Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown 2015: Red Velvet Cheesecake Ice Cream

There are few things in this world greater than a weekend of friends, park time, ice cream, and sweet victory! And there are many things harder than writing a blog post with no current urge to write. But knowing I have no good reason for my writer’s block doesn’t make it any less insurmountable. Perhaps it is this stifling humidity?

In any case, I am thrilled to say that my red velvet cheesecake ice cream was awarded third place in this past weekend’s Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown. And even more thrilled that I got to spend some quality time with my ice cream scooping and transporting BFFs.


But enough about me, let’s talk ice cream. This ice cream is super tangy (from all the sour cream) and refreshing (from the lemon zest), warm (not in a temperature way but in a spice way, from the cinnamon), and rich (from all the cake chunks). There’s really not much else to say than that it comes together like a breeze and you should be making it right now.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Scoop

Red Velvet Cheesecake Ice Cream

Makes about 2 pints

1 slice of red velvet cake

2/3 cup sugar

1 pinch of salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup half and half

1 cup sour cream

8 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into small chunks
Ice Cream Masters

Prepare the red velvet cake by removing the frosting. Cut cake into small cubes, place in a freezer bag, and allow to freeze for one day.

Place all ingredients other than red velvet chunks in a food processor and blend well, until all ingredients are incorporated.

Process the ice cream batter per your ice cream maker’s instructions. When moving the ice cream from the ice cream maker into its freezer container, use a rubber spatula to create a one inch high layer, stud with the frozen red velvet cake chunks, and then repeat, so that all of the red velvet chunks have been placed in the ice cream. Serve on its own–it has all it needs in one delightful package!

Award Time

Shakshuka: A Wallet- and Palate-Friendly At-Home Brunch

As a cash-strapped graduate student, there are few things I miss more about my previous life with a full-time job than the ability to brunch when and where I please. And while it may seem like not having to do any actual cooking is an integral glory of weekend brunch, in this case, it is well worth the extra effort. Besides, when you are cooking at home you don’t have to wait an hour for a table and another half hour for your food. Some might even argue that expending some energy on cooking could help subdue any lingering effects from the previous night’s activities–or so I’m told. And did I mention the part where no one hands you at a check at the end of the meal and you can wear your pajamas for the whole ordeal?

Shakshuka Closeup

If you’ve never tasted shakshuka, you are in for a treat. Essentially eggs in a bath of bell peppers and tomatoes, it is a hearty but healthy meal that keep you satiated until dinner time. It hits all the grad student checkpoints: cheap, easy-to-make, and relatively good for you, but I promise you will enjoy it whether you are working towards a degree or not!

Shakshuka Plated


Recipe from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Makes 2 hearty portions

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons harissa (I prefer a spicy variety)

2 large bell peppers, very finely chopped

4 large garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

5 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped

4 eggs plus 4 egg yolks

yogurt, for serving

pita, for serving

Bell PeppersTomatoes

Heat the olive in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the harissa, bell peppers, garlic, tomato paste, cumin, and salt, and cook until the bell peppers have softened, about 8-10 minutes.

Bell Pepper Fry

Add the tomatoes, let the mixture come to a simmer, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the mixture has turned into a thick sauce. Add more salt and/or cumin if needed.

Tomato Fry

Create 8 little dips in the sauce, and gently place the egg and egg yolk in the dips. Use a fork to move the egg whites around gently to help them cook. Gently simmer for about 8 minutes, until the whites are cooked but the yolks are still custardy.

Shakshuka Pan

Remove from heat and let settle for a few minutes. Plate and serve with thick greek yogurt and toasted pita.

Pile of Shakshuka

Beet Dip Good Enough to Please the Poles

Of all the underrated vegetables in the world (leeks, baby bok choy, fennel, brussels sprouts), I have convinced myself that none is more deserving of the title than beets. Having grown up in a Polish household where every lunch and dinner began with a bowl of soup, I probably had more borscht than every other child on my block combined. So it is embarrassing to admit that yesterday, at the not-so-tender age of twenty-six, was my first time cooking with beets.

