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.

About Me

My Photo
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
View my complete profile


Powered by Blogger.
Aug 30, 2012

Bourbon & Watermelon Cocktail

Last weekend, I was helping a friend out with the 1st Annual LA Fried Chicken Fest - 9 celebrated LA chefs and 8 different kinds fabulous fried chicken.  I can't eat chicken now for a little while, but I was still craving one of the cocktails that was served there.  Knob Creek was one of the sponsors and was doling out two different kinds of trash can punch (you gotta love punch served out of a lined trash can), with my favorite being the Knob Creek and Watermelon.  This two ingredient cocktail was the perfect libation to wash down hot, fried and sometimes spicy food.  I happened to have a bunch of watermelon left over from making these Watermelon & Vodka Popsicles, so I added a handful of pieces into the blender and strained out some juice.  I did the measurements for one drink, but just multiply as needed and make a whole pitcher...or trash can of it.

Bourbon & Watermelon Cocktail
  • 2 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit, because I didn't have any Knob Creek on hand)
  • 3 oz watermelon juice (be sure to run the juice through a fine mesh strainer to get any large chunks out)
- Add the bourbon and watermelon juice to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Aug 28, 2012

Watermelon Vodka Popsicles

Libations used: 1/2 cup vodka
Libations left over: Just wait for these popsicles to freeze, because they pack plenty of booze...
During these dog days of summer, popsicles often end up being meals for me.  And why not be effective and combine it with your cocktail?  Last summer, I made a ton of Campari & Orange Popsicles, which reminded me of a frozen version of an Americano.  I really should have been making more icy treats these past few months, but it had been rather cool and now the heat wave has inspired me.  Gilt Taste came out with some adult popsicle ideas at the beginning of the summer, and I opted for this Watermelon Vodka version.  Because my popsicle mold from the dollar store makes these baby pops, I like to pour the extra mixture into my King Ice Cube tray.  Just pop one of the giant ice cubes into a glass with soda water, and you have an instant cocktail.

Watermelon Vodka Popsicles - makes 8 3.5 oz popsicles
  • 4 cups watermelon, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 Tbs simple syrup
  • 3 Tbs fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
- Add the watermelon, simple syrup, lime juice and vodka into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Add the mint and stir, or if you want the mint in smaller pieces, just gave the blender another little whirl.
- Pour into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Aug 23, 2012

Strawberry Slushito

I rarely make cocktails from a blender, and it's probably because I associate them with really bad, sugary sweet piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris from places like TGI Fridays or Applebees.  But when summer hits, sometimes all you want is something really icy that packs a punch.  Tasting Table has been rocking it with the recipes the past few months, and their Strawberry Slushito balances that summer fruit in a simple syrup, along with one of my favorite bitter liqueurs, Campari (if you like this combo, try my Strawberry Campari Tart).  Their recipe makes a ton of strawberry simple syrup, but I just felt like it was too much to prepare if you're only going to blend two to four drinks.  I used half the amount of strawberries and a quarter of the simple syrup (you'll still have 1 cup of syrup) so I could really pump up the strawberry flavor.  The basil leaf gives this slushie libation an extra Italian kick.  If you read this blog often, you know how I like to post cocktail recipes for one.  Well, I feel like if you're using a blender and making a mess, you might as well just make two...because that's how many you're going to have.

Strawberry Slushito - makes 2
Ingredients for Strawberry Syrup:
  • 1 cup strawberries, diced
  • 1 cup simple syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar)
Ingredients for cocktail:
  • 3 oz gin
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
  • A little more than 2 oz of the strawberry syrup
  • Ice
  • 2 basil leafs, for garnish
To make the Strawberry Syrup:
- Add the strawberries and simple syrup in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Strain into a container (I like to use my little glass bottles) and discard the strawberries (or throw them on top of some ice cream).

To make the cocktail:
- In a blender, add the gin, Campari, lime juice the strawberry syrup (you can add 1/2 oz more if you like it a little sweeter).
- Fill the blender with about 2 1/2 cups of ice and blend until smooth.
- Pour into 2 glasses and garnish with basil leafs.

