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Please excuse my groan-worthy title. I’ve got a pun/cliche theme going for this NaBloPoMo, so I’m hoping to make you roll your eyes every day for the next 26 days. Are you excited? I sure am.

If you’re not thrilled about puns, maybe you’ll be interested in a grape sorbet and almond cookie combination. I used the last of the huge pile of coronation grapes we bought at the market to make this sorbet. It’s delicious! The grapes are so flavourful, they don’t need any adulteration–just some sugar to sweeten them and keep the sorbet from getting icy. And this sorbet has a perfect, almost creamy texture that lasted for three days in the freezer without getting icy (maybe it would have lasted longer, but we ate it all up!). My theory is that it stayed smooth because these grapes had a lot of pectin in their skin. This is pure speculation, because I can’t figure out how to confirm it. Maybe there’s some other chemistry at work that I don’t understand.

Along with the grape sorbet, I served almond haystack cookies, a simple treat that complemented the sorbet very well. The almonds were rich, as opposed to the sorbet’s tartness, and just barely sweet. These little cookies are so tasty and low-fat, I’ve been thinking they’d be nice to have around as a little afternoon pick-me-up alternative to something like a granola bar, especially horrible, cloyingly sweet store-bought bars. Course, you’d really only be able to eat one at a time if you were thinking of your health. In any case, whether you rationalize them as health food or save them for the dessert platter, these simple, elegant, almond-vanilla flavoured cookies are so easy to make. Carlo actually found them too simple, so I was thinking that next time I might put a pinch of spice in when I mix up their egg coating. Or maybe just use brown sugar or panela instead of white sugar?

Grape Sorbet
Don’t try making this sorbet with ordinary table grapes. It won’t have enough flavour. I used Ontario Coronation grapes, which are very similar to Concords. I think I read somewhere that you can substitute high-quality grape juice if you haven’t got grapes at hand. If you try that, let me know. I’d love to know how it works! My sugar guidelines are approximate here. I like my sorbet tart, so I held back a little. But don’t hold back too much on the sugar–desserts taste less sweet when they’re frozen, AND sorbet needs sugar to keep it from getting icy.

4 lbs. purple grapes, stemmed
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water

1. Put all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring and crushing occasionally, until the grapes are breaking up, about 10 minutes.
2. While the grapes are simmering, prepare an ice water bath by filling a large bowl with ice and placing a smaller stainless steel bowl over it.

3. Remove grape mixture from heat, and strain it into the stainless steel bowl with a fine-mesh or cheesecloth-line strainer. This might take a while. If it’s really thick, feel free to walk away and let the mixture strain itself, stirring and mashing it occasionally.
4. When mixture is strained, transfer it to the fridge to cool completely, at least a few hours or overnight.
5. Transfer grape sorbet base to your ice cream maker, and freeze until it’s the consistency of thickly whipped cream. Get that sorbet into the freezer quickly, and let it get solid for at least a couple hours before serving.

Almond Haystack Cookies
Adapted from Bonnie Stern’s Essentials of Home Cooking

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar (you could probably cut back on this a little, if you want)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups slivered almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Stir egg whites and sugar together in a large bowl. Don’t beat them. Stir in the vanilla and then the almonds, making sure the almonds are well-coated.
3. Drop teaspoonfuls of the almond mixture into small mounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, and then begin checking the colour of your cookies–they should turn golden brown. When baking is done (18-20 minutes), turn off the oven and open the door, leaving cookies in the oven for another 10 minutes.

For the past two years, good mornings in the SiS household have hinged on two drinks. One is coffee. The other is Hanne’s genius invention: The Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie. Yeah, you’ve seen it around, but Hanne came up with it first. It might be SiS’s most unoriginal original recipe, but the other PBBS recipes you’ve seen online are all gross.

