About Strawberry Ice Cream

As you no doubt have already guessed, it's summer! Well, I'm told it's summer anyway, but if you were to look out my window right now all you'd see is dreary wind-whipped rain and if you were to look at me right now all you'd see is a drowned rat wearing a pink shirt and doing a pretty decent job of typing on a laptop. If the drowned rat doesn't say so herself. POINT IS, we just had a glorious if far too short three-day weekend, and at least two of those days were accompanied by glorious sunny weather and at least one of those days was accompanied by THE NATIONAL, MOTHERFUCKERS! so who cares if it rained a little bit?

Actually, that wasn't the point at all. POINT IS, now that summer is here so is strawberry season and chances are your local supermarket/super farmers' market is overflowing with the stuff, and dear lord almighty I love me some strawberry ice cream. And this particular strawberry ice cream is, as my boyfriend told me, the best ice cream I've ever made. And once again I'm replacing the whole milk and heavy cream with fat-free half-and-half, which I KNOW is so freaking unnatural if you think about it too hard, but as I mentioned once or twice before it's summer and my pool opened this weekend and also my ass is big enough as it is, thank you very much.

For a quart + a heaping bowl for immediate consumption you'll need:

1 pint of strawberries, sliced
3 cups of fat-free half-and-half
3/4 cup sugar (use 2/3 cup if your berries are particularly sweet)
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

First you're gonna want to macerate your strawberries, and all that means is you're gonna toss your sliced strawberries in a bowl with about 1/3 cup of the sugar and let that sit around for an hour until the strawberries get all juicy. I have no idea why this happens, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with science. Also unicorns.

Next, heat up 2 cups of the freaky-deaky fat-free half-and-half, the rest of the sugar, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan until everything gets all warm and steamy, but not boiling. (Sound familiar? That's because this is how you make ice cream. It's all the same. Only the names have changed.)

Plop your egg yolks in a bowl and whisk them all together. Now you are going to temper those with a little of your warm cream mixture by slowly pouring a little of it at a time into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the egg yolks get incorporated into the cream without scrambling first. Because scrambled eggs are good for breakfast but not for ice cream (as far as I know).

Now to make a custard! Scrape that all that back into the saucepan, stirring it constantly over medium heat with a silicon spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot as you stir. In about 10 minutes, you'll notice the mixture has thickened considerably. Once it coats the spatula so that you can run your finger across the coating and have it not run (if you have an instant-read thermometer, it should register about 170 degrees), you're done. (With this step, anyway.)

Pour the remaining cup of fat-free half-and-half into a large bowl, and set a mesh strainer on top. Now pour your custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. This will catch any pieces of curdled egg that may have curdled on accident. Don't worry, it's common. It happens to most guys. It's not a big deal.

Strain your strawberries through the strainer, but don't strain yourself as you make sure all the juices get into the bowl. (See what I did there?) Stick these strawberries in the fridge and save them for later.

Finally, add in the vanilla and stir it all together.

And now we Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V:

Here's the big secret to making ice cream at home: the colder your base is before you put it in the machine, the better. So wrap up your bowl in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge at least overnight. Or, as Jack Bauer has taught us, 24 hours is better. Then, fix up your ice cream maker however you're s'posed to fix it up, flip that baby on, and pour your custard in.

And watch the magic happen!

Also, listen to the magic happen!

Magic is loud!

After 20ish minutes of loud magic, add your strawberries. By saving them until the last 5 minutes, you can keep them from getting mushed up into unrecognizable pulp during the churning process.

After they've all been incorporated, scoop your ice cream into a container and stick it in the freezer for another couple hours. Then? YUM.


About Slaw with Spicy Cilantro Dressing

Oh my God, you guys (every time I say this I think it in the voice of Michael Ian Black; I do not know why), I love slaw! I love slaw SO MUCH! That's a pretty weird thing to say, isn't it? BUT I DO. And since this is Memorial Day Weekend, I thought maybe one or two of you are going to a cookout. And maybe one or two of you are in charge of bringing a side dish. And maybe one or two of you would like to bring an INTERESTING side dish. And if all that is true, then maybe one or two of you would like to make this INTERESTING slaw.

