Strawberry Shortcake

While we’re not quite at that time of year here in Maine, it is that time … STRAWBERRIES! I love strawberries just hulled and sliced with a bit of sugar and balsamic vinegar. Though I have made Dark Chocolate Strawberry Ice Cream and Strawberry Limeade, if I had to add strawberries to a recipe, my all time fav would be Strawberry Shortcake.

When Fantastical Food Fight announced April’s spatula down to be Strawberry Shortcake I was delighted! I changed up my Grandmother’s Biscuits a tiny bit to make them sweet, not savory and simply sliced up some strawberries and let them macerate for a while.

Traditionally you would serve these beauties with whipped cream. I have not been able to bear the sight of schlag on my food since … well, let’s just say, Vermont, a loss of power, whipped cream and a pumpkin pie. Gives me the willies just thinking about it!

Hopefully by the time you read this any threat of snow will be gone … I’m pretty sure I heard that rotten weatherman say the dreaded S word this morning!

Biscuits:

  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 stick butter, chilled
  • 2/3 to 3/4 C half and half

Strawberries:

  • 1 quart strawberries
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1 T Balsamic

If you want the ooky whipped cream:

1 1/2 cups whipping cream for topping, or non-dairy whipped topping

NOTE: Try to use the best balsamic possible. Not everything you buy in the supermarket is anything close to traditional balsamic. If you want to treat yourself to something wonderful, try the Traditional Balsamic from Fiore. Their products are really great … stay tuned for an ice cream with their Amarena Cherry Balsamic!

Rinse the berries under cold water; drain well. Hull and slice the berries; place in a bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and balsamic; cover and let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Whip the cream (sweeten with 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar, if desired) until it holds a soft peak. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Preheat the oven to 425.

In a food processor combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and pulse to mix. Cut butter into about 8 pieces and add to the mixture. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, but with few pea-size chunks of butter left in the mixture. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and make a well in the center. With a fork stir in the cream, just until dough is moist.

NOTE: Be very careful not to overwork the dough. The dough doesn’t hold together well at this point, but let the dough stand for a minute, and magic happens.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Fold the dough over on itself (knead) 2 or 3 times, until it is holding together and is less sticky.

Gently pat the dough into a 6 by 12-inch rectangle about 3/4-inch thick and cut into 8 (3-inch) biscuits with a floured round cutter. Transfer to a buttered foil-lined cookie sheet. Brush on a little milk or cream and sprinkle tops with some sugar, if desired. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown.

Split each biscuit horizontally. Top with about 1/3 cup of berry mixture. Replace the tops and top with a tablespoon or so of berries. Serve with whipped cream for topping.

Serves 8.

Maple Ice Cream with Wet Walnuts and Maple Caramel Sauce

While we all believe that finding friends, keeping friends, nurturing those friendships is hard – well, it is, actually. Trust can be hard. Still liking those people once you get beyond the ‘isn’t it great we both like Chinese food’ phase doesn’t always happen. It can happen, though.

There are THOSE friends – knowing you can be out of touch for months, years, and one look, one smile, one hug, one phone call, and time melts away as though the last time you saw or spoke to each other was yesterday. Those long time friendships – like The Dear One and I, knowing each other since the 6th grade – those are the people who know you the best. They knew you before you built those walls, before life tainted you, before you became jaded. Was life perfect, no? Were we perfect, no? But we truly were more innocent and perhaps that’s why those friendships are so easy and lasting.

I am lucky enough as an adult (well, really not, much like Peter Pan I won’t grow up) to have a few friends I would throw myself on the gauntlet for … you know who you are so I’m not naming names. You know, those people you would move heaven and earth for if they asked … and move it twice as much when they don’t ask, that is usually the time they need you the most.

The Dear One, who admittedly is reclusive, has a few of these friends. Long time – 30 year friendships. Friends who I am very grateful for, as they have taken me into their hearts as though we have known each other for that long as well. I am grateful for each and every one of them (there could be a few more gals in the mix, but hey, they’re all great!) Sadly, this week, we lost one of those dear, special men. Charlie and The Dear One bonded instantly – much time on islands, playing with birds, counting stars, drinking, talking about life, women, family, heartache, future. The Dear One would and has many times, dropped whatever he was doing for Charlie – and Charlie the same in return. It didn’t matter when the last time they saw each other was – when they were in each other’s presence, no time had gone by. Charlie’s new bride, Mona, and I became friends instantly. Charlie and Mona were married a month before The Dear One and I – little did we know, he was ill even then – we celebrated at each other’s weddings.

Charlie’s passing has made us realize how tender life is, how precarious, how precious. How petty bullshit and slights that no one can even remember need to be put aside, and why friendship and love needs to stand in the foreground, shining like a beacon. A beacon that guides you to those who will always love you, always welcome you, always be there to catch you when you fall, always look past your perceived inadequacies. A beacon that rings out, ‘I am your safe harbor, always’. We all really need that, don’t we?

We have celebrated Charlie’s life with friends – more than once and will continue to do so … A LOT (a lot of whiskey is usually involved).

One of these celebrations involved dinner with two dear friends that we have spent far too little time with of late. Why? Who knows. Should it be? No. Sometimes being the first person to blink is really hard. Then no one blinks and you sit around missing that person(s) and cannot figure out how to get it back. Sometimes time just goes by and that just becomes a norm – not one anyone likes or wants but just is.

Charlie’s passing put us in and on the same path again. It was wonderful. Giggling. Stories. Great food. Great friends. Hopefully we will not wait so long to do it again. I have missed them BIGLY. Thank you, Charlie.

