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!

Jun 5, 2014

Green Giant Cocktail

Looking for a reason to justify having a drink?  Then add veggies to it. Your mom can't argue with that! recently posted a few cocktails featuring spring peas, and since I had been picking up tons of snap peas at the market recently, I couldn't want to try one.  I opted for the Green Giant, because not only has this cocktail now replaced my bad memories of icky frozen Green Giant peas, but it has satisfied my spring and summer gin kick.  I used the earthy and spicy St. George Terroir Gin with Dolin's dry vermouth (one of my favorites).  As I sat enjoying this beautifully green and spring-inflected cocktail before dinner, my friend Louis suggested I used some of his Miracle Mile yuzu bitters.  I unfortunately didn't have any on me, so I opted for celery instead — why not add more vegetables to the mix?  It's a fun way to bring out a little more of the vegetal, grassy, and herbal flavor in the drink.  And also, everything is better with bitters.
Green Giant
  • 4 sugar snap pea pods, broken in half
  • 8-10 tarragon leaves
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz gin (I used St. George Terroir Gin)
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth (I used Dolin's)
  • 3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 dashes celery or yuzu bitters (I used Miracle Mile), optional
- In a shaker, add the snap peas, tarragon, and simple syrup, and muddle.
- Add ice, gin, dry vermouth, lemon juice, and bitters, and shake.
- Fine-strain into a chilled glass filled with crushed ice.
- Garnish with a couple of snap peas and tarragon leaves.

Jun 3, 2014

Fennel & Semolina Cake

Last weekend I had a couple of picnics and a wine tasting to attend, but only one day to really make anything.  I had spied this recipe for Fennel and Semolina Cake on Tasting Table a few weeks ago, and loved how it paired fennel with the fennel and anise-inflected Pernod.  Cake with absinthe?  Yes, please!  Next time I make this, I definitely need to use a larger fennel bulb, and I'll probably add less rose water to the fennel syrup.  Rose water is just so overpowering to me and 1 Tbs seemed like too much to me.  I also don't think you need to soak the cake with an entire 1 cup of syrup (I used a little less).  Plus, that leaves more fennel-flavored syrup for cocktail making and shaking!  Regardless, my friends enjoyed this unusually savory and sweet, and incredibly moist cake to end our various cheese and hummus-filled picnics.  I also used a finer semolina flour, as that was all I could find, and it ended up giving the cake a really lovely texture.

Fennel & Semolina Cake - serves 10-12
Ingredients for the Fennel
  • 3 Tbs fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs Pernod
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs fennel seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced about 1/8-inch thick with the core left intact
  • 1 tsp rose water
Ingredients for the Crust
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 Tbs light brown sugar
Ingredients for the Cake
  • 2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups semolina flour
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp fennel pollen
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted and then cooled to room temperature
- Pre-heat the oven to 350.

To Prepare the Fennel
- In a small saucepan over high heat, add the lemon juice, Pernod, water, sugar, fennel seeds, and salt and bring to a simmer.
- Cook until the fennel seeds become tender (about 15 minutes).
- Strain the syrup into a medium bowl, discarding the fennel seeds.
- In a medium saucepan, add the syrup and bring to a simmer.
- Add the fennel and cook, covered, until tender (about 20 minutes).
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fennel to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and arrange in a single layer to cool.
- Transfer the syrup back into the same medium bowl and add the rose water.
- Measure out 3/4 cup of syrup and reserve any remaining for cocktails!

To Make the Crust
- In a 8x11 baking dish, drizzle the melted butter and sprinkle the light brown sugar evenly to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Arrange the fennel slices on top in a single layer.

To Make the Cake
- In a medium bowl, add the yogurt and milk and stir to evenly combine.
- In a large bowl, add the semolina flour, sugar, baking powder, fennel pollen, and salt, and stir to evenly combine.
- Add the yogurt and milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
- Add the butter and stir.
- Pour the batter into the baking dish.
- Bake until golden brown (about 40-45 minutes).
- Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edges of the cake and then cover the baking dish with a large cutting board.
- Carefully invert the cake onto it, and using a toothpick or wooden skewer, poke holes all over the cake.
- Slowly pour the reserved syrup all over the cake and let it soak in for about 30 minutes before serving.

