Thursday, August 28, 2014

Still Summer

Summer may be winding down but the farmers' markets are bursting with late summer fruit and vegetables.

For dinner the other night, I celebrated heirloom tomatoes . . .
Heirloom tomato salad with mozzarella di bufala and torn basil
and apricots.
Apricot pistachio tart
What a pleasure to cook with great fresh ingredients like these!

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream Recipe

In my post of August 6, I described a lemon verbena sorbet that I had made, with a recipe from Clotilde Dusoulier, of Chocolate & Zucchini fame. As I said, it became icy and more of a granita than a sorbet after a few hours of freezing.

Lemon verbena ice cream with strawberries
Inspired by the refreshing taste, however, I decided to try to make a lemon verbena ice cream. Using Clotilde's proportions, and David Lebovitz' (The Perfect Scoop) can't-miss method for Philadelphia style (eggless) ice cream, I came up with the following recipe, which has the same herbal quality as the sorbet but a smooth and luxurious texture:

Bobby Jay's Lemon Verbena Ice Cream
(Adapted from Clotilde Dusoulier and David Lebovitz)

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 18 grams (2/3 oz) fresh lemon verbena
  • 30 grams (c. 1 oz) limoncello (optional but helps the texture)
  • dash of salt
  1. Heat 1 cup of cream, the milk, the sugar, the salt and the lemon verbena until the sugar melts and the mixture is bubbling around the sides. It should be about 175 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour.
  3. Pour the mixture through a strainer into a bowl containing the remaining 1 cup of cream and the limoncello. Cool the bowl in a larger bowl with ice water, then place in the refrigerator for a few hours or, preferably, overnight.
  4. Freeze using an ice cream freezer, following directions.
Simple to make, almost as refreshing as the sorbet/granita, but with a voluptuous texture that pairs perfectly with summer berries or stone fruits.

(PS  I then melted the remaining sorbet, reduced it a bit, and saved it as a lemon verbena syrup: perfect over vanilla ice cream or fruit or mixed with sparkling water. It would probably also make a great sweetener for iced tea.)

Bobby Jay

Monday, August 11, 2014

Light and Lovely: Lunch from the Farmers' Market

J and I were headed to a big meal at Gramercy Tavern last night so I made a light lunch with wonderful seasonal produce from the local farmers' market.

We started with melon gazpacho with mint

and ended with tomato and micro-green salad with mozzarella di bufala and feta,

each served in/on ceramics made by Japanese artists that we acquired at their studios.

Bobby Jay

Friday, August 8, 2014

Surprise! Will You Still Feed Me . . . ?

The evening before my 64th birthday, I innocently arrived at Aldea, one of our favorite New York restaurants, to meet another couple for dinner. But J had a surprise in store for me: four couples of our dearest friends arrayed around a table adjacent to the restaurant's open kitchen. Sharing a wonderful eight-course tasting menu with really close friends -- well, it doesn't really get better than this.

Here's the menu, including the wine pairings that accompanied each course.

Special birthday menu
I am not yet able to drink alcohol so a special non-alcoholic beverage was paired with each course just for me. Some of these were quite sensational.

Non-alcoholic drinks
In addition to the excellent food, the hospitality we received was noteworthy. We were permitted to mingle with the chef and staff in the open kitchen, an opportunity too good to pass up.

Bobby Jay in the kitchen
Here are some highlights from the meal.

Soft egg with bacalhau, black olive, potato
Cucumber and wild strawberry salad, cucumber juice, smoked sardines, yogurt
Foie gras with port-poached and pickled cherries
Wild striped bass, bok choy, caperberries, smoked trout roe, corn nage
Duck breast, grilled wax beans, peaches, cherries
The food didn't just look good. It was carefully constructed with very subtle accents created by adding tiny amounts of interesting flavor "bombs," like house-smoked sardines and trout roe and lemon thyme. And the pickled cherries, which turned up twice, with the foie gras and the duck breast: sublime. The menu was well-balanced, with perfect portion sizes, and not too heavy; we were all sated but without feeling that we had overdone it.

Even on a normal night, Aldea is an excellent restaurant, with innovative Portuguese-inspired food served in a refined but unpretentious atmosphere. But on my birthday night it was truly special!

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer Freshness - Lemon Verbena Sorbet

You haven't heard from me lately because I have been recovering from an operation that I underwent six weeks ago. All went well, and I am back.

Plainly this is the best time of year for a home cook to recover from surgery because the abundance of healthful and varied local summer produce provides half the meal with no, or very little, cooking. My favorite food is sweet corn, which I serve plain or made into Bobby Jay's Corn Soup, served hot or cold. And it is hard to beat juicy and sweet heirloom tomatoes, served as a salad (salted for 30 minutes, seasoned with pepper and dried oregano, vinegar and olive oil), with or without mozzarella di bufalo or burrata. Or just sliced and made into a caprese salad with mozzarella, olive oil and torn basil.

Wonderful fresh produce can be supplemented with rotisserie chicken, by itself or in a main course salad shredded with cabbage, lettuce, carrots, nuts and the dressing of your choice (I use a Chinese inspired dressing with peanuts).

Lemon verbena, washed and laid out to dry
In summer, we eat fruit for dessert almost every night, with a little homemade ice cream (ginger being my and J's preferred flavor) or, if we are being really virtuous, low-fat yogurt mixed with some cardamom powder and vanilla. An easy way to extend the life of fragile fruits, like sour cherries, is to cook them for five minutes or so with something sweet: a little sugar, honey or maple or agave syrup. I use a spoonful each of ginger and almond syrup, and serve the resulting lightly stewed berries over ice cream or yogurt.

Going to farmers' markets can provide unexpected inspiration. One day I was browsing at the farmers' market and saw some lovely lemon verbena, which I felt compelled to buy, although I had no fixed idea of what to do with it. Returning home, I found a recipe for lemon verbena sorbet on Clotilde Dusoulier's excellent blog Chocolat & Zucchini. While the sorbet turns quite icy after the first day, I just scrape it with a fork and use it as granita atop summer berries of all kinds. It is summer on a spoon, light, herbal and a perfect complement for fruit. You can also dry lemon verbena and use it for herbal infusions (verveine).

It is a pleasure to be cooking again, especially in the summer, when preparing light and healthful meals is made easy through the efforts of our local farmers.

Bobby Jay