Aug 21, 2012

Spiked Gazpacho

Libations used: 1/4 cup tequila
Libations left over: Make yourself my Children of the Sun Cocktail - it's a spicy, smoky margarita...
Even though I get some lovely ocean breezes in Santa Monica,  it's still pretty sweltering right now.  I've had zero desire to turn on the stove or the oven, and I just want to eat a lot of popsicles and drink cocktails.  But it's important to actually eat something, lushes.  After this Sunday's market, I brought home an armful of big, yellow pineapple heirloom tomatoes to make gazpacho.  It's the perfect dish to prepare during those hot days of summer when there's an abundance of tomatoes at the market or in your neighbor's garden.  Tasting Table had recently come out with a recipe that gave suggestions for variations on fruit and veggies to use, as well as vinegars, citrus juice and booze to add.  They included champagne on that list, but I thought tequila would be a better substitute, because don't you just crave a margarita with your gazpacho?  I left out the bread in my recipe, but feel free to add a hunk to thicken the soup up.  I just used a couple large pieces of fresh, rustic sourdough to dip in the soup and topped it with some goat cheese.
Spiked Gazpacho - serves 8
  • 3 lbs of ripe red or yellow tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded (feel free to add more if you like it spicier)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (I used 2)
  • 1/4 cup tequila (I used Patrón)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 2x2 inch piece rustic bread (optional) or 1/2 cup Marcona almonds (optional) for thickening
  • Garnish options - goat cheese crumbles, ricotta, olive tapenade, salsa verde, pan-fried prosciutto, cooked shellfish.  In other words, get creative!
- Combine all the ingredients, except for the bread, almonds and garnish in a big bowl.
- Let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour or covered in the fridge overnight.
- Add the mixture into a blender in batches and blend until smooth.  If you like it chunkier, reserve 1 cup of the mixture and add it to the smooth soup, pulsing briefly.  This is where you can also add in the bread or almonds to thicken.
- Put in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Add garnishes and serve with more bread and that margarita...

Aug 16, 2012

Sweet Tea Bourbon Cocktail

The heat wave continues in Los Angeles and all it makes me want to do is sit on a porch with a book and sip iced tea...or bourbon.  So why not combine the two?  Joy the Baker did and that's why I love her.  Her recipe for this Sweet Tea Bourbon Cocktail is made by the pitcher, so it's perfect for brunches, BBQs or just sharing with a  friend on that porch.  When I got back from my San Francisco trip last week and stepped into my overheated apartment, I quickly flung open all the windows and doors (I sadly have no real porch to sit out on) and shook up a couple of these for myself.  I made a few minor adjustments to the recipe so you can make them individually.  Instead of honey or agave syrup, I used some of the honey syrup that I always have on hand for cocktails.  Because it was so freaking hot outside, there was no way I was going to heat up water for iced tea, so I just bought some unsweetened black iced tea from the store.  These drinks go down very smooth, so pace yourself and enjoy!

Sweet Tea Bourbon Cocktail
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint
  • 1 slice of orange
  • 1/2 oz honey syrup (see recipe here)
  • 2 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • 2 oz iced black tea
  • Ice
- Add the mint, orange and honey syrup to a mixing glass and muddle.
- Add the bourbon, iced black tea and ice into the mixing glass and shake.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Aug 14, 2012

Wine Marinated Grapes

Libations used: 2 cups white wine
Libations left over: half the bottle, so pour yourself a glass when you're done because this recipe is so easy...
I had been in San Francisco for about a week with my little brother for the Outside Lands music festival, and apparently missed most of the heat wave that hit Los Angeles.  When I got back, it was still sweltering and I was in recovery mode from the festival so I really didn't feel like cooking.  I had a picnic dinner coming up with some friends and knew I wanted to bring something cool and refreshing. This recipe for Wine Marinated Grapes from Cooking on the Weekends requires very minimal work in the kitchen—you just bring all the ingredients to a boil, plunk in the grapes and stuff the whole thing in the refrigerator. Use a cheap dry white wine, like a chardonnay, because there's no sense in boiling up expensive stuff.  Now hopefully, I can refrain from munching on all of these grapes before the picnic!

Wine Marinated Grapes
  • 3 cups red seedless grapes
  • 2 cups dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- In a medium-sized pot, add the wine, vinegar, sugar, rosemary and thyme and bring to a boil.
- Remove from heat and submerge the grapes.
- When the mixture cools, add everything to a non-reactive bowl and store in the fridge for at least 48 hours to marinate.

Aug 9, 2012

Blueberry Smash Cocktail

A few weeks ago, I was kicking around up north in the Central Coast and stumbled across a U-Pick blueberry farm called Restoration Oaks Ranch, just off the 101 between Buellton and Gaviota.  I used to pick wild blueberries with my granny in Michigan's Upper Peninsula during summer visits, and back home, our family would all hop on bikes to go berry picking at the local farm a few miles away.  Our hands and faces would be stained with blueberries, because you inevitably end up eating a few handfuls.  We'd then bike home with buckets balancing on handlebars or tupperware containers strapped to racks in the back.  Since I've lived in California, I haven't gone berry picking, and it's a summer tradition that I truly miss.  I picked all that I needed in under an hour, and days after, the berries still tasted fresh and sun-kissed.  After pickling blueberries, baking bread and eating them in yogurt, I decided to add some to a cocktail.  Bon Appetit came out with a recipe in June for this Blueberry Smash Cocktail in a pitcher.  I made a few changes to adapt it for a single serving and added more blueberries, because I certainly had enough!

