Posts Tagged ‘produce’

Nice Spoils From the Blueberry Wars

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Here is the scenario: Lovely sunny day with time on our hands and a plan to meet up with friends. Berry picking? Great idea. The kids are all happy to pick and taste blueberries, content to wander among the bushes to seek the ripest berries, buckets in hand.  (Note that there is no holding hands and skipping because that would be obnoxious).  Sounds nice, eh?

Now cue the snakes, boys pelting each other with berries and later my daughter loudly describing the snake’s poop (probably scared out of the poor thing) to all at the check-out stand. Ah, now that’s a typical summer afternoon.

 

Check out the schmancy garnish. It took me only slightly more time than making the drink and syrup...

But it was fruitful because I now have ingredients for a wonderful cocktail: blueberries we picked with our own hands, rosemary clipped from my own pots, and maple syrup…poured from a bottle. Sorry, no syrup-making trees in our parts. Intriguing ingredients made it worth hauling out the blender for this one.

Blueberry-Maple Caiprissimo *

6 ounces bourbon or Cognac (I used Metaxa brandy)
6 ounces blueberries, plus 4 blueberries, each skewered on a rosemary sprig, for garnish (optional; see picture)
6 ounces Maple-Rosemary Syrup
4 ounces fresh lemon juice
3 cups ice

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients except the skewered blueberries and blend until smooth. Pour the drinks into chilled rocks glasses and garnish. Makes 4 drinks.

 

Rosemary-Maple Syrup

4 rosemary sprigs
6 ounces pure maple syrup

 Combine ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power until hot, about 30 seconds. Let the syrup cool, then discard the rosemary sprigs. Transfer the syrup to a jar, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. Try on pancakes or French toast, too!

 While normally not a lover of blended cocktails, I make an exception for this one because it is darn tasty. Plus, it has the added novelty of including an actual microwave in the directions. How easy is that? Considering that a friend just sent me instructions on how to hard boil eggs, I think we can all see how I was drawn to this one.

Cheers, ICE

*The Blueberry-Maple Caiprissimo was created by mixologist Adam Seger and was featured in Food & Wine’s Cocktails 2009.  No snakes were harmed (tangibly) in the making of this post.

As always, check out my Glossary of Spiritspage for
alcohol and mixer definitions and details.

 

Summer Sippin’ With a Cherry on Top

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I am firmly in the camp of “market-fresh mixology,” so the call of cherry season was hard to resist, as were the local deals on Bing cherries.  Of course, eating all of them straight would have been a shame with all this booze in the house.

Instead, I attempted two separate recipes for boozy cherries: brandied cherries and maraschino cherries – the kind with real maraschino liqueur rather than the commercial ones made with artificial flavors, unnatural colors, high fructose corn syrup and perhaps cherries. One recipe was a real winner.

Lu's Brandied Cherries

First, I should mention that I am not enamored with the taste of my Luxardo maraschino liqueur. In fact, it is one of the few bottles that I’ve regretted purchasing. So I didn’t really expect to much like the maraschino cherries, but surprises do happen…just not this time.  This was disappointing because they keep for 3 months and would have helped keep my summer drink vibe going into fall.

So I will have to be content with my fleeting – but incredibly tasty – brandied cherries. I used this recipe from Imbibe Magazine with delicious results.

Lu’s Brandied Cherries

1 lb sweet cherries, pitted
½ c. sugar
½ c. water
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 stick cinnamon
Pinch of fresh nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. brandy (I used Metaxa Greek brandy but any should do)

Wash and pit the cherries (warning: my fingernails were stained for days so gloves would be helpful). In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except the cherries and brandy and bring to a rolling boil. When the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium. Add the cherries and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, add the brandy and let cool. Transfer the cherries into clean jars and refrigerate uncovered until cherries are cool to touch. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 2 weeks.

To showcase my cherries I chose the Cherry Blossom Sling, from my MixShakeStir cocktail book. The book also has a brandied cherries recipe, but I was missing several ingredients. Lu’s worked quite well, and the recipe allowed me to incorporate some of the yummy liquid into the drink.

Cherry Blossom Sling

3 brandied cherries, plus a splash of liquid
3 lime wedges
1 ½ oz gin
¼ oz Cherry Heering (a cherry liqueur)
½ oz simple syrup
¼ oz fresh lime juice
Splash of soda water
Dash of Angostura bitters

Muddle the cherries and lime wedges in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and all ingredients except the soda water and bitters and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass, add the soda water and bitters, and serve.

Cheers, ICE

 

Rhubarb Surprise

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb syrup ready for straining.

My friend Julia generously brought me some rhubarb from her P-patch when I said I had some recipes to try. In fact, she chopped and delivered it to me mere hours after I mentioned it, which even Amazon Fresh can’t beat.        

