Sunday, August 26, 2012

Daiquiri de Pepino (Cucumber Daiquiri)

I love cucumber*.  I love sitting outside on a patio sipping a cucumber drink.  And it turns out that Dona Tomas, a favorite local restaurant, has an absolutely divine cucumber drink.  They call it the Pepe Pepino, and at the restaurant they serve it with Hendricks Gin and Cointreau, which I will need to make next.

However, in their cookbook, they boast a Daiquiri Pepino. 

*It pleases me that while I do love the cucumber, and this is a pretty heavy cucumber drink, I forgot to take any pictures of said cucumber for this post.  Oops.

What I want to talk about the most, though, is the daiquiri.  The daiquiri has gotten a bad rap.  You just don't hear of people saddling up to the bar and ordering a daiquiri.  I wonder if the daiquiri took a nosedive because of the pre-made frozen concoctions one can purchase at any large box store (I think that what is most disturbing about this link is the 96 ounce bucket of "master of mixes."  Yikes).  But a proper daiquiri is simply a cocktail with rum, lime, and sugar (or some other kind of sweetener such as agave). 

Further, the daiquiri also has a reputation of being a little frilly (see again, frozen concoction).  But here's what I love about the daiquiri.  Yes, you think of the master of testosterone Ernest Hemingway sipping a Pernod or something with bitters or maybe even a beer.  However, it turns out Papa loved the daiquiri.  But he liked his with no sugar and double the rum.  Which should come as no surprise. 

And in a Modernist move that would have disappointed Hemingway, I kept thinking of his frenemy, Scotty Fitzgerald.  Oh, the mounds of rinds in Chapter Three from The Great Gatsby:
Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York--every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler's thumb.

Such luxury.  Such waste. 

While, sadly, I do not have a butler to press a button hundreds of times, I do prefer to sit at Dona Tomas and sip my Pepe Pepino there (with gin), where some bartender juices crates of limes just for me.  I will take luxury where I can find it.

Finally, this little rum number was a delightful addition to our family feast last weekend, and perhaps, next time I am at a bar, I shall boldly order a daiquiri.  We'll see.

One Year Ago: Rutabiya (Tagine of meat with dates)

Two Years Ago: Tortino di Crespelle con Melanzane e Peperoni (Baked Crêpes Pie with Eggplant and Peppers)

Daiquiri de Pepino
Adapted from  Dona Tomas

6-8 Servings

2 cups Rum
1/2 cup simple syrup*
1/4-1/3 cup lime juice
2 cucumbers, sliced
Coarse Salt
Cayenne or Chile powder

1.  Pour the rum, syrup, lime juice into a pitcher. 
2.  With a muddler, mortar and pestle, or a wooden spoon muddle the cucumber slices with a little bit of rum or lime juice.  Put cucumbers in pitcher.
3.  Chill for an hour
4.  Salt the rim of a tall glass with the salt and the cayenne (or chili powder).  Pour the daiquiri into the glass.

*To make simple syrup. heat 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar until the sugar has dissolved.  Cover and chill until ready to use.

You can also make these as individual servings, but I needed a pitcher's worth.  To do that, you can muddle the cucumber right in the glass with rum, syrup and lime juice with some ice.  Strain before pouring into a salted glass.  I also found that I fiddled a little withe amounts to make just the right tasting one for me.  You might want to fiddle with yours, too.  I like these a little heavy on the cucumber.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fresh Mint Sherbet with Figs Roasted in Chartreuse and Honey

So the story I tell myself is that I don't really like mint ice cream.  Well, I am rewriting the story today, people.  It turns out I don't really like bad mint ice cream.  But give me freshly made mint sherbet, and I am a fan.  A big fan.  Maybe even mint sherbet's number one fan.

First off, I made this to serve at our family dinner last night.  I started on Friday by crushing a nice, giant bunch of mint leaves and stems (I admit, I used the stems because I wanted a pretty powerful minty flavor.  Some say they don't like to add the stems because it makes the sherbet a little herby, but given that I was serving this sherbet with Chartruese, herby was not a concern).  My entire house smelled fantastic--really bright and clean and, well, minty--as I steeped warmed milk and sugar with mint.

Then yesterday morning, I whipped up some egg whites and sent the minty milk and egg white mixture through the ice cream maker (seriously, one of the top wedding gifts we received.  I say, get married if only for the ice cream maker).

But the most fantastic thing about this desert is the sauce made with the figs.  Chartreuse is a funny little liqueur.  The hooch made by Carthusian monks since the 18th century, comes in two varieties, green and yellow.  With a quick phone call to the in-laws, I was able to procure a bottle of the medicinal variety, Elixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse.  This little number is a bit stronger than your garden variety Green Chartreuse.  It came their way via the mother-in-law's mother's (my grandmother-in-law's?) trip to France last year.  She likes to return to the States with delightful oddities, and last year we stood in the kitchen sipping what is said to be an elixir of long life.  I happened to remember that they had this little bottle, so I skipped the step of having to find one myself. Admittedly, it's pretty strong, but mix it with some honey, roast some figs in it, and hooo-boy.  I actually recommend doubling the amount called for of both honey and Chartreuse in the recipe so that you have even more sauce to drizzle over the incredible sherbet.  It's good: herby and sweet.

