strawberry lemon sorbet

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I think I’ve developed a warped sense of nutrition. For the most part, I maximize fruits and vegetables, minimize carbs, focus on lean, usually vegetarian proteins, and avoid alcohol. But this all gets thrown out the window on the weekends, when all I do is try not to overeat and hopefully get some fiber at some point. Oh, and then there’s dessert, which I eat every day.

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I do not skip dessert. I try to control portion sizes of course, but I recognize that this is an indulgence that’s important to me and I’m willing to make other sacrifices (i.e., alcohol on weekdays) to account for it. But somewhere along the way I’ve tricked myself into thinking that as long as something doesn’t have loads of butter in it, it must be healthy.

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That means that I’m under the impression that this sorbet isn’t just “not so bad”, but it’s downright good for me! Pureed strawberries! A whole lemon! …2 cups of sugar? Oh well.

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This is another whole lemon dessert, which makes it that much easier to make. All you do is puree everything and churn it in your ice cream maker. This smooth, bright pink sorbet tastes not just of strawberries, but almost equally of lemon, pleasantly tinged by bitterness from the lemon peel. It actually tastes a lot like a strawberry daiquiri. All that and it isn’t even an indulgence! Kinda.

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One year ago: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans and Balsamic Vinegar

Strawberry Sorbet (from Smitten Kitchen, who reports the original source as the London River Cafe Cook Book)

Makes 1½ quarts

I added a bit of vodka, maybe a couple of teaspoons, just to keep it from freezing too solid. It was the perfect consistency. I’m wondering if rum would be even better, to keep with the daiquiri flavor?

1 lemon, seeded and roughly chopped
2 cups sugar
2 pounds strawberries, hulled
Juice of 1 to 2 lemons

1. Place the chopped lemon and sugar in a food processor, and pulse until combined. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Puree the strawberries in a food processor, and add to the lemon mixture, along with the juice of 1 lemon. Taste and add more juice as desired. The lemon flavor should be intense but should not overpower the strawberries. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and churn until frozen.

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fresh strawberry scones

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What’s fun about going through phases with certain foods, like my recent scone phase, is that it gives you a chance to really explore that category. I’ve made all sorts of scones in the past few months – cream scones, scones made with lighter dairy but more butter, scones filled with fresh fruit and with nuts. So far I’ve avoided scones with dried fruit, even though it’s traditional.

Instead, I tried scones with one of the juiciest fruits. Katie’s recipe for strawberry scones closely resembles most other scone recipes, with butter cut into the dry ingredients before dairy is gently stirred in. The recipe includes yogurt and milk instead of the richer cream often called for in scones.

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The recipe was a little tricky for me. Because strawberries vary so much in water content, Katie recommends a range of flour. I knew my early season berries weren’t at their juicy peak, so I kept to the lower end of the range. However, I still needed far more liquid than the original recipe requires before the dough would come together. Kelsey indicated that she had a similar problem. Fortunately, it was easy enough to increase the milk until all of the flour was evenly moistened.

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I’ve found that I generally prefer cream scones for their rich tender crumb that has no trace of dryness. These scones were a little different, and my first instinct was to prefer the cream scones that I’m used to, but then I realized that these were every bit as good. Because of the higher amount of butter compared to flour, the scones had crisper edges, especially the bottom, but it was good, almost like a flaky pie crust. And you know how scones are so good topped with jam? Putting strawberries right in the scone is ten times better.

One year ago: Peanut Butter Torte

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Strawberry Scones (adapted from Good Things Catered)

When I make scones, I almost always prepare them up to just before baking (through step 5 in this recipe), then freeze the shaped dough. The scones can be baked straight from the freezer, with just a few minutes added to the baking time.

2¼ cups (10.8 ounces) all purpose flour
¼ cups (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 egg
¼ cup plain yogurt
½ cup milk
1 teaspoons orange zest
1 cup diced fresh strawberries

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

2. In a small bowl, combine the egg, yogurt, milk and zest and whisk to thoroughly combine. Set aside.

3. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine (or mix with a whisk in a large bowl). Add the cubes of butter and pulse several times, until the butter pieces are all smaller than pea-sized (or cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

4. Add the strawberries to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Add the wet ingredients and fold them into the dry ingredients, mixing just until the dough comes together and all of the flour is hydrated.

5. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and pat it into a large ball. Cut the ball in half, and shape each half into a flat disk about ½-inch thick. Cut the discs into 8 wedges.

6. Place the wedges on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle sugar on top. Bake until slightly browned on top, about 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the scones cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. The scones are best served when still slightly warm.

