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Buttermilk Ice Cream

I love buttermilk. My local grocery store just started carrying some really good, fresh, cultured buttermilk. I now have an excuse to buy it all of the time, that is at least until it gets too cold for ice cream. One of my friends recently turned me on to making buttermilk ice cream and as soon as I made it at home my family got hooked too. So far I haven’t made it the same way twice, I am having a lot of fun playing around with it, trying out different proportions and flavors. It’s hard to say which has been the best but I will say it is fantastic with grilled peaches! The peaches get really juicy and a bit caramelized.

Currently, I have a batch of peach buttermilk ice cream base chilling in the fridge waiting to go into the ice cream maker. Raspberries also go really well with the buttermilk. I’m thinking I will have to try out a batch with some plums when they are ripe!

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Tapas Class with Avi

We were happy to have Avi teach a tapas style cooking class last month at the At Home Store! It was lots of good food, lots of garden vegetables, and lots of fun!


Here are some pictures along with the class handout Avi wrote.

Light Dishes for Summer
Cooking with Avi

– Torilla de Espana – New Potatoes Caramelized Onions and Chilies

– Summer Stew of Fresh Beans and Tomatoes served with toast

– Ragout of Fennel – with fresh peas carrots and caramelized shallots

– Seared seasonal vegetables with Garlic Aioli

– Sauté of summer squash and sweet corn with Savoy cabbage

These dishes, inspired by Spanish tapas, represent my favorite ways to prepare some of the bounty of summer. The flavors are clean and light but full of depth due to the browning and caramelizing of many of the ingredients. This menu is ideal for a backyard cocktail party. Any of these preparations would be a good side dish to accompany a main meal or simply as a delicious snack.

Tortilla de Espana – A potato omelet served hot or cold. This version includes caramelized onions as well as spices and chilies to give the classic dish a southwestern flavor.

Brown potatoes on medium high heat with plenty of olive oil. Add thinly sliced onions garlic and shallots. After the onions show color turn to low and cover for seven to ten minutes. While the potatoes cook soak 3-4 mild chilies in warm water. Once soft add to the potatoes and stir. Salt to taste.

Transfer potatoes to a large mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl mix six to eight eggs. Add to the cooked potato and mix well. Clean the potatoes cooking skilled of any large particles add plenty of olive oil a tablespoon or more. Heat to medium high. Pour in the potato eggs and shake pan to settle the mixture.

Cook for 4-5 minutes on medium high while slowly swirling the pan to allow the liquid egg to fill in the spaces at the edges of the pan. Turn to medium low and cover for twelve to fifteen minutes.

Take a flexible spatula and slowly loosen the underside of the omelet. Jostle pan to make sure it does not stick. Put a large plate over the skillet and in one motion turn the skillet upside down onto the plate. Slide omelet back into skillet and cook for 8 – 12 more minutes.


Aioli – Often described as garlic mayonnaise, but has many regional variations. This recipe is one I use often, as I have found it works and compliments many dishes.

Chop two large cloves of garlic.

In a mortar and pestle crush the chopped garlic with a large pinch of salt. Once thoroughly smashed add the egg yolk and mix until the mixture turns slightly lighter in color. Add two or three drops of lemon juice and stir for a few more moments. Taste and add salt if needed. While continuously stirring add olive oil one drop at a time – very slowly. The mixture should thicken and make a sucking sound. This is when you know the emulsification as happened. If the mixture is too thick add a few more drops of lemon juice and stir in some more oil. Sometimes I mix safflower oil with the olive oil to lighten the flavor and conserve the expensive ingredient. Serve with just about anything.

Thin aioli to make a salad dressing. Mix in chopped herbs or capers for a herb sauce.

(A picture of Avi making aioli. Sorry it’s so fuzzy)
Important terms and Concepts:

Umami– a Japanese concept which roughly translates as deliciousness. Umami is described as the fifth flavor along with salty sweet, sour, and bitter. Many foods have umami – it is often associated with mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, browned meats, soy sauce and other fermented foods such as cheese.

