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 31, 2012

Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Libations used: 1/4 cup bourbon
Libations left over: Well, if you have a little bit left like I did...
I've been blessed to receive copious amounts of stone fruit this summer from Summer Harvest Farms at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market.  There was a work BBQ coming up, and of course, everyone knew I would be bringing in a dessert that had some kind of libation in it.  I got a few requests for peach cobbler, so luckily I had received a bunch of yellow peaches that week, and had just enough Wild Turkey left over (plus a few sips to finish it off - can't let any go to waste) to make Tyler Florence's Bourbon Peach Cobbler.  Next time I make this, I'll need to put it in a bigger pan because I didn't anticipate how much the biscuit dough would puff up — let's just call the look "rustic."  Either way, be sure to put whatever baking dish you use over a baking sheet to catch any peach juice that may spill over.  I always prefer my cobbler warm out of the oven and served à la mode, but because of a few car troubles along the way, it had cooled down by the time I made it to the BBQ.  That didn't stop everyone from diving in though and asking for more...and asking me to make it again.

Bourbon Peach Cobbler - serves 6 to 8
  • 8 peaches, peeled and sliced (should come to 6-8 cups)
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I used 101 proof Wild Turkey - leftover from making my bitters)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs corn starch
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 16 Tbs (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus a little more for brushing (although I skipped the extra)
  • Turbinado sugar for dusting

- Heat oven to 375.
- In a large bowl, add the peaches, bourbon, 1/4 cup of the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon.
- Mix well to coat the peaches evenly and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt.
- Cut 12 Tbs of the butter into tiny pieces and blend into the flour mixture using either a pastry blender or your fingers until it looks like coarse crumbs.
- Pour in the cream and mix until the dough comes together (don't overwork, as the dough should be a little sticky).
- In a 10-inch skillet (I used a medium sauce pan) over medium-low heat, melt the remaining 4 Tbs butter.
- Add the peaches and cook them gently, until heated through (about 5 minutes).
- Either drop the dough by tablespoonfuls over the warm peaches in the skillet, or transfer to a baking dish and then add the dough.
- Brush the top of the cobbler with some of the heavy cream and sprinkle some Turbinado sugar on top.
- Put skillet or baking dish in oven on top of a baking sheet and cook for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the fruit is bubbling.

Jul 26, 2012

The Somewhat Secret Cocktail Parties at Pharmacie

About a year ago, I had heard about this underground cocktail party called Pharmacie, held once a month at various locations in Los Angeles. The venue was always a secret and invites were tough to snag.  You had to know the bow-tied man behind the bar, and well, I didn't.  A couple of months ago, I was shaking up some Frenchy libations for a pal and he told me about his friend Talmadge Lowe, who was geeky about cocktails like me...and created Pharmacie.  After meeting with Tal, and yes, geeking out about all things liquor, he invited me to the next iteration of his roving speakeasy.

The location was disclosed a day before the event and "elegant picnic attire" was requested. As my friends and I made our way far east through a rather abandoned and industrial side of town, we wondered what we were getting into.  When we walked into The Elysian, those fears quickly melted away as we stepped into a little oasis— jazz music emanated from beyond the lush, tree-filled space and we passed smartly-dressed folks lounging in Eames chairs with their cocktails.  The half-outdoor, half-indoor space was filled with mid-century modern furniture from Yeah! Rentals that had a Palm Springs desert-chic edge. Tal was manning the bar in his signature bow-tie and served us with a French fortified wine as an aperitif.

When more guests had arrived, the somewhat formal part of the party began.  1966 Cosmopolitans, a creation of Tal's, were shaken up and handed out, and he told us a little story about his inspiration behind this libation.  This Cosmo wasn't your typical "Sex and the City" cocktail, but a mid-century marriage of an old cocktail called the 1926 Cosmopolitan (rediscovered by the folks at The Varnish) that contained gin, raspberry and lemon juice with the now ubiquitous drink made with vodka, triple sec, lime and cranberry juice.  Tal's version had vodka, raspberry syrup, lemon juice and orange blossom water, and the 1966 in the name is a nod to the era when vodka began to gain popularity in American cocktail culture.
Little bowls of ceviche were passed out, and the next cocktail served up was the San Domingo Julep, which ended up being my favorite.  Tal shared another bit of history with us (and I thank him for re-sending me the info as the cocktails blurred my memory!), explaining that this drink came from a book called Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix 'Em, which stakes a claim that this julep predates the popular mint julep.  It was allegedly introduced to New Orleans by wealthy families searching for a haven after leaving a discontent Dominican Republic.  Tal used Smith & Cross high-proof rum, mint and Scrappy's Aromatic Bitters.
As chocolate covered figs were handed out, we grabbed our last cocktail called The Lindberg made with rye whiskey, lemon syrup and Maraska's Maraschino liqueur floating on top. This libation is a rye-whiskey lover's nod to the Aviation cocktail (a classic drink made with gin, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur) and is spicy, sweet and tart.

