The Epitome of Pickle

Behold, a list of things I am suspicious of:  Raw garlic. Men in fedoras.  Colonics.  Bartenders who make negronis in martini glasses. (Please note: they should be served on the rocks.  In an old-fashioned glass.  With an orange slice.  Like you were making them for your eighty-seven year-old grandfather.) B-complex vitamins. People who claim to dislike cake. And, most recently, a forgotten pickle recipe ripped from the pages of bon appétit

I had clipped the page for its featured triple beef burger with spiced ketchup.  At one point in time, I was suspicious of people who used condiments like "spiced ketchup." But after developing an unhealthy attachment to the lamb burgers and fries with with homemade mace-laced ketchup at Matt Murphy’s in Brookline Village I have since changed my tune.  I would be nothing but a saucy, tomato-faced hypocrite.

Anyways, on my slightly rumpled tear out —low and behold—there was a pickle recipe by a Mr. Tony Maws.  Initially, I admit, I had my doubts. It seemed to contain less vinegar than I’m accustomed to.  And a bit more salt.  I am certainly not salt shy, but I was burned by a cured scallop recipe once; I haven’t been able to look at the mollusk the same since.  I am not, however, skeptical of the food that Maws creates. So, I threw caution to the wind and pickled as I was told. And then waited—a little impatiently—until I was able to finally bite into one.

Now, I am typically very, very distrusting of hyperbole—sniffing out superlatives with the best of them—but I am one-hundred and ten percent confident in saying that this recipe makes the finest pickles around.  I'm quite sure this is what all other pickles strive to be. Perfectly seasoned.  Impossibly crisp.  Top dog.  Most excellent.  Textbook. Spot on. A condiment to judge all others. You get the idea.  A pickle apotheosis.

Pickle Spears
Adapted from Tony Maws of Craigie on Main via bon appétit


2¼ cups water
2/3 cup white vinegar
4 sprigs of fresh dill
2 tbsp kosher salt
1½ tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp pink peppercorns
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp juniper berries
1 bay leaf
1 serrano chile
About 4-5 pickling cumbers (or about 1 pound)


Bring all the ingredients (except the pickles) to a boil in a large saucepan and stir occasionally until the salt dissolves.  Meanwhile, slice the pickles into spears and place them in a glass container that will allow for the pickles to be fully covered with the brining liquid.  (I used a Weck jar.)  Just be sure your jar can withstand the heat of the hot liquid.  When the salt has dissolved, pour your brine over the liquid and allow to cool slightly.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, ideally at least 24 hours, before eating.  The pickles will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.

Makes about 15-20 pickles

-In his recipe, Tony also calls for 6-1/8 inch rounds of peeled fresh horseradish; 2 tsp coriander seeds; ½ tsp whole allspice; and ½ large red onion, thinly sliced.  He uses red wine vinegar, as well.  I didn’t have any of these things on hand, since I hadn’t really been planning to pickle and all. So I added some pink peppercorns, subbed brown mustard seeds for the yellow variety, and slightly adjusted some of the spice ratios.  (Of course, the spice amounts are rough estimates.) I guess what I’m saying is that there is room to play.  Though I’ll definitely be back with horseradish and red onion next time.

-This is not a pickle that is bracing with vinegar.  The recipe honors the cucumber, treats it in a way that summer produce should be treated.

-Maw's favorite burgers in Boston.


Black Raspberry Ice Cream on the Short List

It’s just too hot to think right now.  My brain might be melting.  Or at least this is the excuse I am going to use for whatever is preventing me from typing something—anything—that doesn’t induce a yawn. I also see chilly drinks in my immediate future.  And I’d rather be drinking, say, a Pimm’s Cup than slowly becoming a puddle of self-loathing.

So here is a short list of the potential topics I had swirling around to write about relating to the elusive black raspberry:

-Triple berry pie with a flaky crust
-Two-berry twist soft serve, twirls of coral and lilac 
-Grandma Lee’s black raspberry bushes
-Blue-green cardboard pints
-Berry-stained fingers
-Warm black raspberry crisp on a counter top, with cinnamon

I have made a lot of ice cream as an adult. I haven’t had a black raspberry since approximately age sixteen.  But when we met again at the farmers’ market last week, I was ready.  I’ve been training.  Safe to say this black raspberry ice cream will find itself at home with my other favorite flavors. (The short list: rum raisin, Taza chocolate truffle, salted butter caramel, and cardamom lime frozen yogurt with passion fruit.)

