Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

A couple years ago, I read this recipe for roasted strawberries and thought, “why would one want to alter a perfect summer strawberry?” Then I bought two pounds of strawberries at Costco – admittedly not perfect summer strawberries – and decided to try it. WOW. wow. The beauty of roasting strawberries is that it coaxes this deep, rich flavor out of even mediocre strawberries. I’m still not sure I would roast those little bright red beauties from the farmer’s market – those just taste too good on their own – but for every other strawberry in the world, this will now be my go-to preparation.

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

This was also my first stab at a frozen dessert, and I must say… again… wow. The key here is to consistently churn and stir the yogurt as it’s freezing. If you have an ice cream maker, that works as well, but you can still get pretty nice results by just pulling the bowl out of the freezer every 30 minutes to an hour to stir the mixture around. The more frequently you pull it out and stir it, the creamier the result. As an experiment, I just let a bowl of yogurt freeze without any stirring. I ended up with a bowl of ice, essentially.

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (2)

I don’t really like big frozen strawberry chunks in my ice cream or frozen yogurt, so I just used the balsamic strawberry sauce that results from the roasting to flavor the yogurt and then poured the fruit over the top for serving. Much better than giant frozen chunks of strawberries mixed in. You might also notice some raspberries in these pictures. I had a few of those and therefore tossed them in as well.

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (7)

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

1 pound fresh strawberries, leaves removed, halved
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
pinch or two of salt

1 quart full-fat plain yogurt
4 tablespoons maple syrup

finely shredded mint, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 350. On a deep baking tray, scattered the strawberries and cover with a bit of salt and the vinegar. Toss around to coat all the berries, then spread the berries into a single layer in the dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes. When done roasting, pour the strawberries and all the juices into a bowl and set aside.

In a metal bowl, combine the yogurt, maple syrup, and 1/2 cup of the liquid that results from roasting the strawberries. Have a taste here… the yogurt should taste just slightly too sweet. When it freezes, that sweetness will dull a bit and be perfect. Put the bowl in the freezer. Every 30 minutes to one hour, pull the bowl out and stir the mixture, being sure to scrape down the sides and incorporate any icy parts. Continue to do this until it reaches the consistency you like, between 4 and 6 hours.

When ready to serve, scoop the frozen yogurt into a bowl, top with roasted strawberries and a bit more sauce, and garish with fresh mint.

Kale and Black Lentil Salad

I’m back in the US of A and enjoying every moment of it! I’ve been getting in lots of cuddle time with my kitties and Eric in between all the activities – Lollapalooza, pickling and canning (!), farmer’s markets, and workouts. Eric got my bike tuned up over the summer so we’ve been biking everywhere! Biking = freedom, and it’s been awesome.

I’m working on sorting the 2000+ photos and videos that I took over the past month. We spent two weeks in Ethiopia, one week in Uganda, and then one week on the Kenyan coast. Every part of the trip was different and incredible. What a blissful month.

Kale and Black Lentil Salad 1

One thing I love about being home, though, is the ability to cook the way I like to cook. In the past week I’ve been to the farmer’s market twice and am so in love with the variety of veg we get here in the summer. I bought about 10lbs of heirloom tomatoes that I plan on making bloody mary’s with, and I pickled loads of different varieties of chiles today. The kale in this salad also comes from the market, and while I do enjoy the kale you find all over Kenya – sukuma wiki – I still prefer dino kale in my salads.

Kale and Black Lentil Salad 4

Kale and Black Lentil Salad with Black Pepper + Avocado Dressing

The ripeness of the avocado for the dressing is important – if it’s not soft enough, it won’t mash nicely. You could alternatively use a food processor, but it’s much simpler to just make it in a mason jar. I like it still kind of chunky.

I actually bought the black lentils at a health food store in Nairobi. If you can’t find them, you can substitute with other sturdy lentils.

1 bunch dino kale
1/2 cup dried black lentils, rinsed and cooked 
1 cup cooked chickpeas
3 carrots, shredded on a grater
1 big heirloom tomato, diced

2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt or flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried coriander seeds
1/2 very ripe avocado, finely diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil

Remove kale from the stems and cut it into fine ribbons. Combine in a large bowl with the lentils, chickpeas, carrots, and tomato.

In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic with salt to make a paste. Add the black peppercorns and coriander seeds and process until the seeds are crushed and everything is combined. Scoop the paste into a jar and add the avocado and liquid ingredients. Use a fork to mash up the avocado in the jar. Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously.

Toss salad with dressing and add salt to taste.


Potato Salad

Whew, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy, you know, getting married!

Wedding Photo

What a cool, fun day we had. I’m so sad, actually, that’s it’s over. Everyone told me I’d feel relief. Really I just feel this huge sense of disappointment that we don’t get to party anymore! I mean, look at that photo – what cool friends we have! What a beautiful location we had!

