06.22.09

Peach Shortcake

Posted in dessert, food, home cooking at 2:03 am by wingerz

peach_shortcake

It’s impossible to resist summer peaches. They smell incredible and are impossibly juicy – Amy and I both agreed that the only real way to enjoy one is gobbling it up over the sink.

The recipe recommends firm peaches. Don’t even attempt this recipe if you have soft peaches because they will destroy you twice – once when you’re trying to peel the peaches (I didn’t feel like blanching them because it’s summer and I didn’t want to boil a ton of water and prep an ice bath), and again when you try to remove the seed and slice them.

I mixed two white peaches in with the yellow, and threw a few blueberries on top. I also only used 3/4 of the amount of sugar recommended since my peaches were fantastic.

Peach Shortcake
from Cook’s Illustrated

Fruit
2 pounds ripe but firm peaches (4 to 5 medium), peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons peach schnapps

Biscuits
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup buttermilk , cold
1 large egg
8 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly

Whipped Cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For The Fruit: Gently toss three-quarters of peaches with 4 tablespoons sugar in large bowl. Let stand 30 minutes. Toss remaining peaches with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and schnapps in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power until peaches are bubbling, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. Using potato masher, crush peaches into coarse pulp. Let stand 30 minutes.
2. For The Biscuits: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. While peaches macerate, whisk flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, and salt in large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk and egg in medium bowl; add melted butter and stir until butter forms small clumps.
3. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with wooden spoon until dough comes together and no dry flour remains. Continue stirring vigorously for 30 seconds. Using greased 1/3 cup dry measure, scoop up mound of dough and drop onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet (if dough sticks to cup, use small spoon to pull it free). Repeat with remaining dough, spacing biscuits about 1 1/2 inches apart, to create 6 biscuits. Sprinkle remaining tablespoon sugar evenly over top of biscuits. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 15 minutes before assembling.
4. For The Whipped Cream: Using hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla on low speed until bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave trail, about 30 seconds longer. Increase speed to high; continue beating until nearly doubled in volume and whipped cream forms soft peaks, 30 to 45 seconds longer.
5. To Assemble: Split each biscuit in half and place bottoms on individual serving plates. Spoon portion of crushed peach mixture over each bottom, followed by peach slices and any exuded juices. Top peaches with 2 tablespoons whipped cream, cap with biscuit top, and dollop each shortcake with some of remaining whipped cream. Serve immediately.

06.20.09

Just a game

Posted in basketball, personal, sports at 12:08 pm by wingerz

lakers
from latimes

Over the past week I’ve been going through basketball withdrawal. There was a playoff game on just about every night for the past two months, and, much to Jen’s chagrin, I watched parts of just about all of them. I’ve been obsessing over the Lakers more than usual this season. This year started full of promise: it was last year’s finals team with the size of Bynum, the energy of Ariza, and extra motivation from the fresh taste of bitterness from the previous year. A few random highlights from the playoff run…