SiS’s PBBS is more milkshake than globby smoothie. Don’t worry, it’s all illusion. Frozen bananas only seem to turn into ice cream when blended with milk. It’s a healthy drink. Protein from the peanuts and milk. Calcium… Bananas… they’re good, right? One morning I put leftover whipped cream on top, which was awesome. But I digress…

So first, you’ve got your frozen bananas. Buy lots. Peel them, split them in half and freeze. Second, you’d better use real peanut butter. Don’t make this with the sugary pretend stuff. You need to use the creamy, chunky, pain-in-the-ass natural peanut butter that takes some stirring before use. Sucks, but it’s worth it.

TIP: get as big of a jar of real peanut butter as you can so that you don’t have to do this too often. Spatula the PB out into the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the dough mixing attachment (the curly spike). Once the machine’s done the work for you, spatula the PB back into its jug. Refrigerate it or it’ll separate and you’ll have to mix it again.

So how to? Combine two banana halves, a cup or so of milk, a generous spoonful of peanut butter, a dash of vanilla and blend. Don’t overcomplicate your morning by measuring. If you must, the recipe’s below. Experiment with proportions until you get the taste and consistency you like. The only way to mess this up is to use bad milk (guilty) or accidentally blend a loose blender seal into the drink (again, guilty). Otherwise, this drink is idiot proof.

SiS’s Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
Serves 1.
Ingredients:
1 frozen ripe banana, halved
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons REAL peanut butter
1-2 teaspoons vanilla

Method:
1. Put stuff in blender and blend.

AND, if you have a blender that blends in the same cup you drink out of, then there’s hardly any mess. Unfortunately, the only product I know that does this is the Magic Bullet. It’s cheap and also built cheap. We’re on our second machine in two years. I had to plug my ears while running the last one, which is why it didn’t make the cut when we moved from Montreal. I hope another company that makes good blenders copies Magic Bullet’s single cup style and I hope that happens before the Tasmanian devil busts out of our appliance. Man dies from Magic Bullet shrapnel?

photo by Tony Lynch

Hanne and I having built up our reputations as cooks sometimes pays off! Or we’ve at least convinced some people that we know enough about food that they humour us by asking us to make stuff for them. And sometimes they pay for the expensive ingredients, which is, in case you were wondering, the payoff.

Buy this book

My brother purchased himself a tin of matcha for 30 bucks. 30 bucks! His request was green tea ice cream. We used David Lebovitz‘s recipe, word for word. It worked perfectly and you can find it HERE. If you are one of the people out there that we’ve convinced to buy an ice cream machine and it’s since been relegated to your never-used single-use appliance cupboard, then buy this book and get your freezer bowl back in the freezer.

photo by Tony Lynch

This turned out to be the best green tea ice cream I’ve ever had. Or made. Or Hanne made. Or whatever. My brother, when my Mom asked him if it was the best green tea ice cream he’s had said, “yeah, it’s good.” Maybe it was the victim of extortion talking (30 bucks!!?!). Let it be known that when he tried making green tea ice cream himself, he used brewed green tea. Brewed tea! So the lesson here is not to damn cooks with blogs with faint praise or their small world of readers will find out that you suck and that when you worked in a kitchen and dropped a knife you tried catching it by the blade. Anyway, thanks for the photos, little brother!

Also, to the chocolate bacon sorbet skeptics: Lebovitz has a candied bacon ice cream, so we’re either not the only ones who know what we’re talking about or who are disgusting.

I have something to tell you. Up to now, this blog has been decidedly positive. We tell you how much we love a food item, give a little run-down on why we like it, maybe give a glowing description and a couple preparation suggestions. Then you get the recipe. This is good. And positive. Everything’s all right here at Supper in Stereo.

But here’s my confession– I’m not generally sunny. I’m a whiner, a complainer, a look-on-the-dark-side kind of person. I complain about my job, curse the cloudy weather, call my cat stupid.

Actually, I only did that last one once. And I felt really bad afterwards.

I’m working on it, I am. But sometimes Carlo’s and my self-imposed exercise of listing three good things that happened every day ends up sounding something like this: Today is over. I survived today. I can go to bed now. This, my friends, is not positive.

