Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Oh, The Places You Could Go!

So, Midtown Lunch has a great question on their profiled lunch'er page: Dream job location (anywhere in the world), purely for lunch purposes, and why?

I think I'm probably gonna be their profiled lunch'er this week, and I have to admit, I didn't really answer that question honestly. One: because I have SO MANY places I'd rather be working in than midtown (hey man, I've worked in the Lower East Side and in Soho, and neither of them are as annoying as Midtown) and two: because I wanted to use this question for the blog. I know, shameful bait and switch manipulation, but how the hell else am I gonna get people to read my food ramblings!

Also....my lunch spot is kinda...well...sentimental. So, I feel better saying it on my own turf. 

My immediate family is originally from Jamaica (the island, not the neighborhood). When I was little, around 4 or 5, my dad went back on his own for a year to deal with family crap (which is quite a while to a little kid), so we flew down there twice to go visit him. I think my mother would have liked to go back down there more, but with being in a new country, working full time, and taking care of two teen girls and a precocious little babe...she got by with her few visits.

When we went down, we stayed at the Pegasus Hotel, in Kingston, where my father's family lived. My mother always liked her privacy and space, so staying with my dad's people wasn't an option. She never wanted to show me how much the visits stressed her out, so staying at a hotel made it more like a vacation. She would order us room service for breakfast, but we fended for ourselves for lunch and dinner.

One afternoon, my mom and dad dropped me off with one of my uncles who lived outside of Kingston while they went to run boring adult errands. This particular uncle wasn't my favorite, but his son, oh, how I loved D. He was all legs and smiles and crinkly brown eyes. He talked so fast that his patois made him sound like he had marbles in his mouth. I understood every word. He was rough with our other cousins, but he was always fun and ready to play; the ocean between us made him appreciate my visits more, and he really liked my parents. His jokes and smiles, he saved for me. 

Instead of keeping me in the house to suffer his mother's awful cooking, he swung me upon his study 11 year old back and took me for a walk through town to find some eats. It seemed like we walked forever, and the clapboard houses and the streets gave way to dirt roads and more trees. I remember there being houses, but they were slightly further apart. My tiny tummy was grumbling and he could tell I was getting grumpy, so he started to jog. He would bounce me with every foot fall, and I would laugh so hard! It was a good distraction. Finally, we got to what would be our first stop.

An older gent with white dreads sat on a porch of a tiny house. Kids and teens were gathered around chattering excitedly as he pulled little plastic sandwich bags of colored stuff out of a mini fridge sitting next to him. After the kids would buy their treat, they ripped the corner of the bag with their teeth and proceeded to suck. I knew what ices looked like when I saw them, and I pulled away from D to run and pick one out. I pointed to a bag with dark burgundy ice in it, and D bought two of them.

Sorrel! I knew this taste. My mom made sorrel with white rum (had to be Wray and Nephew!) to drink with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. The ices were made without the alcohol for us kids, but it was still delicious. Sweetened with a little bit of honey and laced with liberal amounts of cinnamon, ginger, and clove, it was super refreshing and needed after the long trek to....wherever the heck we were.

The ices were good....but was that to be our only lunch? I think D could sense my crankiness coming back because as soon as I was finished he put me back on his back and we were off again. We weren't mobile for very long though, because it seemed like we only went a couple of steps before we stopped again.

The house we were standing in front of was robin's egg blue, old, but well taken care of. It was only one level and long, and 3 concrete steps led up to the front door. I wasn't usually in the habit of walking into strangers homes without my mother and father, so I locked my arms around his legs and hid my face. I had no intention of going into this place....even though the most delicious smells were coming out of it.

I felt one of my braids being given a sharp yank, and I looked up. D was laughing at me! And then, he winked, and asked if I was ready to eat. Just that wink was enough to put me at ease, so I took his hand and followed him inside. No knock or anything, just straight through the door and into a very bright kitchen. A friendly looking trio sat at a round table: a man, woman, and a young boy, who looked to be about the same age as D. In front of them, steaming plates piled high with snowy white rice and...CURRY GOAT! My mouth instantly watered. It almost smelled as good as my mom's, which was the standard I held (still do) for pretty much anything that I ate.

I forgot myself and ran to the table, and everyone let out raucous laughter. While D and his friend talked about school, his mother fixed me a plate, taking care not to give me too many bones. The gravy was nice and thick, glistening chunks of gravy studded throughout. It was a little spicy, but just so. There were potatoes too, floury and colored yellow brown because of the curry. My mother usually only put potatoes in curry chicken, so this was a little jarring. The food was delicious and seemed endless upon the plate, and I didn't want to be rude, so I just kept eating and eating.

