Friday, July 31, 2015

8-2-Eat: Fresh Basil

Fresh Basil

8-2-Eat is my food-focused list series. A perfect Friday distraction. Today, I feature 8 great ways to enjoy summer's marquee herb, basil.

1. Pesto. This classic Italian blend of basil, pine nuts and cheese is a great way to use up basil if you find yourself with an excess of the herb. In the summer, it's great to have on hand for pasta and sandwiches.

2. Gazpacho. The classic Spanish cold soup--so perfect for hot summer days--is heavy on tomatoes and other vegetables but needs a touch of basil for green flavor. Try this Creamy Andalusian version.

Tipsy gazpacho cocktail
3. Tipsy Gazpacho Cocktail. A summery gin cocktail inspired by the cold soup (see #2 above) and made with a roasted tomato syrup and fresh basil.

4. Ratatouille. Basil tops an assortment of sautéed summer vegetables.

5. Tomato Bruschetta. Crusty toasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with tomatoes. So simple, so summery perfect, especially when finished with fresh basil.

Roasted tomato panzanella
6. Panzanella. Our favorite summer salad of toasted bread cubes, heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and fresh mozzarella, dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar,  just isn't complete without a burst of fresh basil flavor.

7. Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad. A chiffonade (sliced thin strands) of fresh basil is a must for a good summer pasta, whether served hot or cold like in this salad.

Sliced fresh tomato salad
8. Sliced Fresh Tomato Salad. When summer tomatoes are at their peak, they need little enhancement, but some fresh basil is always a welcome partner.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: The Cocktail Chronicles - By Paul Clarke

The Cocktail Chronicles By Paul Clarke

"It's just a damn drink," remarks author Paul Clarke near the beginning of his introduction to The Cocktail Chronicles: Navigating the Cocktail Renaissance with Jigger, Shaker & Glass. But, of course, it's so much more, as Clarke sets up how this "damn drink" has captured the attention of bartenders and drinkers all over the world. Whether you call it the "craft cocktail movement" or the "cocktail renaissance," it's the revolution in drinking that began in the mid 2000s (the decade) and continues to this day as cocktail aficionados (including me) rediscover old drinking traditions and the joy of fresh, quality ingredients applied alongside modern techniques and the ever-expanding availability of unique bottles. Indeed, it is an exciting time to imbibe.

Clarke's is the most hotly anticipated of this year's books about cocktails, the latest in a series of wonderful works charting recipes, techniques and traditions (see the "related links" below for some of my other recent favorites). He is the executive editor of Imbibe magazine, a bimonthly publication covering all things potable that I love subscribing to. In 2005 he started the blog The Cocktail Chronicles (where his book gets its name), which is still going 10 years later, although hasn't been updated much in recent years (because he was working on the book).

Manhattan cocktail
Manhattan cocktail (recipe below)
The book is grounded in the modern cocktail renaissance, but has a strong emphasis on how that contemporary movement is linked to historical cocktail eras spanning back to the late 19th century. Along with sharing a long list of great cocktail recipes, he tells the stories of these drinks and the bartenders behind them, stories that are both old and new, as well as connected. After an introductory chapter, The Cocktail Chronicles' recipes are divided into three chapters: classic recipes; contemporary recipes; and "muses & bridges," a shorter chapter on the most popular cocktails and their variations.

Twentieth Century cocktail
Twentieth Century cocktail (recipe below)
The book's cocktail entries are informative, charting the context and backstory of many of the drinks. Some of these segments are based on, but not identical to, posts from The Cocktail Chronicles blog. For example, Clarke's 2005 post on the classic Twentieth Century cocktail gets expanded context in the book as he charts how the 1930s-era drink inspired the recent Twenty-First Century and 30th Century Man cocktails by Jim Meehan (who wrote the book's foreword, as well as the popular PDT Cocktail Book) and Nathan Weber, respectively.

You might think everything has been said that needs to be about the Manhattan, but Clarke nicely posits the drink as a key bridge between spirit-dominated cocktails (like the Old Fashioned) and something softer like a Sherry Cobbler. He then goes on to provide recipes for 10 Manhattan variations, a mix of older ones like the Saratoga and newer ones from New York, Boston and San Francisco bartenders. The Manhattan is one of the "muses & bridges" cocktails, perhaps my favorite section of the book, where Clarke takes an in-depth look at the origins and variations of five prominent cocktails: the Manhattan, Martini, Negroni, Old Fashioned and Daiquiri. The Daiquiri more than any other drink deserves this excellent reminder that it is a refined classic and not a fruit slushie (Clarke includes eight Daiquiri variations without a strawberry or banana in sight).

