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Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cocktails. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Fresh Fruit is Appearing in the Farmers Markets, Time to Make Fruit Infused Vodka

Easy to make and colorful, fruit infused vodkas are a fun way to celebrate summer. Soft fruit like berries adds flavors quickly. Hard fruit like cherries takes a bit longer. Limoncello, the classic Italian liqueur, uses lemon peels to flavor vodka and takes many months.
Last year at this time I read an article about umeshu, Japanese plum wine. Marukai, a Japanese market, with a store in West Los Angeles on Pico near Bundy, mails a magazine-style newsletter with the store's weekly specials. The opening article each month has an explainer about a particular Japanese food or cooking style.

The article last year described how to turn ume (Japanese plums) into umeshu. The process was simple. Buy ume, wash them, pull out the little stems, place in a large glass jar, add Japanese rock sugar and a large bottle of vodka, put in a cool dark place and come back in a year.
Now I was on the hunt for ume which have a short season. I found them at Marukai and downtown at a farmers market near the Los Angeles Public Library Main Branch.
Because I had made Limoncello, the idea of waiting a year seemed so cool. I don't know why but waiting that long appealed to me. And the added benefit of putting out very little effort added to what seemed like fun.
When we visited Yabu, down the block on West Pico from Marukai, I told the waitstaff we see all the time that I was going to make umeshu. They loved the idea. It turned out umeshu is a liquor traditionally made by grandmothers.

I brought them a bottle of the umeshu and every time we came in during the year they asked if it was time to drink the umeshu. Not yet. Last month it was a year. Time to celebrate.

What they also told me was that after a year bathing in the vodka, the hard green ume would become sweetly edible.
Serving the fruit with the liqueur is a nice touch. Kind of an alcoholic fruit punch. I wrote about making sangria with chopped up fruit, so I'm continuing the idea with umeshu.

For Zester Daily I wrote about how to make cherry infused vodka and umeshu. The recipes are there. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Get Ready for Summer with Sangria Fruit Salad

When I was served a glass of sangria in a bar in San Sebastián, a small resort town on the coast of Northern Spain, I loved the way fresh fruit added flavor to the wine. Fortified with brandy and  sugar, sangria goes well with small sandwiches, salads and snacks.

Visit Spain and you'll see sangria pitchers wide at the base and pinched at the spout so when poured, the wine not the fruit fills the glass.

The result is a wine beverage that carries memories of the fruit but not the fruit itself. Sitting in that small bar, enjoying a relaxed afternoon, I wondered at this exclusion. Why keep the fruit out of the glass?
When peaches, apples, limes and oranges go into a sangria, they are sliced but not peeled. The thought that played around in my head was why not peel the fruit and cut everything into spoon sized pieces? Doing that would allow the wine and fruit to be served together. 

Place a dozen on a tray, with an espresso spoon in each glass and your guests will enjoy an appetizer and cocktail in one.

Sangria Fruit Salad

Using a bottle of quality wine to make sangria is a waste. The same goes for the brandy. Because so many of the flavors will come from other sources, select a drinkable, inexpensive red wine and brandy. Supermarkets and Trader Joe's sell good wines and brandies at a low price that work well. For the wine, I like Merlot, but the choice is entirely up to you. If you prefer white wine, fumé blanc and chardonnay are good. 
Use firm and ripe fruit that is in season. Stone fruit like cherries, peaches and nectarines, grapes, oranges, limes, strawberries, Fuji apples and pears work well. 

Cut up and add the fruits just before serving so they don't become soggy by absorbing too much wine.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 750 ml bottle red wine
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
Juice of one lemon or lime
3 oranges, preferably Valencia
2 Fuji apples, washed, peeled, cut into quarter sized cubes
2 white nectarines, washed, peeled, cut into quarter sized cubes
6 large strawberries, washed, stems removed

Directions

In a large pitcher, mix together the wine, brandy, sugar and lemon juice. Chill in the refrigerator. 

Using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all the peel together with the rind. Hold the peeled oranges over a bowl to catch all the juice. Cut the orange sections free from the membrane. When all the sections have been removed, squeeze the membrane to capture the last bit of delicious juice.

Just before serving, add the orange sections, orange juice and cut up strawberries, apples and nectarines. Stir well.

