Thursday, April 27, 2017

Custom Cocktails: Step 1, Infuse your liquor

I have a bit of a reputation for making unusual (and tasty) cocktails featuring unexpected flavors. One of my favorite things to use in these is infused vodka (and tequila).  Now, many people think it's super fancy and difficult to make these (it's not). Others think it's somehow dangerous (it's not, to my knowledge).

My latest obsession is vodka infused with vegetables.  To be specific, I've been enjoying celery and beet infusions, along with my ubiquitous dried chile vodka.  Veg cocktails are fun, different, and pair really well with food.

Want to get in on the fun?  Grab a bottle of vodka, some veg, and let's go!


Neutral vodka (I like the Kirkland brand American vodka at Costo)
organic celery, washed well and sliced horiontally
celery seed
red beets (peeled and cut into chunks - doesn't need to be organic since you peeled them)
dried organic chile peppers (I grow and dry red cayenne, but any chile will work)
3 pint size ball jars with lids

In the first jar, add about 1/2 cup celery slices.  Add 1tsp. celery seed.  Fill with vodka, screw the lid on very tightly, and shake.

In the second jar, add about 1 /2 cup of beet chunks, fill with vodka, screw the lid on very (very) tightly, and shake.

In the third jar, break up 4-5 dried chiles.  Fill, with vodka, screw the lid on tightly, and shake.

Set jars aside overnight, then place in refrigerator.  Let infuse in the fridge for at least a week, drain out the veg, and enjoy!

Stay tuned for new recipes on what to do with your *fancy* new infused vodkas...

Back to Teaching! All About Herbs: Culinary Magic and Sustainability

Come join us for a fun, hands-on class about all things herbs.  We will discuss growing, maintaining, ,and using the bounty you get when you grow your own herb garden.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Not pumpkin spice...but yes to cider + tequila - custom cocktail series

I don't get the obsession with pumpkin spice. It's gotten completely out of control. 

That being said, I adore fall, apple everything, and yes, pumpkin. 

Oh, and I like tequila. If you do, too, mix this up and toast this fab season. 

3 oz reposado tequila
4 oz apple cider
Juice of one lime
3/4 oz agave nectar
Pinch of ground cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in a shaker over ice, shake well, and pour into a martini glass. 

The magic of cherry and mezcal - custom cocktail series

I love interesting, not too sweet cocktails. I especially love the ones made with mezcal. There is something magical about the smoky spirit this time of year. 

Cherry juice provides an interesting counterpoint, balancing the bite of the mezcal without over-sweetening. 

This is one for the bucket list...and don't forget the salted rim. 

3 oz mezcal
2 oz tart cherry juice (I found this at target, Cherribundi brand)
1 oz Grand Marnier
Juice of one lemon
1/4 oz agave nectar
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a shaker over ice. Shake very well and pour into a salt-rimmed glass. 

Bonus points if you use citrus salt. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fermented Apple-Cranberry Butter

Like anyone, there are things I am passionate about, and things I could care less about.  There are things I enjoy doing, and things I dread.  Independent of all that, there are some things that are just hard-wired into me, and I am simply compelled to do them.
One of these hard-wired attributes that I'm known for all around town is my unwillingness to throw anything usable out.  I learned this from my dad.
Dad has always been a Renaissance man.  If it's broken, he can fix it.  If he needs it, he can design and build it.  If it needs used up, he has ideas.  If it's a problem, he can solve it.  If it needs support he can reinforce it.  If you need convinced, he can persuade you.  If you need help, he's the first to put out his hand to pull you up.  He's a hard worker who knows how to relax, too, and he taught this to my sisters and me over the years by example.
Never ones to shirk from an adventure, he and Mom decided to buy a farm last year.  Now, some might find this odd, as Dad has been somewhat retired for many years now, but to those of us that know and love them both, this was zero surprise.  They bought this farm so that their grandkids would have a place to run free and wild to

explore, and where family and friends could gather often to recharge.  One thing they didn't count on was all of the food growing wild up there.  Every time we find something new, I am *compelled* to preserve it.  Our latest food adventure on the farm has been picking apples.  My sister identified the varietal as Pippins, once grown by Thomas Jefferson.  I identified them as an awesome target for making new fermented things...because *obviously* we couldn't just leave them there.  Instead, we picked gallons (and gallons) of apples and then started figuring out what to do with them.  I happened to have some tasty fermented cranberries hanging around from last winter, so I combined a few recipes and came up with the one below.
Note:  you could make this without the cranberries, and potentially, with fresh cranberries if you stew them with the apples.  I haven't tried that, but I would imagine it would work.  If you want to make the cranberries, go read how, courtesy of Christopher and Kirsten Shockey, here.