Alas, back to work and cooking now. I actually made this recipe for my family a few weeks ago and everyone really enjoyed it. Potato salads seem to epitomize summer, but I’ve never understood the thick mayonnaise dressing that can’t sit out in the sun and fills your belly to the point of disgust. A few things make this potato salad stand out – a vinegar and oil dressing, cilantro, and beans. Together, they elevate the dish and make it taste, in my opinion, a lot more of summer.


Potato Salad

1 pound potatoes
1/2 pound green beans
1/2 pound turkey bacon (I found a pepper turkey bacon)
1/2 cup cilantro
4 shallots
2 jalapenos
1 clove garlic
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
red wine vinegar, to taste, to finish the dressing

Start by getting the potatoes in salted, boiling water. Cook them until they’re just barely soft all the way through. In the last couple minutes, toss the beans in and blanch them. When finished, put them in an ice/water bath to stop the cooking and keep the beans very green.

Meanwhile, brown the bacon in a separate pan. Keep the brown bits and rendered fat in the pan.

Mince the garlic, shallots, and jalapeno. Keep the seeds and ribs if you like it very spicy, otherwise remove. Toss them all in the rendered fat for a quick saute. You just want to barely cook these – the garlic should still be pungent, the jalapeno still fresh and spicy, and the shallots still crisp. In a bowl, mix the aromatics and rendered fat with the olive oil and lemon juice. Taste, and add more red wine vinegar if needed. Season with salt and pepper.

Once cool, chop the potatoes into cubes and the beans into inch-long pieces. Combine with the dressing and top with cilantro.

Berries & Cream

Is there anything better than a fresh summer strawberry at the peak of ripeness? Our farmer’s market is bursting with fresh blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries (mostly from Michigan, though plenty from Illinois as well). You can also tell when berries are in season – you can buy a pound of strawberries from Stanley’s for less than $2. They’re not locally sourced, but they certainly are cheap.


I made this rather large berry dessert the same day I made gazpacho. It’s plenty healthy, too, unlike a more traditional berries and cream recipe. Greek yogurt replaces the cream – and while Greek yogurt can be very fatty also, it is still healthier than regular cream due to the presence of the active cultures. And cats love it too!

To boost the health factor, I ground some flax seeds and used Agave Nectar instead of sugar. It turned out to be light, refreshing, and perfect for a very hot day in July.

Berries & Cream
1 box strawberries
1 box blueberries
1 small cup plain Greek yogurt – Fage is my favorite
1/8 cup flax seeds, ground in mortar & pestle
handful of sliced almonds
drizzle of agave nectar

Wash the berries and chop strawberries into bite-sized chunks. Layer them on a plate, then top with yogurt, almonds, and ground flax. Drizzle with agave to taste.


Heirloom Tomato and Garlic Scape Gazpacho


I finally made it to the Wicker Park farmer’s market this past Sunday. It’s a small market just a few blocks from our house, but they have all the necessities – a couple produce vendors with a nice variety of fruits and veggies, a couple meat vendors, baked goods, one Wisconsin cheese stand, and a couple flower vendors.

Farmers Market

I woke up to thunderous storms, so as soon as the rain let up, I made my way down there. It was a muggy, gloomy morning, but that meant there weren’t many people in the park, which made for a pleasant market experience. The first stand I came across had rows upon rows of heirloom tomatoes. I couldn’t pass them up. Then I saw the garlic – everything from the scape to the bulb. I knew the combination of the heirloom tomatoes and garlic scapes would be perfect is a fresh, summery chilled soup.

Picnik collage
Picnik collage

Oh my it was good. So so good. Those tomatoes – wow – and with a mild bite from the garlic scapes, I really feel I outdid myself here. I also found baby fennel, which I roasted and threw into the mix. Just perfect for that hot summer day.

Heirloom Tomato and Garlic Scape Gazpacho
The proportions here are small – I started small and did a couple different varieties (some with no cumin, some with more jalapeno, etc., so below is just the basic recipe I started with.)

3-4 heirloom tomatoes of any or all varieties
3-4 garlic scapes
1 clove raw garlic (my garlic was still very young, so it wasn’t as sharp; if you have mature garlic, you might want to halve this)
1/2 cucumber, peeled
1/2 cucumber, unpeeled
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 jalapeno, seeded

1 bulb baby fennel, roasted in 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, reserve a few sprigs of the greens and 1 raw layer
a few slices whole grain bread, cut in to cubes
1/2 carrot, julienned
1 avocado
olive oil
juice of one lemon
splash of red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

Prepare croutons with the bread cubes by layering in a single layer on a baking sheet and toasting them in the oven.

Take one layer of the raw baby fennel, a sprig or two of fennel greens, the unpeeled cucumber, a couple of the garlic scapes, and carrots – finely chop them or julienne them and combine to form a crisp salad. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and set aside.

In a blender, combine the tomatoes, peeled cucumber, roasted fennel, garlic scapes, raw garlic clove, cumin, jalapeno, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar. Drizzle some olive oil in the mixture and blend into a smooth puree. Taste to see if it needs more vinegar, oil, or seasoning. Adjust as necessary.

Serve with the salad, some slices of avocado, and croutons on top. The soup will be thin and soupy, while the salad provides a nice crisp texture.