Archive for June, 2011

Rhubarb ice cream

28 June 2011

In the midst of baking my third or fourth batch of busy-day cupcakes I became fixated with the idea of rhubarb ice cream. It must have been triggered by a surfeit of sugar and vanilla – I craved something cool and tart.

I made this ice cream in the easiest possible way. It is simply rhubarb compote mixed with heavy cream, churned into ice cream.

It is (was) incredibly good.


This recipe requires an ice cream maker of some kind. It makes a little over a pint of ice cream.

3 1/2 cups (400 g) rhubarb measured once cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces

1/2 cup (100 g sugar) for the compote plus 1 or 2 Tbsps

1/2 cup (150 ml) heavy cream

1 Tbsp rosé wine


Make a rhubarb compote with the rhubarb and sugar.

Let the compote cool down then chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 to 4 hours or overnight.

Mix the compote with the heavy cream, rosé, and add one or two tablespoons of sugar to taste.

Churn in an ice cream maker and keep in the freezer until ready to eat.


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At the market | Rhubarb (Rhubarb compote recipe)

27 June 2011

I could have spoken about rhubarb two months ago, when it first appeared at the market as the very welcome distraction from the last winter apples and pears; rhubarb makes those last few weeks before the first berries of summer bearable.

But it’s already the first week of summer, berries abound everywhere, and while I’ve eaten pounds of strawberries — plain, in tartes, or churned into ice cream — as well as raspberries and blueberries even, I am still craving — and eating — rhubarb.

Rhubarb is one of those vegetable that I cannot resist buying so it often ends up as compote (recipe below) because I’ve usually purchased it without a plan and compote only takes a few minutes to prepare. However the other day I felt an irresistible urge to make rhubarb ice cream. It was good beyond all expectations, and barely more work than a simple compote.

Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, though in our part of the world it is often used as a fruit, in crumbles and tarts. Wild rhubarb originated in Asia and its root has been used medicinally in China, Asia, and eventually Europe for thousands of years. But it was not until the nineteenth century that the stalks of rheum rhabarbarum were cultivated and used as a food, particularly in England and the United States, where rhubarb became known as “pie-plant.”

Rhubarb can be any shade of red or green, and while the red variety looks pretty, apparently there is no significant difference in taste. The stalks should be neither too big nor too small, always firm and crisp, not soft and flabby. Rhubarb is available from mid-spring through the summer. It thrives in cooler climates where the soil freezes in winter, which is another reason to love it — a delicious vegetable/fruit that grows best in my part of the world!

Rhubarb compote recipe

The quantities are an indication. The weight ratio of 1 part sugar for 4 parts rhubarb makes a compote that is not too sweet with a clear tart rhubarb taste. It can be adapted as desired. Serve with yogurt or crème fraîche, or with busy-day cupcakes.

3 1/2 cups (400 g) rhubarb cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces

1/2 cup (100 g) sugar


Cut off the ends of the rhubarb stalks as well as any parts that are bruised or blemished. Wash the stalks before cutting them into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces. (Now is a good time to measure the amount of rhubarb to calculate the amount of sugar needed.)

Place the cut rhubarb into a medium saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons of water, then the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until all the pieces of rhubarb have become soft, about 12 to 15 minutes.

That’s it.


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Busy-day cupcakes

22 June 2011

I’ve made this recipe so often in the past month it’s not even funny.

I was looking for a simple vanilla cake for a friend’s sixth birthday and remembered reading about this cake when I first came across a mean-sounding poppy seed cake on Lottie + Doof. The busy-day cake caught my eye because of the name, and because it came from Edna Lewis, a Southern cook whom I know through the lovely cookbooks she has written. I own one, The Taste of Country Cooking, which I read as I would a collection of short stories. Each recipe recalls a memory, a way of life, a moment in time.

The book is organized by seasons and menus. There were many lovely excerpts to choose from, but I liked this one because of a personal memory – the first time I had shad roe in Portland, Maine. The menu is called A Spring Breakfast When the Shad Were Running. The introduction begins: “Because shad was practically the only fish we ever ate and spring was the only time it was ever seen, we were always much too excited to wait for dinner, so we’d cook it for breakfast whenever it was caught…”

A “busy-day cake” sounded just like Edna Lewis. It is very easy to make and delicious – light and moist, simply scented with vanilla and nutmeg. And it lends itself very well to cupcakes.

Both Leo and Balthasar were born in June, so I made these cupcakes twice, for each of their birthdays. And one more time because a fierce summer storm hit New York and postponed the party. I’ve lost count – it was a lot of baking and (cup)cakes in one month. I have promised to bake a marble cake for a picnic on Saturday but at this point all I really want to do is roast chicken and make rhubarb ice cream.


Barely adapted from the Busy-Day Cake on Lottie + Doof. The recipe is doubled and makes about twenty-eight 2 1/2 inch (6.35 cm) cupcakes.

1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups (400 g) sugar

6 eggs

4 cups (400 g) flour

1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk*

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

3 tsps pure vanilla extract

4 tsps baking powder

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg


Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

With a wooden spoon beat the butter and sugar thoroughly, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring to incorporate each one before adding the next. Then add, alternately, about a third of the flour, half of the buttermilk, another third of flour, the second half of the buttermilk, and the last part flour, stirring to combine the ingredient every time. Finally add the salt, vanilla extract, baking powder, and nutmeg.

