Monday, February 18, 2013

Almonds All The Way

A couple weeks ago, I asked my husband what kind of ice cream he wanted.  He looked at me sideways to make sure I wasn't teasing him.  Not that I tease him about making sweets, I guess I just don't make them frequently enough.  Then he said, Toasted Almond.  He had that request ready and waiting so I thought I best not ignore it, but I wanted a bit more.

This gelled pretty quickly in my head to Almond Ice Cream with Toasted Almond Brittle. 

I had no idea how phenomenal this was going to be - if so, I would have taken more pictures!  I am telling you right now, I just sat and said "mmmm" the whole time I ate this.  The cool, creamy texture of the ice cream broken up by the crisp bits of brittle was delish! 

Almond Brittle  (I used my Mom's Peanut Brittle recipe as the template for this recipe.)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown rice syrup (or light corn syrup)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1 cup toasted slivered almonds (I'm sure sliced would work)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

  1. Toast the almonds.  I do it on a pan in the oven, but however you do it, watch them closely.  They go from toasted to burnt fast!
  2. Grease one large cookie sheet. 
  3. Take a deep breath and prepare to be patient and focused on the candy!
  4. In a saucepan combine sugar, syrup, and water.  Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.
  5. Bring to a boil and blend in the butter.
  6. Stir frequently until the mix reaches 230 degrees.
  7. When the mix reaches 280 degrees add the nuts.
  8. Stir until the mixture reaches 305 degrees or soft crack stage.
  9. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and almond extract.
  10. Pour onto large greased cookie sheet.   Stretch and let cool.  Break into pieces after it's cool.  (I chopped this when I put it on top of the ice cream).

Almond Ice Cream (I used the Almond Ice Cream recipe from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein as the guide for this ice cream.)

7 ounces almond paste
2/3 cup  sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 toasted almond slivers (optional)

  1. Combine the almond paste and sugar in a food processor and process until smooth.  Warning - I tried an electric mixer first and the sugar just started flying everywhere!  (There are many types of almond paste, but you shouldn't have any decisions to make as most stores only carry one.  I would suggest using almond paste, not the marzipan that you'll see right next to the almond paste.  The first ingredient in marzipan is sugar, not almonds.)
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Beat in the almond extract and salt.  Move the almond paste mixture to a large bowl.
  4. Bring the half and half to a simmer in a heavy saucepan.  Slowly beat the hot half and half into the almond paste mixture.
  5. Pour back into the pan and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly and slowly, so as not to scramble the eggs.
  6. Remove from the heat and pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Allow to cool slightly and stir in the heavy cream.
  7. Chill and follow the directions for your ice cream machine.
  8. If using, mix in the toasted nuts when it's almost the ice cream thickness you desire in the ice cream machine.

This is a "please repeat" for me!  I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, February 8, 2013

LA Influence

I've been traveling a lot for work and recently enjoyed an evening in LA after some meetings.

The view was pretty nice.

And I enjoyed the dinner that inspired this post at The Fat Cow.  The Fat Cow is a fairly new restaurant from the chef Gordon Ramsay.  It is tucked into The Grove, a shopping, movie area not too far from downtown.

My dinner was very good.  I had the Salmon with White Beans and Smoked Pork and a side of the most amazing Brussel Sprouts roasted with Balsamic Vinegar and Hazelnuts. 

I'll have to try my own version of the Brussel Sprouts some time when Joe is gone, but my head immediately thought I could make the Salmon at home.  Hmm, what would I do to change it?  Well I wanted to do it with lamb and thought of adding kale to the white bean ragout.  Because it's winter and there's kale in everything if I have anything to say about it! One would think that alone would encourage Joe to want to cook every now and then... but apparently, he's good with it.

So this week I bought some lamb, thinking I already had some dried white beans around.  Hmmm, maybe not...  You see where this is going don't you?  You're thinking does she ever make sure she has all the ingredients beforehand?  How is what she's going to make even remotely close to what she had in that restaurant? 

But isn't that the joy of cooking?  Finding one little thing that peaks your interest and then making it your own? 

Ta - Da!  Seared Lamb Chops served over a Lentil, Kale, and Brown Rice  Pilaf.

We've covered this before, you can make anything into a pilaf, just start with your flavors.  For me this means sauteing, onion, celery, and carrots.

Then add the additions, such as kale! 

Oh and you can always make a dinner feel special by adding just a few pieces of bacon or pancetta to add that depth of smoky meat flavor.

Next add your rice and saute a bit before adding the lentils (if desired) and appropriate amount of broth.  Cover and simmer while making the other parts of your meal.

Next time you enjoy something in another city or a restaurant, whether it's a flavor or an ingredient, don't feel like you have to recreate it from scratch, just use it for inspiration.