Black Sesame Ice Cream

Do your Sundays fly by as fast as mine do? I just don’t know where the day went… and it doesn’t help that I live next to a church whose bell rings on the hour, every hour, reminding you exactly how fast the day is going. Ding, ding… it’s two o’clock already? Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. What??? Five o’clock? No way. I swear only 5 minutes passed between the time the bell struck six times and when it struck seven. It felt like that shot in an old black-and-white movie where the hour hand just flies around the clock to illustrate the passing of time. (Why doesn’t time fly like that during the work day?) On the very bright side, today I made black sesame ice cream.

I first encountered black sesame ice cream years ago at a dessert restaurant in NYC called Kyotofu and then consumed it on a frequent basis several years after that when I lived mere blocks away from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. It’s good stuff. It’s got a toasted, nutty flavor to it, not totally unlike peanut butter but I would even say better than. And I live on pb.

This ice cream is so good I daresay that if it were legal to marry ice cream in the state of Wisconsin I would march down to the county clerk and get myself a permit straight away. It’s that good. And I was afraid whatever I could make at home couldn’t live up to what I’ve had in the past, but you know what? It was even better. For reals. I can see this ice cream and I enjoying a lovely summer together…

Black Sesame Ice Cream (loosely adapted from “Black Sesame and Orange Ice Cream” found on www.seriouseats.com by Ethan Frisch and Max Falkowitz)

  • ¼ cup black sesame seeds
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Toast sesame seeds in small skillet, stirring frequently, until fragrant and nutty, then set aside to cool.

Transfer seeds to a blender and blend on high till seeds are crushed. (I don’t have a blender so used my coffee grinder to pulverize the seeds and then transferred them to a food processor for next step.) Add two to three tablespoons heavy cream and blend till smooth. Add remaining heavy cream and milk and blend on high till well combined, about two minutes. Seeds will not be completely pulverized, which is fine. Large chunks can always be strained out.

Combine egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat at medium-high speed until very thick and pale yellow, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk yolk and dairy mixtures in a heavy-bottomed three quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly while custard thickens. Custard is done when it coats the back of a spoon and a swiped finger leaves a clean line.

Remove from heat and pass mixture through a strainer into a medium mixing bowl set in an ice bath until chilled, stirring from time to time. Stir in sesame oil and salt till well combined. Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a plastic container to store.

spicy lentil dal

Do you know what yesterday was? The one-year anniversary of this here blog. Happy birthday Baxter & Main! I had high hopes of redesigning the layout, getting a new font, real logo, and proper header to mark this occasion… but alas, it did not happen in time. Such is life. Until I get around to all of those things I will still bring you good food, such as this spicy lentil dal.

The recipe calls for red lentils which cook down in a hurry and turn into something of a paste in the process. The author recommends serving it over rice, as I have done here, or but you can also serve it like a dip with crackers. I did not have red lentils on hand but had plenty of brown and green lentils so decided to substitute those instead. Note that if you use brown or green lentils the simmering time is going to be longer (doubled for brown, tripled for green) and also the texture more firm. I can assure it tasted great just the same.

I cooked up some black rice to serve with the dal as it is supposed to be extra healthy since it is full of antioxidants. Plus it looks really pretty and I’m a sucker for aesthetics. (Speaking of, check out my new plate below: I scored several boxes full of these dishes at a barn sale last weekend for the whopping grand total of $4. Jackpot!)

Spicy Lentil Dal (adapted slightly from recipe found in Vegetarian Times magazine)

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed (you can also use brown or green lentils as I have done here, however consistency will not be as intended)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ cup light coconut
  • 2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Bring broth and lentils to a boil in pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer 10 minutes, or until lentils are tender (if using brown or green lentils simmer time will be between 20 to 30 minutes). Cover, and remove from heat.

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper flakes; sauté 5 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, and coriander; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add coconut milk.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in lime juice. Serve over rice.

cherry cobbler

Man am I glad I bought a big ol’ tub of frozen cherries at the farmer’s market at the end of the summer last year. That was some major forward-thinking on my part. There’s just something about baking with cherries that screams summer even if it’s only the beginning of February.

Speaking of February: I heard on the news this morning that the local groundhog didn’t see his shadow so it’s supposed to be an early spring. Fingers crossed on that one…

Anyhow I decided to thaw out some of those beautiful Door County cherries to make a cobbler. Cobblers are SO easy. Even people who say they can’t bake can totally make cobblers. Trust me on this one.

I wanted to break out this awesome vintage baking dish that my Aunt Sarah gave to me for Christmas only I didn’t take into account that it was smaller than what the recipe called for so the cobbler was more like a full-on crust. No matter. It tasted wonderful just the same!

While I have made cobblers in the past, this recipe was very light and made me feel like it was almost good for me. And I guess if it made me happy thinking of summer in February then it was!

Cherry Cobbler (adapted from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman)

  • 4 to 6 cups cherries or other fruit, washed and well dried
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits, plus some for greasing pan
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the fruit with half the sugar, and spread it in a lightly butter 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining sugar in the container of a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and process for 10 seconds, until the mixture is well blended. By hand, beat in the egg and vanilla.

Drop the mixture onto the fruit by tablespoonfuls; do not spread it out. Bake until golden-yellow and just starting to brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

sweet & tart

I was inspired by my adoptive state of Wisconsin to experiment with cranberries. Wisconsin is the largest producer of cranberries in the US…did you know that? I didn’t either until I moved here. One of these days I’m going to get myself up north to see the harvesting of the cranberry bogs. I bet it’s neat.

Every year on Thanksgiving I make a cranberry chutney that inevitably gets forgotten about in the fridge until we are nearly finished with our meal. What a shame. I thought it might be nice to make cranberries into more of a featured part of the meal and what could be more featured than dessert? No one forgets about dessert.

A few years back I tore a recipe out of a magazine for a cranberry-apple crisp and decided to test it out here for you. When the apples and cranberries were cooking down on my stove it smelled like the holidays. I wish the internet had smell-o-vision so I could share the scent with you– it was heavenly.

The topping for this crisp couldn’t have been simpler– it consists of oatmeal, flour, butter, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt.

I took this into work for a co-worker’s birthday and it was a big hit. I think it was a nice contrast to all of the overly sweet desserts that others had brought in. There is definitely a tartness to this crisp but it works. It’s even better warm with a little vanilla ice cream which I also tried. This could be the perfect ending to your Thanksgiving meal!

Cranberry-Apple Crisp with Oatmeal Streusel Topping (found at www.epicurious.com)

Yield: Makes 12 servings

  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 12-ounce packages cranberries
  • 1 1/4 pounds Golden Delicious or Fuji apples (about 3 medium), peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple juice or cider
  • Vanilla ice cream

Combine brown sugar, oats, flour, and salt in large bowl; toss to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture comes together in moist clumps. Cover; chill while preparing filling. (Topping can be prepared 1 day ahead; keep chilled.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine cranberries, apples, sugar, and apple juice in heavy large pot. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring often. Boil until cranberries are tender and juices thicken slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer filling to prepared dish. Sprinkle topping over.

Bake crisp until filling bubbles thickly and topping is crisp and deep golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve with ice cream.