Last week I had one minor and two major adventures in the kitchen.

Having local blueberries on hand made me want to make my barley-blueberry-jicama salad, which I’ve adapted from a Cooks’ Illustrated recipe (the original uses rice and pineapple as the grain and fruit… eww). Cooks’ recommends toasting the rice in a dry skillet and then cooking it like pasta, in a major abundance of water. I’ve never bothered trying that with the barley before this week, and can now affirm it’s well worth doing. The grains become fluffy; they don’t clump. They aren’t sticky-starchy. Thumbs UP.

When going through an old stack of printed recipes, I uncovered a treasure from a cooking class I took several years ago. We had a lesson from someone at the Icon Grill, which included their delicious Cajun Rock Shrimp Penne. It’s actually pretty simple – make a spicy sauce for pasta that doubles as a marinade for shrimp. And it is spicy: the recipe serves 4, and begins with 2 and a half TABLESPOONS of CAYENNE PEPPER. And one CUP of GARLIC, which was 3-4 heads. Those are not the only disturbing quantities in there, either. Go on, ask me how much butter you use to emulsify the sauce at the end. Or actually don’t, and you’ll sleep better.

Finally, I was reading Harold McGee’s latest “Curious Cook” article in the NY Times, and it included a recipe and technique for a no-tech homemade ice cream in a bag. I’ve never made ice cream and was intrigued to try a fast method that requires no equipment besides a zip-top freezer bag, a large bowl, ice and kosher salt. This was a Philadelphia style ice cream (think Bryers vanilla). We liked it and I’ll try to experiment with different ice cream and/or sorbet mixes this month.

Semi-blurry camera-phone pictures of leftovers, after the jump…

Barley-Blueberry-Jicama salad:

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Cajun Rock Shrimp Penne:

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Ice Cream in a Bag. It’s not very glamorous looking:

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