Cherry-Bourbon-Chocolate Ice Cream

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It’s summer, which means that it’s time to make ice cream! I haven’t made ice cream in ages, but I had my annual Ice Cream Social coming up, which meant I needed to get going again!

The first recipe that really caught my eye this season was Alton Brown’s Serious Vanilla Ice Cream. What intrigued me was the addition of peach preserves to the mix, which supposedly don’t affect the vanilla flavor but instead add a unique texture to the ice cream. I was eager to give it a try myself, but was mindful of the fact that plain vanilla wouldn’t necessarily tempt my guests when compared with the more exotic flavors that were sure to be on hand. So I gave the matter some thought and settled on the addition of bourbon-soaked cherries. And then chocolate, because why not?

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Pickled Mustard Seeds

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Can you believe this is my 300th post? Neither can I! Thanks to everyone for reading this far! Now, on to the project post!

I originally made these as part of a recipe for those delectable uni bocadillos, but they also make a great condiment on their own, so I thought I’d post about them separately. For any mustard newbies, you most often find mustard seeds as part of whole-grain mustard, and their unique texture adds to the mustard experience. It’s hard to describe– once they absorb liquid, they transform from a dry, crunchy seed to something a little soft, with a nice little “pop” when you crunch them between your teeth.

Anyway, in addition to having them mixed into whole-grain mustard, you can also pickle them on your own to make a seed-only condiment for extra pop! I used yellow mustard seeds for this application, though you can also use brown if that’s all you can find.

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Sweet and Spicy Pickled Grapes

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My first try at pickled grapes was a few years ago– I’d come across a recipe from (you guessed it) Deb at Smitten Kitchen and was determined to give it a shot. I’d never tried pickling anything before, so it seemed like as good a reason as any to start! They turned out to be absolutely amazing– sweet, tangy, and refreshing, with a hint of spice to tweak the palate from being dessert-ish to savory cheese plate-ish. I vowed to make them again at some point… and promptly forgot about them.

Still, some vestige of memory must have remained, because when I volunteered to bring a cheese plate to a gathering of my best foodie friends, a little bell in my head went “ding!” and I knew I’d have to try making these again.

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Uni Bocadillos

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Oh my god, these are really, really good. I knew they would be since I’d had them at Toro Boston as part of a tasting menu and swooned over them then, but I didn’t quite believe that the recipe I found online would be a perfect replica. I was wrong.

What is this culinary wonder, you ask? An uni bocadillo (translated as sandwich or snack). That’s right, a sandwich made with uni– sea urchin roe (okay, it’s really the entire gonads of the urchin, but “roe” sounds more appetizing so let’s go with that). When I first tasted it at Toro I was blown away by the delicate sweetness and seafood flavor of the roe– it was rich and creamy and luxurious, and I couldn’t get enough of it! The waiter described it as “like a grilled cheese, only with uni,” and it was a fair assessment– the creamy uni worked perfectly with the buttery toasted bread, and it really did remind me of a very upscale grilled cheese sandwich.

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Honey-Roasted Apricots with Streusel Topping

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Summer’s here! And that means there’s an abundance of fabulous summer fruit everywhere… in the grocery stores, at the farmer’s markets, and (my favorite) in the “on sale now, must get rid of these!” section of my local store. At 99 cents/lb., I snapped up a bunch to bring home, figuring that even if they were mediocre they’d be worth a try.

After tasting them, I ended up coming back to the store and buying all of their remaining apricots… amounting to about 12 pounds. And while my daughter can eat half a dozen in a day (seriously, she just did, along with a pound of strawberries), I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat them all just straight out of hand, so I tried to think of other, more creative ways to use them up.

Roasted apricots seemed like a good idea– many recipes called for a drizzle of honey and butter to enrich things, and others used crumbled amaretti and/or nuts to top things off. I decided to throw some things together to see what would happen– and what happened? Magic. The streusel wasn’t even necessary (though it was a nice touch). Just the deep, tangy flavor of the roasted apricots was enough.

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Banana Butterscotch Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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There are almost always bananas in my house– if not for eating out of hand (I like them best when there’s still a touch of green at the tips), then at least in the freezer, where I stash them when they get too brown for snacking on. There they sit until it’s time to make banana muffins for my daughter’s school snacks… unless, as happened this time, the freezer is full and there’s already a bag of blueberry muffins for her to eat, leaving no room for more!

What to do? What I always do, of course– make dessert.

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Patriotic Mint Brownies

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Adding another dessert to the list of “summer BBQ contributions,” here’s a batch of dark chocolate brownies, topped with a layer of chocolate and a colorful surprise!

I shamelessly stole… er, adapted this idea from Ruthanne at EasyBaked, as it was so neat-looking I had to try it! Since I was going for fun and pretty rather than gourmet I subbed in a doctored-up boxed brownie mix for her brownie base, but I kept the topping recipes the same. I doubled the recipe to fit a 9×13″ pan, since I was going to be feeding a crowd, and changed up the stripe pattern to be sure that my brownie squares would be just as pretty as her tart slices.

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