Succotash Hand Pies for the Globe and Mail | Tara O'Brady

So, it's July! That seems a surprise. May was a blur of book tour, then June was gone in a blink. I'm firmly settled back at home, and scheming about east coast events. 

Thank you, again, for the cheers from all over with the launch of my cookbook. Thank you for coming out to events or comments here and elsewhere. Never did I feel I was travelling alone. But, we'll catch up on all that. First, some quick things that have been keeping me inspired, busy, and in the kitchen lately. 

I finished Jess's book, Stir last night, and I'm still thinking about it. She's out right now on book tour, and if you can catch her speaking, do.  (Sweet Amandine)

I started Tara's book today. (Tea and Cookies) 

Alabama White Barbecue Sauce, a gutsy mix of horseradish, vinegar, and mayonnaise, is a new favourite of mine with all things grilled — but I love it especially with corn. Fire-kissed is still the preference, but I'll take the kernels steamed, sautéed, or fresh off the cob. If you like elote, the combination I've a feeling the combination will be right up your alley. It was what I served alongside the succotash my hand pies up above. Those guys are from a piece I wrote for The Globe and Mail. I've been making such pies for years, long enough that they've earned a nickname — "empbananas" — in our household. These are filled with corn and beans, then seasoned with herbs and white miso. The latter might seem unexpected, but it makes all the difference, in the best way. (The New York Times / The Globe and Mail)

As a rule, I don't love tomato soup. There are exceptions, though. Melissa Clark's is one, and Nigel Slater's recent variations make a convincing case for consideration. (101 Cookbooks / The Guardian)

Nikole has some new pieces in her shop; the striped stoneware series make me feel nostalgic for the crockery from my father's ships. These nested mixing bowls are now my go-to. The smallest for whisking sauces, the medium for tossing salads, and the large for cookie doughs. (Herriott Grace)

Cherry season has just begun, and I'm thinking of making a cobbler. (Instagram)

The Mosé. (Epicurious)

The Meaning of Mangoes by Dianne Jacob. I keep going back to it. Without summarizing her piece, I'll just say that I feel like I sometimes feed my boys certain things — mangoes, guavas, and especially custard apples when I miss Gigi — in a similar way. Not only for me to resurrect times, places, and people I've lost, but to also pass on to them some of an unshared experience. (Lucky Peach / this site)

And, some more links to mentions of Seven Spoons elsewhere. 

  • I was stoked to talk to Williams Sonoma about the history of Canada Day, and how we Canadians celebrate our country's birthday. I also shared my recipe for Butter Tart Pie. (Taste
  • David took the pickled strawberry preserves from my book and added his own touch — swapping allspice for coriander. He's a smart one. (David Lebovitz)
  • It was seriously smile-inducing to see the Roasted Grapes with Sweet Labneh get the Molly treatment. (My Name is Yeh)
  • Carolyn Jung was truly kind, and made the Hummus with White Miso. (Food Gal)
  • Yossy was one of the testers from my book, and specifically one who tested the Basic, Great, Chocolate Chip Cookies. When I had her thumbs up, I knew the recipe was right. (Apt 2 Baking Co)
  • Sarah was also generous enough to give the recipes a go for me, and she decided to write about the Twangy Blueberry Sauce. My Ben loves it on cheesecake, I like it on plain yogurt, and everyone around here likes it on sweet biscuits with cream. (The Vanilla Bean Blog)
  • Stephanie made the happiest cookies ever. That yellow! (I Am a Food Blog)
  • Sasha shared personal thoughts on the passage of time and made the Glazed Sesame Oats. (Tending the Table)
  • Getting Sam and Megan's approval on any of my recipes, but especially the hummus, is a like a gold star. (A Sweet Spoonful)
  • Sonja and Alex made my Dipper Eggs with Fried Cheese Toast soldiers look far more elegant than I ever do. (A Couple Cooks)
  • The Blueberry Snacking Cake, which Sneh adapted beautifully, is one of our regulars for picnics and road trips. (Cook Republic)
  • Lecia always knows the right thing to say. In her post she captures the feelings of summer perfectly, and then bakes the Rhubarb Raspberry Rye Crumble. (A Day That is Dessert)

Now! To hear from you! What's been going on on your end? I'm so happy to be back to this place, and can't wait to pick up from where we left off. xo and talk soon. 