May 23, 2014

Punch it up for Memorial Day

With the long holiday weekend coming up, you'll inevitably be throwing a Memorial Day party or attending one, which means either way, you'll be contributing some booze.  Regardless of whether you're the host or a guest, you can amp up the weekend and impress your friends with a super simple punch. No one wants to be shaking or stirring up individual cocktails during a big party.  Well, maybe you do, but then everyone's waiting for a drink.  I also like to stir these punches up in those 2-quart beverage coolers and slyly cart them to the beach.  It's The Lush Chef way. The below are some of my favorite summer recipes.  Just be careful, because they go down easily...

If you're on a boat, then make this Boat House Punch. It's got gin, champagne, Aperol, St. Germain, and plenty of fruit juices. It's slightly sweet, slightly bitter, and slightly sour, and very boozy.   

If you want to go old school, then the Garrick Club Punch, which originated at the namesake club in London in 1835, will do the trick. It's like a sophisticated adult lemonade with gin, Grand Marnier or maraschino liqueur, and plenty of fresh lemon juice. My friends still claim it's the booziest lemonade they've ever had. 

If you have a trash can, then this Bourbon & Watermelon Punch has, get this...two ingredients. Just add your favorite bourbon (preferably a mid-range because this punch has two ingredients, remember?) and fresh-squeezed watermelon juice. It's incredibly refreshing and will be amazing paired with BBQ and grilled meats.  
If you're at a brunch, then make this twist on a French 75, with this Sunset French 75. Instead of the usual gin, lemon juice, champagne, and sugar cube, this version calls for gin, blood orange juice, champagne, and a little lemongrass simple syrup. Everyone does mimosas and bellinis, so why not think outside of the box?  Your friends are sure to be wowed and tipsy, plus, you can have this punch on a boat or in a trash can!

May 21, 2014

Saucy Sautéed Shrimp & Lemon Quinoa

Libations used: 1 cup white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with din-din...
I've been in a seafood mood as of late, and perhaps it's because LA was experiencing unseasonably hot temperatures for the past couple of weeks.  In other words, I wanted something light and fresh.  This "Saucy" Sautéed Shrimp with Lemon Quinoa from The Kitchn was just the thing I needed for a warm Sunday evening.  The white wine sauce is further enriched with shallots, garlic, red bell pepper, and sun-dried tomatoes. I used jarred, julienned sun-dried tomatoes to get a little more flavor from the oil.  Pick a bottle of nice, full-bodied white wine to cook with and that you'd also like to polish off with the meal.  I popped open Sanford's Chardonnay, which is crispy and light on the oak finish. It also happens to be a favorite of The Lush Chef's mama (sorry, you weren't with me to share, mom!).  Any size shrimp is actually fine, and I opted for a larger, pink variety. I plan on cooking the quinoa with wine and lemon again to use in salads, as a side dish, or the base for other recipes.  This meal also comes together quickly, so it's great for weeknights and lazy Sundays.

Saucy Sautéed Shrimp & Lemon Quinoa - serves 3-4
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 cup white wine (I used Sanford's Chardonnay), divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, divided
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely sliced
  • 1 lb fresh shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- Rinse that quinoa well in a fine-meshed sieve under running water.
- In a medium sauce pot over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil.
- Add the drained quinoa and lightly toast, stirring for about 1 minute.
- Add the salt, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of the white wine, and 1 1/2 cups water.
- Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer, letting the quinoa cook for about 15 minutes.
- While the quinoa is cooking, place a large skillet over low heat and melt 1 Tbs of the butter.
- Add the garlic, shallots, red pepper, and tomatoes, stirring frequently until the garlic and tomatoes are softened and fragrant.
- Turn up the heat to medium and add the second Tbs of butter and the rest of the white wine.
- Whisk constantly, bringing the wine to a simmer, and cook until the mixture is slightly reduced and shiny.
- Turn down the heat to very low to keep the sauce warm.
- In a separate large sauce pan or skillet over high heat, heat the remaining Tbs of butter.
- Add the shrimp and sear them quickly until cooked (about 1-2 minutes).
- Add the shrimp into the pan of sauce and veggies and toss in half of the parsley.
- How's that quinoa doing? Turn off the heat, and let it stand covered for about 5 minutes.
- Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa.
- Stir in the lemon zest and the remaining parsley.
- Divide quinoa evenly amongst plates and top with the shrimp and veggie sauce.  If you have any more lemon zest and parsley, then sprinkle some on top!

May 15, 2014

Gin Gin

This past March, my friend and I did a little urban distillery tour through Portland.  You can actually get a Distillery Row Passport for $25 with a $5 coupon at the airport and most hotels, so it's a pretty sweet deal.  Grab a passport and a fixed gear bike, and you're set.  Anyway, my friend and I were absolutely smitten with the Ginger Liqueur at New Deal Distillery.  

