cucumber cocktail pops with honey and za'atar

Happy #popsicleweek, friends!! Yay! This week always makes me feel so confident that I am doing the correct summer thing. I am such a bad summer-er, with my fear of mosquitos and dreams of snowstorms and hotdish season, but this week I will stay in the climate controlled indoors and engage in the colorful frozen treats on sticks that are one of summer’s true gems. I am so excited to peruse all of my friends’ recipes this week and also look back on pops of years past, like pistachio pudding pops, coconut rainbow pops, and bloody mary pops.

This year’s popsicle week contribution is inspired in part by my new-ish daily green juice routine, which has made me feel all kinds of good and bright (and most importantly less guilty about my other new-ish daily routine of macaroni and cheese for lunch), and in part by the Gin Motek at Bar Bolonat, which features gin, honey, and za’atar. I like this cocktail because it’s the opposite of those cloyingly sweet cocktails that are the reason I avoid cocktails most of the time. It’s light, fresh, balanced, and zinged up with earthy savory za’atar. 

This is the the type of treat you want on a golden summer evening, after—or even alongside—a supper of fattoush and lemony smashed potatoes, or something like that. 

They have a crisp Persian cucumber base that I’ve enhanced with just a few great things: za’atar sent from my friend Inbal in Tel Aviv, just enough honey from Eggbro’s bees to prevent this pop from tasting like a salad, and gin distilled from local Minnesota grown single vintage organic yellow corn. Prairie Organic Gin is not the gin you sipped at dive bars in college, and avoiding it for post-college years of your life because it reminded you of such (like I did) relies on about as much logic as avoiding summer tomatoes because you’ve only ever had tomatoes in the winter. Which is to say that this gin is a good smooth gin, one where you can taste the sage, juniper, and spices. It’s great and it comes in a pretty bottle, which I will never complain about. I am fairly new to Prairie Organic but once I started mentioning it to people around here, it quickly became clear that all of my friends with extremely good taste are fans. So I now count myself fan and love that these pops get a lot of their specialness from this Minnesota gin. 

*Clinks two pops together* Cheers to #popsicleweek, friends! 

Cucumber Cocktail Pops with Honey and Za’atar

Makes 8

1 pound persian cucumbers, coarsely chopped

1/4 c Prairie Organic Gin

1/4 c honey

juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp za’atar, plus more for topping

Combine cucumbers, gin, honey, lemon, and za’atar in a high speed blender and blend until very smooth. Pour into 8 dixie cups or pop molds and sprinkle each with a small pinch of za’atar. (I prefer dixie cups since it makes them easier to unmold, you just rip them off, and also I can literally never find my popsicle mold.) Freeze for 20 minutes and then insert popsicle sticks. Freeze for 6 hours or until frozen solid. Rip off dixie cups and enjoy.

-yeh!

Thank you so much to Prairie Organic Spirits for sponsoring this post! This recipe is only intended for those of legal drinking age (21+) and should not be shared or distributed to any underaged persons. Please enjoy responsibly! 

Photos by Chantell and Brett Quernemoen

rice pudding

Nearly all of the desserts in Paris were extremely ornate, with pretty colors and artful boops to the nines. Eye candy was everywhere, and it was an essential part of the storybook fantasylandness that is Paris. The eclairs were tiny edible sculptures, the cream puffs were like oversized jewels, and many of the macarons were dusted with gold. The one dessert that left the biggest impression on me, however, was the ugliest: rice pudding! We had it for dessert at L’Ami Jean, where it was spooned into a large bowl over ice cream and crunchies, and then again the next night at Chez Georges, where it was loosey goosey and outstandingly velvety. On the second night, I just could not stop eating it.

Rice pudding grossed me out in my childhood. I loved standard chocolate and vanilla pudding cups so much, especially when they came in Lunchables, but every time I’d go to the store with my mom and make my pudding selection, I felt almost violated by the fact that rice pudding invaded my line of vision when I was just trying to look at the other pudding. The same way I currently feel if I ever have to go past the bananas on the way to the apples. It was all about the texture with rice pudding: why was it caviary and translucent? Why did it look like little eyeballs? Why did it have to be that way and what was wrong with regular pudding?

In my old age, I’ve come to appreciate the textural structure of rice in a pudding. I like chewing my pudding. It’s not scary anymore, it’s just rice, and it’s not like it’s cottage cheese or anything. The rice pudding in Paris wasn’t the first time I’ve had it and enjoyed it, but it was the first time I truly became inspired to make it. Not only was I enchanted by the texture and flavor, but I was also super into how appropriate it was for after a big dinner. Not too heavy, not too sweet, it was an A+ ending bite. And it kind of embodied that effortlessly classy and cool vibe that is basically every Parisian woman. I liked that it came in a big communal bowl without fanfare or garnish, it was a confident dessert.

