Posted on July 14, 2013
I’ve been promising the recipes for the savory ice creams I made for last week’s Newsweek article. Here they are, starting with Avocado Wasabi Ice Cream, which is about the easiest thing you ever made.
A few notes about making savory ice cream. You can adapt an ice cream base to almost any ingredients you imagine; you just reduce the sugar a bit. But don’t try to take the sugar out entirely, because sugar helps control the formation of ice crystals, giving ice cream its creamy texture. And when you take out sugar, you need to add fat to compensate.
Savory sorbets are even easier than ice creams; they’re just juice and sugar and flavors. Because they lack fat to balance out their lower sugar content, however, savory sorbets will be delicious the day you make them, and the day after, but they will ice up after that and end up more like a popsicle. So if you want to make a savory sorbet ahead–make popsicles.
Alcohol flavors are delicious in ice cream, but alcohol itself will lower the freezing point of the ice cream. If you have the kind of freezer that most people have, where you stick the bowl in the freezer for 24 hours, it won’t be cold enough to freeze a boozy ice cream or sorbet. Cook the alcohol out first by heating over a high flame just until boiling.
All flavors are less intense when they’re cold, even basic tastes like sweet and salty. More complex flavors will be even less intense, because flavor is basically smell. Think about the difference between eating hot and cool stew and you’ll see what I mean. So when you’re working on a new flavor, remember that the hot ice cream base you’re cooking has a much stronger flavor than the ice cold final product.
If you have trouble getting any of these recipes to set up (freezer models do vary), try this trick: while you’re chilling most of the base, pour just a bit of the base into a jelly roll pan, just enough to make a thin layer. Freeze it. When you’re ready to chill your ice cream, scrape the frozen base off the jelly roll pan, and add it in with the rest of the base. It gives you a little bit of a jump start that helps it freeze without big crystals.
And with that, have fun. A few starting suggestions:
Avocado Wasabi Ice Cream
(adapted from Alton Brown)
3 medium avocados
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
Wasabi to taste (start with half a teaspoon and work up by the quarter-teaspoon. Remember two things: you want it to be an accent, not completely overpowering; and it will taste less strong when it is frozen. So my advice is to get it to the point where you want it, then add another quarter teaspoon. I usually end up using about 1.5-3 teaspoons depending on the strength of the wasabi)
Peel and pit the avocados, then put the meat in the blender with the other ingredients, including a half teaspoon of wasabi. Puree thoroughly. Taste mixture and whisk in extra wasabi to taste. Refrigerate at least four hours, preferably overnight. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturers instructions (it will freeze relatively quickly, so check it regularly).
Serve with any cold fish dish. I like to pair it with tuna or salmon tartare, on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce.
Feta Ice Cream
(adapted from Kid Free Living)
1 cup feta
1/2 cup sour cream
2.5 cups light cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
7 egg yolks
(Optional) herbs to taste: dill, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, or tarragon, alone or in combination, would all be incredibly delicious. As with the wasabi in the above recipe, start with a half tablespoon of fresh, or a half teaspoon of dried, and work your way up slowly, tasting as you go.
Put feta, sour cream, and a cup of the light cream in a blender and puree.
Cook ice cream base: put sugar and the rest of the cream in a saucepan, and a small amount of herbs if you are using them, and heat until just simmering. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks. When cream is simmering, whisk about a quarter of it into the egg yolks to temper them, whisking very quickly so that they don’t cook into a coagulated mess. When the cream is thoroughly incorporated, whisk the egg yolk mixture into the rest of the cream in the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until slightly thickened. (If you don’t know what you’re looking for when I say slightly thickened, this thread will help).
When the custard is cooked, put it in the blender with the feta and puree. Taste and adjust herbs. Refrigerate at least four hours, preferably overnight. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturers instructions. Serve with watermelon or beets or other sweet, firm produce. A drizzle of balsamic reduction would complement this beautifully.
Note: you can also make sweet feta ice cream, which is delicious, by doubling the sugar, cutting the feta in half, and using slightly less light cream.
Carrot Ginger Sorbet
I basically just used this recipe from Howard Yoon, who in addition to being a hell of a cook, is also, funnily enough, the partner of my literary agent. Though he has never made me savory ice sorbet; I just stumbled across the recipe while I was researching the topic.
It was completely incredible. The only change I made was that since I have a very high powered blender, I didn’t bother shredding the fresh ginger, which is fussy and takes approximately forever; I just peeled it and tossed it into the blender with the juice. Amazingly light and refreshing–you could serve as an appetizer, as a palate-cleanser between courses, or even as a not-so-sweet dessert. Can’t recommend highly enough.
