Sunday, September 27, 2015

Letting Go

They say you start to mourn the loss of someone well before you lose them.  While I know this to be true from personal experience I also feel you start to mourn changes to your life long before they happen...  like when your children prepare to leave the nest.  Letting go is hard, but as a parent it is part of the job description.  Watching this butterfly flutter from flower to flower on Madeline's college campus was a gentle reminder that it is time for my children to fly and be free. 

 How, in the blink of an eye, did they go from this...

... to this?

I know I should not use food as comfort, (who am I kidding we all do from time to time), but during this truly bittersweet time I found myself taking more solace than I care to admit in the ice cream at Maddie's school's creamery to help me let go of her.  

The creative flavors and generous servings took my mind off matters for a while.

Wandering around the school's beautiful arboretum also brought me comfort and needed exercise after all the ice cream I consumed.  The calming lily ponds and soothing colors brightened my spirits.

The charming children's garden with vegetable and fruit beds and pint-size watering trough brought me smiles as I reminisced about Addison and Maddie's childhood years.

On the long, lonely drive home I realized I may have a rocky road ahead while I adjust to a quiet house, but a little ice cream might make the journey a bit sweeter.

The Toasted Vanilla Bean Marshmallow Rocky Road Ice Cream recipe looks long (the name sure is), but it isn't complicated and it can be done in stages.  Make the chocolate ice cream base and refrigerate it until ready to freeze in the ice cream maker.  This can be done up to two days ahead. The marshmallows can be made in advance as well.  Don't toast them until ready to add them to the ice cream, but they can be stored un-toasted in an airtight container for up to a week. The pistachios also can be toasted and chopped in advance.  Store them in a glass jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.

The chocolate ice cream is delicious on its own, so if you aren't a marshmallow fan leave them out and just make the ice cream.  Homemade marshmallows can be sticky business to make, but they taste so much better than store-bought.  Toasting them with a kitchen torch before folding them into the ice cream gives the ice cream a s'mores taste.  I used pistachios because I like their flavor with chocolate, but any nut will do, just make sure to toast them in the oven first to bring out their nutty flavor.

Toasted Vanilla Bean Marshmallow Rocky Road Ice Cream

Chocolate Ice Cream
makes about 1 quart (1 liter)

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) heavy cream
3 tablespoons (21 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
5 ounces (140 g) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) whole milk
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan whisk the heavy cream and cocoa powder until thoroughly blended.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for a minute stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate.  Let the mixture sit for a few minutes then whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture into a large bowl scraping the saucepan as clean as possible.  Put a mesh strainer over the bowl with the chocolate mixture and set aside.

Put the milk, sugar and salt in the same saucepan heat until warm.  In another bowl whisk the egg yolks.  When the milk mixture is warm remove from the heat and add a small amount to the egg yolks whisking to warm them.  Continue slowly adding the milk until it is all incorporated.  Then return the mixture to the saucepan and heat gently over medium low heat stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat and pour the mixture through the mesh strainer into the bowl with the chocolate mixture.  Stir in the vanilla.  Cool the mixture over an ice bath stirring occasionally then refrigerate until very cold at least two hours and up to two days.

Whisk the cold chocolate mixture to combine and pour into an ice cream maker.  Freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.   While the ice cream is soft fold in the ingredients to make the Toasted Vanilla Bean Marshmallow Rocky Road Ice Cream see recipes below.  Then return to the freezer until ready to serve.

To assemble the Toasted Vanilla Bean Marshmallow Rocky Road Ice Cream:

Put the chocolate ice cream in a large bowl fold in 1 1/2 cups (90 g) of Toasted Vanilla Bean Marshmallows (recipe below) or miniature store-bought marshmallows and 1 cup of chopped Toasted Pistachios (recipe below).  Store the ice cream in the freezer until ready to serve.

Toasted Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

1 cup (120 g) confectioners' sugar plus more if needed
1 large vanilla bean
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (90 ml) cold water
1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
2/3 cup (130 g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) light corn syrup
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and sift a 1/2 cup (60 g) confectioners' sugar over the foil.

With a sharp knife split the vanilla bean in half length-wise.  Scrape out the seeds.  Put them in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Add a 1/4 cup (60 ml) of cold water. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water let it sit to soften.

Put the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 2 tablespoons of water in a small heavy-bottom saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook the syrup until it reaches 250℉ (121℃) on a candy thermometer.  When the syrup reaches the temperature turn on the mixer to medium speed and slowly and carefully pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream in to the bowl staying close to the side of the bowl so the whisk attachment doesn't splatter the hot syrup. When all the syrup is added turn the machine to high speed and whip the mixture for 5-8 minutes until it is like a stiff meringue.  Add the teaspoon of vanilla extract and whip to incorporate.

Spread the marshmallow mixture about 1/2 inch thick on the confectioners' sugar-dusted baking sheet.  Lightly dampen a spatula or your fingers to help spread the mixture.  It can be difficult to spread don't worry if it isn't perfectly even.  Let the marshmallows sit at room temperature uncovered until set, about 2 hours.

When the marshmallows are completely set put the other 1/2 cup (60 g) confectioners' sugar in a fine-mesh strainer and dust the top of the marshmallows and a pair of kitchen scissors.  Cut the marshmallow into strips and then into small pieces.  Sprinkle with additional confectioners' sugar so they don't stick together.  Shake off excess confectioners' sugar and spread the marshmallows in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil.  Allow to dry for 10-15 minutes.

