pamplemousse

I didn’t realize until today that I am very much not alone in my love for pamplemousse. Not the actual fruit- although grapefruits can be very tasty. I’m talking about the word itself.

I’ll give you an idea of the kind of widespread affection my word crush is receiving. Today, I found it on Molly Wizenberg’s blog Orangette; her inspiration came from a cocktail by that name at The Walrus and The Carpenter; heaps of restaurants have not just listed pamplemousse on their menus but have taken it as a name; everybody’s favorite Urban Dictionary has taken the liberty of listing it as an anatomy reference (I’ll let you guess what it is); and there’s a really great musical duo using a slightly butchered version of the word at www.pomplamoose.com and here on YouTube.

Pamplemousse might well be the best word in the French language. The only other competitor that comes to mind at the moment is aubergine, and it might only sound cool because the English equivalent eggplant is so lame.

As the glad recipient of two garden fresh grapefruits this week, I find it only fitting to throw together a little grapefruit vinaigrette today in honor of my belovèd pamplemousse. I might even chop a few grapefruit segments to add to my salad.

Pamplemousse Vinaigrette

A classic vinaigrette, this has a fresh acidity and tang to it owing to the grapefruit juice. It should do a nice job brightening up a winter salad. It would also be delicious poured over some blanched, chilled asparagus, if you’re lucky enough to have them around this early in the year.

2 ounces grapefruit juice, from about half of one medium grapefruit
1 ounce champagne or white wine vinegar
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly chopped or dried basil

Combine all ingredients in a small mason jar or other such airtight container. Shake vigorously. Serve straightaway or store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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apple slaw

I am one of the many who have had always had a little trouble with mayonnaise. As a relic of my past, it has been permitted to dwell in my fridge but has never made it fully into my heart. Given my slight aversion to mayo, it naturally follows that I’ve spent most of my life repulsed by coleslaw, which is, in its most primitive form, sort of like mayo-cabbage soup.

My feelings for mayo, though, started to shift a handful of years ago, due to a heavy presence of aioli in many of the restaurants where I worked. Mayonnaise, in its original form, I came to find, was very unlike the gelatinous substance hidden behind the Best Foods label, and rather like an appropriate condiment for skillfully prepared foods. When Molly Wizenberg published an article on the subject along with her favorite mayonnaise recipe in the April 2008 issue of Bon Appetit, I accepted her challenge and tried making my own homemade mayonnaise. She was right: it was delightfully simple and fun to have around.

Later that year, my mom proposed adding an apple cole slaw to our Thanksgiving table, and I acquiesced, though still with slight trepidation. Her revamped slaw surprised me by being tangy and crisp, with the right amount of vinegar to combat some of the fatty, rich flavors of the Thanksgiving meal. It also contained less mayonnaise than so many of the slaw recipes of my childhood- just enough to add a touch of creaminess.

This apple slaw is a tribute to my mother’s, rediscovered just in time for summer barbeques, a perfect companion for grilled chicken and corn on the cob.

Apple Slaw

The idea with all of the slicing you’ll find below is to achieve a uniform texture without chopping everything to smithereens. Slightly more time consuming than the food processor approach, it is, in my opinion, worth the effort. I once overheard a chef explaining that proper slicing meant only as much exactness as nature would allow. His principle applies here.

For the slaw:
2 small granny smith apples, skin on, sliced into matchsticks
2 small red delicious apples, skin on, sliced into matchsticks
3 celery ribs, sliced in long thin strips, then quartered
½ of one green cabbage, thinly sliced
¼ of one red cabbage, thinly sliced
½ of one red onion, sliced paper thin
½ bunch of cilantro, chopped

For the dressing:
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup chunky bleu cheese dressing (Litehouse is my go-to)
3 tablespoons honey
fresh ground pepper to taste

First, make the slaw by tossing all ingredients together in a large bowl. Then, combine all dressing ingredients in a mason jar or other such shakeable container. Shake vigorously until blended. Pour over slaw and toss to combine. Cover and chill for one half hour before serving.

pickled red onions

I was never into pickles growing up. While my mom and younger sister would crunch their way through a monster-sized Disneyland pickle, I always fled in search of frozen lemonade or churros. The only contact I really had with them was when my dad would load the tuna with sweet pickle relish or when the little round slices would appear as a condiment on my burger. The ones that lived in a murky jar in the fridge always seemed a very floppy and uninviting way to eat a sweet, crisp cucumber when the unaltered version lay in a drawer just a foot or two below.

