During a recent visit to upstate Vermont, I enjoyed several Chester Bars with two of my little cousins. Chester Bars, a Vermont specialty, are ice cream cookie sandwiches, similar to Chipwiches, but so much better. This red, white and blue star-dipped version, while not quite the same as the original, makes a festive dessert for Memorial Day weekend. The cookies, delicious on their own, are soft and chewy and make a perfect base for a rich vanilla-bean ice cream filling.
Memorial Day Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches Yield = 17 sandwiches
10¾ oz unsalted butter (1 1/3 cups) 10¼ oz light brown sugar (1½ cups packed) 7¾ oz granulated sugar (1 cup) 2 large eggs 1 T. pure vanilla extract 17 oz unbleached all-purpose flour (3¾ cups) 1¼ tsp table salt 1 tsp. baking soda 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
½ gallon vanilla ice cream red, white and blue sprinkles
Preheat oven to 375°. Cream butter and sugars together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl, beat again on high for one minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended, about another minute on medium-high speed. Whisk flour, salt and baking soda together in separate bowl. Add to butter mixture and combine with a spatula or wooden spoon until just blended. Add the chocolate chips and stir till combined. The dough will be stiff.
Place heaping tablespoons of the dough onto an ungreased jelly-roll pan. (If you have a digital scale, each ball should weigh 1¾ oz. If not, each ball should be approximately equal to two level tablespoons.) Bake only six cookies at a time.
Bake 10-11 minutes. Keep a close watch. The cookies will still look uncooked when you remove them from the oven. (You will think you are removing them too early, but the cookies will continue cooking as they sit on the tray out of the oven — this will guarantee a moist and chewy cookie.) Let sit for 10 minutes on tray before removing to a cooling rack. Let cool completely.
Line half of the cookies on a work surface face down. Scoop ice cream from tub and place on top of each cookie, about ¼ – ½ cup of ice cream. Top each with a cookie and gently press. Wrap each cookie in plastic wrap and place in the freezer. (If you have space for a cookie sheet in the freezer, line the sandwiches on a sheet pan, cover whole pan with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve.) Place various sprinkles in separate bowls. Let kids, adults, guests dip their own sandwich in desired topping.
This past March I signed up for the Lancaster Farm Fresh Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I had just read Michael Pollan’s, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and felt inspired to start buying locally produced foods as often as possible. I visited Maysie’s Farm Conservation Center in Glenmoore, PA and spent a few hours touring the green house, hoop house and barn with Sam Cantrell, the owner of the farm. Sam explained to me the concept and history of CSAs and when I left the farm I resolved to join one. While many CSAs exist outside of Philadelphia, two of the larger ones — Lancaster Farm Fresh and Red Earth Farm — deliver to locations all across the city.
Greens in Maysie’s Farm Conservation Center’s hoop house:
To learn more about CSAs and Maysie’s Conservation Center read this article.
Last Thursday, members of the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA received their first, long-awaited share of vegetables for the 2007 growing season. This box, packed on Wednesday night with vegetables harvested earlier that day, included 2 heads of bok choy (one green, one red), 2 big heads of Romaine, 1 bunch of asparagus, 1 bunch of French breakfast radishes, 1 bag of mesclun and 1 bag of mustard greens. On Thursday morning, a Lancaster Farm Fresh truck dropped off the boxes at 10 locations outside of Philadelphia and 10 locations in the city. I picked up my box at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market. This salad of grilled tender asparagus, peppery sliced radishes, and herby mixed greens is just one of the delectable dishes I enjoyed this week from my basket of bounty. Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA
Grilled Asparagus, Sliced Radish and Mesclun Salad Serves 4
1 bunch asparagus 1 tablespoon olive oil kosher salt and pepper to taste 8 breakfast radishes 8 oz. mesclun 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved 1 cup red cherry tomatoes, halved Parmigiano Reggiano
Tarragon – Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Turn grill to high. Toss asparagus with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place on grill, cover and cook 5 minutes, checking after 3. Test one asparagus with a knife, and remove from the grill if tender. Let cool, then chop into 2-inch lengths on the bias.