If so, you need this stuff for the dressing:
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled ginger
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (for a slightly Asian flair, substitute 1/2 tablespoon with sesame oil)
  • 1 fresh serrano chile, finely chopped, with seeds
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk all that together.

And you're done!

Just kidding. You need some actual "slaw." And the beauty of "slaw" is that "slaw" can be anything. I'm not kidding! If you can shred it, you can slaw it. Here, I have some red cabbage, carrot, radish, and green onion, along with the cilantro and chile for the dressing.

Or, you know what? They actually sell bags of already shredded slaw at the grocery store if you want to be lazy about it. Me? I like to do things the hard way. TWSS.

So get your vegetables shredded and put them in a bowl, or open the bag and pour the contents into a bowl (WHATEVER), drizzle your dressing over everything and give it a toss.

And keep giving it a toss, every few minutes, for at least 10 minutes. AND THEN EAT NOM NOM NOM.


(Incidentally, this will keep in the fridge for a few days and stay all crunchy and delicious. Also, if you use a whole head of cabbage, you might want to think about doubling up the amount of dressing you use. Also, also, this is REALLY good on sammiches and burgers and junk.)

About Peeling Fresh Ginger

I'm a sucker for fresh ginger, and if there was a way to put it in everything, I totally would. (And did! Remind me to give you my recipe for ginger ice cream one of these days.) But the thing that's probably the most frustrating about using fresh ginger is getting the damn skin off, because it's thin and nubby and practically screams I'M A-GONNA MAKE SURE YOU CUT YOUR FINGER OFF!

You're not going to let that ginger tell you who's boss are you? I didn't think so! So pick up that spoon and start scraping!

Yeah, that's about it. Just take the edge of your spoon and scrape the skin away until there's no skin left, and then laugh at that nubbin of ginger for thinking it's so tough and manly or whatever.

About Lamb Sliders

I'm a sucker for tiny things, like tiny little kittens and tiny little pandas and tiny little cupcakes and, oh, tiny little burgers. I don't know what makes me like a tiny little burger better than a regular-sized burger, but I do and because I do there was this entire week two years ago when I very literally had tiny little burgers for dinner every night for a week, sampling the many types of tiny little burgers offered in my neighborhood, from Bar Louie to the Greene Turtle to Matchbox to Zola to Bar Louie again. (They have, like, seven different kinds. Also tater tots.)

But it was the lamb sliders from Zola that really got my attention, and my friend Mariel decided, Duh, of course I'm going to make these at home. And I thought, Dude, that's the best idea I've ever heard! So I tried Mariel's recipe, and it was good, but because it was originally an Emeril recipe it was chock full of just about everything you can imagine, from cinnamon to all spice to clove to YOU NAME IT. And in the middle of all those spices, Mary's tiny little lamb was lost. (Oh! Speaking of lamb, have I ever told you the story of how I used to hate lamb? It's true! Up until about three years ago I couldn't stand the stuff. Turns out, like most things, the secret is in COOKING IT RIGHT.)

And since this is Memorial Day weekend, the weekend when one's mind wanders to all things grilled, I thought maybe you'd maybe think about making something other than boring old hot dogs and hamburgers maybe. Maybe you'd like to maybe make my lamb sliders maybe. If maybe you do, here's your shopping list:
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeƱo, seeded and minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (Seriously? Just buy a garlic press already.)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 3/4 pounds ground lamb
This? Is everything I just mentioned, thrown together in a bowl. Actually, it's just about half of everything I just mentioned, because it's only two of us, and Winston (cutest kitten in the whole wide world) doesn't eat people food unless it's cheddar cheese, Cheetos-brand cheese puffs, canned tuna water, olive oil, butter, or salmon. (Thanks for introducing him to that, boyfriend.)

Mix that all up with your hands until it's all mixed up. This is my favorite part because it's like I'm playing with Play-Doh! And who doesn't like playing with Play-Doh! Meaty, meaty Play-Doh!

Let's take a moment to think about my awesome, awesome buns. Because I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Where the H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS am I gonna get tiny little hamburger rolls? And my answer to you is, THE SUPERMARKET SILLY!

