Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Jul 10, 2014

Celery & Rum Raisin Ice Cream

It's been a pretty long time since I've made ice cream, and a close friend of mine recently asked me to teach her how to make it, so that got me thinking again about all the wacky, boozy flavors I could try out.  My go-to recipe book is Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home.  Not only does she have the basics, but she has some pretty innovative flavor combinations.  I scanned through the book, searching for something with rum, and landed upon a Celery Ice Cream with rum-soaked golden raisins.  I've had the pleasure of doing PR for an amazing, new boutique rum company, called Selvarey, and they've been racking up awards for their premium Panamanian White and Cacao rums upon launching.  So look forward to plenty more rum recipes on this blog, lushes!  I wasn't much of a rum fan before, but they've changed my mind completely!  Needless to say, these golden raisins ended up getting soaked in their White rum.  I opted for using celery seeds in the ice cream base, as I really didn't want to wait 4-12 hours for celery leaves to steep.  If celery ice cream sounds weird to you, don't knock it before you've tried it.  Look, ma! I'm getting my vegetables! The boozy raisins and bits of chopped candied ginger sweeten this slightly savory ice cream up, and it's got a great, light flavor that's perfect for the summer.

Celery & Rum Raisin Ice Cream - makes 1 quart
Ingredients for the rum-soaked raisins:
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbs rum (I used Selvarey White)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Ingredients for the ice cream:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 Tbs plus 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 Tbs cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs light corn syrup
  • 1 large bunch of dark green celery leaves, finely chopped OR 1 tsp celery seeds lightly pounded in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 Tbs finely diced candied ginger
Instructions for the rum-soaked raisins:
- In a small saucepan over high heat, add the water, rum, and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Pour the syrup over the raisins in a heatproof bowl, and let the mixture sit until cooled to room temperature before putting it in the fridge (the raisins will last for about a month refrigerated).
- Drain the raisins and add to the chopped ginger.

Instructions for the ice cream:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with 2 Tbs of the milk to make a slurry (it helps thicken the ice cream), and set aside.
- In a medium, heatproof bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together until softened.
- In a large pot (at least 4 quarts) over medium-high heat, add the rest of the milk, along with the cream, sugar, and corn syrup, and let it boil for 4 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the slurry.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture is slightly thickened (about 1 minute).
- Remove from heat.
- Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth.
- Stir in the celery leaves or seeds.
- Fill a large bowl with plenty of ice (or ice packs) and cold water.
- Position a gallon-size Ziploc freezer bag in the bowl and pour the mixture in there.
- Seal it up and submerge it.
- Let the mixture stay in the ice bath for about 30 minutes, adding more ice if necessary (I like to pop the bowl in the fridge too).
- If you're using celery leaves, you'll need to let the mixture steep for about 4-12 hours in the fridge. You'll then need to strain out the leaves before putting the base in your ice cream maker.
- Pour the mixture in your ice cream maker and spin, according to the instructions, until thick and creamy.
- Pack the ice cream into a storage container, layering in the raisins and candied ginger as you go.
- Press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface and seal with an airtight lid.
- Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until it's firm (about 4 hours).

Jul 8, 2014

Fennel Fashioned

Sorry that it's been a while since I've posted, my dear lushes.  I have been making drinks and cooking up a little storm, but I've just been a wee bit lazy about documenting everything on the blog.  So I bring you a fun libation that I concocted actually a few weeks ago, when I was trying to figure out how to use up some Pernod-Ricard, fennel, and rose water simple syrup from a cake I had previously baked. That Sunday afternoon I decided that I fancied myself a Fennel Fashioned.  I've been slightly obsessed with veggie forward cocktails as of late (witness, this Green Giant drink with snap peas).  In this little twist on an Old Fashioned, I selected the slightly floral High West Rendezvous Rye and Miracle Mile's Celery Bitters to further bring out the fennel and Pernod-Ricard flavors in the simple syrup.  A little lemon peel and fennel fronds for garnish, and voilà!  This is one of my new favorite interpretations of an Old Fashioned...I had three that night...

Fennel Fashioned
  • 3 oz rye whiskey (I used High West Rendezvous Rye)
  • 1/4-1/2 oz Pernod-Ricard, fennel and rosewater syrup (recipe here)
  • 3-4 dashes celery bitters (I used Miracle Mile)
  • Lemon peel, for garnish
  • Fennel frond, for garnish
- Add the simple syrup and bitters to a glass and swirl around a little to combine.
- Add ice and whiskey, and stir until nicely chilled.
- Squeeze the lemon peel skin side down into the drink and rub the peel around the glass, dropping it in after.
- Garnish with a fennel frond.