The recipe makes a little over 2 cups (120 g) of marshmallows, depending upon the size.  You will only need 1 1/2 cups (90 g) to fold into the ice cream so the additional marshmallows can used to garnish the ice cream or can be stored in an airtight container for a few days if toasted and up to a week if not toasted.

Using a kitchen torch toast the marshmallows on the baking sheet.  Put the tray in the freeze for a few minutes to make it easier to remove the marshmallows.  Don't worry if some stick together. They will come apart when you fold them into the ice cream.

Toasted Pistachios

1 cup (150 g) whole pistachios

Preheat oven to 350℉ (175℃).  Spread the pistachios on a baking sheet.  Toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes until slightly browned and fragrant.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  While the pistachios are still warm, but cool enough to handle rub them together between your hands to remove as much of the papery outer skin as possible and discard the skins leaving only the pistachios.  Allow to cool completely then rough chop with a knife and set aside until the ice cream is ready.

The Toasted Vanilla Bean Marshmallow Rocky Road Ice Cream is amazing on its own, but drizzle with my hot fudge sauce to make a sublime sundae.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Holding On

I did not plan to be silent for so long.  It just happened as I have been savoring the last moments of the cherished life I have known for so many years.  Addison graduated from college with his Masters of Architecture and is now working in another city.  Maddie graduated from high school and is off to college far from home.  In an attempt to hold on to the last remnants of a life I hold dear we took a trip to New York City.  One last hurrah before a new season in our lives begins.  

New York City is so big, vibrant and energetic.  Day or night it pulsates with life.  It is both exhilarating and a bit exhausting, but fun and exciting.  The architecture is truly awe inspiring. 

And when New York City gets a little overwhelming there is always a park nearby to escape to for a bit of peace or to rejuvenate.

I wonder what it is like to have a corner office in the Flatiron Building?  Is the furniture triangle-shaped?

Much to our delight we were accompanied by our dear long-time friends Jane, Collin and Elizabeth.  Jane is a friend from college who is part of my annual girls' weekend.  Her children, Collin and Elizabeth, are close in age to Addison and Maddie.  While we don't live in the same city we have done our best to spend as much time as possible together over the years.  Watching our children grow up and develop their own friendships with each other as well as with us has been a delight.

Lucky for us Collin worked in New York City this summer so we had our own personal guide.  He is definitely in the know with all things trendy and cool.  He took us to some undiscovered gems. Although I have been making avocado toast at home for years, Collin introduced us to an elevated version at Café Select.   For a nice twist there is a layer of roasted tomatoes under the creamy avocados.  It is the ultimate comfort food.  

New York City at Fourth of July is dressed very patriotic with flags flying everywhere and buildings beautifully lit.

Thanks to the kindness of the family Collin stayed with we had a front row seat to the festive fireworks over the East River.  The view was spectacular.

I got almost as much enjoyment out of the reaction of a friend of the family as I did to the fireworks themselves.  As each firework exploded in the sky she let out a cheer of excitement.

Of course no trip to New York City would be complete without going to the theatre.  An American in Paris did not disappointment.  The multi-talented cast was superb.

Even though we are not in Paris, I just can't leave New York City without a quick trip to Ladurée. We stopped by to pick-up macarons for our long drive home. 

But we were pleasantly surprised to find two of our favorite pastries as well - a Raspberry Passion Fruit Tart and a Strawberry and Pistachio Saint-Honoré cake.  What a treat!

Once back home and closer to the big changes ahead I needed a little comfort so I tried to recreate the satisfying avocado toast of Café Select. This recipe is very loose and easy.  It is all about a sprinkle of this, a pinch of that, add more or less to your taste.  I like a nice dense whole-grain loaf of bread, but substitute whatever you like.  There is no right or wrong, interpret as you please.

Roasted Tomato Avocado Toast

1 lb. (16 ounces/453g) ripe tomatoes
2 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ripe avocados
juice of 1/2 of a lemon
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, optional
loaf of whole-grain bread
pinch of sugar
splash of balsamic vinegar
cherry tomatoes, optional
additional cilantro for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350℉ (175℃).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Wash and dry tomatoes.  Cut the tomatoes horizontally in half.  Squeeze gently to remove seeds or use a spoon. Put cut side down on the baking sheet.  Peel the garlic cloves, leave whole, put on the baking sheet.  Drizzle tomatoes and garlic with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes until very soft and the skins are slightly brown.  Allow to cool.

Rough chop the tomatoes and garlic and put in a bowl.  Add a pinch of sugar, a splash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and stir to mix.  The tomatoes can be done ahead of time leave at room temperature if using immediately.  Or store in a tightly covered glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Cut the avocados in half length-wise remove the seed and put the insides in a bowl.  Squeeze half of a lemon in the bowl add the chopped cilantro if using.  Lightly mash the avocado and stir to combine.

Cut the bread in thick slices, toast and drizzle with additional olive oil.  Spread each piece with the tomato mixture and top with the avocado mixture.  Garnish with additional cilantro and cherry tomato halves.  Serve.  Makes 6-8 pieces of toast.