Sunday, July 31, 2011
Well...the mood struck the other night. But not just for bubbly, the higher-octane concoction known as the Champagne Cocktail. I whipped out my copy of the dependable Ultimate Bar Book and we sampled a few. Perfect ending to a HOT summer day.
And, of course, don't forget that these can be made with any sparkling wine. Spanish cava is my personal favorite.
The book called this American Flyer, but it's an interesting take-off on that most summery of cocktails, the Daiquiri.
1 1/2 ounces light rum
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 to 5 ounces chilled sparkling wine
Shake all ingredients but the sparkling wine vigorously with ice. Strain into a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine.
Brandy Champagne Cocktail
The traditional Champagne Cocktail is simply a sugar cube doused in bitters and topped with Champagne. This one makes it ever more decadent with a generous splash of brandy.
1 sugar cube
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1/2 ounce brandy
3 to 5 ounces chilled sparkling wine
In the bottom of a champagne flute, soak the sugar cube with the bitters. Pour in the brandy and slowly top with sparkling wine.
This one is similar to one of my favorites, the French 75, but it adds a dose of Cointreau to up the octane level.
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce Cointreau (or triple sec)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 to 5 ounces chilled sparkling wine
Shake all ingredients but the sparkling wine vigorously with ice. Strain into a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Makes 8-10 servings.
4 lbs. yellow peaches (10 to 12 medium), peeled and each cut into 8 wedges
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 lemon, zested
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter, chilled
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the peaches, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tbsp. flour; toss well.
In another large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour, the cornmeal, 1/3 cup sugar, the lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Set aside 1 tbsp. butter to soften at room temperature. Rinse your hands with cold water and dry them (this is to keep them cool when you grate the butter). Grate the rest of the stick of butter on the large holes of a box grater; toss with the flour mixture. Refrigerate.
Use the reserved 1 tbsp. butter to grease a shallow 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Transfer the peach mixture to the dish, cover snugly with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
About 5 minutes before the baking time is up, drizzle 1 1/4 cups heavy cream into the flour-butter mixture and stir lightly with a fork until just combined.
Uncover the peaches and distribute the biscuit mixture on top in clumps, covering as evenly as you can. Bake until the top is nicely golden and the peaches are bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
While the cobbler cools, whip the remaining 1¼ cups cream and 4 tsp. sugar until barely stiff; refrigerate until ready to serve. Spoon the slightly warm cobbler onto plates and dollop the whipped cream on top.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
- Hopefully they'll help me continue to lose weight. Studies show that those of us who eat a serving of almonds at least twice a week are less likely to gain weight. Realize, though, that these little morsels are full of fat..even if it IS the good kind. Limit that serving size to 1/3 cup.
- They are high in Vitamin E...good to protect your skin from sun and other environmental pollutants.
- That "good" fat (aka monounsaturated) helps to lower cholesterol and therefore the risk of heart disease. (But avoid the really salty ones...that's undoes their heart-healthy effects.)
- Protein, protein, protein. A 1/4 cup serving of almonds gives you just as much protein as a single egg.
- Oh...and 10% of your daily calcium need. Bones and teeth, you know...
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
I've tried to replicate them at home (minus the viscous gold liquid) by whirring the eggs in a blender and/or whisking them until may arms ached. They still...underwhelmed.
Not any more. This is my new recipe. I've asked for a copper bowl for my birthday to whip the egg whites, but, in the meantime, my KitchenAid mixer worked just fine.
From Food & Wine Magazine.
Pinch of sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
Preheat the broiler and position a rack in the center of the oven. In a large bowl, using a whisk or a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the salt and one-fourth of the beaten egg whites. Fold the yolk mixture into the remaining beaten whites until no streaks remain.
In an 8-inch ovenproof skillet, melt the butter. Scrape the omelet mixture into the skillet and shake gently to evenly distribute the eggs. Sprinkle the cheese all over and transfer the skillet to the oven. Broil the omelet for about 3 minutes, until lightly browned and very puffy. Carefully slide the omelet onto a plate, folding it in half. Serve right away.
(Note: I've gussied things up by adding a few chopped veggies to the saute pan and cooking until tender before adding the egg mixture.)
Monday, July 25, 2011
It was suggested that it would be a good side for a simple grilled steak. The light bulb went off...how about a steak salad? I took a nice piece of flat-iron steak (You could use flank steak just as easily.) and marinated it in a bit of rice wine vinegar and ground coriander to mimic some of the flavors in the tomatoes. Grilled it for a few minutes to just-under-medium-rare. Let it rest for ten minutes and then sliced it thinly against the grain. I put a bed of salad greens on a plate (include a few leaves of basil and cilantro if you have them) and draped some slices of beef over. Then ladled on some of the tomatoes with their juices as a dressing of sorts. Fantastic!