It's just fresh ginger infused in a neutral grain spirit, and finished off with a little organic sugar cane and agave.  It smacks of spicy, fresh ginger, and as I tasted it, I began envisioning all the Moscow Mules and gingery punches I'd be making this summer.  Well, I finally got around to making a drink over a month later for some friends at a Sunday dinner, and this is what I came up with - the Gin Gin cocktail with gin and ginger liqueur.  The name is a play off of one of my favorite candies - Gin Gins.  I used St. George's Botanivore Ginger, which is heavier on the juniper, citrus, and floral notes, and added a little lime juice (in the words of a bartender friend, "drug lords, be damned") and simple syrup. I topped it with a mint leaf for another fresh, herbal hit.  My friends and I quickly realized that this drink may have become our spring/summer jam. I better order another bottle of this liqueur soon!
Gin Gin 
  • 2 oz gin (I used St. George's Botanivore Gin)
  • 1 oz ginger liqueur (I used New Deal's version, but there are other ones out there like King George)
  • Fresh squeezed juice from half a lime
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • Mint leaf & lime wheel, for garnish
- In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the gin, ginger liqueur, lime juice, and simple syrup.
- Shake to your heart's content and pour into a chilled glass.
- Top with a mint leaf and garnish the glass with a lime wheel.  

May 13, 2014

Salmon with Mashed Peas & Tarragon Butter

Libations used: 1 cup white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner...
I had bought a ton of fresh peas from the Farmers' Market last weekend without thinking about what I was actually going to make with them.  I used to hate peas as a child.  I mean, truly, truly despised them.  Perhaps it was because we only got the frozen kind, and they were thawed out in the microwave.  After buying them fresh, now I just love them.  I was having a few girl friends over for Sunday dinner, and I wanted something easy and light tasting.  Food & Wine had this beautiful recipe in their April issue for Salmon with Mashed Peas & Tarragon Butter from Viña Casa Marín, a Chilean Winery, that captured the beautiful colors of spring.

I took a little trip to Santa Monica Seafood for some fresh salmon, and got a little sidetracked by the oyster bar.  There's nothing better than treating yourself to a few freshly shucked oysters on a Sunday afternoon.  For the wine, use a dry white such as a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc—something that pairs well with the fish.  If you don't have a grill pan to get those lovely grill marks, just use a regular sauté pan.  This recipe comes together quickly and I just absolutely loved the herbed butter sauce in it—it's divine drizzled over the salmon and peas.  At least you're getting your veggies, so all that butter offsets it, right?
Salmon with Mashed Peas & Tarragon Butter - serves 4
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen peas (about 3 cups)
  • 7 Tbs cold, unsalted butter, 6 Tbs cubed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2 tsps lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs roughly chopped tarragon
  • Four 6 oz salmon fillets, with skin on
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
- In a large sauce pot of boiling water, cook the peas until tender, about 3-4 minutes, and drain.
- In the same pot, melt 1 Tbs of butter in the cream.
- Add the peas and mash with a potato masher until it's chunky (you don't want a smooth, perfect mash here).
- In a small saucepan, simmer the wine with the lemon juice over medium heat until reduced to about 1 Tbs (about 8-10 minutes).
- Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the remaining 6 Tbs of butter, one cube at a time, until the sauce is thickened.
- Whisk in the tarragon and season with salt and pepper, and turn the heat off.
- Heat a grill pan or sauté pan over medium heat.
- Rub the salmon fillets with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Grill the salmon, skin side down, turning just once, until just cooked through (about 10-12 minutes).
- Spoon the mashed peas onto the plate and top with the salmon, skin side up.
- Spoon the tarragon butter over the salmon and serve immediately.

Apr 29, 2014

Beer Risotto with Sausage and Gouda

Libations used: one bottle of beer...
Libations left over: well, hopefully you bought a whole pack, so pop open another bottle while you're stirring that risotto...
Ah, risotto.  The downfall of nearly every contestant on Top Chef.  It's a process that shouldn't be rushed, which is inevitably while these folks fail because they're trying to make it with such a short amount of time.  But don't be scared off by it.  It's really quite easy, and the key is to have a warm stock, room temperature beer or wine, patience, and a strong stirring arm.  Making risotto is a great way to tone your arms!  This version from Cherry on My Sundae's blog is what I would consider a guy's risotto.  It's got beer, spicy sausage, and plenty of cheese.  What's not to love?  Use a dark beer, like a brown ale and make sure it's at room temperature.  I grabbed a pack of spicy Italian chicken sausages from Trader Joe's and a nice, smoky gouda.  So pop or crack open a cold one, and get to stirring.