So my adult world meets my childhood, at last.  What would you tell sixteen-year-old self?  I’d tell mine to eat more cones of two-berry twist at the ice cream stand with your family, young lady.  And to enjoy those brambly berries because you won’t be seeing them again for roughly fifteen years.  And not to worry: someday you will find yourself a nice pint of black raspberries and some heavy cream, and settle down with a spoon or two.  And the rest will be history. 

Black Raspberry Ice Cream


For the black raspberry syrup

1 pint of black raspberries 
1/3 cup demerara sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice with a little zest grated in
Pinch of salt

For the ice cream base

1½ cups whole milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
Pinch salt
1¼ cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
¼ cup buttermilk
1-2 tbsp cassis
½ cup whole black raspberries


Toss the berries with the sugar, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt in a small casserole dish.  Roast them at 425 degrees until the berries soften and start concentrating their liquid; the berries will be ready when their liquid is bubbling and starts to get thick (start checking after about 20 minutes, mine took 30 or so).  Blend the roasted berries in a food processor and then strain out the seeds; set the seeds aside.  Measure ½ cup of the black raspberry puree and place in the fridge to chill (this will be added into the ice cream base later).  (If you have any puree remaining you can add it to the rest of the seeds, refrigerate, and use as a black raspberry spread; I didn't have any extra, but this may depend on how juicy your berries are and how long you roast them.)

Mix about 2 tbsp of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.  Whip cream cheese and pinch of salt with a whisk in another small bowl; set aside.

Combine the remaining milk, heavy cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium-sized sauce pan and slowly bring to a rolling boil; let boil gently for 4 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid scorching the milk. Remove the mixture from the heat, whisk in the cornstarch slurry, and bring back to a boil, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula until the mixture thickens slightly (1-2 minutes or so).  Gradually whisk a little of the hot mixture into the cream cheese mixture. Once the cream cheese is mixed in, add the cream cheese mixture into the rest of the ice cream base and whisk to combine; add in the buttermilk and ½ cup reserved black raspberry puree. Strain the mixture for any bits of cream cheese that may not have been fully incorporated.  Add 1-2 tbsp of cassis to the black raspberry ice cream base (start off with less, taste, and add another tbsp as needed).  Cool in a bowl set inside another larger bowl filled with ice and then refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the flavors to develop. 

Pour the chilled black raspberry base into a frozen ice cream canister from an ice cream machine.  Churn the ice cream until it gets thick and creamy and pulls away from the sides of the canister (about 20-25 minutes). While the ice cream is spinning, cut the whole black raspberries in half.  (If you have recently rinsed the berries, make sure they are completely dry before adding them to the ice cream base.) When the ice cream is finished, scoop a little of the ice cream base into a freezer-safe container with a rubber spatula and sprinkle in a few black raspberry halves.  Add a little more ice cream and then follow with more berries. Continue alternating layers until all the berries and ice cream are used up, finishing with a layer of the ice cream. Smooth the top of the ice cream, cover with parchment paper cut to fit the container you are using, and then freeze for a minimum of four hours.

Makes about a quart

-The demerara sugar adds a little richness and deepens the flavor of the berries while they roast, but feel free to use plain old granulated in its place. 
-The recipe was inspired by Jeni's roasted strawberry buttermilk ice cream by way of Pixelated Crumb.
-Growing up in Upstate New York meant black raspberries abound.  Not so in Boston. Sigh.


Blackberry Lemon Verbena Cheesecake, and all that Americana

If I could rewind, I would not have inquiringly flipped the latch on my springform pan causing the liquid contents to ooze slowly, unstoppably out. Slow as molasses, equally as messy, and just as painful to watch.  If you are one of those people who chirps about reframing things, you might call this a teachable moment.  I am not that together most of the time.  

In fact, sometimes I land on the side of catastrophizing, so I'm deeming this incident The Great Cream Cheese Flood of 2012.  I stood just staring at the puddle of cheesecake on my floor for quite a while. Yes, on a Tuesday, at roughly 9 pm, a good deal of wasted dairy threatened to take me down.

After I cleaned bits of eggy cream cheese from my cabinet doors, floor, and the crevice between my stove and sink and collected myself, I got to work on round two.  Ding ding ding … The Cheesecake: 1, Emily: 0

I intended to make dessert for a fourth of July party and it would have been simply un-American to show up cheesecakeless.  We are fighters.  We love Rocky Balboa.  We wear tiny cutoff shorts with the pockets showing.  We get red-faced about second Amendment rights.  We are a people that love dessert.  And so I went back to the grocery store, and reloaded.