Sometimes when you’re busy feeling grey like this, food falls by the wayside. Oh, we still eat, of course. But cookies turn out tough and floury, soup tasteless, meat dry. And we dutifully shovel it in, to get enough energy to slog through another day. January and February are especially bad when you live in a wintry climate. We’re lucky to get one sunny day a week and the rest of the days are plodding and overcast. They’re not even grey, they’re just… nothing.

Have you had enough yet?

Then listen: every once in a while, even I have to poke my head up and say “wait, this is pretty good.” The other night, Carlo and I were contemplating a beautiful pan of chicken parts scattered with chunks of lemon and rosemary that we were about to roast (the recipe was yet another gift from my generous aunt and uncle, and I’ll pass it on to you soon). It was gorgeous, even uncooked, and we could tell just by looking that it was going to be delicious. Carlo said “man, we have it pretty good.” And I agreed.

I had another moment like this the other night, standing in the kitchen, sticking my tongue out while I took a paring knife to the skins of our last Meyer lemons. I was sticking my tongue out because I was concentrating on only getting skin and not pith, so that the mini batch of limoncello that I was preparing wouldn’t come out with any bitterness at all. To be honest, the task of carefully peeling thin-skinned lemons isn’t really all that fun. I was tense and my shoulders were aching. But at the other end of the counter, Carlo was preparing a batch of one of our favorite ice creams. He was talking himself through the steps, pretending to host a cooking show (sample instructions: “…then you take a thing… or a spoon… and you move the stuff in the bowl around with it.” Sample banter: “I’m okay! Do you like me? You’re okay!”). If I wasn’t concentrating so hard, I would have been giggling. Carlo finished preparing his ice cream, and I finished peeling my lemons (it took me 30 minutes for four lemons– that’s dedication). Then Carlo put his ice cream into the ice cream machine and I put my limoncello in the cupboard to steep.

It’s just a little jar, mind you. I only had four lemons left (and incidentally, the more-than-half-empty bottle of vodka on our bar had the exact right amount of alcohol left, which was a nice coincidence). When the limoncello’s finished, it will be enough for a few sips, not much else. But I still like knowing that it’s sitting in the cool darkness of our cupboard, getting more and more delicious, waiting for us. You can steep your limoncello anywhere from two weeks to four months. I’m leaving mine there for all of February. We’ll see how I feel come March.

I’ll let you know how the limoncello turned out in a couple months. And Carlo’s ice cream? It was perfect, perfect. Life is good and we are lucky. I just don’t feeling like talking about it.

BROWN SUGAR SOUR CREAM ICE CREAM

We follow the recipe for brown sugar sour cream ice cream from Mercedes at Desert Candy faithfully. The last few times, we’ve used panela instead of brown sugar, just because I found panela in the store and felt that it needed to come home with me. I highly recommend this variation, as the panela has a great intense smoky, molassesy flavour. However, you MUST try the original recipe as well. It’s great! I love the addition of bourbon to the mix, but you could easily leave it out and still have a great ice cream. Plus there’s no custard to fiddle with (Farhan, I’m thinking of you…).

LIMONCELLO

If you want to make limoncello, here’s the recipe I used. I used vodka, as it’s what we had around, but if you can find a grain alcohol, that would probably be better. The linked recipe makes a huge amount, but I scaled it to the following proportions:

4 lemons, preferably unsprayed and unwaxed
350 mL vodka or grain alcohol
1 1/4 c. water
1 1/3 c. sugar

Wash and dry the lemons, then peel them. Place them in a mason jar with the alcohol. Make sure the lemon is fully covered. Put the mason jar in a cool, dark place, shaking it once a day. Leave this for at least two weeks, but I’ve read you can go up to four months.

When your lemon concoction has steeped to your satisfaction, it’s time to sweeten it. Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. When the mixture is room temperature, put a strainer over the saucepan that’s holding the sugar syrup and strain your steeped lemon mixture into the sugar syrup. Combine the liquids well, then place the mixture back into a mason jar. Put the mason jar back into your cupboard and repeat the first process, shaking twice every day for about three weeks.