Maillard Reaction-The Maillard reaction is a form of nonenzymatic browning similar to caramelization. It results from a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually requiring heat. This reaction results in the brownness of toast, seared vegetables, caramel and any really good tasting food. In the process of breaking down the sugars and proteins under high heat – at least 310 degrees Fahrenheit – savory and complex flavors are created. For this reaction to occur properly the food should be relatively dry and free of acids.

Sauté– from the French to jump. Sautéing is a cooking technique where food is cooked in a hot pan and is mixed or flipped frequently. A good sauté will result in fresh clean flavors.

Emulsion – a suspension of water droplets in oil. Mayonnaise, aioli and hot dogs are all emulsified foods.

Searing– Browning food on high heat.

Deglaze- To dissolve the flavorful remnants of a sear or sauté from the pan using a liquid – often wine or stock.

Oh my, I am way behind on my posts! I’m ashamed to say that this is from May. Yikes! I taught a class on tarts at the At Home Store. It was really fun and I had a great group of students. I made two types of crusts and five different fillings, both sweet and savory. One of my favorite ingredients to use in baking is rhubarb. I like it nice and tart and makes your lips pucker a little. For the rhubarb tart, I used some orange juice and a bit of zest, I actually used a recipe I came up with last spring.

I also made a tart with a light pastry cream (made without eggs) and fresh raspberries. Geri did a fabulous job arranging the berries and the mint!

I made two different asparagus tarts, one was more like a Quiche and the other was asparagus spears and jarlsberg cheese (gruyere would be even better!)

The roasted vegetable tart was especially fun, I prepared a bunch of individual tart shells so everyone could create one. I roasted beets, butternut squash, and onions with some fresh herbs. I also had some fresh goat cheese for people to use if they wanted. After everyone assembled their tarts I popped them in the oven so the flavors melded together a little.

Just as we sat down to eat, the power went out on our block. Perfect timing, we lucked out!

This morning I woke up, got my favorite market basket, (it’s from Ghana via the At Home Store, and I just love it! It fits so much produce and has a great leather-bound handle)….

….and headed out the door to meet my dad. I got to the farmers market and began my stroll down the aisle, I like to see who has what before I make my purchases. I saw my dad at the other end of the park and so I wandered over.

On my way down the row of vendors I spotted something amazing, something I never expected to find at the farmers market in Iowa. I rushed to get my dad, uttered a single word to him and we both made a bee-line right back to the booth. On the table lie big, sweet, green artichokes! Yes, artichokes! In my excitement I asked “did you make these?!” (I couldn’t even create a coherent question, silly me.) Well, of course she didn’t make them but she did grow them and they are beautiful! My dad and I bought several and walked away.

After collecting a few more goodies–carrots, radishes, cilantro, and onions–I went back to the artichokes and snatched them all up, I just couldn’t resist. Who in their right mind could. On my car ride home, the smell of artichokes filled the air, so sweet and fresh.

It has been two hours now and my hands still smell of them. I plan to devour them tomorrow for lunch, steamed. Melted butter optional. Followed by a glass of water, it might sound odd but next time you have an artichoke follow it up with some water.

We recently had another great cooking class at the store. Our friend and great teacher, Steve Boss taught us how to make pizza dough and pizza sauce as well as tricks for getting the best results. We also played around with lots of different topping ideas.

Steve spreads his “little bit longer sauce” over a partially baked crust…

Steve squeezing roasted garlic on a pizza crust…

Here is a pizza margherita (minus the fresh basil) hot out of the oven! The crust was nice and crispy, slightly charred underneath.

Boss Style Pizza:

makes 6, 10″ crusts

1 c. semolina flour

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. farro flour

1/2 packet of yeast (3.5 grams)

a big pinch of salt

1 1/2 c. warm water, between 120-130*F

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the water and using your hands or a polish dough whisk mix the dough until it gathers into a ball. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 7-10 minutes.

Lightly oil a clean mixing bowl and place the ball of dough in it. Cover with a cloth at let it rise in a warm location for 1-2 hours.

