Strawberry Rhubarb Pie – A Fresh Summer Dessert

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie – A Fresh Summer Dessert

Claire is back and she brought Strawberry Rhubarb Pie! Claire has never let us down in regards to summer delights, and this is the perfect dessert as we transition into the hot summer months. Let’s all take advantage of the farmers’ markets and roadside stands this weekend to pick up some fresh fruit and see what treats we can come up with. In the meantime, Claire has pie to share.

A little birdie has told me that it’s dessert week at Butcher Block Co. I know for a lot of people, that might conjure images of chocolates or cakes, but my favorite desserts are all fruit-based. Baked fruit, fresh fruit, whatever, I love it. We’re coming into fruit season now, and I can tell because giant, weathered rainbow umbrellas are popping up along roadsides over tables offering the best local summer produce at the best prices. We’re not quite at stone fruit season, but I am here for the early summer offerings, like strawberries and rhubarb. I love rhubarb, but like so many of the best foods, I didn’t appreciate it in my youth. I thought it was too tart, and also, it was a weird food that no one ever heard of and it looked like weird celery. When I was a kid, my mom would make rhubarb pie, and I would eat the crust and the ice cream and leave the filling. I was an idiot with bad taste; I always ordered the chicken sandwich in restaurants, which is why I didn’t discover how good hamburgers could be until I was well into my adulthood. But I digress.

When I was a teen, my dad actually planted some rhubarb in our front yard. I watched it grow from a little puff of leaves on slender pink stems into a giant, fan-leaved monster that threatened to take over the whole garden. By that time, like all teens, I still hadn’t completely grown out of my idiocy, but at least I had better taste. I started making a mess in the kitchen trying to copy my mom and grandma’s pies. I did apples in the fall, peach in late summer, and as the spring would start to turn hot, I did my part to rescue the garden from the encroaching rhubarb-pocalypse. Of course, as an obnoxious teen, I couldn’t stick to their tried-and true recipes. Instead, I stole all the newly-ripened strawberries from the tiny patch at the side of the house and put them into a pie with the rhubarb. It turned out awesome. It was like a revelation. My family never really came around to my side – old habits die hard, I guess.

For me, strawberry rhubarb pie is my absolute number one pie pick.

I don’t make a ton of pies anymore. It’s less fun when the mess is in my own kitchen and I can’t rely on my dad to come in behind me and start doing dishes. Also, I am a grown adult person, and I can’t just go around eating pies all the time. Still, when I see those umbrellas pop up along the roadsides, I know I have to do at least one strawberry rhubarb pie to bring me back to those flour-coated summer days in the kitchen, my dad buzzing around me with a sponge and the whole house smelling like heaven. Heading home from the grocery store last weekend, I saw one of those rainbow umbrellas, and I had to stop. Fifteen minutes later, I was at the kitchen table hulling the sweetest strawberries, the whole house already smelling like heaven.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
I don’t have my grandma’s recipe on hand anymore, so for this strawberry rhubarb pie, I used Deb Perelman’s recipe from the Smitten Kitchen, which of course turned out amazing, even though I over-cooked the filling a smidge in order to get a prettier color in the crust. I really like the way the tapioca thickened the juices without affecting the flavor at all. Then I figured, as long as I was committing sacrilege by deviating from my family’s recipe for the filling, I might as well go whole hog. Mom, you may want to stop reading here.

My grandma always made the same crust Strawberry Rhubarb Pie for every pie with just flour, salt, vegetable shortening, and a little hot water to bind it all together. It’s a great workhorse crust. It doesn’t have a ton of flavor, but it’s reliable and simple to make, it works for a savory or sweet filling, and it’s what I grew up with, so it has always been my go-to. However, my mantra in the kitchen and in life is that the worst reason to do a thing is “because that’s how my parents always did it.” Plus, maybe I still have some of that obnoxious, rebellious teen in me. I decided to try my hand at an all butter crust for a change, and I am telling you, my eyes have been opened. It was flaky, rich, and as much the star of the dish as the incredible filling. After a perfect pie like this, I don’t think I could ever go back to shortening. Sorry not sorry, Grandma.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

In the spirit of dessert week, my husband and I have devoured nearly the entire glorious pie in the space of five days. I top each serving with some gently sweetened whipped cream, and I shamelessly lick the plate clean. What are you doing for dessert week? What is your quintessential summer dessert? Is it weird that I’m strongly considering making another strawberry rhubarb pie this weekend?