Finally, after all that time, it’s ready to taste! The Washington Post recommends storing your limoncello in the freezer, where it will turn a milky yellow.

WASTE NOT!

By the way, I juiced the lemons after I peeled them and boiled the juice with sugar in a 1:1 ratio to make lemon syrup. You could use this syrup to make lemonade, or you could pop in a vanilla bean and do a bit more fiddling to make something like this (which looks super-lovely).

One of the things about food blogging is that if you don’t eat well, you don’t have anything to say. So far, this has proven to be an advantage for us– I don’t want strangers to write me off as a food-loser, so I step up and perform. Usually. However, there’s a flip side. If you aren’t eating well, your blog ends up covered in pictures of robots (I’m sorry I keeping linking back to us. Is it weird to link to yourself?).

And frozen pizza? You’re not supposed to know we eat those kinds of things. And if we do tell you, we’re not supposed to tell you it’s not good. We should be eating gourmet frozen pizzas, maybe made by hand by an Italian nonna and shipped directly to us from Naples. Certainly we shouldn’t be eating robot pizzas. At least Carlo’s drawing turned out well. I like the robot. Check out his ice cream cone hat and his pizza-slice hands. He’s an Italian for sure.

Yesterday’s dinner may have been an eating low point for us, but the dessert didn’t let us down. I got the idea for a Guinness ice cream in the comments thread at another blog (sorry, I don’t remember which one–this is how you know you read too many blogs). Our favourite Montreal brewery occasionally has a special stout that Carlo is particularly fond of– a Chocolate Vanilla Stout. Thus, in thinking about Guinness ice cream, I came to Chocolate Stout. Now, the triumphal part is the thing I didn’t really consider before we tasted our first bite. Stout is a malty drink. So the end result here is a creamy, malty, sweet concoction that tastes like chocolate malt all dressed up for grownups. Don’t you love it when you hit on genius by accident?

I can’t wait to try this recipe again. Next time I make it, I might tweak the proportions to see if I can make it more ice cream-y. As is, it has almost the exact same consistency as the chocolate malts I remember from fast food restaurants (Wendy’s!). Mine turned out quite light, and not very custardy, as I used 1% milk and few egg yolks. I think you could use half and half, for example, or another egg yolk could be added to make a thicker custard base. The chocolate bar we used was Lindt “Noirissime,” with 99% cocoa. We used very little, just enough to add a chocolate flavour, and it added no sweetness. Next time, I might try a sweet chocolate and maybe dial back the sugar just a little. This is delicious as-is, but I can’t wait to see what else I can do with it! Let me know if you have any ideas.

STOUT CHOCOLATE MALT ICE CREAM
Makes approximately 1.5 quarts

1 bottle of stout (341 mL, 12 oz)–I used an Oatmeal stout from McAuslan, a local brew, but feel free to play around with your options here
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 vanilla bean
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
5 egg yolks

Bring the stout to a boil in a small saucepan, and boil it until it thickens (maybe to 1/2 its original volume), 15 mins. or so. It might froth up. If it does, take it off the heat for a few seconds before replacing it on the burner. When the beer has reduced, allow it to cool for a few minutes and then whisk in the cocoa powder. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the chocolate/beer. Drop the scraped pod in too, and set it all aside to steep.

Prepare an ice bath by placing ice cubes and water into a large steel bowl. Set the bowl aside.

Prepare the creme anglaise. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl. Combine the cream, milk, and sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan. Bring the cream just to a boil, then whisk it in a slow stream into the egg yolks. When the yolks are combined with the cream, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and put it back over medium heat. Cook it, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of your wooden spoon.

Strain the creme anglaise into a medium steel bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Strain the beer mixture into the bowl as well, discarding the vanilla pod. Whisk the beer and cream mixtures together, then cool your ice cream base by placing the medium steel bowl into the larger prepared ice bath. Cool the mixture by stirring it for about five minutes over the ice bath. At this point, you can freeze the mixture immediately (at this point, it will be slightly less smooth. It also tastes great–I know, because we almost always are too impatient to wait), or chill the mixture further in the fridge until you are ready to freeze it.