As my horizons broadened (and doesn’t it always happen this way?), I came to realize that the mass-produced, branded version of the thing I had come to call a pickle really only belonged to a very small subcategory of what it truly means to pickle. Pickling is merely the act of preserving something in vinegar or brine, I discovered, and you can pickle almost anything, from asparagus to pigs’ feet, as evidenced by the Hispanic foods aisle of the grocery store. And, while some things are better pickled than others (with the pigs’ feet falling into the latter category), a multitude of culinary options was opened to me.

Hence, when a mound of pickled onions showed up alongside my Cuban-style pork, black beans and plantains at Habana in Costa Mesa, California, I was ready to fall in love. They were sweet and crunchy, with a vinegary bite that paired perfectly with the roasted pork and helped to mellow the sugary plantains. I was surprised by my strong attraction to them and delighted to learn that international fare is not the only appropriate setting for a pickled onion or two. In fact, in the last handful of years, the art of pickling has seen a resurgence in the American culinary scene, and it follows suit that I have begun to see a whole lot more pickled onions on menus across the country. I have found them stashed between the layers of sandwiches and burgers, alike, and served as an accompaniment to an artisanal charcuterie plate; they seem to do well with most things meat and mustard.

Feeling a creative spark this summer, at a time when I had an overflowing supply of homemade sourdough rye bread and nothing new to adorn it, I figured I would try my hand with some pickled red onions. My ingenuity was rewarded: the onions were not only deliciously simple, but have stayed fresh in my fridge for almost two months now. I can easily get on board with any sort of homemade treasure that requires very little work for enjoyment- just an effortless trip to the fridge.

Pickled Red Onions

3 red onions, sliced into thin rounds
½ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup sugar
3 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon mustard seed, toasted
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons cracked pepper or whole peppercorns

Place onion slices in a heatproof medium bowl. Bring the next 9 ingredients to boil in a heavy medium saucepan; pour over onions in bowl. Cover and cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready for use.

trofie al pesto

One of the best and most enchanting meals I ever ate was also one of the most simple: a small portion of pasta tossed in fresh Genovese pesto, followed by a melt-in-my-mouth bowl of tiramisu. As with most things in life, the simplest foods are frequently the ones that leave the biggest impact, and this particular meal had all the right ingredients for success: fresh products, knowledgeable preparation, and a picture-perfect setting on the beautiful sloped streets of Cinque Terre, a cluster of five small fishing villages on the sun soaked Ligurian Sea. Of all the delightful experiences my friend Lindsey and I had during a two-month backpacking trip through Western Europe, the trofie al pesto still remains one of the most memorable. My guess is that we sipped on glasses of summery pinot grigio, but I can’t say for sure, given that I was so enraptured with the crux of our meal. As I sit here and write this, I find myself enraptured still.

I relived the feelings that accompanied that meal about a year later while dining with my mom in an Italian restaurant outside of Chicago. We had struck up a conversation with the owner, an emigrant from northern Italy, and as I reminisced about the beauty of my meal in Cinque Terre, he politely passed me a pen and began to dictate instructions. In an emotional flurry, I scrawled a list of ingredients on the paper tablecloth beside my plate, but, of course, he couldn’t offer me any exact measurements, only the order of incorporation.

For years I held onto that scrap of paper, with big plans of recreating my pesto experience, though timidity long had its grip on me. I even went so far as to search out the particular kind of pasta used especially for pesto, the one that dazzled me so that first trip to Italy. I got my hands on a bag of it, known as le trofie, at an olive oil specialty shop on Balboa Island, though to no timely avail. I simply toted it around with me for almost two years before ever working up the guts to do anything with it.

What’s the big deal? you must surely be wondering. Why this pesto pedestal? Sadly enough, I can’t say I have an answer for you. Only that maybe my hopes were so high as to be surely disappointed, or so I thought- until one brave afternoon last week.

It was nothing short of the stuff that dreams are made of. With my ripped corner of paper tablecloth in hand, I set out to make my very first homemade pesto. A quick internet search helped me get a feel for the quantity of each ingredient, and though each recipe varied slightly as to the particular kind of cheese (I was set on using only pecorino) or type of nuts (pine nuts for me, please), I did find commonality in the ratio of basil to fresh garlic cloves (one clove of garlic to one cup basil leaves) and an inclination towards the modern food processor rather than the ol’ mortar and pestle.