The Graduate cocktail
The Graduate cocktail (recipe below)
A lot of the famed bars of the cocktail renaissance are in New York (PDT, Death & Co., Mayahuel, Booker & Dax, etc.), but Clarke launched his blog from Seattle, and Imbibe is headquartered in Portland. Hence, The Cocktail Chronicles' selection of newer drinks has a nice bi-coastal flavor. I found a couple of delicious examples from Portland bartenders, including the Ephemeral from Raven & Rose bartender David Shenaut, an Old Tom gin drink with floral notes of St. Germain and celery bitters, and The Graduate, a thoroughly satisfying combination of Scotch, sweet vermouth, orange curaçao and tonic from Teardrop Lounge bartender Daniel Shoemaker.

Unlike several other recent cocktail books, Clarke's recipes are written generically without specific ingredients, although he will often make suggestions either in the recipe itself or the accompanying text. I like this approach since I personally don't think cocktails need to be made so exact as require specific brands (there might be some exceptions though). In the recipes from the book below, I shared what I used to make the drinks.

The book concludes with the obligatory chapter on "bottles, tools & tips," which I found most useful for its bottles section, which Clarke packs with smart recommendations while managing to be quite concise. If you already own several of the good recent books on cocktails, the tools and tips will be familiar, but if not, Clarke covers the essentials well.

The Cocktail Chronicles would be a nice addition to any cocktail library. I would certainly include it in my recent rundown of good books for stocking your bar. Although the book lacks flashy photography, its content is solid and well organized. A cocktail book with good recipes is important, but getting the back story behind those recipes makes for an even more satisfying read. Whether you're just discovering the joy of the cocktail renaissance or are already steeped in its lore, The Cocktail Chronicles will entertain and inspire while filling your cocktail glass with not just a damn drink, but a damn fine one.

Twentieth Century
Clarke writes that "gin, lemon and chocolate is an unexpected combination, but just works. Works? Hell, it sings.." I couldn't agree more. This is a nicely balanced drink. Its gin and citrus profile with other unusual ingredients reminds me of a Last Word. Recipe adapted from Paul Clarke's recipe in The Cocktail Chronicles, originally from the 1937 Café Royal Cocktail Book.

1 1/2 oz. gin (I used Fifty Pounds gin)
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. Lillet blanc (not having this, I substituted Dolin blanc)
3/4 oz. white crème de cacao liqueur
Lemon twist garnish

Combine gin, lemon juice, Lillet blanc and crème de cacao in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until very cold, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

Clarke shares that the original Manhattan had a 1:2 ratio of whiskey to sweet vermouth before settling into the more-whiskey version as we know it today. I usually employ a 3:1 whiskey-to-vermouth ratio when I make it with Bulleit rye whiskey, but his 2:1 is perfect for the higher-proof Rittenhouse rye. Recipe adapted from Paul Clarke's recipe in The Cocktail Chronicles.

2 oz. rye whiskey (I used Rittenhouse)
1 oz. sweet vermouth (I used Dolin)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Cherry garnish (I used a maraschino cherry)

Combine whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters in a cocktail mixing glass with ice. Stir until well chilled then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Ephemeral cocktail

I was drawn to this drink because I have a bottle of Dolin blanc vermouth I want to use up before it goes bad. The drink's sweetness nicely mellows the bitter and floral flavors of the other ingredients. Recipe adapted from Paul Clarke's recipe in The Cocktail Chronicles, originally from David Shenaut of Raven & Rose in Portland, Ore.

1 1/2 Old Tom gin (I used Hayman's)
1 oz. blanc vermouth (I used Dolin)
2 tsp. elderflower liqueur (I used St. Germain)
3 dashes celery bitters (I actually used 2 dashes of Bittermens Orchard Street Celery Shrub)
Grapefruit twist garnish

The Graduate
I love the story behind this cocktail. During a visit to Teardrop Lounge, Clarke asked bartender Daniel Shoemaker to fashion an original drink from short list of ingredients. Thus, after a brief moment of "panic," the "brilliance" of The Graduate emerged--and I agree it is a brilliant drink. Recipe adapted from Paul Clarke's recipe in The Cocktail Chronicles, originally from Daniel Shoemaker of Teardrop Lounge in Portland, Ore.

1 oz. sweet vermouth (I used Dolin)
3/4 oz. blended Scotch whiskey (I used Johnny Walker Red)
1/2 oz. curaçao (I used Pierre Ferrand)
1/2 oz. tonic water (I used Fever Tree India)
Lemon twist garnish

Combine vermouth, whiskey and curaçao in a rocks glass with ice and stir to combine. Top with the tonic water, stir again and garnish with a lemon twist.

Related Links
Curious about other great recent cocktail books? Here are links to stories about some of my favorites.

