Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Strawberry Cornmeal Muffins

Oh my, where has the last week and a half gone? I had no intention of neglecting my blog for so long - sorry readers! My husband and I went to Maryland last weekend for his sister's graduation from dental school. It was great seeing all of her hard work recognized and the next steps beginning as she and her husband are moving to CA. 

Now that we're back in NYC and the weather is heating up, I can't wait to get back to the farmer's market and take advantage of all the local, seasonal produce. It's been at least a month since I've been able to go so the long Memorial Day weekend will be the perfect opportunity to peruse the selection. When I last went to the market, I bought a 1.5 lb bag of finely ground cornmeal to make polenta as I've only had it a few times, but have never made it myself. It turned our really well - so creamy, salty from the parmesan cheese, and just a hint of sweetness from the caramelized onions. I made my own caramelized onions several days before I bought the polenta because I had almost a full onion in random containers in my fridge that I didn't want to waste. The pairing was just meant to be!

After making the polenta, it looked like I still had the entire bag of cornmeal left to use so I wanted to go sweet this time. I found a recipe for strawberry cornmeal muffins that sounds like a great combo of sweet and savory. I personally loooove cornbread so I figured these would have the great taste and consistency you'd expect, combined with the pops of moist, sweet strawberry throughout the muffins. 

I usually have strawberries in the freezer so I can make smoothies when a sweet craving hits, so luckily I was able to use these for the muffins. I just chopped them up a bit more, mixed them in with the batter, and added some on top of each. I already couldn't wait to eat one!

They turned out so well! The muffin tasted a lot like cornbread, as you would expect, and the roasted strawberries really moistened and added some sweetness. 

I brought some of the batch to work, since my husband and I can't (well, shouldn't) eat them all, and they were a success! Definitely a perfect complement to a cup of tea or coffee. I would make these again and try out different fillings, like blueberries or even something savory, like bacon or herbs. Yum!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Scallion Pancakes

My new favorite thing to do on Saturday mornings is heading to the farmer's market in Union Square. I love getting up early on the weekends and getting a lot done before it's even noon. Walking through the square, perusing all of the fresh fruits, veggies, baked goods, plants - I love it! My constant purchase is always the 5 pound bag of mixed apples. Fresh apples straight from the orchard taste a million times better than what you get at the grocery store. At this point, I feel like I'm just depriving myself when I buy apples at the grocery store. I've become a bit of a farmer's market snob, it seems.

As a result of my inability to control what I buy at the market, I had a bunch of scallions to use before they went bad. I'm really trying to stop wasting food, which proves to be especially hard when recipes call for a tablespoon here, half a cup there. How do I use a whole bunch of scallions/parsley/cilantro before they die in the back corner of my fridge? Well, this time I wasn't going to let it happen! Once I started brainstorming what to do with these scallions, pancakes popped into my head!

It was really fun making the dough, which is actually the first time I've made any dough - sad to admit, I know. I used my food processor to do it since it has a dough hook and it made it so easy! Bread, you better watch out - you're next! Once I made the dough and started dividing it out, I realized very quickly that I don't have a rolling pin. Hmm, what to do, what to do? A wine bottle, of course! That's one of the things I love about cooking - there are always opportunities to be creative when things don't work out as you expect.

I got into a rhythm after awhile - roll out the dough, slather on some sesame/vegetable oil mix, salt, and green onions, roll it up into a long rope, coil it into a circle, and flatten it back out into a thin pancake ready to be cooked!

The pancakes turned out great - a bit crispy, chewy, with a prominent green onion flavor throughout. We had some sweet chili sauce on the side to balance out the sweet and salty flavors. Making these pancakes reminded me how fun cooking can be when you're doing something for the first time or just really getting your hands dirty and playing with your food.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I was going to write about scallion pancakes (even though that has nothing to with this joyous day that brings you tacos, guacamole, and margaritas), but what we saw today was too beautiful to keep to myself, so I'll have to save that for another day. Despite being a bit chilly, it was completely worth the trek out to Brooklyn to see the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden before it was too late. Matt has been talking about seeing the cherry blossoms for weeks so I'm glad we made it because this weekend was most likely our last chance and boy, were we in for a treat! The trees were in full bloom and simply breathtaking. I loved walking beneath the rows of trees, taking pictures and soaking up all the beauty around us. One of the most enjoyable parts of watching the cherry blossoms is when a nice breeze comes by and the petals start swirling through the air before falling to the ground. If only I could capture that in a picture.

The tulips were also beautiful! I had no idea how many different varieties and colors there are, but you better bet I took a ridiculous number of pictures. My favorite were definitely the yellow tulips with red shooting up the petals.

My favorite!

I know I'm being obnoxious at this point with the number of photos I'm including in this post, but I just can't get over how beautiful nature is in the spring. Everything is coming to life and everywhere you look, there is something else to catch your eye. I can't wait to go back during the summer to see the rose garden and orchids. 

Oh, back to it being Cinco de Mayo...we didn't actually do/eat/drink anything today in celebration, but we went out for Mexican and margaritas with some friends on Friday. Nothing wrong with an early celebration! Tonight, we went in the complete opposite direction and made lasagna for dinner - we were so hungry after being out in the sun and walking all over the garden! Yay spring!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Thai Tea Ice Cream

Now that I have my ice cream maker, I keep dreaming up different flavors that might have some potential (or really won't) to taste delicious. Avocado? It's creamy so why not. Beets? A bit more questionable. Curry? I may have been watching Chopped tonight when red curry paste was one of the mystery dessert ingredients. 

My list could go on and on, but a lot of the time, my ice cream ideas come from one of my favorite beverages - tea! The options are never-ending - chai, matcha, jasmine, earl grey...I could keep going, but then you'd probably stop reading. All of this rambling brings to me to the point of this post - the most recent batch of ice cream I made! Thai tea ice cream. Doesn't that just sound delicious? The ice cream seriously tastes just like the drink, probably because all of the ingredients are more or less exactly the same.

While I was steeping the tea leaves (which I purchased at least six months ago if not more from a wholesale Thai store in Chelsea Market), next thing I knew my hands were bright orange. Be warned! As soon as the leaves mix with the milk, you've got a bright orange mixture that will stain anything in its path.

Despite the orange hands, this ice cream turned out just the way I was hoping, tasting just like the delicious beverage I can't help but order every time I go to a Thai restaurant. Matt and I ate all of it in one sitting. I only made a quart, but it really didn't seem like that much ice cream. Maybe the container I bought to store it in the freezer is just deceiving me into thinking there isn't much there...

Oh! I forgot to mention that I had used my ice cream maker a few weeks ago to make grapefruit tarragon sorbet. The pictures were less than exciting and the flavor was...interesting. I'm not sure tarragon is the best herb to use in frozen treats, but it was a fun experiment to try! It was just weird enough that I had to know what it tasted like. I think I'll stick to just grapefruit next time. On to the next frozen treat! I'm thinking match ice cream is next on my list!