March 25, 2011

dark chocolate marcona almond ice cream

Imagine yourself in a sea of creamy dark chocolate, its rich texture filled with buttery, roasted almonds. It might just be a sweet dream, or it could be that you're eating dark chocolate marcona almond ice cream. As it so happens, it's not just a dream, it's a reality, and it's about as easy as ice cream gets. I took my recipe cues from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, and used almond milk as the base instead of cream and half-and-half.

If you've read my previous posts, you know that I've been doing recipes that use nut milks as substitutes for dairy milk and cream. Don't misunderstand me, I still love dairy, but since I discovered milk alternatives during the detox diet, and because my husband is lactose-intolerant, I'm always looking to expand my recipe repertoire for his benefit and add variety to our food lexicon. For the lactose-intolerant among us, an alternative ice cream is a dream come true when your stomach just can't survive the dive into dairy.

March 18, 2011

parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme

It's spring break this week, so I've taken a little reprieve from recipe posting and am working on a new garden. The potted brown turkey fig trees have come out of the garage and on to the back porch, along with the potted lavender, and my husband is building a 12' x 4' x 6" raised bed for planting. Yesterday we purchased ten small containers of herbs from the farmer's market, all different kinds, and they also sit on the back porch, patiently waiting.

We're lucky to have an excellent local feed and hardware store just around the corner that is a great resource for home gardeners. This morning, my husband returned from the store with an info sheet on square foot gardening and an ingredient list for an optimum soil mix. Once he finishes prepping the soil, I'll be planting my new herbs.

March 11, 2011

sea scallop, flat-leaf parsley & white wine cashew cream sauce pizza

In my search for fresh ideas for pizza toppings, I've been inspired lately by the sauces on hand in my refrigerator. Using the leftover white wine cashew cream sauce I made last week, sea scallops, fresh mozzarella, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and lots of flat-leaf parsley, I found another great combination of flavors.

The most interesting part of this recipe to me is the crispy texture of the flat-leaf parsley, which is piled on top of the pizza as the very last ingredient. In the oven, the edges of the parsley brown a bit and add a delicate crunch, contrasting with the creamy sauce and complimenting the seared scallops. I love greens on pizza, and using this little texture trick kicks it up a notch.

For the pizza crust, I use a white whole wheat recipe that has become the standard crust for my homemade pizzas. If you're like me and you love pizza and make it every chance you can, I highly recommend getting a pizza stone, which you can use for baking breads too. Using the stone gives the pizza that chewy, crisp pizzeria crust. Once you've got your pizza groove down, you'll never settle for delivery again.

March 4, 2011

white wine cashew cream sauce

For the last few years, my husband and I have chosen to cook at home for occasions such as Valentine's Day and our anniversary. It's a choice to save money, but is also motivated by the fact that we're getting pretty good at fixing a great meal ourselves. It often seems to us that at home we can match or surpass the quality of the food we would get in a nice restaurant, and the really nice restaurants whose quality we can't (yet) equal just put too big of a hole in our pocket. And let's face it, a bottle of wine with dinner at home is much cheaper than a pricey glass or two with that restaurant meal. Besides, my philosophy of wine with food is that when the glass is empty, the meal is over.

This Valentine's day at Café Garcia, my husband was the executive chef and I was the pastry chef for our meal. For the entrée, my husband came up with a white wine cashew cream sauce to complement the broiled sea bass and sautéed scallops, accompanied by asparagus and a blend of brown and wild rice. The meal was excellent, and the sauce had a very nice depth of flavor from the wine and earthiness of the turmeric.

If you have the cashew cream already made, the sauce is a very simple thing to put together. It's super versatile and can be drizzled over or mixed into whatever you desire. It's open to interpretation as well, so you can change it up with different spices or herbs if you want. The idea is that it replaces the use of heavy dairy cream in making a sauce, and does it very well.