INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES THREE

Back in February I made a post with four super-duper simple recipes, and here I am again to showcase three more. A drink, a side-dish, a dessert. Like last time, they all deliver a lot more than you would expect.

ONE

Starting with the drink. Fabulous. Refreshing. Delicious. I saw the recipe at Mike’s The Iron You, and made it the day after. Exactly as he posted, except that I cut the sugar down a bit. Since then, I’ve made it four times, and adapted it, simplifying it even further and leaving sugar out completely. You will need to find your favorite way, but trust me, this is a drink you must try if you love tea. The touch of genius is a pinch of baking soda after brewing. Do not twist your nose, it is magical. Have I ever lied to you?

MINT AND GINGER ICED GREEN TEA
(adapted from The Iron You)

4 cups of water
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 bags green tea
1 bag of mint tea (or 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves)
1 lemon, divided
Pinch of baking soda
sugar is optional (coconut sugar is particularly  nice)

Combine water and ginger in a pot. Bring to a boil. Once the water boils, remove from the heat and add tea bags and fresh mint (if using them).  Cover with a lid and steep for 15 minutes. Remove the bags and strain tea separating the liquid from the mint leaves and ginger slices. Stir in sugar, juice of half lemon, and baking soda. Transfer to a pitcher and let cool before refrigerating.

Serve on a tall glass with lemon slices and fresh mint added, if you so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I reduced the amount made to four cups instead of six, because I’m the only one drinking it. When I make it before dinner, I have leftover drink to enjoy next day at lunchtime, so that works well for me. Check out Mike’s original version and see if that appeals more to you in terms of amount and level of sweetness.

TWO

 

Second, a side-dish that is ready in 6 minutes. That is 360 seconds. Ok, if you have to cut the broccoli florets yourself, it might take you 10 minutes. Best broccoli ever. Perfect texture, bright taste, and you can change it around by using different herbs, vinegars, spices. Love it.

PAN-STEAMED BROCCOLI WITH ORANGE AND CILANTRO
(adapted from Ellie Krueger)

1 large head of broccoli florets (1½ pounds)
zest and juice of half an orange
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, minced
1 ½ tablespoons  olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the broccoli florets more or less in a single layer inside a saucepan. Add ½ cup water, cover and cook over a high heat for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Do not remove the lid during cooking. When the broccoli is done, it will be cooked to crisp-tender. If you prefer it a bit softer, remove it from the heat and allow it to sit, covered, for another minute or two.

While the broccoli is cooking, zest the orange into a large bowl. Juice half the orange into the bowl, add the lemon juice. Add the cilantro to the bowl along with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to the bowl with the orange mixture and toss gently. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: During the time the broccoli is cooking (pay close attention to the timer, it’s important), make the flavoring mixture right on the serving bowl.  Check Ellie’s gremolata in the link, or try anything you like. I find the combination of orange with broccoli quite delicious, but to cut excessive sweetness I added some lemon juice to it. Apple cider vinegar could be wonderful too. Consider options such as za’tar, a very discreet touch of sesame oil, black olive tapenade, sesame seeds…  This recipe has the potential to become your favorite way to enjoy broccoli. Cannot beat the texture. Am I repeating myself? Apologies, I tend to get excited about stuff like broccoli with perfect texture. There, I said it again!

THREE

Soft-serve pineapple. I saw this one at The View from Great Island, a blog I’ve cooked from many times, Sue’s recipes never failed me. She talks, I listen. It is ready in minutes, once you freeze the pineapple pieces. It is perfectly smooth and soft-serve-like when you first process it. In the freezer it will turn a bit hard, but a little encounter with the microwave just to break the ice (literally), turns it into real sorbet consistency. I had no idea that a pineapple could become a luscious dessert just with the help of the food processor. Remember a few years ago when everyone was processing bananas? Well, pineapples are harder to peel, but totally worth the trouble. A friend from Facebook mentioned that 1 egg white can be added to this type of recipe, to give extra smoothness.  I have to try that soon.

