Friday, April 22, 2016

Strawberry (and Rhubarb) Poppy Seed Crisp


I love poppy seeds. These kidney-shaped black seeds from the opium poppy are highly nutritious, for they boast high levels of iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and magnesium. Further, they are a good source of B-complex vitamins. They even are chock full of oleic acid, which helps lower LDL or "bad cholesterol." 

But let's face it--I love them because I like to pop them with my teeth.


As a teenager, I always ordered the lemon poppy seed muffins or the lemon poppy seed breads when faced with the vast array of pastries at the coffee shop. As I munched the overly lemony pastry, the seeds would pop and crunch. 

And according to Wikipedia (site of all reliable information), it's a fine thing that I have enjoyed them, for they not only promote health but also wealth and, apparently, invisibility.  That just might be the opium talking.


I did a lot of experimenting with this recipe, but I leave it--for the most part--intact below. This crisp is a simple, gluten-free dessert, boasting almond flour and oatmeal as its crumble.

However, here are some of the changes I made: 
  • I used Bob's Red Mill 5 Grain Cereal instead of oats because I had some on hand that I wanted to use up. My version was no longer gluten free, but it was rife with all the goodness of flaxseed and barley and rye. Plus, I vowed this year to have less food waste, and now my package of cereal is gone.
  • Further, I did combine rhubarb (left over from making the syrup for this drink) in with the strawberries, for I did not want to waste such a beautiful vegetable just because it had been soaked in sugar. It did mean that I cut back a little on the sugar combined with the strawberries.

What I loved about this recipe is that it is overflowing with poppy seeds. In fact, you have to really like them to enjoy this crisp, for the seed popping opportunity is quite high. So much so that the husband, who recently had some oral surgery, had to avoid this dessert, as he didn't want any errant seeds to interfere with his healing. 

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Strawberry (and Rhubarb) Poppy Seed Crisp
Adapted from Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Eat

Yield:
6 Servings

Ingredients:
1¾ pounds hulled strawberries, quartered
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
Grated zest of 1 organic (unwaxed) lemon
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 cup almond flour
1 cup steel-cut oats
2 handfuls of slivered almonds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Grated zest of 1 organic (unwaxed) orange
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

Instructions:
1. Put the strawberries into an ovenproof dish with the 3 tablespoons of sugar, the lemon zest and the vanilla seeds. [I added rhubarb that had been soaked in sugar leftover from this recipe and reduced the sugar to 1 tablespoon.]

2. Mix the almond flour, oats and poppy seeds in a bowl and add the orange zest, and break the butter into little chunks and add it to the bowl. Use your fingers to rub the mixture together, lifting handfuls of it out of the bowl to get some air into the crisp topping. Once the mixture looks like breadcrumbs and there are no big lumps of butter, add the slivered almonds. Stir in the remaining sugar. 

3.  Pile the mixture on top of the strawberries and bake in the hot oven for 25 minutes, until the top is golden and the strawberries have shrunk and started to caramelize around the edges. 

4.  Serve with a dallop or a drizzle of yogurt, cream, or ice cream on top.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Bicicletta (White Wine Spritz)


Who knew there were so many apertivo subcultures in Italy? Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau, that's who.

This breezy little bar-cart book from Baiocchi and Pariseau tours you through those sub-cultures, and our authors bring you to the other side where you, too, can sip on a spritz on your own (Italian or otherwise) veranda. However, I would recommend this compact book for your next Northern Italy vacation or a gift for your most enviable friend who is about to embark on said vacation.



Baiocchi is the editor of the drink site Punch, which publishes fabulous narrative nonfiction on wine, spirits, and cocktails. Pariseau is the site's former deputy editor. These two know their libations, and they put that knowledge to the test when they road-tripped through northern Italy in a Fiat 500 researching the regional spritzes. What I want to know is why they didn't invite me.


Even better, they know how to write. The opening sections take you through spritz history--with stops focused on the watered wine of Greece and Rome; on the delicate palates of the Austrians who were stationed in northeast Italy and liked their wine a little less strong or bitter (their own proclivities were for the Riesling or the Gruner); on the leg warmers, hair bands, and white wine spritzers of the 80s; and on the Aperol spritz phenomenon of the present day. They then take you on a tour of what they call the "Spritz Trail" from Turin to Trieste, and cleanly detail the three main components of a spritz:

  • Effervescent: The name spritz comes from the German spritzen meaning "to spray."  You need bubbles. Period.
  • Low Alcohol: This is a beginning of the evening drink. Cool your jets.
  • Bitter: As the spritz is to be consumed in the pre-dinner hour, the bitterness is intended to "open the stomach."


Prepared with a smashing wine, a dash of something bitter (Aperol, Campari, Cynar), usually a little citrus, and topped with sparkling water or a bubbly wine, the spritz is served in a lowball, martini, or a wine glass--your choice. The whole point is that it's a laid-back look on life. So don't get too hung up on the particulars.


I decided to choose something simple and classic, something for which I had all the ingredients on hand--The Bicicletta. Our authors claim that it is so named  after the preferred mode of transportation in which its drinkers toddle home after several drinks. I claim that this is such a sweet little drink, worthy of an afternoon plaza-side pool-side, table-side, or our case, ivy-side.


At the conclusion of the book, our faithful authors give us a smattering of bar snacks to marry to our spritzes, reminding us that in Italy, one does not knock back a drink nor does one sip without a little nosh. So let's slow down, take it all in, and delight in the blue hour between the late afternoon and dinnertime.

Spring and some early backyard sitting is officially here (even if one needs to wrap oneself up in blankets to do so).


I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.