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Right now, I don't think I have the words to properly convey what it was like to launch Seven Spoons the book. My book. Please bear with me, as I try.

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream, Caramel and Candied Cacao Nibs | From the book, Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady

The launch happened in stages. Last night, some of my nearest and dearest gathered at Ben McNally Books in Toronto. (If you've never been, please go. It is an utterly charming space, straight out of Harry Potter in the best way, all wood and warm lighting. And Ben is even better.) I had to make a speech. I did so with my sons and nephews nearby — they stole the show. And, even though I had the distinct sensation of my windpipe vibrating while I spoke, looking out onto that room of people, shaking or not, I felt exceptionally lucky.

We had cheese from St. Lawrence Market with pickled strawberries, charcuterie, and chocolate chip cookies. There were a few rolls of Instax film (evidence, here), and bubbles and oysters around the corner to end the night with Nikole, Michael, and Julia. There again, that lucky feeling. 

Today was a blur; interviews and tastings, and a lot of excitement. A highlight was when some readers took time out of their day to come and say hello. It is because of all of your that I have this opportunity in the first place. So, to share this day with you feels right.

Very quickly, there's something else to share — a recipe from the book, and the one I may crave the most. It's my Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream, swirled with espresso caramel and topped with candied cacao nibs. It is no secret that I love ice cream. I announced the book with one, so launching it with another lines up nicely. I'm also quite a fan of coffee. Thus, putting them together was inevitable, and condensed milk in the mixture sealed the deal. I describe it in detail below.

For now I'll sign off, with gratitude. Here's to you, with ice cream. 

 

By the by, a few people and places have written about Seven Spoons. If you'd like to read their thoughts, here they are:

  • I spent a day cooking with Chris Nutall-Smith, talking about the book, butter tarts, and inspiration, while sipping on some Palomas. It was a good time. (The Globe and Mail)
  • Deb declared the Mushrooms and Greens on Toast a "one-pan miracle" and I don't think I could hope for higher praise. (Smitten Kitchen)
  • Heidi makes the case for green smoothies, with my Default Smoothie with kale, pineapple, and nut butter to make her point. (101 Cookbooks)
  • Sara, a person I consider an expert on Huevos Rancheros, gave her stamp of approval to my Huevos a la Plaza de Mercado, and I couldn't be more chuffed. (Sprouted Kitchen)
  • I was so happy to once again appear on Design*Sponge's "In the Kitchen With ..." series, this time with my Esquites and Yellow Tomato Gazpacho. Sincere thanks to Grace and Kristina. (Design*Sponge)
  • Food52 asked me to write about the inspiration behind the book, and I was honoured to oblige. (Food52)
  • Epicurious calls my Chicken with a Punchy relish a knockout, in a pun I appreciate. (Epicurious)
  • Ashley made the Roast Chicken with a Punchy Relish, and used lentils as the base. Brilliant. (Not Without Salt)
  • Shauna and Danny prepared a gluten-free feast from the book, including their adaptation of the Bee-stung Fried Chicken, and naan. (Gluten-free Girl and the Chef)
  • Olga made the Lentil Kofta Curry, and some thoughtful words about community. (Sassy Radish)
  • Julie's Bee-Stung Fried Chicken (+ her fritters!) look brilliant. (Dinner with Julie)
  • ... and Julie invited me to her other site to talk music and dinner parties.As an aside, have you seen the documentary It Might Get LoudI found it fascinating. (Rolling Spoon)
  • Vy posted a detailed and thoughtful look at a whole collection of recipes. (Beyond Sweet and Savoury)
  • Shelley also discussed the book as a whole, and then featured the Fattoush with Fava Beans and Labneh. (Cookbooks 365)
  • My publishers invited some new-to-me bloggers to the launch last night, and I am so glad they did! Nikki and Christine were firecrackers. So fun. (Nikki the Knack and Padfoot's Library)

 

VIETNAMESE COFFEE ICE CREAM 

Indians make something they call espresso, which I've talked about before, but it’s unlike any espresso you’d see in Italy; it’s actually closer to a Greek frappé, a bold brew of instant coffee whipped with an enthusiastic amount of sugar, and then combined with hot water and milk. The slurry magically blends, then splits, with a layer of thick foam above a rich, creamy elixir below.