Beer Risotto with Sausage and Gouda - serves 4
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 8 oz spicy sausage, sliced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 12 oz dark beer at room temperature (I used Mission St. Brown Ale)
  • 3 cups chicken stock, warmed in a small sauce pot on the stove
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup grated gouda
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 Tbs parsley, chopped
- In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil.
- Add the sliced sausages and sauté until browned, about 3 minutes.
- Remove the sausages with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pan and sauté for about 3-4 minutes, until they're translucent.
- Add the rice and stir, cooking for about 1-2 minutes so you get a nice, nutty aroma.
- Add half of the beer and stir until the liquid is fully absorbed.
- Add the remaining beer and stir until that's fully absorbed.
- Add a ladle of warm chicken stock and keep stirring away until it's absorbed. Take a swig of beer - this is hard work!
- Keeping adding the stock in increments, stirring until all the liquid is absorbed.
- Cook until the rice appears creamy and is al dente, about 20-30 minutes after all is said and done.
- Stir in the butter and grated cheese.
- Add the sausages back in and season with salt and pepper.
- Divide evenly, and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Apr 17, 2014

Ooo, La, La

It's been weeks since I've played with my home bar as I've been having a bit too much fun going out and trying other people's cocktails!  Easter is coming up this Sunday, and we've been blessed here in SoCal with some amazing strawberries at the market, so I was eager to shake up a drink that centered around the fruit.  I had bought a bottle of St. George Botanivore Gin a couple of weeks ago, so I knew that had to go there in as well.  To French it up a bit, I added St. Germain and lavender simple syrup.  With the fresh squeezed lemon juice and a spring of mint, it's like a spring garden in a glass.  The beautiful pink color and mint makes this a beautiful and refreshing drink to make for the Easter holiday.  Batch this up in a pitcher, and you've got the perfect cocktail for a truly boozy brunch.

Ooo, La, La
  • 1 strawberry
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz lavender simple syrup - recipe can be found here
  • 2 oz gin (I used St. George Botanivore)
  • 3/4 oz St. Germain
  • Mint leaf, for garnish
- In a shaker, muddle the strawberry with the lemon juice and lavender simple syrup.
- Add ice, gin, and St. Germain and shake.
- Pour into a glass.
- Slap a mint leaf between the palm of your hands and add to the drink as garnish.

Apr 15, 2014

Braised Chicken with Fennel and Fava Beans

Libations used: 1 cup white wine
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so pour yourself a glass while that chicken is braising...
Apologies dear lushes, for the rather long delay in posting anything.  I've just been having too much fun these past few weeks and haven't had time to sit down at my computer to hammer these recipes and stories out.  Easter is coming up next Sunday, and while most people traditionally serve lamb, my parents are not fans of the protein.  When I cook Easter dinner for them, it's typically a roasted or braised whole chicken — it's simple, delicious, colorful, and doesn't demand a lot of my time at the stove.  I recently made this Braised Chicken from Bon Appetit, but because baby artichokes weren't going to pop up at my market for another week or so, I added in fennel and a whole, sliced lemon.  I almost didn't track down any fava beans, and if you find yourself in the same situation, use some snap peas instead!  This is a great recipe to get creative with, so sub in any fresh, springtime vegetable you have on hand.  Serve with fresh, crusty bread, because you'll want it to sop up all that yummy wine sauce.
Braised Chicken with Fennel and Fava Beans - serves 4-6
  • 1 cup fresh fava beans (from about 1 lb of pods)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • One 4 lb chicken, cut into 10 pieces
  • 8 shallots, peeled and halved 
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced (reserve the fronds)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used Sanford's Flor De Campo Chardonnay)
  • 3 Tbs white wine or chardonnay vinegar
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil, and then add the fava beans, cooking until tender for about 4 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a colander set in a bowl of ice water to cool.
- Drain, remove the skins, and set aside in a small bowl.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil.
- Working in 2 batches, cook the chicken, skin side down without turning, until browned and crisp (about 6-8 minutes), and transfer to a plate.
- Reduce the heat to medium, and add the shallots and fennel, stirring often until golden brown and beginning to soften (about 8-10 minutes).
- Add the wine and vinegar and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits, and reducing to half (about 5 minutes).
- Add the broth and lemon slices, and then place the chicken back in the pot, skin side up.
- Top the chicken with some large fennel fronds.
- Transfer to the oven and cook, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through (about 20-25 minutes).
- Mix in the fava beans.
- Serve the chicken topped with chives and parsley, with the fennel, shallots, and lemon on the side.