There was some talk a few months ago about Vosges’ new bacon-flavoured chocolate bar. When I first heard about it, I immediately started imagining the smoky saltiness of good bacon buried in smooth, rich chocolate. I went on chocolate-search alert. Unfortunately for me, I saw neither rind nor rasher of it. But I kept imagining those flavours. Last month, when I was contemplating–again–how much I love my ice cream maker, it suddenly hit me! If bacon works in a chocolate bar, why can’t it work in ice cream? I wrote the idea down, which is why for weeks, visitors have been puzzled by the note on our fridge that reads “Bacon-Choco Ice Cream.”

In my imaginings I always pictured dark chocolate, so when I started recipe planning, it was with something much darker than the milk chocolate Vosges uses. Our base recipe comes from Kate Zuckerman’s incredible cookbook “The Sweet Life.” (go. buy it. you won’t regret it.) In her recipe for dark chocolate sorbet, Zuckerman explains how the starches in chocolate absorb water at certain levels of heat, becoming incredibly creamy. I figured this was the way to go, as I couldn’t quite imagine the bacon bits nestled into a custard base. Maybe I’m wrong about this. Next go-round, anyone?

So. We had the concept of the base down. The bacon was next. I decided to candy the bacon so that it wouldn’t clash with the chocolate. I dipped the bacon in sugar and baked it until it was crispy. Then I mixed it into the incredibly rich, creamy, delicious chocolate sorbet. Quick note–this sorbet is an absolute must-try, bacon or no bacon. In her intro to the recipe, Zuckerman says that people are always shocked that the sorbet has no dairy. There’s a reason for this. Go look at the picture at the beginning of this piece again. Ignore our sub-professional photo skills and instead look at the sheen. It’s a thousand times silkier in the mouth than it even shows in the photo.

The chocolate sorbet with the bacon mixed in, however, is a whole different experience. Because the bits are mixed in after the sorbet, they don’t change the initial flavour or or silkiness at all. However, once your mouthful of chocolate has melted a bit, you get a little bacony, salty crunch. We liked how the salt cut through the heaviness of the chocolate, and how the smoky bacon flavour melted into the last vestiges of the rich chocolate at the end of every bite.

Cooking notes–
-Make sure your bacon is diced small. I was a bit lazy and left some larger bits (like 1/4 inch), and those few interfered with rather than complimented the chocolate.
-The candied bacon was beautiful coming out of the oven, but in hindsight we weren’t sure we needed to candy it. Maybe it was a cowardly move? You tell me. Next time, I might try just frying it up nice and crisp and mixing it in without the sugar protection.
- This is obviously not going to work with just any bacon. We got our smoked bacon from Porcmeilleur, at the Jean-Talon Market, but there are a few places around Montreal that might be worth trying. I think maple-smoked bacon would be delicious in this.
-If you don’t own an ice cream maker, I discovered that the base for this sorbet thickens into a beautiful silky puddingy mass in the fridge. So you can still play along. After you’ve prepared the sorbet base, ladle it into individual serving bowls and place them in the fridge. In a few hours, they will be thickened to a pudding consistency. Then, if you want to get in on the bacon, you could sprinkle the candied bacon on top.
-Use the best cocoa powder you can justify, as it is really the flavour base for this sorbet. Carlo went all crazy and insisted on Valhrona cocoa powder. It was <ahem> $13 for 250 grams, but WOW is it amazing.

DARK CHOCOLATE BACON CRUNCH SORBET

for the sorbet, adapted from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
2 1/4 cups water
3 tbsp. corn syrup
6 oz. dark chocolate (we used two Valhrona chocolate bars, one 55% and the other 66%)
1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

for the bacon
app. 8 slices of bacon (more or less depending on the meatiness of your bacon)
1/2 cup white sugar

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and combine it with the cocoa, which you have sifted into a medium stainless steel bowl.

On the stovetep, combine  2 1/4 cups water, sugar and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove it from the heat.