(There's another use for them as well. Leftovers the next night were just as good sopped up with some toasted Italian bread.)
Pickled Farm-Stand Tomatoes with Jalapenos
From Food & Wine magazine.
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
6 tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds), each cut into 6 wedges
4 scallions, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced into rings and seeded
In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, brown sugar and salt to a boil, stirring. Remove from the heat.
In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic, grated ginger, mustard seeds, black pepper, turmeric, ground cumin and cayenne pepper and cook over low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Carefully pour the hot oil into the vinegar mixture.
In a large heatproof bowl, combine the tomatoes, scallions and jalapeños. Stir in the hot pickling liquid and let stand at room temperature for 4 hours or refrigerate for 8 hours, then serve.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Now we don't want a Violet Beauregard/Willie Wonka incident, but eat some blueberries. In smoothies, on yogurt, or even by the handful.
And, yes, I believe that according to this, a blueberry cobbler IS good for you.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
And, of course, I pair them with mozzarella and basil leaves from my container garden. Topped with some pesto or just good quality olive oil, it simply tastes like summer.
But our friend Martha Stewart says don't stop there. Here are a few more tomato-cheese combinations that we all should try....
- Add ricotta salata and a sprinkling of parsley.
- Or feta and mint.
- How about goat cheese and fresh oregano?
- And for a Mexican twist, I'll be trying Cotija and cilantro.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
No, strike that.
Only halfway through July and, here in North Texas, we've already had our normal yearly dose of days over 100 degrees.
I have a new relationship with ice. In a Ziploc bag and placed on the back of my neck. In a pitcher of water I give to the dogs. And, of course, in a gin and tonic or two.
But here, thanks to Real Simple, are a few more great uses for the humble ice cube.
- Fill a metal ladle with ice cubes and drag it across soup. The fat will cling to the ladle's bottom and you can de-fat your soups and stocks without refrigerating overnight.
- Water your indoor plants by placing ice cubes on the soil. The ice will melt and water the plant without the need for placing them in the sink to drain.
- When tweezing your eyebrows (Hey...even us middle-aged men need to get rid of the errant hair every now and then.), rub an ice cube over your brows before plucking. Then, use ice again afterwards to reduce redness.
- To refresh your garbage disposal, run a handful of ice cubes and a pinch of baking soda through. It will get rid of the excess grease on the blades.
- And, for a quick version of my back of the neck trick, hold a piece of ice on the underside of your wrist. You'll become a bit more...ahem...cold-blooded. And a heck of a lot more comfortable.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
But I have good news. So far, the most delicious cucumber pickle I've run across doesn't require you to salt and drain the cukes to keep them crisp or to can them in boiling water. Instead, you shake the brine ingredients and pour over the cucumbers. That's about it. Now they won't keep as long, but that's not a problem. These things are so spicy/tangy/sweet you'll be looking for a reason to eat them at breakfast. Before you know it, you'll be needing to make another batch.
Quick Spicy Dill Pickles
Make 2 quarts.
From Food & Wine Magazine.
1 pound cucumbers (I used thin-skinned Persian cucumbers cut in narrow wedges to great effect.)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar (5 percent acidity)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
6 large garlic cloves, halved
4 to 6 long red or green hot chiles, halved lengthwise
16 dill sprigs
Pack cucumbers into 2 clean 1-quart glass jars. In another jar, combine the salt, sugar, vinegar, coriander and garlic. Shake until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add 2 cups of water and pour the brine over the vegetables. Tuck the chiles and dill between the vegetables. Add enough water to keep the vegetables submerged. Close the jars and refrigerate overnight or for up to 1 month.
* Food & Wine suggests these additional vegetables. The carrots and green beans sound yummy. Use 10 ounces for each quart jar. What I love about this recipe is that you could easily make a jar of asparagus and one of cukes using the same brine.
Asparagus, blanched 1 minute and cooled.
Broccoli stems, peeled and cut into sticks.
Carrot sticks, blanched 2 minutes and cooled.
Cauliflower florets, blanched 1 minute and cooled.
Green beans, steamed 2 minutes and cooled.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Here are some longlasters that our friend Martha recommends with my own comments. And they're interesting enough that you just need a stem or two.