La Croix – A Refreshing Drink Alternative

La Croix – A Refreshing Drink Alternative

Like seemingly everyone else in the U.S., I have become fairly obsessed with La Croix, a delightful sparkling water that comes in a variety of flavors. I’ve had to cut myself off recently, as the shame of burning through two flats of it in one week was a bit more than I could handle. So of course Claire is writing about La Croix this week. It’s fine; I can handle a little temptation (no I can’t). I can’t talk about this anymore. I’ll be stocking up at the grocery store if you need me. Claire, refresh us with your sparkling wit (and water)!

When Labor Day was first conceived, the idea of labor unions was still a relatively fresh one, and somewhat controversial. Celebrating the American worker, taking time to remember that the nation runs on the backs of hard working men and women was a revelation. Like most holidays, I think a lot of the original sentiment has disappeared in our remembrance today. What’s left of the holiday is a day off from work, the reason for which that most people aren’t completely sure they understand, but the weather is nice, so what the heck, it’s a three-day weekend. I have to work on Saturday and get my week’s errands done on Sunday, so for me, Labor Day mostly means that I will be sitting through another backyard BBQ with some of my husband’s work friends that I may have met once or twice a few years back. You might assume that I would prefer to drink my way through an event like that, but in fact just the opposite is true. I’m planning to remain fully sober so I can hop into my car and skedaddle as soon as it doesn’t seem impolite.

If I’m not drinking beer or cocktails, I will need to substitute in an alternative beverage. In the face of a hot afternoon among strangers, I am not interested in drinking something sugary and dehydrating like juice or soda. If I stick to water, I’m afraid my boredom will be too obvious to my hosts and someone will try to pour me a drink. I need something fun and refreshing and light in calories to make up for the three hot dogs I plan on inhaling. I need to feel like I’m back in Michigan, floating around the lake on that giant unicorn with a cold drink in my hand.

I need La Croix.

La Croix

As a Midwestern girl, I have been delighted to see several of my favorite regional beverages hit the national market, including Vernors Ginger Soda, which I love for nostalgic reasons and because I am not a traitor to my home state, but secretly, Vernors will never be my favorite ginger soda. Faygo brand sodas were a staple of my terrible diet in high school, but their reputation has since been tainted by the fanatical devotion of the Insane Clown Posse, so who even cares about Faygo anymore. La Croix’s emergence into America’s consciousness over the last decade has been the most delightful to witness by far. These lightly flavored sparkling waters have fizzed their way into the hearts and homes of consumers across the country, and there is nothing in my California grocery store that thrills me more. Though most stores don’t stock all of the brand’s twenty flavors, the three most important flavors have become fairly available in most grocery stores, and those flavors are of course lime, pamplemousse (grapefruit), and most wondrous of all, coconut, and I’ll fight anyone who says different.

These sparkling waters are perfect La Croix on their own, but they also make fabulous mixers. I have been extending the life of a delicious but too-sweet pineapple Jarritos by adding just a small pour to a tall glass of coconut La Croix. The lime flavored is so gentle and versatile, it’s great for basically all cocktails, but I also like to add just some fresh or frozen fruit to make a pleasant warm-day beverage. The grapefruit flavor is a little more tart than the lime, and it is actually perfect with just a little bit of mint and a splash of gin, but of course, I’m leaving the gin at home this weekend. Honestly, my favorite way to drink La Croix is any flavor poured over ice, and then I like to chew on the little ice bits at the end. I haven’t decided which flavor I’ll bring with me to the BBQ, but no matter which I choose, it will be sublime, because each can I open sends me right back to the lake, where I know I truly belong.

Vacation Cooking at the Lake House

Vacation Cooking at the Lake House

Vacation cooking is something I typically manage to avoid, as most of my vacations consist of visiting friends or staying in a hotel. I do like to cook, but I’ll be honest, there is nothing quite like having Claire cater your meals for a few days while you relax (don’t worry, sometimes I help)! This week, Claire is here to share some of her family’s traditions, along with some fabulous food. This is how you do vacation cooking! Take it away, Claire!