Spicy Bacon Maple Bourbon Ice Cream
(adapted from this recipe in Imbibe magazine)
When I floated the topic of bacon maple bourbon ice cream, my husband immediately said “you have to make that!” My mother, who doesn’t have a either a sweet tooth or a bacon fetish, sort of curled up her nose, which is something my mother can actually do. “Maple is very sweet,” she said. ”You need to cut the sweetness.”
I decided to do so with Aleppo pepper, sprinkling it over the bacon during the cooking process. A+ idea. The result is definitely still on the sweet side–everyone ended up having a second helping for dessert at the tasting dinner–but would still be excellent as a starter with melon, or in a lettuce cup. The smoky, salty bacon and the creamy maple/brown sugar base are incredible together, and then suddenly at the end, you get a surprise burst of spicyness that makes everything even better.
However, I had big problems with the rest of the recipe. The original on the low fat side, and the alcohol lowered the freezing point, so that it didn’t set up in my freezer, which is a freezer-bowl model, not one with its own compressor. I ended up freezing it in a baking pan, stirring every half hour, which is a pain and also doesn’t work that well. The result was still amazingly delicious–most people said it was their favorite–but less creamy than ideal. So below is the adapted recipe, with a LOT more fat to help it set up, an extra freezing step, and the bourbon cooked in with the base, to remove some of the alcohol.
For the bacon:
6 strips bacon
2 tsp. brown sugar
Approximately one to two tablespoons Aleppo Pepper, a mild, smoky pepper frequently used in the Middle East. (You can order from Amazon; I get it in half pound bags from Penzey’s Spices, and use it in practically everything).
For the base:
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups light cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grade maple syrup
2 tsp. bourbon
Prepare the base: in a saucepan, scald the heavy cream with the bourbon (bring it just to a boil, and then turn off the heat.) In a stand mixer, beat together egg yolks and brown sugar. While the machine is still running, slowly pour in the scalded cream. Put the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring, until it coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in the light cream, the bourbon, and the maple syrup. Refrigerate for at least four hours, and preferably overnight.
Prepare the bacon: preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking pan with greased foil or preferably a silicon liner. (The bacon is going to stick when we cook it. Sprinkle generously with brown sugar and aleppo pepper. Cook for eight minutes, then take the pan out of the oven, flip the bacon, sprinkle the other side with sugar and Aleppo pepper, and then cook for another eight minutes. Cool while you start freezing the base.
Freeze the base according to manufacturer’s instructions. About five minutes before the end, chop up the bacon into small pieces and add to the freezer. Freeze solid and serve with melon or in lettuce cups.
Update: on twitter, Scott Johnson suggests that you can add a small amount of alcohol by adding it towards the end. I haven’t tried it, but it sounds right–so if you want an actual alcoholic flavor, you might want to toss a teaspoon of bourbon in when you do the bacon.
Posted on July 14, 2013
Six months ago, I visited North Carolina’s state treasurer, Janet Cowell – the only Democrat in the administration now – and met with citizen advocates.. Our trip had impact, on us at least. On the plane coming home my colleague turned to me shell shocked, “How can it be legal to have so much poverty in such a wealthy state?”
Ask two questions: How rich is the state? And what percentage of its children live in poverty? That’s a working definition of good fiscal policy…. Let’s look at North Carolina. It is the 39th richest state, and yet it ranks 12th for the percentage of children living in poverty – only 11 states fare worse.
Um, ma’am….if it is the 39th richest state, that means it’s the 12th poorest state. That means there are 11 states that are poorer. And if it is the 12th for percentage of children living in poverty….then again there are 11 states that are poorer. It’s exactly the same proportion, not out of line at all. What’s with this “And yet…” thing you got going?
Theresa Ghilarducci seems to be a veritable fountain of strange metrics. I didn’t think much of her book because of that; as I recall, she spends a lot of time straining to avoid obvious calculations, in favor of exotic ones that purport to prove that we can and should spend oceans more money on social security. But this is incredibly weird, even by her standards.
Posted on July 13, 2013
Jeff Bercovici interviews a SyFy executive about the movie:
How big are we talking, ratings-wise?
