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Cantaloupe and Lime Granita


My grandfather loves cantaloupe.  At least I assume he does, as he has eaten a half cantaloupe filled with cottage cheese for lunch almost every day that I have known him.  I vividly remember him coming home for lunch (coming home for lunch!) when I was visiting them in my childhood, and my grandmother having his melon ready at his arrival.

He's turning 89 in four days, so the cantaloupe clearly did right by him.

For the most part cantaloupe has been something I could take or leave.  I'd take some to balance out the color at the occasional brunch buffet, but generally would dig though the melon bowl to scoop out as many of the sweeter watermelon cubes as I could unearth.

However, when I was pregnant last summer, the only slightly unusual craving I developed was for cantaloupe.  And lots of it.  Particularly as the summer went on and the weather was sizzling hot.

It was then I discovered an orange-fleshed melon Shangri-La on the tables of the summer's farmers' market.  Tiny, outrageously sweet, nubby-skinned melons came out in abundance in the months when we needed them the most.  Numerous heirloom varieties, particularly ones about the size of a softball, exploded with fleeting flavor.  Heaven.  And obviously Papa was hip to this many decades earlier.

This incredibly simple, two ingredient, refresher is a stunning way to use this stunning fruit.  It also helps in keeping their fast-ripening goodness around for a day or two longer.

Happy Birthday Charlie, and thank goodness for the humble cantaloupe.


CANTALOUPE AND LIME GRANITA

Serves four to six.

6 cups pureed fresh cantaloupe, from about one medium melon
2 tablespoons lime juice, from about one lime
Zest from one lime

Remove the rind from the cantaloupe. (You can cut off each end and then around the outside, like at the start of supreming citrus.) Cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds.  Roughly cut the fruit into about one inch pieces.

Zest the skin of the lime, and set the zest aside.  Then juice the lime.

Combine the lime juice and cantaloupe in a blender.  Puree on high (or "liquify"!) until smooth.

Pour mixture into a 9 x 13" baking dish, or other medium to large container.  If it has a lid, even better, if not, cover it with plastic wrap or foil. (These gorgeous tupperware containers are designed by my friend Melissa, and are some of the most useful things in my kitchen. Granita is chilling in the largest one as I type.)

Place the cantaloupe mixture in the freezer.  After forty-five minutes, agitate the mixture with a fork, making sure to scrape around the sides, and return it to the freezer.  Again, after another 45 minutes, break up the ice crystals a second time with a fork, and return to freezer.  Repeat once more and return to the freezer a final time to set for about 2 hours.

Gently scoop out the granita to serve, so as not to pack down the ice too much and lose the delicate texture of the ice crystals.

Serve either alone, on top of vanilla ice cream for a delightful creamsicle effect, or in a glass topped with a small amount of prosecco right as you serve it at the table.  Top with a few strands of lime zest.





 


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Rhubarb and White Cherry Ice Pop


I'm back.

My hands have been very, delightfully full these last many months, but I feel like we are all finally starting to figure out a good rhythm together.  And being a mom is, well, utterly remarkable, and it is hard to not devour every minute.

Even with our full hands, we did manage to get our gardens in this year.  Even more square footage than last year, as I am more able bodied this summer and can actually do something.  More plants, more varieties, more of everything.  And so far it is all looking strong and healthy.  I cannot wait to cook with all of it.  I walk through the rows and see recipes everywhere.

I have also had my first food pieces and photographs in print, in the months since the baby has been born.  There is a beautiful one year old magazine in our area called Green Door, and I have been so honored to do pieces for their last three issues.

In the latest issue I have a piece on gourmet farmers' market popsicles.  Three great recipes, which we have been enjoying ourselves, very frequently, since the weather turned warm. (The magazine is on sale throughout the Hudson valley, in New York City, for download, as well as subscriptions.)

There was one other ice pop recipe that was gnawing at me as I was developing the recipes for the article: Rhubarb.  However, there was no rhubarb to be found to recipe test with in the spring when the piece was due.  So at last, with piles of ruby stalks covering market tables, I was able to give it a try.

Rhubarb is indeed sour, yet in a perfect, summer way.  It is almost always paired with strawberries to balance its tartness.  I opted instead for beautiful white cherries that were on the next market stand over.  The fresh in-season cherries gave the whole mixture a really mellow sweetness, and the combination with the very tart rhubarb results in a overall sour cherry flavor, which is one of my favorites.

The sugar amount below is just a guideline.  Certainly your cherries' sweetness will vary.  Taste the mixture and adjust to  your liking.  However, keep in mind that when frozen a good portion of the perception of sweetness will be deadened by the cold, so the mixture should taste a bit more sweet at room temperature than you are shooting for.

Happy summer.




RHUBARB AND WHITE CHERRY ICE POP

makes four three-ounce pops.

2 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced thin
1 cup white cherries, pitted and halved
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water

Wash the rhubarb and gently peel off some of the tough outer strands, much like peeling celery. Cut into thin slices.

Combine rhubarb, cherries, water and sugar in a small pot.  Simmer over medium-low heat for about seven minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the rhubarb is soft.

Allow the mixture to cool.  Transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse until slightly pureed, but with some pieces of fruit still remaining.

Fill ice pop molds and freeze for at least six hours to overnight.

To unmold, briefly dip the bottom of the mold in a bowl of warm water.



 

 

 


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Put it away put it away put it away now.
Red hot chili peppers.  Sweet orange bell peppers.  Long curly Jimmy Nardello peppers.  Short stubby serrano peppers.

All of them.

Peppers are still abundant at the farmers' market, super sweet this time of the season, and the easiest vegetable to put away for the winter months.  You don't need to peel them or blanch them or can them--they can be frozen raw!

Instructions:

Wash the peppers and dry thoroughly.  For larger, sweet or bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise, and remove stem, seeds and ribs.  They can be left in halves or sliced smaller.  Smaller peppers, particularly tiny chili, jalapeno or serrano peppers can be left whole.  Put in resealable freezer-safe bag or container and freeze.  That's it.

Alternatively, if you want have more control over how many you use at once, place trimmed pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and freeze.  When frozen, transfer  individually frozen pieces to resealable freezer-safe container or bag and return to freezer.  (This method also works great when freezing individual berries.)

Peppers do lose some of their crisp texture when frozen and thawed, but these are great to slice up and saute with onions, cumin and herbs for a quick fajita, burrito, or omelette filling, or to add to a slow simmered stew.  The hot peppers are easy to slice finely when frozen, returning the rest to the freezer, to add just a small shot of heat to a dish.  Above all, they are packed full with flavor right now, far outshining anything you will find them passing off as a pepper in February.   Don't delay!



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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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