Thursday, August 18, 2011

David meets Jenny at the Walker Jones Farm

Not too long ago I started volunteering at the Walker Jones Farm. The Farm at Walker Jones is an emerging urban farm based on Walker Jones Education Campus, a DC Public School. I discovered the farm during a bike ride and was stunned by the diversity of the crops grown on such a small plot of land. Here, you can pick tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins right from the vine. The freshness of vegetables beats the traditional farmer’s market produce. So if you want to get the freshest vegetables in DC or simply help the team of talented farmers and dedicated volunteers, stop by on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 6PM and on Sundays from noon to 4PM.

Before heading to the farm last weekend, I was flipping through the August issue of Saveur and almost jumped off my chair when I saw the recipe of Jenny’s Splendid Ice Cream. Ok, let me tell you this ice cream is soooo good that I am willing to go to Columbus just to have some fresh Jenny’s (by the way of you are in let me know, we can totally make this happen). Immediately, I scratched the plan to make scones in the evening to test Jenny’s ice cream recipe.

Few hours later, while taking a break from harvesting spaghetti squash, I noticed a beautiful bush of mint, and the ice cream idea started to come together. The final recipe combines David Lebovitz’ chocolate chip technique and Jenny’s eggless ice cream base resulting in an airy ice cream with a fresh mint flavor and a dark chocolate crunch.

Fresh mint chocolate chip ice cream
2cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
¼ kosher salt
2 cups fresh mint

¼ cup whole milk
4 tsp. cornstarch
3 tbsp. cream cheese

6 oz. dark chocolate

Mix heavy cream, 1 cup of milk, sugar, corn syrup, salt, and mint in a large pot. Cover and bring to boil. Boil for 1 minute, turn off the heat. With the lid closed infuse the mixture for 2 hours.

Strain the liquid into a large bowl and press the mint through a chinois/fine mesh strainer to extract the mint flavor. Discard mint and pour the liquid back into the pot. Bring the liquid to a rolling boil.

While the mint liquid is getting warm, mix cornstarch and remaining milk until the mixture is well combined. Stir the liquid into the pot and cook until the mixture thickens for about 2 minutes.  The mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon. Turn off the heat.

Place cream cheese in a bowl and pour in ¼ cup of hot mixture, whisk until smooth. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pot and stir the base for a minute. The ice cream base is almost finished.

Fill a large bowl with ice water. Pour the ice cream base into a large Ziploc bag. Place a closed bag into the ice water. This will allow the base to cool just in 10 minutes.

Once the base is cool, transfer it into the ice cream maker and follow manufacturing instructions.

Several minutes before the ice cream is ready and your ice cream machine starts to sound like an old Soviet train, melt the chocolate in a microwave or a water bath. Turn off the ice cream maker.

Drizzle the bottom and the sides of a large plastic container with melted chocolate and top with a layer of ice cream. Drizzle more chocolate over the ice cream and top with another layer of ice cream. Using a dining knife, break frozen chocolate into small chips. Continue layering chocolate and ice cream breaking the chocolate every 1 or 2 layers.

Freeze the ice cream for at least 2 hours and enjoy on a hot summer day after few hours of farming.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer pizza with prosciutto, nectarines, and arugula

People, I am asking you to turn on your ovens.  I know, it sounds nearly insane given the recent East Coast heat wave, but that seems to be abating and the 15 minutes that your oven will run are totally worth it.  You will be rewarded with an awesome light supper of crispy pizza that combines salty funky prosciutto with caramelized nectarines and peppery arugula.  The only dish I can think more seasonally appropriate is a salad of tomatoes and mozzarella, but I've been eating it practically daily and could use a break.

I have to admit that I am generally very skeptical about adding fruit to savory dishes.  I know that its weird and I know that I generally love the results, but something about it still doesn't feel right.  However, when a recent trip to the market resulted in lots of juicy Jersey nectarines and a big bag of arugula, my only thought was to add prosciutto and a little dough.  I made a quick pizza dough using a slightly augmented recipe from the Silver Spoon cookbook, and then improvised my way around.  I also went to an excellent class on Greek wines that afternoon and the Moraitis 2010 Assyriko from Santorini was just right.  I struggled for a minute with drinking a Greek wine with a pseudo-Italian meal, but quickly got over it and thoroughly enjoyed this floral, peachy, minerally wine that has a good touch of salinity.

Summer pizza with prosciutto, nectarines, and arugula

For the dough:
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the toppings:
4 ounces prosciutto
1 large nectarine, ripe but still firm, halved, pitted, and sliced into thin segments
1 - 2 cups arugula, depending on how much you want on top of your pizza, washed and dried
Juice of 1/2 lemon
A few shavings of Parmesan
2 -3 tablespoons good olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

First, make the dough by mixing the flour, salt, and yeast in one large bowl and the water and the olive oil in another small bowl or a measuring cup.  Add water and olive oil to the flour mixture, stirring as you go until the mass comes together into a semi-coherent dough. Add more flour if it feels wet or a bit more water if it feels dry.  Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 4 -5 minutes until the dough is elastic and soft. Lightly oil the large bowl and turn the dough around in the bowl to cover all sides with the oil.  Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let it rise for 2 hours until doubled in size.  If you prefer, you can make the dough the night before and slowly let it rise in the fridge for 12 - 24 hours.  Do not bother cleaning up the flour, you'll need the counter soon enough. Move the risen dough onto your still-floured surface and press down gently. Shape into a ball again and let it rise for another 20 minutes.  While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to its top temperature (mine goes upt to a measly 500F).  Sprinkle a hot baking sheet with corn meal or millet, if you are me and that is all you have.  Roll out the dough as thin as you like and top it with slightly overlapping slices of prosciutto, slices of nectarines and Parmesan shavings. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until lightly blistered and you can't resist the smells of salty pork and caramelized fruit in your house.  Meanwhile, toss the arugula with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper,  You want it flavorful but not soggy, so go easy here.  Take the pizza out of the oven and heap on the arugula however you like.  You can always eat the leftover arugula in a salad, maybe with some radishes and tomatoes.  Serve immediately.  This made 2 meals for me, but can easily be multiplied for those with more robust appetites.