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Chefs’ Corner: Aaron Gonzalez’s Cinnamon-Basil-Black Pepper Ice Cream


Cinnamon-Basil-Black Pepper Ice Cream

We came to know Aaron Gonzalez when he was the chef at Pike’s Place in Pipe Creek. He has now taken over the space, just off Highway 16, and rechristened it Backyard Bistro.

He has teamed with Blanca Cruz, a fixture on the local dining scene for the last few years, for the venture, which combines Hill Country cuisine with Mexican favorites.

One item on the menu that he has carried over from one restaurant to the other is his Cinnamon-Basil-Black Pepper Ice Cream, an irresistible combination of flavors that is quite easy to make if you have an ice cream maker.

Backyard Bistro is at 167 Panther Ridge, Pipe Creek, and is open 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday. Sunday brunch is 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Closed Wednesday.

The restaurant is offering a three-course prix fixe meal for $20, or $17.95 for early bird dinners.

Call (830) 535-4094.

Cinnamon-Basil-Black Pepper Ice Cream

6 basil leaves (minced)
3 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a saucepan, heat the basil and cream to a simmer. Remove from heat. Add sugar and whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon and black pepper. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Finish in ice cream maker, using manufacturer’s instructions.

From Aaron Gonzalez, Backyard Bistro

 

Posted in Chefs' Corner, FeaturedComments Off

Five Easy Peaches


Hill Country peaches are in season now.

When you bite into one of the current harvest of Hill Country peaches, make sure you have a napkin handy. The juice is sweet and abundant, and it’ll likely flow down your chin and all over your hand.

Eating a peach out of hand can’t be beat, but there are five easy recipes to dress up these beauties in desserts your whole family will love.

Grilled Peaches: Cut freestone peaches in half and remove the pit. Melt butter, a little brown sugar or agave nectar, and a dash of cherry, peach or rhubarb bitters, if desired, together. Brush the cut side of the peaches with the butter  and lay on the grill until warn and soft. When you remove the peaches from the grill, brush with a little more butter.

Marinated Peaches and Cherries: Cut up pitted peaches and cherries. Soak in a little  orjeat, an almond syrup; amaretto or Frangelico. Top with whipped cream. Drizzle a little of the syrup or liquor over the whipped cream.

Easy Peach Ice Cream

Easy Peach Ice Cream: Let your favorite vanilla ice cream, such as Blue Bell or Haagen-Dazs Five, warm up slightly. Put it in a blender with slices of fresh peaches and mix them slightly. If you want it soft, just serve it that way with a spoon. Or put it in the freezer for a few minutes and let it harden slightly. When you’re ready to serve it, drizzle a little cherry syrup or amaretto on top. (Or go all out and make it a milkshake with added milk.)

Peach Shortcake: Slice pitted peaches and macerate them in a little sugar. Spoon peaches and juice on sliced pound cake, angel food cake, biscuits or even cornbread. Top with whipped cream and drizzle a fruity balsamic reduction, such as one flavored with figs, on the side.

Peachy Smoothie: Pit a peach and toss it in a blender with watermelon, Greek yogurt or frozen yogurt, and either honey or agave nectar, to taste.

Don’t forget that the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market, 255 E. Basse Road, is celebrating the peach each Sunday this month. Items available during Everything Peach include fried peach hand pies, peach ice cream, peach smoothies, peach preserves (sweet and savory), peach Melba pie, peach sorbet, peaches and cream popsicles, peach lemonade, peach ginger pie, peach frangipane tarts, peach cake, peach-apricot-saffron macaron, meat pie with peachy accoutrement, peach-pecan and bourbon bread pudding, peach chevre and more.

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Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream


In the days before cupcakes upstaged cakes, red velvet cake was different from what it is now. It used to be a cake with a great layer of cocoa powder adding depth of flavor beneath all that red dye, and the frosting was meant to complement the cake, not upstage it. Back then, my mom even frosted hers with a seven-minute icing, coated in coconut, instead of cream cheese frosting.