Mar 18, 2014

Shrimp & Pasta Stew

Libations used: 1/2 cup white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so serve with dinner or drink a glass while that shrimp is cooking...
The first day of spring is this Thursday, but while we have sunshine and 80 degree temperatures in Los Angeles, many of you across the country are still feeling like it's winter.  This Shrimp and Pasta Stew from PureWow is comforting, hearty, and is a nice winter to spring transition dish.  It's incredibly thick, so feels more like a saucy pasta, but whatever you want to call it, it's delicious!  The lemon, kale, and parsley give it a bright flavor and texture.  The vegetables are cooked in a little bit of dry, white wine, so use a decent wine that doesn't break the bank and that you'd actually like to drink the rest of — I used a Red Diamond Chardonnay. This dish comes together fairly quickly, so it's great to make on a weeknight.
Shrimp & Pasta Stew - serves 6-8
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups pearl onions 
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used Red Diamond Chardonnay)
  • 1 Tbs paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbs lemon zest, plus more for garnish
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • One 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups seafood or vegetable broth
  • 2 1/2 cups rigatoni pasta
  • 1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3-4 cups roughly chopped kale
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil.
- When it's warmed up, add the onions and celery and sauté until tender (about 5-6 minutes).
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute more).
- Add the wine and bring the mixture to a simmer, cooking until the liquid is reduced to about half (6-7 minutes).
- Add the paprika, cayenne pepper, lemon zest, salt, and pepper, simmering until fragrant (about 1-2 more minutes).
- Add the tomatoes with juice and the broth, and return the mixture to a simmer.
- Stir in the pasta and cook until it's nearly al dente (about 5 minutes).
- Reduce the heat to low and add the shrimp and kale, continuing to simmer until the pasta is tender, the shrimp is cooked through and the kale is wilted (about 4-5 minutes).
- Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with lemon zest and parsley.

Mar 6, 2014

Right Hand

Continuing my ode to Miracle Mile Bitters Co., I bring you lushes a little variation on the Right Hand cocktail.  If you're a Negroni fan, then this is a great drink to shake up your routine.  I made slight changes to the recipe Miracle Mile's Louis Anderman sent me, only because I had no aged rum in the house (yeah, gotta change that situation) and combined it a little bit with Michael McIlroy's (formerly of Little Branch and Milk & Honey) original recipe.  Sometimes you just have to use what's stocked in the home bar and experiment a little.  I opted for Crusoe's Organic Spiced Rum and Punt e Mes for the Sweet Vermouth.  I've included their recommendations below, so feel free to play around!  For the bitters, I used Miracle Mile's not-for-sale "The 7 Deadly" which is infused with tobacco and has hints of clove, cinnamon, and coffee (from what I gathered).  Since you can't get these in stores, any aromatic bitters such as Angostura or Peychaud's is fine, but why settle when you can get more creative flavors that Miracle Mile does actually sell, such as their Chocolate Chili or Forbidden Bitters.

Right Hand 
  • 1 3/4 oz aged rum (Louis recommends Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year Old Rum or Zacapa and Michael's recipe calls for El Dorado 15 Year)
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth (Michael's recipe recommends Carpano Antica)
  • 3/4 oz Campari
  • 2 dashes of aromatic bitters
  • Orange peel, for garnish
- Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
- Option to garnish with an orange peel (I forgot to add this because I was too excited to just drink it already).

Mar 4, 2014

Brown Butter Apple Bread

Libations used: 3 Tbs apple brandy
Libations left over: None, but make yourself an American's as American as this apple bread...
We're finally getting rain here in Southern California and it's been coming down with a vengeance. So on these rainy nights, I'm either making soup or baking bread.  Bread won out this week, and it was this recipe for Brown Butter Apple Bread from The Kitchn that won me over.  This is probably some of the moistest bread I've ever had and there are oodles of apples and pecans in it. You really can't go wrong when you see crème fraîche and apple brandy in a recipe for baked goods — and you do taste the brandy in this recipe.  I'm a fan of Laird's Applejack, but if you don't have any apple brandy in the house (I'll be sad for you), feel free to sub in regular brandy or bourbon.  For the apples, I used a combination of Granny Smith and Pink Lady.  Always do a mix of tart and sweet apples when you're baking, as it varies up the texture and the flavor.  In addition to the above varieties, The Kitchn also recommends Braeburn, Gala, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, McIntosh, and Honeycrisp.  I brought this bread to work the next day, and it was perfect paired with everyone's morning coffee, and a great way to kick off the week.  I can't wait to make this bread again with pears and other stone fruit too.