Jun 17, 2014

Amaretto Melting Moments

Libations used: 1 Tbs amaretto...
Libations left over: None, but make yourself a Whiskey Sour...
I typically prefer to bake when I have a party, dinner, or outing to attend and need to bring something.  But sometimes, I'm just in the mood to bake for the pure satisfaction of it.  I've always found baking incredibly relaxing, and it's a great time for me to just clear my mind, boot up the Spotfiy playlist, and churn out some tasty treats to share with friends.  One of the recipes I always made with my mom growing up was Melting Moments cookies.  They're a recipe from our friend and the mother of some fabulous kids I babysat in my teens (they're all in college now and graduating!).  It's an incredibly simple cookie, and has a ton of butter (yes!) and confectioner's sugar in it to give it that melt-in-your-mouth quality.  For the frosting, I typically use regular flavoring extracts, but for this one, I decided to booze it up a little with some of my homemade amaretto.  Because, why not? I'm the Lush Chef!  The amaretto gives the frosting a much lighter touch than a regular extract, so it's not overly sweet.  Use any food coloring you like and top with sprinkles to jazz it up. I made a light pink frosting and topped with rainbow sprinkles!
Amaretto Melting Moments - makes 2 dozen
Ingredients for the cookies:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 1/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 Tbs milk
  • 1 Tbs amaretto
  • Food coloring (optional)
To make the cookies:
- Preheat the oven to 300.
- In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer on low speed, add all of the cookie ingredients and thoroughly mix combine.  This may take a bit, but you want the mixture to be on the creamy side.
- Roll the dough into 1 inch balls, and press a little flat onto a cookie sheet.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, and wait until they've cooled to frost.

To make the frosting:
- In a medium bowl, add the butter, confectioner's sugar, and milk, and mix.
- Add the amaretto and food coloring, and stir.
- If the mixture is too loose, add more confectioner's sugar.  If too thick, then add more milk or amaretto.
- Frost the tops of the cookies and decorate to your heart's content!

Jun 5, 2014

Green Giant Cocktail

Looking for a reason to justify having a drink?  Then add veggies to it. Your mom can't argue with that! recently posted a few cocktails featuring spring peas, and since I had been picking up tons of snap peas at the market recently, I couldn't want to try one.  I opted for the Green Giant, because not only has this cocktail now replaced my bad memories of icky frozen Green Giant peas, but it has satisfied my spring and summer gin kick.  I used the earthy and spicy St. George Terroir Gin with Dolin's dry vermouth (one of my favorites).  As I sat enjoying this beautifully green and spring-inflected cocktail before dinner, my friend Louis suggested I used some of his Miracle Mile yuzu bitters.  I unfortunately didn't have any on me, so I opted for celery instead — why not add more vegetables to the mix?  It's a fun way to bring out a little more of the vegetal, grassy, and herbal flavor in the drink.  And also, everything is better with bitters.
Green Giant
  • 4 sugar snap pea pods, broken in half
  • 8-10 tarragon leaves
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz gin (I used St. George Terroir Gin)
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth (I used Dolin's)
  • 3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 dashes celery or yuzu bitters (I used Miracle Mile), optional
- In a shaker, add the snap peas, tarragon, and simple syrup, and muddle.
- Add ice, gin, dry vermouth, lemon juice, and bitters, and shake.
- Fine-strain into a chilled glass filled with crushed ice.
- Garnish with a couple of snap peas and tarragon leaves.

Jun 3, 2014

Fennel & Semolina Cake

Last weekend I had a couple of picnics and a wine tasting to attend, but only one day to really make anything.  I had spied this recipe for Fennel and Semolina Cake on Tasting Table a few weeks ago, and loved how it paired fennel with the fennel and anise-inflected Pernod.  Cake with absinthe?  Yes, please!  Next time I make this, I definitely need to use a larger fennel bulb, and I'll probably add less rose water to the fennel syrup.  Rose water is just so overpowering to me and 1 Tbs seemed like too much to me.  I also don't think you need to soak the cake with an entire 1 cup of syrup (I used a little less).  Plus, that leaves more fennel-flavored syrup for cocktail making and shaking!  Regardless, my friends enjoyed this unusually savory and sweet, and incredibly moist cake to end our various cheese and hummus-filled picnics.  I also used a finer semolina flour, as that was all I could find, and it ended up giving the cake a really lovely texture.

Fennel & Semolina Cake - serves 10-12
Ingredients for the Fennel
  • 3 Tbs fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs Pernod
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs fennel seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced about 1/8-inch thick with the core left intact
  • 1 tsp rose water
Ingredients for the Crust
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 Tbs light brown sugar
Ingredients for the Cake
  • 2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups semolina flour
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp fennel pollen
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted and then cooled to room temperature
- Pre-heat the oven to 350.

To Prepare the Fennel
- In a small saucepan over high heat, add the lemon juice, Pernod, water, sugar, fennel seeds, and salt and bring to a simmer.
- Cook until the fennel seeds become tender (about 15 minutes).
- Strain the syrup into a medium bowl, discarding the fennel seeds.
- In a medium saucepan, add the syrup and bring to a simmer.
- Add the fennel and cook, covered, until tender (about 20 minutes).
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fennel to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and arrange in a single layer to cool.
- Transfer the syrup back into the same medium bowl and add the rose water.
- Measure out 3/4 cup of syrup and reserve any remaining for cocktails!

To Make the Crust
- In a 8x11 baking dish, drizzle the melted butter and sprinkle the light brown sugar evenly to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Arrange the fennel slices on top in a single layer.