Bicicletta
Adapted from Spritz: Italy's Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes

Yield:
1 drink

Ingredients:
1-2 ounces of Campari
3 ounces white wine
Soda water
1/2 wheel of lemon, for garnish

Instructions:
Build the ingredients in a wine glass over ice and add the garnish.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Rhubarb Rose Gin Gimlet


If a sorority could have a drink, they would be wise to choose this one.

Sweet, hyper pink, and packing a punch, this little concoction is a fine addition to anyone's backyard barbecue or next sorority rush party (for those of legal age, of course).


It's rhubarb season, and it's time to start trotting this perennial rhizome out for all of your treacly desserts. Often paired with strawberries (which I will do soon in a dessert, I promise you), this hearty vegetable has a strong, tart, and distinctive taste that makes your mouth pucker and becomes the perfect pairing for sweet prosecco and earthy gin.


In Tara O'Brady's twist on the classic gimlet, that gin and rose's lime juice concoction from the 1950s, one can be sweetly pleased while sipping on some rhubarb in the backyard.  Curious about the origin of the gimlet?  Apparently it comes from The Long Goodbye from Raymond Chandler:

We sat in a corner of the bar at Victor's and drank gimlets. "They don't know how to make them here," he said. "What they call a gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters. A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow."

Certainly, O'Brady strays from the proper, hard-boiled, neo-noir roots of Chandler, she presents a gimlet for the sorority set. And I ain't knocking it.



It almost appears to be a delicate little drink. However, take heed, there are three shots of liquor per glass. Which might be just what you need after a long week. I don't judge.



Happily, I made way too much syrup and had plenty left over to put in glasses of ice-cold sparkling water later.  You know, the next morning, when you need to nurse that headache.








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Rhubarb Rose Gin Gimlet
Adapted from Tara O'Brady's Seven Spoons: My Favorite Recipes for Any and Every Day

Yield:
8 drinks


Ingredients:
Rhubarb Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
12 ounces rhubarb, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup water
2 pieces lime peel

Cocktails
Rose water
8 lime wedges
ice
16 ounces (2 cups) gin
8 ounces (1 cup) Prosecco or Cava

Instructions:
1. To make the syrup:  Sprinkle the sugar over the rhubarb in a heavy saucepan. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the water and lime peel and stir gently. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer until the rhubarb has softened and the juices are thick, about 12 minutes. Discard the lime peel, then strain the syrup into a clean container through a fine-meshed strainer. Use a fork to turn over the solids and to release any trapped juices, but do not press down on them (or the syrup will become cloudy). Set aside the rhubarb for another use (see this recipe for what I did with them). Refrigerate the syrup until it is cold.

2.  To make the cocktails: In a glass of your choice, stir 1 ounce of rhubarb syrup with a few drops of rose water. Squeeze the juice from a lime wedge, then drop in the wedge. Add a handful of ice, pour 2 ounces of gin over the ice and give everything a shake or a swirl. Top with 1 ounce of Prosecco or Cava. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Insalata Smoothie (or Juice)


I am a smoothie drinker. Almost every morning for breakfast.

While one might imagine I do it for all the health benefits that smoothies provide (It's salad! In a jar!), my predilection for blended fruits and vegetables is deeply rooted in laziness. 

You see, I like to sleep. I like to sleep a lot. I particularly like to sleep in the mornings. Which means I do everything I can to eek out another 10 minutes in bed. 

Enter the blender.


The night before, I gather up all of my ingredients and put them in a leftover plastic bag from the grocery store or into a bowl (sometimes I need to do two of these--one for frozen goodies and the other for refregerated ones). And then the next morning, at the last possible moment, I blend up those veggies, and pour them in a recycled jar, cap it, and take my breakfast on the go to be consumed sometime mid-morning while sitting at my desk. 


It is not glamorous. It does not smack of health consciousness (or the dreaded "detoxifying" which I have some issues with). It hardly even counts as being mindful of sustainable farming or slurping my daily requirements of fruits and vegetables. 

People, it's laziness, plain and simple.


Thank goodness there are plenty of people out there willing to support my laziness. This recipe comes from the improbably named Fern Green's smoothie and juice book, entited Green Smoothieswhich I wrote about here.

The smoothie is definitely chunky, in part because I don't have a high-end blender. Sigh. Some day. Also in part because Green did not recommend this particular vegetable combination as a smoothie; instead, she suggested it as a juice.  Which I made as well.


Isn't it pretty? The beet makes both the juice and the smoothie that deep purple, and certainly the beet's earthiness is the dominant note in both drinks. However, this combination is a salad in a glass, and even with an extra pinch of salt, it's eons ahead of (and lower in sodium) than any canned or jarred vegetable drink on your grocer's shelves.

You'll find me sipping on this at work, sometime around 10:30, when I am finally, fully awake.


Need other smoothie recipes?  Try these:

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Insalata Smoothie (or Juice)
Adapted from Green Smoothies

Yield:
2 smoothies or 10 ounces of juice 

Ingredients:  
1 green pepper
1 beet
2 celery stalks
3 radishes
1/2 cucumber
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon


Instructions for Smoothie:
Blend all of the vegetables together with 1 1/2-2 cups of water. Add the salt, olive oil, and lemon juice to the glass (or jar*, which is how I always have my smoothies) and stir.

Instructions for Juice:
Juice all of the vegetables together. Add the salt, olive oil, and lemon juice to the glass and stir.



*Here's my reason for the recycled jar, by the way:  "The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services estimates that it takes 1 million years for a glass bottle to decompose in the environment." Yikes.  Thus, you will note the jars seen here are an old pepperoncini and an old salsa jar.