Roasted Beet

Before I give up my Polish citizenship, allow me to explain. My mother’s borscht has always been so utterly satisfying and its flavors so perfectly balanced, that I never dared (and honestly, I still don’t dare) to attempt to make the staple dish of the Polish people–a liquid that is almost as ubiquitous as vodka is in the homeland–on my own. What I was waiting for was the perfect non-borscht beet recipe to try for myself. It needed to be something that was at least as good as mother’s cooking, and worth the inevitable pink-dyed everything that would result from working with beets in my kitchen.

Plated Beets

And I have found it. As with all great vegetable dishes, I should have figured out sooner that Ottolenghi was the man to turn to. His beet dip (made with greek yogurt, garlic, a smattering of spices, and, of all things, maple syrup) transcends all the boundaries of vegetables. It passes through so many dimensions that it is at once savory, spicy, and sweet. I put out a hefty plate with dinner last night, and it ended up licked clean. If I had admitted there was more of the dip in the fridge, that would surely be gone as well. I implore you–if there is one recipe from my site you will try this summer, this is it.

Starring Beets

Beet Dip

Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Makes about 5-10 servings

2 1/4 pounds beets

3 small cloves garlic, minced

1 small to medium red chile (depending on how much spice you want), seeded and chopped

1 1/4 cup greek yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons olive oil (use a higher-quality olive oil if possible)

1 tablespoon zahtar

salt, to taste

green onions, thinly sliced, to garnish

feta cheese, sliced, to garnish

olive oil, to garnish

pita, for serving

In the PinkPreheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the beets on a roasting pan, and place in the oven for 60-75 minutes, until a knife can easily go through them. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before peeling and cutting into large chunks.

Beets Beets

Combine the beets, garlic, chile, and yogurt in a food process. Blend until a very smooth paste is formed.

Chile Beets

Place the mixture in a bowl, and add the maple syrup, olive oil, zahtar, and one teaspoon of salt. Use a spoon to mix together well. Taste and add more zahtar and/or salt, as needed.

Mixing Beets

Garnish with green onions, feta, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with warm pita bread and watch it all disappear before your eyes.

Plated Beats

Turkey and Zucchini Mini Burgers

There are hardly enough words to express the joy of a few weeks off between a busy school year and the next work endeavor. While the past year has been rewarding in its own way, making it clear to me that I made the right decision when I was deciding which school to attend, there is still a lot to be said for the rewards of a day spent simply. It’s the difference between sitting on the couch with a textbook versus a best seller, with a much-needed late evening coffee to power through a study session versus a beer just because, with cheap Chinese food from the hole-in-the-wall by the subway stop versus a seasonally-inspired home-cooked meal.


While I spent the first bit of my brief break relaxing on the beaches and mini golf courses of Delaware, I have returned with a small but sufficient farmer’s market load (do you see those flowers?), dusted off my cookbooks, and restocked the pantry for a few days of quality cooking before my upcoming internship becomes all-consuming. And after a delicious but not nutritious very long weekend of meals out, daily ice cream, and more than daily beer, I am going to be going the healthy route for these next few posts.

Turkey Zucchini Burger

But change works best when it is implemented gradually. So, today, I bring you turkey and zucchini mini burgers. They’re as satisfying as a traditional burger (though they taste nothing like it), pack a nice melange of green vegetables and herbs, and go great with a yogurt-based sauce and some salad. They’re even great at room temperature, making them a solid cook-ahead meal to enjoy with your lunch, at, say, a new summer internship.

Turkey and Zucchini Mini Burgers

Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Makes about 18 mini burgers

1 1/4 pound ground turkey (preferably from the thigh)

1 medium zucchini, coarsely grated

3 green onions, finely sliced

1 egg

2 tablespoons chopped mint

2 1/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup sunflower or vegetable oil, approximately

Sumac Sauce

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place all the ingredients except for the oil in a large bowl and use your hands to mix together. Use your hands to form about 15-20 small burger patties.

Ready for Mixing

Heat the oil (it should be enough to coat the pan with about 1/8 of an inch of oil) over medium-high heat on a frying pan. Cook the burgers until they are seared on each side, but do not worry about cooking them through. This should take about 5 minutes per side.