Nowadays, the cocoa has disappeared, and, thanks to cupcakes, it’s more about the inches of cream cheese frosting on top than anything else.

So, when I first saw that Ben & Jerry’s introduced Red Velvet Cake ice cream, I never questioned whether I would buy it. The pint just jumped into my shopping basket.

But the question was, which style of red velvet cake would it be? Unfortunately, the answer was the latter. In fact, the supersweet ice cream was more about the cream cheese frosting, which was presented with a cheesecake flavor. It also featured bits of a cocoa-free cake batter, but the cake wasn’t the focus.

Yet, even if this ice cream didn’t match my preferred style of red velvet cake, I was won over to it after just a couple of spoonfuls. And that means whenever I want red velvet cake, I’ll make Mom’s old-fashioned recipe. But if I want a quick hit, I’ll take Ben & Jerry’s ice cream version over a modern cupcake version any time.

The price was $3.50 a pint at H-E-B.

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Lemon Ice Cream, Circa 1839


Lemon Ice Cream

Freezing condenses flavors, which is why ice cream has to be sweet, otherwise the flavors in it will be tight and bitter. Lettice Bryan knew that in 1839, when she wrote the following recipe for Lemon Ice Cream, which is included in Richard Sax’s exhaustive and recently updated “Classic Home Desserts: A Treasury of Heirloom and Contemporary Recipes” (Hosuton Mifflin, $35).

Lemon Ice Cream

Pare the yellow rind from three lemons, put it into a porcelain skillet, with the beaten yolks of eight eggs, a quart of rich sweet cream, and simmer it gently till the flavor of the lemons is extracted; then strain it into a bowl, and stir in it while warm three quarters of a pound of powdered loaf sugar. When it is cold, stir gradually into it the juice of the three decorticated lemons, and freeze it as directed. … As much of the sweetness is lost by the process of freezing, ice creams require more sugar than the common cold creams.

From Lettice Bryan, “The Kentucky Housewife,” 1839

What is powdered loaf sugar? It’s a finer ground version of loaf sugar, which is defined on WiseGeek.com as follows:

“Loaf sugar is sugar which comes in the form of a solid block, rather than as a granulated substance. Through the early 20th century, the bulk of the sugar on the market was in the form of loaf sugar, for a variety of reasons. Several sugar producers continue to make loaf sugar as a nostalgia item, and in the developing world, loaf sugar continues to be extremely common.

“To make loaf sugar, sugar producers pour hot sugar syrup into a mold which is in the shape of a cone or loaf. When the sugar cools, it can be wrapped and packaged for shipping and eventual sale. The advantage to loaf sugar is that it is easy to handle and ship, because blocks are much less difficult to handle than granulated sugar. Producers of loaf sugar also obviously do not need to worry about clumping.

“The disadvantage of loaf sugar for cooks is that it can be difficult to handle in the kitchen. Loaf sugar was often hung from the ceiling in the kitchen, although it could also be stored in cupboards. Historically, people used tools known as sugar nips to break chunks off their loaf sugar so that they could use it in cooking and baking. Because of the difficulty involved in obtaining precise measurements, loaf sugar was especially irritating for bakers. It also had to be thoroughly broken up so that it would not clump in baked goods and other foods.”

In other words, the sugar is meant to be dissolved into the ice cream mixture before freezing.

For a taste of some decidedly different ice creams in San Antonio, click here.

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Make Your Own Ice Cream Sandwiches


Chocolate-Hazelnut Ice Cream Sandwich

From the moment I cracked open a copy of Pam Anderson’s “Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $32), I started a list of ingredients I needed to pick up in order to make dish after dish. At the top of the list was her recipe for Chocolate-Hazelnut Ice Cream Sandwiches.

These go together quickly, largely because they are a mix of store-bought ingredients. Take a chocolate cookie, a pint of chocolate ice cream, Nutella and some roasted hazelnuts and you are all set.

