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Archive for Desserts

FOOD FUN: Rubik’s Cube Fruit & Cheese

For a fun dessert, salad course or snack, make an edible Rubik’s Cube.

Erno Rubik, born July 13, 1944, is a Hungarian architect and inventor. His immortality lies in his 1974 invention, the Rubik’s Cube, just one of the mechanical puzzles he’s created.

Crafty cooks have reinterpreted the Rubik’s Cube with cubes of cake, cheese, fruit and vegetables.
 
RUBIK’S CUBE DESSERT TIPS

A Rubik’s Cube of fruit and cheese is a summery dessert (photos 1 and 4).

  • Start by choosing two fruits and a cheese, or three fruits. With the latter, you can still serve cheese, on a skewer on the side.
  • You need fruits that are firm and won’t brown, and semi-hard cheeses.
  • Aim for different colors (our favorite combination is watermelon, cantaloupe and good feta—not overly salty).
  • If you use kiwi, which is softer, you can peel and firm them in the freezer before slicing. It can help to slightly freeze feta, too.
  • We put out all the garnishes and sauces and let guests dress their own cubes.
  •  
    While you can make a single large cube to share, it will quickly be disasembled to serve. It’s much nicer to keep the visual for a longer time by serving individual ones with one-inch cubes.

    The key to a good-looking cube is having the patience to cut every ingredient the same size. Unless you’re a pro with a knife, you might want to get a square cookie/vegetable cutter.

    RECIPE: RUBIK’S FRUIT & CHEESE CUBE

    Ingredients

  • Melon: cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Exotics: dragonfruit, jicama
  • Cheese: cheddar, feta, jack
  • Optional garnishes: chili flakes, chopped cilantro or parsley, chopped pistachios, Tajin seasoning (see below), watercress sprigs
  • Optional sauces: basil- or rosemary-infused olive oil, fruit vinaigrette (honey-lime or honey-orange juice with olive oil), fruit or vanilla yogurt sauce (thin the yogurt with kefir)/li>
     
    Plus
  • Sharp chef’s knife
  • Ruler
  • One-inch-square cutter
  • Patience and precision
  •    

    Watermelon Rubik's Cube

    Vegetable Rubik's Cube

    Rubik's Cube Cake

    [1] Fruit & Cheese Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs). [2] Vegetable Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy VladPiskunov.LiveJournal.com). [3] Rubik’s cake from Cookies, Cupcakes And Cardio.

     

    Fruit Cube

    [4] An all-fruit Rubik’s Cube (photo courtesy Laurentiu Iordache | 500px.com).

     

    Preparation

    1. CHOOSE the fruit and cheese combination.

    2. USE a cleaned ruler to measure; then cut the fruit and cheese into one-inch-high slabs. Next, cut the slabs into one-inch cubes, ideally with a one-inch-square cutter. Reserve the scraps for another purpose (salads, salsas, smoothies for fruit; omelets, salads, salsas for cheeses, meats and vegetables).

    3. ASSEMBLE the cube(s) on the serving plate(s). First create the base: four sides with three cubes on each side. Build the second and third layers, alternating so that no adjacent cubes are the same.

    4. GARNISH as desired. We set out different garnishes and sauces and let guests dress their own cubes.

    If you want to watch the process, check out this YouTube video. You don’t need to use sugar syrup to bind the cubes together, as is done in the video recipe.
     
    MORE RUBIK’S CUBE RECIPES

    Veggie: For a first course, here’s an all-vegetable Rubik’s cube salad made with beets, carrots, cucumbers and potatoes (photo 2 above). You can substitute cubed ham, salami or turkey for one of the veggies.

    Cake: Here’s how to make the Rubik’s Cube Cake in photo 3.

     
    WHAT IS TAJIN SEASONING?

    Made by Tajin Products, a Mexican company, this mildly spicy seasoning combines chili, lime and salt. It is delicious on fruits: citrus, cucumber, melon, and tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.).

    A Mexican staple, you can find it in the Mexican foods aisle in supermarkets, in Latin American food stores, and online.