One of the tragedies of adulthood is the end of summer vacation. For most of us, the summer months carry on nearly identical to their colder counterparts, except perhaps that a higher percentage of the day is spent casting desperate looks out the window, accompanied by discontented sighs. Or maybe that’s just me? I think I probably spend more time than most on nostalgia, but it’s easy to cast my mind back and envy my younger self her idyllic mid-western summer breaks. As a kid in Michigan, I spent the whole summer in the water. Whether it was the dinky little pond at the far end of my subdivision, or the beautiful clear waters of Long Lake in Traverse City, my summer days were defined by the presence of water.

These days, the mid-west is still rich in water Vacation Cooking , but in California where I live, climate change and careless over-use of water has led to crisis-level drought, and the small lakes that used to exist near me have dried up completely, leaving only muddy pits and a rusted out car to mark where they used to be. The dryness of my adult existence has only exacerbated my need to indulge in memories of long days spent paddling around the lake in goggles and a snorkel, digging up clams and crayfish and interesting rocks. Eventually, I get to a point where day-dreaming isn’t enough, and I count up my vacation hours and trade them in for one precious week with my sisters in our family home on the lake.

In past summers, my parents have always been there at the lake house taking charge of our vacations. My mom did nearly all of the vacation cooking, and my dad arranged all our activities around the best times of day to be out on his catamaran. This year, they were too busy yachting down the eastern seaboard to join us, so the role of head chef fell to my sisters and me, and I must say, we rose to the occasion.

Vacation cooking presents an interesting set of complications, especially when you’re with a large group.

What are all the dietary restrictions to consider? Who is doing the grocery run? Who is doing the inevitable second grocery run when we realize that we’ve forgotten something crucial? What pots and pans are available in the vacation house? And most importantly, what can be easily made in a large enough quantity to feed 13 people without forcing some unfortunate soul to spend all day in the kitchen?

For my turn in the kitchen, I decided to make carnitas tacos. Anything that can be set up build-your-own style is a good idea in a group, and Mexican food is easy to make gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free. Plus, there is something so summery about tacos, especially when they are topped with salsa verde and fresh cilantro. When I cook carnitas, I always use the Serious Eats no-waste recipe. Prep is quick and easy and I can walk away for 3 hours while it cooks, float around on the lake on a gigantic unicorn until my skin starts to crisp, then head back to the kitchen, whip up the salsa verde in about 15 minutes, and bing bang boom, dinner is served. I made this for the family last year, and it was such a huge hit, we ran out of meat. This year I added two additional pounds of pork, and we still ran out. I’m telling you, this recipe is a winner.

Vacation Cooking

The next night, we did brats and burgers with sweet corn and salad, all essential summer crowd pleasers. Anything that can be thrown on the grill and served up directly is a good pick for a large group. Another night, my younger sister made meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Meatloaf isn’t exactly a quick meal to execute, but it is a family tradition, and works well for a crowd because it can be made ahead of time, and it can be easily scaled up or down as the group requires. In our family, we go huge with the meatloaf, and then we make sure there is lots of good bread for leftovers sandwiches.

Vacation Cooking

Speaking of leftovers, since we only stay in the house for week, we try very hard not to over-buy groceries, so on our last night we had a big salad to use up the remaining produce, and we served it with whatever we could scrounge out of the fridge on the side. I ate every meal on the patio overlooking the lake, surrounded by my favorite people, with my bathing suit under my dress and the sun setting in the background.

Vacation Cooking

A week at the lake is never enough, but I live for adding more lake memories to my nostalgia bank, so I take what I can get.

 

Fun Week – Summer Fun for the Whole Family

Fun Week – Summer Fun for the Whole Family

There’s still a little time left for some summer fun! We’ve been compiling recipes and ideas for a few years now, and we figure it’s the perfect time to share the summer fun with you.

Adult or kid (or kid at heart!), there’s something for everyone in this summer fun roundup!

First and foremost, get a batch of Boozy Poptails in the freezer right away. These adults-only frozen pops will surely get you through the last few weeks of summer!

Poptails Done

If that booze gets you feeling nostalgic, come share your childhood summer fun memories with us here.

Doing any camping this summer? Or attending a bonfire? Sarah’s fire pies are a definite must!

Campfire Pies summer fun

Another fun way to eat outdoors is having a build-your-own kabob party! Everyone gets exactly what they want all grilled to perfection!

If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, Claire’s grilled salad brings the best of summer onto your plate.

Grilled Salad

Or if the heat is just too unbearable, stick with something delicious that you don’t even have to cook! Ceviche tacos make for the perfect dish on a hot day – no grill required!