Only they're not called Tiny Little Burger Rolls, they're called Dinner Rolls, and Jonny Moseley can tell you a thing or two about that.

So keep those dinner rolls in mind when you're shaping your tiny little lamb slider patties. They'll plump up as they cook, so make them slightly bigger than the roll.

Now throw those patties on the grill (or grill pan) and grill (or grill pan) them until they are slightly charred and cooked the way you like them, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Actually, that's a lie. Because if you cook these any longer than to medium-rare, I'm taking my recipe and I'm going home. Remember that story I told you about not liking lamb? It's because people INSIST on cooking it to well done and despite its name, well done is GROSSLY DONE.

Now, plop those babies on your buns, and maybe top with a little feta cheese and yogurt sauce? Maybe a tiny little slice of tomato? Or you know, ketchup and mustard or salsa or avocado or WHATEVER. It's YOUR BURGER. That's NOT cooked to well done.



About Cheese Grits

Of the many important lessons one can learn from the classic movie My Cousin Vinny, the most important is this: no self-respecting Southerner would ever use instant grits. So it's a damn good thing I'm just barely a Southerner, because I'll stand around for fifteen years making risotto, but when I want cheese grits I want them RIGHT NOW. Seriously, the mere mention of cheese grits is enough to make my head explode, and so it was last week when Heather Anne merely mentioned cheese grits, and all my Pavlovian reflexes kicked in and my head was filled with nothing but the thought of cheese grits and so I made cheese grits. AND THEY WERE GOOD.

So now I'll pass the savings on to you! Let's make some groceries. For a big ol' pot o' grits that will serve about six normal-sized human beings, you'll need:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup finely diced green pepper
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup quick grits
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • salt, pepper, Tabasco to taste
Have we talked mis-en-place? We have? Good! Because here it is again.

So, melt half of the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When it has stopped foaming, add the yellow onion, green pepper, and jalapeno. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the veggies and saute them until nice and soft. Then add the garlic and saute for about a minute more, making sure it doesn't burn. It should look like this when you're done:

Pour in the milk, cover the pan, and bring it to a boil. (But watch the pot carefully so the milk doesn't boil over, and yeah, I know what they say about watched pots never boiling, but there's also this thing called physics that says otherwise.) Turn the heat down to medium-low and slowly stir in the grits so's you don't give yourself the lumps.

Cook, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. (You'll obviously need to uncover the pot occasionally to stir up your grits.)

Now pull the pan off the heat and add both cheeses and the rest of the butter. Stir until the cheeses are all melted and incorporated into the grits.

Give it a taste, then add more salt and pepper if it needs it, and top it off with a little Tabasco. I apologize in advance if, after eating a whole mess of these cheese grits, you never think of anything ever again.

Who am I kidding? I'm not sorry AT ALL.


About Black-Eyed Susan

It's Preakness Stakes day! And the very best thing about this second leg of the Triple Crown is the booze. Seriously. I don't even like fruity cocktails but this one is delicious. Seriously. So let's go to the liquor store.
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 ounce rum
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
First off, have your kitty gather together all of your ingredients.

black eyed susan

Then, mix them all together and pour over ice. And garnish if you like. I like. (I mean, really, why be half-assed about it, ya know?)

Then, you know, drink. Lather, rinse, and repeat to drunkeness. Awww, yeah.


About Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mmm... cookies. I mentioned over here that I have exactly two cookie recipes (because my boyfriend is some sort of freak of nature who doesn't like dessert), and this is exactly one of them (that my freak-of-nature boyfriend will actually eat). And my hopes in sharing this is that I'll convince you how quick and easy it is to make chocolate chip cookies yourself, from scratch, because those fake-o take-and-bake brands? SUCK DONKEY BALLS.

Your shopping list for about 3-4 dozen cookies, assuming you don't already have these ingredients in your pantry (which I almost always do):
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature (Always buy unsalted butter! This way YOU get to control how much salt goes into your food, and not some faceless manufacturer! POWER TO THE PEOPLE!)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (Preferably unbleached; it tastes better and is better for you! See, I'm making cookies healthy! DON'T SAY I NEVER DID ANYTHING FOR YOU!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 375F.