Scoop a large spoonful of batter into each cupcake cup (the batter should barely reach the top of the cup – it will rise.).

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the batter is just set and as soon as a toothpick comes out clean.

* An easy substitute for buttermilk is to stir 1 Tbsp lemon juice into 1 cup of milk and let sit for 5 minutes

I made mascarpone lemon icing for the cupcakes:

2 cups (500 g) mascarpone

1/2 cup (40 g) icing (confectioner’s) sugar

1 or 2 untreated lemons, depending on the yield of your grater

Mix the mascarpone with the icing sugar, grate one lemon and blend the zest into the mascarpone. Taste, add some zest if you want a stronger lemon flavor. Ice the cupcakes just before serving and add a thin strip of lemon rind or a raspberry for decoration.


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Finger food | Leek and manchego frittata

16 June 2011

Louise is now 15 months, she walks around like an independent little person, and she eats what her older brothers eat. The days of puréeing are already over, and as such my days of “baby food” posts. But since the children usually eat separately, especially during the week, this will be the transition into the world of children’s dinners.

As much as I oppose the concept of children’s food, in particular as it implies anything yellow and battered, I do believe in adult meals. This means that our children have dinner together, earlier, and go to bed at eight. It’s not about a different kind of food, it’s about timing. Ideally, children’s dinners should be easily prepared on a weeknight with homework and soccer and a toddler who really should be in bed by seven puttering about resignedly.

So as a bridge away from baby food here is the ultimate anytime any-age family meal – frittata.

It is ideal because it basically consists of staples and anything else that happens to be in the kitchen: eggs; an onion or leftover leek, garlic; cheese (gruyère, manchego, parmesan, ricotta, mozzarella); perhaps diced ham, pancetta, or some smoked salmon; peas, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, potatoes; herbs…

The possibilities are endless, and the result not only very tasty but a full meal in one dish that the children always like.


This quantity makes a lunch frittata perfect for one adult and one toddler. Adjust the quantities as desired. I usually count 2 eggs per adult, 1 per (young) child, plus an extra one overall “for the pan.”

2 leeks

Olive oil

A small knob of butter

1 clove garlic

3 eggs

Manchego cheese, a piece approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) cube



Preheat broiler (grill), or oven to 425°F (220°C).

Trim leeks on either side and remove one or two layers of the tougher dark green outer leaves. Wash off excess grit under running water. Slice the leeks into slices 1/2 or 1/4 inch (1 or 1/2 cm) thick. Wash well in cold water to remove any persistent dirt, and strain.

Thinly slice the garlic clove. Thinly grate the manchego.

In an ovenproof skillet, heat a little olive oil and small knob of butter, enough to comfortably coat the pan once the butter has melted. Add the leek and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until it softens and becomes translucent but before it gets brown. Add the thinly sliced garlic and cook for just another minute.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Add the cheese and a little pepper if desired (manchego is very salty so no additional salt is required).

Stir the cooked leeks and garlic into the eggs, just enough to combine, then return the egg/vegetable mixture to the pan (there should be enough oil left but if not, add a dash).

Cook on the stove over low heat, loosening the eggs at the sides with a spatula from time to time (don’t go anywhere, this will just take a few minutes).

When you can see the eggs starting to set underneath, but the top is still quite runny, place the pan in the hot oven. Leave it for barely a minute, just enough for the top of the frittata to set but no longer.

Cut into wedges (or cubes) and serve with a large green salad.


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Eating out | Burgers in the park at the Shake Shack

6 June 2011

Shake Shack, the burger, hotdog, and shakes kiosk in Madison Square Park, has been around for a while and become a New York institution, but every time I go I feel a special tingling of excitement conjured from the days when it had just opened, some seven years ago; when the idea of finding good food in a park in New York was a novelty.

It also coincided with the time I fell in love with New York. After I moved here in 1999 and for a good five years, my heart stayed in Berlin; I longed to move back. Then I fell in love. It occurred as a form of contradiction, because if there ever was a reason to stay in New York, it was work, which involved long hours and insufficient pay – as publishing often will – but was always interesting, stimulating, and surrounded by colleagues who not only became friends but family in an uprooted city.

And yet. I started to love New York after I stopped working, when Leo was born. When I finally had the time to while away mornings on a bench outside our local coffee shop and spend lazy afternoons on Sheep Meadow, trudge to the remaining block of Little Italy for good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar or picnic along the Hudson River at dusk.

Every time I go to Shake Shack I get a whiff of it all. The lines are ridiculously long and I don’t mind. Part of loving New York is loving that people will stand in line for a burger for 50 minutes; it would be disingenuous to be exasperated by that.

I’d like to be able to talk about the hotdogs and the ‘shroom burger, the concretes and sundaes, but I can’t, because I haven’t tried them. I always order the same thing: a shack burger, crinkle fries, perhaps a lemonade, and sometimes a vanilla shake if there’s someone to share it with. It’s still just as good, seven years on, and a perfect park lunch if there ever was one.

Shake Shack

Madison Square Park
Southeast corner nr. Madison Avenue and East 23rd Street

Open daily 11am – 11pm

(Go to the for other locations.)


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