When Steve is making pizza for a large group, he likes to pre bake the crusts. This is how he does it…

Divide the dough into six pieces and roll out on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Bake in a 450*F oven for 1-2 minutes, until the dough begins to rise. Let cool. If you are going to be using them the same day, set them aside in a stack leaving the parchement between each crust. If you aren’t going to use them the same day, wrap them really well so they are airtight, they can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for a few weeks.

Quick Sauce:

Lightly pulse a 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes. Add a little salt and a little sugar (if necessary.)

A Little Bit Longer Sauce:

Prepare the “Quick Sacue” and add:

1 Tbsp. salt packed capers, rinsed

dried oregano

dried thyme

fresh pepper

1/4 c. grated parmesan

4 cloves roasted garlic

Simmer on low for about an hour.

To assemble the pizza:

Place a pre-baked crust on a pizza peel and rub a touch of olive oil on it, spread a thin layer of sauce on it, add topping of choice and cheese. Bake on a pre-heated pizza stone in an oven set as high as it can go. As every oven is different, I would recommend checking it after 5 minutes. Check the bottom of the crust to make sure it has some nice dark spots. Remove with pizza peel. Slice and serve.

Topping ideas:

-fresh arugula (after baking)

-capers and olives

-roasted garlic and rosemary

-feta, olives, and artichoke hearts

-roasted red peppers

-fresh basil (after baking)

– just tomato sauce (pizza marinara)

After a week of cool and cloudy weather the sun finally came out this weekend which means that our asparagus patch took off! I went outside and harvested several pounds of tender spears.

Tonight for dinner I made myself a very simple and delicious meal. I took two sheets of feuille de brik (a Tunisian phyllo dough-like pastry) and brushed them each with a little melted butter and olive oil.  I selected several spears sliced them and sautéed them in a little water and butter.

I divided the asparagus amongst the two sheets, I then added some Prairie Breeze cheese (a local cheddar) to one and an egg to the other.

I folded them up and placed them in a hot frying pan. When they were almost finished I popped them in the oven under the broiler for a minute or so to get them extra crispy. I also made myself a very simple salad of feta cheese and sweet peppers.

Ever since I was little, I have wanted to be able to make candied violets that end up looking presentable; although I am not completely there, I am at least getting closer. My backyard is full of  violets so the other day I went outside with a little basket and collected some of the prettiest ones.

I made a simple syrup 2:1 sugar and water and added a little rose-water to it to enhance the flavor. I pounded some sugar in my mortar and pestle so it was “superfine” and then began to candy the violets. I dipped each flower in the syrup…

…carefully opened the blossom back up with a fine paintbrush, and sprinkled them with the superfine sugar – being careful to coat the front and back of the flowers. I placed the flowers on a sheet of waxed paper to dry. They have been drying for a day now and are still a little moist. I am hoping that when all is done, they won’t crumble.

I also am in the process of making a bunch of marzipan roses. Yesterday at the store I got some almond paste (which I prefer over marzipan because it is less sweet) and some natural food coloring, made from beets. I added the red coloring to the almond paste until it was the shade of pink I was going for. I took a small portion of the almond paste, rolled in to a log and covered the rest with plastic wrap so it wouldn’t dry out. I sliced off 6 small pieces and rolled them into little balls.

I then gently flattened them out with one end of the disc thinner than the other. I found the having a little bowl of water nearby to rinse my fingers every once in a while helped keep the “petals” from sticking to my fingers.

When all 6 petals were ready, I started rolling them together with the thinner end at the base of the blossom.

Overlay two petals and begin to roll them up, add a third petal and roll a little more, repeat until all the petals have been incorporated. (These pictures were taken in low light, I apologize for the poor quality but they should give you an idea of how to put the petals together.)

You can trim the end at an angle to help the flower sit upright.

Both types of flowers make great decorations, especially for cakes.

(Note: As long as the marzipan is stored in an air tight container you can make the flowers in advance. They are very simple to make but they do take quite a bit of time so plan ahead, maybe recruit some helpers if you need a lot.)