With a whir of the Cuisinart, the finished product was at hand in a matter of minutes and turned out to be even more satisfying than I could have imagined. I beamed at my mom who laughed at my reluctant history and was happy to applaud my delicious effort. We supped that evening on trofie al pesto, communally content and confident that my eight year pesto fast was over at last.

Basil Pesto (makes enough for about 8 servings of pasta)

4 oz. basil, stems removed
3 whole cloves garlic
½ cup pine nuts
1 cup finely grated pecorino romano or pecorino toscano
¾ cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

First, process the basil and garlic cloves. Add the pecorino and pine nuts, making sure the mixture is evenly blended before pouring in the olive oil, salt and pepper. Using a rubber spatula, remove pesto from food processor and stir into freshly cooked al dente pasta. Top with additional pecorino, if desired, and serve. Buon appetito!

pico de gallo

Someday, when I’m a mother, I won’t be known for a perpetually full jar of cookies on the counter. No, my trademark will be a neverending supply of homemade salsa in the refrigerator. This might sound like a strange assertion coming from yours truly, the girl who very recently espoused the utter perfection of a freshly baked cookie. Thus, to understand my attachment to pico de gallo and its Mexican salsa relatives, a short history might be in order.

I grew up in Southern California, the land of many Mexican delights. We have tex-mex, fresh-mex, taquerias and tequila bars, hole-in-the-walls, taco trucks and neighborhood restaurants like Mario’s, the place where I grew up slurping salsa from my tortilla chips and stealing the crispy edges from my dad’s shredded beef tacos. Mario’s is the root of my love for Mexican food and my home, despite a multitude of surrogate families that have fed my insatiable Mexican craving along the way.

It wasn’t until high school that it occurred to me to make my own Mexican food at home. Granted, my mom made steak or chicken fajitas from time to time, but that never felt like the real thing to me. In my heart I knew that the real root of authentic Mexican cuisine is found in the sauces or salsas that define each individual dish and enhance the very simple pleasure of basic elements, like beans or corn tortillas. The salsas, I imagined, are what curvy Mexican mothers pore over in the kitchen and, for that reason, were the things I was determined to pore over in my kitchen. My theory is that the more time you put into the preparation of anything- the more love you put into it- the better it will be. Of course, this really isn’t the case with my oh-so-simple pico de gallo, but simple things usually serve as a door to the more complex: so it was with salsa and me.

Before long, I was spending hours toiling over tortilla soup (the real kind: a thick purée of corn tortillas and dried chilis), playing with roasted and blackened salsas, and smashing flour tortillas on the counter. Still, I always come back to the simple, fresh flavor of pico de gallo as a compliment to almost every Mexican meal I prepare. The acidity of the fresh tomatoes and lime juice cut through the fat of heavy meat dishes, and it serves as the perfect base for guacamole. At almost any time, you can find a container of the stuff in my fridge, waiting for inspiration to strike, in the form of tacos, eggs or just tortilla chips in need of a dip.

Pico de Gallo
makes about 4 cups

Like any sauce, chutney or salsa that derives its flavor from tiny chopped pieces, rather than a uniform puree, pico de gallo will be more delicious the smaller and more uniformly its ingredients are chopped. The point is to get a little bit of everything in every bite.

one and a half pounds tomatoes, finely chopped
three quarters of one yellow onion, finely chopped
one bunch cilantro, stems removed, finely chopped
one jalapeño, minced to oblivion *
juice of one lime
one teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and give them a good stir. Enjoy.

*Pico de gallo is, in my opinion, the only salsa that works both with and without the quintessential Mexican heat, so feel free to omit the jalapeño, if you’d like

sierra nuggets

I am thoroughly convinced that food has a very quantitative power to bring warmth and a general spirit of goodwill to an otherwise busy and self absorbed culture. The simple delight of a freshly baked cookie, for example, can bring smiles and encourage conversation the same way your uncle’s bear-hug might, while the quintessential aroma of something sweet in the oven can animate even the most frigid of hearts with a childlike buoyancy.

There is one cookie recipe from my childhood that holds this very power over me: a hodge-podge by the name of Sierra Nugget. This spicy, crisp and chewy cookie has been a part of my baking repertoire for as long as memory can grasp, and my gratitude for its presence in my life can only rightfully be directed to its creator, Guittard Chocolate Company. Although known in the baking world for producing high quality chocolate products, the name would mean nothing to me if it weren’t for the Sierra Nuggets recipe that appeared on our bag of real semisweet chocolate chips 25 years ago. As it stands, though, were I to meet the Guittard family, chances are I would hug them.