Cut the ends of the radishes and slice thinly using a mandoline or knife. Halve the tomatoes and set aside. With a vegetable peeler or knife, shave off large strips of cheese from the block of Parmigiano Reggiano. Set aside. To assemble, place asparagus, radishes, tomatoes and mesclun in a large bowl. Toss lightly with dressing. Divide evenly among plates and top with the shavings of Parmigiano.
Tarragon-Shallot Vinaigrette Yield = ½ cup
4 teaspoons sherry vinegar 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard ¼ teaspoon sugar ¼ teaspoon kosher salt ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil 2-3 tablespoons tarragon, finely chopped
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, shallots, mustard, sugar and salt. Let mixture macerate for 20 minutes. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Stir in tarragon. Taste, add more salt and pepper if necessary. Set aside.
Every Tuesday at the South and Passyunk Farmers’ Market, the Rineer Family Farm from Lancaster brings the sweetest, most fragrant strawberries. Inspired by their prized berries and the rhubarb from the Livengood’s Produce stall, I made this strawberry-rhubarb cobbler. Unlike most rhubarb desserts — requiring masses of sugar to counter the rhubarb’s tartness — this cobbler, made with naturally sweet strawberries, needs much less. With a buttermilk biscuit topping, this strawberry-rhubarb cobbler, when paired with vanilla ice cream, makes a light and fruity spring dessert.
Rhubarb and Strawberry Cobbler
1 lb. rhubarb 1 lb. strawberries 1 tablespoon cornstarch ¾ cup sugar zest of one lime pinch of kosher salt
2 cups flour 2 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon kosher salt 1/3 cup sugar ½ cup (1 stick) butter, cold ½ teaspoon vanilla 1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons milk 2 teaspoons demera sugar
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Wash rhubarb and cut into 1-inch lengths. (This should yield about 3½ cups.) Wash strawberries, cut off stem and slice in half. (This should yield about 3 cups.) Place rhubarb, strawberries, cornstarch, sugar, lime zest and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
In separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into the flour mixture in small pieces and stir with a fork to combine. Whisk buttermilk and vanilla together, then pour mixture into dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until mixture comes together — the dough will be very wet and sticky.
Transfer fruit to a 12 x 8½-inch (2 quart) baking dish. Break off portions of the dough (about 8-10) and arrange over the fruit. Brush the dough with the milk and sprinkle the sugar over both the fruit and dough portions of the dish.
Place in the oven for 50-55 minutes, until topping is golden brown and juices are bubbling.
Let cool on rack 30 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
In lemon tarts, too often too much sugar compensates for the sourness of the lemon, making them cloyingly sweet. This tart finds a nice balance: at once sweet, tart and lemony. Light and springy, this pleasantly sweet tart is guaranteed to please.
Perfect Lemon Tart Yield = 1 9-inch tart
1 egg yolk 1 tablespoon sour cream 1 tablespoon cold water 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, not too cold
7 egg yolks 2 eggs 1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar pinch kosher salt 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice zest of two lemons 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature 3 tablespoons heavy cream
confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling fresh raspberries
Whisk together yolk, sour cream and water. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse for 10 seconds at 1-second intervals. Add yolk mixture and pulse until mixture gathers together and forms a mass around the blade. Add one more tablespoon of water if necessary.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough out approximately into a 10-inch circle, then transfer to 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. With lightly floured hands, press dough into bottom and sides of pan. Line dough with foil or plastic wrap, fill with dried beans or pie weights and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Place tart shell in the oven and bake with weights for 30 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown. Remove weights and bake for five minutes longer. Remove tart from oven and place on cooling rack.
Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF. Bring a wide-mouthed pot filled1-inch high with water to a boil. In a large bowl, whisk together the yolks, eggs, sugar and salt until just blended. Add the lemon juice and whisk until blended. Place bowl over pot of simmering water and whisk constantly until mixture begins to thicken, about five minutes. When mixture is the texture of thin pudding, remove bowl from heat and whisk in butter one tablespoon at a time. Strain mixture into clean bowl and stir in the heavy cream. Pour mixture into tart shell and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Mixture should feel spongy when gently pressed and filling will jiggle when pan is gently shaken.