Finally, it was delightful to return to family dinner.  We have had to put even that on hiatus given the pure busy-ness of summer.  But I feel as if life is returning a little to normal.  That means yoga, running, teaching, family, friends (including the one I delightfully got to go out with to lunch today).  Tomorrow meetings begin at school.  While it is sad to see the summer go, it is welcome, indeed, to return to the rhythms of fall.

One Year Ago: Quesadillas with Mushrooms and Asparagus

Two Years Ago: Fresh Watermelon Sangria

Fresh Mint Sherbet with Figs Roasted in Chartreuse and Honey
Adapted from  Ready for Dessert

6-8 Servings

The mint sherbet:
4 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
2 cups packed fresh mint leaves, bruised, plus a few chopped and set aside to fold into finished sherbet
3 egg whites, at room temperature  (Feel free to use pasteurized egg whites if you are a little iffy on eating uncooked eggs.  I did.)
Pinch of salt

The figs:
1 pound fresh figs
3 tablespoons Chartreuse  (Consider doubling this and the honey.  You won't be sorry.)
2 tablespoons honey
3 sprigs thyme

Mint Sherbet
1.  Warm the milk, sugar, and 1 cup mint leaves, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, cover, and steep for 1 hour.

2. Strain the milk, squeezing the mint leaves to extract all the flavor. Discard the leaves and refrigerate the mixture to chill it thoroughly.

3. Just before churning, whip the egg whites until they stand in soft peaks and fold them into the chilled milk. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Finely chop the extra mint leaves and fold them into the just-frozen sherbet.

4.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

5. Remove the stems and slice the figs in half and place them in a baking dish. Add the Chartreuse, honey, and thyme and toss to coat the figs. Arrange the figs in a single layer in the baking dish, with the cut sides down.

6.  Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes, until the figs are cooked through. Serve warm with scoops of mint sherbet.

David Lebovitz, the author of this recipe, suggests that you make the figs a few hours or even up to days before serving, as you can drizzle the cooled syrup over the sherbet. I concur.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Family Feast August 2012

August 18, 2012

Daiquiri de Pepino
Chips and Salsa
Olives and Almonds

Mixed Green Salad with Grapefruit, Beets, and Queso Fresco

Corn and Zucchini Budin
Grilled Baby Artichokes
Tacos with Chipotle Crema:
Beef or Chicken or Poblanos, Onions, and Wild Mushrooms

Friday, August 17, 2012

Zuni Fideus with Wild Mushrooms and Peas

If you're thinking, why would a crazy lady make a dish with freshly shelled peas in August, you would be correct in the assumption pertaining to my sanity but incorrect about the date I made the dish.   In the excitement of the summer, I failed to post this recipe, and it truly is an oversight of epic proportions.  This fideus is that good.

Fideus, you ask.  Fideus is a Catalan pasta dish that is, for intents and purposes, paella that uses pasta instead of rice.  And it is delicious.

Specifically, fideus is a thin vermicelli-like pasta; if you cannot find traditional "fideus," simply pick up the thinnest pasta you can find and then break the strands into inch-long lengths.  Then toss them in oil and toast away. 

Then,  like with a risotto, add broth to the noodles until they soak it up, and then add some more.  And then add some more.  

But the best part about this recipe is the onion jam with saffron.  Gah.  However, one expects such treats from Judy Rodgers, our cookbook's writer and the chef and co-owner of our favorite restaurant, The Zuni.  (See here for my waxing on (and on) about the restaurant).

On a side, but still Spanish-related, note, I detailed my failed attempt to spend a Christmas in Barcelona here.  Someday, I shall finally get to gawk at Gaudi, eat bacalao, and sip cava at a street side cafe.  Until then, I am going to enjoy these final hours (we're down to about 60 of them) of summer by cooking some more and getting in a few last runs and yoga classes with friends.  Come on, there is no better way to end the summer.  Even if it's not in Spain. 

Oh, and you, too, can make this recipe any time of the year.  Just use frozen peas.  I won't tell.

One Year Ago: Quesadilla with Mushrooms and Asparagus

Two Years Ago: Peach Cobbler

Zuni Fideus with Wild Mushrooms and Peas
Adapted from  Zuni Cafe Cookbook

Serves 4

onion base
3 cups finely diced yellow onion
3 tbsp olive oil   (Judy Rodgers calls for 6, but I always find Zuni food to be over-oiled, you make the call)
1/4 cup chopped drained canned tomato or 1/2 cup shopped ripe tomato
Pinch saffron threads
3-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 dried chiles, broken in half.