Thus, this is not a cheesecake for weaklings.  There seems to be a good deal of praise devoted to cheesecakes that are "light" and "airy." This is all fine and good and could probably be labeled “progressive.” I do not want a cheesecake like this. I want one that is thick and luscious.  One that will knock me out with her American thighs.  And this cheesecake is all of those things.

A sliver is all you need to feel wholeheartedly satisfied.  The cake is simple and honest and I love it for sentimental reasons.  The base recipe I used comes from my Great Aunt Rose.  It won me over as a favorite dessert at family holiday gatherings a few years ago. And when I asked her for the recipe she said, “It’s good.  But it’s a pain in the ass.”  And then forked it over. It’s actually not too terribly difficult to make, but you do have to pay attention to it. And if you open your springform pan prematurely you may find yourself swearing like a sailor.

I added the blackberries because I wanted something to cut through its richness.  And though I’m not usually a fan of their big, brutish drupelets, the container I picked up and sniffed smelled slightly of cassis and this was enough to change my mind.  So with a newly found vision of cold cheesecake topped with a crown of glossy blackberries, I came back swinging.

And number two, oh she was a knockout. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how many dropped cheesecakes you can take, and keep baking.

Blackberry Lemon Verbena Cheesecake
Adapted from Aunt Rose


For the crust

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
¼ cup sugar
the zest of one lemon
pinch of salt
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of ground coriander
½ cup butter
1 egg yolk
a generous ½ tsp vanilla extract

For the filling

40 ounces cream cheese (5 packages), softened to room temperature
a generous ½ tsp vanilla extract
the zest of one lemon
1¾ cup sugar
3 tbsp all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
4-5 eggs (1 liquid cup full), at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
¼ cup heavy cream
splash of orange blossom water

For the blackberry top

about 25 ounces of blackberries (or roughly 3-4 cups), divided
2-4 tbsp lemon juice (depending on how sweet the berries are, start off with less)
about 1/3 cup of sugar (also depends on the sweetness of the berries)
pinch of salt
2 tbsp Crème de Cassis
3 sprigs of lemon verbena


For the cheesecake

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the first six ingredients for the crust in a medium-sized bowl and then cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.  Add in the vanilla and egg yolk; mix until the mixture is fully moist. (It may help to do this with your hands.)  Place a little more than 1/3 of the mixture into the bottom of a nine inch springform pan and bake until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Let cool.  (If it's hot in your kitchen you may want to put the rest of the mixture into the fridge while the bottom bakes.)

When the bottom crust has cooled, lock in the sides of the springform pan; butter the sides, and press the rest of the crust mixture from the bottom up the sides, up to about one inch in height. (Not all of the cheesecake will be covered with crust; see a side view of the finished cheesecake here.)

To make the filling, beat the softened cream cheese until creamy and velvety smooth in a stand mixer; add the vanilla and lemon zest and then add the sugar, flour, and salt gradually while the mixer is running on low speed.  Then add the eggs one at a time, while the mixer is still running. Fold in the heavy cream and orange blossom water. Pour the mixture into your springform pan (it will nearly fill the pan; don't be alarmed).

Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes (my instructions say 12) and then turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake for 55 minutes more.  Place on a wire rack to cool.  After 30 minutes, gently loosen the sides of the pan with a knife.  After 1 hour, remove the sides of the springform pan.  Allow to cool two hours longer before placing in the fridge to chill.

For the blackberry top

Line the top of your cheesecake with a layer of fresh berries. You can stagger and stack them a bit to create some height, but a slightly haphazard little pile is all you need. 

Place a few handfuls of the berries into a saucepan.  Add in the lemon juice, sugar, and salt and cook on medium heat until the berries start to burst and let their sauces out and then add the Crème de Cassis. Cook until the mixture starts to thicken; it should look thick and glossy, but still be spreadable (this will take about 10-15 minutes).  Add a little more lemon juice to the pan to thin out the sauce, as needed.  Once at the desired consistency, drop in your lemon verbena sprigs and take off the heat to cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes. Strain out the seeds; reserve for another use or discard.

With a pastry brush, gently brush the strained blackberry syrup-glaze over the top of the berries.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes one cheesecake (should feed about 12-16 people)

-I love lemon verbena in the summer. It’s a good counterpart for the blackberries and a natural here, playing off the lemon zest and ginger and coriander in the crust. I might even add it a little sooner to the pan to extract more of its flavor next time, but I wasn't sure how it would fair and I didn't want verbena to overpower things.