Remove from oven, and let cool for 10 minutes on rack before removing shell. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Spinkle with confectioners’ sugar and garnish with fresh reaspberries.
For a most delicious and healthy breakfast, squeeze a wedge of lime over a halved papaya.
Papayas peak in early summer. As the fruit ripens, it changes color gradually from green to yellow-orange, beginning first at the bottom and progressing toward the stem. At the store, choose papayas that are half yellow and store at room temperature for a few days to let them fully ripen. When gently squeezed, the fruit should yield slightly.
The base recipe for these vanilla-almond biscotti (pictured above) can be adapted to all tastes. If you’re still looking for something to give your mother, or somebody else’s, on Mother’s Day, try making these. The almonds, pistachios and craisins can be replaced with anthing from chocolate chips to macadamia nuts to shredded coconut. Lemon and orange zests add a nice touch as well.
Although a chocolate coating is unecessary, white chocolate pairs especially well with the cranberry-pistachio variety. Truly, however, the biscotti taste delectable without any additions.
And the dark chocolate, I think, pairs best with the vanilla-almond biscotti. I use the large white and dark chocolate disks from Nuts to You for the glazes — regular chips probably work fine, but the Nuts to You chips harden relatively quickly, making the finished biscotti easy to store. Fante’s sells a similar brand as well.
To really spoil a mother this Sunday, make her a fresh batch of chai tea. Chill the tea in an old fashioned milk carafe, and adorn it with a festive bow. This recipe yields 8 cups, equal to about 16 servings, enabling the recipient to enjoy chai tea for weeks after Mother’s Day. The chai can be served hot, with steamed milk, or cold, over ice. A relatively new appliance, the Nespresso Aeroccino — my new favorite gadget — has enabled me to create tasty chai tea lattes at home. While this tool froths milk nicely, however, it is not critical — the chai, when warmed or chilled with equal parts milk, tastes equally satisfying.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Vanilla-Almond and Pistachio-Cranberry Biscotti
(White and Chocolate Covered)
Yield = 30-35
Note: If you just wish to make almond biscotti, which are delicious, omit the pistachios and cherries.
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup chopped pistachios
¼ cup dried cranberries or cherries
½ cup sliced almonds
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk
turbinado sugar for sprinkling (optional)
6 oz. dark chocolate wafers (optional)
6 oz. white chocolate wafers (optional)
1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugars until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla and blend again.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and blend on low-speed until just combined.
3. Remove the dough from the mixer and divide into two equal portions. (Note: If you are just making almond biscotti, divide dough into 3 equal portions. Shape each portion into a log about 10-inches long. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour — three hours to overnight is ideal. Then proceed to step 5.) Return one portion to the bowl and add the pistachios and dried cherries. Mix until just combined, then remove. Return remaining portion, add the almonds, mix until combined, then remove.
4. Divide each flavored dough ball into two equal portions. Shape each portion into a log about 10-inches long. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Three hours to overnight is ideal.
5. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place 2 (or 1 … 3 seems to be too many) logs on a parchment paper- or Silpat- lined baking sheet. Lightly brush each log with the egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the logs are evenly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Let cool for 15 minutes. Carefully transfer logs to a cutting board. Cut the log crosswise on a slight bias with a serrated knife or a bench scraper. Lay the cut slices on their sides on the baking sheet. Return pan to the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the biscotti cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooking rack. Cool completely.
7. Meanwhile, place the dark chocolate and the white chocolate each in separate bowls over barely simmering water until melted. Dip cooled biscotti into desired chocolate and place on cooling rack with dipped half facing up.
Let harden before storing in airtight plastic containers.