The Bar Book - Jeffrey Morgenthaler

Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas by Brad Thomas Parsons

Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails - David Kaplan, Nick Faulchald and Alex Day

Savory Cocktails - Greg Henry

Stocking Your Bar - Books

Monday, July 27, 2015

Turkey Shepherd's Pie

Turkey Shepherd's Pie

Often when I hit my neighborhood farmers market on Saturday morning, I have a plan for what I want to get and what I'll make with it during the following week. On a recent Saturday, however, I was struggling. I couldn't decide what I wanted to make! So, I set out for the New Morning Farm Saturday market at Sheridan School with the hope that the ingredients I found there would inspire my direction.

Sure enough, after picking up corn, a sweet onion, a couple carrots and a good handful of green beans, I decided to make Shepherd's Pie, the classic Irish dish of diced or ground meat, vegetables and gravy sealed with a layer of mashed potatoes and baked until the potatoes brown a bit on top. According to The Food Lover's Companion, the dish originated as a way to use leftovers from the "Sunday roast." I think it can be just as useful as a showcase for summer vegetables.

I used Alton Brown's recipe as a template for this Shepherd's Pie, but made some key changes. I used ground turkey instead of ground lamb, upped the ratio of vegetables-to-meat in the filling by adding corn, celery and green beans and omitted the egg from the potato topping, as it just didn't seem needed. This makes my version a little lighter and more "summery" than Brown's recipe.

Turkey Shepherd's Pie
Adapted liberally from Shepherd's Pie by Alton Brown for Food Network

1 1/2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup half-n-half
Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb. ground turkey (dark meat recommended)
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Corn kernels cut from 1 ear of corn

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.

2. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with 1-inch of water. Place on the stove and bring to boil. Cook the potatoes until tender, then drain. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl. Add the butter and mash the potatoes with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon. Warm the half-n-half in the microwave and stir it into the potatoes along with salt and freshly ground white pepper.

3. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and green beans and sauté until the ingredients have softened, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Add ground turkey to the pan and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned. Sprinkle the meat with the flour, toss to coat and cook for another minute. Add back the cooked vegetables, then add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer covered for about 10 minutes to thicken the gravy. Stir in the corn and turn off the heat.

4. Transfer vegetable-gravy mixture to a 9 X 9 glass baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top, making sure to "seal" the potatoes against the edge of the baking dish. Smooth the top with a spatula. Place the baking dish on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until the potatoes begin to brown, about 25-30. Remove from oven and set on a cooling rack to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 24, 2015

8-2-Eat: Summer Sweet Corn

Corn Pancake with Blackberries

8-2-Eat is my food-focused list series. A perfect Friday distraction. Today, I feature 8 great ways to enjoy fresh summer sweet corn. 

Corn on the Cob. When you get really fresh, sweet corn that's so amazing by itself (like the kind I get at the New Morning Farm farmers market), it doesn't need anything more than a quick dip in boiling water to be absolutely delicious.

Corn Pancake with Blackberries. Corn for breakfast? Why not, when it's in the form of a delicious pancake (pictured above).

Roasted Corn and Chicken Enchiladas
Roasted Corn and Chicken Enchiladas. Corn is a wonderful flavor in Tex-Mex cuisine, like these enchiladas.

Corn Soup. This simple corn soup is inspired by one of my favorite New York food memories, when a simple bowl of chilled soup satisfied our hunger on a really hot day.

Bacon Barley Kale Corn Mushroom Soup. The name of this soup is a mouthful--a mouthful of deliciousness. I came up with this recipe last year as a way to combine ingredients with a range of savory flavors with sweet summer corn.

Corn Chowder. A simple summer classic.

MaCorny & Cheese
MaCorny & Cheese. A mac & cheese + corn chowder mashup that's divine.

Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Blackberry Sauce. Corn for dessert? Why not. It's naturally quite sweet, making it the perfect flavor for a delicious summer ice cream.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cocktail: Basil Smash

I discovered this refreshing summer cocktail in Imbibe magazine's Cocktails from the Garden, an extra for subscribing to the magazine. Although there is another version of Basil Smash on Imbibe's website, I like this version better. It was created by Anu Apte of Seattle's Rob Roy. This is the kind of refreshing highball cocktail that is perfect for summer, especially if you can get your hands on some good fresh basil.