I would like to believe that good chocolate has facilitated many a warm embrace, although, with Guittard and me, it’s much more than just good chocolate at work: there has been a fair amount of butter, brown sugar and coconut in our relationship. It began with little me sitting on the counter measuring out dry ingredients under my mom’s supervision. We had the chocolate chip bag for guidance and took for granted that each new bag would include our favorite recipe, but when Guittard disappeared from the shelves for a while in my elementary school years, we were thankful to have an empty bag stashed safely in our messy recipe drawer.

I can remember stealing my fingers into the bowl with each new ingredient addition- after all, cooking is a very tactile experience- and over the years these intermittent samples have come to be known as tasting phases. Part of the perfect allure of the sierra nugget is that its tasting phases are numerous and varied, with each building on the layered flavors of the last, starting with the creamed butter and sugars. I usually wind up eating enough pre-cookie that it takes a serious effort to get one down when I pull them fresh from the oven. Nonetheless, my cookie dough consumption remains unaltered, and has possibly even increased over the years. If you had the recipe for the best cookie dough in the world, you would do the same thing.

Which leads me to the point: below you’ll find the recipe for my precious Sierra Nuggets. Why not support the ingenuity of the family that created such a masterpiece and buy yourself a bag of Guittard real semisweet chocolate chips? Overindulge in one of life’s greatest pleasures: digging your fingers into the world’s best cookie dough. If you’re smarter than I, you might even save some room for a cookie at the end.

Sierra Nuggets
makes about 6 dozen

1 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mace
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon powdered cloves
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup corn flakes (crumbled)
3 cups rolled oats (old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup shredded coconut
2 cups (12 ounces) guittard real semitsweet chocolate chips

Lightly grease cookie sheets. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until smooth. Add milk, vanilla and beaten eggs and mix well. One at a time, stir in corn flakes, oats, dry ingredients, coconut, and chocolate chips, just until each addition is incorporated.

Drop dough by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes; let stand 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets.

banana bread (with butter!)

There are two stages in a banana’s life which fill me with the sort of joy only truly good produce can excite. Joy, you ask, from a banana? Oh Yes! say I.

My first tale of enjoyment happens on the dawn of ripeness, when the stem is a bright shade of green and fades into creamy yellow about a centimeter into the fruit. Once it ripens further, the fruit itself becomes, at first, too sweet and then too mushy for me to find any pleasure within its peel. The fact that there’s such a small window that I can enjoy a plain, fresh banana often keeps me from buying them at all.

But then I remember the joy that befalls the sundown of the banana’s career: banana bread! If I don’t get around to eating them while they’re still green (and chances are good that I won’t), I simply watch as nature does her work in my fruit bowl, dreaming of the day when the yellow peel is clouded with brown spots and the stems pull effortlessly from the fruit like a chicken wing on a perfectly roasted hen.

By this time, I’ve probably waited more than a week and am antsy for the smell of the browning bread to fill my kitchen and lure my family out of their beds or away from their computers. Luckily, gratification is never far off, as banana bread, along with all of its quickbread buddies, is indeed quick (hence the name) and easy to make. The recipe that won my heart (by way of my stomach) takes a little longer to bake than others I’ve found, due to the higher concentration of banana, but is absolutely worth the wait. Besides, part of the inescapable allure of banana bread is the way it fills the room with the sweet aroma of ripened fruit and subtle cinnamon while rising shyly in the oven.

And I can’t forget to mention butter. I have a veritable love affair with butter that transcends that of many of the great lovers of old. We’re talking serious. But the reason I bring it up here is that it’s another thing this recipe has going for it: it calls for butter rather than oil, and let me tell you, you can really taste the difference. Buttery goodness through and through. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from spreading a little more of my favorite food group on a freshly sliced piece of banana bread, straight from the oven. Sometimes, though, even I can manage to eat a piece without any embellishment. It’s that good.

I’ve included the recipe below for your convenience, but if you would rather go straight to the source click here. I’ve made two minor changes to the original recipe: I reduce the number of bananas to two large or three small bananas, as I find that to be plenty. Also, I sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over the top of the loaf before baking it to create a perfect crust.

