Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How I got into IFBC 2010

IFBC 2010 is the 2nd Annual International Food Blogger Conference organized by Foodista and has a host of other sponsors including Sur La Table and POM Wonderful. I didn't know I was going to IFBC until Friday, the first day it started, though I would only be attending for one day. I remembered several months ago seeing an email about it so I checked out the website and saw the $350 price tag and thought that was a little steep. I had planned on checking back later to read more about it but totally forgot about it until I saw some tweets about it. Everyone seemed to be going so I went to the website again to check into it some more and I see the words SOLD OUT laughing in my face. I was excited to see there was a waiting list so I hurried up and registered in hopes I could get in. A few weeks pass and I get an email on 8/17 saying "Unfortunately, we will not be able to accommodate any additional attendees for this year’s conference, so we wanted to let you know this right away so you can make alternate plans for the weekend. " I was kind of surprised to see an email like that when the conference is still a week and a half away. I sulked as all my foodie friends tweeted about what fun and exciting speakers and parties were being planned for IFBC.

A few days after the sad news email, me and Mark got to hang out with some foodies for An Ice Cream Social. It was an ice cream pot luck! People brought ice cream and/or toppings of all kinds. I brought a vanilla bean pernod and a balsamic strawberry. There were at least a dozen different ice creams to try, too many to try them all. My two favorites were Sonja Groset's bourbon ice cream with bourbon caramel sauce and Sarah Lawer and Frank Guanco's fennel/bergamot/olive oil gelato. The most interesting was Paola Thomas' brown bread ice cream. It had such an unusual texture for an ice cream but it was actually pretty good and not as sweet as most of the others. You can only eat so much sweet ice cream! As for the toppings, the pizzelles were the best. I can't think of anything that goes better with ice cream than pizzelles. It's like eating a flat waffle cone.

I brought my ice cream in my new Zak Designs Ice Cream Containers from Amazon for $10.99 each. They are supposed to keep the ice cream cold longer and I would have to say they were successful because by the end of the party most of the others were pretty well melted and mine was still a little firm, so I would recommend them. The only complaint is that the lid is a little hard to get off but not impossible like some people's Amazon reviews say.
Melting Ice Cream Souse Vide Malted Milk Ball
Ice Cream Toppings
Time for Ice Cream

While at the ice cream social, I met Linda aka "Salty Seattle". She told me about a pre-IFBC wine party she was putting on at her house on Thursday night. I figured, since I wasn't going to IFBC I might as well take advantage of at least going to this.

Before heading over to the wine party, I met up with Mark and we had dinner at Delancey, where we ran into Ashely Rodriguez, just before ordering our padron sausage pizza. We got there early enough to sit at the bar and even got the first pizza out of the oven. The crust was nice and crispy, just the way we like it.

After dinner I headed over to Linda's for the wine party. I arrived right on time and there were only a couple other people there. As the evening went on, more people and more wine showed up. There were a few snacks as well including some fresh smoked salmon, some baked fingerling potatoes with bacon, chives, and sour cream and some to die for cherry tomatoes with bacon and some kind of sugar coating. Had a fun night meeting lots of new foodies, some of which were just in town for IFBC which at this point I still was not planning on attending.

509 Syrah Cherry Tomatoes Like You've Never Had Before
Rolls and Fresh Smoked Salmon Wine Party Snacks

It was after I had left the party that I saw a tweet from Nurit aka @1familyfood that said "Who wants to buy my Saturday ticket to the Foodista conference?". Hells Yah! Me! Me! Me! I sent her a reply via twitter in the morning and also sent her an email. I didn't see anyone else reply so I was hoping I wasn't too late to respond. Sure enough I was first but it looked like at least one other person responded after I did. They don't sell one day passes to IFBC so it was a little tricky to get around that. But it all worked out. I hope to get some of the goodie bag items she decides she doesn't want.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Grape and Rosemary Sorbet

This was the first sorbet I've made in my ice cream maker. The HerbFarm Cookbook has a whole category dedicated to sorbet's which I thought to be surprising. I would have thought these would be included in the dessert category like the ice cream recipes. I probably wouldn't have made a sorbet had it been included in with the desserts but since it was it's own category I was committed to trying one. It wasn't an easy decision because I couldn't find a single one that had easy to find ingredients. I even called around to Whole Foods, PCC, and Trader Joe's looking for some lemon verbena which I thought might be the easiest to find ingredient out of all the sorbet recipes, but no luck with that. Some of the other sorbets included ingredients like, fresh cranberries (not in season), rose petals (no specification of what kind and I didn't even know rose petals were edible and they certainly aren't something you could buy at a grocery store, would have had to raid a neighbors rose bush), black pansy flowers (hello! Who would sell these? How many people actually have a garden of black pansies?). The recipes didn't give any suggestions for alternative ingredients for any of the sorbet recipes like some of the other recipes in the cookbook.