Brown Butter Apple Bread - makes 1 loaf
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 3 Tbs apple brandy (I used Laird's Applejack)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced (I used 1 Granny Smith and 2 Pink Lady)
  • 1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a large loaf pan with shortening or cooking spray.
- Place the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, and melt until it turns golden brown and takes on a nutty aroma (swirl the pan around to prevent it from burning).
- Set pan aside to cool slightly (you don't want scrambled eggs).
- In a large bowl, add the white and brown sugars, and eggs.
- Add the butter into the large bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine.
- Add the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, stirring until just combined.
- Add the crème fraîche, apple brandy, vanilla bean paste, apples, and pecans and carefully stir to combine.
- Pour the batter into the loaf pan and smooth out the top.
- Bake for one hour, and allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before removing from the pan.

Feb 27, 2014

Fourth Regiment

Frequent readers of my blog know my deep appreciation for bitters.  Not only do I have a blast occasionally making my Bitter Revenge bitters for friends and family, but I love trying all the different flavors by small-batch producers out there.  One of the best is LA-based Miracle Mile Bitters Co. by a very un-bitter man named Louis Anderman.  He was getting ticked off that all my postings and Instagram pictures had bottles of bitters...that weren't his.  And he had every right to be ticked off because his bitters are awesome.  I use his sour cherry flavor in my Old Fashioneds.  Not only does he make traditional flavors such as orange and celery, but more out-of-the-box, fun flavors like chocolate-chili, yuzu, bergamot, and an aromatic "Forbidden" flavor.  He even works closely with local bars and bartenders to create custom-lines of bitters based on the types of cocktails served or the personality of that particular mixologist. My lack of Miracle Mile bitters has since been rectified, and I'm going to make up for lost time.  I wrote it here!

So my first cocktail I made with his glorious bitters included three flavors — orange, celery and a barrel-aged version of his Forbidden bitters. The Fourth Regiment is an old, classic cocktail that is essentially a variation on a Manhattan. Its origin isn't clear, with some citing its first appearance in 1889's 282 Mixed Drinks from the Private Records of a Bartender of the Olden Days, Drinks by Jacques Straub from 1914, and a 1931 version of The Gentleman's Companion. Let's just praise the cocktail gods that the recipe has been tracked down and now shared widely amongst us nerds.  The celery bitters add a more vegetal and herbal note, and nicely offset the sweetness from the vermouth.  If you'd like to buy Louis' bitters in LA (which you should), you can find them locally at K&L Wine Merchants and Bar Keeper.

Fourth Regiment
  • 1 1/2 oz rye whiskey (I used Templeton)
  • 1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (I used Punt é Mes)
  • 2 dashes celery bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 dash aromatic bitters, such as Angostura or Peychaud's (I used Miracle Mile's Barrel-Aged Forbidden bitters)
  • Lemon twist, for garnish
- In a mixing glass filled with ice, add all the ingredients and stir.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Feb 25, 2014

Bourbon Steak au Poivre

Libations used: 1/4 cup bourbon...
Libations left over: None, but make yourself a Manhattan or a Boulevardier (they're all the rage right now)...
I very rarely cook steak at home, because frankly, I'm a little nervous to.  Preparing steak has always been relegated to my dad firing up the grill at home, and now my guy friends have taken over the task. The most I've ever contributed to the process is the marinade (I still swear by this Sugar Steak with Bourbon recipe), but I started this blog for a reason, and that's to learn and constantly push myself.  I invited one of my friends over who's a fantastic cook to provide moral support and make sure I didn't light myself on fire with Food 52's Bourbon Steak au Poivre recipe.  Hey, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to go all the way and play with some flaming bourbon here.  I probably should have taken the batteries out of my super sensitive smoke detector first, but having it go off repeatedly is a right of passage.  Make sure you get those long kitchen matches so you don't burn yourself.  The sauce is oniony, sweet, rich, and smacks of delicious bourbon.  It's a quick and flavorful weeknight recipe, and a great dish to prepare for a special dinner for two.