Blueberry Smash Cocktail
  • Heaping 2 Tbs blueberries
  • 2 round slices of lemon, cut into quarters
  • 2 round slices of lime, cut into quarters
  • 3 sprigs of mint leaves, saving 1 for a garnish
  • 2 oz vodka (I used Grey Goose)
  • 3/4 oz St. Germain
- In a muddling or shaker glass, muddle the blueberries, lemon and lime quarters, mint and St. Germain.
- Add the vodka and ice and shake.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a mint leaf.

Aug 7, 2012

Shrimp with Farro & Spring Vegetables

Libations used: 1/4 cup white wine
Libations left over: pretty much the whole bottle, so drink with dinner...
The Lush Chef's little brother was in town visiting and because we were eating out pretty much every night.  I wanted to cook for us at least one of those nights so we could save some mula.  It was a warm evening and I had a busy day, so I wanted something that wouldn't require me slaving over the stove for a long period of time.  I had found a recipe I had ripped out of Bon Appetit about a year ago in my files for Shrimp with Farro and Spring Vegetables, and even though it's summer, there are still plenty of sugar snap peas and asparagus floating around at the market.  This recipe makes enough for 4 servings, but my brother had at least 3 of those servings, and mom would be proud that we were getting our veggies.

Shrimp with Farro & Spring Vegetables - serves 4
  • 8 oz farro
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Chardonnay
  • 20 large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3/4 cup sugar snap peas, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used a cup)
  • 10 thin asparagus spears, woody bottoms removed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I used about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to salt the water for the farro
- In a large pot of generously salted boiling water, cook farro for about 8 minutes, or until firm-tender.
- Drain and set aside.
- Over medium heat, melt butter in the same pot.
- Add the shallots and cook until softened (about 2 minutes).
- Add the garlic and thyme and cook for about 1 minute more.
- Add Chardonnay and increase heat to medium-high.
- Add shrimp and cook until they just start to lose their translucency.
- Add the peas, asparagus, farro, cream, broth, lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt.
- Stir and continue to cook for 2 minutes more.
- Season to taste and continue to cook, if necessary, until sauce is thickened and vegetables are cooked, but still crisp and bright.

Aug 2, 2012

Sipping in Seattle

Last weekend, I joined a San Francisco friend of mine in Seattle for a 3 day jaunt.  Neither one of us had been there before, but we did our research and came with lists in hand for all the restaurants and cocktail haunts we were going to visit.  Forget the Space Needle and Pike's Place Market (although I did swing through for a famous piroshky at Piroshky Piroshky), we wanted to hit up the spots that locals go to.  Ok, and apparently Anthony Bourdain ate and drank his way through many of these places for an upcoming episode of "The Layover" too - we're fans.

Multiple friends had told us that The Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard was a must-visit, so we went for a pre-dinner snack.  It's located in a building that shares space with a bike shop, some offices and Staple & Fancy, where we ended up eating dinner later that night.  While I'm a big fan of oysters, my friend isn't, but there was plenty on the menu for her to choose from.  Anthony, our shuckin' awesome "dreaded shucker" presented a beautiful plate of half a dozen oysters for me because I had to try one of each!  My friend and I ordered glasses of crisp white wine and took in the pleasant atmosphere.  We thought about getting cocktails, but knew we had to pace ourselves, and wine just goes better with oysters anyway.  Get to this place early because it only seats about 40 people inside and out on the patio.

As we walked along Ballard Avenue on our way to The Walrus and the Carpenter, we saw tons of amazing restaurants, bars and boutiques that we wanted to try, with nary a tourist in site.  After the oyster adventure, we doubled back into The Sexton for a cocktail, which is a bourbon heavy bar (hello, I'm home!).  I loved the simple, bright, and rustic decor, and their back patio feels like a whimsical version of a white trash backyard (a good thing) — communal wooden tables, Mason jars, fire escape stairs and a couple of bicycles draped in Christmas lights precariously hang from the trees.

