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Mmmmmmm. Peace ice cream.

This summer we’ve toyed with triple-digit temperatures repeatedly, something that is increasingly becoming the new norm.  When the thermometer on our north-facing, shady porch says it’s 100 degrees F, it’s time for ice cream!  It’s peach season in Arkansas, so I can’t resist finding ways to use peaches. Why not ice cream?  Today’s recipe is for a peach ice cream that’s not too sweet, letting the natural goodness of the peaches shine.

Making ice cream at home is easy, as long as you have lots of ice, a little bit of patience, and an ice cream maker.  No, I’m not talking about Mr. Homesteader.  I’m talking about an electric machine.  I remember fondly the days that my family and friends took turns on a hand-crank ice cream maker.  I also remember when we bought our electric machine.  It’s the same one I use today, decades later.  Still, if you’ve got the muscles and time, go for a hand cranker, and burn off the ice cream before you ever eat it!

Now, let’s talk about two crucial ingredients that don’t go in the ice cream.  You need lots of cubed or crushed ice, at least one large bag if you need to buy it.  You’ll also need rock salt, also known as ice cream salt.  Some stores keep ice cream salt in the seasonal section, while others keep it with spices, salts, and baking staples.  We’ll use about a cup of rock salt today.

Peach Ice Cream

makes about 1 1/2 quart

Ice Cream Ingredients

As always, you should be able to find everything listed here in organic form, so buy organic if you can.

  • 4 egg yolks (Save the whites!  Use them for an egg white omelet with seasonal vegetables, and you’ll have a light, fluffy, flavorful summer breakfast.  Ask me if you want a recipe.)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • optional:  1/4 cup nonfat dried milk
  • 2 cups half and half (or whipping cream if you’re feeling decadent)
  • 2 cups milk (whole or 1%)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
  • 4-5 ripe peaches

Method

Using a whisk, stir together the egg yolks, the sugar, and at least one cup of the cream in a heavy-bottomed pot.  (Whisk in the nonfat dried milk too if you are using it.)  Heat over medium heat, whisking regularly, until the mixture is too hot to stick your finger in and hold but not boiling.  Adjust heat to hold it there as necessary.  If you have a candy thermometer, we’re looking for about 140 degrees F, held for 5-10 minutes.  Whisk more as the temperature rises.  The mixture should thicken a little as the egg cooks, but don’t let the milk curdle!  Now take the mixture off the heat and add the rest of the half and half, milk, and vanilla.

Next peel and pit the peaches and dice them.  You can do this step in the early stages of cooking the egg mixture if you’d like.  Add the diced peaches and any liquid they’ve given off to the mixture.  Chill it well, even to the point of putting it in the freezer if you’re planning on making the ice cream in a few hours.

Is your mixture good and cold?  Break out that ice cream machine.  Using the method that comes with your ice cream maker, put the ice cream mixture in the cylinder, add the paddles, secure the top, and pour in the ice and salt, alternating as you add them.  We let our ice cream mix inside, in the air conditioning.  At 100 degrees F outside, the ice cream may never properly freeze.  Inside at about 80 degrees F, it freezes easily.  You’ll know your ice cream is ready when the paddles slow down and the machine starts to sound labored.  Hand-cranked machines will get harder to turn as the ice cream freezes, so save your best muscle at the party for last!

Quickly scoop the finished ice cream into a freezer container, being sure to share the paddles with your favorite people before the ice cream melts.  Avoid letting the ice cream thaw and re-freeze, as without commercial emulsifiers the ice cream can become hard.  You can dish up the ice cream immediately soft serve, or let it freeze a bit harder for those perfect round scoops!

Our next dessert will be rich chocolate ice cream, but before that I’ll post a tasty ratatouille Provençal recipe, to help you use up your bounty of summer garden and market vegetables.

Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2011, including photographs.

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I started our summer squash late this year, but we’ve still ended up with bushels of it.  Last year I posted about summer supper squash pancakes, and earlier this year I offered a can-less version of squash casserole.  Of course, you can always sauté squash with onions, but why not go a little crazy and come up with a few more variations?

