And though I sound like a broken record talking about trying to cook all of the summer things before it stops being summer (an unlikely prospect here in L.A.), I do have to make some time for corn here. I already told you about my skillet chicken breasts with peppers, corn, and scallions, and that’s basically how I’ve been doing corn all summer: cut straight off the cob (see that post for the technique involving a bowl inside a bowl) and cooking it in a skillet with aromatics and some kind of fat (butter, olive oil, bacon fat, or in that post, chicken fat).
Romeo asked, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”
The same can be said of ice cream flavors. If we didn’t call Cookies & Cream “Cookies & Cream,” would it still taste like Cookies & Cream? Ice cream is an arena where names seem to matter. We love a Jeni’s flavor called “Brambleberry Crisp” but would we love it as much if she had called it “Soggy Blackberry Mixture with Oats?” I don’t think so. Which is why, for this post, about ice cream made with the ripest, end-of-summer peaches, I’m sticking to the simple and direct: this is a post about Peach Ice Cream, plain and simple.
Okay, we have a week left of summer and I’m milking it for everything it’s worth. Right now I have peaches ripening in my fruit bowl and I’m going to make peach ice cream, probably the last ice cream I’ll make for a while. It’s not that summer truly ends here in L.A. — if anything it keeps going and going and going — but at some point, as a seasonally-focused home cook, you’ve gotta embrace the calendar. So right now it’s tomato salads galore; next week it’ll be pumpkin bread.
And a great transitional dish? Caponata. “What’s caponata?” you ask. Think ratatouille with the dial turned up to eleven. Instead of a bunch of stewed summer vegetables, you have deeply browned eggplant, earthy celery, briny capers, and then red wine vinegar, sugar (yes, there’s sugar), and white wine. It’s sort of like an eggplant pickle but also an eggplant salad and also an eggplant condiment.
If I teach you anything, anything at all, during our time together let it be how to turn one meal into three. Case in point: this chicken dinner I made on Wednesday night, which turned into Thursday’s lunch, and then turned into Thursday night’s pasta. How did I get all of that out of one little bird? Allow me to astound you!
Earlier this summer, in Sun Valley, Idaho, I burned two racks of ribs. I’d made a dry rub with lots of brown sugar and cayenne pepper, sprinkled it all over the ribs, wrapped them in aluminum foil, and placed them in the oven for low-and-slow cooking. This, however, was an unfamiliar oven in an unfamiliar kitchen (we were staying with our friends Harry and Cris) and when the ribs came out, hours later, they bore a closer resemblance to King Tutankhamun than anything you’d actually want to eat.
Thankfully, there was coleslaw. Not just any coleslaw: my coleslaw. What can I say? I’m something of a coleslaw whisperer. It’s something that I ate often, growing up. My mom would buy cartons of coleslaw from the deli, along with macaroni salad (remember macaroni salad?) and she’d keep them both in the refrigerator next to a pitcher of Crystal Light lemonade.
Every family has its own way with potatoes. Growing up, my mom would buy frozen potato latkes, heat them up in the toaster, and serve them with Mott’s apple sauce (you can hear all about it on my mom’s episode of Lunch Therapy). Most families, I’d venture, are mashed potato families. Some do it from a box, others from scratch.
Here at Chez Amateur Gourmet, we’re a roasted potato family. Specficially: pee-wee potatoes roasted with garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and sometimes with spices thrown in (smoked paprika, cumin seeds, crushed coriander seeds).
Here’s some free life advice: if you ever see two vanilla beans on sale for $8, buy them.
That’s literally what happened to me last week at Cookbook in Echo Park. They’re selling vanilla beans in little packets of two for eight bucks. Here’s the thing: if you’ve never worked with a vanilla bean before, you should treat yourself, at least once, to the experience… especially if you like vanilla. A fresh vanilla bean is intensely fragrant in the most natural way — the total opposite of a vanilla-scented candle — and scraping the little black seeds out with a sharp knife is the closest many of us will ever get to buying caviar.
One of the cruelest things food writers have asked innocent home cooks to do is to make pesto in a mortar and pestle. Yes, I know, Italian grandmothers do this instead of pilates; yes, I know, it yields a texture that’s so silky you want to rub it all over your body and wear it as a dress. I get that. But for most people, the idea of making pesto in a mortar and pestle just makes them not want to make pesto. And that’s a shame! Because pesto is one of the most terrific things you can make at home, especially if you make in the summer.