The very best way to finish off summer is with the most refreshingly delicious dessert: homemade mint ice cream. Can you think of anything better? I sure can’t!

Mint Ice Cream

What are your go-to meals and activities for summer fun? Share with us!

 

 

Chef’s Recipe – Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail

Chef’s Recipe – Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail is one of my most favorite appetizers, and I am fortunate enough to have easy access to the best one I’ve ever eaten. My younger brother, Garrison Whiting, is the supremely talented chef at Counter Intuitive in Scottsdale, AZ. The menu at CI changes up every few months with the start of a new “episode.” The current episode is “Agua Caliente Racetrack,” which pulls inspiration from the famed horse racing track that opened in Tijuana in 1929 when drinking and gambling were still illegal in the states. The track catered to celebrities, and the spectacular menu at Counter Intuitive reflects that opulence in both food and drink.

Back to the shrimp cocktail. Chef Garrison has concocted a delicious variation on a classic, and I would eat it every day if I could (I have almost two quarts of it in my fridge at the moment, so I will be living that dream for the next several days). This isn’t your standard “dip shrimp in sauce” shrimp cocktail; this is more of the Mexican style that you eat with a spoon. Crunchy bites of cucumber and onion combine with the richness of avocado and bits of shrimp, all brought together by a spiced tomato cocktail reminiscent of a Bloody Mary.

This Shrimp Cocktail is the best I’ve ever had, and you should definitely add it to your no-cook meal recipe arsenal.

We’ve been talking about no-cook Shrimp Cocktail meals this week on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and this shrimp cocktail fits the bill if you use pre-cooked shrimp; even if you use fresh, though, it only takes a minute (literally) to cook them. The recipe below is in restaurant quantity (about 16 servings), but it is easily halved or even quartered if you’re not serving a crowd. I cut it in half and ended up with about two quarts. I always have shrimp in the freezer, so I’ve just been boiling up a handful every day and adding them into my individual serving in order to keep things fresh (I’m weird about seafood, okay?).

Chef Garrison’s Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail

  • 1 64 oz. bottle original Clamato
  • 1 6 oz. can El Pato tomato sauce
  • 2 oz. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 oz. honey (or to taste)
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1-2 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1 Tbs extra hot horseradish
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups medium-diced Roma tomatoes
  • 2 cups medium-diced red onion
  • 2 cups medium-diced English cucumber
  • 2 cups medium-diced avocado
  • 2 lbs. large raw, peeled, and deveined shrimp (or pre-cooked)

Makes approximately one gallon/16 servings

Shrimp Cocktail

Stir together all liquids and spices, then add veggies and let sit refrigerated overnight.

In a large sauce pot bring 5-6 qts. of water to a boil with a handful of salt and a splash of white vinegar. Remove from heat and add the shrimp until they are just cooked (about 1 minute). Pour the shrimp into a colander and immediately transfer to a sheet pan to cool. Do not use an ice bath to cool the shrimp.

To serve, cut up about 3/4ths of the shrimp into halves or thirds and place portions into large margarita/martini glasses. Ladle the cocktail sauce over the pieces and garnish with diced avocado, a lime wedge, and 1 whole shrimp. Serve with Saltine crackers.

Printer-friendly recipe: Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail

Poptails – Boozy Frozen Pops for Grownups

Poptails – Boozy Frozen Pops for Grownups

Poptails! If you don’t know what that means, Claire is here to explain, and save your face from melting this summer. I can’t believe this never occurred to me. After all, I enjoy booze quite a bit, and I really hate being hot. This is only natural. Let’s join Claire for some grownups-only frozen treats!

Summer has officially begun. The temperatures are reaching record highs, and my air conditioning has been running at full tilt. I could go on about it, but frankly, even I am getting pretty sick of hearing myself talk about the weather. It’s time to accept the seasonal realities of my life here and just thank my lucky stars that I don’t live in Phoenix, where I hear it has reached nearly 120°F. In any case, even though it’s becoming increasingly hard to avoid talking about it, this post is not going to be entirely about the heat, as I have actual things going on in my life this week.