Cream together the butter and sugars. If you have an electric hand mixer now's the time to use it. (Mine is yellow! Like my kitchen!)

It should look about like this when you're done:

Next, add the eggs one at a time and beat until well blended. The add the vanilla extract and, again, beat until well blended.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. I like to sift it all together through my fine mesh colander, just to make sure I don't end up with any random pockets of baking soda, because have you tasted baking soda toothpaste? GROSS.

Now add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients by hand, a third at a time, stirring to blend. Try not to stir it forever and ever and ever; there's this thing with the proteins in flour and gluten or whatever, and basically what happens when you overwork your dough is you get really tough, mealy cookies. Again, gross.

Add the chocolate chips. Here I actually ran out of chocolate chips, so I added some peanut butter chips too. You could easily replace some of the chips with nuts. (Heh.)

Give it a quick stir. You'll see that this batter is pretty damn chippy, because chips (of all varieties, incidentally) are DELICIOUS.

Then, drop tablespoonful-sized mounds onto ungreased cookie sheets. I line mine with parchment paper because I'm lazy and I don't like to do dishes. But maybe you're not lazy and you're some sort of freak of nature who actually likes to do dishes, then by all means, skip the parchment paper.

Make sure your cookie mounds are spread out, because they're cookies, and when they're cooked they'll actually be shaped like cookies. I know, SHOCKING.

Bake them until lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Then let them cool on the sheet for around 2 minutes before transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Next thing you know, COOKIES!


About Guacamole

More than any other food IN THE WORLD guacamole is an intensely personal experience, and for that reason I am really, really hesitant to post this recipe. But I wanted to say hi to my friend Pete (Hi Pete!) because he mentioned tomatoes (the berries/legal vegetables, not the boobies) this morning and the one thing I will not stand in my guacamole is tomatoes. Because let's face it; unless they are in season and vine-ripened, tomatoes kinda suck. And when you add sucky tomatoes to guacamole they get all watery and sort of ferment in there and UGH.

The truth is that I never really liked guacamole until I started making it myself, and I started making it myself because I just love avocados SO MUCH you guys, and I knew that my love of avocados would be the perfect foundation on which to build a better guacamole. And I did. (For me anyway.)

So I'll go shopping and you can sit back and watch.
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped cilantro
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
So here I have my minced and chopped ingredients all in a bowl.

After pitting my avocado, I've gone ahead and diced it into pretty big chunks. And the easiest way to do that is right in the peel with a butter knife, and then using a spoon to scoop it all out into the bowl.

Then it's just a matter of adding the lime juice, salting and peppering, and carefully mixing it all up, making sure to keep the avocados as chunky as possible.

Because simple is best, ya know.

(And now a shout-out to my boys Karl Alzner and Tyler Sloan: YOU GOT THIS SHIT. Make us proud.)

About Pitting an Avocado

(You might want to turn your speaker volume down on this one.)

About Chopping Herbs

I sure do implore y'all to use fresh herbs a whole lot, and it occurred to me that looking at a whole bunch of stalks and stems and leaves and junk might seem a little intimidating (to a big ol' wuss). So let's get back to basics and talk a little bit about how one goes about getting those fresh herbs into some sort of usable format.

First you'll need to separate the leaves, and put them all in a pile right there in the middle of your cutting board. Here, we happen to have some cilantro, unless you're British and then it's coriander. (You know, just like they think arugula is rocket and basil is BAHsil and oregano is oreGAHno.)

Don't worry if you can't get rid of every single bit of stem; so long as you've taken care of the thick (heh) or woody (heh) stalks you'll be fine.

Next, bunch your pile up into a tight ball (heh).

Finally, start chopping, and this probably goes without saying but I'll say it anyway: chop only the herbs AND NOT YOUR FINGERS.

There you go! Feel free to rock the blade of your knife back and forth over your freshly chopped bits if you want smaller pieces. And just in case you were worried, there is absolutely NO REASON WHATSOEVER why I did this with the giant Chinese cleaver, except that there really is a reason. All of our other knives were out getting sharpened.