"Eh, the girl can eat, boy!", the man exclaimed. Well, when it was that good, of course I could!

So, I guess the only way I could have the perfect lunch is if I could travel through time. Back to when I was five, padding through my family's homeland with my favorite cousin on his back and feeling like I could be a kid forever.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Get On the Boat...The Banana Ice Cream Boat

I've been dying to try this recipe on for size since I've gotten my ice cream maker. No eggs, no tempering, no heating, no straining...just a food processor (or a blender, I'm sure) and an ice cream maker. Easy, easy, easy. Not to say I'm lazy or anything, because I've obviously made French and New York style ice creams before, but it's getting warmer and warmer outside...which also means my brick house is getting even HOTTER on the inside. So standing over a stove doesn't sound too appealing. Making this ice cream was quick and didn't require a lot of ingredients. Also, this recipe is easy to tweak, and I love that.

The night before, I took 6 medium bananas and threw them in the freezer (peels on). Just flung em on in there. When I came home from work the next day, I sat them on my kitchen table to thaw out. They look sorta defeated, don't they?

After they thawed out, I split them down the back and plopped the innards into my food processor.

Now, why would I freeze them overnight only to thaw them out again? When you freeze foods, the water in the fruit, veg, or meat, freezes into jagged little ice crystals. When you thaw the food out, the crystals sort of break down the tissues/fibers/whatever and make it soft. This will result in a creamier, smoother texture. You need to embrace the mush.

Um....sorry. I was impatient.

Err...so this came out a bit blurry. I'M ONLY ONE WOMAN FOLKS. AND I WANTED ICE CREAM. So, anyway, I put one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice into the processor and blended the nanners for about 20 seconds. The lemon juice adds a nice tang and keeps the bananas from turning browner. 

Next, you want to add 3/4 cup of light corn syrup and some vanilla. If you have a vanilla bean in your house...well, use one! It's way easier to get vanilla extract where I live, so I used one teaspoon of the stuff. Start blending on low, and then add in your dairy.

The recipe originally called for a 1 1/2 of heavy cream. After looking through some of the recipe comments, I saw a lot of people thought that the high fat content in the cream made for a heavy, cloying mouthfeel. Since the bananas were already so creamy, I decided to lighten things up a bit by only using 1 cup of cream and a 1/2 cup of whole milk. When I follow an online recipe, I always try and read the comments to see what others thought. It's really nice to get some insight from people who've already tried it out, and to see what tweaks or tips they might have used. 

When I was finished blending the mix, I gave it a taste. It was good, but I felt it could use something more. I added more vanilla (about half a teaspoon), some cinnamon for a little warmth and depth, and a pinch of salt. 

I gave it about 3 more pulses, and tasted it again. NOW it was delicious....like a big bowl of banana milkshake. 

I would love to tell you that I let this age overnight....but I didn't. I put it in a plastic container and put it in the freezer so it could chill while I ate my dinner. The colder the mix, the finer the texture of the ice cream. Then, into the churn! As always, follow your ice cream maker's instructions. 

It's a churning inferno! You know...the cold kind of inferno.
I let this go for 25 minutes, and it blossomed into some beautiful stuff, my friends. The taste, sublime. I scraped it back into the plastic container, covered it with saran wrap and its lid, and put it back in the freezer to harden. 

Sigh. This was only after an hour, so it was still VERY soft. But I needed to take a picture, and of course I wanted to try the finished product.

Wow. The texture is really refined and smooth...even fluffy. It was really rich without being weighty, with no fatty aftertaste. This was probably because of the milk! I did have some coconut milk hanging around so maybe I'll try that next time for a touch of Caribbean flavor. I could have added more cinnamon. If I wanted to go even further, I could add some chocolate chips, or maybe RUM.

And don't be fooled by this serving size; these three little scoops were very filling! I could have eaten half of this amount and still would have been happy.

Also, I know people can get weird about using corn syrup in stuff, so I'm wondering if I could use honey, or even agave. I know my pancreas would appreciate that. 

Hmm...Banana Rum Chocolate Caramel Ice Cream anyone? Maybe I should start working on that flavor...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Thrilla From Korilla....BBQ, That Is.

I FINALLY got a chance to snag a burrito from the Korilla BBQ truck a couple Fridays ago, and boy....was it GOOD. Their route is mostly in Midtown, but never in areas that I can easily get to. The one time they stopped close enough to me (I think it was somewhere in the 30s) was in December. The line was ridiculous; way too long for me to stand in the cold for something I'd never had before.