Use a ladle to fill glasses with a good amount of the fruit. Top off with the sangria. Place an espresso spoon in each glass.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ice Cold Sangria Fruit Salad Keeps Everyone Cool and Happy

When summer temperatures go up, my appetite goes down. I want less to eat and more to drink.

Homemade lemonade with mint is a great favorite. Iced tea in a tall glass filled with cracked ice is a great way to cool down. On a recent trip to Spain, I rediscovered sangria, which might be the best remedy for double and triple digit heat waves.
In the summer, the Iberia Peninsula bakes under an unforgiving sun. Spaniards long ago learned that the best way to beat back the effects of hot weather is to eat small plates ("tapas") and drink wine flavored with fresh fruit.

When I was served a glass of sangria in a bar in San Sebastián, a small resort town on the coast of Northern Spain, I loved the way fresh fruit added flavor to the wine. Fortified with brandy and  sugar, sangria goes well with small sandwiches, salads and snacks. 

Visit Spain and you'll see sangria pitchers. Wide at the base, the large pitchers have a spout pinched at the end. When the pitcher is made, the potter narrows the opening, allowing the wine but not the fruit into the glass.

The result is a wine beverage that carries memories of the fruit but not the fruit itself. Sitting in that small bar, enjoying a relaxed afternoon, I wondered at this exclusion. Why keep the fruit out of the glass?

When peaches, apples, limes and oranges go into a sangria, they are sliced but not peeled. The thought that played around in my head was why not peel the fruit and cut everything into spoon sized pieces? Doing that would allow the wine and fruit to be served together. 

Place a dozen on a tray, with an espresso spoon in each glass and your guests will enjoy an appetizer and cocktail in one.

Sangria Fruit Salad

Nothing is better than a great wine that has matured so that its best qualities delight the palate with layers of flavor and a multitude of notes. Using a bottle of quality wine to make sangria is a waste. The same goes for the brandy. Because so many of the flavors will come from other sources, select a drinkable, inexpensive red wine and brandy. Personally, I like Merlot, but the choice is entirely up to you. If you prefer white wine, fumé blanc and chardonnay work well . 
Use firm and ripe fruit that is in season. Stone fruit like cherries, peaches and nectarines, grapes, oranges, limes, strawberries, Fuji apples and pears work well. 

Cut up and add the fruits just before serving so they don't become soggy by absorbing too much wine.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 750 ml bottle red wine
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
Juice of one lemon or lime
3 oranges, preferably Valencia
2 Fuji apples, washed, peeled, cut into quarter sized cubes
2 white nectarines, washed, peeled, cut into quarter sized cubes
6 large strawberries, washed, stems removed

Directions

In a large pitcher, mix together the wine, brandy, sugar and lemon juice. Chill in the refrigerator. 

Using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all the peel together with the rind. Hold the peeled oranges over a bowl to catch all the juice. Cut the orange sections free from the membrane. When all the sections have been removed, squeeze the membrane to capture the last bit of delicious juice.

Just before serving, add the orange sections, orange juice and cut up strawberries, apples and nectarines. Stir well.

Use a ladle to fill glasses with a good amount of the fruit. Top off with the sangria. Place an espresso spoon in each glass.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

For New Year's Eve: A Favorite Cocktail

The holidays are a great time to break the work routine, slow down the daily tempo, and hang out with friends and family.

Cold weather makes the outdoors less hospitable. A warm kitchen invites like no other room in the house.  Pulling together appetizers, a salad, main dish, and a couple of desserts, is a lot of work but also great fun. 

With New Year's Eve fast approaching, the search is on to plan a festive meal. What better way to begin the celebration than with a drink that evokes the sweetness of the tropics.

Because there are edible pieces of fruit at the bottom, include a spoon so the cocktail can be enjoyed as a drink and an appetizer all in one.

Tropical Rum Cocktail

Yield: 4

Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup white rum
2 Fuyu persimmons, ripe, slightly soft, finely chopped
1 cup fresh orange juice, sweet
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
16 ice cubes

Method

Pour the white rum into a pitcher, add the powdered sugar, and stir well to dissolve. Add the finely chopped persimmons, orange and lime juice, and stir well to combine.

Put 4 ice cubes and a spoon into each glass, pour in the drink, making certain that the persimmon pieces are divided equally and serve.