Besides just having some yummy cocktails, Tal has created this fun, easy-going environment at Pharmacie.  He invites an eclectic group of sweet, social and chic people in a beautiful setting.  It's unpretentious and classy, and you walk away making new friends and gaining a little cocktail knowledge.  Tal has now started catering events, so if you can't scare up a Pharmacie invite for yourself, you can at least recreate that experience with your friends and family wherever you please. 

Jul 24, 2012

Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Brandied Cherries

Libations used: 1/4 cup brandy
Libations left over: None, but if you really need a drink, make yourself a Vieux Carré...
Who doesn't love ice cream?  About a year ago, a co-worker of mine had introduced me to Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, which is based in Ohio.  Her mom would have pints of it shipped to here in California, and I soon understood my co-worker's obsession.  It was strengthened when I went over to my old boss' place and he pulled out a couple pints of homemade ice cream from the freezer.  He had gotten the recipes from Jeni's new cookbook for making ice cream at home.  It was insanely good and I was impressed with my boss for his ice cream making skills.  Now he's a good cook in general, but homemade ice cream?  Isn't that hard?  When he convinced me how easy it was, I had to get the book and an ice cream maker.  Because I have a stand mixer and very little room in my apartment, I opted for the Kitchenaid Ice Cream Attachment, which can be a little unwieldy for my old model mixer, but it works!

I've been trying to stick with recipes to go along with the seasons and made a Savannah Buttermint in the spring and a Lemon Frozen Yogurt with Blueberries this past week (I made the sauce with blueberries I picked that were still warm from the sunny field!).  Everything has been spectacular and I'm working my way through the book.  A few weeks ago, I made this Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Brandied Cherries (fresh from the market) and I'm just getting the chance to post the recipe for it now.  Jeni's version had called for regular roasted cherries, but of course I had to lush this recipe up, so I put in brandied cherries instead (make 1 night ahead).

Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Brandied Cherries - makes more than 1 quart
Ice Cream Ingredients:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 Tbs & 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) goat cheese
  • 1 1/2 oz (3 Tbs) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
Brandied Cherries Ingredients (makes about 3 1/2 cups):
  • 1 lb fresh black cherries, pitted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brandy
To make the ice cream:
- Mix 2 Tbs of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl - this is called a slurry.
- In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine the goat cheese, cream cheese and salt.
- Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
- In a 4 quart saucepan, combine the rest of the milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. 
- Boil for about 4 minutes (I often have to stir it down because the mixture really froths up).
- Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the slurry.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and stir with a rubber spatula for about 1 minute.
- Remove from the heat and gradually whisk this mixture into the cheese mixture, until it's all nice and smooth.
- Pour the mixture in a 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge it in the ice water bath.
- Let it stand for 30 minutes, and add more ice water if necessary (I like to pop this in the fridge).
- Cut a corner on the bottom of the bag and pour into your ice cream maker (follow the manufacturing instructions) and let it spin until it's nice and creamy.
- Pack the ice cream in a quart container, alternating and ending with layers of cherries.
- Press a sheet of parchment or wax paper against the service and seal with an airtight lid.
- Be sure to put in the coldest part of your freezer and let it freeze for at least 4 hours.  

To make the cherries:
- Combine the cherries, sugar and brandy in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. 
- Boil for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and let it cool.
- Refrigerate overnight before layering into the ice cream.

Jul 19, 2012

Vodka Lemon Verbena Lemonade

Every summer when it gets painfully hot in Palm Springs, the Lush Chef and her friends like to head to The Parker and spend a couple of nights in the lap of luxury (at half the price).  If Alice in Wonderland got transfered to a desert oasis, that would be The Parker.  Because it's so hot in July and August, all we do is lay by the pool and drink tons of water and vodka lemonades (the hotel's signature drink).  Because the cost of the drinks tend to add up, I like to play bartender and bring some supplies to whip up cocktails in our room.  To give those vodka lemonades a little twist this year, I picked up some fresh lemon verbena from Maggie's Farms and made a simple syrup out of the leaves.  We'll definitely be sipping in style and staying cool with these libations this weekend!