    It’s a versatile seasoning. You can use it on:

  • Cooked and raw fruit and vegetables
  • Fries, mozzarella sticks
  • Glass rimmer for cocktails or juice drinks
  • Sorbet and ice pops
  • Popcorn, eggs, etc.
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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Choctál’s Singe Origin Ice Cream

    When we first reviewed Choctál ice cream in 2007, it was a unique experience. It still is.

    The California company pioneered single origin ice cream in the two most popular flavors, chocolate and vanilla. The line—four single origin chocolate ice creams and four single origin vanillas—demonstrate how the flavor varies, based on the origin of the cacao and vanilla beans.

    This means you can have one heck of an ice cream tasting for National Ice Cream Month (July).

    It’s a memorable experience, especially for people who enjoy discerning the different flavor profiles between one origin and another in chocolate bars, olive oils, sea salts, wine grapes and so forth. The flavors of these agricultural products and others are greatly affected by their growing environment (terroir).

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE

    In the beginning—some 4,000 years ago—there was ice cream. Here’s the history of ice cream.

    Fast-forward ahead a few thousand years—beyond the labor-intensive ice cream made by servants of the wealthy in pre-electricity Renaissance days, beyond the invention of the ice cream churn in 1851, beyond the soda fountains at neighborhood drug scores, which engendered the ice cream soda along with scooped ice cream to eat at the fountain or to take home.

    Along with home refrigerators, supermarket brands arrived in the 1950s. Many used cheaper ingredients and whipped more air into then ice cream (known as overrun) to keep gallon prices low. This engendered a USDA classification system. “Economy,” “regular” and “premium” ice creams were defined by butterfat content and overrun.

    Häagen-Daz arrived in the 1970s with even higher butterfat and lower overrun than premium ice cream, inaugurating the superpremium category. With butterfat greater than 14% (some brands have 18% and more), overrun as low as 20% and complex flavors in addition to the basic ones), there’s no rung higher to go on the classification scale—by government standards, at least.

    Some companies—including Choctál—have labeled their ice cream “ultrapremium,” but this is marketing rather than an official government standard.

    And now, there’s single origin ice cream.

    WHAT IS “SINGLE-ORIGIN?”

    The term is not currently regulated in the U.S., but single origin can refer either to a single region or at the micro level, to a single farm or estate within that region.

    It is based on the agricultural concept of terroir (tur-WAH), a French term that is the basis for its the A.O.C. system (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or controlled designation of origin), created in the 1950s.

    Choctal Single Origin Chocolate Ice Cream

    Choctal Single Origin Ice Cream

    Choctal Single Origin Vanilla Ice Cream

    [1] A pint of Kalimantan chocolate, with beans from Borneo. [2] The four origins of chocolate and vanilla may look the same, but the tastes are noticeably different. [3] A pint of vanilla made with beans from Madagascar, the classic raised to the heights by Choctál (photos courtesy Choctál).

    These environmental characteristics gives agricultural products their character. A.O.C. and related terms like Italy’s P.D.O. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or Protected Designation of Origin.) recognize that different plots of land produce different flavors from the same rootstock. In the 1990s, the European Union created a new system to provide a uniform labeling protocol: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).What IS “TERROIR?”Terroir, pronounced tur-WAH is a French agricultural term that is the basis of the French A.O.C. (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) system. It refers to the unique components of the place (environment) where an agricultural product is grown.

    Each specific habitat (plot of land) has unique set of environmental factors that affect a crop’s qualities, down to nuances of aroma, flavor and texture. They include the climate and microclimate, weather (the season’s growing conditions), elevation height and slant of the land), proximity to a body of water, slant of the land, soil type and amount of direct sunlight.

    This means that the same rootstock that is grown in different locations produces different flavors.

    Not only will the product taste and smell somewhat different (Sauvignon Blanc can have grass or grapefruit aroma and flavor notes—or neither—depending on their terroir), but intermediate products also create a difference.

    For example, grass with more clover, wild herbs, and so forth produces a delicate difference in an animal’s milk, and thus in artisan cheese.

    Note that processing will also affect the flavor. Neighboring wine makers, for example, can use different techniques to create wines that highlight their personal flavor preferences.

     

    Choctal Single Origin Ice Cream

    Choctal Single Origin Ice Cream Cones

    Choctàl pints and cones (photos courtesy Choctàl).