On Friday, my husband Pier underwent a little surgical procedure that has had him laid up for the past week. He can’t lift anything over 8 pounds, so I’ve been helping him settle into a couch nest during the day with a little bed tray table and his lap-top, and distracting the cats from trying to climb into his lap every 20 minutes. He isn’t in a ton of pain, but the Tylenol and bags of frozen peas he’s been using don’t quite cover the discomfort, so I’ve decided to add booze to his regimen. Over the weekend, it was easy; we just drank margaritas and watched movies and played card games. Now that the work week is back on, though, I’m not home during the day, and he’s not quite as comfortable with drinking all day by himself. Luckily, I have concocted a brilliant triple-threat plan to tackle the heat, the pain, and the day-drinking stigma with one solid blow:

Frozen pop cocktails. Or POPTAILS, because who doesn’t like a good portmanteau?

A simple google search will yield dozens of recipes for alcoholic pops, and it can be fun to get a little fancy with it, but in my experience, a recipe isn’t always necessary. The rules to poptails are simple and few. 1) If it tastes great as a cocktail, chances are good that it will taste great as a poptail. 2) If you want a solid pop, your mix cannot exceed 20% alcohol. Not that a boozy slush treat isn’t also good, but it’s not quite the same experience. 3) Frozen pop molds are also fun, but not always necessary. A disposable plastic cup actually makes a great mold, and all it takes is a little push on the bottom to free the poptails from the cups. With these rules in mind, I set out to the grocery store to find things that I thought would taste good with booze in them.

Poptails

I started with fancy-pants juices. Naked and Odwalla and Bolthouse Farms make nice, thick juices that are packed with fruit, so they have a lot of flavor. A little vodka or rum would be easily disguised under the richness of one of those, so I picked out a couple of options. Next, I picked up some sweet tea, because I know my man is a sucker for an Arnold Palmer, and I happen to have a bottle of homemade limoncello in my liquor cabinet. As I headed away from the juice aisle, I caught a whiff of the bulk coffee section, and my next poptail idea hit me. My favorite wake-up drink is coffee heavily spiked with Bailey’s Irish cream, so that was a no-brainer right there. Lastly, a couple of summers ago, I ran across this recipe for creamy margarita pops, and I’ve been dying to try them out ever since, so I grabbed a bag of limes and some plastic cups.

Poptails

With the exception of the margarita poptails, I didn’t use any recipes, so I just measured out at least one cup of base beverage to one quarter cup of alcohol for each mixture. I ended up mixing strawberry banana juice with tequila, mango juice with vodka, coffee with Bailey’s, and sweet tea with limoncello. The two juice mixtures turned out ok, but next time I try those, I’ll dial the alcohol back a little further, because they did not freeze very well. Even after 24 hours in the freezer, they were still a little soft. The other two flavors froze perfectly, and Pier even texted me at work today to tell me how much he enjoyed the Arnold Palmer-pop. The margarita pops also turned out fabulous, and fully worth the time I spent juicing my 10 limes.

Poptails Done

These treats are super fun to come home to after work, and super fun to eat all day while you sit on the couch playing video games. Ten out of ten, would recommend. I’m already scanning the door of my fridge for more poptions.

 

Pick Your Favorite Dessert Recipes From Our Dessert Cart!

Pick Your Favorite Dessert Recipes From Our Dessert Cart!

We have featured many amazing dessert recipes over the years, so in honor of Dessert Week at Butcher Block Co., we’re compiling some of our favorites in this Dessert Cart! From super simple to fancy, campfire-friendly to refreshingly cool, we’ve got you covered.

So gather ’round our dessert cart, sample whatever looks tasty, and leave with a few new favorite dessert recipes to try at home!

First up is from one of our most popular posts, which is understandable because it is AMAZING (I even made it myself last Father’s Day, and it turned out perfectly!). Claire’s Key Lime Pie is the stuff dreams are made of..just look at this!

Key Lime Pie

If you’re looking for something a little less labor intensive, this Icebox Cake is one of the easiest dessert recipes you can put together, and it turns out stunningly beautiful. No one will suspect the simplicity of this recipe!

Dessert Recipes

Speaking of easy, how about an ice cream recipe with only two base ingredients that doesn’t require an ice cream maker?! Alicia’s Easy Homemade Ice Cream fits the bill and will quickly become a summer staple in your family.

Homemade Ice Cream

Did that ice cream pique your interest? Looking for something a little more challenging? There is nothing that will cool you down in the summer better than mint ice cream. Claire’s Homemade Mint Ice Cream might take a little more skill in the kitchen, but it is well worth the extra effort. Refreshing mint and a buttery texture will make this one of your new favorite dessert recipes!