To Make the Cake
- In a medium bowl, add the yogurt and milk and stir to evenly combine.
- In a large bowl, add the semolina flour, sugar, baking powder, fennel pollen, and salt, and stir to evenly combine.
- Add the yogurt and milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
- Add the butter and stir.
- Pour the batter into the baking dish.
- Bake until golden brown (about 40-45 minutes).
- Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edges of the cake and then cover the baking dish with a large cutting board.
- Carefully invert the cake onto it, and using a toothpick or wooden skewer, poke holes all over the cake.
- Slowly pour the reserved syrup all over the cake and let it soak in for about 30 minutes before serving.

May 23, 2014

Punch it up for Memorial Day

With the long holiday weekend coming up, you'll inevitably be throwing a Memorial Day party or attending one, which means either way, you'll be contributing some booze.  Regardless of whether you're the host or a guest, you can amp up the weekend and impress your friends with a super simple punch. No one wants to be shaking or stirring up individual cocktails during a big party.  Well, maybe you do, but then everyone's waiting for a drink.  I also like to stir these punches up in those 2-quart beverage coolers and slyly cart them to the beach.  It's The Lush Chef way. The below are some of my favorite summer recipes.  Just be careful, because they go down easily...

If you're on a boat, then make this Boat House Punch. It's got gin, champagne, Aperol, St. Germain, and plenty of fruit juices. It's slightly sweet, slightly bitter, and slightly sour, and very boozy.   

If you want to go old school, then the Garrick Club Punch, which originated at the namesake club in London in 1835, will do the trick. It's like a sophisticated adult lemonade with gin, Grand Marnier or maraschino liqueur, and plenty of fresh lemon juice. My friends still claim it's the booziest lemonade they've ever had. 

If you have a trash can, then this Bourbon & Watermelon Punch has, get this...two ingredients. Just add your favorite bourbon (preferably a mid-range because this punch has two ingredients, remember?) and fresh-squeezed watermelon juice. It's incredibly refreshing and will be amazing paired with BBQ and grilled meats.  
If you're at a brunch, then make this twist on a French 75, with this Sunset French 75. Instead of the usual gin, lemon juice, champagne, and sugar cube, this version calls for gin, blood orange juice, champagne, and a little lemongrass simple syrup. Everyone does mimosas and bellinis, so why not think outside of the box?  Your friends are sure to be wowed and tipsy, plus, you can have this punch on a boat or in a trash can!

May 21, 2014

Saucy Sautéed Shrimp & Lemon Quinoa

Libations used: 1 cup white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with din-din...
I've been in a seafood mood as of late, and perhaps it's because LA was experiencing unseasonably hot temperatures for the past couple of weeks.  In other words, I wanted something light and fresh.  This "Saucy" Sautéed Shrimp with Lemon Quinoa from The Kitchn was just the thing I needed for a warm Sunday evening.  The white wine sauce is further enriched with shallots, garlic, red bell pepper, and sun-dried tomatoes. I used jarred, julienned sun-dried tomatoes to get a little more flavor from the oil.  Pick a bottle of nice, full-bodied white wine to cook with and that you'd also like to polish off with the meal.  I popped open Sanford's Chardonnay, which is crispy and light on the oak finish. It also happens to be a favorite of The Lush Chef's mama (sorry, you weren't with me to share, mom!).  Any size shrimp is actually fine, and I opted for a larger, pink variety. I plan on cooking the quinoa with wine and lemon again to use in salads, as a side dish, or the base for other recipes.  This meal also comes together quickly, so it's great for weeknights and lazy Sundays.

Saucy Sautéed Shrimp & Lemon Quinoa - serves 3-4
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 cup white wine (I used Sanford's Chardonnay), divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, divided
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely sliced
  • 1 lb fresh shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- Rinse that quinoa well in a fine-meshed sieve under running water.
- In a medium sauce pot over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil.
- Add the drained quinoa and lightly toast, stirring for about 1 minute.
- Add the salt, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of the white wine, and 1 1/2 cups water.
- Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer, letting the quinoa cook for about 15 minutes.
- While the quinoa is cooking, place a large skillet over low heat and melt 1 Tbs of the butter.
- Add the garlic, shallots, red pepper, and tomatoes, stirring frequently until the garlic and tomatoes are softened and fragrant.
- Turn up the heat to medium and add the second Tbs of butter and the rest of the white wine.
- Whisk constantly, bringing the wine to a simmer, and cook until the mixture is slightly reduced and shiny.
- Turn down the heat to very low to keep the sauce warm.
- In a separate large sauce pan or skillet over high heat, heat the remaining Tbs of butter.
- Add the shrimp and sear them quickly until cooked (about 1-2 minutes).
- Add the shrimp into the pan of sauce and veggies and toss in half of the parsley.
- How's that quinoa doing? Turn off the heat, and let it stand covered for about 5 minutes.
- Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa.
- Stir in the lemon zest and the remaining parsley.
- Divide quinoa evenly amongst plates and top with the shrimp and veggie sauce.  If you have any more lemon zest and parsley, then sprinkle some on top!