Banana Bread

* 2 or 3 ripe bananas, smashed
* 1/3 cup melted butter
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* Pinch of salt
* 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
* Sugar and cinnamon to finish

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with adequate sugar and cinnamon to cover. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

brussels sprouts

Choux de bruxelles. It was not until I came to know them by their French name that I also found a love for them I had not previously thought possible. Having grown up in a country where brussels sprouts were a target of public disgust, even for those who had never tasted them (myself included), I had come to think of them as the kind of thing that everyone talks about and no one actually experiences.

But then I spent six months in Paris, where I was officially and formally acquainted with the small green vegetable. The first time I experienced brussels sprouts, they were quartered and sautéed with a simple combination of olive oil, salt and water. They were tender, yet still more dense and much sweeter than their full-sized-cabbage cousins. The truth is, my first bite found me instantly in love with them, and I couldn’t think of any reason for the general public to hate them so fiercely.

What could be the source of so much disgust propagated on behalf of such an innocuous food? It took my return to the US for me to more fully understand the downfall of the brussels sprout on my home turf. I came to find out that, during the thoughtlessly boiled vegetable phase that soaked up the middle part of the 20th century, brussels sprouts were dealt with just as you might have expected: they were watered down and cooked to a mushy, mealy, flavorless pulp: a flavor and form completely unrelated to what I tasted at the dinner table in my Paris flat. They had been dealt the same cards as the tiny green pea, whom I had also come to love abroad, though in Spain, rather than France.

When I moved back home, I immediately began a crusade to show the world, or at least my close friends, that brussels sprouts were indeed noble and delicious. I was surprised to find that a few people had already begun to forge the road ahead of me. To assist me in my pursuit, I enlisted one of my favorite cooking companions: the venerable bacon. Not that bacon was particularly new to my repertoire, but its presence was the magical touch that had won me over to the delicious peas I enjoyed in Spain. I reasoned that bacon might have the power to nudge my unbelievers into submission with brussels sprouts, the way it had with me and the peas.

So, I started with bacon and minced onion and fudged the rest, meanwhile working my way into the hearts of my friends and family with my unlikely offering. Many were surprised at the subtle sweetness found in my brussels sprouts and the lack of gag reflex they inspired, though some chose to refrain from a second helping. All tried them, though, which is all I can ask, even if they only did it out of love and sympathy for me, the poor girl who fell in love with the red-headed stepchild of the vegetable family.

 

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

1 tablespoon butter
¼ pound of bacon, chopped
½ yellow onion, chopped
4 cups brussels sprouts, quartered
¾ water or dry white wine (and more if needed)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Melt the butter over medium-low heat and add the bacon, stirring often. As the bacon begins to brown, add the onions and sautée until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the brussels sprouts and mix thoroughly, before adding about half of the liquid. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan as deglazing occurs, and sprinkle the kosher salt over the top. Reduce heat to low and cover, stirring occassionally and adding the remainder of the liquid as the pan becomes dry. Allow to cook for about 30 minutes, or until the outer leaves of the brussels sprouts become soft and the centers start to brown. Serve them warm, with a heartfelt bon appetit- and you might find more than a few reluctant admirers along the way.

peaches ‘n’ cream

There comes a time in every woman’s life when ice cream is the only answer. It’s cloyingly sweet and rich and makes a perfect companion for a late night viewing of Pride and Prejudice or When Harry Met Sally. Some women, in a Bridget Jones inspired frenzy, might argue that a bottle of two buck chuck is much more suited to the job. I prefer to wake up without a headache.

Hence, when things started going south in my personal life in the summer of last year, ice cream became my favorite friend. Though its constant presence in my freezer didn’t make for the most healthful of times, it seemed the only reasonable thing to eat. So, eat I did.

Fortunately, I cannot simply indulge without my creative impulse flaring up, forcing me to make good use of periods of unadulterated gluttony. I’m usually able to get something useful out of them, in the end, besides a more vigorous, guilt-infused, gym routine. So, last summer, I decided to put my eating obsession to good use and took my family and friends along for the delicious ride.

The first product of my new passion was the search for the ice cream maker of my childhood- the simple kind with a metal container that spins inside a mixture of ice and rock salt, inside a bigger bucket. Ours usually did its work in the garage, as the electric motor was so loud that it made conversation impossible. When it comes to kitchen appliances, I’m riddled with nostalgia and couldn’t imagine fulfillment of my summer sweet tooth coming in the form of a more technologically advanced machine.