When I got home I learned how easy it was to make and how it’s magic. You don’t need cornstarch or gelatin, it just thickens with the starch from the rice. At a minimum, you can make it simply by boiling rice in milk and adding sugar. I was inspired by the creaminess of the Chez Georges rice pudding to add a little heavy cream, and then by Jessica Battilana’s recipe to add richness via an egg yolk. To flavor it, I recommend vanilla bean, lemon zest, and either rosewater or a dusting of tonka bean, which gives it a beautiful flavor that’s a cross between cinnamon and vanilla. Tonka beans are illegal in the United States since you can die if you eat like dozens of them but you only ever use a few passes over the microplane at a time. Eating dozens of them would be like eating dozens of nutmeg seeds, ew. And they’re legal pretty much everywhere else, even Canada, so it’s silly that they’re illegal here. I’m not advocating you go and smuggle some into the country but if you bought some in Paris and accidentally forgot about them in your suitcase on the way home then use them for this.

Lastly, I am serving this pudding over Bonne Maman’s very special edition raspberry, strawberry, and elderflower preserves. I love it and its beautiful jar so much. Bonne Maman released it on the occasion of their pop-up boat party in Paris last month, so you can’t actually buy it… but… I'm giving away four jars this week on Instagram! So head over there to win one. Really you can’t go wrong with any preserves in this recipe here. Raspberry or strawberry would be perfect with rosewater rice pudding, or swap out the lemon zest for orange zest in the mixture and serve it over orange preserves. The world is your rice pudding oyster!


rice pudding

serves 6-8

Ingredients

3 1/4 c  whole milk

1/2 c (100g) arborio or medium grain white rice 

1 vanilla bean

1/4 c heavy cream, plus more if desired

1 egg yolk

1/4 c (50g) sugar

1/4 tsp salt

A few passes of tonka bean, optional

1/4 tsp rosewater, optional

Zest of 1/2 lemon

Bonne Maman preserves, for serving

Pistachios, sprinkles, candied rose petals, optional, for serving

clues

In a medium pot, combine milk, rice, and vanilla and bring to a simmer over medium high. Simmer, uncovered, stirring often, for 20-30 minutes, until rice is soft. Reduce heat if it creeps above a simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolk and heavy cream. Drizzle in 1/2 cup of the hot rice mixture while whisking very quickly, then slowly drizzle this into the pot while whisking. Add sugar and continue to whisk and cook for 2 more minutes, or until the texture is porridge like. Remove from heat and stir in salt, tonka (if using), rosewater (if using), and lemon zest. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until cooled. Pudding will continue to thicken as it cools.

To serve, spoon preserves into the bottom of a glass and top with rice pudding and sprinkle things of choice. If you’d like your rice pudding on the looser side, you can stir in another splash of heavy cream.

-yeh!

Thank you, Bonne Maman, for sponsoring this post!

Photos by Chantell and Brett!

girl meets farm!

Ok! I want to tell you more about Girl Meets Farm! I have been sooo tickled by your support and excitement for this show, and that has made me even more excited and also a little bit more nervous because now that I know you know about it, it feels more real. For a long time I only talked about it with Eggboy and my family and it was just one of those things where if it happened, cool!! awesome! lightning bolt emoji!, if it didn’t happen, well then it wasn’t meant to be and it would be tossed into the bag of other things that weren’t meant to be, like my fancy cotton candy concept and raising a pet pig. 

When Molly on the Range came out two Octobers ago, I went to New York for the launch and my agent Jonah told me that the Food Network would like to have a meeting. My first thought was Sweet! We can have lunch at Dizengoff!!! It had just opened in Chelsea Market, right below the Food Network offices. And the meeting was so fun! Everyone was really nice and cool, we talked about food and at some point Back to the Future came up for some reason. (Any conversation with Back to the Future involved is the best conversation.) And then a few months later, the Network sent a production company out to shoot some scenes of me cooking and going around about town. Just like my first date with Eggboy, I honestly had no idea what the rating of this was on a scale from very casual hang to very official date, but I cooked some hotdish and cookie salad and had a great time. Josh, the producer, was basically every guy I went to summer camp with combined so we got along well!

Then a few months later Jonah very casually mentioned that the Network would like to shoot a pilot. And I thought, that’s fun! After a few months of working through details, Josh came back to the farm along with a crew of about 25 people, including camera people, sound people, a showrunner, lighting people, a culinary team, an art director, a hair and makeup artist, and production assistants. 

We filmed a delicious menu with flavors that are staples in my life and on my blog: Shakshuka, everything bagel grilled cheese, pistachio pop-tarts, a few sides... I felt great about it and I felt like myself. And I loved working with the crew, everyone was so cool! I introduced them to cheesy pickles at the Toasted Frog and the Happy Pig nachos at Rhombus Guys. We filmed during Hanukkah and because the arrival of the production crew pretty much quadrupled the amount of Jews in East Grand Forks, we lit candles together and it was the best. One thing that Eggboy and I learned was that because our house became a set, with cameras, lights, ingredients, and utensils set up in very specific places, and our couch and dining table out of commission, we couldn’t really use it for actually having dinner at night. The only thing we “cooked” that week was a couple of tater tots as honorary first-night-of-Hanukkah latkes. The rest of the time we went out to eat or brought takeout to the Eggparents' house and just plopped on their couch. 