That is, if you can find the ingredients.

Anderson recommends Nabisco Famous chocolate wafers, but the store didn’t have them. Instead, I bought a package of chocolate chocolate chip cookies from the bakery. I only had a little Nocciolata, a chocolate-hazelnut spread that I prefer to Nutella (it can be found at www.GauchoGourmet.com), enough to make one sandwich. Then I started to use peanut butter and jellies, especially raspberry and apricot. Toasted almonds, pine nuts and pecans work as well as hazelnuts, too.

In other words, make these sensational summer treats any way you like them. A lemon cookie with lemon curd and vanilla ice cream plus some candy sprinkles would definitely be welcome in 90-degree heat. So would a sugar cookie with strawberry ice cream and almonds on the side.

Just remember what Anderson says, “The cookie should not be too thick, too hard, or too brittle. Sandwiches can be double wrapped and frozen for up to 1 week.”

Chocolate-Hazelnut Ice Cream Sandwiches

1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/3 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella)
16 chocolate wafers, preferably Nabisco Famous
1 pint premium chocolate ice cream

Spread ice cream on the hazelnut-spread side of the cookie.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place nuts in a shallow baking pan large enough to hold them in a single layer; bake until fragrant and golden, 10 to 12  minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, smear a portion of hazelnut spread over one side of each wafer; set aside. Scoop 8 ice cream balls, a scant 3 tablespoons in size, and set on baking sheet in freezer until ready to assemble.

To assemble, set an ice cream ball on the hazelnut-spread side of each of 8 cookies; cap with remaining cookies, hazelnut-spread side down, and press to make a sandwich.

Roll sides of each ice cream sandwich in chopped hazelnuts. Double wrap in plastic and place in freezer until ready to serve.

Makes 8 servings.

From “Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers” by Pam Anderson.

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Guavas Are in Season. So What Do You Do With Them?


Guavas

The large display of guavas in the supermarket had a heady aroma that filled the entire area. It was sweet and fruity, but there was also a floral note that was entrancing. I just started to grab the first ones I saw. But what was I going to do with them?

I have worked with guava paste in the past, in empanadas among other dishes. But I’ve never used the fresh fruit. So a little research was in order.

“There are a number of guavas in the world, but the common guava — the one most available here — resembles a pale smooth-skinned lemon,” says “Joy of Cooking.” That was the variety in the market, not the green ones with a pink interior that are commonly depicted. “Choose blemish-free fruits, as yellow and soft as you can find, and ripen them at room temperature, out of the sun, or in a closed paper bag. … Ripening time is unpredictable, so check daily and turn the fruits often. When they are ripe, refrigerate in a perforated plastic bag.”

From that point, things get both easier and more complex.”Guavas are simple to serve. Just trim off the blossom end, slice in half either way and eat with a spoon — the seeds of most guavas are edible. For fruit cups and salads, peel with a vegetable peeler and cut in slices,” according to “Joy,” which is largely indispensable in such matters.

Trouble is, the cookbook offered no recipes for guavas.

I did find three simple recipes in my favorite go-to guide for all things fruit, “A Passion for Fruit” by Lorenza De’Medici. They ran a gamut of styles, and I made all three in the course of the evening, just to get that aroma into the kitchen.

Guava Sautéed with Chives was a sweet-savory side dish. Guava Sauce with a lively hit of chili powder went perfectly with a pork chop for dinner. And dessert was a decadent Guava Ice Cream made with heavy cream.

All of the recipes talked about seeding the guava before using, and one website mentioned that there were often anywhere from 112 to 535 per fruit, but no one really said how to do it. I tried picking at a few with a knife tip, but that seemed to take away too much flesh with it. Juicing the fruit would probably work, but the recipes I had didn’t want juice. So, I simply left the seeds in. I do that with raspberries and blackberries. I don’t mind those seeds. I will say that the guava seeds are a little larger and slightly harder, so that really could be a problem for some.