6 lbs apples, quartered and cored (unpeeled)
2 T. cinnamon
1 c. water
2 c. fermented cranberries, drained
3/4 c. brown sugar (unless your  apples are super sweet - Pippins are not)
3-4 T. honey (again, unless your apples are super sweet)
good pinch of kosher salt
1 T. culture starter dissolved in 1/4 c. water

Combine the apples, cinnamon, and water in a crockpot.  Cover and cook on high for 12 hours.  Provided the apples are nice and soft at the end of this 12 hours, drain, being sure to reserve *all* the cooking liquid.  Return the apples to the crockpot, along with the cranberries, and puree with an immersion blender.  Add back the cooking liquid a little at a time until you reach a consistency you're happy with.  Taste.  If you need the sugar and/or honey, add them now. Add the salt and stir very well.  Taste again.  Adjust as is necessary with sugar and/or honey until you like the result.  This can be really variable depending upon what kind of apples you use.
Keep the crockpot on high and re-cover.  Cook for 2 hours or so until you are pleased with the viscosity of the butter.

Cool for about an hour.  Meanwhile, dissolve the culture starter in water and set aside.  When the butter is about room temperature, stir in the starter and spoon into jars.  Loosely cap with lids and set on the counter for 3 days.  Along the way, taste.  When you are happy with the developed flavor, put the jars in the refrigerator to stop the ferment.

This makes about 2 1/2 quarts.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Kimchi Coconut Soup

I really love fermented things, and I ferment my own, often.  As such, I'm always looking for new ways to eat my delicious food in jars.  I also hate to throw anything out, so I'm always thinking about ways to use lots and lots of tasty veg in one dish.  I love Asian-inspired food, so I came up with this.


I've been eating this a lot (A LOT) lately.  With my son now in real school (aka Kindergarten) and both kids in sports activities, my crazy life has one speed:  hair-on-fire fast.  This soup is about as simple as it gets and it's *fast*.  Win-win.


2-4 c. sliced veg (shiitake, red peppers, pak choy, kale, etc)
1/2 c. kimchi*
1 can lite coconut milk
1/2 can water
salt to taste
1 lime, juiced


Slice all the veg and add it straight to a deep saute pan.  Add the kimchi.  Add the coconut milk, water, and salt (if desired).

Cover, cook on medium-high for about 5 minutes.  Then remove the lid, and cook an additional 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, add the lime.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.


*note:  I ferment my own kimchi (between the hours of midnight and 6a, to be sure), but any delicious kimchi you favor will work great in this recipe.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

This is why I cook, aka Ramp and Preserved Meyer Lemon Pesto

As previously discussed, we love pesto in this house.   My kids, do, I do, my extended family and friends do...and with good reason.  Pesto can be made with a myriad of ingredients (e.g. NOT JUST BASIL AND PINE NUTS) and it's good on almost everything.  This version came together out of my love of ramps and preserved citrus.  I had both on hand and wanted to do something fresh and approachable, yet bold and delicious.  Using ramps and preserved citrus eliminates the need for garlic or additional salt, so this comes together in about 5 minutes.

BONUS:  when you make pesto with greens instead of basil, it doesn't tend to turn all nasty and brown.

Ramp and Preserved Meyer Lemon Pesto

1 bunch of ramps, washed and trimmed, stems and roots sliced, leaves cut into ribbons
1 c. walnuts, toasted
3/4 (or 3 segments) of a preserved Meyer lemon (regular preserved lemons would work too)
1 c. salty, hard cheese, grated (I used ricotta salata that I cured, but Parmesan would also be delicious)
1/2 - 3/4 c. good olive oil

I like to make pesto in my food processor, but I suppose you could use whatever you like to use for such things.  Start the blade on the processor, and drop the stems and roots of the ramps through the chute.  Then add the walnuts, letting it run for a minute or so.  Add the preserved lemon and cheese, and then run until everything is really well minced and combined.  Scrape down the bowl and restart the blade.  Pour the oil through the chute until you get the consistency you desire.

Now, spread this on everything, storing any (temporary) leftovers in a jar in the refrigerator.  The pesto should keep about a week, but it never lasts that long in my house.