SOFT-SERVE PINEAPPLE-CHILE SORBET
(slightly modified from The View from Great Island)

1 pineapple
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper (ground)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice the pineapple into 1 inch slices, core and all. Chop the slices into bite sized pieces. Arrange the pineapple on the baking sheet. Freeze for 2 hours, or until frozen solid.

Put the frozen pineapple chunks into a high power blender or food processor. Add the lime juice and chile powder. Process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the machine as necessary. Serve right away for a slushy, soft-serve consistency, otherwise, spoon the mixture into a loaf pan and put in the freezer to firm up, at least 4 hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Adding pepper to sorbet can be quite interesting, but maybe it’s not for everybody. A purist would probably prefer it “virgin.” I reduced the amount of chipotle and omitted the cayenne that Sue used, so stop by her site to see her version too and decide what to do.  We also made two batches of cantaloupe sorbet (already in the blog), one with pepper, one without, and a few days later enjoyed a triple dessert, refreshing and hot at the same time.  We like to share a single bowl and take turns, a little bite with pepper, a little without… Simple Summer evening pleasures.

😉

And with that, I wrap up three super simple recipes that are sure to please you. I think that even if you are not into green tea, the addition of that pinch of baking soda might change your mind. It removes that bit of harshness, objectionable to some. Worth a try.

ONE YEAR AGO: Dan Lepard Simple White Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Maureen’s Fabulously Fudgy Brownies

THREE YEARS AGO: Wheat Berry Caraway Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mexican Focaccia 

FIVE YEARS AGOSunny Kamut Salad with Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

SIX YEARS AGO: Pane de Casa & Crostini

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Down-home Dig-in Chili

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Cinnamon Rolls

 

SUFFERING BASTARDS AT TRADER VIC’S

This is a guest post by my best friend, husband, and eminently satisfactory co-worker!

Their heyday passed a few decades ago, but if you had the good fortune to visit one of Trader Vic Bergeron’s restaurants, then you probably enjoyed a memorable meal of Polynesian appetizers, drinks and exotic Asian dishes. Delicious beef “cho cho” or crab Rangoon or cheese bings or crispy prawns… YUM, YUM! Or, perhaps you drank a Mai Tai or two in a tiki bar on a tropical beach in Hawaii …. Trader Vic created that classic libation.  It all started in 1934, in Oakland, CA, but  during the 2nd half of the 20th century Trader Vic’s franchise operated > 30 locations in all the major American cities.    They were places to go and celebrate something … special, fun places to relax and laugh with best friends and family.  I experienced the restaurants in Chicago, SF, Atlanta, Emeryville and Beverly Hills; just remembering my companions and those occasions puts a smile on my face.  Now only two US restaurants remain, the original Trader Vic’s, now on the SF East Bay waterfront (in Emeryville), and a second in Atlanta.

This fond memory recalls my Uncle Bill and Aunt Mildred Sladek, who lived in Riverside, IL. Uncle Bill was a renowned Chicago proctologist, and consequently, a very popular man.  I was a pre‐med major at Notre Dame, 80 miles away in S. Bend, IN. I spent many excellent weekends with my favorite aunt and uncle, who were guiding me toward a medical career. When I arrived on the South Shore train on Friday night we were off to one of Chicago’s fine restaurants. Uncle Bill was so well-respected that when he and Mildred a entered a Loop restaurant the Maitre d’ and wait-staff began to bow and curtsey as if Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had just walked in. Such was the case at Trader Vic’s in the Palmer House in Chicago. It was where I had my first oyster on the half‐shell, and the site of fine meals with the Sladek family (my cousins Bill Jr., Bob and Barbara), including one dinner preceding the Chicago performance of “Hair” in 1972. We loved all the tropical drinks, but especially the Suffering Bastard, that Trader Vic also concocted.