Bourbon Steak au Poivre - serves 2
  • 2 small (6-8 oz) steaks, about 3/4-1 inch thick (I used Rib Eye)
  • 3 Tbs freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • Peanut oil
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped yellow oninon
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I used Bulleit)
- Using a paper towel, blot the steaks on both sides, until very dry (this helps you get a good sear)
- Season both sides of the steak with the freshly ground black pepper and salt.
- Coat a cast iron pan with a thin surface of peanut oil and place over high heat.
- When the oil is shiny and hot, turn on those fans above your stove and add the steaks in the pan, cooking on each side for 4 minutes (medium-rare), or longer if you prefer more well-done.
- Remove the steaks to a plate and let rest.
- Add the butter to the same pan and melt.
- Add the onions and sauté until browned and soft (about 2 minutes).
- Turn the fan OFF and reduce the heat to low.
- With a long kitchen match, light the bourbon on fire and let the flames subside.
- When that fire has gone out, pour the sauce over the steaks.

Feb 20, 2014

Moscow Mule

I am just absolutely addicted to watching The Olympics, and have been staying up way too late these past few nights watching curling, biathlon races, slope-style events, and figure skating.  I just can't help myself! To properly enjoy these TV marathons from home, I've been stirring up Moscow Mules.  So they're not actually Russian, and are purely an American concoction from the 1940s, created by a liquor company that had a tough time pushing their Smirnoff vodka.  But for the spirit of countries uniting, this cocktail works for Olympic drinking purposes.  I'm not a vodka fan at all, but I do love it with a generous squeeze of lime, combined with a good, spicy ginger beer, such as Fentimans.  Even if you don't have the fancy crushed ice and the signature copper mug, you can still thoroughly enjoy this libation.  Cheers and Zazdarovje!

Moscow Mule
  • 2 oz vodka (I used Grey Goose)
  • 1/2 oz lime juice (about half a lime)
  • 4-6 oz ginger beer (I used Fentimans)
- If you have a copper mug, then you are cooler than me.  If not, then use a Collins or whatever glass you have.
- Add all the ingredients into your drinking vessel with ice and drop the used half of lime in there too.
- Stir, and you're done!

Feb 18, 2014

Sherried Parsnip Soup with Hazelnut Pesto

Libations used: More than 1/4 cup dry sherry...
Libations left over: Enough to have a few glasses with friends after dinner, or make this Bittersweet After-Dinner cocktail...
It may have been over 70 degrees out here, but I know pretty much everyone else in the country is freezing their butts off, so this soup is for all of you!  My Gourmet Fresh cookbook has this lovely winter recipe for Sherried Parsnip Soup with a Hazelnut Pesto.  I absolutely adore parsnips and think it's such an underrated vegetable.  Sherry is also having its comeback, so do yourself a favor and buy a nice bottle so you can enjoy it after dinner and get accustomed to the flavor.  I'm a fan of Tio Pepe Fino Sherry.  This soup comes together fairly quickly, so it's a great weeknight dinner recipe.  The hazelnut pesto is made with parsley, olive oil, and hazelnut oil, with the latter being optional if you can't track it down.  You'll definitely have leftover pesto, so it's great to pop in the fridge for a week or the freezer for up to a month, and use on steak, fish, chicken, or pasta.  The soup itself is mild and comforting with a hint of sherry, so when you stir in that pesto, it just absolutely enriches the flavor.

Sherried Parsnip Soup with Hazelnut Pesto - serves 4-6
Soup Ingredients:
  • 1 lb parsnips (about 6 medium ones), peeled and sliced
  • 5 large shallots, sliced
  • 3 leeks, white and pale green parts sliced
  • 1 celery rib, sliced
  • 5 Tbs unsalted butter
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs dry Sherry (I used Tio Pepe)
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 3 Tbs heavy cream (optional)
  • 3/4 cup hazelnut pesto (recipe below)
To make the soup:
- In a 4-quart pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the parsnips, shallots, leeks, celery, and butter.
- Season with salt and black pepper, and sauté until moderately browned (about 10 minutes).
- Add 1/4 cup of the Sherry and cook until the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the water and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the veggies are very soft.
- Purée the mixture in batches in a blender.
- Transfer all the soup back into your pot and stir in the rest of the Sherry, cream, and add more salt and pepper, to taste.
- Divide soup in bowls and top with a generous dollop of pesto and some crushed, toasted hazelnuts.