I had a delicious cocktail with mezcal and house-made paprika bitters by bartender Marley Tomic-Beard. This girl rocks at making bitters and even gave me a few pointers for mine.  My friend had Daisy's Last Stand made with serrano-infused tequila, lime, Grenadine, ginger and soda and served with a paper straw (love those little touches).  We then split The Double Bind made with bourbon, sage and cider shrub (a drinking vinegar made from fruit, herbs and sugar), ginger beer and Angostura bitters.  We actually ended up coming back to this place two more times that evening—once for another cocktail and the last time for their famous mac n' cheese and a shot of Fernet at the end of the night.  Nate, one of the bartenders there, also told me about a drink he makes called the "Fernezcal," which is half Fernet and half mezcal.  Next time...

After we had filled our tummies at Staple & Fancy, we were told by several proprietors to visit Hazlewood on Market Street for a libation.  This tiny spot is all dark interiors with a white marble bar and kind of feels like a French boudoir (I've never been in one, but I imagine this is what it would feel like).  The proprietor served up an Edith Macefield, named after a stubborn, but awesome local in the Ballard area, with rye whiskey, Punt e Mes and Aperol.  As my friend and I sat there nursing our drinks and commenting on the cheap cocktail prices in Seattle and friendly service, the owner gave us two copies of some old-fashioned etiquette posters he had hanging up in the bar!  If I hadn't gotten up at the crack of dawn that day, I would have stayed for another cocktail.

The next morning, my friend and I visited Melrose Market, a very small, but well-curated indoor market near the Capitol Hill neighborhood.  If you don't like crowds like us, then skip Pike's Place and head here.

We started with breakfast sandwiches and coffee at Homegrown, picked up some jewelry at Butter Home and then tasted a bunch of different cheeses at The Calf & Kid.  My friend selected six different cheeses and some crusty bread for our afternoon snack, and we settled in at bar ferd'nand with a glass of rosé to complement it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the Capitol Hill neighborhood and shopping.  For spices, fancy salts and bitters, stop into Sugarpill, where they also sell bitters kits for those who want the fun of making them without the ingredient sourcing.  Elliot Bay Book Company is a beautiful and spacious independently run bookstore that has an incredible selection, comfy seating and a cafe.  Since we had plenty of time before dinner, we popped into Molly Moon's for some homemade ice cream.  Their Earl Grey Tea flavor is amazing — next time I'm getting it on a freshly-made waffle cone.

For our pre-dinner cocktail, we went to Canon.  Any place that calls themselves a "whiskey and bitters emporium" has won my heart, and it did not disappoint.  This place also seats only about 40 people, so either show up early or plant yourself at the bar and don't leave.
The decor is old-fashioned with ornate tin ceilings, Edison bulbs, dog-eared cocktail books and antique absinthe fountains and jiggers.  The bathroom has old liquor licenses behind a paned-glass window and old radio transcripts piping in.  Back to the cocktails though...

I had a Smoking Monkey with banana-infused Jameson Irish Whiskey, which had a very light fruit flavor that was offset by the PX sherry and smoky Ardberg scotch.

My friend had The Vermouth Experiment, which is three Manhattans with three different sweet vermouths. A brilliant idea that I wish other bars would adopt, and according to my friend, "It's three cocktails for the price of one! Of course I'm going to get it!"  This is why I'm friends with her.
Canon also whips up punch bowls, house-made soda cocktails, and has a nice little food menu too.  If we didn't have dinner at Quinn's, I could have sat there all night.

After dinner, we headed back to the downtown area of Belltown to visit Bathtub Gin & Co, a speakeasy hidden in the alley off Blanchard between 1st and 2nd Streets.  My friend and I apparently prefer tiny bars and this one certainly fit the bill.  The interiors are all exposed brick, and it feels like you're in some catacombs.  The top floor seats about 6-8 at the bar and the downstairs has some slightly larger lounge areas.  I sipped on a Just Above Social made with gin, hickory salt & pepper falernum, Angostura bitters and a black olive.

Marcus, one of the owners, told us the history of the place and shared some concepts for future bars he'd like to open in the area.  We especially loved the hand-drawn receipts with "The Ladies" scrawled along the top.

Our last stop of the night was Rob Roy, where they have goldfish crackers on the menu!  I honestly can't remember what was in my cocktail, but it had ginger in it and I took a pretty picture of it.  The cocktail menu rotates with the seasons and the bartenders hand chip your ice into giant balls that perfectly fit the glass of whatever you're drinking.  We filled our bellies the next morning at Oddfellow's Cafe + Bar in Capitol Hill with baked eggs, biscuits and beignets.  This place also has an old-timey feel and I'll definitely have to hit it up for cocktails next time I'm in town!