All we have are the locals and they’re very hard to judge. We don’t get the real numbers, the actual cable nationals, until 4 o’clock. But I think it goes beyond the ratings in terms of the impact and the importance to Syfy. First of all, it just gets your name out there. It increases the network’s visibility and it shows the network’s sense of humor. Syfy is a network that has such a wide range of programming. We have one of the top reality series in “Face Off,” we have in incredible scripted series in “Defiance.”
What I love about the social media comments last night was the viewers got what we were doing. They understood that we were creating an event that was meant to provide entertainment. That’s what this movie is about. Syfy’s won Emmys. “Battlestar Galactica” got us a Peabody. But we also want people to be able to kick off their shoes, put their feet up, grab a beverage of choice and be entertained.
We’ve done about 250 of these movies, and when we first started doing them, viewers didn’t always get the spirit they were meant in. We got a lot of questions from viewers, a lot of questions from the press. Now viewers really get it. Hundreds of thousands of people on Twitter were talking about “Sharknado” and they all got that we were having fun.
Posted on July 12, 2013
“Among all respondents, 7.3% reported a pregnancy, although this was more common among females than males ” –Abstinence-Only and Comprehensive Sex Education and the Initiation of Sexual Activity and Teen Pregnancy
Posted on July 12, 2013
. . . from Nate Cohn:
A lot of people look at these numbers and see some sort of anti-incumbent curse, especially since the challenger technically won the 2000 election. What I see is a bunch of close elections: 2000, 1976, 1968, and 1960 are the four closest elections of the last century. 1948 was a pretty close election too—Dewey beats Truman close. I think all five of these elections could have gone the other way. The two elections that weren’t close seem like relatively predictable blowouts. The less predictable blowout was probably 1988, the one where the incumbent party did pretty well.
So I think the most reasonable thing to expect is a pretty close race in 2016. No one will have the advantage of incumbency, and therefore you get a pretty level playing field—save particularly favorable or unfavorable economic conditions. Even if you’d give the challenging party an edge, it should only be a slight one—slight enough to be overwhelmed by a Clinton candidacy or a demographic trump-card, which might wind up giving the Democrats a slight edge heading into 2016. But since the economy is still the biggest variable, it’s tough to give either side much better than a 50 percent chance, unless you’re much better at predicting future economic growth than, say, economists.
One last thought, however, before I have to do some other work. Let’s think about the possible states of the world:
Basically, I think there are only three scenarios with any real probability for 2016:
Scenario 1: Republicans take the Senate and the White House and keep the House of Representatives
Scenario 2: Republicans take the White House, keep the House of Representatives, but don’t take the Senate
Scenario 3: Democrats keep the White House and the Senate, but don’t get the House of Representatives.
(There’s an outside chance that they also take the House, I suppose, but I don’t see how; this seems to happen in reaction to a previous, much-disliked incumbent. Since Obama is the incumbent, I view this as very low-probability. The probability of anything other outcome is even more negligible–not exactly zero, but very close. I don’t, for example, see any circumstances in which Democrats get the White House, but lose the Senate).
In Scenario 1, filibuster reform hurts Democrats; in Scenario 2 it doesn’t matter; and in Scenario 3, it helps them a bit.
But there’s some asymmetry. The damage that can be done in Scenario 1 (GOP uses this as an excuse to get rid of filibuster entirely, rams through a bunch of changes to core Democratic programs); is larger than the benefit you get from making a few presidential nominees.
And as I say, I view Scenario 1 as much more likely than Scenario 3. All of which makes what Reid is doing very risky, with very limited upside. Even if I’ve gotten the percentages wrong, as I may well have, you have to think that it’s very unlikely that the GOP gets the White House before Reid’s move begins to make sense. On the other hand, it’s obvious that many Democrats do think that’s very unlikely, and fair enough.
Posted on July 12, 2013
Henry Farrell rebukes me for spurious pattern recognition:
Human beings are cognitively predisposed to perceive patterns in the world. Many, likely most of these patterns are garbage. Without good theories, and good ways of testing those theories, we’ll never be able to tell the garbage patterns from the real ones.
He may well be right. You should never put much weight on crude pattern extrapolation. 70% is a guess. I’m not betting on it, and no one else is, either.
The only thing I’d add is that I would bet on crude pattern extrapolation before I would bet on the apparent certainty among a lot of Democrats that they’re headed for a permanent majority. There are a lot of people on twitter and in these comment threads who are basically saying “Are you crazy! Republicans suck!” I think they’re overextrapolating their own feelings about Republicans to the rest of the American public.
This is not in any way to suggest that this is all the folks who are disagreeing with me are doing. There are all sorts of very good reasons I might be wrong. As I say, no one should bet on my off-the-cuff guess.