It all comes down to execution. Both Denver and Orlando had mental lapses down the stretch in their close losses, and the Lakers were able to capitalize. In both series, around game 4, the opposing team felt like they were playing well enough to be up in the series, but neither closed out close games. Seeing the Lakers, with their insane number of options, execute their offense well is a thing of beauty. Their defense still isn’t perfect, but it came together at the right time (and it really helped that Orlando’s point guard situation was in shambles).
Redemption for the Lakers. Pretty much the entire starting lineup (plus Lamar Odom, minus Trevor Ariza) has come under fire over the past two seasons. It’s been great to see them all have incredible playoff moments.
The front line is ridiculous. In a league without a lot of great centers, it’s great to have Pau and Bynum. I think Bynum’s ready to have a big, injury-free year next year. Gasol has been a workhorse all season long, putting in a ton of minutes and delivering consistently. And it’s still amazing for me to see Odom leading the break, making nifty moves around the basket, and draining 3s.
Kobe is good. Maybe he isn’t the most fun guy to play with, but you can’t argue with his drive, skill, talent, or ability to motivate the players around him. His work ethic is raising the quality of play across the NBA. His talent doesn’t give him a sense of entitlement; he’s still working harder than any other player out there.
I love Trevor Ariza. The guy made big play after big play all season long. He became a deadly 3-pt shooter. He’s got a cute kid. It still blows my mind that he only made 4 3-pters in his NBA career before this season.
The economy matters. Teams were making salary-driven moves during the season, and the downturn could affect the market value of free agents. I’m still hoping that Kobe is willing to come down a bit so that there’s enough money to sign Ariza or Odom.
Ariza or Odom? I think it’s really tough to give up either guy. If forced to choose, I think we keep Odom, even though he’s older. His combination of talent and size is so unique, and he is an incredible team player. Plus can’t Kobe just teach the whole team how to shoot 3s? I’m kidding. I’d love to have them both back.
Stepping up. The leadership and motivation of the team was called into question on several occasions in the playoffs. Still not really sure how Houston took us to 7 games. You’d think that this would never be an issue, but seeing the lapses really highlights how easy it is to momentarily lose focus.
This one feels good. So many fantastic storylines this season. Really happy that it ended this way, and I’m looking forward to next season!

06.01.09

Berry Fool

Posted in dessert, food, home cooking at 12:55 am by wingerz

berryfool

It’s impossible to wander through the farmer’s market and not be tempted by the beautiful red berries. I was thinking of making this last week but didn’t have enough berries to do it. Got around to it this evening. This recipe is a bit labor-intensive, but I’d almost certainly make it again because it was delicious. It packs a powerful berry punch and has a nice texture. We may need to invest in some cute glasses to serve it in.

Note that the berry-jello needs to be left in the refrigerator for a while to set. The recipe says 2 hours but I got it down to less than 1 by putting two of those (soap-bar-sized) frozen blue-ice things each into its own zip lock bag and then putting the bags into the mixture before refrigerating.

Berry Fool
from Cook’s Illustrated

2 quarts strawberries (about 2 pounds), washed, dried, and stemmed
1 pint raspberries (about 12 ounces), washed and dried (see note)
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers , finely crushed (about 1/4 cup) (or graham crackers)
6 sprigs fresh mint leaves (optional)

1. Process 1 quart strawberries, 1/2 pint raspberries, and 1/2 cup sugar in food processor until mixture is completely smooth, about 1 minute. Strain berry puree through fine-mesh strainer into 4-cup liquid measuring cup (you should have 2 1/2 cups puree; reserve any excess for another use). Transfer 1/2 cup puree to small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over top; stir until gelatin is incorporated and let stand at least 5 minutes. Heat remaining 2 cups puree in small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to bubble, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Transfer gelatin-puree mixture to medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
2. Meanwhile, chop remaining 1 quart strawberries into rough 1/4-inch pieces. Toss strawberries, remaining 1/2 pint raspberries, and 2 tablespoons sugar together in medium bowl. Set aside for 1 hour.
3. Place cream, sour cream, vanilla, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in chilled bowl of stand mixer. Beat on low speed until bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and continue beating until beaters leave trail, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high; continue beating until mixture has nearly doubled in volume and holds stiff peaks, about 30 seconds. Transfer 1/3 cup whipped-cream mixture to small bowl and set aside.
4. Remove thickened berry puree from refrigerator and whisk until smooth. With mixer running at medium speed, slowly add two-thirds of puree to whipped-cream mixture; mix until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Using spatula, gently fold in remaining thickened puree, leaving streaks of puree.
5. Transfer uncooked berries to fine-mesh strainer; shake gently to remove any excess juice. Divide two-thirds of berries evenly among 6 tall parfait or sundae glasses. Divide creamy berry mixture evenly among glasses, followed by remaining uncooked berries. Top each glass with reserved plain whipped-cream mixture. Sprinkle with crushed crackers and garnish with mint sprigs, if using. Serve immediately.