The recipe was a secret, but Uncle Bill managed to get it from the Maitre d’, and passed it to me in a handwritten note that I saved in a lockbox until now. When you search for the recipe of a Suffering Bastard, you will find some drinks that originated at the Cairo Hotel, made from bourbon and gin.  But that’s not the same thing we drank at Trader Vic’s.  If you’re looking for a refreshing drink on a hot summer day, then you’ve found it!

 

THE SUFFERING BASTARD
(from Trader Vic’s)

1 measure white rum
2 measures dark rum (Light Burns or Mount Gay Barbados rum)
1 measure Mai Tai mix (Trader Vic’s is best … available at Amazon.com)
1.5 ‐ 2  measures fresh lime juice
for garnish:
fresh pineapple
Maraschino cherries,
cucumber
fresh mint

Give the components a quick shake, pour over cracked ice, and garnish.  Be forewarned, it packs a (delightful) punch!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments from Sally: This was one of the first drinks Phil made for us when we started dating. Sweet memories! Well, let me point out it is actually not a sweet drink at all. We love tart flavors, so it’s perfect for us. If you prefer a sweeter concoction, consider adding a half ounce of simple syrup or agave nectar. It’s not authentic, but we won’t hold grudges.

I hope you enjoyed one more guest post by my beloved! I actually feel very lucky he did not go to medical school, or we probably would have never met…

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Aloha!

TWO YEARS AGO: Fab Choc Chip Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Pumpkin-Chipotle and Kale Pizza

FOUR YEARS AGO: Enchiladas Suizas a la Marcela Valladolid

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Little Apple

SIX YEARS AGO: Majestic Sedona

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Watermelon-induced Daze

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THE COMPLICIT CONSPIRACY OF ALCOHOL

What do these cartoons have in common?

picmonkey-image

They all send a message that drinking is fun, actually not just fun, needed to cope with today’s world. The message is so prevalent, so strongly shared in social media, on TV, in movies and in our social lives that we barely take notice.  We barely stop to think that something might be wrong with it.

This is not an easy post to write, as it feels like swimming against a strong current. Let me start with my own experience on the subject. My college years were all alcohol-free and the friends I hung out at the time with were not interested in drinking. Then I started dating the man who became my first husband. He absolutely loved wine and other libations. I tried my first glass of wine around age 24; I could take it or leave it as far as taste was concerned, but I embraced the practice for the fun aspects that came with it. Drinking became a part of my social life and I never worried about it.  Except for having to deal with the eventual drunk friend or relative, but they ended up more as harmless annoyances, nothing I was overly concerned with.  Plus, “they” were not “me”, so all was fine in my own Private Idaho.

In the past few years, I noticed that my tolerance for alcohol started to sharply decrease. Whereas in the past I could indulge in a mixed drink before dinner, then a glass or two of wine with my meal, and still have a normal morning next day, as I got older doing the same caused a hangover that pretty much ruined my next day.  Two glasses of wine with dinner became the maximum I can drink, but sometimes even that makes me a bit unwell. You might say “… so what? Stick with one glass and don’t worry about it.”  But, the realization of how harmful just a little more might be for my body got me thinking. Could drinking – even at a moderate level – be doing me more harm than good?  How could I be sure? Shouldn’t I listen to the signs my body kept sending me?  I also started to question my reasons for drinking. I decided to go on a personal experiment and quit drinking for a couple of months. While doing so it became evident the power of the alcohol industry. I read a lot on the subject, from the benefits of drinking (heavily shared around in social media) to its negative side-effects (barely mentioned in those venues), and about the advertising strategies and profits of the alcohol industry.  And now here I am to share my thoughts.