But by touching the filibuster–and I think setting the conditions for the whole thing to unravel–Reid is betting that the GOP won’t have control of the Senate and the White House for quite a while. Polls are no good this far out, so what should he wager on? Judis and Teixera’s demographic theory? Maybe, but probably not decisive in 2016. That seems to leave crude pattern extrapolation or one’s gut instinct about the GOP’s chances. Of the two, I’d rather rely on crude pattern extrapolation, not because it’s without problems, but because one’s estimation of the GOP’s chances tends to be heavily influenced by one’s personal feelings about the GOP. The more complicated your analysis, the easier it is to choose the factors that make you feel good about your party’s chances.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that my thesis certainly doesn’t rise to the level of a peer-reviewed study, or an academic theory. But whatever decision method Harry Reid is using, I’d bet that it doesn’t either.
Posted on July 12, 2013
My assertion that there’s a 70% chance that the GOP controls White House, Senate, and House in 2017 has attracted a lot of pushback. And it’s certainly possible that I’m wrong! Here’s my thinking, for what it’s worth:
Since the Civil War, only two Democratic presidents have been succeeded by another Democrat. Both of them–FDR and JFK–accomplished this by dying in office.
Since World War II, only four presidents have been succeeded by a member of their party. As I mentioned above, two of them accomplished this by dying in office. One of them accomplished this by resigning in disgrace ahead of his own impeachment. Only one of them, Ronald Reagan, left office at the end of his appointed term and was succeeded by a duly elected member of his own party. Mostly, the White House flips back and forth like a metronome.
At the beginning of Obama’s term, people were talking about the kind of Democratic dominance that FDR enjoyed. Didn’t happen. Isn’t going to. So I think the GOP goes into the race with a big edge on the White House. Voters just get tired after eight years.
For example, when I pointed out how few presidents have been succeeded by members of their own party, you may have been tempted to argue that Al Gore “really” won. I’m not going to have that argument right now, but even assuming you’re correct, what does that tell you? That after the greatest economic boom in decades, the Democratic vice president fought hard to a statistical tie with the Republican governor of Texas. Sure, he wasn’t the most charismatic candidate either, but neither was George Bush. Getting a third term in the White House just seems to be really difficult. And Barack Obama is not going to finish with a ground-shaking economic boom.
Add to that the Democratic bench. Hillary Clinton is a formidable politician, but she will be nearly 70 years old in 2016. No one else except Biden (who is older than she) has anything like the national name recognition that multiple people on the GOP bench enjoy. But if one or both of those two decide to run (and I think it’s nearly certain that they will), they’ll probably get the nomination just because they will suck all the oxygen away from the other candidates–both the money and the publicity will follow them. And though they’re both formidable challengers, I think their age is going to hurt them. I think it would have hurt Reagan if he’d been running against more formidable opponents, but Carter was badly damaged, and Walter Mondale was a nice man who made a very good Senate candidate in Minnesota.
Democrats who think they’re a shoo-in seem to be unaccountably banking on the GOP nominating some tongue-tied wingnut who will spend the campaign discussing the scientific evidence that women can’t get pregnant from rape. But as Joe Scarborough argued in 2012, this is wishful thinking . . . in his words, “The GOP doesn’t nominate crazy”. In 2012, out of an incredibly weak field filled with tongue-tied wingnuts, they nominated the moderate with the best public policy chops and solid debating skills. In 2016, they will have a much more attractive bevy of candidates from which to choose someone electable.
So I think that the chances that the GOP takes the White House are probably pretty high–maybe around 75%. This is not a Nate-Silver-style I-ran-9,000-regressions-and-here’s-what-I-got. It’s just my gut estimate of the odds. When Nate starts running his projections, I will revise accordingly.
Now, if the GOP takes the White House, I think the chances that they also take the House approach 100%. They have a big structural advantage here, and the president will pull a bunch of Republicans in on his coattails. As far as I can tell, everyone agrees with this, so I won’t belabor it.
The Senate is the biggest wildcard. 2016 is going to be a bit of a challenge for the GOP, since they’ll be defending the wave class of 2010. But some of those folks generally cited as liabilities, like Pat Toomey, actually seem to be doing okay. (In large part because they’ve tacked left on key issues, which should be a lesson to the Tea Party about the limits of primary challenges. But that’s a blog post for another day.) They’ll be helped by the fact that the president will have coattails in the Senate as well.