Whisk 1/3 of the sugar syrup into the waiting bowl of chocolate. The chocolate will make you nervous at first, as it seizes a little. Add another 1/3 of the syrup, whisking all the time. By the time you add your last 1/3 of sugar syrup, the mixture should be smooth and silky. Continue whisking this mixture for about five minutes, until you think it’s smooth and silky. If you notice any chunks of cocoa in your sorbet base, you can pass it through a fine-mesh strainer. Cool the mixture over an ice bath (fill a bowl larger than the one your base is in with ice cubes and water. Place your bowl inside the icy bowl, and continue to whisk it until it is cool). Place your base in the refrigerator to cool completely and thicken. Zuckerman recommends at least four hours.

While your sorbet base is cooling, prepare your bacon. First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Next, coat your bacon slices with sugar. I did this by pouring a small amount of sugar onto a plate and then pressing the bacon into it. Next time, I might try just sprinkling it over the bacon, like this method. Place the bacon on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake it for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, remove it from the oven, and turn it over, baking it for another 8 minutes. Keep a close eye on it, because it burns fast. When the bacon is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool before dicing it into small pieces. You should have about 1/2 cup of bacon bits to add to your sorbet. If you have any extra, reserve it for garnish.

After the sorbet base has cooled for a few hours, freeze it in your ice cream maching according to manufacturer’s instructions. It is done when it has gained volume and it holds the marks of the stirring mechanism, like stiffly-whipped cream. Now you have to work quickly. Remove the sorbet from your machine to a storage container, quickly stirring in your bacon bits in batches as you fill the container. Store your sorbet in the freezer for a couple hours to harden it. Or, if you’re like us, just ignore the last instructions and eat super-soft sorbet.

From http://www.supperinstereo.com’s Album

Welcome to the new! motivated! supper in stereo. We’re taking a kick in the posterior from NaBloPoMo, which in actuality will probably just mean a bunch of uninspired posts as I grope for topics to fill a-post-a-day-for-a-whole-month. Think about this. We signed up for a blog in June, and since then we’ve put up nine posts. I am now proposing to our (by now disgusted, alienated and non-existent, which is a feat considering that they’re our friends and family) audience that we will delight and entertain them with thirty posts in the next thirty days. Math’s not my thing, but that’s got to be about a 460 percent increase in posting frequency. And no, please don’t go check my calculations. I told you math’s not my thing.

And! To make the kickoff to our marathon even a little more unlikely, I’m offering you an inappropriate recipe. This is November, right? Time to settle into your armchair with a bowl full of something rich and spicy, time to savour the last days of fall before we all put on our snowpants. Well, I know that exactly what you all don’t want after your delicious beef and butternut squash stew is some refreshing, tangy, summery dessert. But that’s what I’m offering.

But you know, I think I’m going to stop apologizing for unseasonal choices. This lemon frozen yogurt is delicious; while it is refreshing (if refreshing could ever possibly be a bad thing anyway), there’s a bit of creamy richness to it that made me feel okay about curling up with a bowl of it in front of the television this evening. The full flavour of the yogurt (please use the good full-fat kind) is a good contrast to the in-your-face tang of the lemon, and the whole thing is tempered by milk and rounded out by a bunch of sugar. The best part? It only took me a few minutes to get the whole thing thrown together, and everything came straight out of our fridge and cupboards, no preplanning or errand-running necessary.

LEMON FROZEN YOGURT

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups yogurt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice

When Grey’s Anatomy goes to commercial break, toss the milk, yogurt and sugar into a food processor or blender. Whirl it all together until the sugar’s dissolved. After you’ve measured everything out, your show’s probably back on. Go watch it. When the next break starts, add the lemon juice, and pulse it through once more. If you can get this all done in the space of one commercial break, great! Your ingredients are probably all still nice and chilled. Pour your mixture into an ice cream machine, and operate it according to manufacturer’s instructions. It will be ready before your show is over.

P.S. Dear probably-non-existent blog audience. I’m sorry if the next month contains pictures of our cats. Thirty days is a lot of recipes. And our cats are cute.

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