I explained my predicament to my dad, who was, at the time, a guinea pig for my many food fads. The words homemade ice cream barely had to escape my mouth before he set out to aid his ailing daughter. We spent the weekend browsing kitchen appliances in search of the self-explanatory and inexpensive model of yore, and when we finally found the one we wanted, he offered to sponsor my ice cream venture under the condition that it would live at his place. I got my new toy back to the house and scrambled madly after the box’s contents, feeling as though Christmas had indeed come early. Inside was a plastic blue bucket, a half-gallon metal container and a white electric motor attachment, its cord trailing behind.

That afternoon, I set out to put it to use and never looked back. My homemade ice cream made an appearance every week at our Sunday barbeque, held either at my dad’s or at the home of our close friends. I took weekly flavor requests and managed to make it through all the old favorites by the end of summer. At the end of all my experimentation, though, my favorite remained the very same ice cream that our old ice cream maker whined about while I was growing up: fresh peach. Of course, it can only be made in the height of the peach season- late summer- because only sweet, ripe peaches will do it justice.

I challenge you to find a better flavor and offer mine here for your conspicuous consumption. If you hurry, you might be able to snatch up the last peaches of the year and enjoy this ode to summer as we fade into fall.

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Elsie Lou’s Fresh Peach Ice Cream (with a few minor changes)

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it doesn’t require a custard and therefore doesn’t have to be chilled before it’s processed. The creamy texture usually created by the custard is achieved with sweetened condensed milk instead. You’ll also notice that it calls for whole eggs rather than just yolks- a fact I exploit in attempt to convince myself of its healthfulness- extra protein!

3 large peaches, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 ½ cups sugar
3 whole eggs
½ can eagle brand sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Mix ½ cup sugar into chopped peaches, reserving remaining cup of sugar. Mash peaches to release juices, then pour into blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Set aside.

Whisk together eggs and remaining 1 cup sugar until smooth. Then add remaining ingredients and whisk until evenly blended, adding the peach purée last.

Process according to your ice cream maker’s instructions in one single batch or in two smaller batches if using a quart-sized machine like the one pictured here. The base can be stored covered in the refrigerator for a day.

buttery beginnings

It’s hard for me to say exactly when it began. My love affair with butter, that is. I came to notice obvious signs of dependency when my dad had to start making special trips to Costco for oversized butter supplies before I could comfortably come stay for a weekend. And the fact that I discovered a perfectly wrapped, chilled cube of the stuff in my stocking Christmas morning last year forced me to acknowledge the reality of my addiction.

With the help of my dad’s rather obvious hints, I came to realize that the roots of my butter habit run deep. (So deep, in fact, that I survived the healthy-butter-substitute phase of the nineties and landed safely in adulthood with a faint yellow cube perched neatly atop its dish on my kitchen counter.) Certainly it was destiny: butter and I. The evidence of kismet looms large.

When I examine my childhood, I find a whole host of butter-infused memories that all occur before my fifth birthday. I recall things like the square of butter that my home away from home, Pero’s Restaurant, would leave to melt atop my half order of oatmeal. Or the way that just the right amount of butter would dissolve the sugar in my grandmother’s rolled up crepes. Or the garlic butter that I would slather on piping hot sourdough bread at the Spaghetti Factory, as I sucked down my browned butter- and mizithra-topped noodles from my seat in the trolley.

Like most relationships, my infatuation with butter has also had an ugly side at times. I find that when we come to love something, we become snobbish in defense of the thing we love and our need to have it.

While I was in college near Chicago, my boyfriend and I drove to Iowa for a weekend to stay with his parents, who, to my utter dismay, only kept margarine in the fridge. To show my appreciation for their welcoming hospitality, I had planned to make dinner for the family, but when the realization struck me that I would have to use margarine to prepare our meal, my heart sank. I froze. I felt all the apparent evils of abandoning my buttery ways in support of some hydrogenated oil substitute, and my food offering was, in the end, tainted by my stubbornness. Looking back, I can only be thankful for the grace Mrs. Greiner showed me in the face of such snobbery and hang my head in shame at the recollection of my bad behavior.

In the eight years that have passed since that weekend, I have seriously considered, more than once, writing a heartfelt apology on the subject, though I’ve never put pen to paper. Then again, maybe that’s a little bit of what I’m doing here: paying homage to the way butter has shaped my cooking experiences and my past, both for better and for worse. I like to think of it as chronicling: we all live as part of a grand story, but sometimes the simple fat-filled things in life are what make it so wonderful.