Mint Ice Cream Now, if you want to get out of the kitchen this summer, Sarah comes to the rescue with delicious and fun Campfire Pies! Your filling options are endless, so everyone in the family can customize their dessert to their own tastes.

Dessert recipes

What are your favorite dessert recipes? Are you inspired to try something new this summer?

Homemade Mint Ice Cream – A Refreshing Dessert

Homemade Mint Ice Cream – A Refreshing Dessert

Mint ice cream is probably the single most refreshing thing I can think of on a hot day. Since today happens to be one of those days, this post couldn’t have come at a better time! Honestly, though, is there ever a bad time for mint ice cream?? Claire is here to cool us off from the inside out with her fabulous homemade mint ice cream. Let’s get churning, Claire!

My husband Pier has a serious sweet tooth. When we first met, I was trying to quit smoking. Seeing how hard I was struggling, he tried to give up candy out of solidarity, but he failed almost daily. A plate of cookies here, a bag of candy there, doughnuts for breakfast, ice cream for dinner. It’s lucky for him his job has him doing hard manual labor, or he would be as fat as I am. Cut to seven years later, and I’ve long since given up cigarettes, but he still can’t go a day without a good sugar buzz. Not that I’m exactly guilt free; I’m what you might call an enabler. I have replaced my nicotine cravings with a desperate need to watch people enjoy foods that I have created, so there is always something sweet around the house for Pier. That way, we can both get our fix.

In the fall, it’s cookies and pies, and in the winter, sweet quick breads and cakes. It’s technically spring time now, and, I want desperately to be making shortcake and berry tarts, but I just can’t bring myself turn on the oven. Two weeks ago, I said that it was the perfect weather for grilling because it wasn’t too hot yet. One week ago, Mother Gaia read my post and decided to take it as a challenge. Suddenly, it’s summer three weeks early, and I am not into it. I suppose spring came early here, so it follows that summer would be hot on its tail, but I’m just not ready. With the California sun raining on my spring parade, I have eschewed all baked goods for a chillier option. I only want to eat cold foods that will make me cold and remind me of the good old days three weeks ago, back when I was cold. I officially declare this summer Ice Cream Season.

Pier’s favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chip. I love mint too, but I think chocolate in mint ice cream detracts from the refreshing nature of the mint.

Since it’s basically impossible to find mint ice cream without chocolate in it, and since homemade ice cream is about a million times better than grocery store ice cream, I have learned how to make my own mint ice cream.

So, when I was in the grocery store last week seeking a brief respite from the heat, and I caught a whiff of fresh mint from clear on the other side of the produce department, I knew how I would be kicking off Ice Cream Season.

Mint Ice Cream

Mint Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 bunches of fresh mint leaves
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Put the cream and milk in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring it just to a simmer. Watch it carefully so that it doesn’t scald. When bubbles start to come up, remove the pan from heat and add the mint leaves. Cover the pot and allow the mint to steep for two hours. In another saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and sugar over medium heat until they are fluffy and pale, and then strain the cream into the eggs mixture, using the back of a spoon to press on the mint leaves so all the cream and minty flavor gets into the pot. Whisk until fully combined, and then cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the custard reaches 170°F, or until a finger swiped across the back of a spoon leaves a clean line. Add the salt to taste.

Mint Ice Cream

Pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl or Tupperware, and cover it. Set the custard in an ice bath until it reaches a temperature of about 40°F, about 3 to 4 hours. If you’re not in a big hurry, you can also just set the container in the fridge to cool overnight. When the custard is fully cooled, pour it into an ice cream maker to churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it’s done, pour the churned mint ice cream into an air tight container and set it in the freezer. Ideally, it should chill there for a full 4 hours before you try to serve it, but I can almost never wait that long. The texture is so creamy and buttery, and the mint flavor is so cooling and pleasant, I’m sure you’ll want to dive right in, too. I also put some fresh blackberries in the freezer while my ice cream set, and they really worked well with the mint.

Well, I know what I’m doing for the foreseeable future. What are your plans for the summer?

Printer-friendly recipe: Homemade Mint Ice Cream

Lighten Up with Grilled Salad

Lighten Up with Grilled Salad

This grilled salad is killing me. I want to eat it right now, exactly as Claire has made it. I can’t even come up with words for how perfect this looks, so I’m just going to pass the tongs to Claire now so that you all can join me in drooling. Fire it up, Claire!

