If you've been visiting here for a while, then you probably know that one of the places I like to play is at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Twice a year a new chef is chosen, with whom we spend the next six months cooking according to a different weekly theme. During that time we really do "get to know" the chosen chef pretty well, and amongst those who participate we get to know each other pretty well too.
The current chef the group is spending time with is Rick Bayless. Rick is well known I'm sure to most of you in America, but here in New Zealand, not so much - unless you happen to be a Food TV addict, in which case you will no doubt have seen him at some stage. I have to admit he's not my favourite Food TV personality. I think this has much to do with the fact that he is a very "high energy" personality (if you didn't know better, you could be forgiven for thinking he's on speed - not that I wish to denigrate here) and, as his show usually seems to be on pretty late in the evening, if I watch it I seem to end up going off to bed in a highly agitated state - you know, like getting the kids over excited right before bedtime - not good!! So I admit to frequently turning the tele off when Rick comes on. Add to that the fact that he cooks Mexican food - not that I have anything against Mexican food - and uses a whole lot of ingredients that, not only have I never heard of, but which are largely inaccessible here in New Zealand.
So I confess to a distinct lack of enthusiasm when the group chose Rick Bayless as our featured chef. I don't have any of his books in my collection. I couldn't find any of his books at my local library either. And what's more, the bright, freshness of many of his dishes seem to be very "summery" food - and again we're back to many ingredients which are inaccessible or unsuitable in the depths of the New Zealand winter.
All of which is a whole lot of excuses for not joining in with the group for the last four months. And I could come up with more, but they are all just that - excuses. Howewer, I've come to realise that participating in groups like this is important to me. It is about building communities, and on reflection that means joining in and playing your part, even when it doesn't suit. It is also about learning and broadening culinary horizons, and keeping an open mind - that's why we're spending six months with our chosen chef and not just one week. Ok, so I may not be able to get all the ingredients called for in a particular recipe - but I can look for alternatives, and explore why these may or may not work, and in the same way that I can learn from what my fellow group members create, maybe they too can learn something from my challenges.
So all of that was a very long-winded way (is anyone out there still actually reading?) of saying, I've been missing my IHCC buddies, and there may only be a couple of months left to spend with Rick, but I'm giving him a try.
The theme this week is Nieves: Icy Cold Treats to Cool Off With! About this point some of you may be thinking, "this woman is a complete lunatic". Not only have I not been playing for four months, but in the middle of winter I've chosen to jump back in the very week the group is getting into "icy cold treats". Hell, I could just go and lick the frost off the bonnet of my car every morning if I want something icy cold. As it happens though, and I've mentioned this here before, no matter whether it's summer or winter my favourite treat is always ice cream or sorbet, so this seemed like the perfect challenge for Rick and I to get acquainted.
Without any of Rick's books to turn to, I checked out the recipes on his website. There's plenty there to choose from and given that citrus fruit is plentiful and inexpensive here right now his Fresh Lime Ice with Berries seemed perfect - although in my case it is "sans berries" since, unlike the citrus fruit, berries are not available here right now unless they are either frozen or have travelled half way round the world to get here. I also added some lemon juice into the mix as, even though seasonal, limes are still quite pricey here, and I don't know what limes are like in your part of the world, but here they are rather like bullets and not particular juicy.
My resulting lemon-lime sorbet, had the perfect balance of sweetness to citrusy tanginess and I will definitely be making this again. If I were to make any changes, I would like to try this with a dash or two of bitters added - lemon, lime and bitters is one of my favourite drinks, and in sorbet form that would make me pretty happy.
Props courtesy of Stevens Homewares, Nelson (details below)
Nieve de Limon Recipe
Adapted from this recipe by Rick Bayless
Makes about 750 ml
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
fresh limes and lemons
(I used 4 limes and 1-1/2 lemons)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
(corn syrup helps prevent your sorbet turning hard and icy in the freezer)
1-1/4 cups water
Grate the zest of 2 limes into a medium bowl. Juice lemons and limes until you have 3/4 cup of juice. Add to the bowl with the zest.
Put the sugar, corn syrup and water into a small pot, and heat gently just until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and add to juice and zest.
Cover and refrigerate several hours - overnight is best.
Next day remove from fridge and churn in an ice cream maker, according to manufacturer's instructions.
Freeze for a few hours to firm up before serving.
Rick suggests serving this with fresh berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries), and if they are seasonal for you right now I'm sure that would be a great addition. A sprig or two of mint or basil would also be a nice touch, again if you have them in season right now.
So after my first experience with Rick, what do I think? Well, if this sorbet is anything to go by, it seems that we could get along. At least I'm convinced enough to see what we can make together next week - keep watching this space.
If you would like to get to know Rick a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...
Props courtesy of Stevens Homewares Ltd
"chef'n" ice cream scoop
I'm also sharing this post at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by my lovely friend, Michelle, at Ms. enPlace, at Foodie Friday hosted by Designs By Gollum, at Gallery of Favourites hosted by the lovely April, of The 21st Century Housewife. This will also be a submission to Sweet New Zealand, inspired by Alessandra Zecchini and hosted this month by Kristina at Plum Kitchen.