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 30, 2013

White Sangria Popsicles

Libations used: About 1 cup of white wine and 1 oz of Grand Marnier...
Libations left over: About 3/4 of a bottle of wine, so pour yourself a glass, because these popsicles will need to freeze overnight...
There's no better way to get your fruit intake during the summer than through sangria, and my favorite kind to make during this season is with peaches.  Even better, sangria is the perfect libation to turn into popsicles!  This recipe from Daisy's World and Serious Eats uses a combination of stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, plums) and mango.  I used a Sauvignon Blanc, which pairs nicely with those kinds of fruits, and amped up the booze factor with some Grand Marnier.  You can also use Cointreau or any kind of orange-flavored liqueur.  Instead of peach and white grape juices, I used pear, but any white juice will be fine.  Not only do these popsicles make a fine dessert, but as a friend suggested, they'd be perfect for breakfast!

White Sangria Popsicles - makes 8 
  • 7 oz white wine (I used Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier 
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fruit (I used a combination of peach, nectarine and mango)
  • 1 1/4 cups pear juice
  • 5 Tbs sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • Pinch of salt
- In a medium bowl, macerate the fruit in the wine, and let it sit for about 20 minutes.
- In a small sauce pan over medium heat, add the pear juice and sugar, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved.
- Strain the fruit, saving both.
- Add the wine to the juice mixture.
- Add the orange juice and pinch of salt to the mixture.
- Fill each popsicle mold about halfway full with the fruit.
- Top with the juice and wine mixture, making sure to leave a little room at the top since the mixture will expand.
- Freeze overnight.

Jul 25, 2013

Boat House Punch

This past weekend, a group of us took our friend's boat out for the afternoon to relax, eat and drink just off the coast of Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey.  If there's a beach or a boat involved, you can bet that I'll be bringing a punch.  This Boat House Punch from was just screaming to be made because of it's name sake.  Plus, all of the citrusy ingredients made it perfect for day drinking.  There are so many of my favorite libations in this punch.  Aperol always goes well with grapefruit juice, and St. Germain has such a lovely floral flavor that blends nicely with gin and champagne.  Yes, it's faster to just buy juice and dump it in, but this punch will taste so much better if you squeeze everything fresh.  To jazz it up, I even juiced some blood oranges and used them for the garnish.  I hope there will more boat rides this summer, so I can make this punch!

Boat House Punch - Serves 10-12
  • Peel of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 9 oz gin (I used Tanqueray)
  • 6 oz Aperol
  • 9 oz St. Germain
  • 9 oz lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
  • 9 oz orange juice (about 3 large oranges)
  • 9 oz grapefruit juice (about 2 grapefruit)
  • 6 oz Rosé Champagne (I used Chandon)
  • Orange slices
- In a large pitcher, muddle the lemon peels and sugar, and let it stand for 30 minutes.
- Add all the rest of the ingredients, add ice and stir.
- Garnish with orange slices.

Jul 23, 2013

Mint Julep Ice Cream

Libations used: 1 1/2 Tbs bourbon...
Libations left over: None, but make yourself an actual mint julep because it's going to take about a day to make this...
When the weather gets hotter, all I crave during the summer is fruit, heirloom tomatoes, cocktails and ice cream.  I've become hooked on making my own ice cream now, thanks to Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home.  This girl has nailed it, and her recipes are fun, creative and delicious.  I decided to take her Backyard Mint Ice Cream and jazz it up a little by adding some bourbon to make it taste like a mint julep.  And yes, I was baller and used Four Roses.  If you're not cooking off bourbon, then use the good stuff.  I picked up some fresh mint from Maggie's Farms at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market.  Their Maggie's mint is a combination of chocolate mint and spearmint, and it's to die for.  I ended up making two batches of this stuff, because let's face it — a quart goes fast.