10 ounces cappellini broken into short pieces
2 tsp olive oil

finishing the dish
6 ounces assorted wild mushrooms (chanterelle, porcini or morel), cleaned and sliced 1/4″ thick
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup fresh peas
Handful chopped flat-leaf parsley


To make the onion jam:
1.  Heat the onions and olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and stir well to combine. Heat until the onions begin to brown on the bottom, then stir again and reduce the heat to medium low.  Continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are about 1/2 their original mass and are golden. Add a few pinches of salt.

2.  Stir in the tomato, garlic, chiles, and saffron. Continue cooking over the lowest heat for about an hour until it has the consistency of jam, adding a little water if it gets too dry. You should have about 1 cup.  The onion jam will keep for a week, covered and refrigerated.

To toast the noodles:
3.  Preheat the oven to 325 F.

4. Toss the noodles with the oil in a large bowl just to coat, and then spread evenly onto a baking sheet so the noodles are in a single layer. Heat in the oven until golden, about 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Remove from the oven and let cool.

To finish the dish
5.  Turn the oven to 475 F.

6.  Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in an oven-proof pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook until they are tender but only slightly golden on the edges, 3-8 minutes. Add the garlic, onion base, noodles, and about 1 1/2 cups of broth. Simmer and stir until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Add another 1 1/2 cups broth, and cook until absorbed. Add the parsley, peas and remaining broth, and turn the heat up to high, cooking until the liquid is absorbed.

7.  Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

This summer, I have been exploring the concept of Plenty.  Lucky for me, I had just the cookbook to help me explore it.

(A beloved friend of mine (and you know who you are!) took it upon herself to shower me in cookbooks lately, and this spring, she sent me this lovely one.  It is the work of Yotam Ottolenghi--go HERE to learn much more.)

In addition to going on a road trip, having my teenage niece visit for two weeks, and attending my high school class reunion, I spent four weeks immersed in a yoga teacher training (which I affectionately dubbed "yoga camp" to all who would listen).  While I began the class believing I was merely (hah!) going to learn how to become a better and even safer yoga teacher for my own students (both of which I think I did), I ended the class plenty more: wildly in love with "The Waste Land," achy around my hamstring attachments (which I learned I have been abusing), and connected to an amazing group of women and men.

How do I describe the experience?  While certainly it was at times intense (they don't call it an intensive for nothing!) with the nine-hour days for four weeks, there was a lot of laughter and a lot of adjustments in terms of thinking about what yoga is, why we might want to do it, and where it might lead us.  I was grateful for the ways the two teacher trainers led us to see our bodies and minds as these amazing creatures that were not necessarily the arbiters of our experiences or sense of self.  Such lessons I had to take to heart when it dawned on me that I would need to sit out for many of the practices as my back and hamstrings resisted, claiming that they had plenty of the physical practice, thank you very much.

Yesterday, we completed the training with our practice teach (which I was honored to open).  While I was nervous beyond words, I stood in front of a group of people whom I had come to respect as wonderful burgeoning teachers.  I looked around the room, feeling plenty of their support.  During the practicum, there were moments when I would close my eyes and imagine being in each of their classes.  By the end of the day, the gratitude was overflowing, and we ended the experience with a huge potluck, the table overflowing literally and figuratively with plenty.  Now I am just one take-home final exam away from calling myself a yoga teacher.  Not bad.

Finally, a word about the recipe;  I wanted to make something quite good for the final lunch; there were some discerning foodies in this bunch and I wanted to honor what we had accomplished together.  I love this dish--it's sassy and savory.  I made some changes, adding an additional mango and switching out the lime for a lemon (because that's what I had on hand).* But it was a fantastic cold noodle salad that added a little something to our potluck.  I recommend you run out and make this as soon as possible--which I, too, am going to have to do again tonight because there was nary a noodle left over, and the husband declared he wanted some, too.  Apparently, I had not made plenty of it.

*The changes are already reflected in the recipe below.

One Year Ago: Mussels Linguica

Two Years Ago: Peach Cobbler

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
Adapted from  Plenty

6 Servings

1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 fresh red chile, finely chopped
1 tbsp sesame oil
grated zest and juice of one lemon
olive oil (enough to fry eggplant)
2 eggplants, cut into 3/4-inch dice
8-9 ounces soba noodles
2 large ripe mango, cut into 1-inch dice
1 2/3 cup basil leaves, chopped
2 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 shallot, thinly sliced

1.  Dressing:  In a small saucepan, warm the vinegar, sugar and salt, until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat and add chile and sesame oil.  Allow to cool, then add lemon juice and lemon zest.

2.  Salad:  Heat oil in large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three to four batches.  Remove, sprinkle liberally with salt.

3.  Cook noodles in boiling water for 5-8 minutes, until al dente.  Drain and rinse under cold water.  Shake off excess water and allow to dry on a dish towel.

4.  In a mixing bowl, toss the noodles with mango, eggplant, basil, cilantro, garlic, and shallot.

5.  When ready to serve, dress the salad.  (You can also dress the salad up to two hours in advance.)