Earlier this week we had squash roasted with sweet onions, pimento pepper, a little chile pepper, and strips of turkey ham.  The recipe is simple; just cut the onions into chunky slices (half the onion and then quarter and separate into leaves), toss with a little oil, and give them a head start them roasting at 400 degrees F while you cut the squash into nice chunks, the pepper into dice or slivers, and the ham into strips.  Once everything else is prepped, toss it in with the onion, season to taste, and roast for about twenty minutes more.  You can sprinkle fresh, chiffonaded basil or another fresh snipped herb across the top.  I served ours as a side dish with spinach oyster soup, balsamic fig and bleu cheese salad, and crusty grilled bread.  My husband said he could easily enjoy the squash dish as the whole meal. Of course, this squash dish with that characteristic Southern drawl used a lot of squash, but I still had a lot more.

What to do?  How about squash stir-fried with Asian flavors?  This dish is still based on onions and squash, but it’s definitely different from traditional Southern squash.  Begin by slicing a sweet onion into thin slices.  Stir-fry the onions in a blend of walnut oil, peanut oil, or vegetable oil and a tablespoon or two of toasted sesame oil.  While the onions fry, cut your squash into chunks and sliver some crystalized ginger (yes, the candy ginger!), about two whole pieces per small squash (yielding a couple of tablespoons or three of slivered crystalized ginger).  Add the squash and crystalized ginger slivers to the stir-fry along with a splash of good soy sauce and, if you want, a splash of hoisin sauce.  Sit fry until a few pieces of the squash start get brown goodness.  I served our Asian-flavored squash with citrus-glazed broccoli and ginger-sesame salmon.  

What’s next?  I’m thinking squash with scallops and grits and perhaps some yellow squash muffins on the side, with cheese to make them a savory addition to supper.  I’m also planning on trying the squash relish that reader Regina posted for me in the comments of this squash post.  And this fall without a doubt I’ll be making some squash dressing to go with chicken or turkey.

How do you use your squash bounty?  What’s the weirdest thing you ever did with squash that tasted good?

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Temperatures and humidity in Arkansas have dropped from deadly to merely oppressive, but we’re still running above normal.  Therefore, this weekend I made one of my favorite summer soups, gazpacho.  Gazpacho is a tomato soup made entirely of fresh and raw ingredients, and it refreshes and rejuvenates you as you eat it.  A friend once called it salsa soup, but it really is a bit more than that.  For our household, it’s so good we think of it as red gold on the table.  And except for the celery and seasonings, we grow everything that goes in it, and you can too.

copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

Ingredients for 4-8 servings

Note:  Use what you have.  If 1 cucumber yields you 3/4 cup and you want to use it up, go for it.

  • 1 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup celery (about two stalks)
  • 1/2 cup cucumbers:  Peel if it’s one of those nasty store-bought cucumbers.  If it’s a larger cucumber, be sure to scoop out the bitter seed section.
  • 1/2 cup fresh pepper, either sweet bell pepper or a mild chile pepper (My usual choice is a Hatch/Anaheim.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (as in, use a garlic press)
  • 3 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (or a dab of anchovies and 1 tablespoon of some good calamata or black olive juice)
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/3 cup snipped parsley or chervil or chiffonaded cilantro or lemon basil (one, not all four!), reserving some of the herb you select for garnish

You have three options for preparing this soup.

  • Option one is to mince finely all of your vegetables and then combine everything except the part of the herb you are reserving for garnish.
  • Option two is to dice your vegetables not so finely and then hit the combination of vegetables with everything else except 1 cup of the tomato juice with an immersion blender or put them in a food processor and pulse until they are minced.  Once the veggies are minced, you can add the rest of the tomato juice and the portion of the herb that isn’t garnish.
  • Option three is to put everything in your stand blender except the herbs and pulse until the veggies are minced.  Then add the herbs.

Chill the soup in a glass or stainless steel non-reactive container well before serving.  The soup keeps really well, the flavors melding nicely, and the mixture is so healthy that I often double the recipe to keep it on hand.