Like most people, I love cooking out on the grill. I don’t have a great grill, but I do have a little fire table with a grilling surface, and it does the job just fine for my postage-stamp of a back yard. Right now, my town is experiencing prime grilling weather. It’s summery enough that I’ve been thinking a lot about hamburgers lately, but it’s not so hot yet that I’m sweating through my shirt as soon as I step outside. I’ve been smelling BBQ smells in the neighborhood, and it’s got me primed. I’m pretty excited for this summer’s inaugural meal off the grill, but I think I’d like to keep it on the lighter side. My husband has been a little sick, so I’ve been ladling chicken soup down his throat for the last five days, and it seems a little extreme to go right from broth to burgers. Besides, I really need some roughage in my diet after soup week, if you know what I mean. Anyhoo…

A couple of years ago, my best friend took me out to dinner at this super swanky restaurant for my birthday. There were so many things on the menu we wanted to try, we decided to just order them all and split them, tapas style. We must have tried a dozen different things, but try as I might, I can’t recall a single one of them except the grilled salad. It was a full romaine heart, halved lengthwise and grilled. They topped it with some kind of balsamic and little crunchy things. We were so surprised by the grilled lettuce; it seemed so novel to us! In retrospect, it seems so obvious. I mean, grilled veggies are sort of notorious for being awesome. So are grilled fruits, and grilled everything else, for that matter, which brings me to this week’s recipe.

A grilled salad is the perfect transition into summer fare.

Grilled Salad

The best thing about grilling out is that the food gets so much flavor from the grill, there is barely any prep involved. The flip side of that is, because you’re not doing much to dress it up, the quality of the food you start with will be reflected in the meal you end with, so start with the good stuff. When I got to the store, I already knew I wanted to do a grilled salad, but I believe in letting the groceries direct the meal, so I also got some shrimp and apricots. It’s still a little early for stone fruit, but I caught a whiff of these as I was walking past the display, and they just really called to me.

Grilled Salad

For the salad’s base, simply slice the lettuce lengthwise, drizzle or brush a little olive oil on the sliced side, and place them on the grill. Repeat with the apricots, slicing from top to bottom and removing the pits. With the produce, you’re not trying to cook the food through. You just want to get a light char and imbue it with that good smoky flavor.

Grilled Salad For the shrimp, skewer them, drizzle them with olive oil, and then give them a good hit of salt and pepper. Don’t put too many shrimp on a single skewer, and don’t crowd them, or they won’t cook evenly. With a high heat cooking source like an open grill, they will cook quickly, so probably no more than 30 seconds per side. You want them just barely opaque.

Grilled Salad

To dress your grilled salad, you can go premade, but I like to pull out my food processor and whip something up. In this case, I’m going with basically an eggless Caesar dressing. A spoonful of Dijon mustard, a generous pour of sherry, a couple glugs of extra virgin olive oil, two or three cloves of garlic, the juice of one lemon, a good heap of Parmesan, a few grinds of pepper, and five anchovy fillets. Whir it all together until it’s smooth, lightly dress the lettuce, and top with your favorite salad fixings. Serve it with a good bottle of chilled white wine, and dig in. This grilled salad is a joyful herald of a season of good eating and I can’t wait to get down to it!

Grilled Salad

Campfire Pies for Outdoor Fun

Campfire Pies for Outdoor Fun

I’m predicting this summer’s food trend is going to be campfire pies. I really want this to be true, at least… Campfire pies are so beautifully simple and remind me of childhood. I had completely forgotten the magic of campfire pies when Sarah mentioned them a while back, but now she has me on a mission. This is going to be the best summer. You should get on the campfire pie train, too. I promise they will make all your outdoor fun even better, and with Memorial Day coming up, you’ve only got a little time left to get your supplies. Sarah is here with all the details to get us started. Let’s make some pies!

Oh, Memorial Day weekend. That extra day off of work that feels desperately needed as you gear up for summer, the chance to get away for a weekend, the cookouts. The cookouts. My favorite thing about the holiday weekend is naturally food-inspired.

For the past ten years, my husband and his friends have been going to a cabin in a nearby state park to celebrate Memorial Day weekend. Due to us being a number of people spread out over the state, we have a Google Drive spreadsheet that goes back several years, listing who brings what. This, guys, is an excellent idea.  The cabin trip is the best kind of tradition – over the years we’ve rented boats, hiked, gone swimming, played games, played putt-putt, and gotten ice cream. Every year we add new things to do, but a few mainstays never change. One of these is the cooking out.