However, I struck paydirt when I found out that they were going to be on 38th and 7th. I was heading in that direction anyway to run errands, so I could easily pick something up and keep going. When I got to the truck, I was greeted by a beautiful sight: a 6-7 person line. It was going fast too, due to the assembly line way they were putting together the food. I knew EXACTLY what I wanted too: a big fat Porkinator Burrito.

The Porkinator Burrito

Pork shoulder, Korilla BBQ sauce, cucumber, kimchi slaw, bacon kimchi fried rice, jack cheese, salsa, and lettuce. And, it was roughly the size of my head. So many flavors all at once! The pork was super tender and juicy, and the rice was covered in delicious tangy kimchi and bacon fat. The vegetable contingent definitely stood up against the bold/spicy flavors of the meat and sauce, and every bite was meaty yet refreshing. I did lose a bit of the cheese though with all of the sauce and meatiness, but I think I'll just ask for extra next time. As I walked down the street, I nommed, and my arm was dripping with sauce and juices; I loved every minute. 

For 8 bucks, this burrito was a huge and satisfying late lunch...that ultimately left me paralyzed with the worst case of the itis I had ever had. So, if you're gonna do this for lunch (and you BETTER), I would suggest that you do so with caution.  Make sure you have a place to nap afterwards.

Friday, June 10, 2011


My pal Books holds these epic BBQs at her home every summer, and I've had the bad luck of having to work or have prior engagements every time she's invited me to one. UNTIL NOW.

In honor of my first Books BBQ, I wanted to make a really special dessert. Something with some luscious berries...and something that could use up the buttermilk that I used to make my friend Eric's birthday cake (Red Velvet with Cream Cheese).

A small digression about buttermilk, if you would indulge me....why the HELL do they only sell it in quarts?? I don't use that much buttermilk when I cook/bake and only a pint would suffice. The shelf life ain't that long either! HIGHWAY ROBBERY, I SAY. Whew, it was good to let that out.

So....Strawberry Buttermilk Balsamic Ice Cream, anyone? Now, originally, I used this recipe. But, I made a few changes.

First, the recipe says to puree the fruit, and put it in cheesecloth and drain for a half hour. Then, squeeze out the excess liquid (if your fruit is watery, it will make your ice cream icy and not creamy). I don't have cheesecloth at my house. I didn't have any clean white t-shirts around either (I've used a hanes/fruit of the loom/whatever brand cheap t-shirt, new of course, in lieu of cheese cloth before, and it worked okay). I also tried using a coffee filter...and that worked abysmally. So, I just used a metal strainer.

Then the recipe says to only heat up the buttermilk, salt, and sugar. A 1/2 cup of buttermilk...is not a lot. I was scared that I might burn the sugar, so I dumped in the heavy cream and heated both milks, plus salt and the sugar. 

The recipe also pointed out that because buttermilk has a low fat content, the ice cream might come out icy regardless of how much wateriness I removed from the fruit. I wasn't trying to make ice milk! I wanted ICE CREAM. What other milk did I have that could give me some insurance? I panicked...I didn't really want to go up to the market for whole milk. The cupboard gave me my answer: evaporated milk!

Evaporated milk has had most of it's water removed, about 60%, so I figured that a little bit couldn't hurt. I decreased the amount of buttermilk by a tablespoon or so and put in of that. After that, it was was french style ice cream making as usual:

Mixing egg yolks :

Tempering them into the hot milk mix (add some of the hot liquid slowly to the eggs, making sure to whisk the entire time, then whisk in the warmed eggs into pot of hot milk):

And letting it thicken to the point where it coats the back of a spoon:

Obviously, I'm not being that detailed, so if you need a step by step breakdown, check out my earlier post about vanilla ice cream here.

I left the milk cool a little bit, and then added fresh lemon juice, vanilla, the strawberry puree, and the balsamic vinegar. I added a little more than the tablespoon asked for because I just love the stuff THAT MUCH.

How pretty does that look?

I made this ice cream on a Thurday, and I churned it late on Friday, which was the perfect amount of time to let this age in the fridge. After a 20 minute freezing session, I put it back into the plastic container, pressed some saran wrap onto it's surface to keep out funkiness, and covered it with its top. Stick in the freezer until it's rock solid.

I served it with Chocolate Buttermilk cake with cream cheese frosting and sliced strawberries....a perfect end to a food and fun-filled BBQ.


This is probably one of the best ice creams I've ever eaten. The texture wasn't icy in the slightest...in fact, it was almost like a frozen mousse. Rich, but light and smooth. The tang of the vinegar and buttermilk magnified the strawberries'  summer flavor...it was a HUGE hit. Try it!