I decided to choose the grape sorbet and instead of using the concord or muscat grapes that were listed in the ingredients, I went with champagne grapes from PCC. They're a very small, sweet, seedless, dark purple grape. The variety was not listed on the container label so I'm not sure what kind they were.

Quite a few of the sorbet recipes in the cookbook called for superfine sugar so I bought some at Whole Foods in preparation to make sorbet before deciding on which one to make. However, this particular recipe in the cookbook didn't specify superfine sugar so I ended up not using it. The grapes were pretty sweet and the amount of sugar in the recipe gave a range of 3/4 Cup to 1 1/4 Cup of sugar which seemed like a lot. I went with 3/4 Cup and am thinking I should have used even less because it turned out pretty sweet.

Champagne Grapes Rosemary and Grapes
Grape and Rosemary Sorbet

Monday, August 23, 2010

Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream

I've been making a lot of ice cream this year. This was my 3rd batch of ice cream made within a couple of week time frame. The first was the Cinnamon Basil from The Herbfarm Cookbook, then I made a Vanilla Bean Pernod and then this one. Jackie Baisa has been making quite a bit of ice cream this year so I asked her what her favorite was and she didn't hesitate to say balsamic strawberry. So I followed the recipe she had posted on her blog for Rustic Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream.

I pretty much followed the recipe as posted but I didn't add the raspberry extract which was optional and I used a different type of cherry brandy than Kirschwasser. I was surprised this recipe used all heavy cream and no milk. All the recipes I've used previously had at least some milk mixed in with the cream. This recipe is an eggless one which was nice to not have to worry about. My previous two ice creams had 8 egg yolks each.

I thought it turned out great. The balsamic really adds something to the flavor of the strawberries. If I make it again I might strain out the seeds next time to make it more smooth.

Here's the recipe I used which is just about the same as what's over on Jackie's blog.

* 1 lb fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 2 TB good-quality balsamic vinegar
* 3 TB cherry brandy
* 2 cups heavy cream

Mix the strawberries with the sugar and balsamic vinegar, and cherry brandy in a large bowl. Cover and let marinate at room temp for one hour. (I actually added the brandy in later after it chilled, only because I didn't have any at the time)

Add half of the cream and process strawberry mixture in a food processor or a blender. I blended it pretty good so it wasn't chunky. You can blend it less if you like strawberry chunks. If you want it even smoother you can strain it to remove the seeds, but I didn't bother. Mix in the rest of the cream.

Chill the mixture for at least one hour (I let it chill overnight) and then freeze according to the instructions for your ice cream maker.

Strawberry Bowl
Balsamic and Strawberries Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lavender Shortbread

I decided to try a second recipe from the dessert section. I've got lots of lavender and saw this recipe for lavender shortbread I wanted to try. I've never made my own shortbread before and I was really surprised at how easy it was. Shortbread is really only 3 ingredients: butter, flour, and sugar. It really doesn't get any easier than that.

The recipe suggested using a "heavy duty electric mixer" in other words, one of those KitchenAid mixers you see everyone using and you probably own one yourself. Well it may surprise you that at the time I didn't own one though I've always considered getting one. I'm sure I could have made it just fine without one but it gave me a reason to go looking for one. :) First I looked on Amazon and made mental notes of the prices and then did a Google search to see what others were selling for. Dang those things are expensive. I then decided to try searching for a refurbished one and one of the first results was from kitchencollection.com I found a stainless steel 5 qt. pro model for only $199 which is quite a bit lower than the regular price plus they had free shipping. Can't beat that so I ordered it and got it last week. This lavender shortbread was the first thing I made with it.

I didn't realize there was so much butter in shortbread but it explains why I like shortbread. The recipe says it's best to use the lavender buds, just before they bloom but most of mine were a little past that stage but I used them anyway. I tried to pick off the best buds and not use any that were starting to get dried out. They puffed up a little bit during the baking so I should have spread them out a little bit further apart. Other than that, I thought they turned out pretty great and will definitely make shortbread again.

