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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Aug 14, 2014

Bourbon Peach Smash

When stone fruit is in season, I take full advantage of it by buying as many fresh peaches at the farmers' market that I can eat in a week.  I simply can't get enough of summer's sweet nectar, and of course, I can't resist adding peaches to cocktails.  This Bourbon Peach Smash from The Kitchn is a riff on barman Dale DeGroff's version from The Craft of the Cocktail, and it's simple, fresh, and a perfect libation to sip for dessert or during a hot summer night on the patio.  Just muddle in some fresh peach slices, a wedge of lemon, mint leaves, and add your favorite bourbon or whiskey—I opted for the yummy and smooth Four Roses Single Barrel.

Bourbon Peach Smash
  • 1/2 peach, cut into slices, plus a thin slice for a garnish
  • 4 fresh mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 1 oz water 
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz bourbon (I used Four Roses Single Barrel)
- In a mixing glass, muddle all of the ingredients, except for the bourbon
- Add the bourbon and ice, and shake.
- Strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass.
- Garnish with a mint sprig and peach slice.

Aug 12, 2014

Linguine and Clams with Almond and Herbs

Libations used: 1/4 cup white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with can't go wrong with clams and white wine...
Summers call for quick-cooking dinners, because who wants to heat up the kitchen during this time of year?  I was absolutely craving pasta, but still wanted something on the relatively light side.  This Linguine and Clams recipe from Bon Appétit doesn't use any butter or cheese, and instead packs all the flavor with a crunchy almond and herb topping – it's almost like a rough pesto, with plenty of chives and parsley and a little olive oil mixed in.  The clams are cooked in a white wine broth (I opted for a Sauvignon Blanc) with some garlic and red pepper flakes, and the sauce comes together with a little reserved pasta water.  I'm definitely going to use the almond and herb mixture to stir into another pasta or top on some whitefish.  

Linguine and Clams with Almonds and Herbs - serves 4
  • 1/2 cup unsalted and roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbs finely chopped chives
  • 2 Tbs finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs, plus 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Oyster Bay's Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2 pounds clams, scrubbed (Littleneck or Manila)
  • 12 oz linguine
- In a small bowl, mix the almonds, chives, and parsley with 1 Tbs of the olive oil, and season with some salt and pepper.
- In a large pot over medium heat, add the 1/4 cup olive oil.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, for about 2 minutes.
- Add the wine and bring to a boil, cooking for about 2 minutes, or until reduced to about half.
- Add the clams and bring up the heat to medium-high and cover.
- Cook the clams for about 5-8 minutes, or until they've opened up (be sure to discard any that haven't).
- Meanwhile, cook up that pasta al dente and be sure to reserve about a cup of the pasta water before you drain.
- Once the clams and pasta are all cooked, add the pasta to the pot of clams, along with at least 1/2 cup of pasta water.
- Cook and toss that whole mixture for a couple of minutes until the pasta is nicely coated. Feel free to add a little more pasta water if the mixture is on the dry side.
- Season with more salt and pepper, and serve the pasta topped with the almond and herb mixture.

Aug 7, 2014

Los Gintonic

I'm definitely a whiskey gal, but come summertime, I crave gin and tonics.  With the recent opening of The Chestnut Club in Santa Monica and their menu of gin and tonics, I've been inspired to experiment a little at home.  The June/July issue of Saveur also had a whole slew of gin and tonic recipes, and this Spanish-inspired "Los Gintonic" caught my eye.  I always have plenty of Fever Tree's Bitter Lemon tonic in the fridge and this recipe happened to call for that, along with dry vermouth and a little lemon zest.  I especially love the crushed ice, which makes it feel truly summery.  Simple, refreshing, and potent — just what a gin and tonic should be.  I'll be making these all season long...

Los Gintonic
  • 1 1/2 oz gin (I used St. George Botanivore Gin)
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth (I used Dolin's)
  • 3 oz Fever Tree's Bitter Lemon tonic water
  • Strip of lemon zest
- In a shaker filled with ice, add the gin and dry vermouth.
- Shake, shake, shake and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice.
- Top with the bitter lemon tonic and garnish with a lemon peel.

Aug 5, 2014

Striped Bass with Tomatoes, Corn & Basil

Libations used: 1/2 cup white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner...
This past Sunday, the summer rain was falling, so it was a perfect night to cook.  I knew when I headed over to the Farmers' Market in the morning that I was going to pick up some fresh corn, those little Sun Gold tomatoes that taste like summer in a bite, and basil – all the flavors of the season.  I had no idea what I was going to make, but how could one go wrong with these three ingredients?  I ended up finding a Martha Stewart recipe for Striped Bass with a corn, tomato, onion, and jalapeño relish cooked in a white wine sauce, with chopped cilantro and basil stirred in.  I picked up a whole Striped Bass at Santa Monica Seafood and had them fillet it for me (I really need to learn how to do this on my own, but hey, they at least give you the bones to make stock!). For the wine, use a dry white.  I used Fess Parker's Parker Family Reserve, a white blend of Chardonnay and Viognier. This is a great lazy Sunday or weeknight dish that comes together quickly.  The fish is pan-seared for a few minutes and then finished off over the relish as the vegetables cook.  It may have been raining, but I felt like the sun was shining as I devoured this.

Striped Bass with Tomatoes, Corn & Basil - serves 4
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 4 Striped Bass fillets, skin on (about 5 oz each)
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeño or Serrano pepper, with ribs and seeds removed, and thinly sliced (I actually used a whole jalapeño)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Fess Parker's Parker Family Reserve)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 ears of corn, husks and silk removed, and kernels scraped off
  • 1 heaping cup of cherry tomatoes quartered or Sun Gold tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil (it should be shimmering and smoking).
- Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Place the fish in the skillet, skin side down, and cook for about 4 minutes (less if it's a thinner cut).
- Turn fish over and cook for another minute (it shouldn't be cooked through).
- Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, stirring and cooking until tender and browned for about 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
- Add the corn, tomatoes, jalapeño or Serrano into the skillet.
- Add the wine and water and place the fish on top of the mixture.
- Cover and cook for about 4 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through.
- Transfer the cooked fish, skin side up, to shallow bowls or plates.
- Stir the basil and cilantro into the veggie mixture and spoon around the fish.

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!