Watermelon Slush

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The summer may be winding to a close, but there is still time to enjoy a fresh, cool drink like this. All you need is a blender and some watermelon, ice, and honey. It’s a delicious and different way to enjoy one of the best tastes of summer.

Makes 2 servings

8 ice cubes
2 cups seedless watermelon cubes
Honey or agave syrup

Put the ice cubes in the blender and turn it on high to get the ice thoroughly crushed. Add the watermelon and honey or syrup to taste, then blend well. Serve immediately.20150815_130644

Strawberries & Cream Ice Cream

Strawberries Cream Ice CreamStrawberry ice cream was my favorite kind for a long time growing up, and it was the first kind I ever made in our ice cream maker. The recipe I used came from the user’s manual and tasted fantastic. I have made it several times since then. But this is not that recipe.

This one came from The Sunday Times in London back in 2004. It was actually a recipe from the restaurant Inn the Park and was featured alongside others from their menu. I clipped them all because they all looked delicious, but I never got around to making them.

When I saw the recipe in my cookbook the other day, I decided I would finally test it to see which one I liked best. The verdict: They are definitely similar, both creamy and full of the flavor of fresh fruit, but this one has the edge. The ice cream turns out pink all over (rather than white with pink here and there) and strawberry bits are in every bite. And this one is even creamier.

Served in a white bowl, it looked delectable — and was very quickly gobbled down.

Some notes:
– The amounts may seem small, but don’t be tempted to double them. The mixture will fill the ice cream maker as is.
– The strange weight amounts reflect the conversion from metric.
Check out this recipe for a way to use up the leftover egg whites.
– Remember to freeze the bowl of the ice cream maker ahead of time!

5 1/2 oz. fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
6 1/4 oz. sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
5 egg yolks
13 fl. oz. heavy cream

In a small pot, place the strawberries and about a third of the sugar. Cook over medium low heat until strawberries are soft. Remove from heat and puree, then set aside.

In a saucepan, gently heat the milk and half the remaining sugar. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and the rest of the sugar in a bowl until pale yellow. Pour the egg mixture into the milk on the stove and cook over a gentle heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a spoon.

Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside. You will use this to quickly cool the custard mixture.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Pour into a medium bowl and then set the bowl in the ice water until cool. Churn in the ice cream maker until very thick, then transfer into a plastic container and place in the freezer.

Butter Caramel Cereal Clusters

cereal clustersI had lots of sweetened condensed milk in the pantry ever since I stocked up before the holidays. I wanted to use it up to clear some space, but I was surprised that the only recipes I had for sweetened condensed milk were for key lime pie and some custard tarts.

So I poked around online and mainly found recipes for frostings and little else. I found one recipe for a lemon meringue pie, but I have a recipe for that already that I’m quite happy with, and it doesn’t call for sweetened condensed milk. I also tried a butter cookie recipe but it turned out dry and not so tasty (my colleagues, who finished the batch, disagreed — but I know I can do better!).

Finally I found this recipe for cereal clusters, apparently popular in Latin America, and it was delicious. Easy to make, too — all you need is a pot on the stove, and there’s no baking involved. And it’s a good way to use leftover sweetened condensed milk because you can easily scale the recipe according to how much you have.

1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. (2 oz.) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
7 cups corn flakes

Line 2 baking sheets with well buttered foil or parchment paper. Place corn flakes in a large bowl and set aside. Have a bowl of water ready for your fingers later.

In a pot over medium heat, melt the sugar until it becomes deep amber and just begins to smoke. Add butter and salt and stir with wooden spoon until completely incorporated. Remove from heat. While constantly stirring, add sweetened condensed milk and stir until completely incorporated.

Quickly pour it over the cereal and mix gently until all flakes look covered. Using a soup spoon, scoop mixture out into approximately 2 Tbsp.-sized balls. Wet or butter your fingers and lightly press the clusters together, then place them on the foil or parchment to let cool.

Allow the clusters to set at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

(I adapted this recipe from seriouseats.com.)

S’mores Bars II

20150303_144157[1]Back in 2011, I published a recipe for S’mores Bars using Golden Grahams cereal. It’s a no-bake recipe that was very popular. I recently came across this s’mores bars recipe in my binder from about 15 years ago. Like the other one, this recipe uses marshmallows and chocolate — but instead of using the cereal as a shortcut, it has a baked graham cracker crust. You add melted chocolate and marshmallows, then briefly brown them in the oven.

The two recipes end up having the same s’mores taste and are equally scrumptious. I’m not sure I have a favorite, so which one I make will probably depend on how much time I have (baking or no baking?) and what kind of dessert I want — big, crunchy squares in the style of Rice Krispie Treats, or crumbly layer bars with toasted marshmallows. Which one would you pick?