4 cups water
4 cups milk
8 cardamom pods
1 knob ginger 1½-inches long
½ vanilla bean
1 tablespoon aniseed or fennel seeds
10 whole allspice
1 whole nutmeg
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
¼ cup black tea leaves such as Ceylon or Assam
¼ – ½ cup honey
Place water and milk in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to lowest setting. (Mixture should not even be simmering.) Crush the cardamom pods to release the seeds and add both the pods and seeds to the pot. Peel ginger, slice thinly and add to pot. Split vanilla bean lengthwise. Using a paring knife, scrape seeds into pot, then add vanilla bean to pot as well. Add aniseed or fennel, allspice, nutmeg, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves and tea. Let spices steep for 15 minutes. Add ¼ cup of the honey. Taste. Add more honey 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture reaches desired sweetness. (Mixture can always be adjusted later with more milk or honey.) Place a fine-meshed strainer over a large bowl. Pour mixture through strainer, pressing spices against the mesh to release all of the liquid. Chill until ready to serve.
For hot chai tea, heat ½ cup chai with ½ cup milk in saucepan or microwave until simmering. For iced chai, pour ½ cup chai and ½ cup milk into ice-filled glass. Taste, and add more milk, chai or honey if necessary.
For a chai latte, place ½ cup milk in the carafe of a Nespresso Aeroccino and froth. Place ½ cup chai in mug (or pot) and heat in the microwave (or stovetop) until simmering. Spoon frothed milk onto hot chai and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.
Last week I discovered Christos’ Falafel Cart on the northeast corner of 20th and Market. I am now addicted. Christos offers wraps filled either with falafel, or with chicken and falafel, and each comes adorned with the various toppings — ordering “plain” is unacceptable. Toppings vary from diced cucumbers to grilled hot peppers to grapes to melon, and allegedly, Christos never creates the same sandwich twice. Thus far, the legend holds true — in four visits I’ve yet to walk away with the same combination.
I traveled to Christos’ Falafel Cart and to several other fun restaurants and markets after reading a few blog entries on the website, uwishunu.com. To find other hidden spots in Phildelphia check out the site’s dining blog.
A typical lunch-hour line extending from Christos’ Falafel Cart:
Several weeks ago, Mark Bittman provided a recipe for homemade falafel, “For the Best Falafel, Do It All Yourself.” I have not yet tested it, but am hoping to soon, and have printed the recipe below. Also, to see Bittman prepare the recipe, watch this online falafel-making video.
Falafel From Mark Bittman’s “The Minimalist” column in The New York Times Published April 4th, 2007
1¾ cup dried chickpeas 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed 1 small onion, quartered 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1 tablespoon ground cumin Scant teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 cup chopped parsley or cilantro 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon black pepper ½ teaspoon baking soda 1 tablespoon lemon juice Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, for frying
1. Put beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches; they will triple in volume. Soak for 24 hours, adding water if needed to keep the beans submerged.
2. Drain beans well (reserve soaking water) and transfer to a food processor. Add remaining ingredients except oil; pulse until minced but not puréed, scraping sides of bowl down; add soaking water if necessary to allow machine to do its work, but no more than 1 or 2 tablespoons. Keep pulsing until mixture comes together. Taste, adding salt, pepper, cayenne or lemon juice to taste.
3. Put oil in a large, deep saucepan to a depth of at least 2 inches; more is better. The narrower the saucepan the less oil you need, but the more oil you use the more patties you can cook at a time. Turn heat to medium-high and heat oil to about 350ºF (a pinch of batter will sizzle immediately).
4. Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter and shape into balls or small patties. Fry in batches, without crowding, until nicely browned, turning as necessary; total cooking time will be less than 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
A panel of four judges from Jefferson Medical College, led by my sister Lindsey, polished off this mint julep cake in one sitting. A bourbon-butter sauce moistens the vanilla-buttermilk cake when it first emerges from the oven; and a crème de menthe icing coats the exterior once cooled. The boozy and minty flavors make this cake a truly festive Derby Day dessert.
And these assorted bourbon-spiked truffles, particularly the pecan-coated variety, are always a treat. The base truffle recipe is excellent and can be adapted in a number of ways: any alcohol or liqueur, from Grand Marnier to Port to Baileys Irish Cream, can replace the bourbon; and any coating from white chocolate to pistachios to toasted coconut can replace the cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar and pecans. Although the truffles do take more time to prepare than the cake, the elegant presentation when combined with fresh strawberries makes the work worthwhile, for any special event. Enjoy!