I was sooo sad at the end of the week when everyone left, it was like the last day of camp. Luckily it was right before the holidays though, so I had parties and Arizona to look forward to.

For the next couple of months, we all had a March premiere date in mind. I kept a few weeks of my calendar in March flexible so that I could have freakout time. I also kept a microphone nearby because every so often Josh, who was editing the pilot, would ask me to record voiceover lines, like anything that I didn’t say clearly while we were filming or anything that I needed to say with a different inflection, things like that. At some point in early March, Josh called and I thought ughgggghghghghg, he’s gonna ask me to mail the microphone back, I don’t want to go to the post office today, so I almost didn’t pick up. But then I did and it was a good thing because he was calling to deliver the news that the Network decided to order six more episodes!!! We were to film the remainder of season one immediately and then air the whole season this summer. Yay! I texted Eggboy and then we ate celebratory cheesy pickles.

The showrunner, Jen, and I got right to work planning a menu that pulled from all of my favorite sources of inspiration: my Jewish and Chinese heritage, the upper Midwest, the farm, New York, and sprinkles. We put together themes that included family and friends and pretty much all of my favorite foods. If there is one thing that I feel particularly excited about with Girl Meets Farm, it’s the menu. Followed closely by my apron wardrobe. 

In mid-April, right after our last big snow storm, the crew came back and set up camp for a little over two weeks so that we could film six more episodes. The crew kept telling Eggboy and me that we were going to get so sick of them by the end of the shoot but nope, we love them and miss them. We ate lunch with them every day in Eggboy’s workshop, where the crew had set up work stations and a huge table of snacks. And at the end of the shoot, we had a wrap party at the Blue Moose and it was just like the last day of camp all over again!! 

The next day I went back to working on recipes for my blog. That’s it! Now we wait until June 24th when it premieres, right after Pioneer Woman. I’ll be in Amsterdam for Rob’s bachelor party. 🙈 

Over these next few weeks, I’m going to show you behind the scenes tidbits! And I’ll also soon have the answer to the questions of if/how you can watch if you don’t have cable or live in another country. More soon!!!! Don’t forget to set your alarms for June 24th at 11am eastern/10am central/11am pacific

-Yeh!

Photos by Chantell and Brett!!!

rhubarb rose jam

Happy Sunday!!! It feels weird to have my computer open on a Sunday but Cousin Elaine and I made this rhubarb rose jam yesterday that I am first-day-of-summer-camp excited about. I wanted to write it down ASAP so I wouldn’t forget it and also so that we can all have time to make it over and over before rhubarb season ends. 

It is based on Claire Ptak’s rhubarb and angelica jam from The Violet Bakery Cookbook, only I’ve swapped out angelica and added vanilla bean and rosewater. Rosewater might be my favorite friend of rhubarb and because I was making this jam as party favors for Rob and Hansaem’s very elegant wedding in Paris later this month, I figured rosewater would be the perfect addition. And the vanilla bean just kind of gives the whole thing a luxurious hug. 

The measurements below are for a very big batch (triple of Claire’s), this made enough to fill 25 cute 2-oz Weck jars, and my 5.5 quart dutch oven was the perfect size to hold everything. If you don’t have a jungle of rhubarb in your yard that you need to use up or a zillion party favors to make, you can either get your calculator out and calculate a third of these ingredients (the timings stay the same), or come over and take some of my rhubarb. 

In a good container with a tight fitting lid, this will keep in the fridge for up to a month, but of course you can also can it with sterilized jars and seals and the whole bit. Yesterday was my first time doing the latter! Cousin Elaine is the canning expert of the family, so she and I spent the afternoon sterilizing jars and dipping things into boiling water to kill the cooties. Canning always seemed intimidating to me when I read about it on paper but when Elaine walked me through the process it all made complete sense. So if you’re considering canning for the first time, my biggest recommendation would be to get yourself a Cousin Elaine.

Happing Jamming!!


Rhubarb Rose Jam

Makes enough to fill 25 cute 2-oz jars

ingredients

1,500g (3 lb 6 oz) rhubarb, chopped into small pieces

1,125g (5 1/2 cups + 2 tb) sugar

juice of 3 lemons

1 tsp rosewater

1 tb vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, scraped

clues

In a large heavy pot, combine the rhubarb and half of the sugar. Cover and macerate at room temp for 1 hour. 

Add the remaining sugar and lemon juice to the pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once it comes to a boil, let it boil rapidly over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. It might get a little spitty, so be careful and wear an apron, and if it gets too wild you can reduce the heat a little bit. It’s ready when most of the rhubarb is translucent and the consistency has thickened (it will continue to thicken as it cools). Reduce the heat to low and stir in the rosewater and vanilla bean. Carefully give it a taste to see if the rosewater is where you want it. 

Spoon into sterilized jars and seal or transfer to containers and keep in the fridge for up to a month. 


-yeh!