Hazelnut Pesto Ingredients (make 1 1/2 cups):
  • 1 cup hazelnuts (about 4 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 cups packed, fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbs hazelnut oil (optional)
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To make the pesto:
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Place hazelnuts in one layer on a small baking sheet and place in the middle of the oven, toasting for about 10-15 minutes, until colored lightly and slightly blistered.
- Wrap the nuts in a paper towel and let them steam for about a minute.
- Rub the nuts in paper towels to remove the skins (not all will come off) and let cool completely.
- In a food processor, add all the ingredients and blend until smooth. I had to add a little bit of olive oil to loosen up the mixture a bit.

Feb 13, 2014

Pomegranate Gin Fizz

Perhaps you're hosting a gathering for your single gal pals on Valentine's Day, or maybe you're a guy reading this blog and trying to figure out which drink to serve your lady before or after a romantic, home-cooked dinner.  I posted this recipe for The Red Rooster cocktail earlier this week, but if your friends or lady love aren't bourbon fans, then this Pomegranate Gin Fizz from The Kitchn might set the mood straight.  It's simple, fool-proof and hey, pomegranates do have aphrodisiac qualities.  Just pick yourself up some PAMA liqueur, a bottle of gin (I'm a fan of No. 3 London Dry Gin) and some club soda, and you're done.  It's a little bit sweet and a little bit bitter, so it won't overpower any dessert you have planned.

Pomegranate Gin Fizz
  • 2 oz gin (I used No. 3 London Dry Gin)
  • 1 oz PAMA liqueur
  • Club soda, to taste
- In a glass filled with ice, add all of the ingredients and stir.
- Yeah, that's it...

Feb 12, 2014

The Red Rooster Cocktail

Stressing out about making a creative cocktail for your honey on Valentine's Day? For a special evening, you don't want to be fumbling around with something complicated, so impress your lady or man with an innovative twist on a classic Manhattan.  The Red Rooster cocktail, which was created by mixologist Aja Sax from her days at the Drake Hotel, is red and sexy.  It's not to be confused with the cranberry vodka Red Rooster.  Yeah, totally different here.  I found this recipe in Food & Drink magazine, and it has so many of my favorite spirits — Italian amari like Averna and Aperol, bitters, and bourbon.  I opted for the smooth and mellow Four Roses' Yellow Bourbon, because roses are romantic, right?  Even if you're observing Singles Awareness Day like I am, you can still stir this up for your best friends and celebrate how fabulous you all are.

The Red Rooster
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 oz bourbon (I used Four Roses' Yellow Bourbon)
  • 1/2 oz Averna
  • 1/2 oz Aperol
  • 3 drop orange bitters (I used Fee Brothers' West Indian Orange Bitters)
  • 1 drop Angostura bitters
  • 1 Luxardo cherry for garnish
- In a mixing glass filled with ice, add all the ingredients and stir, stir.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
- Garnish with a cherry and give your honey a smooch or say cheers to your friends.

Feb 4, 2014

Caramelized Onion & Shallot Dip

Libations used: 1 cup dry white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so treat yo' self with a glass while those onions are caramelizing...
I had some friends hosting a Super Bowl party this past Sunday, and I wanted to bring some nosh to contribute to their massive barbecue spread.  I also knew there was going to be a large crowd, so I wanted to make sure I brought enough of whatever I was preparing.  This Caramelized Onion & Shallot Dip from Bon Appetit makes like a vat of dip.  Okay, just a really big bowl, so it's perfect for parties.  Apologies that I didn't have this posted BEFORE the Super Bowl, but there are plenty of opportunities to host a get-together in the coming months — the Olympics, the Oscars, just because...This dip does take a little more effort because of the attention given to caramelizing the onions and shallots in the oven, but it's absolutely worth it.  Use a cheap white wine for the caramelizing, and feel free to make this at least three days in advance.  Serve with pita chips, crackers, pretzels or raw veggies.

Caramelized Onion & Shallot Dip - makes a lot (aka 16 servings)
  • 2 lbs of large yellow or white onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used some really cheap Quail Creek chardonnay)
  • 2 Tbs Sherry vinegar
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp onion powder
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Add the onions, shallots, thyme sprigs, and olive oil in a large roasting pan or baking dish.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Roast the onion mixture, stirring and scraping down the sides every 10 minutes for 45-55 minutes, until everything's golden brown.
- Discard the thyme sprigs.
- Add the wine and vinegar, stirring to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom.
- Return to the oven and roast for another 15 minutes, stirring after 10.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the sour cream, chives, yogurt and onion powder.
- When the onions are done, spread them on a baking sheet to cool.
- Once the onions have cooled, transfer them to a cutting board and mince.
- Transfer them to your large bowl and thoroughly combine.
- Season with more salt and pepper, to taste.