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!

A sweet custard recipe

“How was your week?”, people ask. But are they ready for an honest, full answer?

Because for me, it was…

A busy week. Made of work deadlines, toddler activities, juggling writing, cooking, photographing between bath times, meal times and nap times.

A grateful week, for the precious help of my mother and support of good friends.

A stressful, anxious week, with the anticipation of big life changes and all the daunting effort, work and energy they require.

A flavorful week, rich with the bounty of summer produce and local farmers.

A hopeful week, with faith in the fruits of difficult decisions and doing our best in the present.

A sad week, for the helplessness felt in the face of the struggle, pain and suffering of loved ones.

An inspiring week, with lots of ideas and connections, things to express, to explore.

A tired, humbling week, longing for sleep and rest, a reality check that my brain and body cannot function non-stop.

A joyful week, of reaping other fruits, the things Pablo has learned without my teaching, the awe and wonder of watching grow what I sowed. A spontaneous thank you, or gesture to share food, a rythm or a song, a new skill, a desire to help, a willingness to try new things, a wish to connect with others, and sprouts of empathy in his demeanor.

Such are our weeks and lives, aren’t they? Never just one thing. They are in our image, complex, mixed, impossible to define. Therein lies their beauty. They can’t be labeled, or dismissed for being one thing, these nuggets, these increments of our lives.

So with the acknowledgement of last week, ready or not, we begin a new one. With a sweet treat, and a menu, to get us on our way…

It has been a while since I’ve shared our weekly menu, and a while since I shared a dessert recipe, so I shall fix that with one post. Crème Caramel, which is basically a cold caramel custard, is a classic dessert in France. You can easily find it already-made in the yogurt section of any supermarket. All schools offer it once in a while for dessert to children (you know, French schools serving a daily four course lunch to children and all). It is a combination of such simple ingredients (milk, eggs, sugar), makes a great sweet treat.
And then I came across the photo of a verrine (pretty edible things presented in a glass, basically) on a French website, and decided to simplify it greatly to create an easy, yet delicious and crowd-pleasing dessert perfect for a summer (or any season really) afternoon, or for a dinner party.

Smoked tea infused crème caramel, & a verrine of shortbread cookie, stone fruit, yogurt, and smoked caramel custard

For the crème caramel:

Makes 4-6 ramekins, depending on size (lower, shallow ramekins tend to set better)

Age for babies: 12 months and up with the honey, in very small quantity.  I gave this to Pablo for the first time at 27 months (and it was love at first taste!)

2 cups of whole milk

1 vanilla bean (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

3 eggs

3 tbsp honey (heat it up to make it liquidy if needed)

In a pan, combine the milk and vanilla (if using a bean, scrape the seeds off into the milk, and put the bean in the milk as well). Bring to a slow boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let the vanilla infuse for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat the oven at 400°F.

Pour the hot caramel into the bottom of the ramekins, just enough to coat the bottom. It will harden and cool quickly. (*Note that I was able to keep this caramel covered in the fridge for a couple of months. I just reheated in the microwave to liquify).

Then, whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the honey and whisk until combined.

Remove the vanilla bean from the milk, (strain the milk through a fine mesh if desired), and pour the hot milk over the eggs, all at once, and whisk vigorously for a minute or so.

Pour the milk/egg mixture over the caramel in the ramekins.

Place the ramekins in a baking dish, and pour some hot water in the dish, so it goes up about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the ramekins.

Place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until set. You will know when you tap on your baking dish, and the middle of the custards is no longer liquid (though it will giggle a little.)

Remove from the oven and the hot water bath, and let cool. Then place in the fridge for 1 hour or more.

When ready to serve, place a plate on top of the ramekins, hold on to both and turn the plate over, shaking gently until you hear the soft “schlug” of the custard coming off the ramekin. Lift the ramekin, and pour the leftover caramel at the bottom of the ramekin over the custard.

For the verrine:

Age for babies: Omitting the crème caramel, I would give this as an afternoon snack for example from 8-10 months (yogurt, cookie, fruit mixed together and set to rest for 1 hr, so the yogurt softens the cookie).

1 plain shortbread cookie

1 spoonful of plain (full fat if possible) Greek yogurt (this one is by far the best I’ve had in the US, by the way)

1 spoonful of European style, plain yogurt, with cream on top preferably

Seasonal fruit of choice: here I used plum and nectarine 

1 bite or two of crème caramel

In a small bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt and regular yogurt with some of the cream on top.

At the bottom of a glass, break/crumble the shortbread cookie.

Add the yogurt, the cut up fruit on top, and then a spoonful of the crème caramel.

Note: You can make these ahead and leave them in the fridge until ready to serve. It gives the yogurt time to imbibe the cookie, which makes the whole thing even more scrumptious!!

Sweet and sour pearl onions

Yesterday I finally cooked one of my favorite wither dishes: sweet and sour pearl onions! I found frozen pearl onions at Traders’ Joe and immediately decided I needed to get them. Yesterday I cooked them and very happily ate them all (well BF helped, but I am pretty sure I was the one that ate the most).