Variations

Top with a fresh sprig of mint

Adjust the proportion of orange and lime juice, to taste

Substitute finely chopped mango, strawberries, kiwi, or fresh passion fruit for persimmons

Friday, May 14, 2010

If You Want a Caipirinha, You Can Travel Down to Rio, or You Can Make One at Home



Please take a look at a photo gallery about Rio I put together for the New York Daily News.  Seeing those photographs again, brings back wonderful memories.





The national drink of Brazil, the caipirinha, has 4 ingredients: cachaça, sugar, limes, and ice. Simple, delicious, and strong. Cachaça is harsher than rum but more flavorful than vodka.

Off and on for three years our older son, Franklin, lived in Brazil. We visited him in Rio where he introduced us to the pleasures of sitting on the Leblon beach, enjoying the incredible view and feasting on "appetizers" sold by vendors who walk up and down the beach.

The variety of delicious treats carried by vendors is amazing. Grilled chicken, saladinhos ("little salty snacks"), cheeses melted on a small brazier, shrimp on skewers, ice cold agua de coco from a freshly opened coconut, and a variety of fruit beyond belief. After you've eaten enough or want a break from watching the parade of beautifully tanned and under-dressed Cariocas (what the natives of Rio are called), a short walk to any of the restaurants and bars that line the beach and a caipirinha is waiting for you.

From now until the end of the Olympics in 2016, the vendors have been banished from the beaches, but you can be certain they'll be back.

Because Brazil has such a bounty of tropical fruits, it was only a matter of time before the caipirinha enjoyed the addition of other flavors. Frank had learned to make variations. Going to a nearby farmers' market, we picked out different fruit to add to the basic ingredients.

Back at his apartment we spent the afternoon working our way through many combinations. What we liked best was adding kiwi fruit and pomegranate seeds, then we experimented with the proportions.

Back home we discovered that cachaça is not easy to find.  Luckily, we tracked down Leblon cachaça so we could make caipirinhas whenever we wanted.

Caipirinha

Yield: 1

Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

2 ounces cachaça
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1/2 lime, cut into 8 pieces, mashed in a mortar and pestle
1/2 kiwi, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds
ice, cubed or crushed

Method

Pour the cachaça in a 12 ounce glass, add the sugar and stir well. Pour in the lime, kiwi, and pomegranate seeds. Mix and fill the glass with crushed ice. Serve with an espresso spoon so you can eat the kiwi and pomegranate seeds while you sip your caipirinha.

Variations

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Perfect Summer Appetizer: Prosciutto with Fig Puree and Cheese

The best appetizers are full of flavor, fun to look at, and, ideally, take very little effort to prepare. Vegetable crudites fit those requirements but they aren't exciting.

A delicious appetizer--albeit one for those without caloric restrictions--is a piece of prosciutto with a slice of triple cream and a topping of fig puree. The key to this dish is using high quality ingredients: Saint Andre triple cream, a good Italian prosciutto, and ripened farmers' market fresh figs.

The prosciutto can be rolled up but leaving it open is visually pleasing. Anyone picking one up will naturally do the rolling themselves.

Delicious any time of day: for breakfast, a light lunch with a salad, or in the evening with cocktails and wine.

Prosciutto with Fig Puree and Triple Cream

Yield 4-6

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 pound Italian prosciutto
10 very ripe figs, washed
1/3 pound triple cream

Method

The figs have to be very ripe. Scrape out the inside and discard the skins. Remove any excess fat from the prosciutto. Cut into pieces approximately 3" x 2". Cut the triple cream into small slices.

Place a slice of cheese on each piece of prosciutto, topped with a small spoonful of fig puree. Arrange on a plate. Serve cold or room temperature.

Variations

Lightly caramelize chopped almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts and sprinkle a few bits on top of the fig puree

Place the prosciutto with its toppings on a thin cracker or a piece of crisp garlic toast

Instead of triple cream, use a cheese of your choice, ideally a soft cheese

Roll the prosciutto around the cheese and fig puree

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Drinks of Summer: Martinis and Caipirinhas

Years ago I was working on a difficult job. The days were long. The heat oppressive. Many of my coworkers were given to fits of irrationality and unpleasantness. But finally, as with all things, the job was ending. To celebrate our release from pain, a final party was arranged before we returned to our lives and normalcy.

I remember being led downstairs to a grotto and in the dimness there was an apparition I've never forgotten.

