 2 cups of the stock and 2 cups of water.

Reduce the remaining stock by boiling over high heat (uncovered), until you have about 3 cups left.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium high heat. Add the flour, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture (called a roux) is pale yellow and frothy, 30 to 40 seconds. Add 2 1/2 cups of the reduced veal stock, and whisk until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil, 2 or 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and add salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously for 10 seconds. Simmer gently, whisking from time to time, until the sauce is the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Skim off any butter at the surface.

Reduce the remaining 1/2 cup of reserved veal stock over high heat, until only a few teaspoons remain, and whisk that into the sauce. Remove the sauce from heat.

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolks and cream together, and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of the warm sauce. Then whisk the egg/cream mixture back into the rest of the sauce. Return to the heat, bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and pour it over the veal, mushrooms and pearl onions, coating them with the sauce.

Serve a portion of rice, with the veal and sauce mixture on top, spoon over some extra sauce. Bon appétit!

1. This keeps very well and is known to taste even better the next day. You could even make it (the veal, not so much the rice) a day prior to serving it. Just let cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in a boiling water bath: by placing the veal in a bowl, and placing that bowl in a larger pan with boiling water over low heat. Stir gently and reheat for about 15-20 minutes.
2. I highly recommend finding veal shoulder, and not settling for veal “stew meat” or other cuts you might find. Shoulder meat is very tender and perfect for this dish, otherwise, the meat might be somewhat chewy.


Serve cheese as the French do, towards the end of the meal, with a simple green salad with vinaigrette (1 part vinegar, 3 part oil, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, salt and pepper), to help digest.

Peach Gratin Soufflé

Adapted from Cuisine

Cooking time: This takes about 30 minutes total to make, but I swear, it is like a warm cloud of summer in your mouth!

4 ripe peaches
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp butter
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of cream of tartar

In a saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk cream. Toss in the bean as well. Bring to a light boil, remove from heat and cover, letting the vanilla infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.

Meanwhile, peel the peaches, take out the stone and quarter them. Butter a baking dish.
Place the peaches in the dish.

Separate the yolks from the white.

In a large bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar, add the flour. Then add the milk/cream/vanilla mixture, whisking well. Pour the whole thing back into the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. It will thicken into a cream consistency. Remove from heat and let the cream cool completely.

(The recipe can be prepared to this point a few hours in advance. Then you just have about 10-15 minutes of prep/cook time before serving. In a French meal, I would start doing this last part while the guests are eating the salad and cheese, chatting and digesting…)

Preheat the broiler at 500°F.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until they form peaks. Incorporate gently into the cream, “folding it in” (don’t stir) with a rubber spatula.

Cover the peaches with this mixture. Place in the broiler (in the middle of the oven) for about 5-7 minutes, until golden on top.

Take out of the oven and let it cool down to warm.

Serve warm in bowls with a spoon. (If you have leftovers, you can refrigerate and serve chilled.)

French Foodie Baby

You say tomato, I say gazpacho…

Just say “gazpacho” out loud three times… and see if you can help smiling… It’s the happy food of summer! In fact, it’s so popular in Europe that the past few years, Tropicana has been selling it in cartons along with the orange juice there!

In honor of Pablo’s Spanish origins, his love for tomatoes (and mine!), and the beginning of warm summer days, I decided to introduce him to gazpacho. I have such a fondness for Spanish cuisine and culture… Last time we were in Europe, it seemed that as soon as we drove across the Spanish border, we felt this breath of relaxation and enjoyment of life… That “aaahhh” you feel as you sit down in a lounge chair on a terrace or a beach, daydreaming about the next meal as you smell the aroma of fish or garlic or “patatas fritas” in the air. When I make gazpacho, I’m able to conjure up that wonderful experience and it just makes me smile… That integration of food, life and its lovely experiences is one of the things I hope to instill in my son on this journey of educating his palate… We can teach our children that food is nourishment for the body, but I also want to teach Pablo that it can be nourishment for the soul.

But enough philosophizing for now… When we went to the farmer’s market last week-end and saw those beautiful organic heirloom tomatoes, well… I knew what needed to be done!

Pablo had had every single ingredient in the gazpacho, so I had full faith my little “gastronome en culotte courte” (literal translation: gourmet in short breeches) would like it. I used the classic Andalusian gazpacho recipe I found in the LA times a couple of years ago, as well as in my Spanish cookbook.  I did adapt it to suit my needs… I didn’t have any bell peppers on hand, so I added a bit of cucumber instead… I reduced the quantity of garlic (1 clove instead of 2) to make it milder. And as one of my missions is to introduce Pablo to the subtle flavors of herbs (I want to do a whole separate post on that topic soon!), this was a great opportunity to add some herbs from the garden. Chives and basil it was. Though it could have been sage and thyme. I’ll have to experiment with those next time…

When it comes to what I call “pursuing the rainbow”, meaning the way to know if your child is getting all the vitamins and nutrients he needs, is by feeding him/her foods of many different bright colors (the brighter the colors, the more vitamins!), this is a winner. With its red (and yellow and green if available) tomatoes, green herbs and cucumber (and colorful bell peppers if you choose to experiment with those – this is actually a pretty good way to introduce a child to bell pepper), gazpacho is a healthy, tasty, refreshing appetizer chock-full of goodness for the whole family!

As the images will tell you, Pablo enjoyed his first gazpacho thoroughly! We were all delighted to see him clap his tongue at the tinge of garlic and cumin, before sticking his nose back into the glass to drink up some more. Plus drinking it out of the glass all by himself must have added to the fun of it all (this is a fairly new skill…)

I will now always have another wonderful association to this Spanish concoction… The smell of tapas, lounge chair, the “aaahh” feeling, and my son’s taste buds tingling in a mouth clap of tangy satisfaction…

Andalusian Gazpacho

Inspired from the LA Times (June 2010) and “The Food of Spain” by Claudia Roden

Age: 10-12 months, depending on where you’re at with the introduction of the different ingredients in the recipe. Make sure you have your child try each individual ingredient over a few days in case of any potential allergies, and as always, check with your pediatrician.

The recipe makes about 1.5 quarts, so you can enjoy it as well for a couple of days…

4 slices of organic bread (I use buttermilk), crusts removed

1 ½ cup of cold water

2 pounds of organic heirloom tomatoes

1 clove of garlic

¼ organic cucumber (the traditional recipe calls for ¼ green bell pepper, you can add both, or experiment with red and yellow bell pepper as well…)

Fresh organic herbs of choice (basil, chives, thyme, oregano, sage…)

¼ tsp of ground cumin (optional)

2 tsp salt

¼ cup + 2 tbsp of olive oil

2 tbsp of white wine vinegar

Soak up the 4 slices of crustless bread in some water until soft.

Remove the cores from the tomatoes, cut them into chunks and puree in a blender of food processor. Press the juice and pulp through a sieve, discarding the bits of skins and seeds. (This is the most tedious part of the recipe, the rest is a breeze. You can also use a juicer to make it extra smooth.)

Squeeze the water from the bread and place it in blender or food processor with the garlic. Blend until smooth.

Add the tomato pulp, cucumber, (bell peppers if you use them), cumin, herbs and salt. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Blend in the vinegar and some of the 1 ½ cups of cold water.

Place the gazpacho in a pitcher and add the remaining cold water.

It can be chilled, but I found that my baby doesn’t like super cold liquids, so I served it to him at room temperature. The flavors also come out better at room temperature, in my experience.