Saturday, June 20, 2009

Poker Night Grub

Last night the husband and I hosted our (almost) monthly poker game. Before we get to the game, we always enjoy drinks and dinner. Most everybody brings some food to share and I always try to make something (although I have been accused of being a lazy chef at times)

Last night we had an international smorgasbord with pizza, Thai food and I made some salsa (and a tasty dessert, but more on that later).

I had to buy some jalapenos and a lime but I got the rest of the ingredients in my box this week.

Here's what I used:

2 tomatoes, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 limes, juiced (I added a second after I took the picture)
1/2 red onion, diced and 1/2 vidalia onion, diced (also not pictured)
kosher salt
2 avocados, diced

A few hours before the gathering I combined the tomatoes and jalapenos (I took the seeds out, but left the membranes in so that I would get a little heat but nothing too crazy) along with the lime juice. I stirred it together, tasted it and thought "hmm, something is missing here". That's when I realized that I had forgotten the onion, so I tossed that in too, tasted it again and added a healthy pinch of salt and the juice of another lime.

Just before my guests were due to arrive, I diced and gently stirred in the avocado (I didn't want to add it to early in the day in case the avocado turned brown). I tasted it again, added and pinch more salt and then it was good to go.

This is my favorite chip and dip bowl. I got it for a steal it at a garage sale a few years ago.

The salsa was pretty tasty. It could have used some cilantro but the husband has an aversion to it and I would have liked a little more heat, but some of my guests do not like the spicy stuff.

Now to that dessert I mentioned earlier. The last two CSA boxes that I have received both contained peaches. Now I love peaches, but a couple of years ago I spent a week at Quillisascut farm school. One morning instead of making breakfast, we went to a nearby orchard and picked our breakfast directly from the plum, nectarine and peach trees. Ever since than I have been a little ruined for peaches. If I get a peach that does not have great flavor or texture, I'm out, I don't want to eat it at all.

Well on Thursday, I tried one of the four peaches that we received in the box this week. The flavor was okay but the texture was no good. I knew then that the remaining peaches were destined to be cooked rather than eaten out of hand.

Somehow, I settled on ice cream. It seemed like an application where the sub-par texture of the peaches wouldn't be a problem. Plus I had an ingredient on hand that I knew would be a hit with the peaches, lavender.

I have three ginormous lavender bushes in my front yard (this is just one of them) and I have been eagerly waiting for them to be ready to use.

They are so close to blooming and this is the very best time to use the buds.

I adapted a recipe for peach ice cream from Williams-Sonoma Ice Creams and Sorbets.

Here's the ingredients.

3 medium peaches, peeled and diced
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon lavender buds
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream (divided use)
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a spice grinder I combined the sugar with the lavender buds whizzing them together until the lavender was pulverized into the sugar (the smell of this is so nice). I combined half of the lavender sugar, the corn syrup and peaches in a large pan and heated it until the sugar was dissolved. Then I transferred this to a bowl.

To the now empty pot I added the half-and-half and 1/2 cup of the cream and brought it to a simmer. Meanwhile, in another bowl, I whisked together the egg yolks and the remaining sugar. When the cream was warm I removed it from the heat and then slowly whisked it into the egg yolk mixture, adding just a bit of the hot cream at a time so as to not cook the eggs. I poured this back into my saucepan and cooked it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard was thick, about 5 minutes.

I poured the custard through a sieve into a bowl and then stirred in the peach mixture, the last 1/2 cup of cream and the vanilla. Then I covered the mixture and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day I poured this mixture into my ice cream maker and when it was done working it's magic I transferred it to a plastic container and stashed it in the freezer to freeze through.

Now this was good. The lavender and peach combined beautifully. I could (and probably will) make this over and over again this summer (and next summer and the summer after that...).

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