Do you have a favorite heat-beating recipe?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Recently a Canadian reader, Anita, who has fallen in love with Southern food asked me for my squash casserole recipe.  I said I’d be happy to oblige but would need a few weeks for two reasons:  first, the squash crop around here was in the summer lull (argh, squash bugs!), but most importantly because I needed to actually come up with a recipe.  I make mine a little differently every time, just as I do with most things that I cook and bake.  Anita remembered a casserole she’d had in Georgia that was creamy, with a buttery flavor.  She hoped it did not involve the ubiquitous can of Campbell’s soup that has made most “casseroles” since the 1950s.  I’ve certainly had the souped up casserole at many a potluck, but that was not my favorite squash casserole; my favorite was my grandmother’s.

While my mother-in-law was visiting, I made a squash casserole as my mother-in-law said she did, using milk, mayonnaise, and egg as the binding agent.  It definitely was not what we were looking for, having a heavy feel, and I knew my own grandmother had used a white sauce.  I hunted to see if my grandmother ever wrote down her recipe, or if she had gotten it from that trusty 1899 cookbook that belonged to her mother.  No, that cookbook made no mention of a casserole at all, the concept of a casserole having been foreign (literally) in much of the Southern United States until the introduction of Campbell’s “casseroles” in the mid-twentieth century.  (The infamous green bean casserole with canned soup dates from 1955, by the way.) I surrendered to the inevitable; I had learned how to make squash casserole at my grandmother’s side, and I needed to just give up looking for a recipe and create my own.

My grandmother’s version of squash casserole would have involved either a standard white sauce with cheese and egg or evaporated milk with cheese and egg.  Today I’ll give you my white sauce version, using the dangerously easy cheese sauce with all real-dairy ingredients that I posted in May.  I’m going to give the recipe in proportions for one or two medium yellow squash, with the variations for more.  Remember as you select your casserole dish to keep the squash mixture at about 2 inches depth in the dish.  That way, every serving can have a good amount of the crunchy topping.

A couple of casserole sizes:

  • 1-2 squash:  Try using one of those cute little .4 L Corning casseroles
  • 7-8 squash:  Go for a 2-quart casserole dish.

Recipe for 1-2 medium-sized yellow squash:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and tiny pat of butter (better!)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 medium-sized sweet yellow onion, cut into very thin slices  (If the onion makes you cry when you cut into it, use less.)
  • 1-2 medium-sized yellow squash, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • dash of salt, pepper, and, if you want, a pinch of Italian herbs
  • 1 egg, beaten with a fork
  • 1/4 cup dangerously easy cheese sauce, cooled sufficiently to avoid cooking the egg.
  • 1/4 cup more freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • fine, dry bread crumbs (like Panko) or fine cracker crumbs, sufficient to cover the top of the casserole in a thin layer (about 1/4 cup)

Saute the onion in a heavy pan in the olive oil and butter mix just until the onion starts to get a little color.  Add the squash and saute it with the salt, pepper, and herbs until a bit of the liquid in it yields and is cooked off.  (The salt will help this process.)  Let the mixture cool a bit.  In a measuring cup, add the cheese sauce to the beaten egg and stir well to combine.  Start layering the squash and onions in a lightly greased casserole dish, then pour on a little cheese-egg mixture, then more squash and onions, then more cheese until you’ve used it all.  Sprinkle the grated sharp cheddar on top, add your bread crumbs, and bake, covered, in a 350 degree F oven for about 25 minutes.  Take off the lid and let the casserole brown on top, about 5-10 minutes more depending on what type of crumbs you used.  Let the casserole cool about 5 minutes and then serve.

Let’s multiply to make bigger casseroles:

For 3-4 squash, use 2/3-1 onion, 2 eggs, and 1/2 cup of cheese sauce.  For 5-6 squash, use 1 to 1 1/2 onion, 3 eggs, and 3/4 cup cheese sauce.  For 7-8 squash, use 1 1/3 to 2 sweet onions, 4 eggs, and 1 cup cheese sauce.