I don’t intend to turn myself or anyone else into a teetotaler. Or to be judgmental about those who drink a little or a lot. I simply hope that we can all be more attentive to – and perhaps take a stance against –  the constant bombardment of alcohol advertising, which, by the way, now heavily targets women.  It portrays alcohol as a harmless substance, supposed to make your life fun and sophisticated. It is supposed to make you tolerate the stresses of your day, and  surf more smoothly through social interactions, especially if they feel awkward to start with.  The alcohol industry clearly prefers to place the burden of any negative effect of drinking on the shoulders of the “bad drinkers.” They, the pitiful alcoholics. We all subscribe to this view, by the way. That is neither fair nor accurate. In reality, the problems reside on the substance itself.  Alcohol is a toxin that your body immediately needs to  degrade once you ingest it. No matter how little you drink, your liver works extra to deal with it. Alcohol is addictive (not just for alcoholics), and as far as its danger ranking for society, it is worse than heroine and other illicit drugs (on a scale of 100, alcohol ranks 72, whereas heroine ranks  55 and crack 54, see this article).  In reality, moderate drinking, the kind that advocates portray as having positive effects on the cardiovascular system, is not what many drinkers are doing, particularly us women. Keep in mind that for women, moderate drinking is considered a maximum of 5 ounces of wine per day and even such low-level is a matter of debate. Anything more and the risks outweigh the benefits. Women metabolize alcohol less efficiently than men, and that is not simply an effect of body mass.  Often couples (yours truly included) will happily share  a bottle of wine with their dinner in the name of pleasure and supposed health benefits. We keep doing it, while  mentally assembling all the arguments that make it sound like a risk-free thing.  And the arguments seem to make sense. Come to think of it, the cartoons and funny jokes finally place women as equals with men on the drinking stage. Wow, that is some sociological victory! 😉

picmonkey-image11

I know that many people will read my post and react against it, claiming “I don’t have/see a problem.” True, probably you don’t.  But, our society does. Under age drinking is another serious problem made harder to deal with due to the influence of social media that enables advertisement by peers without any regulation (reviewed here). So, yes, maybe you are not affected directly by it. But someone you love might be. Maybe a son or a daughter, who at some point will be exposed to the Siren’s Song of the alcohol industry, that actually relies on the very existence of alcoholics for most of their profit.  Kids will go to college, turn 21, and in the US they will encounter the tradition of binge drinking. Maybe your own kids won’t partake, but they may suffer the consequences of being around those who do. No matter our own personal experience, our control and confidence in our own judgement, we should not close our eyes to the careless and irresponsible advertisement of drinking that happens today.  Not only direct, but also indirect advertisements.  I suggest you pay close attention to sitcoms, TV shows in general, and once you do, you will be shocked by the widespread underlying message of drinking as equal to living the good life. Today’s alcohol industry is exactly like the cigarette industry decades ago. We fought against them to stop false advertising, to stop selling the association of smoking with a great time. Why do we grant the alcohol industry a free pass to lie to us? Why do we help their cause by sharing cute jokes and spreading articles that reinforce the fun but look away when scientific data offer a different perspective?

The “responsible drinking” lie. Did you know that alcoholics account for 47% of the profits of alcohol sales? Just think about that for a second. The consequence of this fact is that the industry has no interest in moderate drinking, or in articles that warn about the dangers of drinking. Instead, their goal is to make sure that the proportion of heavy drinkers stays at the current level or even grows to protect their profits.  Like everything else, it’s all about the money.  They completely disregard a few annoying facts like: alcohol has been linked to about 200 illnesses  (World Health Organization, 2014); alcohol is associated with increased risk for cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx (organs that alcohol directly contacts), liver, and breast  (National Cancer Institute). Some individuals become addicted to alcohol from the first taste, for reasons not well understood, probably genetics is involved (I could not find precise statistics about it). That’ should be enough to give us all a pause. What if that person is someone you deeply care about? A nephew, a niece, a sibling. Drinking does not make problems go away or life easier. It does not make us happier or more fun and interesting in conversations.  However, most people believe that it does (I am not excluding myself, it is a very ingrained belief), and the alcohol industry is more than willing to feed those beliefs. Why wouldn’t they? It keeps their sales up.