I’ve been a longtime fan of that coffee, so when I was first introduced the Vietnamese version, a drink with very much the same uncompromising intensity, the same weighty, toasted, caramel flavor, this time tempered with sweetened condensed milk, I was lost. When I decided to freeze it, well then things got even better.

This is my full-stop favorite ice cream, both to make, and to eat. It is brazenly prepared without a traditional custard base, which isn’t missed in the least, and skipping that step makes it quick work to pull together. A voluptuous mix of evaporated milks and cream gets infused with ground coffee, then chilled, churned and swirled with caramel. Easy peasy, that's that, and you’re left with an ice cream worthy of any and all accolades. Have a spoon at the ready.

Makes about 1 quart

 

Ingredients

  • 1 (14-ounce/400g) tin evaporated milk
  • 1 (14-ounce/400g) tin sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup heavy (35%) cream
  • 2 ounce (57 g) coffee beans, ground, see note
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • A good pinch of salt

To Serve or Swirl

  • Espresso caramel and/or Candied Cocao Nibs, recipes follow

Method

Combine all the ice cream ingredients in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture begins to steam. Remove from the heat and leave to steep for 20 minutes.

Using a fine-meshed sieve, or a standard sieve lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter, strain the mixture into a bowl. Cover and chill for 3 hours, but preferably overnight. Freeze the base according to your ice cream maker’s manufacturer’s directions.

Spoon 1/3 of the ice cream into a storage container. Smooth the top, and pour over a few tablespoons of caramel in long stripes. With the tip of a knife, lightly swirl the caramel into the ice cream. Layer in half of the remaining ice cream, and repeat the layers two more times, ending with a drizzle of caramel. There will be caramel left over. Set this aside. Cover the ice cream and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Serve as is, or in a sugar cone, or scattered with candied cacao nibs. Then, dive in.

Note: The coffee beans should be medium ground. Café Du Monde French Roast Chicory is the traditional choice for the hot preparation that inspired this cold one. For a milder, rounded flavor, use 2 tablespoons of instant espresso powder or 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder instead of ground beans.

Chocolate fudge can take the place of the caramel.

Masala Chai variation: Replace the coffee with 2 tablespoons black tea such as Darjeeling, a short cinnamon stick, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom and 3 peppercorns. Omit the espresso in the caramel, or omit the swirl entirely.

 

ESPRESSO CARAMEL

Makes about 2/3 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (106 g) dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml)  heavy cream
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon finely-ground espresso beans or espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high, heat the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt, stirring until the butter is melted. Pour in heavy cream and espresso beans. Bring to a boil, whisking until smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer, undisturbed, for 1 minute longer. Remove from the stove and stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally. If making ahead of time, cover and refrigerate until needed, then rewarm gently before using.

Note: Any leftover caramel can be used on pound cake, or plain ice cream, or stirred into a milkshake or warm milk. Those sips can be made all the more warming with a share of whisky.

 

CANDIED CACAO NIBS

Makes approximately 1/2 cup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (43 g) cacao nibs
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter

Method

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In a wide, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, warm the sugar for a minute, without stirring. Scatter the cacao nibs over the sugar, and leave the pan undisturbed until the sugar begins to melt in spots. With a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, quickly stir the cacao nibs into the liquid sugar, incorporating any unmelted sugar as you go. Once most of the sugar has coated the nibs, remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the butter. Immediately scrape the cacao nibs onto the prepared baking sheet, pressing them into an even layer with the back of the spoon or spatula. Allow to cool.

Break the cacao nibs into tiny clusters by hand. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.