Vodka Lemon Verbena Lemonade
  • 1 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz lemon verbena simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • 2 oz vodka (I used Grey Goose)
- Fill a shaker with all the ingredients and a few ice cubes.
- Shake and pour in a chilled glass.
- Garnish with a lemon verbena leaf or lemon twist

Lemon Verbena Simple Syrup (makes 1 cup)
1/2 cup lemon verbena leaves
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

- Add all the ingredients into a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Let the syrup completely cool and strain out the leaves.

Jul 17, 2012

Bourbon Orange Coriander BBQ Sauce

Libations used: 1/2 cup bourbon
Libations left over: Make yourself an Old Fashioned while that sauce is simmering...
We may have warm weather pretty much all year around in Southern California, but the summer really motivates us to roll out the grill and fire it up.  Malbec was having another of her pool parties/BBQ's and I almost always bring something bourbon laced.  Last summer, I made Sugar Steaks with Bourbon and Bourbon Glazed Peaches on the Grill, which were both hits.  I had run across Joy the Baker's recipe for a Bourbon Orange Coriander BBQ Sauce and figured I'd just make a batch of it so folks could slather it on chicken, ribs, brats, burgers, whatever.

I always have a big jug of high proof Wild Turkey Bourbon on hand to make my Bitter Revenge Bitters, so I plunked that in.  There are a ton of ingredients in this recipe, but don't be scared off by it — it's insanely easy.  I was going crazy as this sauce simmered because it smelled so freakin' good, and it tastes freakin' good as well.  I love that it's got some texture with the chopped onions too.  I had to remember that the sauce belonged in the jar and not on a spoon in my mouth.  Needless to say, there was barely any sauce left at the BBQ (if you do have leftovers, store in the fridge for up to a week).  I ended up coating some chicken legs with it, while others ladled it on every single meat available. I would have taken a picture of the end results, but we ate everything so fast!

Bourbon Orange Coriander BBQ Sauce - makes 2 1/2 cups
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the onions and sauté until translucent and slightly browned (3-5 minutes).
- Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute more.
- Turn down the heat to low and add the bourbon.
- Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the remaining ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Let it cook for about 30-45 minutes, until it's reduced and thickened.

Jul 12, 2012

Plum Tarragon Smash

I had come home from a long day working at Bean & Thyme at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market and had a bounty of plums in tow from trading with the farmers.  I really needed to take a load off my feet and have a cocktail after a long and "fruitful" morning.  Last summer, The Year In Food had posted a beautiful recipe for a Plum Tarragon Smash and I had been waiting for the right time to make it.  The licorice and mint-like flavor of the tarragon nicely pairs with the sweet tartness of the plums.  For those who aren't big whiskey drinkers, the fruit, herbs and soda water really lighten this drink up.  I made a few modifications to the original recipe — I generally like to put two ounces of liquor in my cocktails and I then included more plum and soda water to balance it out.

Plum Tarragon Smash
  • 1 small plum, quartered
  • Juice from 1/4 lime
  • Leaves from one sprig of tarragon
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz whiskey
  • 1 1/2 oz club soda
- Add the plum, lime juice, tarragon leaves and simple syrup into a mixing glass and muddle.
- Add the whiskey and a few ice cubes and shake.
- Pour into a chilled glass and top with club soda.

Jul 10, 2012

Nectarine Crostata

Libations used: 3 Tbs of vodka
Libations left over: Make yourself a drink while the crostada are in the oven...
What's the secret to a flaky pie crust?  VODKA.  Yes, the baking gods are on my side.  I started using vodka in my pie dough last fall when I made my mom's signature Dutch Apple Pie (of course, I also added brandy) and it really makes a difference.  Karen Hatfield of Hatfield's Restaurant in Los Angeles, and the new Sycamore Kitchen also uses this same libation in her pastry dough.  I've seen her recipe for Nectarine Crostata posted on KCRW and Los Angeles Magazine's blogs a couple of times, and now that stone fruit is in season, I was ready to give it a try.  I picked up a mixture of yellow and white nectarines—not only do they look pretty together, but they have slightly different flavors that balance each other out nicely, with the white being sweeter and the yellow being tarter.  You'll want to start making this recipe a day ahead so the dough has ample time to chill.  I got a little confused when Karen's recipe said that it served 6 to 8 because the dough made enough for nearly 2 dozen crostatas.  Well, I figured it out when I finally brought these to a Cinespia screening to share with friends.  They're small enough that each person will easily eat 2 or 3 on their own!  Immediately after devouring nearly all of them, they asked me when I'd be making them again.  Soon enough, my friends...soon enough.