Mint Julep Ice Cream - makes about 1 quart
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 Tbs plus 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 Tbs cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs light corn syrup
  • A nice, large handful of fresh mint, with leaves roughly torn into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 Tbs of bourbon (I used Four Roses)
- In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and 2 Tbs of the milk to make a slurry (a fancy name for a cornstarch and liquid mixture).
- In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and salt.
- In a 4 quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the remaining milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup and bring to a rolling boil for 4 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the slurry.
- Return to the heat and bring to a boil.
- Stir with a heatproof spatula until it has slightly thickened, for about 1 minute.
- Remove from the heat.
- Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese, until it's smooth.
- Add the mint and bourbon.
- Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
- Pour the ice cream mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge it in the ice bath.
- Let the mixture stand until cold, adding more ice if necessary, for about 30 minutes.
- Remove from the ice bath and put in the fridge to let the mint steep for 4-12 hours.
- Cut an edge off the Ziploc bag and pour the mixture into a strainer over a bowl to get out the mint - I still left some pieces in there.
- Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer instructions, but basically, spin until's all thick and creamy.
- Pack the ice cream into a freezer storage container and press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface.
- Seal and place in the back of your freezer until it's firm, about 4-6 hours.

Jul 18, 2013

Ain't She a Peach

I'm a huge fan of shrubs.  No, not bushes, but the drinking vinegars that were popular during Colonial Times.  It was a great way of preserving fruits and provided for a cooling and flavorful beverage.  Turns out they're way awesome in cocktails and provide a great sweet and sour flavor profile.  They can be found at most bars now with a smart cocktail program.  I made my first shrub this past fall with freshly picked apples and added it to a Spicy Cider Mill cocktail with bourbon and ginger beer.  I loved the combination of a fruit shrub with ginger, so I decided to make something similar using using The King's Ginger liqueur and a peach shrub, to celebrate the flavors of summer.

I picked up a pound of ripe, yellow peaches from Summer Harvest Farms at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market and set about making the shrub, which takes a week.  Just add 1 lb (about 3 peaches) of chopped yellow or white peaches to a glass container (you want a non-reactive vessel, so no metal!).  Add 1 cup of sugar and mash up the peaches a little in it, so it's pretty well combined.  Refrigerate for two days, stirring again after one day.  After those two days, add 1 cup of champagne or white wine vinegar  and stir.  Let that mixture sit for another five days in the fridge.  After, strain out all the peaches and squeeze the juice out of them.  Bottle it up and keep refrigerated!  When I'm not making cocktails with it, I love adding an ounce or two to some club soda or sparking water.

Now, on to the cocktail.  Since I'm a big fan of the sour flavor of shrubs, I used about an ounce and a half of the peach shrub, but feel free to cut it down by half an ounce.  This cocktail is incredibly refreshing and has a slight spicy bite from that ginger liqueur.  This is also a great drink to batch and serve as a punch for barbecues.  It would be killer with some ribs...
Ain't She a Peach
  • 2 oz bourbon - I used Four Roses
  • 1 1/2 oz peach shrub
  • 1/2 oz The King's Ginger liqueur
  • 1-2 oz club soda, to taste
- In a shaker filled with ice, add the bourbon, peach shrub and ginger liqueur.
- Strain into an ice-filled glass and top with club soda.

Jul 16, 2013

Little Apricot Cakes with Bourbon

Libations used: 3/4 cups bourbon...
Libations left over: None, but make yourself this Sweet Tea Bourbon Cocktail while you're waiting for these lil' cakes to bake...
As you all know, I love baking.  But if I baked for myself every day, I would inevitably eat everything and then I wouldn't be able to maintain my lovely girlish figure.  So when there's a party, even if I don't have to bring anything, I will inevitably come bearing baking goods laced with booze...or just a bottle of booze.  My friend Dan was celebrating his 40th birthday this past weekend, and I knew the kids would be with a nanny and it would be a rolicking good time, so Lush Chef treats were okay to tote along.  Bon Appetit had a quick and easy recipe for Little Apricot Cakes from their June issue, and I always get a great supply of stone fruit from my friends at Summer Harvest Farms at the Farmers' Market.  In exchange for some apricots, I promised to bring them a batch the following day.  I love farmers.  To Lush Chef this recipe up, I soaked each little cake with a teaspoon of bourbon after they had cooled down a little bit.  They're the perfect little treats to transport for parties and picnics, and would taste amazing topped with any stone fruit.  I had to use 3 apricots, as I wanted to make sure each cake had at least 3 wedge on top.  I might even try these with sliced berries or cherries next time too, and double the amount of lemon zest.