A lone waiter, moving through the crowd--a Moses dividing the Red Sea--his elbow cocked, a tray balanced on one hand and on that tray were half a dozen shimmering glasses of cold, liquid pinkness. Somehow a light followed those glasses through the darkness as though a stagehand with a follow-spot had found the movie star we all dream about.

When I am hot, tired, and weary, the vision of those cosmopolitans held high above the crowd comes back to me and I am revived.

An ice-cold cosmopolitan brings a smile to my face, but from my travels I can offer up 3 more companions to lower the temperature on a hot summer night.

Beach Martini

On a trip to Houston and a stay at the Hotel Icon, Roberto Sanchez, one of the barmen in the Voice Lounge, improvised a cocktail that remains a favorite for its lightness and refreshing flavors.

Yield 1 serving

Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

1 1/2 ounces Finlandia vodka
3/4 ounce Patron Citron
1/2 ounce DeKuyper Watermelon Pucker
Splash of freshly squeezed orange juice

Method

Combine the ingredients with crushed ice. Shake. Strain and pour into a martini glass.

Kiwi-Pomegranate Caipirinha

The national drink of Brazil, the caipirinha, has 4 ingredients: cachaça, sugar, limes, and ice. Simple, delicious, and strong. Cachaça is harsher than rum but more flavorful than vodka.

Off and on for three years our older son, Franklin, lived in Brazil. We visited him in wonderfully complex Rio where he introduced us to the pleasures of sitting on the Leblon beach, enjoying the incredible view and feasting on "appetizers" sold by vendors who walk up and down the beach.

Because Brazil has such a bounty of tropical fruits, it was only a matter of time before the caipirinha enjoyed the addition of other flavors. Franklin had learned to make variations. Going to a nearby farmers' market, we picked out different fruit to add to the basic ingredients.

Back at his apartment we spent the afternoon working our way through many combinations. What we liked best was adding kiwi fruit and pomegranate seeds, then we experimented with the proportions.

When it was time to leave Rio, we packed our suitcase with as many bottles of cachaça as we could legally bring home.

Yield 1 serving

Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

2 ounces cachaça
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1/2 lime, cut into 8 pieces, mashed in a mortar and pestle
1/2 kiwi, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds
Ice, cubed or crushed

Pour the cachaça in a 12 ounce glass, add the sugar and stir well. Add the lime, kiwi, and pomegranate seeds. Fill the glass with ice and stir well.

Serve with a spoon so you can eat the kiwi and pomegranate seeds while you sip your caipirinha.

A True Pomegranate Martini

On a recent trip to Sonoma, visiting the amazing Sonoma Market, we picked up a bottle of Sonoma Syrup Co's Pomegranate Grenadine Simple Syrup. If you can find a bottle, which takes some doing, you'll read the label and find that this is one of the few (maybe the only) pomegranate syrups that is made exclusively with pomegranate juice and sugar, and, oh yeah, some water. Really delicious.

If you're lucky enough to find a source for Tanqueray Vodka--yes, Vodka--buy several bottles. Where we live only the upscale market, Gelson's, carries it and it is something special.

Yield 1 serving

Time 1 minute

Ingredients

5 ounces vodka, preferably Tanqueray
1/2 ounce Pomegranate Grenadine, preferably made by Sonoma Syrup Company

Method

Keep the vodka in the freezer. Combine the vodka and grenadine in a martini glass and stir well.

Monday, November 10, 2008

When Fun Was 90 Proof

A dear friend, Valerie Peterson, has published her second book and just in time for the holidays. Her first book extolled the virtues of cookies and gave detailed directions on the care and baking of the most imaginative cookies I've ever seen.

Now she has turned her sights on holiday drinks. She has written a funny, nostalgic handbook of holiday drinks called Peterson's Holiday Helper. Each drink has specific instructions with photographs that recall a more settled time.

I recommend her book to anyone who wants to discover a new favorite drink or as a stocking-stuffer gift for the holidays. Peterson's Holiday Helper is a keeper.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Perfect Meal: Salad, Pasta, and a Good Stiff Drink

A friend and I had a tough day and we needed a quiet place to have dinner and recover. We happened across Matteo's, a West LA fixture since the Frank Sinatra Rat Pack days.

The menu is Old School, with sections for Antipasti, Salumi, Insalta, Pasta, Seafood, Chicken, Chef's Specialities, and Weekly Specialties. I'll definitely come back for Tuesday's Roast Pig alla Porchetta Dinner. Tonight I settled on a Caesar salad, Spaghettini alla Vongole, and a Perfect Manhattan with a twist. I have to say, the combination was about as right as it could have been.