As my husband tucked his fork into his serving of casserole last night and put it in his mouth, he sort of made a face.  I was downhearted.  I’d already tasted the casserole and thought it was blog worthy.  I waited a few minutes and asked him what he thought, explaining my quest.  It turned out, he was thinking about his master’s class in statistics when he made the face.  He went into Food Network judge mode to extoll the virtues of the casserole.  He described the squashy, cheesy portion of the casserole as almost custardy, with a fluffy lightness that balanced the richness of the cheese.  He pointed out that the fine crumbs had contributed to the lightness of the dish with their crisp coating on the top.  He liked the flavor too.

To be sure, there are plenty of squash casserole recipes out there, and this is just one, Anita.  If it doesn’t fit your memories of the squash casserole you had in Georgia, I’ll happily go back to the kitchen to work on it more.  My late-planted squash is about to produce a bonanza.  I’ll end up freezing a few squash casseroles by the time the season is over, for use in the winter.

Do you have a favorite squash casserole recipe, with or without canned soup?  Please share!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Arkansas is back into the triple digits with summer heat, after a couple of days of reprieve.  At least it finally rained here, after all measurable rainfall detoured around the homestead from July 13 until yesterday.  Today we actually got close to half an inch of rain, if the gauge is correct.  That rain was followed by air so thick with moisture that it fogged up our windows from the outside.  It’s easy for me to long for cooler days.  But then I remember how long and dark winter was for us in early 2010.  It was cold.  The garden wouldn’t grow.  We got cabin fever.  Maybe I can deal with a few more triple-digit days if it means the days of summer can continue just a bit longer.

Which is your favorite season?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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The heat finally broke here yesterday, and we’ll only see temperatures in the high 90s this week.  Only in the high 90s–I can’t believe I wrote that.  Given that we still don’t want to heat up the house any more than we have to, I’m going to talk ever so briefly today about how I bake and roast in the summer without baking and roasting us.  I use our convection toaster oven.  You can get a decent one as cheaply as $34 (yes, I priced one the other day just to be sure), and you can get fancier ones that will do a bit more for well under $100.  Actually, I use my toaster oven more than my regular oven all the time.  It takes less time to pre-heat and less energy to stay heated.  Most of the recipes you see on this site will fit in a decent-sized toaster.  If I’m making a pizza in the summer, I make sure it will fit in the toaster.  If I want muffins, I make a half dozen, so I can use the toaster.  Need cookies?  Use the toaster oven.

Now I’m going back to enjoying this beautiful morning, with temperatures around 73 degrees F.

Do you use your toaster oven a lot?  If so, what do you bake in it?

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You may have figured out that I like peaches and blueberries.  I like them together.  To me, an ideal summer breakfast, lunch, or dinner dessert is a bowl of fresh sliced peaches with a big handful of blueberries on top.  My company this week apparently does not love big bowls of fresh fruit as much as I do, so I made muffins of these two special favorite fruits.  This recipe is ideal to whip up for a family breakfast and then bake in your toaster oven, so you don’t have to heat up the house.

Serves 6 (or 3 people who like two muffins a piece)

  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 1/3 heaping cup plain yogurt (yes, I’m talking about something close to half a cup)
  • 1 almost over-ripe peach, diced very fine (save the juice!  add it with the diced peaches to the recipe)
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-grain oat flour  (okay to use all wheat if you do not have oat flour)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blueberries–okay, a half a cup will be okay, but a whole cup is better
  • optional:  pinch of nutmeg or squeeze of lime juice
  • butter to brush on tops

Preheat your toaster oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease the bottoms only of a 6-muffin tin.  In a 4-cup bowl or thereabouts, mix together the first three (wet) ingredients.  In smaller bowl, mix the flour and everything else down to but not including the blueberries.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just mixed.  Add the blueberries and optional ingredients.  Divide the batter equally among the 6 muffin cups.  Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes, rotating to get even browning if necessary.  Brush a little butter on the top of each muffin if you want.  Serve warm with butter, jam, or nothing at all.And since you’ve used yogurt and peaches instead of oil, you’ve got a healthy, low-fat treat for your family!  Shhhhhh–they’ll never know.


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