The firepit outside our cabin gets heavy use year after year. The first night of our trip is always dedicated to campfire pies. Consider the grilled cheese sandwich. Buttered bread, hot skillet, melty cheese. Yes? Now add the satisfaction of cooking those suckers outside on the coals of your bonfire and a fun gadget (I love fun gadgets). To make campfire pies, you will need a pie iron. I recommend having two for maximum production efficiency. You have a few options based on how you like your sandwiches. If you don’t like crust, go for one of the round pie irons, but be warned! These result in smaller pies, and you can’t stuff them as full. For bigger pies that include crust, go with this guy. Your campfire will need to have some decent coals – I recommend waiting at least half an hour after starting your fire to begin cooking.

Campfire pies are endlessly customizable and the perfect addition to your outdoor fun!

You can basically make any kind of sandwich or sweet pie with these babies. I’ve gone grilled cheese, hot ham and cheese, any kind of dessert pie you can think of, and even ooey gooey brownies (oh yes!). Sandwiches are pretty easy – some element of sauce and/or cheese is necessary to hold your pie together and give it a lot of flavor. Dessert is pretty much anything your heart desires that fits between two pieces of bread. Pie filling of any kind, pudding if you’re feeling a chocolate pie. The best dessert I’ve had is the aforementioned ooey gooey brownie, which is brownie batter poured straight into the pie iron, no bread required. Cooked correctly, you’ll open your pie iron to a molten chocolate mess that is absolutely delicious (add marshmallows for a s’mores-ey kick). Today, we’ll be making pizza pies with cherry pies for dessert.

Ingredients:

  • Stick of butter
  • Bread (go white bread, here)
  • Pizza sauce
  • Mozzerella cheese
  • Pepperoni
  • Cherry pie filling

-Preheat your pie irons. Once your bonfire has some coals, position your (closed) pie iron against them to get the metal hot. It doesn’t need to be screamin’ hot, but a little preheat will help your buttering game.

-Butter! This is what gives your campfire pies that delicious sear. There are two opinions on buttering- butter your bread, or butter the pie irons. I find you use less butter (and can therefore make more pies!) when you butter the pie irons. So unwrap the end of a stick of butter and rub it on each pan of your open pie iron. Enjoy the sizzle.

-Position your bread, being careful not to burn yourself. Add pizza sauce, a good handful of mozzarella cheese, and some pepperonis. You can load up both sides of your bead if you like, but while that results in mega-flavor, it can also make your pies burst open like a hot pizza roll when you bite into it. One side of toppings is sufficient.

Campfire pies

-Close your pie iron. Many come with latches, but they can be difficult to open when your pie is done if you’re not keen on burning yourself or your food. Make sure your pie iron closes completely, or you’ll be picking ash out of your food.

-Position your pie iron on your coals. This cooktime is tricky, because it depends on how hot your coals are. After 5-8 minutes, pull your iron out of the flame, find a decent light source, and, while holding your pie iron parallel to the ground, open one side to check the doneness. You want to lift the side of the iron that has been sitting on the coals, since that is the part that has been cooking. If you have a nice grilled cheese sandwich-style sear, close your iron, and put it back on the coals on the other side.

-Once your pie is done, things get slightly tricky. Have a plate ready on a flat surface. Hold your pie iron over the plate, and open both sides slowly to pop out your sandwich.

Campfire Pies

-When it’s dessert time, butter your pie iron.

-Position your bread, then add a few spoonfuls of pie filling.

-The cooktime is about the same, maybe a little less. Be sure to check it often and flip halfway through.

-Enjoy your dessert!

Campfire Pies

One safety note: Be very, very, very careful where you place your pie irons while they are still hot but not in use! Campfires generally take place in the dark, and pie irons unfortunately do not glow in the dark or light up. My group of friends has resorted to a designated pie iron area, where all pie irons live if they are not on the fire being used. Trust me, you do not want to add a hospital visit to your fun holiday weekend because someone burned themselves badly. And it should go without saying that children should be very carefully supervised while using pie irons. To be safe, the wooden handles are the only portion of the pie iron that should be considered safe to touch.

Do you have any Memorial Day weekend traditions? What kind of campfire pie are you most excited to try first?