Sunday, August 8, 2010

Frozen Blossoms

Standing at my booth at the Mill City Farmers Market yesterday, I looked over at my neighbor's booth and saw pretty baskets full of zucchini blossoms. They're in season right now for a short time. I've prepared the blossoms a number of ways, including stuffing them with herbed chevre, tossed in a little seasoned flour, and then fried in oil. Or, roughly chopped and added to a simple salad of tomatoes, cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic. Lynne Rossetto Kasper, of public radio's Splendid Table, has a great recipe for pan-fried zucchini flowers. But, being in the sorbet state of mind, I started thinking about how to incorporate these beautiful blossoms into a frozen dessert. Zucchini Sorbet? No. Ah, cucumbers. Perfect.

Cucumber Lemon Sorbet with Zucchini Blossoms
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cups cucumber juice (4 small or 2 large cucumbers)
3 zucchini blossoms

Combine sugar and water in a pan and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5-10 minutes to create a simple syrup (make a little extra for sweetening your iced tea). Remove and cool. This should make around 1 1/2 cups of syrup.

Using a food processor, puree the skinned cucumbers. Strain through a sieve. For me, the easiest way to accomplish this task is to use a juicer, which has become my constant companion during my sorbet madness. Even with a juicer, I still take out the pulp and strain it for every last bit of juice.

In a separate bowl, add lemon juice, cucumber juice and 1 1/4 cup of simple syrup. Stir to combine and taste for balance. Add more simple syrup, if you'd like your sorbet sweeter. Be very careful not to over do it on the lemon juice. It gets more tart with the freezing process. The cucumber should be the main star here. Add 2 roughly chopped zucchini blossoms and the whole blossom (to infuse the mix). Stir and then chill for a few hours. Remove whole blossom before freezing in the ice cream cylinder. Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

If you are a fan of the Arnie Palmer, the iced tea/lemonade summer drink, not the golfer (is he really that refreshing?), use any leftover cucumber juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup to mix with your iced tea. It's a very refreshing cooler. Better yet, add a scoop of Cucumber Lemon Sorbet to your iced tea. Mmmm....that'll quench your thirst.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Love Connections

Eight glass pie plates, 3 small bundt pans, 1 four-cup measuring cup, 2 glass stacking bowls with lids, 8 plastic storage bins. This is part of my inheritance from Grandma Okland, my husband's maternal grandmother. While washing them tonight, I was struck with the link I now share with my husband's family. There is still a little flour left in one of the bins. I can't help but think that her hand had reached in that bin not too long ago while making one of her many treats. It's a lovely reminder of one of the connections Grandma Okland and I had - baking. When she found out that I loved to bake, she shared her recipes for thumbprint cookies and oatmeal bars with me. All written in her hand.

Family recipes, stories, and dishes (especially bowls) have always had a special place in my heart. My mom still has the tin pans that were specifically made, by the tinsmiths in town, for her mother when she married. The tinsmith asked what dimensions she wanted and he made them to order. My mom loves to make some of Nana's recipes in those tins, like Food for the Gods.

When my mom married, she didn't want any china or fancy dishes. She wanted a set of heavy pottery dishes with flowers drawn in the surface - certainly not the dainty china of afternoon teas and holiday meals. In time, though, she inherited the Spode china from my Nana and, when she married my stepfather, beautiful serving pieces from his family.

Our holiday table is a thing of beauty: Aunt Elizabeth's glasses, Nana's china, Grams' silver serving dishes and silver salt cellars grace the table. I now have a set of beautiful china from my mother-in-law that has been passed down through the generations. And, I have the dishes from Grandma Ginny, my dad's mother. I'm overrun, happily, with all sorts of memories which have landed on my table.

I have built my business, Bramblewood, on the foundation of a family recipe and techniques learned from my mom. The shortbread recipe I use is from a book of family recipes, all written in my Nana's hand. Every time I offer a piece of shortbread to a customer, I feel like I'm sharing a part of my family with them.  Sounds like a cliche, but it's true. I often think of the invisible umbilical cord that connects my daughter to me, me to my mom, my mom to her mother, and so on. The dishes and recipes we share add a tangible love to that connection.  

So, I think I'll find the recipe for Grandma Okland's thumbprint cookies and bake a batch this weekend. I'll teach that recipe to my kids in the hope that they'll continue our love of baking and sharing.