Little Apricot Cakes - makes 12
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 Tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 3 apricots, halved, pitted and cut into quarter-inch wedges
  • 2 Tbs raw sugar
  • 3/4 cup bourbon - I used Woodford Reserve
- Coat a standard 12-cup muffin pan with vegetable oil spray or shortening.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add the egg, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined.
- Add the dry ingredients and milk in alternating additions, starting with the dry for three and the milk for two, with the mixer set on low speed.
- Fill the muffin cups about 1/3 full with the batter — it looks low, but they'll rise!
- Smooth out the tops and top with 3 apricot wedges and sprinkle with the raw sugar.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden.
- When the cakes have cooled for about 5-10 minutes, pour 1 tsp of bourbon on top of each cake and let it soak through.

Jul 11, 2013

Garrick Club Punch

Nothing like celebrating the 4th of July with a British punch.  Hey, it's a way for us to forgive, and honor various traditions, right?  The Garrick Club Punch was first served in the London club of that name around 1835, about four years after it's founding.  It's a great punch for any time of year, but it's especially refreshing in the summer.  According to my friends, it was like the best booziest lemonade they'd had.  Be sure to let those muddled lemon peels soak up the sugar for about half an hour.  This punch is traditionally made with maraschino liqueur, but if you don't have that on hand, you can substitute Grand Marnier, according to David Wondrich's update on the recipe.  I made it with Tanqueray London Dry Gin, only because I didn't have enough Bols Genever to spare.  I toted a couple coolers of this out to the beach and we finished it in no time.  There's no better way to celebrate the summer (and American independence) than with something classic, extra boozy and British.

Garrick Club Punch - serves about a dozen
  • 4 lemons
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
  • 1 750 mL bottle of gin (I used Tanqueray London Dry Gin)
  • 4 oz Grand Marnier or maraschino liqueur
  • 24 oz chilled club soda
- Peel all the lemons with a vegetable peeler and make sure you avoid the white pith.
- Muddle the lemon peels with sugar in a 3 quart pitcher or punch bowl.
- Let the peels stand for 30 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the gin and Grand Marnier and stir.
- Fill your pitcher or punch bowl halfway with ice and add the club soda.
- Stir and enjoy!

Jul 9, 2013

Peach Lambic Sorbet

Libations used: 3/4 cup sour beer
Libations left over: more than half the bottle, so pour a glass for yourself and a friend and wait for that sorbet to freeze.
I haven't made ice cream or sorbet in a really long time, but now that we're getting into the heat of summer, that's going to change.  My favorite recipe book for frozen treats, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, has a recipe for fruit lambic sorbets.  Lambic is a sour beer that's traditionally made in the Pajottenland region just south of Brussels, Belgium.  They're sour, fruity and delicious! I picked up a bottle of Lindeman's Peche Lambic at Whole Foods, and a pound of fresh yellow peaches from the Sunday Farmers' Market to make this four ingredient sorbet.  This recipe is the perfect way to highlight your favorite stone fruits — try cherries, plums, nectarines, (or white peaches for a lighter flavor).  The sorbet is incredibly smooth and rich and truly captures the flavors of the season.  I plan on making batches of this all summer long.

Peach Lambic Sorbet - makes more than 1 quart
  • 1 pound fresh peaches (about 3 big peaches)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup chilled lambic beer (I used Lindeman's Peach Lambic)
- Peel the skin off the peaches and remove pits.
- Add to a food processor and purée.
- In a medium sauce pan, add the purée, sugar and corn syrup.
- Bring to a simmer and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Remove immediately from the heat and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Add the beer and put into your ice cream machine.
- Churn until the consistency is like soft whipped cream.
- Pack the sorbet mixture into a storage container and place some parchment paper directly against the surface.
- Cover and place in the coldest part of your freezer.
- Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until the sorbet is firm - I always need twice as long with my freezer.

Jul 4, 2013

Celery & Cilantro Cocktail

Last week, I was on a three-day BluePrint Juice Cleanse, and after you come off of these things, you have to eat of lot of green, raw veggies.  I had a fridge absolutely full of celery, cilantro, parsley and cucumber, so this recipe for a Celery & Cilantro Cocktail from Sweet Paul was the perfect way to use up some of these ingredients.  Oh, and it was darn tasty too.  The original recipe called for citrus-flavored vodka, which I never have (I just can't do flavored vodka), so opted for some good ol' Grey Goose instead.  It's an incredibly refreshing and herbal cocktail for the summer.  I'm looking forward to making these for my girlfriends for Friday cocktail hours.
Celery & Cilantro Cocktail
  • 2 small celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 1/2 oz vodka (I used Grey Goose)
  • Cilantro and celery leaves for garnish
- In a shaker, muddle the celery and cilantro with the simple syrup.
- Add the lime juice, vodka and ice and shake.
- Double strain through a small, fine-mesh sieve into an ice-filled glass.
- Garnish with some cilantro and celery leaves.

