Last week I was on a bit of a kick making flavored, frozen things to crumble on top of other things. The change in weather required this not only in the abrupt increase in temperature, but in the change of mood. Late spring cold and slush gave way to warm blue skies and a frenzy of outdoor activity, lifted moods and many people just a bit too pink come Monday. Reveling in the happy humors I wanted whimsy. Flavorful, easy and new. Edible snow it was.
The first dish had been percolating a bit since I last made some spiced caramelized carrots. I had written that their bold, wonderful flavors helped the latest snow go down and a friend snarked “how did you prepare the snow?” Immediately I knew I wanted to top them with a frozen goat cheese.
Years ago my husband and I had this ridiculously long and fascinating molecular gastronomy dinner at Moto in Chicago. By the time we were eating bits of paper that looked and tasted like cotton candy (about 4 hours after we first sat down) I saw a woman across the restaurant completely asleep still upright in her chair. While the laser-toasted-orange-peel-scented pinot noir was exciting and tiny fillet of fish cooked inside a hot box while we ate the 15th course delicious, it was the mound of melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese I remember the most. It was chilled with liquid nitrogen and shot out of some contraption into a nearly weightless pile. And once in your mouth, it disappeared into vapors. We called it goat snow and I knew I would never come close to that ethereal dish, but I could try something close.
I settled on making an herbed granita and it was just what I hoped for. The cold gave way to the creamy goat cheese and then slowly revealed the herbs. It was wonderful with the spiced, sticky carrots. Paired with some greens and toasted nuts this would make a great lunch, or serve with grilled chicken and greens for a hearty dinner. The dish is best with smaller carrots, but you can quarter larger ones as well.
Goat Cheese “Snow”
4 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon chives
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 pounds carrots, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon urfa or other chili pepper
2 tablespoons apricot jam (or orange marmalade)
1 tablespoon orange juice
maldon or other flakey salt
Blend cheese with milk until smooth. Fold in pepper, chives and thyme. Pour into a 9×9 baking dish, cover and freeze. You may either scrape and stir with a fork every 15 minutes until frozen granita-style or allow it to freeze in one piece and break into chunks.
Heat oven to 425. Toast cumin, coriander, fennel and pepper in a dry skillet until fragrant. Let cool then grind in a mortar and pestle. Cut carrots in half, toss with olive oil. and a generous sprinkling of spices. Arrange on a baking sheet so they are not too crowded and bake about 15 minutes or until starting to brown. Meanwhile, heat jam (I did 20 seconds in microwave) until syrupy and mix with juice. Flip carrots, drizzle with jam and roast until edges are browned and starting to crisp.
Place carrots on a platter and scatter “snow” on top. Garnish with fresh thyme and chives and a sprinkling of maldon salt.
The second snow was inspired by, what else? A Food52 contest for your best coconut. I chose to flavor some coconut milk with lime, simple syrup and basil. Even though it is not quite peach season, it seemed this would be best on a stone fruit of sorts. There is a bit of an ick factor for me in the fuzziness of a peach, (though once those suckers roll in from Palisade I make do) so I chose some fragrant nectarines. I thought a brief stint on the grill would add a nice touch. It also made them a bit juicier and, served still warm, made the coconut snow melt a bit creating bites both icy and crunchy and creamy delectable.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup coconut milk (I used full fat)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon basil
4 nectarines (or peaches, apricots or bananas!)
neutral flavored oil
Heat sugar and water until sugar has disolved into a simple syrup. Cool. Mix coconut milk, lime, 3 T of the simple syrup*, a pinch of salt and basil. Pour into a 9×9 baking dish, cover and freeze. You can either stir with a fork every 15 minutes or so to get a finer crumble, or let the whole thing freeze and crack it into chunks. Took a little over an hour for mine to set. Can be made ahead.
Heat a grill and be sure the grate is clean. Cut fruit in half, lightly brush with oil and grill cut side down just until grill marks appear. Put on a plate (or bowl) and top with coconut snow. Garnish with basil and lime zest if desired.
* Muddle a couple lime halfs with some basil and mix with the remaining simple syrup and tequila for a nice cocktail while you grill the fruit!
Next up I would like to experiment with more savory slushes as summer advances and herbs, tomatoes and peppers are abundant. Stay tuned!