Tuesday, June 30, 2009

First Summer Harvest, Stir Fry, and Vanilla Ice Cream with a Balsamic Fig Reduction

Hidy ho neighborinos!

I know I've been a bad blogger, but I promise July will be better than June. We've been super duper busy around here getting the garden established (which I can't wait to show you) so we haven't been doing a ton of interesting cooking. Honestly, we've been doing some fine cooking, just not a ton of photographing :)

I want to share with you a simple stir fry we make around here whenever we're feeling uninspired, but first I have to share the second big harvest of the garden, and the first offical summer harvest: KALE!

If you don't know about kale or don't like it, may I kindly shove you in its general direction? Aside from being insanely good for you (how many leafy greens do YOU eat a day?) kale is versatile and delicious.

We've got a few big bunches that have grown amazingly well from the basement into the plot.

Look how huge it got! It's bigger than his head!

We wanted to do something very simple with the kale, and our dear friend Maggie had a great tip for making a simple dressing with a whole avocado, about 2 tbsp. lemon juice, a healthy dose of salt and fresh pepper, and the chopped raw kale.

I mashed the dressing together with a fork and tossed the kale to cover with my (clean) bare hands.

You'll see how the final product looked when the whole meal is revealed.

The rest of the garden is looking fantastic. Here's the lettuce that remains, getting bigger by the day.

The beans are also flourishing. I should probably thin these out, but haven't yet...

The bushes are pumping out raspberries like crazy! It's all I can do to keep up. Hopefully some interesting things will come from them this year...

Finally, we're lucky enough to have bought a house with one of these in the yard-

As you can see, things are moving quickly around here, and as usual I feel it's all I can do to keep up! (Did I mention I'm also treaching a full load this semester?)

Since we've been so busy with our hands in the dirt lately, we wanted to make a dinner that was tasty and fast, but delicious and interesting. For us, that usually means stir fry. We had a chicken breast leftover from the pasta sauce, so

Here's where the evening began.

(Almost) everything I used for dinner is in that photo, including dessert.

First, let me introduce you to a friend of mine: this chili basil paste

I get it at my local Asian grocery store for very cheap. It's pretty much chili paste with basil leaves, garlic, sugar, vinegar, and some other great stuff. It's salty, spicy, and has that fruity taste of hot chilies. I loooove it. It's from Thailand, and this jar is $1.59. I *highly* recommend walking into a foreign grocery store and forcing yourself to leave with something you've never heard of or used before. You'll always be led into something delicious and special.

We've also started having our stir fry with noodles that we boil, then pan braise with a little oil and some of the liquid from the stir fry.

We chopped up three Vedic green peppers and some yellow onions with the leftover chicken. We minced up a couple tablespoons of fresh ginger and garlic. These went into the oil first, just until fragrant when I added the vegetables. Once they were softening, but still very crisp and brightly colored, I added the sauce and the chicken.

Stir Fry Sauce

1/3 c. stock
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 tsp. sweet or hot chili paste
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

also very cheap at the Asian store.


1 thinly sliced green onion or small bunch of chives

1 tsp. of sesame oil

This was quite reasonably priced at $5.89. Sesame oil is an extremely flavorful, delicate oil that should really only be used in finishing and is not to be heated much. It makes and excellent salad dressing, and the nutty quality really completes this sauce's flavor.

We cooked this down until it was thick enough, then served it over the noodles with the kale and some green beans from September.

Cooking away. (One of these days the cabinets will be hung and the kitchen will be finished. I have no idea when that day will come, but I'm sure it will.)

Served up:

The finished kale:

The stir fry:


Now, onto dessert. The husband requested plain vanilla ice cream. Again.

I learned that there are two kinds of ice cream recipes: flavored milks, and custards. The former just require you to mix milk with some flavoring agent like soft fruits, or seeds like vanilla. The latter require you to make a simple custard, which is a little more complicated, as it involves eggs. Having tried both, the flavor and texture of the custard is slightly better, the milk mixes are delicious and so much faster. I'd rather have you make your own quick vanilla, which really takes about 1 minute on hands-on time, than to think you have to spend the few minutes putting the custard together.

That said, it's quite easy.

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz, god of all things sweet.

Vanilla Custard Ice Cream

Heat up on medium heat (don't boil!)

1 c. milk
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar

(I used unrefined sugar that I got from the Amish store. Regular granulated sugar would be fine, but I wanted to try using a less-processed sugar.)

Have ready

4 egg yolks

Whip the yolks, and add a little of the warm milk to the yolks, tempering them.

Then, add the yolk and milk mixture to the warm milk.


1 vanilla bean,

split down the middle, putting both the seeds and the bean to the milk.

Steep the vanilla and cook the eggs until the liquid coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom.

Pour the egg and milk mix into

2 cups milk (he calls for cream, but I didn't have the heart)

straining the vanilla pod.

Cool thoroughly and freeze according to your machine's instructions. (If you don't have an ice cream machine, David has some great tips on making ice cream without a machine)

I wanted a special suace to go with the simple vanilla, so I made a basic

Balsamic Fig Reduction

combine in a pan

1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. water
5-7 dried figs, shoppd into small pieces

Reduce this until the figs are soft and the liquid is syrupy.

Serve warm over ice cream. :)

Enjoy your long weekend, and next time I'll share my secret tomato habit with you...

1 comment:

Erin said...

I just made that same ice cream recipe too! YUM! And I love your addition of the figs!

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