Basil Smash
Adapted from a recipe by Anu Apte of Rob Roy in Seattle from Imbibe Magazine's Cocktails from the Garden

3 large basil leaves
1 oz. vodka (I used Tito's)
1/2 oz. reposado tequila (I used Camarena)
1 whole clove
1/8 oz. agave nectar
1 dash Regans’ orange bitters
Grapefruit soda (I used Q)
Ice cubes (for shaking)
Crushed ice (for serving)
4-5 dashes Angostura bitters
Basil leaf garnish

Add the basil leaves and vodka to a cocktail shaker and muddle the basil leaves. Add the tequila, clove, agave nectar and bitters and fill the shaker with ice. Shake until cold then double-strain* into a collins glass filled with crushed ice. Top with grapefruit soda and the Angostura bitters floated on top. Garnish with a basil leaf.

*Note: To double-strain a cocktail means to use both a standard cocktail strainer--like a hawthorne strainer--and a fine-mesh sieve held between the shaker and the glass. The sieve catches any small particles, like little pieces of basil in the case of this drink.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Loaded Quinoa Bowl

If you live in Washington, D.C., I hope you've gotten to try Beefsteak, José Andrés' vegetable-focused fast-casual restaurant located on the George Washington University campus. Shortly after I visited it a few months ago, I was inspired to make a sugar snap pea salad. More recently, after seeing Andrés quinoa bowl recipe in Food & Wine magazine, I was inspired again to revisit the Beefsteak approach.

What I like about the Vegetable Quinoa Bowls with Garlic Yogurt recipe is the combination of lightly cooked and raw ingredients tossed together with a grain (or seed, in this case, since the base is quinoa). I used a similar combination of ingredients but added a few of my own and left out the lettuce and garlic yogurt--my bowl had enough going on with the honey-lemon dressing.

I also used a combination of white and red quinoa--mostly because I had just a little bit of red left in a bag I wanted to use up--but I like the resulting color contrast. Feel free to use just one color.

Loaded Quinoa Bowl
Inspired by Vegetable Quinoa Bowls with Garlic Yogurt by José Andrés, Food & Wine

Kale chips:
12 kale leaves, thin part removed from stem (stems discarded) and torn into 2-inch pieces
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Seasoned salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

3/4 cups white or red (or a mix) quinoa, rinsed (it's okay if it's still a little damp from rinsing; it will dry out quickly in the hot pan)
1 cup water

Cooked ingredients:
1/2 lb. green beans, ends trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 zucchini, cut into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slices

Raw ingredients:
1 beefsteak tomato, cut into 1/4-inch thick pieces
1 cucumber, partially peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces
1 avocado, peeled, seed removed and sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces
2 tbsp. unsalted toasted pumpkin seeds

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. honey (substitute agave nectar to make the recipe vegan)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Roast the kale chips: Preheat oven to 250 F. Spread kale leaves evenly across two baking sheets. Toss or spray with olive oil. Season with seasoned salt and pepper. Bake until dried and wilted, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2. Cook the quinoa: Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa and toast, stirring frequently, until the quinoa is fragrant and makes a popping sound almost continuously, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the seeds are just tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pan to sit covered for 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Cooked ingredients: Bring a medium saucepan half-filled with water to boil. Add the green beans and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water to cool and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and zucchini, and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.

4. Combine ingredients: In a large bowl, combine the kale chips, quinoa, green beans, onion, garlic, zucchini, tomato, cucumber, avocado in  large bowl. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the vegetable-grain mixture. Toss to combine. Serve in large bowls.


No Beef with Beefsteak

Crunchy Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Glacier Cocktail

Glacier Cocktail

A highlight of our recent trip to Alaska was seeing glaciers. I'd never really thought about how amazing they are until I saw a few up close. We got particularly close to the Hubbard Glacier, which our ship floated up to one morning so we could all get a good view, and the Mendenhall Glacier, which Chris, my mother and I visited by helicopter and got to walk on.

Hubbard Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Top: Hubbard Glacier. Bottom: Mendenhall Glacier.

One of the most striking things about glaciers besides their size is their color. They really are a vivid shade of blue. And it's not a matter of sky reflecting off of them--like what often makes the ocean or a lake look blue--but rather because very dense ice without bubbles (like glacier ice) absorbs other colors of the spectrum but not blue, which shines through.

Glacier Ice
Glacier Ice
Up-close photos of glacier ice.

This cocktail was inspired by our visit to the these glaciers. I used white rye whiskey, which I realize may be hard to find (so I suggest you could use vodka), but is an interesting summer alternative to rye whiskey. The grated nutmeg on top is because glaciers are a little dirty on top. It also tastes good in the drink.

Glacier Cocktail

1 oz. white rye whiskey (may substitute vodka)
1 oz. blue curaçao
1/2 oz. green Chartreuse
2 dashes Regan orange bitters
5 oz. ice cubes
Grated nutmeg, garnish

Combine the white rye whiskey, blue curaçao, green Chartreuse, orange bitters and ice in a blender. Blend until smooth. Poor into a large round wine glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg and serve with a straw.