Moreover, the 2014 election, as I understand it, actually looks pretty good for the GOP–Democrats are defending a lot more vulnerable seats than Republicans, and the president’s party tends to suffer during midterms. If the GOP can get to 48 or 49 seats, I think it’s quite likely that they’ll get to 50 in 2016.
Note that I don’t think they’ll establish permanent control; I think the odds are for a fragile majority of 50 or 51 seats, which they’re vulnerable to losing if anyone dies or resigns. If they do get control, I expect they’ll lose it in 2018 midterms . . . which is why I suspect they might not “go nuclear”.
Anyway, that’s my reasoning. Entirely provisional, and I’m open to corrections. But that’s why I wouldn’t get rid of the filibuster if I were Harry Reid. Even if you think the chances that you lose the Senate and the White House are 50% it’s not a good gamble. For that matter, even if you keep the Senate and lose the White House, it’s not a good bet. Eventually you’ll lose the Senate, because control of that august institution seems to be pretty unstable. And in the meantime, since you don’t have the White House, you can’t actually do much with your new, filibuster-less power.
Posted on July 12, 2013
As it happens, I like the filibuster. I’m fine with its broad use against as many laws as the minority likes. I like minorities being able to hold the majority back.
That said, I don’t like what the Republicans are doing with it against presidential nominees. Yes, I understand that there’s a history and Democrats arguably started it, but whoever started it, the escalation has gotten ridiculous. Within broad limits of reason, the president should be able to nominate people to hold office.
So I don’t have a firm opinion on the moral merits of the growing Democratic desire to get rid of the filibuster. It’s a Senate procedure, and Senators are entitled to get rid of it. I am, however, a little surprised that Democrats would be considering it now.
As I understand it, there is about a 0% chance that Democrats will retake the House in 2014, which means that Republicans already have quite an efficient veto over any legislation they might like to pass. Meanwhile, there’s about a 70% chance that Republicans will control the White House, the House, and the Senate come January 2017. Without the filibuster in place, Republicans could do a lot of damage to programs that Democrats like. That seems an expensive risk to run in order to get some presidential nominees through, however mad you are about GOP obstructionism.
But if that happens, the Republicans could go nuclear themselves in 2017, you may say. And that’s certainly a risk. But in fact, I think they will be as skittish about it as the Democrats have so far proven. Congressional control has proven stunningly evanescent since the Republicans first took back the House in 1994. It’s no fun getting rid of the filibuster and then ending up back in the minority a year later.
And there’s a reason it’s called “the nuclear option”: once you’ve leveled the institution, the ground will be too radioactive to rebuild. The first party that eliminates the filibuster gets a brief advantage, but then then they never again to shelter under the filibuster.
It’s a big gamble, anyway. And not a gamble worth taking to get a few nominations through. Or at least, that’s what I’d think. Harry Reid appears to be of another opinion . . . and his opinion is the one that matters.
Posted on July 11, 2013
Such a fine bit of ranting about the appalling farm bill that the House GOP just passed:
House Republicans passed a farm bill today with a vote of 216 to 208. When the House leadership first announced it would separately consider the food stamp and farm components of the “farm” bill, it looked like they got the message that current farm policy was in dire need of reform. With separation, real reform to rein in market-distorting programs and special interest handouts could finally happen. But now that separation has occurred, they’ve forgotten the very reason why separation was needed in the first place.
Supporters of this farm-only farm bill wasted the golden opportunity that separation could have provided: the ability to promote policies that benefit taxpayers, farmers, and consumers in a fiscally responsible way. With the passage of this bill, the House has gone even further to the left than the Senate bill. It would spend more money than Obama on the largest farm program, crop insurance.
On top of all this, the process House Republicans used to get this 600-plus-page bill to the floor in a mere 10 hours essentially violates their own promise to conduct business in an open and transparent manner. They prohibited legislators from introducing amendments. And, they played a game of bait and switch by claiming this bill was the same text from the failed House farm bill of a few weeks ago.
I hardly know what to say about this monstrosity. So I’ll just quote PJ O’Rourke: “Farm policy, although it’s complex, can be explained. What it can’t be is believed. No cheating spouse, no teen with a wrecked family car, no mayor of Washington, DC, videotaped in flagrante delicto has ever come up with anything as farfetched as U.S. farm policy.”
He wrote that in 1990. Almost 25 years later, it sounds as fresh as if he were blogging it from the Starbucks at 1st and E Street NW. Which itself basically tells you everything that you need to know about our agricultural policy.