quoteSo, what’s my point? My main message is that alcohol demands more attention and respect for what it really is:  a toxin with addictive properties.  Approach it with the caution it deserves. Consider real instead of pseudo-moderation. Talk to your kids about it in those terms. Be aware of the false aura behind it,  even if you think you are totally immune to it.  You may want to look into the role that drinking has in your own life.  Does it help you deal with stress …  is that the way you’d like your kids to face stress too?  Do you need it to have fun socially … is that the way you’d like your kids to approach it too?  We must acknowledge and deal with the darker side of drinking in honest terms.  I’ve had my share of encounters with people I admire, respect and love, but noticed with some sadness that they turn into different versions of themselves when drinking.  Sometimes they become overly argumentative, aggressive or depressed, only because they drank over a certain threshold.  Alcohol-induced happiness can be fleeting. And what comes after ranges from mildly annoying to sad, to ugly, all the way up to dangerous. Drinking and driving is one example, as are arguments, fights, black outs, the list is long, you get the picture. I once said things I regretted, because wine made me lose some self-control. It involved politics and interactions with a conservative couple. Even today, 15 years later, I don’t like to remember that evening. But still, that episode made me feel the dark side beneath my own skin.

Now back to my personal experiment. For starters, t shocked me how much better I felt once I stopped having alcohol with dinner, particularly considering that I didn’t drink that much and not even every evening.  Gone was a persistent, low-level headache that forced me to take a couple of aspirins a few times a week.  Gone was waking up in the morning with bags and puffiness under my eyes, and a sort of pale complexion. Lastly, I have renewed energy late at night, and sleep better too. Those are nice, unexpected bonuses.  Because I get  up early, I thought that being exhausted by 10 pm was normal.  Feeling overall quite a bit better makes it trickier to justify going back to drinking. For the time being I am surfing through these new waters, with a “naked” mind.  Honestly, I don’t know what I will do in the long run. I believe in moderation for everything, so quitting alcohol forever seems too drastic and not at all what I had in mind when I started my “experiment.”  The bottom line is, I am conflicted and struggling to find my own balance. That’s all I can say for now. So, if you wanted all the answers, I am sorry to disappoint you, I don’t have them. Not yet, that is…

But I am not at all conflicted about my views on the alcohol industry and the need to fight against it. All alcohol bottles should come with better warning labels, just as cigarettes now do, more than “Alcohol…may cause health problems.”  The health warnings should be as bold and restrictive as they are for cigarettes. The more aware we become, the less alcohol will harm us as a society.

To close this post, I will share two links. One takes you to a book that is sure to help people struggling with alcoholism or who have a hard time moderating their consumption.  It is called, This Naked Mind, by Annie Grace.  Even if you drink in moderation, the book is worth reading. The second link takes you to an article in The Washington Post, that I read when I was about 75% done writing this post. I was pleasantly surprised to see my views confirmed by others much more qualified than me to talk about the subject. I suggest you at least watch the short video included in the article, pretty interesting, she is quite articulate.

And just to end on a happier note, here is a pretty festive drink. It has a negligible amount of alcohol with the drops of bitters, but they add a nice kick to the taste. Do not omit them.

img_8304

 

CRANBERRY BLISS: Place a few glass cubes inside a tall glass. Add 1/4 of pure cranberry juice, 5 drops of bitters (any kind you like, Angostura for instance), fill the glass with 3/4 sparkling water. Drink and enjoy!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Candy Cane Cookies

TWO YEARS AGO: Macarons: Much better with a friend

THREE YEARS AGO: Our Mexican Holiday Dinner 

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

SIX YEARS AGO: Gougeres

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night

 

 

SHRUBS: A FUN ALTERNATIVE TO ALCOHOLIC DRINKS

Have you heard about shrubs? They are quite fashionable these days, which could turn me off, a bit of a rebel that sometimes I am, but then again I was too curious to completely ignore them. Plus, I am quite fond of vinegar and acidic goodies in general. I first heard about shrubs through Fer’s blog Chucrute com Salsicha. Her style of cooking  is quite similar to ours, so when she started raving about shrubs, I paid attention. But it took me more than a year to finally try one. I am a beginner still, trying flavor combinations, levels of acidity and sweetness, but it is so much fun, I hope you consider playing with this type of drink. Plus, if you or someone you entertain prefers to stick to non-alcoholic beverages, shrubs are perfect. Say goodbye to boring sodas, or the same old same old sparkling water with a twist of lemon, and embrace the amazing variety of the world of shrubs.