That Turkey Zucchini Base

Place the burgers on the baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 8 minutes, until they are cooked through.

Serve with pita, a Mediterranean salad, and a sumac sauce (made by throwing together your favorite proportions of greek yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and sumac).

Turkey  Zucchini Burgers

On Carbo Loading (Or, Why Reason Does Not Equal Logic)

Today I registered for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Yesterday I entered the lottery for the New York City Marathon. Given the serious training regimens races of this caliber require, it is only sensible that today I share with you a recipe for mushroom lasagne. And before my attempt at athletic prowess lead you to think that this is some sort of health recipe consisting of little more than fresh organic mushrooms, low-sodium tomato sauce, and gluten-free noodles, note that this recipe contains not two or three but, indeed, five different kinds of cheese. And, let’s be honest, that’s not even making mention of the butter and whole milk.

Mushroom Lasagna Slice

I could reason that at the least, such a decadent recipe might be good for carbo loading, but, if we’re continuing with this honesty streak, we know that any of the benefits of the lasagne noodles are negated by the pure fat they are swimming in. If running 26.2 miles won’t hurt your bowels, I’m pretty sure all this dairy might (at least, if you have even a whiff of lactose intolerance). Logically, this should be the last thing I am tempted to eat while training, and, yet…

I’ve been telling myself that now is the time to run these various races because of some recent medical adventures that have left me feeling like now is the time to get started on some of these bucket list items. Lest I panic anyone, I am perfectly healthy and not facing any sort of impending peril. And yet, one week with a few too many doctor’s appointments (even though they didn’t indicate anything wrong) have left me feeling like the time is neigh. Logical? No. Reasonable? I’d like to think so. And what does this have to do with mushroom lasagne and running? Well, if I can’t convince myself the recipe is good for me while training, I can at least reason that I’ll have earned it after the race.

Mushroom Lasagna Section

Mushroom Lasagne

Adapted from Plenty

Makes 6-8 servings

1 1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 3/4 cups warm water

11 tablespoons unsalted butter (separated into two portions of 5 1/2 tablespoons)

2 pounds mushrooms, sliced (a mix is best)

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped

4 tablespoons parsley, chopped

salt and pepper

1 shallot, chopped

1/2 cup flour

2 1/3 cup whole milk

13 ounces ricotta

1 egg

5 ounces feta, crumbled

6 ounces Gruyere, grated

1 pound dried lasagne

5 ounces mozzarella, grated

1/2 cup Parmesan, grated

Mushroom Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the dried porcini and water in a bowl for 5 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, making sure to get out as much liquid as possible. Save the liquid for later in the recipe.

Melt 5 1/2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the thyme, dried mushrooms, and fresh mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it looks like the fresh mushrooms have started releasing some of their liquid. Take the pot off the heat and the the tarragon, parsley, and salt and pepper to season. Set aside in a bowl.

Using the same pan you used to cook the mushrooms, make the béchamel. Melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for a minute. Add the flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, until the mixture turns to a paste but does not change color. Add the milk and the reserved mushroom liquid slowly, whisking with each addition. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and whisk until the mixture is boiling. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce starts to become thick, and then remove from heat. This should take about 8 minutes.


In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta and egg, and add 3 tablespoons of the sauce you just made. Add the feta. Add the remaining Gruyere to the béchamel.

Being careful so that they do not stick together, pour boiling water over the lasagne noodles. Soak for 2 minutes, then remove and dry on a cheesecloth or tea towel.

Mushroom Lasagna

Prepare a 10 by 14 inch dish to assemble the lasagne. Pour one fifth of the béchamel on the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of lasagne noodles. Add one quarter of the ricotta mix on top, and then one quarter of the mushrooms, and then one quarter of the mozzarella. Repeat again, beginning with the béchamel, until you have used up all of the components. Finish with a layer of a noodles covered with béchamel. Finally, sprinkle the parmesan on top, cover the dish loosely with foil, and bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil when there are 10 minutes left in the cooking time to allow the cheese to brown. The dish is ready when the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling at the sides. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.