You are reading this wondering what does this have to do with Maple Ice Cream with Wet Walnuts and Caramel swirl? Well, I’ll tell ya … I needed to bring something to this wonderful dinner and I’ve been jonesing to make this ice cream. So I did and I did – and it was FAB-ulous!

The Dear One had suggested maple ice cream, remembering trips for ice cream on Block Island, going so late in the day or evening that the only thing left was maple ice cream. I would always walk away instead of having maple ice cream. It always looked so … TAN!

But this would be made with OUR own maple syrup, and what if I make some wet walnuts with maple syrup, and – WAIT! – What if I add a caramel swirl – OOOOHHH! A maple caramel swirl!

The ice cream is delicious. The wet walnuts are gooey (but not too gooey) and salty. The maple caramel swirl? Well, it’s good, but I need to come up with a different way. I substituted the maple syrup for the water and it is not soft and ribbon-y, but tough and tooth breaking. Still ‘can’t eat enough’ delicious!

 

  • 1 1/2 C whole milk
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 C dark maple syrup
  • 1/4 t coarse salt
  • 1/4 t vanilla extract
  • Wet Walnuts (recipe follows)
  • Maple Caramel Swirl (recipe follows)

Warm milk and sugar in medium saucepan.

Pour cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then pour the warmed egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium-low heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir. Stir until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.

Pour the custard through the strainer and into the cream to cool.

Add the maple syrup, salt, and vanilla, and stir over ice bath until cool. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator – at least 3 hours.

Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add the Wet Walnuts.

Wet Walnuts

  • 1/2 C, plus 1 tablespoon dark maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 C walnuts, toasted and very coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 t coarse salt

Heat the maple syrup in a small skillet or saucepan until it just begins to come to a full boil.

Stir in the walnuts and salt, and cook until the liquid comes to a full boil once more. Stir the nuts for 10 seconds, then remove them from the heat and let cool completely before using. The nuts will still be wet and sticky when cooled.

NOTE: This will look like WAAAAY too many to put in the ice cream, but after you have nibbled a few here and there – wait, no, actually it’s the perfect amount!

Maple Caramel Swirl

  • 6 T Sugar
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 2 T Maple Syrup

In a clean, dry, nonstick skillet, sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over medium heat. When the sugar begins to melt and lightly color, sprinkle in 2 more tablespoons and start swirling pan to help evenly distribute sugar. Add the final 2 tablespoons and cook, swirling pan until all the sugar has melted. Let cook, swirling occasionally, until the sugar syrup caramelizes and turns dark brown. Pour in the heavy cream and 2 tablespoons maple syrup (stand back; it may splatter).

Simmer, stirring with a heatproof rubber spatula until smooth. Cool completely.

NOTE: When I made this caramel swirl in my Rhubarb Ice Cream with Caramel Swirl, the 2 tablespoons of maple syrup was 2 tablespoons of water. The water kept this swirl from becoming too hard – you know, too much sugar (as if!). The maple doesn’t lend much here flavor-wise, so next time it’s back to the 2 tablespoons of water and keeping my fillings.

Now, to put it together –

Spoon about 1/3 of the caramel mixture into whatever container you are using to freeze the ice cream in in the freezer. Then 1/3 of the ice cream mixture and repeat, ending with the ice cream. Cover and put in freezer until solid. Mine took overnight.

Meat and Potato Skillet Gratin #Sunday Supper

This may be one of my favorite Sunday Suppers. I love nearly everything with ground beef in it. I have been dying to try this recipe, so I was thrilled when Em from Sunday Suppers posted this week’s Dinner Ideas with Ground Beef.

Best thing about this dish? It’s a one pan dish. There’s a lot of steps and prep, and it takes a long time to cook, but once you get going it’s a snap – unless you’re like me and start fixing dinner too late and end up eating at 8:00.

It’s hearty, but not heavy. I didn’t think a pound of ground beef was enough. Seemed the potato to filling ratio wasn’t quite enough.

Make sure you use a big enough pot to reduce the heavy cream or else you’ll end up like me – having your way to nice Dear One scrubbing the stove top!

This gratin reheats well, so you can make it ahead and reheat it uncovered in a 350-degree oven.

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 2 thyme branches
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • 1 pound ground lean beef
  • 3/4 t kosher salt, more as needed
  • Black pepper, as needed
  • 1 C thinly sliced onion
  • 3 ounces baby spinach (3 packed cups)
  • 2 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound russet potatoes
  • 4 ounces Gruyère, grated (1 cup)

Crush and peel 2 garlic cloves. In a small pot over medium heat, combine cream, the crushed garlic, the thyme and 1/2 tablespoon sage. Bring to a simmer; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 30 minutes. Strain and cool.

While cream cools, heat oil in an ovenproof 10-inch skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add half the beef and brown well, crumbling with a fork as it cooks. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper; transfer meat to a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining meat, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper.

Add onion to pan drippings (drizzle with oil if pan seems dry). Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Peel and chop remaining 2 garlic cloves; add to pan with remaining sage. Return meat to skillet.

Toss in spinach, a handful at a time, until wilted. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, the Worcestershire and pepper to taste.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.

Layer half the potato slices over meat, with slices overlapping one another. Season lightly with salt and pepper; top with half the cheese. Repeat with remaining potatoes and cheese. Spoon reduced cream evenly over top.

Cover pan tightly with foil and bake until vegetables are very tender, 60 to 75 minutes. Uncover and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

4 to 6 servings

Dinner Ideas Using Ground Beef

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