Sweet and sour pearl onions

Ingredients

  • pearl onions
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • butter
  • sugar
  • balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. First, in a pan I put the onions with about 2 cups of water and a beef bouillon cube and let them boil for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I soaked a tablespoon of raisins in hot water.
  2. When the onions were soft and nice I drained the leftover broth and put a bit of butter in the pan.
  3. When the butter is melted I added back the onions, a tablespoon of sugar and the drained raisins.
  4. Finally, I added a splash of balsamic vinegar and let everything caramelize for a couple of minutes.
  5. Ready to serve as a side to a pot roast, a roast a stew or even by itself.

Tower of sweet frittatine

Today we are back with Cooked in Translation! As you might know, cooked in translation is a monthly event where we interpret a traditional dish. This month Sophie from German Foodie choose Pfannekuchen which basically is the German version of pancakes. To participate link up your own Pfannekuchen or pancake and let your friends know!

What I did was frittatine, little frittate. In Italy, very thin frittate are sometimes used as crepes. Despite the fact that frittata is usually a savory dish, its flavor is actually quite neutral so that these thin frittate can be used a bit like crepes and stuffed with your favorite ingredients.

Of course, similar to crepes, you can layer fritattine with savory ingredients, but this time I  went for something a bit more unexpeted and made a dessert out of them . I topped the fritatine with yogurt and strawberry jam and got a pretty great and fresh dessert, perfect to round up a dinner.

On a separate note, my Chicken Sausages Giveaway is still open: remember to enter!

#CookedInTranslation: Tower of sweet frittatine

#CookedInTranslation: Tower of sweet frittatine

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • honey flavored greek yogurt
  • strawberry jam
  • salt
  • pepper (optional)
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Beat the eggs with salt and a pepper. I know it sounds weird, but strawberry jam is so sweet, that a bit of pepper can be a welcome contrast.
  2. Warm up a medium nonstick pan and coat it with oil. Wipe the excess oil out and pour a bit of the egg in the pan. Quickly swirl around to obtain a thin frittata.
  3. Cook for about 20 sec and flip over. After another 10-20 seconds take the frittata off the fire and onto a dish covered with paper towels to absorb the oil.
  4. Keep cooking the frittatas and pile them up on a plate.
  5. Using a round cutter (or a glass) cut out 10 frittata rounds.
  6. Assemble the tower by placing a fritatta round on the bottom, then 1 tsp jam, another frittata round, 1 tsp yogurt, another frittata, jam, fritata, yogurt, fritata and top with a dollop of yogurt and jam.
  7. You can decorate with mint leaves.

Buttercup squash and sweet potatoes gnocchi

So today  it is World on a Plate and we are doing Dumplings! Yeah I know we did dumplings last month, but some of us didn’t make it and the theme was so good, we decided to do a repeat. And so this time I am making gnocchi. Not quite the original ones that are made with just regular old potatoes and that you can find here, but a rather popular version made with buttercup squash.

In the usual versions of this variation of gnocchi, regular potatoes are used, but I figured sweet potatoes could only enhance the squash flavor, so I went with those.

For dressing, a popular choice is just butter and cheese with maybe a bit of sage or rosemary. Or you can always go to our friend: pancetta (or bacon). But this time I decided to go for a more unusual broccoli rabe sauce, which is perfect for vegans and meat eater alike.

I should not boast, but I got pretty rave comments from my guests! So go on and try making some yourselves and let me know what you think!

Oh and don’t forget to check out other dumplings from around the world at the bottom of this post! I for one cannot wait to see what dumplings are there in Korea, India, Malaysia, Macedonia, Sweden, USA!

Kaboocha squash and sweet potatoes gnocchi

Ingredients

    Gnocchi

  • 1 lb butternut squash
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes
  • 1 to 2 cups flour
  • rosemary
  • olive oil
  • Sauce

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • chili flakes
  • 2 oz. pancetta (optional)

Directions

    Gnocchi

  1. Clean the squash and peal the potatoes.
  2. Cut the squash into slices and the potatoes into cubes and place on an oven sheet. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and rosemary.
  3. Cook in a 400F oven until soft.
  4. Take out of the oven and let the vegetables cool down.
  5. When they are cool enough to handle, mash the vegetables using a potato ricer and place in a bowl.
  6. Add enough flour to get a doughy consistency. The dough should still be sticky and soft, but it should pull back when you try to pull it with the fork.
  7. Dust a work surface with lot of flour. Spoon some of the dough on the flour and form the dough into a long log that is about as thick as your thumb. With a knife, cut the gnocchi by cutting the log into 1.5 inch segments.
  8. Place the gnocchi on a abundantly floured surface and start on the sauce.
  9. Sauce

  10. Clean the broccoli rabe and put them in a pot with the water left on the leaves after washing. Steam until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes.
  11. Blend the broccoli with a pinch of chili flakes and enough olive oil to get a creamy consistency. Salt to taste.
  12. If using, in a separate pot render the pancetta with some rosemary until all the fat is melted and it starts browning. For the best results render the fat on very low heat.
  13. Cook the gnocchi in boiling water. Throw them in the water in batches and scoop them out when they start floating.
  14. Put in a bowl and dress them with the broccoli rabe sauce and the pancetta (if using). If necessary, thin the sauce with the cooking water of the gnocchi.

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