Nectarine Crostata - serves 6 to 8
Ingredients for the dough:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (I used pastry dough, but all-purpose is fine)
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 6 oz butter, cold and diced
  • 3 1/2 oz vegetable shortening, cold and diced
  • 3 Tbs cold vodka
  • 1/3 cups ice water
Ingredients for the filling:
  • 2-3 medium-sized white nectarines
  • 2-3 medium-sized yellow nectarines
Ingredients for the egg wash:
  • 2 Tbs cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup raw turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
To make the dough:
- Measure the shortening and spread the cubes on a dish in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes.
- Combine the vodka and water and place in the freezer to chill for about 10-20 minutes.
- Add the flour, salt and sugar into a stand mixer and combine.
- Add the butter and mix until the butter is roughly in 1/4" pieces.
- Add the shortening and mix until everything's broken up, but don't overmix before you add the liquids.
- Add the vodka and water and mix until the dough is formed and combined.
- Roll into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and let chill overnight.
- Roll the dough out very thin (about 1/8" thick) and cut out 3" circles.
- Place them on a sheet tray and set aside in the freezer.

To make the crostata:
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Pit and slice the nectarines into little halves.
- Arrange 3-4 slices of nectarine in the middle of each pastry round, alternating the yellow and the white.
- Brush some egg wash on the inside edges of dough for each pastry round.
- Make about five folds around each crostata and press the edges to form around the fruit.
- When all the crostatas are folded, brush some egg wash on the outside and make sure to really press in those folds so they don't come apart in the oven.
- Sprinkle the turbinado sugar on the outside of the tart.
- Generously sprinkle the granulated, white sugar on the fruit slices.
- Bake for about 12-15 minutes, rotating half-way (I had to cook mine twice as long for some reason - could have been the pastry flour I was using!) until the crust is golden-brown.
- Be sure to transfer the crostatas to a baking rack so the bottoms don't get soggy.

Jul 5, 2012

Strawberry Mojito

The strawberries are at their peak at the market and I can't enough of them, so of course I'll find any opportunity I can get to put them in a cocktail.  Whether it's my Spicy Strawberry Basil Margarita or a Strawberry Mojito, you can't go wrong with muddling this fruit into some libations.  These mojitos are sweet and refreshing, and I love having one or two of these after dinner instead of dessert.  Heck, maybe I should just freeze these into popsicles sometime...

Strawberry Mojito
  • 3 strawberries
  • 5 mint leaves
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 3 oz soda water
- Put the strawberries, mint leaves and simple syrup into a shaker and muddle.
- Add the lime juice, rum and 3 ice cubes and shake.
- Pour into a glass and top with soda water.
- Add another mint leaf or sliced strawberry for garnish.

Jul 3, 2012

Whiskey Wheat Berry Salad

Libations used: 1/2 cup whiskey
Libations left over: make yourself a drink while those wheat berries are cooking...
I'll be honest.  I hadn't been eating particularly healthy during the month of June because of the LA Film Fest.  Meals consisted of sliders and crispy tuna scarfed down between events.  Now that I'm finally home and have a chance to cook, I was craving some whole grain salads.  Lo and behold, the lovely folks at 101 Cookbooks figured out a way to incorporate booze into a wheat berry salad.  I now heart them.  This bright salad has a slight sweetness because of the whiskey and sugar soaked raisins, and then is balanced out with some spicy goat cheese sprinkled on top.  Instead of adobo sauce, I used All Spice Cafe's Chipotle Garlic Sauce (I loooove their sauces, and they're made just blocks away in Venice).  Throw in some arugula or spinach to really amp up those power grains and you've got yourself a hearty meal or an awesome side dish to pass around at potlucks and BBQ's.

Whiskey Wheat Berry Salad - serves 6
  • 1 lb wheat berries, cooked
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup whiskey
  • 1 Tbs cane sugar
  • 5 oz goat cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp adobo or chipotle sauce 
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt
  • 1 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 big handfuls of butter lettuce, spinach or arugula
  • Scant 1 Tbs fresh oregano, cilantro or basil
- Cook the wheat berries (check the side of the package for instructions!) and set aside.
- Place the raisins in a small bowl, add the whiskey and sugar and let them soak for a couple hours or overnight.
- When the raisins are done soaking, drain out the whiskey and save for the dressing.
- Mix the adobo or chipotle sauce into the goat cheese until fully incorporated.
- Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, 3 Tbs of the whiskey and a couple pinches of salt together.
- Just before serving, gently toss the dressing with the wheat berries, raisins, pine nuts, greens and a few pinches of salt.
- Sprinkle with the goat cheese and herbs, and toss a couple of times.