Shrubs are a mixture of fruit or vegetables with alcohol and/or vinegar. They originated in England in the 15th century, in versions used for medicinal purposes and generally containing some type of alcohol. A couple of hundred years later, the practice of using vinegar to preserve fruits arrived in the Americas, and by the 19th century, shrubs were quite widespread. Fruits such as berries were mixed with vinegar, left to infuse for days or even weeks. The liquid was then strained, sweetened and used as a syrup to make drinks, both alcoholic or not. Nowadays, you can find countless recipes around, even whole books written on the subject, such as this one, which I own.  I share first my all-time favorite, which happens to be the simplest one to prepare. Then I offer two more with a totally different flavor profile.  Shrubs last for a long time in the fridge, they are festive, fresh, and contrary to alcoholic beverages, there’s absolutely nothing to fear. No need for designated drivers, no risk of hangovers, no inconvenient behavior, such as dancing naked over the table while guests are trying to concentrate on dessert. Unless you really feel like it, of course. But keep in mind you won’t be able to blame the drink!

cucumber-shrub-drink

CUCUMBER-MINT SHRUB
(adapted from Michael Dietsch’s Shrubs)

2 large cucumbers
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1/3  cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add cucumbers and mint leaves to blender. Blend until pureed.

Press puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Add cucumber juice, both vinegars, sugar, and kosher salt to a jar or bottle. Shake very well to combine and refrigerate.

To drink, pour some over ice cubes, and complete tall glass with carbonated water. Mix and enjoy. If needed, add a little more sugar (I did not).

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

cucumbercomposite

Comments: This is my favorite shrub so far. Love it, love it, love it!  I have a hard time sticking with only two glasses with my dinner, because it goes well with all sorts of main dishes. I know, the color is a bit odd, although I was pleased by how it matched my manicure of that particular week… As you know, I am easily amused. Next time I will add lemon zest and a touch of lemon juice in place of the mint. Just for fun.

Moving on, this second shrub is a very fruity and floral option, with a shockingly gorgeous color…

strawberry-shrub

RASPBERRY STRAWBERRY & ROSE SHRUB
(inspired by The Kitchen McCabe)

1 + 1/2  cups raspberries
1/2 cup water
1 + 1/2  cups strawberries, quartered
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup raw honey
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon rose-water (see comments)

Place the strawberries and sugar in a saucepan, along with ½ cup of water. Bring to a simmer, stirring to completely dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and let cool completely. Pour mixture into a blender, along with the raspberries, honey, rose-water and vinegar. Blend until smooth. Run the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and discard solids. Place the syrup in a container and refrigerate for several days, up to a week.  The syrup can also be used right away.

Simply pour a small amount on a tall glass over ice cubes, and top with carbonated water.  Adjust sweetness if needed, add a sprig of mint if you’d like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositestrawb

Comments: My only issue with this shrub is the amount of rose-water. I did not even use the full tablespoon and found it to be overpowering. I suggest one teaspoon max, see how you feel about it, if you like a more perfumed drink, add 1/2 teaspoon more to the bottle. Or you could conceivably omit it altogether, and make it exclusively fruit and vinegar. This is a much sweeter shrub than the cucumber, and the flavor of the berries comes through nicely, contrasting with the acidic vinegar.  I also added less sugar than the original recipe called for, but would probably add even less next time.

Finally, my third shrub for this initial collection, a nice blast of spice, ginger in all its glory!

gingershrubcomp

 

GINGER SHRUB
(from Chucrute com Salsicha)

1/2 cup minced ginger
1 cup apple cider vinegar, unfiltered
1/2 cup granulated sugar

In a small saucepan place the ginger and the vinegar. Heat to boiling, turn the heat off and transfer the mixture to a Pyrex type container. Let it cool to room temperature for 24 hours.