Lavender Sugar Lavender Sugar - Ground
KitchenAid at Work Ready to Roll
Baked Shortbread
Lavender Shortbread

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream

So close to the end of the cookbook. This past week I made a selection from the dessert section. I haven't made a lot of ice cream yet this year so decided to pick one of those and went with cinnamon basil. The ice cream recipes I've made in the past did not contain any eggs but I know many recipes do. You only use the yolks of the egg so I saved the egg whites for egg white omelettes for breakfast the next morning.

I think cinnamon basil is rather hard to find so it gave the option of using regular basil and cinnamon sticks. I did a little of both. I actually have a cinnamon basil plant in my herb garden that I got for free from Mott's Nursery in Sultan when I bought a few other herbs. They weren't the healthy of plants so they were just giving them away so I got two of them. One didn't make it but the other one did. It's not big enough to be able to use for this recipe so I also used some regular basil along with the cinnamon sticks. This isn't a flavor I had ever tried before, but I thought it turned out delicious.

Basil Infusion Whisked Egg Yolk
Cinnamon Basil Ice Cream

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Herbed Focaccia

It's starting to get close to the end of my Herbfarm Cookbook Project. I'm a little sad to see it end but also looking forward to making some dishes from another cookbook. Which one I will do next has still not been decided.

So, last week I made some Herbed Focaccia. I enjoy the recipes in the cookbook that give you different options of what herbs to use just in case you don't have or can't find one of the ones they suggest. For this bread, I used thyme, rosemary, and sage, all of which came from my herb garden.

I have a bread maker so it's not the first time I've made bread from scratch though most of the bread I've made has come from a box so do those count as being from scratch? Not sure. If not, I may have only made it once before but it's definitely the first time I've made focaccia. The dough and first rise was all done in the bread maker. The bread maker is only supposed to make up to 2 lb loaves but I think this recipe makes a bit more because the first rise was starting to rise higher than the bread pan which I don't think is supposed to happen. Since I was only making the dough in the pan, I figured it was probably fine.
First Rise

After the first rise, I dumped the dough into a glass bowl with some olive oil and herbs coating the bottom and let it rise for a second time. The bowl was just the right size and the dough just slightly went above the rim.
Second Rise

After the second rise, the dough was dumped onto a baking sheet and spread out into an oval and left to rise for a little while longer before entering the oven to bake.
Forming Loaf

I think it turned out pretty perfect and it was the first thing I baked in my new Kitchen Aid oven though I was afraid to use the convection option because I had never used it before and was scared it might not turn out if I did.
Herbed Focaccia

There's so many things that can be done with focaccia. In just a few days we had it three different ways. The first tasting was with butter to eat with some ravioli. The following day we had veggie sandwiches for lunch. I didn't actually mean for them to be all veggie but I forgot to put the ham on them so they ended up being veggie and they were yummy. They had lettuce and zucchini from my garden, tomatoes, cheese, pickles, mayo, mustard, and ground pepper. I also made some croutons for the first time. I cut the bread into cubes and tossed with a little olive oil and some additional fresh herbs and baked until crispy.
Herbed Focaccia and Ravioli Veggie Sandwich
Herbed Focaccia Croutons

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Cucumber Soup 2 Ways

I got the recipe for this from Gluten-Free Girl's recent blog post. I never thought to make popsicles out of soup before but why not? I call them soupsicles. The soup is meant to be eaten cold anyway.

The recipe is very simple. Basically throw all the ingredients into a blender turn it on and chill in the refrigerator and you're done. It's as easy as that. I managed to forget the soda water when I made the soup so added it in before eating it the next day. I'm not used to using kosher salt so I think I added a little too much cuz it turned out a bit salty but still edible. :D

Here's the simple recipe as posted on Gluten Free Girl's blog. I recommend you check her blog out too though cuz she's got some great pics of the soup and her popsicles.

3 large cucumbers, peeled
1 tbsp fine-chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp fine-chopped fresh mint
2 tsp champagne vinegar
24 ounces plain full-fat yogurt
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1/4 cup soda water
Kosher salt & cracked black pepper

Chop 2 of the cucumbers and throw them into the blender. Remove the seeds from the third cucumber. Throw the seeds into the blender, then fine dice and set aside the rest of the cucumber for garnishing later.

Put the rest of the ingredients into the blender and mix it all up. Season to taste.

Refrigerate the soup for at least 1 hour before eating, and preferably overnight. Top each bowl of soup with a handful of fine-diced fresh cucumber.

Cucumber Soup