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 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.