Strain the mixture through a very fine sieve over a bowl, allowing it to drain for 5 to 10 minutes, without pressing on the solids. The strained volume should be around 3/4 cup. If you have less, complete that amount with vinegar.  Discard de ginger, and add the liquid to a small saucepan. Add the sugar and boil, stirring occasionally. When the sugar dissolves, simmer for a couple more minutes, then allow it to cool, and transfer to a clean bottle. Refrigerate until needed.

To drink, add a small amount to ice cubes on a tall glass, and complete with sparkling water, a 1:4 volume syrup to sparkling water is a good starting point.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This last shrub is for serious ginger lovers only, a very strong and potent ginger hit with each sip. I love ginger in all kinds of recipes savory and sweet, but I had to use about 1/8 of the volume of syrup to sparkling water, otherwise it was a bit too strong.  Another great use for this particular shrub is as a component of salad dressings, just add it as if you were using vinegar, whisk a bit of olive or grapeseed oil, and a touch of salt. Very nice option over simple greens or roasted beets. Shrubs (in their undiluted form) can also be poured over ice cream or sorbets, but I haven’t tried that yet.

cucumber-shrub-from-bewitching-kitchen1


I hope you enjoyed this small sampling of shrubs and consider giving them a try.
I have a big list of flavors to try, so stay tuned for more…

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ONE YEAR AGO: Date Truffles 

TWO YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Mousse from Baking Chez Moi

THREE YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Brigadeiros

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Espresso Loaf

FIVE YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup

SIX YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Special Holiday Fruitcake

 

BLOOD ORANGE MARGARITAS

Almost six years of blogging, and I shared THREE drinks with you.  Three. That is an average of one drink post for every two years. Would that mean we are a boring couple as far as alcohol is concerned? Not quite the case. Phil enjoys a shot of tequila every once in a while, caipirinhas, good quality vodka on the rocks (he likes a brand called Chopin), and the eventual dry Martini. Shaken, not stirred. It turns out that “I” am the boring alcoholic component in our relationship, as 99% of the time I stick to white wine. But, even a boring person will occasionally go for a walk on the wild side. Take for instance these Margaritas, made with one of the sexiest fruits in the world: blood oranges. I love them. Now, keep in mind we made this drink quite sour, with no sugar added to it. Most people will prefer a little more sweetness, so adjust to your taste with simple syrup or a little agave, as suggested in the recipe.

Blood Orange Margaritas
BLOOD ORANGE MARGARITAS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

makes 1 drink

2 shots of blood orange juice
1.5 to 2 shots tequila of your choice
1 shot lime juice
1 shot Curaçao (or another orange liqueur)
1 drop vanilla extract (optional)
sugar to taste (simple syrup, agave) – we omitted

Mix all ingredients in a shaker. Pour over crushed ice.  Take a sip, and open a big smile!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Many (too many) years ago, I could enjoy a festive drink before dinner, then switch to a glass of wine or two with the  meal. No major harm done, life next day would be normal.  Not anymore. I do not dare mixing types of alcohol, not even those that are supposed to “work”. You know, the famous saying: Liquor before beer, never fear…  Not for me. I now have a huge respect for alcohol, as a hangover will knock me in horizontal position until 5pm next day. For the record, the last time I had a hangover was after a 4th of July party in 2010. No desire to face another one. So, I have this fascination for beautiful drinks, but rarely indulge. When I do, that becomes my drink for the evening, no wine with the meal.

These Margaritas were so refreshing and light!  We like our drinks very sour, in fact this time they were almost too sour for Phil’s taste, but I thought they were pretty good. You never know how red a blood orange will be until you cut it open, so there’s always some excitement associated with them.  Only one grocery store in town carries them, and it’s the one on the other side of town (you know, a 10 minute drive instead of 5). I bought a few with the intention of preparing a blood orange vinaigrette, perhaps a blood orange pound cake, but Phil came up with the idea of a colorful drink, and that was it.  With a Mexican-type dinner, it was a delightful evening. The vanilla addition was something I saw as a tip somewhere a while ago, wish I could give proper credit. Just a little drop, don’t go wild with it, or it might overpower your margarita.