    THE CHOCTÀL SINGLE ORIGIN ICE CREAMS

    Choctàl Single Origin Chocolate Ice Cream

    • Costa Rican cacao is distinguished by sweet notes of coffee and a hint of butterscotch.
    • Ghana cacao, from the coast of West Africa, has a fudge, milk chocolate character.
    • Kalimantan cacao, from the island of Borneo in the South China Sea, produces intense cacao beans with a slight hint of caramel.
    • Dominican cacao, from the Dominican Republic on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, has a natural dark chocolate flavor profile with notes of clove and nutmeg.

    Choctàl Single Origin Vanilla Ice Cream

    • Indonesian vanilla is full-bodied, blending the creamy sweetness of classic bourbon (Madagascan) vanilla with a woody floral note.
    • Madagascar vanilla, from the island off the eastern coast of Africa, has been the world standard in vanilla for centuries, smooth and buttery. In the hands of Choctal, it may be the best vanilla ice cream you’ll ever taste.
    • Mexican vanilla has a natural touch of cinnamon. Choctàl adds more cinnamon. It obscures the single origin flavor, but makes a delicious cinnamon-vanilla ice cream.
    • Papua New Guinea vanilla has fruity, floral notes of cherry that linger on the palate during a long, lush finish.

    The line is certified kosher by OU.

    While the main experience is to taste and compared the different origins to each other, they are also splendid in everything from à la mode to floats.

    WHERE TO FIND CHOCTÁL ICE CREAMHere’s a store locator to find the nearest pint of Choctàl.You can also order pints and gift cards on the Choctàl website.

     

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Meet The Wineshakes~Wine Milkshakes

    July 17th is National Ice Cream Day.

    Of course, it’s easy to head to the freezer, store or scoop shop to celebrate. But we thought you might like something special.

    Like a wineshake, a wine milkshake. Wine + ice cream = wineshake.

    Does it sound unusual? Well: The first printed reference to a milkshake dates to 1885, and referred to an alcoholic drink, a “sturdy, healthful eggnog type of drink, with eggs, whiskey, etc., served as a tonic as well as a treat.”

    By 1900, the whiskey and eggs were gone, and the term “milkshake” referred to “wholesome drinks made with chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla syrups.”

    Yet, the milkshake still contained no ice cream until 1922. Here’s more history of the milkshake.
     
    THE DAWN OF THE WINESHAKE

    The folks at California-based Winc winery have whipped up delicious ice cream and wine milkshake recipes, combining their wines with Van Leeuwen ice cream. But you can use what you have on hand or other substitutes.

    Winc has an online store where you can purchase the wines and send gift cards. We want them just to display the names and label designs: a work of art in wine bottles, so to speak. The wines are well-priced, so this is art we can afford!

    RECIPE #1: COOKIES & CREAM WINESHAKE

    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup cookies and cream ice cream
  • 2 ounces Alchymist Noir Red Blend (Syrah, Barbera and Valdiguié) or other “big red”
  • Giant drizzle chocolate syrup
  • Garnish: more chocolate syrup for drizzling
  • Garnish: Oreo cookies, mix of crushed and whole
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the ice cream, wine, and big drizzle of chocolate syrup until you reach the desired consistency of your shake. We mixed ours in the blender, but you can use an immersion blender, cocktail shaker or whatever you have at hand.

    2. POUR the shake into a glass. Top with more chocolate syrup and add the Oreos. Drizzle the top with more chocolate syrup and top with whipped cream as desired.

       

    Cookies & Cream Wine Shake

    Chocolate Wine Shake

    Strawberry Rose Wine Shake

    Vanilla Sparkling Wine Shake

    Shake it shake it baby: Wineshakes from Winc winery (photos courtesy Winc).

     

    RECIPE #2: DARK CHOCOLATE PINOT NOIR WINESHAKE

    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate ice cream
  • 2 ounces Porter & Plot Pinot Noir or other Pinot
  • Chocolate syrup, for drizzling
  • Garnish: chocolate chips, fresh cherries with stems
  •  
    Preparation

    2. BLEND the ice cream and wine until you reach your desired consistency.

    2. POUR into a glass, drizzle with chocolate syrup and top with chocolate chips, then the cherries.

     

    Alchymist Pinot Noir

    Au-Dela Dolcetto

    [1] Winc’s Alchymist Noir Red Blend. [2] Au-Delà Sparkling Dolcetto*, a dry sparkling red wine. Au-delà means “beyond” in French (photos courtesy Winc).

