Monday, July 25, 2011

Very Berry Fool

It finally feels like summer! We've had a great weekend going into the city (San Francisco) with friends for delicious dinner and then last night to a really fun outside concert. You know the kind where everyone brings a blanket, food and wine. We spread out on a huge lawn and shared food with friends and neighbors while listening to great music.

This recipe came about a couple of weekends ago when we had some friends over for dinner. I wanted to make a new dessert, something summery. I found a version of this Fool on line and thought it looked to good to pass up. Cool, creamy and light - perfect for summer. It's even pretty to look at. It's sure to become one of your favorites. 

Keep in mind with this dessert you can substitute any type of berry like raspberries or blackberries. Whatever you like. There are a few steps to this dessert but don't shy away from it as they are worth the effort.

I'm always experimenting with low carb recipes and this recipe works well as a low carb dessert. I swap out regular sugar for erythritol which for me made it sweet enough. If you prefer yours sweeter, you can also add a 1/4 teaspoon of stevia extract which has no bitter taste. Also, if you only have frozen fruit (thawed) that works too in this recipe. I used frozen blueberries since I didn't have any on hand.

Berry Fool

2 pints strawberries, cleaned
1 cup blueberries, cleaned
1/2 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons sugar or erythritol
1 package of gelatin or 2 teaspoons
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
3 butter cookies (any kind), crumbled   

Mix 1 pint of strawberries, blueberries, and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor or blender and mix for 1 minute or until smooth. Strain mixture to remove any seeds or skins. You should have close to 2 1/2 cups of liquid when done. Take 1/2 cup of the puree and add the gelatin to it and mix well. Set it aside for 5 minutes to thicken or bloom. Take the remaining puree and in a saucepan heat it until warm, not boiling. Add gelatin mixture to the warm mixture and stir well to combine. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Take the other pint of strawberries and cut each into 1/4 inch dice. Feel free to add 1/2 cup of blueberries to this mixture if you'd like. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour so the berries can macerate

After two hours, add 1 cup cream, sour cream, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla to a mixing bowl (can use a stand mixer). Beat mixture on low for 30 seconds, then medium on 30 seconds and then on high until you have stiff peaks. Tip: Putting your mixing bowl and beaters in the fridge or freezer will speed up this process. Add 2/3 of strawberry puree to the cream mixture and mix well. Fold the remaining 1/3 of puree into the cream mixture until just blended. Don't over mix. 

Drain diced berries that have been macerating.

Using some nice dessert glasses, layer drained berries and cream mixture into glasses. I started with berries and ended with berries. If not ready to serve, refrigerate. 

Just before serving, beat the remaining cup of cream, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla until stiff peaks form.  Add a dollop to the top of each dessert glass. Garnish with crushed butter cookies and if you really want to be fancy, a sprig of mint looks really nice. Serves 5-6 depending on the size of your dessert glasses. Adapted from America's Test Kitchen.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Strawberry Spinach Salad

As promised, here is another delicious summer salad. You might be thinking strawberries in a salad? How weird is that. It is unusual but really good. I think it's the mixture of all the ingredients of this salad that make it so good. A bit of cheese, nuts and onion with a tangy but slightly sweet dressing. It all goes together to make a really light and refreshing salad. It's great served with a piece of fish or chicken or as a first course.

I mentioned in my last post that we were off to Kauai for vacation. It's been a week now that we've been back and it seems like forever ago. It was a really relaxing and fun vacation. Kauai is now my favorite Hawaiian island. So lush and green as you can see from the picture. This was the view from our patio. Rough, huh?

We did lots of fun stuff like kayaking, zip-lining, snorkeling - my otherwise sit behind a desk body was in shock most of the time. What's funny about Kauai are all the chickens running around. They are everywhere. I guess a few years back they had a bad storm and all the chickens got loose from their pens. The locals just forgot about them and as such, they have multiplied, quadrupled and are literally EVERYWHERE! For a last minute vacation, it was great and I highly recommend some R&R if you haven't had any for a while. It does the body and mind good!

Back to the recipe. Keep in mind if you don't like any of these ingredients do a swap for those you do like. I have used regular spring lettuce instead of spinach. I have used blue cheese, feta or goats cheese instead of Gorgonzola. I always soak the onion in ice water for about 30 minutes before I put them in the salad. This removes the really oniony smell and bite. Usually people that don't like onion will eat them this way. I used Fig Balsamic in this salad but you can use regular balsamic dressing. If you do use regular balsamic, it would be even better if you cooked it down a bit. As it condenses, it gets sweeter and thicker for a really nice drizzle over the salad. Enjoy!

Strawberry Spinach Salad

6 oz washed baby spinach (or 1 bag)
1 pint strawberries, washed and sliced
1/2 medium red onion, sliced and soaked
4 oz Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup sugar coated walnuts, chopped (I get them from Trader Joe's - just slightly sweetened - located by the other nuts)
2-3 Tablespoons Fig Balsamic Dressing
2-3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

In a large serving bowl, add the spinach, strawberries, and onion. Add the dressing and olive oil and mix well. Divide up among serving bowls, add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle the Gorgonzola and nuts on top of each. Serves 4.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Amy's Caprese Salad

Is there anything better than juicy, sweet summer tomatoes. I have to say I look forward to them every year...that along with fresh corn on the cob. Definitely two of my favorite things to eat during the summer months. This is my own creation because I love fresh mozzarella cheese, garlic, basil and tomatoes. Makes for a perfect summer lunch or side dish. Make sure you buy the sweetest tomatoes you can find - the better the tomatoes, the tastier the dish. I splurge on heirloom tomatoes for this dish but any type of tomato will work.

Over the next few weeks, I'll share with you some of my favorite quick dishes for summer. I have a few posted already that you can refer to if you need something summery and really delicious. There is my Fresh Basil Corn Salad which I made last night. :) It was perfect with a steak. There is also the Grilled Mediterranean Panzanella Salad which can be served at room temperature; perfect to make ahead of time on a hot day. I know for me if it's hot outside I prefer not to turn my oven on since it heats up the house and it feels like I'm in a sauna - not pleasant!

In the meantime, my husband and I are off on a much needed vacation to Kauai for 8 days. Thanks to a dear friend of mine, we have a perfect place to stay and a full itinerary planned. For me though - I'd be happy just laying flat somewhere, in the shade, with a good book. Hopefully I can squeeze this in somewhere. I'll take a few pictures to share a few with you depending on how they turn out...if nothing else maybe it will inspire you to take that much needed vacation - if you haven't done so already. 

Happy 4th of July! I hope you get to spend time with friends and family and eat some good food...

Amy's Caprese Salad

2 large heirloom or regular beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 3/8 inch thick
4 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced 
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
16 sprigs fresh basil, chopped
Salt and Pepper

In a non-stick saute pan, add olive oil and turn heat to medium. When oil is hot add diced garlic. Saute for 1 minute stirring constantly (do not brown). Add breadcrumbs to saute pan. Allow breadcrumbs to toast but not burn, stirring frequently. When you start to smell them, they're probably ready. Lay out your tomatoes on each plate with the cheese layered in between each slice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add breadcrumbs and then drizzle on balsamic and EVOO. Sprinkle basil on top. Permission to devour! Serves 4. Tips: You can add more or less cheese depending on how much you like. Also, if you're not a huge garlic lover, just add the whole cloves to the oil, rather than diced. Cook with the breadcrumbs and then remove them before serving. This way you'll get just a hint of garlic.

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