Friday, July 11, 2008

Book giveaway update and berries from dinner to dessert!

We have a lot to get to today.... grab a drink and get in a comfy chair!

Thursday was quite an eventful day (and night!). We had a very large mass of storms race through our area. Extraordinarily strong winds and pounding rain came down (along with a tornado about 10 minutes away!) which knocked out our internet access until today. The storm also decided one of our large trees in the back would look better laying against the side of our neighbor's house! Ack!

Thankfully there was no real damage done and we may end up saving the tree, as long as the dirt turns from the pudding consistency it is now and firms back up. I did end up making dinner last night though, in between cleaning up all the debris and I'll try to get that posted on Sunday. Just for a little tease, we used the last of our fresh berry supply to make a savory salsa to serve with a grilled piece of tenderloin! Stay tuned for that...

So, we were a little overwhelmed with all of the comments for the book giveaway! Thank you again for the e-mails and notes - below you can see all of the little pieces of paper that Jeff painstakingly (...) clipped out.

The paper we plucked from the pile for the Bobby Flay cookbook was Lonetree72 - congratulations!

Because of all of the entries, we figured we might as well throw in another book and pull out one more entry! This one is slightly different as it is not a cookbook per se, but I think one who spends time in the kitchen would enjoy it! So, congratulations to Sara on winning The Taste of Sweet by Joanne Chen.

I'll be sending you both a note for your addresses and we'll get the books out within the next few days!

So, as you know we went out and picked a large large bounty of gorgeous fresh strawberries...

To preserve them at their peak sweetness, I've already worked through most of them. What did we do? One of the first things I made was this Strawberry-Buttermilk Gelato. Gelato is different from regular ice cream as it tends to be lighter and typically uses milk instead of cream or half-and-half. It is also not as rich since it does not typically include egg yolks. This recipe takes the flavor a step farther and instead of milk adds a delicious tang by using buttermilk. When using strawberries like this, be it gelato or ice cream, it is best to use them in a pureed form. If not, the berries will end up freezing like little icy chunks and not blend in as nice.

To sweeten the mixture, a simple syrup is prepared and allowed to cool. This is just equal parts sugar and water that is heated until the sugar melts into the water to remove any gritty texture. Those pureed ruby berries and creamy buttermilk are then added to the cooled syrup - at this point, I went ahead and chilled it in the refrigerator overnight so the mixture could get very cold before churning it. I find this achieves a better texture in the end, but you could go ahead and process it immediately. Now, I do have to say, I'm not sure that the texture is as close to a true gelato as I would have liked. To me, it seemed a lot more like a sorbet, but that may be splitting hairs as the taste was heavenly! Sweet, but not too sweet, the explosion of fresh strawberry essence was flowing freely in each bite and this was such a perfect cooling treat to wind down with on a hot summer day.

We had a breakfast-for-dinner night and ran with another berry of the season - raspberries! These Almond-Buttermilk Hotcakes with Raspberry-Grape Sauce were actually suppose to be made with blackberries, but the raspberries at the market were so plump and lively that I couldn't pass them up.

To add an unusual and delicious twist to the sauce, crisp red grapes are actually tossed into the mix. Using raspberry jam and bright lemon juice as a base, the sauce is heated just enough to activate a little cornstarch to tighten up the liquids so it will cling to the hotcakes. Grapes are a little more sturdy, so they are added before the sauce is heated - however, since the raspberries are more delicate, we gently folded them in at the last minute.

Once the sauce is completed (just cover it to keep warm), we worked on the lightly spiced hotcakes. Not as thick as a regular pancake, but not as thin as a crepe, these thin rounds are rich with brown sugar and have a crunch due to the addition of toasted sliced almonds. The original recipe didn't call for it, but we added a few drops of almond extract to amplify that nutty tone. If you have a small griddle and need to prepare these in batches, heat your oven to the lowest temperature (usually 170 to 200 degrees) and hold the cooked hotcakes in there to keep warm while you prepare the rest. You'll know they are ready to turn over when the wet batter on top is covered in bubbles and the edges look almost cooked - once flipped, leave them on just long enough to lightly brown the bottoms to keep them moist. I'm a big fan of drizzlin' on warm, pure maple syrup on my pan/hotcakes, but both of us quite enjoyed the enchanting nature of the soft raspberries paired with the juicy burst of crisp grapes. I know I am already anticipating delving into the leftovers for a speedy Saturday breakfast tomorrow!


  1. I am glad to hear you are okay after our storms yesterday!

    Wow--you make me want an ice cream maker so SO badly! Especially on a day like today when it is so hot and humid and muggy...that gelato looks delicious!


  2. Oh non it's not me. Congrats to the winner. Lovely meal tonight.

  3. Wow Joe! Sorbet is a GREAT idea for the bounty of berries, and I never would have considered putting grapes into a sauce for pancakes! Way to go!

    Congratulations to the winners of the books. That's very generous of you.

    I'm glad that no real damage was done from the storm, and I'm sorry that you lost your Internet for a time. Hopefully all will be right soon. Unfortunately storms just went through here, and depending where you are in the cities, I think they're on their way towards you. Hope you don't have any damage from this wave. The good news is the air is sooooo much nicer now!

    Have a great weekend!


  4. The ice cream cone looks amazing!

  5. Joe, I'm so honored to be one of the winners. I love your blog and have made lots of your recipes. I look forward to hearing from you.

  6. Congrats to the winners; and Joe I'm happy you're ok. BTW, I have some new recipes on my blog that you may be interested in. You are actually inspiring me to come out of my comfort zone a little (emphasis on little). Please trek over and check them out (

  7. Courtney - Those storms were so bad! I saw the sky go from blue to green. That's never a good sign!

    Helene - Luck of the draw!

    Sue - They did come right through us, but thankfully no extra damage was done this time!

    Noble pig - Thanks!

    Joan - I'll be getting the book out this week!

    Judy - I will stop over!