- Oncidium orchids: These are the multi-branch variety with the little speckled blooms all over. I love their exoticism.
- Carnations: A lot of people despise them. I love them...smell and all. And they last for two weeks and more if you change their water every few days.
- Freesias: Simple and aromatic, they also remind me of Southern ladies. And that's a good thing.
- Oriental lilies: These are show horses. When entertaining, I buy five or six stems of these and scatter them throughout the house. They are quite dramatic.
- Dendrobium orchids: Though perhaps a bit less exotic looking than their oncidium cousins, these are beautiful additions to your tablescape, your bathroom counter or your bedside table.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
They're in scrambled eggs for breakfast.
Topped with cottage cheese and black pepper for lunch.
And in a yummy Italianish recipe like this for dinner.
Basil Spaghetti with Mozzarella-Broiled Tomatoes
Makes 4 servings.
3 large tomatoes, each cut into 4 thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated or thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
Heat broiler. Cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain and return it to the pot.
Meanwhile, arrange the tomato slices in a single layer on a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet. Season with ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Dividing evenly, sprinkle the slices with the mozzarella and Parmesan. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden, 3 to 5 minutes,
In a small saucepan, warm the oil with the garlic and red pepper over medium heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the garlic oil, basil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper to the pasta and toss to combine.
Serve topped with the tomatoes, additional basil, and some shaved Parmesan.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Here's one that uses the blackberries hitting their peak right about now.
Makes one cocktail.
4 mint leaves
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (Adjust lemon juice and simple syrup to your taste after the first one.)
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint and blackberries. Add gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup and a little ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish with a mint sprig.
(Note: For a lighter cocktail, use a bigger glass and top with club soda.)
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Those of you who are regular followers of this blog know that I spent an entire month back in March testing cookbooks (one a day) and offering up a recipe that I had particularly liked.
Well...it turns out that two Canuck chicks had the same idea. But THEY sold it to Oprah and have a TV show. Whatever. (That's all I'll say about them. Google away and find them yourself. I ain't giving them free advertising.)
That said, I watch them. (Yes, even DVR them.) And they turned me on to The New Moosewood Cookbook, a vegetarian cookbook first published in the 1970's and updated in 1990. I'm always looking for yummy veggie recipes to try and eat a little healthier.
This one was intriguing. It didn't turn out exactly as I expected..it was a little "eggier" than I thought it would be. Which was a nice surprise. Definitely worth a try in your kitchen. (And you can experiment with this one...see the notes below.)
Zucchini Feta Fritters
Makes 4 servings.
4 eggs, separated
4 cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 4 squash)
1 cup finely crumbled feta cheese (Here's the first variation you could try. A Mexican cheese like Cotija could work. Parmesan. Maybe even blue cheese. Try it and let me know.)
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
1 teaspoon dried mint (OK...I can't stand mint in a dish like this. You can use it or do as I did and try a little oregano. I bet thyme would be good too.)
Salt and pepper to taste.
1/3 cup flour
Oil for frying
Beat the egg whites until stiff.
In a large bowl, combine zucchini, egg yolks, cheese, scallions, seasonings and flour. Mix well.
Fold the egg whites into the zucchini mixture. Conserve as much volume as you can for a fluffy fritter.
Heat a little oil in a sauté pan. When hot, add spoonfuls of batter and fry on both sides until golden and crisp. Note: be prepared to do later batches in fresh oil...the zucchini sheds a lot of water and transforms the frying method into pseudo-boiling if you don't watch it.
Drain on paper towels and keep warm.
Serve topped with sour cream or yogurt. Or, as this Southern boy did, with Ranch dressing.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Now the hot dogs we provided were quality, but simple. The basic toppings...mustard, ketchup and...if you were particularly generous...a spoonful of chopped onion. All went well...had some friends and neighbors over, yummy hot dogs eaten, and someone in need helped out.
But that's not the end of the story.
The whole hot dog experience reminded me of a page I had ripped out of a food magazine not too long ago. It described how to build that most quintessential hot dog...the Chicago Dog. (Insert accent here.) Using a few leftovers and fortified by a few pantry ingredients, we indulged.
And you should too.
The Chicago Hot Dog
This makes one...multiply to your heart's content.
Brush the outside of a hot dog bun with a bit of melted unsalted butter. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake split sides down at 350° about 5 minutes until warm.
Warm a hot dog (all-beef please) in boiling water for 5 minutes and place in your bun.
Place a dill pickle spear on one side of the hot dog and two tomato wedges on the other.
