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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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.