The dinner reminded me that a salad, pasta, and a drink was a good way to settle down and switch gears from work-manic to social. Tonight I decided to do my own version of this trifecta and make an Arugula Salad with Feta and Olives, Spaghetti with Parsley and Bacon, and a Perfect Manhattan.

Perfect Manhattan

A Perfect Manhattan mixes up easily and should be the first thing you make, so you can sip while you cook.

Yield: 1 serving

Time: 2 minutes

Ingredients

4 oz. Bourbon or Whiskey
½ oz. Sweet Vermouth
½ oz. Dry Vermouth
1 twist of lemon peel, 1" long, ¼" wide

Method

Keep the Bourbon in the freezer so it will be extra cold. Pour the Bourbon and both vermouths into a martini glass, stir, drop in the twist, and sip contentedly.

Arugula Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

1 bunch arugula, washed, dried, the leaves pulled off the stems
10 oil cured black olives, pits removed, cut in half
1 scallion, washed, trimmed, sliced, the white and green parts
¼ cup feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons reduced balsamic syrup
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt

Method

Toss the arugula, olives, scallions, and feta in a salad bowl, then drizzle the olive oil and reduced balsamic syrup. Taste and season with pepper and sea salt as desired.

Spaghetti with Parsley and Bacon

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound dried spaghetti
½ cup Italian parsley, washed, the leaves finely chopped, the stems not used
4 strips of bacon, already cooked, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup homemade chicken stock or pasta water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
Freshly ground Parmesan or Romano cheese

Method

Put a large pot of salted water (1 teaspoon of Kosher salt to 1 gallon of water) on a high flame while you sauté the parsley, finely chopped bacon, and garlic in the olive oil until softened, not browned. Add the dried pasta to the boiling water, stir well, and check every 5 minutes, stirring each time, until cooked al dente.

To capture 1 cup of pasta water, put a measuring cup in the sink next to the colander. Empty the pot into the colander, filling the measuring cup with pasta water as you do. To keep the pasta hot while you finish the sauce, put the spaghetti back in the pot, drizzle with olive oil, stir well, and cover.

Use the chicken stock or the pasta water to deglaze the pan, adding the butter and mixing with the parsley-bacon-garlic mixture. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Taste and season with sea salt or black pepper if needed. Serve with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Caipirinhas, the New Mojito






The national drink of Brazil, the caipirinha, has 4 ingredients: cachaça, sugar, limes, and ice. Simple, delicious, and strong. Cachaça is harsher than rum but more flavorful than vodka.

Off and on for three years our older son, Frank, lived in Brazil. We visited him in Rio where he introduced us to the pleasures of sitting on the Leblon beach, enjoying the incredible view and feasting on "appetizers" sold by vendors who walk up and down the beach.

The variety of delicious treats carried by vendors is amazing. Grilled chicken, saladinhos ("little salty snacks"), cheeses melted on a small brazier, shrimp on skewers, ice cold agua de coco from a freshly opened coconut, and a variety of fruit beyond belief. After you've eaten enough or want a break from watching the parade of beautifully tanned and under-dressed Cariocas (what the natives of Rio are called), a short walk to any of the restaurants and bars that line the beach and a caipirinha is waiting for you.

Because Brazil has such a bounty of tropical fruits, it was only a matter of time before the caipirinha enjoyed the addition of other flavors. Frank had learned to make variations. Going to a nearby farmers' market, we picked out different fruit to add to the basic ingredients.

Back at his apartment we spent the afternoon working our way through many combinations. What we liked best was adding kiwi fruit and pomegranate seeds, then we experimented with the proportions.

When it was time to leave Rio, we packed our suitcase with as many bottles of cachaça as we could legally bring home.

2 ounces cachaça
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1/2 lime, cut into 8 pieces, mashed in a mortar and pestle
1/2 kiwi, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds
ice, cubed or crushed

Pour the cachaça in a 12 ounce glass, add the sugar and stir well. Pour in the lime, kiwi, and pomegranate seeds. Mix and fill the glass with crushed ice. Serve with an espresso spoon so you can eat the kiwi and pomegranate seeds while you sip your caipirinha.

Serves 1.