I'm going out on a limb to say this will probably be one of my least popular posts of all time. Why? Because I'm pretty sure I'm the only one under the age of 80 who buys Grape-Nuts on a regular basis. But I can't help it. I love that cereal! And I especially love the ice cream!
Grape nut ice cream is one of those flavors that lurks in the far corner of the menu board for one reason and one reason alone: to appease the grumpy guy down the street that orders a single scoop at the same time every day like he has for the past 40 years. If you took it off the menu, you'd never hear the end of it.
For everyone else, though, the decision is tough. What would you rather find in your ice cream: cookie dough, cake batter, candy bars, or Euell Gibbons' favorite health cereal? Then there's the temptation of chocolate-peanut-butter this or coffee-mocha-caramel that or some new maple-walnut-butterscotch-bourbon-pistachio-pecan-praline mash-up, which I will surely love, to complicate matters. Peaceful treaties between historically hostile nations could be hammered out in less time than it takes me to order an ice cream.
That's why I make my own grape nut ice cream at home. I have everything I need right in the pantry and it's always consistently good. (Sometimes grumpy guys have a point!) The secret is in the cereal itself: how those crunchy little nuggets of barley soften and mellow into malty, toothsome perfection. A little bit of malted milk powder sweetens the deal. If you can't find malted milk powder at the store, you can order it through King Arthur Flour or just ask your local ice cream shop for a take-out container of the stuff while waving a couple of dollar bills around. Nothing motivates the teenage summer help like cold hard cash. Or maybe it's the prospect of getting certain indecisive, troublesome female patrons to finally leave. We may never know for sure.
Grape Nut Ice Cream
I make my ice cream the old-fashioned way: with organic raw eggs. You are under no obligation to do the same. If you're worried about salmonella, your options are many: Use pasteurized eggs instead. Or leave out the eggs entirely for a very serviceable Philadelphia-style ice cream. Or pull out your favorite cooked custard-style ice cream cookbook (like David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop) and modify this recipe using egg yolks and a thermometer. Or pull out your favorite cornstarch-based, egg-free ice cream cookbook (like Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home) and modify her base. It's your kitchen after all.
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 heaping tablespoons malted milk powder, like Horlick's or Carnation
3/4 cup Grape-Nuts cereal
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar a little at a time, then whisk for 1 minute more. Add the cream, milk, and malted milk powder, and whisk for another minute until the sugar is dissolved. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (usually spin for 25 minutes).
During the last 2 minutes of churning, pour in the grape nuts. Transfer the churned mixture into a freezer-safe container. Freeze until firm, at least 8 hours.
I can always tell when the wild mushrooms are out because at least one of my shiitake logs will start producing. They like heavy rains and major temperature changes. This stump is usually my worst producer, but it gave me mushrooms the size of salad plates last week. One of my other logs produced several shiitakes of a more reasonable size.
For lunch over the weekend, I made a stir-fry of Asian eggplant, shiitakes, garlic, scallions, and basil.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
The package was sitting on my porch when we got back from vacation. I was almost afraid to open it, which is ridiculous since I've already seen the proofs. But what if I opened the package to find a book that I didn't recognize at all, on a subject with which I was completely unfamiliar, in a language unknown to me, with all kinds of abstract art I don't understand and would somehow have to try to explain because my name is on the book?
Could that happen? Could it?
I eyed the package suspiciously for some time until, finally, I just opened it. It was exactly what I remembered—in English no less—and all of the good feelings came rushing back like I was reuniting with an old friend.
1. It's beautiful. The cover is stunning. The photos are gorgeous. The whole design is just lovely. It's exactly the kind of book I'd be delighted to find under the tree on Christmas morning. I feel so fortunate to have worked with a publisher that somehow managed to align the art with my own personal aesthetic so closely (or, more accurately, the aesthetic I strive for). Don't you just love when you get some good luck once in a while?
2. Wow, it's really thick. Sure, I saw the manuscript pages numbering into the high two-hundreds, but I still couldn't picture what 280 pages of nice, thick paper would look like between a jacket-less hardcover. It looks really substantial. Not "intimidating" substantial, but certainly "you're getting your money's worth" substantial.
3. How the hell am I ever going to top this?
Last week, I was on my computer when the 7YO came in, sat down, and started quietly paging through the book, which was sitting on the armchair next to my desk. We used to do this all the time when he was little. He would sit on my lap in that very chair and we'd go page by page through whatever cookbook he picked out, usually a dessert cookbook (like mother, like son!). He'd look at all the pictures, read all the recipe names, and decide which ones we would make. He learned how to read that way.
At the time, I never considered that we would be sitting down doing the same thing in a handful of years with a cookbook I wrote myself. But there we were, cuddled up on the chair, the 10YO soon joining us as we plotted peanut butter blondies and whoopie pies. I was sure we wouldn't make it all the way to the end of the book in one sitting, but we did. I don't think there's a single review or sales statistic that could top that feeling!