Mint Julep Cake Yield = 12-18 servings
2 cups white sugar 1 cup butter, room temperature 3 cups cake flour 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon baking soda 4 eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup buttermilk
½ cup sugar ½ cup butter ¼ cup bourbon
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar 1 tablespoon milk 1 tablespoon white crème de menthe liqueur
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Coat a 10-inch Bundt pan with cooking spray. Beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add eggs one at a time to butter mixture, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla. Sprinkle half the flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until just combined. Add half the buttermilk, stir. Repeat with remaining flour and buttermilk. Pour into prepared pan and smooth evenly around center.
Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on cooling rack. Meanwhile combine the ½ cup sugar, butter and bourbon in a small saucepan and heat until butter is melted. Stir until smooth and remove from heat.
Using a skewer, poke holes into cake. Pour sauce evenly over the cake. Let cake cool to room temperature in the pan before removing.
Meanwhile whisk confectioners’ sugar, milk and crème de menthe until smooth. Add more milk or liqueur to reach desired consistency. Drizzle sauce over cooled cake. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.
Chocolate-Bourbon Balls Yield = 35
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped 3 tablespoons unsalted butter ½ cup heavy cream 1 tablespoon light corn syrup ¼ teaspoon kosher salt ¼ cup bourbon 12 oz candy-making chocolate disks* ½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder ½ cup chopped pecans ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
Place the chocolate and the butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute, stirring after the first 30 seconds. In a small sauté pan heat cream, corn syrup and salt until simmering. Pour over melted chocolate mixture and let stand 2 minutes. With a spatula gently stir mixture until evenly blended. Pour the alcohol, about a tablespoon at a time, into the chocolate mixture, stirring well after each addition. Pour mixture into an 8×8 inch baking dish, preferably glass or Pyrex. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a #100 scoop or a melon baller, gently drag the balled end across the surface of the chocolate. Release the ball of chocolate onto the cookie sheet and repeat until all of the chocolate has been scooped. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Place the coating chocolate in a large stainless-steel bowl. Fill a large wide-mouthed pot with one inch of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and place the bowl of chocolate over the pot — make sure that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. After a few minutes stir the chocolate with a spatula. Place the cocoa powder, pecans and confectioners’ sugar in shallow vessels, preferably with sides. Have a clean Tupperware ready for the finished truffles. When the chocolate is smooth and melted, remove the bowl from the heat. Remove the chocolate balls from the refrigerator. Working one at a time, place one ball into the melted chocolate. Quickly coat the ball using a spatula or spoon, then transfer to desired coating vessel. Gently shake the vessel back and forth until the truffle is coated, and let sit while you move to the next one. Repeat with two more before removing the first finished truffle. After 3 or 4 of the truffles have been coated, remove the first completed truffle to the clean vessel.
Once all of the truffles are coated, store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If you prefer to eat them at room temperature, remove them from the refrigerator one hour prior to serving. *Merckens brand from Fante’s or the dark chocolate disks from Nuts to You work well.
Before the summer tomatoes reach the farm stands, ripe for fresh pico de gallo, try making one with mangoes, which are currently in season. From now until September, bright yellow champagne mangoes are at the market, and from May until August, the reddish-green Florida variety will be available.
Flavored with traditional salsa seasonings — lime juice, cilantro and jalapeños — this mango pico de gallo makes a refreshing appetizer. Serve with pappadums for a nice change from tortilla chips.
Mango Pico de Gallo Yield = 3 cups
1 red bell pepper 1 jalapeño 2 mangoes ½ medium red onion ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro ¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice ½ teaspoon kosher salt ¼ teaspoon sugar
store-bought pappadums (Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s) or tortilla chips
1. Cut the red pepper in half, core and remove stem and seeds. With a knife, remove the white interior membranes, then finely dice the pepper (to yield about ¾ cup). Place in a large bowl. Repeat with the jalapeño.
2. Peel the mangoes, then slice fruit from the pit. Finely dice the fruit and add to the bowl (about 1¾ cup). Finely dice the onion (about ½ cup) and add to the bowl with the cilantro, lime juice, salt and sugar.
3. With a large spoon gently toss the ingredients together, being careful not to bruise the fruit. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary with more salt or lime juice.