14 graham cracker rectangles, crushed finely
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate (do not use milk or dark chocolate)
4 heaping cups mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

In a bowl, mix together the first four ingredients, then press into the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan with the back of a spoon. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool.

Heat oven to 450F/230C degrees. Melt the chocolate and spread over the cool crust. Cover with marshmallows. When the oven is ready, place the pan inside and bake until the marshmallows are just browned, about 5 minutes.

Important: Let cool completely — preferably overnight — for the best taste. It’s not easy to wait, but it’s worth it!

Grilled Mozzarella, Prosciutto, and Basil Sandwich

This delicious grilled sandwich makes a filling lunch, but it can also be a nice dinner — just add a couple of sides, like oven fries (we like the sweet potato ones) and a salad. This recipe is for one sandwich. When making it for more people, I make an assembly line on the countertop for easy preparation.
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Makes 1 sandwich

2 slices firm white bread (from a ciabatta or good sourdough loaf from the bakery)
1 tsp. plus 1 Tbsp. butter, divided
4 thin slices mozzarella (from a fresh ball of mozzarella, not the kind in a bag)
2 thin slices prosciutto
3 large fresh basil leaves
2 thin slices fresh tomato, or about 3 slices from a plum tomato
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Melt 1 tsp. butter and brush it very lightly over the two slices of bread. On one slice, stack 2 slices of mozzarella, the prosciutto, basil leaves, and tomato slices. Season with pepper.

Top with the remaining 2 slices of mozzarella. Finish with the other slice of bread, buttered side down.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter with the oil and cook the sandwich until browned. Turn with a spatula and brown it on the other side. Press it down lightly with the spatula.

(The sandwich may also be prepared in a toaster oven, but it won’t come out as well.)

Holiday Cornflake Wreaths

20141211_220232[1]These are like Rice Krispie Treats, only with cornflakes. They are a fun dessert to make at Christmastime, and very easy, too. Plus, they have only five ingredients.

Makes about 18

6 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine
10 oz. marshmallows
1 tsp. or more green food coloring
Small red cinnamon candies (Red Hots)*

To prepare, butter two or three baking sheets — you will form the wreaths on them later. Put the cornflakes in a large bowl.

In a medium pot over low heat, melt the margarine. Add the marshmallows and stir constantly until completely melted. Add the food coloring, starting with 1 tsp. but adding more as necessary until the mixture is dark green. (The ones in the picture above aren’t as dark as I intended.) Pour the marshmallow mixture over the cornflakes and mix carefully with a spoon until completely coated.

With buttered fingers, take out a small handful of the coated cornflakes (just enough to fill your palm). Put it on the buttered baking sheet and form into a wreath. Put four or five cinnamon candies on the wreath to look like berries.

Refrigerate the wreaths for several hours before serving. Use a spatula carefully to lift them off the baking sheets.

*I found the Red Hots in the baking aisle, next to the bottles of sprinkles — not in the candy aisle.

Cod Fishcakes

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Easy, delicious, and a great way to have fish. You might think that with the potato they’d be a bit heavy, but they’re actually light, even a bit fluffy, and the lemon perks up the flavor.

The recipe requires two steps that must be done ahead of time — boiling and mashing the potatoes and poaching the fish. You also have to chill the fishcakes for at least half an hour before cooking them. So save this recipe for a weekend, or a day when you have some time to get into the kitchen a few times to prepare the night’s meal.

Definitely serve this with lemon wedges. A side of buttered broccoli works well.

Serves 4 (makes 8 fishcakes)

400g (14 oz.) cod fillets
200ml (just under 1 cup) milk
2 large floury potatoes
25g (1 oz.) unsalted butter
Pinch of grated nutmeg
5 large sprigs of parsley, chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 lemons (zest of one, the other one cut into wedges)
4 Tbsp. plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp. olive oil (at least)

Poach the cod in simmering milk (thinned with water) to just cover it, for 3-4 minutes until the fish starts to flake. Drain, discard the skin if there is any, and pat dry. Leave to cool.

Peel, quarter, and boil the potatoes for 10-12 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Drain and mash until smooth. Mix in the butter, nutmeg, chopped parsley, and lemon zest. Flake in the cod by rubbing the fish between your thumb and fingers to make small bits. Season with salt and pepper and cool.

Divide into eight balls and press into patties about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Season the flour with cayenne pepper. Dip the fishcakes in the flour to coat. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil. Fry the fishcakes (in batches if necessary) for 3-4 minutes each side until golden brown.