Zig-zag with yellow mustard and top with a dollop of sweet pickle relish.
Sprinkle a little chopped onion on top.
Final touch? Two, actually. A sport pepper. (A peperoncino makes a good substitute. And then a generous sprinkling of celery salt. (NO. You may not omit the celery salt.)
How's that, dawg?
Friday, July 08, 2011
To eight cups of prepared and cooled tea, add:
- Two teaspoons freshly grated ginger and 1/3 cup honey.
- Two cups pomegranate juice, 3 limes (thinly sliced), and 1/4 cup sugar.
- Two cups of seedless watermelon chunks and 1 smmall bunch fresh basil sprigs. Add a little honey or agave nectar for sweetness of you'd like.
- Four ripe peaches (cut into 1/2 inch pieces) and a small bunch of fresh mint sprigs. Sweeten with sugar if you'd like.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Taiwanese Sesame Cucumbers
Makes enough for 12 (unless they're for me...and I might not share.)
3 seedless cucumbers, chilled in the freezer for 10 minutes
1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 scallions, coarsely chopped
Cut the cucumbers lengthwise into eighths, then cut them crosswise into 2-inch-long sticks. In a large bowl, combine the sesame oil, vinegar and a large pinch of salt. Add the cucumbers and toss well. Let stand for 10 minutes, tossing a few times.
In a mini food processor, combine the sesame seeds, crushed red pepper and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Process until the sesame seeds are coarsely chopped. Add half of the mixture to the cucumbers and toss well. Arrange the cucumbers on a platter. Sprinkle with the remaining sesame seed mixture and the scallions and serve.
Monday, July 04, 2011
- A fizzy cocktail. The skies will be exploding...the ingredients in your glass should be too. You can go simple with bubbly. (But you better go American...Schramsberg is the cork to pop.) Or something as all-American as a vodka with sparkling lemonade.
- All-American eats. This is not the occasion for dim sum, lasagna or borscht. Obvious menu choices include hot dogs or hamburgers. But how about meat loaf, fried chicken, or a great grilled steak?
- You can't do it alone. Event if it's just that one special someone...a gang of friends...or as extended as your family can get, this is a holiday to share.
- I NEVER get through this day without sitting down and reading the Declaration of Independence. The courage and wisdom that our Founding Fathers showed is the basis for what we celebrate today.
- If you listen to some John Philip Sousa while reading all the better. I'm partial to Stars and Stripes Forever myself.
- And of course, fireworks. See them in person if you can. But if not, I'm betting you can find some great televised "rockets red glare" to catch in HiDef.
Sunday, July 03, 2011
But who says we can't go exotic/international? (And if it's too much for you to try on July Fourth, pocket these ideas for later in your grilling season.)
- Kick it up sun-dried style with a couple of tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, a handful of fresh spinach and an ounce of goat cheese.
- Feeling Santa Fe? How about a bit of fresh salsa (green chile if you're going authentico), some shredded lettuce, a tablespoon of queso fresco and...wait for it...a poached (or fried if you're squeamish) egg?
- Go Greek! With a tablespoon of chopped red onion, 2 tablespoons crumbled feta, some fresh spinach and a drizzle of olive oil. Gild the lily if you'd like with a dollop of tzatziki sauce.
- And this one might be my summer fave. A couple of slices of heirloom tomato, a thick slice of mozzarella, a couple of bail leaves, and a spoonful of pesto. Drizzle a bit of high-quality olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. (P.S. Must be served on a well-toasted ciabatta bun.)
Friday, July 01, 2011
July is Blueberry Month and they are plentiful in your grocery and farmers market. Here are some tips to keep you from "singing the blues" as you enjoy these healthy little nuggets all month long.
- Blueberries are one of the few fruits native to North America. The ones we get in the supermarket were first cultivated from the smaller native variety in the early 1900's.
- They are incredibly healthy...rich in fiber and antioxidants like vitamin C.
- Best partners? Sugar, lemon, cinnamon and/or nutmeg.
- They're sturdy too. Blueberries will last almost a week unwashed and covered in the fridge. And no reason to splurge on organics...they are on the "safe list" for conventional growing methods. Do buy local if you can though.
- Blueberries=brain food. A recent study participants who drank around 20 ounces of blueberry juice daily for 12 weeks performed significantly better on learning and memory tests. You can get the same benefits eating a cup of berries three to five times a week. Easily accomplished at this time of year!
Need some blueberry recipes? Type "blueberries" into that little search window at the top left of this page. There are plenty sprinkled throughout this blog.