Just a reminder that the book will be out next month. If you've already pre-ordered, thank you so much! Every copy supports my family and this blog. If you'd like to come to the book release party, it is open to the public and will be held on Friday, October 25 at 7 p.m. at Back Pages Book in Waltham. You can RSVP here so I know how much cake to make. (If you can't come, you can still purchase signed copies here.)
As I've mentioned before, I reign over a vast kingdom of poison ivy in real life. There's nothing glamorous about it. What started out as a few small patches of dermatitis on one cheek—acquired during phase 2 of my annual poisonous weed patrol of my yard—exploded into a swollen, lumpy, crusty mass of oozing, weepy flesh. Within a week, it had taken over the entire right side of my face, ear to nose, jaw to cheekbone. I had to tie my hair back in order to keep the strands from getting stuck and then drying to my cheek in an unholy thatch. And the itching. Dear god, the itching! It took every ounce of self-control not to claw myself to death.
This all coincided with our backwoods vacation, of course. I watched with trepidation as the rash (that word doesn't even begin to describe it) advanced toward my mouth and eye holes. Finally, my lake companions—in between private bouts of discreet retching—convinced me to seek medical attention. I located a clinic in the nearest small town (population: 1,700) and carried half of my face there in a pot. The sympathetic medical staff prescribed me large quantities of steroids, which have enabled me to regain human form and return to civilized society once again. Now it just looks like I have some kind of weird splotchy sunburn on one side of my face. (Also, I'm ripped!)
So, in case that photo gave you the impression of happy, carefree days spent shucking corn in the late afternoon sun, now you know. Those afternoons were happy—but very itchy!
Our vacation ended with a stay at our friend Red's family lake house in New York. I love that trip because it combines equal parts virtue and vice. The vice comes in the form of multiple pounds of bacon crisped in the morning and snacked on throughout the day, multiple bags of Doritos inhaled during the 2-to-3-p.m. time frame (also known as chip o'clock), multiple forms of meat seared on the grill round about sunset, and multiple containers of ice cream consumed after dinner, sometimes muddled with root beer in disgusting, chunky combinations.
The virtue is in all the exercise we get. The lake is about three miles around and we walk the loop at least once a day—sometimes twice—keeping an eye out for fun creatures to catch: leopard frogs, salamanders, snails, caterpillars, and crayfish. Some of us have to run to keep up with certain walkers, but that just means I get to make myself out to be sportier than I really am. There's sailing, and kayaking, and fishing to be done, if fishing counts as exercise (Husband says yes). Then there's all the great swimming. I love diving off the floating dock over and over again like a child. And, of course, we have the huge bounty of tomatoes, eggplants, and sweet corn we tote in from Waltham Fields, Lindentree, and the local farms around the lake.
One night after the kids were in bed, a few of us were working on a jigsaw puzzle when we heard a series of raspy shouts and some funny shuffling coming from upstairs. It turns out that Husband had emerged from the bathroom to find a live bat flapping right in his face. We've always known there are bats in the peaked gables of the cottage attic. There's a thick curtain clipped to the wall to block their access to the living area. At dusk, they somehow make their way outside, and you can observe them darting around the lake where they provide a valuable service eating bugs. When we arrived, there was a bat hanging upside-down in the top of the folded-up sun umbrella on the dock, guano dotting the tabletop below. But all of those bats were observed outdoors in at least partial daylight. And they weren't in anyone's face.
After what I can only imagine was a minor heart attack, Husband attempted to rouse some human reinforcements without waking the six children. Meanwhile, the bat proceeded to swoop up and down the hallway in complete silence like a spooky pendulum. Husband and his friend tried to shoo the flapping creature out the doorway to the porch at the end of the hall. After several attempts, the bat finally disappeared and they quickly slammed the door. Everyone collapsed into relieved giggles. Stupid bat! Too riled up to go to bed, I returned to my puzzle.
Ten minutes later, there was another muffled shriek upstairs. This time, it was Red who was rewarded with the flapping of batwings in her face. Another bat?? No, probably the same bat. It had presumably taken refuge in a dark ceiling corner to shelter itself from the ungainly humans that had mounted the earlier attack. The freaked-out bat fluttered into one of the adult bedrooms. More stifled squeaks were heard while the rest of us stood sentry by the kids' bedrooms. The porch door was opened once more and, in a rather large leap of faith that the entire outdoor bat population wouldn't swarm inside the house all at once, a more vigorous shooing resumed. Finally, I was able to give visual confirmation that the bat did actually fly out the door this time.
I haven't seen anything that funny in a very long time! No bats or humans were harmed in the scuffle. I guess all's well that ends in no rabies.
If you're grilling this Labor Day, tell your burly grillmaster to push the meat aside and make room for some veggie love. Here's a quick recipe to help you deal with the season's influx of local zucchini and long, twisty Asian eggplant. Simply cut them into thin slices, brush them with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the veggies over hot coals until tender, grill-marked, and bendy. Arrange them on a platter and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, and slivered basil. I almost added a vinaigrette, but then I thought it wasn't necessary. Your call.