Jul 2, 2013

Fourth of July Round-Up

Gee, 4th of July must have sucked in 1919, with Prohibition going into effect on July 1.  That's a great way to put a damper on one's Yankee spirit.  Luckily, all of you lushes no longer have to worry about that, and I'm sure all of you will be out and about during this long weekend, celebrating our country's independence (from the British and the Volstead Act) with plenty of delicious eats and libations.  Whether it's a BBQ, cocktail party or beach blanket bingo, I've got you covered.
There's nothing like pairing bourbon with grilled meats, and I now have two standbys for marinades.  Joy the Baker's Bourbon Orange Coriander BBQ Sauce may have a ton of ingredients, but it's simple to make and well worth the time.  Last summer, we lathered this sauce on grilled chicken, burgers, brats — basically any meat we had on the grill got a generous dollop of this sauce.  People were eating it out of the container...My other favorite marinade is this Sugar Steak with Bourbon.  With just three ingredients (brown sugar, red pepper flakes and bourbon), you can whip this up in no time and it's sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
Speaking of brown sugar and bourbon...these Bourbon Glazed Peaches on the Grill elicited marriage proposals...from men and women.  My friends couldn't even wait for these to cool down before stuffing these in their faces, and they taste like peach cobbler.  If you want to actually make a peach cobbler, then this recipe for Tyler Florence's Bourbon Peach Cobbler has become my go-to.  Sticking with stone fruits and moving away from bourbon, these Nectarine Crostata use a little bit of vodka in the dough.  It's a great recipe to have in one's arsenal for the year, and the fruit can be changed with the seasons.  This would be killer with berries or any other kind of stone fruit, and the small size of the pastries makes them perfect for transporting to picnics.
Watermelon, that ubiquitous, big crowd-feeding fruit pairs so well with alcohol.  A Mojito Watermelon Salad with rum, mint, lime juice and pinches of cayenne and salt takes on the drink in salad form and is perfect for big family reunions where you need to take the edge off.  Pretty much those same ingredients can be transferred into popsicle form to make some Watermelon & Vodka Popsicles.  You might as well keep the party going by making this Bourbon & Watermelon Cocktail in large batches, preferably in a lined trash can.  People love trash can punches!  
Yes, margaritas are pretty much drunk all year-round in Southern California, but they still smack of summer to me.  These Margarita Cupcakes have tequila in the batter and the frosting.  The lime and touch of salt in the frosting really makes these taste like the real deal.  One of my other favorite desserts to make during the summer, and one that should only be served amongst adults, is this Tres Leches Cake.  I have very fond memories from the first time I served this cake at a dinner party in Topanga Canyon.  Everyone was already a little tipsy from all the wine, and this basically put everyone into happy, drunk mode.  Yes, you can get drunk off of cake...

If you're throwing a big party, you have to have some kind of sangria.  Take advantage of stone fruit season with this White Sangria with Peaches.  I like to add a little bit of basil to mine to give it a slightly herbal flavor.  It also reminds me of one of my favorite summer appetizers with peaches, basil and burrata.  I also toss basil in Spicy Strawberry Margaritas.  It balances really nicely with the strawberries and jalapeño-infused tequila.  And because I apparently crave Mexican-cocktails during the summer, the Paloma is a slight variation on a margarita with grapefruit juice and soda or grapefruit soda, and a Michelada is like if a Bloody Mary and Mexican beer had a baby.
Whether you're looking to batch these cocktails or make them individually, these next few truly take advantage of summer flavors and fruits.  I love libations that have the word "smash" in them.  They're fun to make and if you're not careful, you can get smashed.  This Plum Tarragon Smash contains whiskey, plums, tarragon, lime juice and club soda, and if you're not careful, can go down real fast.  And a Blueberry Smash takes on a patriotic color after you've smashed in blueberries, mint, lemon and lime juice with vodka and St. Germain.  Why make a regular mojito when you can muddle strawberries in them?  Finally, for a twist on a Vodka Lemonade, try using lemon verbena-infused simple syrup.