The next day I went back for more. Now that I’ve started,  I can see more ways of using guavas, from salads to tarts. Or, as a friend suggested, you could swirl guava purée into an icy glass of horchata. How do you like to use them?

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Guava Ice Cream Is a Rich Treat


Guava Ice Cream

Guava not only adds flavor to this refreshing ice cream, it also perfumes it with its floral aroma.

Guava Ice Cream

6 guavas, peeled, seeded and diced
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons kirsch or raspberry liqueur

Purée the guavas in a blender. Heat the cream (do not let it boil) and dissolve the sugar in it. Allow it to cool, then stir it into the guava purée with the kirsh. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to freeze. If you do not have a machine, pour the mixture into a suitable container and put it into the freezer for at least 4 hours. After the first 30 minutes, take it out and whisk it to break up the ice crystals, then return to the freezer. Whisk twice more at half-hourly intervals, then leave the ice cream in the freezer to firm up.

Makes about 1 quart.

From “A Passion for Fruit” by Lorenza De’Medici

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Ask a Foodie: What Makes Chocolate Mexican?


Q. So, what makes Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream Mexican?

— MDM

A. “Mexican chocolate … is rather granular, with a certain rustic quality – you can still taste the toasty cacao pods. It’s usually flavored with cinnamon, and often nutmeg or allspice, too.” David Tanis writes in “Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys.”

Tanis also offers the following recipe. You can find Mexican chocolate along with other baking chocolates in most supermarkets in San Antonio.

Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream

3 cups whole milk
8 ounces Mexican chocolate
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Warm the milk in a medium saucepan. Grate the chocolate coarsely, then stir it into the warm milk. Add the sugar and salt and stir over low heat for about 5 minutes until everything is well dissolved. Let cool.

Churn the mixture in your ice cream maker for 15 to 20 minutes, then transfer to a container and freeze for at least 1 hour.

Makes 4-6 servings.

From “Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys” by David Tanis

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Chefs’ Corner: Papaya Cream


Tailor Papaya Cream recipe to ingredients you have on hand.

If you visit a Brazilian steakhouse or churrascaria, chances are you’ve seen the Papaya Cream that is generally offered for dessert. You may not have had it, however, since the thought of eating anything else after an array of 15 or so meats sounds odd, to say the least.

But give the Papaya Cream a try. Not only is the flavor both elegant in its silkiness and refreshing, it aids your digestion, says Jovani Gava, assistant general manager of Fogo de Chao , 849 E. Commerce St.

It’s a tradition in  southern Brazil, as prevalent as the churrascaria-style of serving meat and the extensive salad bar, he says.

It’s also simple to make. Merely toss in papaya and a top-quality vanilla ice cream in your blender. The proportion should be 60 percent fruit to 40 percent ice cream. Once you’ve poured the results into a serving glass, top it with a shot of crème de cassis, if desired.

Can’t get great papaya? Then substitute other fruit. Use peaches and crown it with a few slivered almonds and a drizzle of amaretto. Or use strawberries with Grand Marnier. A thawed bag of bing cherries will work with a little Godiva chocolate liqueur. Kiwi, pineapple, ripe pear, persimmon — all would work just fine.

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Ask a Foodie: Saving a Soggy Pumpkin Pie


Q. My pumpkin pie won’t set up. It’s a runny mess. What can I do?

J.W.

A. Don’t despair and don’t throw it away. If the pie is thoroughly cooked but it’s still a pool of pumpkin goo at the center, there’s one way to save your hard work: Pull out the blender.

Cut a slice or two of the pie, throw it in the blender, crust and all. Add vanilla or pumpkin ice cream and a little milk (not too much since the pie is already a liquid). In a few pulses, you’ll have a pumpkin pie milkshake with the crust adding a nice flavor.

You can also top this milkshake with whipped cream and you’ll have a whole new reason to be thankful.

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