It’s possible that I’ve tried rhubarb before, but I’m certain I’ve never actually touched it. Employing my lack-of-cooking skills, I hammered out two different rhubarb syrups and tried them in three drink recipes (one a mocktail). This may be the very first time that others can benefit from my food preparation (and that includes consuming it).     

Contestant #1

First, I went for the Strawberry-Rhubarb Syrup because our friend B.O.B. raves about Plush Pippin’s strawberry-rhubarb pie. Then again, he is the only man I know who visits Mexico and solely eats at Italian restaurants.  This syrup is used in the Josef the Spy cocktail from Food & Wine’s Cocktails 2009 book:        

Josef the Spy
1 oz tequila
½ oz Cointreau or other triple sec (I used Cointreau)
3 oz strawberry-rhubarb syrup (see below)
3 drops balsamic vinegar
1 oz chilled Sprite  
 
Strawberry-Rhubarb syrup
Trim and chop 4 stalks of rhubarb, then puree in blender with 2 ½ oz (1/2 cup) hulled strawberries and 1 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled until sugar is dissolved) until smooth. Strain the syrup into a jar, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Makes 14 oz (note: mine made maybe 8 oz once strained). 

I found this syrup recipe rather unwieldy. The fibrous rhubarb was a lot for my blender to handle, and was definitely too much for my fine-mesh sieve. It took a couple trips through the sieve, and I felt like I got too little syrup for the effort.   If I’m going to make that effort, I want it to last longer than four days.  Most syrups last for 3-4 weeks refrigerated; so what makes this one so special?     
   
Did the syrup redeem itself in the cocktail? Sadly, not really.  This recipe particularly intrigued me because of the balsamic vinegar, and I was curious what it could do in a cocktail. Josef the Spy (OK, who named this??) was too sweet for me; Red Hook said it was “good not great” with a strawberry burst that hits later. I added some lime juice to tart it up (like when I’m going out for the night), but it failed to make a dent. If I were to try it again, I would substitute club soda for the Sprite and reduce the strawberry-rhubarb syrup to 2 ounces instead of three.        

On a happy note, my kids loved the syrup mixed with sparkling water. They balked at trying rhubarb, but after being bribed discovered a new form of produce that they like. Even I can’t complain about that. (By the way, I had to google to see what to call rhubarb. Is it a fruit or vegetable? Clearly it is a common question because I only had to type “is rhubarb a” and the answer came right up: it is an ornamental vegetable.) 

Contestant #2

I decided to try the Rhubarb Cooler from Portland restaurant owner Lucy Brennan’s Hip Sips book mostly because I had the fresh rhubarb and was curious how the drinks – and differing rhubarb syrups – would compare. The results surprised me.      
  

Rhubarb Cooler
1 ½ oz gin (I used plain ol’ Tanqueray)
¼ oz lemon juice
¼ oz lime juice
1 oz rhubarb syrup
Splash of soda water

Fill shaker with ice and add gin, lemon & lime juices and rhubarb syrup. Shake well, then pour into ice-filled Collins glass. Garnish with lime wedge.   

 
Rhubarb Syrup
6 stalks of rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups sugar
2 cups water

Combine all ingredients into saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until rhubarb is very tender and liquid coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month. 

I made a half recipe of the syrup because I had just three stalks left. This syrup is more like the usual infused simple syrups, where the flavor is steeped into the syrup. It was also much easier to strain than the Strawberry-Rhubarb Syrup because I could spoon out the bulkier solids first. I also liked that it keeps for a month and is a pretty pink color while the other syrup is a bit brownish.        

Here you can see the difference in color between the two rhubarb drinks. The Josef the Spy is in the Collins glass on the left. Although the Rhubarb Cooler calls for a Collins glass, I chose a martini glass without ice.

So, easier, prettier and longer-lasting…and makes a fabulous drink!  I have only recently learned to like some gins and Red Hook is not a fan (he recoiled at the gin smell before tasting), but we both liked this one. The Rhubarb Syrup really complimented the gin, and the cocktail is good enough to go in my “favorites” book. This would be a great choice for a brunch or shower, too. I’ll bet it would also be good with sparkling water, giving a non-alcohol option for guests.     

My verdict

I may try the Josef the Spy again, but I’ll use the Rhubarb Syrup with muddled strawberries or blackberries instead. And I’ll cut the sugar in the syrup down to ¾ cup or so; I can always add in a bit of simple syrup later if it proves too tart.        

It’s always satisfying to find (and share) and winning cocktail. Enjoy!        

Cheers, ICE        

Look, pictures! I’m upping my blog game by adding pictures of my trials. Before you judge, I readily admit that my photography skills are lacking. Even though the drinks weren’t sticking out their tongues, strangling each other or shaking their booties like my usual subjects, getting the right shot was tricky.