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brandied berry crepes

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When I scoped out the fresh blueberry selection while shopping for the blueberry crumb cake a few weeks ago, I caught a strong scent of strawberries. Yay! I hadn’t seen them there, hadn’t even though to look for them yet, but I definitely wasn’t passing them up. After months of apples and pumpkin, I am so ready for some different fruit. Since then, I’ve been using strawberries in everything possible.

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I made crepes a few months ago, and while I was perfectly happy with the recipe I used, I decided to try a new one anyway. I didn’t use any whole wheat flour this time, but this recipe uses a quarter of the butter as the other one, which is even better. I just mixed everything in a blender and let it set while I waited a few hours for Dave to wake up.

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The filling was more of an adventure. Berries and sugar are heated to dissolve the sugar, then a mixture of cornstarch and kirsch is added. The filling is finished off with lemon juice and more fresh berries. For one pound of berries, the filling has ¼ cup kirsch, which seemed on the high side, especially considering the very low quality of my kirsch (and that this is breakfast). Then I accidentally added twice as much alcohol as I was supposed to. Blech, it was disgusting – it tasted like a college party. Fortunately, I had more of everything else, so I just doubled the rest of the ingredients. It still has a pretty strong alcohol flavor, but in a good way.

Topping with whipped cream, it’s a pretty decadent breakfast, one that could easily pass as dessert. But who wants to wait all day for something this good?

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One year ago: Almond Biscotti – still the best biscotti I’ve made

Brandied Berry Crepes (adapted from Williams-Sonoma Desserts via Evan’s Kitchen Ramblings)

For the crepe batter:
1¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (8.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup + 1 tablespoon milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for cooking the crepes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:
8 ounces mixed berries or berry puree
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
pinch salt
1½ tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup brandy, preferably kirsch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
8 ounces mixed berries

1. For the crepe batter: Add all of the ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth. Let stand for at least 15 minutes or refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

2. For filling: Combine cornstarch and brandy in a small bowl. Combine the mixed berries or berry puree, the sugar, and the salt in a medium saucepan, then cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, then stir in the brandy mixture and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice and add the remaining berries. Set aside.

3. Preheat a crepe pan or medium nonstick skillet of medium heat. When hot, grease with a dollop of butter (using a stick of butter to smear some directly on the skillet works nicely), and add enough batter to coat the skillet in a thin, even layer when you swivel the skillet around in your hand. Cook just until batter is set and golden on bottom, then flip and cook on second side for another minute or two. Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking the cooked crepes on a plate.

4. Spoon filling onto crepes, fold into quarters and serve.

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pan-roasted asparagus

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Asparagus was part of one of my worst eating experiences. I was spending a few weeks traveling, working with one of the top researchers in my field. She’s an intimidating woman, known for her arrogance and her temper. Fortunately, what little contact I had with her was generally pleasant. She even invited me to her house for dinner a couple times.

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The first time, she served chicken, asparagus and rustic bread she’d bought at a bakery. The asparagus was horrendous. It was grossly overcooked, plus too little of the woody barely chewable ends had been trimmed. It was all I could do to eat it without gagging, but I had to be polite, especially since I was sort of scared of my host.

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This is not that asparagus. This is lightly browned, tender but still crisp at the center. It’s also easy – just put the asparagus and some salt in a lightly oiled, hot, not nonstick pan, and cook it for a few minutes, giving the pan an occasional shake. Squeeze on some lemon juice, grind a bit of black pepper over the top, and try to erase all of your bad vegetable memories.

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One year ago: Sichuan Green Beans

Pan-Roasted Asparagus

Serves 2

Note: Choose thin (less than ½-inch in diameter) asparagus for this recipe, as the thicker stalks won’t cook through evenly. Trim the asparagus by bending each stalk until it snaps. To double the recipe, use a 12-inch skillet.

1 teaspoon olive oil
8 ounces asparagus, washed and trimmed (see Note)
generous pinch salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a medium not nonstick skillet over medium heat until it’s hot. (I judge based on the viscosity of the oil – the thinner, the hotter.) Add the asparagus in a single layer and stir or shake to coat with oil. Continue to cook the asparagus until it’s crisp-tender, 5-8 minutes.

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berry surprise cake

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I’ve been a member of Tuesdays with Dorie for ten months, and I haven’t missed even one week. I’ve posted through holidays, vacations, and…I’m trying to come up with a third thing to round out this sentence, but honestly, I have no life. Hence it’s been easy to stay on track with TWD. But this week really tested me – my dishwasher is broken. That’s been rough.

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It’s a good thing I persisted though, because I forgot to take into account Dave’s love of fruit + cream desserts. He goes nuts for them. I made a fourth of this recipe, and we ate the whole thing on Saturday night. Dave was talking about it all day Sunday, and it wasn’t until the end of the day that he realized there was none left. He wasn’t happy.