     

    RECIPE #3: STRAWBERRY ROSE SHAKÉ

    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup strawberry ice cream
  • 2 ounces Ruza White Zinfandel or other White Zin
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Garnish: more strawberries, for garnish
  • Optional: whipped cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the ice cream, wine, and a handful of strawberries to taste, until you reach the desired berry flavor and shake consistency.

    2. POUR into a glass. Top with whipped cream and garnish with more strawberries.
     
    RECIPE #4: VANILLA SPARKLING SHAKE

    Ingredients Per Shake

  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 2 ounces Au-Delà Sparkling Dolcetto* or other sparkling red wine
  • Fresh mixed berries
  • Garnish: whipped cream, more berries
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the ice cream, wine, a big handful berries to taste, until you reach desired berry flavor and shake consistency.

    2. POUR into glass. Top with whipped cream, and garnish with more mixed berries.

     
    FLOAT, MALTED MILK, MILKSHAKE: THE DIFFERENCE

  • A float is a carbonated soft drink—cola, root beer, etc.—with a scoop of ice cream “floating” in it.
  • A milkshake blends together ice cream, milk and flavoring.
  • A malted milk, malt for short, is a milkshake with added malted milk powder†.
  •  
    MORE FOOD HOLIDAYS

    National Vanilla Milkshake Day is June 20th; National Chocolate Milkshake Day is September 12th.

    See all the food holidays.
     
    ALSO SEE FROSÉ: ROSÉ & SORBET
     
    __________________

    *Dolcetto is a red wine grape from the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. It is now planted in Australia and the U.S. as well. Other sparkling red wines include Brachetto d’Acqui, Lambrusco and Sparkling Shiraz, among others.

    †Malted milk is a powdered gruel made from a mixture of malted barley, wheat flour, and evaporated whole milk. It was originally developed by a pharmacist, James Horlick, as a nutritional supplement for infants. Soon enough, parents discovered how tasty it was…and the rest is history.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Frosé, A Rosé Cocktail

    We were delighted with this summer refreshment idea from Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse.

    The Frosé combines Davio’s house-made sorbet with rosé wine.

    It’s a refreshing winetail, a mixed drink made with wine instead of spirits (also see beertail.)

    You can turn a Frosé into dessert by adding more fruit and less wine. You also can mix different flavors of sorbet.

    Don’t use a bone-dry rosé, but have the wine store clerk guide you to something with a hint of sweetness*. It will go better with the sorbet and fruit. We used a sparkling rosé and loved it.

    Use whatever glassware you have on hand, from tumblers to wine goblets.
     
    RECIPE: DAVIO’S FROSÉ

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • Sorbet flavor of choice
  • 6 ounces rosé or sparkling rosé, chilled
  • Fresh fruit of choice, preferably chilled
  • Optional garnish: rosemary sprig, mint sprig, citrus slice, etc.
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SCOOP the sorbet into a glass, add the fruit and then top with the rosé.

    2. GARNISH and serve with a spoon and a straw.
     
    WHAT IS ROSÉ WINE?

    Also referred to as blush wine, rosé can be made as a still, semi-still or sparkling wine.

    Still rosé wines can be made from almost any red grape varietal, or from a blend of varietals. Sparkling rosé wines, including rosé Champagne, are exceptions because they also can be made with white grapes.

    The wines get their rosy color from contact with the red grape skins. Depending on the grape, terroir and winemaking techniques, the color can range from the palest pink to deep ruby red to hues of orange or violet.

     

    Rose Cocktail

    Sorbet Cocktail Recipe

    [1] For a drink, add the sorbet and fruit to the glass and top with rosé. Photo courtesy Peabody Johansen, Culinary Concoctions By Peabody. [2] For dessert, use more fruit and less rosé.

