This milkshake rocks my world. Let’s just take a moment and really let this soak in. Fresh picked strawberries roasted with sugar and lemon slices. Roasted, I said. Buttermilk, just to kick it up a notch. Premium vanilla ice cream. And refreshing mint. Are you drooling yet, or is it just me?
Besides this amazing milkshake, today I’d like to discuss my path to recognizing a potentially good recipe. Recipes are everywhere and how can you tell what to try? I’ve definitely made some that will never be repeated, but generally, most things I make are good. Some things we eat are great. And some are downright amazing (like this milkshake!). When I first began cooking at home, I leaned on recipes from popular websites. I never made anything that didn’t have great reviews – and I would read a lot of the reviews, as there can be so many great hints in the comments section. So that’s how I first started. Making recipes that lots of other people rave about. After doing this for several years, certain aspects of cooking became natural, or perhaps, more instinctual. I learned a lot – about methods, ingredient combinations, and what we like. I still read reviews (again, comments are often so helpful), but I do not rely on a rating system to determine whether or not I want to try a certain recipe. So now what do I do?
Now, when I read over a recipe, I take several things into account. First, the ingredients. Are they costly? Are they easily available? Are there a lot? Do they include things that my family tends to like? If they are too expensive (have to stay on budget!), too exotic (I don’t have time or money to purchase more exclusive ingredients that I can’t easily find at the local supermarket), or include things we generally don’t enjoy, I usually avoid it. Or perhaps the ingredients aren’t in season (then I save it for later). For me, preparing and cooking a meal needs to be somewhat quick, so if there are too many ingredients that require prep work (chopping, slicing, precooking), I will generally avoid it. Second, I look at the directions. If it is a long process, maybe I’ll save it for a weekend when my husband is home and can help take care of our 2 year old daughter. Or maybe it’s way too involved and I won’t even attempt it. Only if the recipe appears really good will I save it for when I eventually have more time. Now, after cooking at home for 5+ years, the amount of work involved has changed, or rather, all the practice has paid off. Something that appeared time consuming three years ago is now a piece of cake. Third, I look at the combination of ingredients. Sometimes they include all things we enjoy – this usually indicates a recipe sure to please. Sometimes there’s something funky thrown in that I am willing to try. Sometimes, there is no way I’m convinced to give it a go, which leads me to my next point – consider the source. Some random Pinterest post? Maybe not so trustworthy. An author or blogger whose food I have made a lot and come to love? Yep, I’ll take a chance on one of those recipes, sure thing. Find a blogger or chef who you relate to. Get the cookbook, read the blog, and try out some new stuff. Last, and most importantly, learn from your choices. Take risks, learn from them. Maybe you’ll discover the wonder of watermelon in a green salad or how putting vegetables in the oven adds a depth of flavor that only roasting can achieve. Learn from your mistakes. Maybe you can’t stand fennel – find a substitution. Keep trying until you get it right (can you say crepes? Fourth times the charm!). Learn to recognize key ingredients you love, and expand from there (hint: black sesame seed ice cream, coming soon).
So, to recap: Consider the ingredient list, but don’t be afraid to take a chance. Make sure the directions are not overwhelming for your situation. Consider the ingredient combination and be sure to keep in mind the trustworthiness of the source of your culinary explorations. Practice, and most importantly, learn from what you do.
Now back to this milkshake. I knew I would make this recipe the instant I glanced it over. Fresh strawberries? Yes. Roasted fresh strawberries? Hell yes. Buttermilk? Different, but why not – it’s great in pancakes, as it adds a little tang. Ice cream? That’s the whole point of a milkshake. And mint? Hmmm, haven’t tried it in a milkshake (until now), but it’s not uncommon to be paired with fruit. So I very eagerly tried this recipe. And I have never tasted a better milkshake.
Yield: 2 servings
For the roasted strawberries:
1 pound fresh strawberries (from the market if you can get them), hulled and halved
3 to 4 tablespoons turbinado sugar, depending on sweetness of berries
Pinch of salt
4 to 5 thin lemon slices
For the milkshake:
1 pint good vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup good-quality buttermilk*
Leaves from 3 healthy mint sprigs
First, roast the strawberries: Heat oven to 375° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat (the rim is important: the berries will release a lot of juice!), and toss the berries with the sugar right on the baking sheet. Sprinkle them with a pinch of salt, and lay the lemon slices evenly over the top. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the fruit is soft, has released its juice, and the juice has started to thicken just slightly. Remove the lemon slices and let cool completely. These can be made a day ahead.
Then, make the milkshake: Pile everything in a blender and blend! Feel free to add a little more buttermilk if you like a thinner consistency. Pour into glasses and serve.
*don’t have buttermilk? Make your own! Mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or distilled white vinegar in one cup of milk. Let stand for five minutes, then use according to recipe directions.