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I guess I’ll have to make it again sometime then! Which is no problem, because there were things I really liked about this as well as things I’d like to experiment with.

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Like most of the group this week, my cake fell in the middle. I’d read through the reviews of people who made it before me and knew this was a possibility, so I was so careful when mixing up the batter. I certainly didn’t overmix, because there were still clumps of hard, dry flour in the baked cake. On the other hand, I could see the structure of the beaten eggs breaking down as I tried to fold in the flour, so I knew I had to stop.

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It was no matter though, since we were hollowing out the cake anyway. Dorie’s instructions are to slice off the top of the cake, make a nest in the middle, fill the nest with berries and cream, then put the top of the cake back on. Because the sides of my cake were nice and high, I was able to do all of that except I didn’t have a “lid” to cover the filling with. I just spread the whipped cream topping right over the filling.

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The other issue people had with the recipe was the filling, which is a combination of cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and cream. So basically cheesecake batter, which I absolutely love. Dorie then whips up more heavy cream and mixes that with the cream cheese ingredients, but a lot of people were saying that the filling ended up bland, so I skipped the extra whipped cream.

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There were things I loved about this recipe – the cream cheese filling, raspberries of course (I lucked out and found good ones for a reasonable price), the whipped cream topping…so basically everything except the sunken cake. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a genoise I loved. When I make this again, which will be soon if Dave has any say in the matter, I’ll just use a different vanilla cake recipe.

Mary Ann has posted the recipe.

One year ago: Maple Walnut Cupcakes

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cherry rhubarb cobbler (twd)

Amanda chose possibly the healthiest recipe in the TWD cookbook. A portion of the flour in the biscuits is whole wheat and there’s <gasp> less than a tablespoon of butter per serving.

Combining rhubarb and cherries is a little unusual – Dorie does it because they have contrasting and complimentary flavors. Fair enough, but they also both have notoriously short seasons that only slightly overlap. I was lucky to find fresh rhubarb still available.

I love rhubarb in uses like this – it cooks down so soft as to be unnoticeable except for the sweet-tart flavor it lends. Sweet cherries, it turns out, I’m not so fond of in cooked fruit desserts. It sounds weird, but I’m annoyed at how well they hold their shape. I guess I want them to cook down and blend in with the other filling ingredients.

The biscuits were fine. Not as light and tender as the ones from Dorie’s other cobbler; these were more dense and bready. (I swear I didn’t overmix them.) They weren’t bad by any means, but maybe a little more wholesome than I prefer for dessert.

Dave, of course, loved the whole thing. He generally prefers healthier food than I do. When we eat out, I order steak and potatoes while he gets fish and vegetables. This cobbler was right up his alley.

Amanda will post the recipe on her blog.

la palette’s strawberry tart

I joined TWD right at the beginning of strawberry season – when the first flavorless strawberries started showing up in stores, and I bought them just because I was excited about warmer weather and everything that goes along with it. I was eager to make one strawberry dessert after another during their short season, but the TWD recipe-choosers haven’t been on that same wavelength. (Of course, not all of TWD’s members are in the Northern Hemisphere anyway.) I still bought strawberries each week, and every week they’re more flavorful than the last. The strawberry tart that Marie chose for this week’s recipe was a perfect way to showcase delicious seasonal strawberries.

I make only a portion of most TWD recipes, since I’m only cooking for myself and Dave, and my capacity to bake outstrips our capacity to eat. But I didn’t want to take pictures of yet another mini-tart. I actually don’t have a fluted 9-inch tart pan, but I’ve successfully used my 9-inch springform pan for tarts in the past.

Dorie calls this dessert “rustic in the extreme”, so I decided to play that up. A rustic tart has no need for fluted, or even neat, edges, so I just quickly pressed the dough into the pan. A number of people had problems with the crust being too hard, so I was careful to only lightly press the dough. It did, however, end up ever so slightly more rustic than I had intended…

Although the recipe sounds extraordinarily simple – crust, jam, strawberries, whipped cream – it really does add up to more than its parts. I was surprised by how much the jam added to the flavor of the tart. My crust seemed more tender than most people described theirs, so maybe lightly pressing it into the pan worked? (Scratch that – I just cut the crust into slices, and it was a crumbly crackly mess.) I haven’t tried sprinkling the strawberries with Dorie’s suggested black pepper, but after reading a few positive reviews on that method, I’m going to try it with tonight’s serving. Although strawberry shortcake isn’t going anywhere as my favorite strawberry-showcasing dessert, I’m looking forward to finishing up this tart throughout the week.

Dorie has discussed this dessert and provided the recipe on Serious Eats. I made the recipe without any changes, but in the future, I’d like another 1/8 teaspoon salt in the crust.