     
    Styles range from bone dry Provençal rosé to sweet White Zinfandel and other blush wines from California. Note that rosé wines are not made to age, and should be drunk at 1-3 years old.

    The exception is top-quality rosé Champagne. A 15-year-old Dom Perignon Rosé, for example, is a joy.
     
    WHAT IS TERROIR?

    The same rootstock that is grown in different locations produces different flavors; for example, depending on where it is grown, Sauvignon Blanc can have grassy or grapefruit notes—or neither.

    Terroir, pronounced tur-WAH, is a French agricultural term referring to the unique set of environmental factors in a specific habitat that affect a crop’s qualities. It includes climate, elevation, proximity to a body of water, slant of the land, soil type and amount of sun.

    These environmental characteristics gives the wine its character. Terroir is the basis of the French A.O.C. (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) system.
     
    ALSO SEE WINESHAKES: WINE MILKSHAKES
     
    __________________
    *We first made the drink with a sparkling rosé that was as sweet as a soft drink or sweet iced tea. It was too sweet for us.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Fruit Compote

    Berry Compote

    Apple Compote

    Compote Dish

    Top: Mixed berry compote atop ice cream (photo courtesy Good Eggs). Center: Compote as the main event, topped with mascarpone (photo courtesy Recipes101.com). Bottom: A modern variation of the fancy stemmed compote dishes of centuries past (photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma).

     

    With summer fruits proliferating, here’s an alternative to berry, cherry or peach pie: compote. It’s like eating homemade pie filling—hold the crust.

    You can also use it as pancake or oatmeal topping; with plain yogurt, cottage cheese or ricotta; as a toast spread, on cheesecake or angel cake, and so on.
     
    WHAT’S A COMPOTE?

    Compote is a cooked fruit dish that was very popular in medieval European. It faded out of style in the mid-20th century. People of means served it from special stemmed compote dishes.

    A compote is a mix of fruits cooked in a syrup. In fact, the name derives from the Latin compositus, mixture. It is also referred to as poached or stewed fruit.

    Compote denotes a mixed fruit recipe, but if you have a bumper crop of one particular fruit, you can bend the rules. One of our favorite combinations is blueberries with peaches and/or nectarines and cherries.
     
    RECIPE: SUMMER RUIT COMPOTE

    This recipe takes just 20 minutes on the stove top and is equally delicious warm or chilled. Enjoy it plain or garnished with:

  • Cream: heavy cream, ice cream, whipped cream
  • Cheese: mascarpone or ricotta or cannoli cream (recipe below)
  • A fresh strawberry or stemmed cherry
  • Dried fruit: apple or other fruit chip, whole apricot or prune
  • A wafer cookieor gaufrette
  •  
    Ingredients For 4 Cups

  • 4 pints fruit, washed and patted dry, non-berry fruit cut into bite-size pieces
  • ¼ to ½ cup sugar to taste (less is better and lets the fruit flavor shine through)
  • 1 lemon or small orange, zested
  • ½ cup water
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon spice—allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger or a combination
  • Optional: 1/4 to 1/2 cup pecan or walnut halves
  • Garnish of choice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the fruit, sugar, zest, water and optional nuts and spices in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The fruit should be soft but not mushy.

    2. COOL slightly and serve, or refrigerate. Compote will keep in the fridge for a week, in a sealed container.
     
    3. TO SERVE: Beyond a conventional dessert bowl, you can show off your compote in a glass dish, a goblet, or a pretty porcelain tea cup. In earlier times, special compote dishes were used.
     
    Variation: Add a tablespoon or two or orange juice along with the water.

     
    RECIPE: CANNOLI CREAM AS A TOPPING

    You can slightly sweeten plain ricotta to garnish a compote (spice optional), or can make a smooth cannoli cream with more layers of flavor. This recipe has been modified to use as a dessert topping instead of cannoli filling.

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lemon or small orange, zested
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK the ricotta until smooth in a medium bowl. Add the powdered sugar, cinnamon and allspice and mix to thoroughly combine.

    2. BEAT the heavy cream in a separate bowl until almost stiff. Gently fold it into the ricotta mixture, using a rubber spatula. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

    3. STIR in the lemon zest, or sprinkle it on the top of the compote.

     
      

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