-You can spread the strained, sweetened seeds on toast.

-More about Crème de Cassis, including tips on how to use it courtesy of Formaggio Kitchen.  You can't go wrong with Kir in the summertime.


The Thunder of Taza Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream

The best way to describe this ice cream is to say it tastes like dark clouds and thunderbolts.  

Perhaps this is because I made it during a raging thunderstorm.  The kind that sparks bright white shards from thick, black clouds and seems intent on shattering up the sky.  The kind that swirls thickly around, gaining momentum from hot summer nights. The kind that pairs perfectly with ice cream so rich it makes you want to sin.

This ice cream is thick, explosively deep, dark, and intense. It booms along, warning: danger, chocolate approaching.  In the best possible way.  It is frozen custard of finest quality.

I started this process late last Monday evening.  It started to thunder. And pour.  Like the dickens.  Outside, first.  And then inside my apartment.

I had two choices: leave the chocolate custard on the stovetop and risk curdling or, baby, let it rain.  My wet coffee pot dried eventually. 

When this custard sets up, it lands somewhere between chocolate pudding and mousse.  And it easily reaches death-by-chocolate proportions prior to being spun into ice cream.  But the cold bites of chewy chocolate are worth waiting for. (It’s done churning and ready for the freezer when it becomes so thick that it literally stops moving.)

The recipe is from an old bon appétit that features (the fantastic) Mr. and Mrs. Fergus Henderson of St. JOHN restaurant in London. It came with a caption that read: the chocolate ice cream is so rich, it doesn’t melt—it just gets truffley.

Lusty spoonfuls are soon to follow.

Taza Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream
Adapted from bon appétite by way of Fergus Henderson of St. JOHN BAR and RESTAURANT


7 ounces Taza 70% Cacao Puro Chocolate Mexicano chocolate (or other high quality chocolate), roughly chopped into shards
2 cups plus 2 tbsp whole milk
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks
13 tbsp sugar, divided
¼ cup heavy cream


Place the chocolate shards into a metal bowl small enough to fit over a saucepan of barely simmering water.  Stir chocolate until melted and smooth; set aside.

Whisk milk, cocoa powder, and pinch of salt together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it just comes to a rolling boil; set aside.

Using a stand or handheld mixer, beat egg yolks and 7 tbsp of the sugar until very thick, light yellow ribbons form (this will take a few minutes). Whisking constantly, gradually add the hot cocoa milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, a few tablespoons at a time.  Be very cautious with this and add the mixture slowly so that the egg does not curdle.  Once all the milk has been added, return the mixture to a saucepan; add the melted chocolate and whisk to fully combine.

Stir the mixture on medium-low heat until it starts to thicken up (this will take a few minutes; the article says to let it come to 175 degrees, I pulled mine off just around that mark, though I think it could have been pulled off a little sooner, without any negative effects).  Fill a large bowl with ice.  Strain the chocolate custard using a fine mesh metal strainer and transfer it to a metal bowl; sit the bowl of custard inside the bowl of ice, stirring occasionally to help it cool.

Meanwhile, make caramel by combining the remaining 6 tbsp of sugar with 2 tbsp of water and bring it to a boil in a saucepan over medium high heat, swirling the mixture occasionally.  Watch carefully and swirl to dissolve and then brown the sugar; do not stir or your sugar mixture may crystallize.  (It is often recommended to brush the sides of the pan down with a wet pastry brush, but I never seem to have to do this by simply swirling occasionally and avoiding spoons at all cost.)  When the sugar turns a dark amber, gradually add in the cream, swirling it around to help it combine (it will spatter and spew).  Using a rubber spatula, now stir the mixture to combine.  Whisk the caramel slowly into the cooled chocolate custard.

Cover and chill the custard in the fridge for two days (it will get thick) and then churn in a frozen ice cream machine base until the mixture thickens and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl (this took me about 20 minutes and the custard pretty much grinded to a halt).  Pack into a freezer safe container and cover with parchment paper. Freeze three days before eating.

Makes a little short of a quart

-The recipe has the custard sit (in the fridge and then in the freezer) for a total of five days before eating it.  This is said to deepen the flavor.  It took the chefs at St. John years to finalize the recipe.  So I just did what I was told.

-If you’d like to buy Taza chocolate (it’s wonderful), you can here.

-This would take quite kindly to a sprinkling of fleur de sel.