We went to a BBQ at the home of some friends yesterday evening and I wanted to bring a dessert. (I’m making a reputation for myself with party desserts.) I had a couple of previous winners that I could have made from stuff on hand, but they all needed to bake and uuuuuughhhh it was hot. Too hot to cook. Icebox cake to the rescue!
I typed this recipe on an iron Royal that I haven’t owned since probably 1999, so I know I copied it down in my teens. (Though I couldn’t actually cook until I was in my late 20s, I entertained a fantasy of being a chef and/or restaurateur as a teenager.) The source is a little foggy though. I have a vague notion that it was a cooking show on PBS, because I used to watch hours of cooking shows on PBS as a kid, but it could also have been Martha Stewart Magazine. This is one of those rare instances where Google fails me. I can find similar recipes but none quite like this.
The plate would have come back empty if this stuff weren’t so rich. Everyone wanted seconds but no one had anywhere to put it.
Summer Fruit Tart
Use a regular pie pan, not a deep-dish one.
- 1 pre-made Oreo cookie crust or make your own (see below)
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1-1/2 cups (12 oz) sweetened condensed milk
- 1/3 cups lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Fruit (I like a mix of kiwis and berries but you can use whatever you fancy as long as it isn’t crunchy)
- If you are making the crust yourself, remove the filing from about 20 Oreos and whiz the chocolate part in a food processor. Combine with 6 tablespoons melted butter and press into a pie pan. Using waxed paper will keep your hands clean. This stuff would much rather adhere to your skin than the pan.
- Beat the cream cheese with a mixer and slowly add the condensed milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Scrape the bowl a few times because the cream cheese really wants to stick to the bowl. I have found that I can’t beat it at high speeds without sending it all over the room but that beating it for a long time at a low or moderate speed not only makes it smooth as silk but I swear it sets up quicker. It starts out very liquid and ends up like a very thick pudding.
- Pour the filling into the shell, level the top with a spatula, and adorn with the fruit. Thinly slice things like kiwi or peaches. Make whatever pattern looks nice to you. I usually do concentric rings because that’s what they did on whatever TV show or magazine I nicked this from, but I have seen cleverer folks than me on the internet making similar tarts and creating psychedelic patterns or simply heaping mixed fruit on top. Whatever you do, don’t skimp!
- BONUS: For extra pizazz, you can dust powered sugar on top or drizzle with a simple sugar-syrup glaze to make the fruit glisten.
- Chill for at least 2 hours.
Once upon a time I wanted some nice tender lamb meatballs for dinner but I couldn’t decide which of the four recipes in my big bad recipe binder to use. So I pulled them all out and listed the ingredients I liked and left out what I didn’t. I doubled up on what I really liked and managed to forget to list an egg while I was at it. I mixed those ingredients up and baked them up and fucking loved them. (Even without the egg.)
TIPS: 1) do not use a mixer or food processor to combine the ingredients. The meatballs will be tough instead of tender. 2) I use a 2 tablespoon disher (like a giant melon baller crossed with an ice cream scoop) to portion out my meatballs so that they are uniform and then roll them between my hands so that they are round.
My favorite lamb meatballs
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchement paper.
- Combine all ingredients by hand. Shape into balls the size of a golf ball. Place 1-2″ apart on prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
I like to serve these with The New York Times’ Rice Pilaf with Golden Raisins and a little dish of plain yogurt – or yogurt with a minced clove of garlic mixed in – and a mixed greens salad with a tart vinaigrette.
Syrniki from Wikihow. OMFG. I don’t remember why I had a carton of ricotta in the fridge with just a tablespoon missing but I couldn’t bring myself to toss 95% of a perfectly good and extremely versatile ingredient like that so I Googled “ricotta pancakes” and made the first recipe I came across. Success! Midly sweet, incredibly creamy, with an almost-but-not-quite chewy texture. And so rich it’s no wonder the recipe only makes six silver-dollar-pancake sized cakes. As with all things Russian you are directed to dress them with sour cream and applesauce but we went crazy with butter, honey, and three flavors of jam.
Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Milk and Kale from Food & Wine. We are kale-haters so I omitted that ingredient. I also subbed fenugreek for the fennel. This smells so good while it is cooking that I am amazed that none of my neighbors tried to invite themselves to dinner. There’s tons of spices and flavors (cumin, turmeric, garlic, ginger, cilantro, lemon, onions). The coconut milk makes it all sinfully creamy. It’s also incredibly filling! Serve with my favorite chapatis.
Lemon Cream Icebox Cake from the Kitchn. Thin layers of whipped cream, lemon curd, and graham crackers. This tasted exactly as I hoped it would: like the limoncello tiramisu at my favorite date-night restaurant, Lombardi’s. Many icebox cake recipes call for a tub (or three!) of Cool Whip, but this one has you whip your own cream with powdered sugar and lemon zest. Worth it. I’m glad I made a half-batch in an 8 x 8″ pan because there was just a tiny piece left after we dug in, and there’s just the two of us here.
Sorry about the crappy cell phone picture. I was going to tweet this and then take a better picture with the real camera but neither thing happened because I became consumed with consuming my incredible pizza.
Saturday night we made a roaring fire and put on a DVD from the library and had a make-your-own-pizza night. I supplied the ingredients and rolled out the crust and then we were each responsible for topping our pizzas as we saw fit.
Matt made his dream pizza: a little red sauce, an entire pound of shredded Italian cheese blend, and an entire 6 oz package of pepperoni. There was grease and oil oozing out everywhere.
And I made mine: oiled crust with caramelized onions and a whole log of fresh goat cheese. There was uncooked garlic in the olive oil, which stayed sharp and zippy after a quick bake, the caramelized onions were sweet, and the goat cheese was smooshy and tangy. I made the most obscene noises eating this pizza. We couldn’t hear our TV show at all. I had planned to have one slice and a big salad – but instead I ate the entire pizza in one sitting.
When I say this was the best pizza of my life you have to take into consideration that prior to making this, the best pizza of my life came from a hole-in-the-wall joint run by a New York Italian and an Italian Italian who order their ingredients from NY (their ricotta, at least – because Relita insists we have nothing like Polly-O ricotta on this coast) and have more than one large sign indicating that pineapple is verboten in their shop.
I can’t stop thinking about this pizza. I think pizza night is going to become a regular thing.
The Best Pizza of My Life
Pizza dough for one pizza (generally half of a recipe or half of a fresh ball from the store)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter or canola oil
1 large clove garlic
1 medium-large yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 4-oz log fresh goat cheese
- In a medium or large saute pan over medium heat melt 1 tablespoon butter or canola oil and cook the onions, stirring once every few minutes, for about 1/2 an hour or until they are chocolate-brown, limp, and fully caramelized. If they start to stick add a little more oil or a splash of water.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- If you are making your own dough, do so now. Then let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Roll dough out into a 12″ round and place on baking sheet or pizza stone. Pour the olive oil onto the center of the dough. Press or finely mince the garlic on top of the olive oil and use a pastry brush to spread the olive oil and garlic over the dough, leaving a 3/4 to 1-inch margin.
- Put the caramelized onions on the pizza and distribute evenly, with the same margin.
- Roughly chop the goat cheese and distribute evenly, with the same margin.
- Bake 12-15 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden. Your goat cheese may not melt. This is OK.
- Let rest 5-10 minutes, slice, and eat where people who can’t share can’t hear you.
Meyer Lemon Grain Salad with Asparagus, Almonds and Goat Cheese from The Kitchn. To lighten this up, I skipped the nuts and halved the oils (using canola and olive instead of olive and walnut). But still, UH-MAY-ZING. Nutty asparagus (I roasted mine), chewy grains, zingy lemon, creamy-tangy goat cheese. I dirtied a lot of pots and pans making this salad but I was totally worth it: it makes a lot and it’s absolutely delicious. It gets better with time in the fridge, too. Lunch for a week!
