Batter Licker

June 13, 2012

manhattan with maraschino liqueur and bourbon-bathed cherry (not to mention cherry-infused bourbon)

Do you ever make cocktails at home? I’ve been mixing up gin and tonics for years – requires a LOT of skill, like opening a bottle of tonic water, pouring that and some gin over ice, squeezing in a lime, and stirring. So maybe it’s not really all that skilled after all.

But I only started attempting anything beyond that about a year and a half ago when, inspired by a tequila-based cocktail I had enjoyed at Tres (back then, Tres Agaves), I decided to put a fresh twist on the processed sweetener (grapefruit soda) by substituting juice from a freshly squeezed-by-me grapefruit and club soda. My version of La Paloma set in motion an exploration of cocktails that hasn’t stopped since.

From sparkling vodka elderflower lemonade and apple brandy limeade to a gin-based version of a dark ‘n stormy (or, depending on how you look at it, a ginger beer/ale version of a gin and tonic) and creamy candy cane cocktail, you might think me a purveyor of purely clear liquors.

The cucumber infusion that wound up as my bride’s specialty cocktail and the lemon peel and vodka infusion that became limoncello after a few months would do nothing to convince you otherwise.

However, in real life, I dabble in the brown stuff more often than the clear.

On Saturday, I spoke on a BlogHer Food Conference panel about the resurgence and modernization of vintage recipes. During the panel, I gave a longer-than-it-should-have-been-because-my-hands-were-shaking-and-ohmygosh-how-do-I-answer-questions-while-simultaneously-keeping-track-of-what-I’m-mixing demo on how to make two versions of the timeless (and my favorite) Manhattan cocktail.

I learned that: (more…)

March 21, 2012

cherry-studded banana bran whole grain muffins

I recently started setting up a sort of brown banana renewal system. I’ll buy a few super green ones and a few yellow ones each week, and then find myself with a consistent supply of brown, spotted mushiness that is sufficient for my peanut butter shake and green smoothie purposes.

It was all working out swimmingly until I got tempted by the very cheap, very large bunch of jet-sized bananas at Costco. Suddenly, I had a serious overflow problem.

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The first resolution that came to mind was banana bread, which would also conveniently free up some precious space in my overstuffed pantry. Okay, maybe it was actually equal parts resolution and excuse to fill my apartment with the fragrant aroma of freshly baked banana bread.

Either way, I wanted to make a more portable, healthful, whole grain, breakfast-appropriate version. (more…)

October 3, 2011

project wedding dessert bar: part 4 (soft ginger molasses cookies)

After the fudge-making session, it’s time to get baking again! And now, it’s ginger molasses cookie time. Even though it’s been quite a few years since I first made these cookies, I’m still obsessed and can polish off a dozen in one sitting without a second thought.

But what I’m dying to know this time around is why is there sugar already spilled all over my counter when I haven’t started baking yet?!?!?

Let’s just say that next time I’ve finished a few hours’ worth of baking and think I hear the sound of sugar spilling, instead of quickly glancing over and, not seeing any spills, dismissing it as sugar shifting inside a bag I had recently moved, I’ll be sure to look a little closer and investigate a little further.

Anyway, like any baking project worth sharing, this one starts with an iconic Leaning Tower of Butter. (more…)

January 23, 2011

mixed greens, chopped peanuts, farro and fruit salad with spicy banana-cilantro dressing

This salad has it all: protein and healthy fats from peanuts, fiber and protein from farro, various other nutrients from fresh mixed greens and fresh or dried fruit, and a whole lot of flavor from these healthy ingredients and the spicy-sweet dressing. And yes, I did put farro, the mother of all whole grains with a nuttier flavor and chewier texture than rice, in a salad.

I’ve praised the merits of farro before in a risotto-style dish, but this time around, you can blame my trip to Italy three years ago, where we stopped at a locals-only cafe that had an entire menu dedicated to salads that contained a large scoop of rice. While rice isn’t exactly what carb-avoiding salad-eaters are going for, it did add a great, chewy texture and some heartiness to salads that might otherwise leave you yearning for a carbalicious snack just a couple hours later. As a whole grain full of protein and fiber, farro achieves a longer-term fullness and isn’t exactly the same type of refined, carbohydrate-heavy grain as the white rice we’re now told to avoid.

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I love the contrasting textures in this salad – soft crunch from the greens, a hard crunch from the peanuts, chewiness from the farro, and (if you take my tip to not use dried sour cherries, which weren’t tangy enough to stand up to the spicy sweetness of the dressing, and to use tangerines, tangelos, or even grapefruit instead) the juicy explosion from fresh citrus.

The flavors were all incorporated to accommodate the banana, jalapeno, and cilantro flavors from the dressing. Peanuts pair exceedingly well with bananas, but also with the Thai-inspired cilantro, jalapeno, and ginger flavors. Nutty farro provides some savory, subdued relief from the sweetness of the banana and the spiciness of the jalapeno, and incorporating some purple lettuces provides a great bitter contrast to the banana’s sweetness. If you use a tangy, fresh citrus fruit, it will cut the creamy sweetness of the banana nicely. (more…)

December 16, 2010

pomegranate, persimmon, pear and goat cheese salad with orange-thyme vinaigrette

On those beautifully sunny winter days when it’s almost temperate outside, I long for the colorful, juicy produce of summer. In those moments, I often forget about the vibrant fruit available to spruce up winter salads, and I suspect others are guilty of making this same mistake.

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Tart pomegranate seeds and sweet pears bring some crunch to this salad, while the pulpy sweetness of persimmons is balanced by peppery arugula the creamy saltiness of goat cheese. Tossed with a sweet, slightly tangy and herby Orange-Thyme Vinaigrette, this salad showcases the best flavors and colors that winter has to offer and gives summer salads a run for their money.

(more…)

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