ONE YEAR AGO: Smoked Salmon Appetizer

TWO YEARS AGO: Clementine Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

FOUR YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

FIVE YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle

BORDER GRILL MARGARITAS

Remember the Two Hot Tamales?   I was a huge fan of Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken‘s show back in the good old days of FoodTV Network.  When we lived in Los Angeles, I made a point to go to one of their restaurants in town, the “Border Grill”.   We chose a perfect day, Cinco de Mayo!  The place was packed, but the service was nonetheless outstanding.   We had their spicy margaritas with our dinner: a touch of jalapenos swimming in enough booze to make us happily oblivious to the heat.  It took me over a year to finally make those drinks at home, but it won’t be long until we make them again. A fitting drink for a summer evening!

CUCUMBER JALAPENO MARGARITA
(adapted from Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken)
Makes: 2 drinks

12 slices peeled cucumber
4 to 6 slices jalapeño (we used Serrano peppers)
2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
1 heaping teaspoon superfine sugar
crushed ice
3 ounces silver tequila (we used Herradura)
1 + 1/2 ounce orange liqueur
2 cucumber slice, for garnish

Combine the cucumber, serrano pepper, lime juice, and superfine sugar in a small blender (or a cup suitable to use with an immersion blender). Blend everything together until smooth.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add tequila and orange liqueur, then add the cucumber mixture.   Shake gently to combine, pour into a couple of margarita glasses, and garnish each with a cucumber slice.   Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Our main modification of the recipe was to process the cucumber using an immersion blender.  I tried my best to mash the cucumber as they do in the restaurant (according to the recipe in the link), but we were getting nowhere.  Cucumber was flying, pepper was flying after it, not exactly the atmosphere we were hoping for our Friday evening.    If you have the skill of a seasoned bartender, grab the mortar and pestle.   Moi?  I was a lot happier with this  setting:

But, no matter how you get around to it, make this drink! And play with the amount of pepper.  Next time, we’ll be up for  a little more heat, just because…  😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  Goodbye L.A.

TWO YEARS AGO:  Vermont Sourdough

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A PEARFECT DRINK

In almost three years of blogging, I have shared one recipe for a drink. One.  Check the index, and you will see caipirinha, the Brazilian national drink, sitting all alone in that category.   This disturbing situation  changes today, with a nice drink Phil made for us this past weekend, inspired by a recent show from Giada de Laurentiis: the peartini.   We modified the recipe making it a lot less sweet, and a tad less alcoholic.

PEARTINI FOR TWO
(inspired by Giada de Laurentiis)

for simple syrup (you won’t use it all)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
for drink
4  shots of pear juice (homemade, of course!)
2 shots of Vodka (we like Stolichnaya)
2 shots of lime juice
1 shot of simple syrup
shaker full of ice
two gorgeous strawberries

Make the simple syrup by heating the water and the sugar in a small sauce pan, until completely dissolved. Allow it to cool to room temperature, and store in the fridge for future uses.

Place ice cubes in your shaker until half full. Add all other ingredients for the drink, shake well and pour on martini glasses.

Garnish with a strawberry sliced halfway, not all the way through (obviously).

Sip slowly, it will match perfectly your favorite type of sushi and sashimi.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

When juicing the pears, be careful because they oxidize very quickly.  Mix the juice with some lime juice to slow down the process, or the drink will have a bit of a brownish hint.  No harm in flavor, only in looks.

You may ask why the strawberry decoration when we could have added a slice of pear? Two reasons:

1. We passed all pears through our Juiceman Jr., and forgot to put aside a couple of slices for garnish.

2. Strawberries are a lot sexier. So, there! 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

TWO YEARS AGO: Paris, je t’aime!

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