Rice Pilaf With Golden Raisins from The New York Times. An excellent side dish for Middle Eastern, Indian, and Levantine dishes. I served it with some simple lamb meatballs. For color I added 1/4 tsp turmeric and for added flavor I cooked the rice in broth. This was supposed to serve four but we had no leftovers.
Creamy Chicken and Rice from Natasha’s Kitchen. Matt’s first reaction was “Jesus, how much butter is in this?” and after I told him “Not as much as you think,” he asked, still amazed, “Is this homemade?” Our verdict was that this was going into regular rotation with spaghetti and stroganoff and tater tot casserole. I would happily eat this one a week ad infinitum. It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s delicious, it makes enough to feed an army. I ran the recipe through the SparkRecipes calculator and told it that it made 8 servings (though it may make more like 10 or 12 servings for people who have some sense of portion control) and it said the calorie count was something like 243 per serving. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better!
Avocado Egg Salad from Avocado Central. Look, Ma! No mayonnaise! I have nothing against mayonnaise, actually. But this sandwich is delicious without it, nonetheless. Instead, one half of an avocado is pureed with vinegar and mustard and then finely diced onion, the rest of the avocado, and hard boiled eggs are folded into that sort-of-a-vinaigrette. I heaped this up between slices of toasted, seedy bread and looked forward to lunch all week!
Chicken with Caramelized Sumac Onions, Preserved Lemon, and Pearl Couscous from Food52. I forgot to grab sumac when I was at the Hippie Connection (natural food co-op) so when I made this I substituted a generic Moroccan spice mix of ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, allspice, and cinnamon. Everything cooks in one oven-going skillet or Dutch oven so there’s very little mess to clean up after. The couscous becomes almost like risotto in the oven and the chicken falls apart like it’s been slow-cooked. The overall flavor is very savory and umami in which the preserved lemon gives a punch. (By the way, since I also forgot to buy preserved lemon and I didn’t want to wait 3 weeks for homemade I used Mark Bittman’s Quick ‘Preserved’ Lemons, which were a cinch and only need to macerate for about 1/2 an hour.)
One Pot Greek Chicken and Lemon Rice from RecipeTin Eats. Much like the above, this is a one-pan chicken-parts and starchy-goodness flavor fest. Cheap, simple, and bursting with lemon, garlic, and oregano. Just add salad or a steamed veggie. The only drawback is that it is torture to smell this cooking in the oven for 45 minutes.
If you like the sound of these recipes, you should check out my Pinterest boards.
Craig Claiborne’s Pasta con Asparagi from Food52. Quick enough for a weeknight and pretty cheap when asparagus is in season. Since Matt thinks I am trying to starve him to death if I serve a single meal not containing meat I added bacon, which seemed a natural addition to this vegetarian meal. The sauce is sort of a mashup of carbonara and tomato, but retains the simplicity of both. Add bread and salad and you have a meal.
Wheat Berries with Roasted Vegetables from Food & Wine. Another addition to my growing stable of go-to lunch recipes. Nutty, toothy wheat berries are simmered with thyme and cranberries and then tossed with roasted carrots, leeks, and mushrooms. Add a little fresh goat cheese and you have a winner. Healthy and filling and addictively tasty.
Garlic Butter Asparagus Pasta from Diethood. This is the first time I have included a recipe in the roundup that I am not actually keeping in my ginormous binder of recipes. I thought this was fantastic in every way (inexpensive, fast, tasty) and Matt thought it was “meh.” I know better than to try to make a “meh” recipe a second time. Al the joy I get out of it is negated by Matt’s indifference. (Grrr) But I wanted you good people to know about this dish. It’s great for spring, when asparagus is plentiful and cheap, but also for summer when you don’t want to use the oven.
P.S. If you like my recipe roundups you’re almost sure to like my Pinterest boards.