October 22, 2011

My New Favorite Tipple: The Pink Victrola

So... life is funny and wonderful. I haven't felt like blogging in literally- a few years. I've been so involved with other things that the time and energy that I had to devote to cooking and documenting my cooking, and writing was pretty much nil. However, things have changed once again, and I now am feeling that pull towards fun and creativity that having a little more "me" time affords.
So to avoid boring you with more introspective epiphanies, let's cut to the chase.
I have a new favorite drink.
It all started with a new (for me) gin: Hendrick's gin. Love it. Really. I mean, I could go on about bouquet and roses and cucumber and juniper, but really you have to just try it and see if it's for you. It's definitely for me.
So I went on the Hendrick's site (which is great fun by the way) and started poking around to see if there was a cocktail recipe that jumped out at me. There was: The Pink Victrola.
This is not a super complicated drink recipe. The only fancy equipment you need is a nice glass and a cocktail shaker.

Here's your list of ingredients:

Pink Victrola
1.5 parts gin - Hendrick's is delicious.
1.5 part grapefruit juice - I use ruby red.
0.5 part lemon juice
0.5 part simple syrup* homemade, recipe to follow
1 spoonful of grenadine** homemade, recipe to follow

*Simple syrup is made by combining water and sugar in a 1:1 ratio. You may bring it to a boil and let simmer for a thicker syrup, or you may just let it dissolve for a thin syrup. I heated mine in a saucepan to facilitate sugar incorporation but didn't let it boil for any length of time. This made a nice syrup with a bit of body but not really thick or sticky.

**Grenadine is a delicious syrup made from pomegranate juice. I went out and bought a bottle of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and added sugar in equal proportion, warmed to just dissolve the sugar and that was that. There is no substitute for real pomegranate juice grenadine- and yes you can tell if it's not there. I tried it without to test, and it is discernibly better with. Plus, it makes it pink. Who doesn't love a pink drink?


There is no substitute for the real deal! And so simple, it's lovely.



Put everything in a cocktail shaker, add ice, do the shake-a shake-a, then decant into a worthy glass.
The final product: delicately pink, frothy on top from your vigorous attention to shaken, not stirred, and utterly delicious!

Enjoy!




August 22, 2010

Goat Curry

Goat is a wonderful meat. Even people who don't like lamb usually like goat. I hope we get more goat-eaters in this country soon: goats are inexpensive, ecologically happy animals to raise. They thrive eating plants that other animals can't stand- much less want to eat, such as brambles, briars and ivy. As smaller animals, they obviously don't require the resources larger animals like cows need. Does also produce milk which can be drunk as is, or from which excellent cheese can be made. Goats are awesome!
And tasty... which comes to the point of my post: Goat Curry
yummy stuff.
Goat is often found at the grocers in stew-meat format- usually with the bone. Perfect for this recipe.

Sorry if the photos are a little fuzzy, I took them with my phone. hehe

Firstly, wash the meat, get all the bone-dust off of it, if any.


Then salt and pepper the meat.



Fry the meat really well in a little oil.


Remove from the pan.


Meanwhile, make a paste of garlic, chiles (I used fresh green chiles and sweet red peppers) and fresh ginger. This looks picturesque, but I ended up switching to a stick blender! hehe


Fry some chopped onion in the pan after you have removed the meat. Add some black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, the seeds of a few cardomom pods and fry for a minute until you can smell them, then add a little bit of ground turmeric, and ground allspice. Fry another 30 seconds or so and then add your chile, ginger, and garlic paste.


Have some fresh tomatoes chopped, or use some canned chopped tomatoes. Here I'm using a mixture of sweet cherry tomatoes and a regular tomato and the cherry tomatoes add a hint of sweetness that this curry likes. You might want to add a pinch of sugar to the pot if your tomatoes are not very sweet.


Add the tomatoes.


Add the meat back to the pot. Add a cinnamon stick and water for simmering. Goat cut like this can take a LONG time to get tender. I'm talking as much as 4 hours simmering on low for it to achieve that fall-off-the-bone tender that we are looking for. Trust me, it's worth it. Put the lid on the pot, and have the flame on low. Your house will smell awesome.


Ok! This is our delicious goat curry after our long simmer. I've added a bit of water here and there along the way, and given things a stir from time to time, but other than that, it has done it's thing. Taste to see if it needs a bit of salt and there you have it!

Some tasty ways to serve this are with rice, flat-breads, crusty loaf breads, or with cubed potatoes added into the curry itself. Garnish with your favorite greenery- be it parsley or cilantro or even some minced lettuce for crunch.

Enjoy!

May 26, 2010

Scrapple and scrappin'

So, you know after my whiney post from yesterday about how busy I am, I realized that I might not have time to do photo walk-thrus of recipes, but I DO have time to talk! Jeesh >sheepish grin<
So, this weekend I got to talk with some people about different comfort foods and the conversation turned to scrapple.
If you don't know what scrapple is, well, that's a subject up to debate, and there are sites dedicated to it. Some say that it is called scrapple because you use the "scraps" from hog butchering, but I know I've read other theories on that, but honestly, can't remember what they are. The scraps theory works for me. hehe
Anyway, since I don't butcher piggies, I don't have scraps laying around. So, this is grocery store scrapple, but it is still economical and delicious. Some scrapple recipes also use buckwheat flour, but I've always made mine with cornmeal and flour, so that, dear readers, is what I'll pass on to you.

Ingredients:
1.5 cup corn meal
3/4 cup flour
1 lb bulk sausage
1 lb chicken livers or pork liver if you want to be über authentic, or leave it out if you're a wimp
About 2 qts of chicken broth/broth and water mix
spices: black & red pepper, sage, thyme, & salt

So, what you are going to do is cook the meat, and you can fry it, or simmer it in the water or broth. It needs to be chopped into very small pieces regardless. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn the heat down and add the cornmeal and flour. Stir.
What you are looking for at this point is for the cornmeal to thicken. It can take 15 -30 minutes to achieve this altered state. You will know it when it happens. It will also start to hold its "shape", sort of like whipped cream does, when dropped from the spoon into the pot. This is important, because scrapple needs to gel. When the pot has changed texture from soup to, well, like cream of wheat cereal, then it's ready to turn out.
Turn out into a greased loaf pan. This recipe will most likely give you two loaves. Let cool.

How do I eat scrapple? Well, after the scrapple cools, it is now a bonafide solid loaf. Turn it out, slice it, dredge it in a little flour and pan-fry it until golden on both sides.
My preferred method then is to eat with maple syrup. This is not everyone's way, however, and some use ketchup, butter, applesauce, fried apples, or plain with eggs. Honestly, that part is up to you.

Don't turn your nose up at this oft-maligned peasant food. It is really tasty. Pass me the big slice of Americana -with syrup, please.

May 25, 2010

Life eats my time

This has been a bad blogging year. Renovating a hundred year-old house, full time college student and full-time Mom extraordinaire- sorry folks, but the foodiness is suffering.
Sometimes I think it's all I can do to put healthful and tasty food on the table for my kids- sometimes, when I'm really tired, I even get tempted to give in to their childish demands of hot dogs and mac n'cheese >shudder<.
I still think about this blog, and when my kitchen is renovated, and my life is more my own I'll get cooking, but just wanted to let people know I was still alive and kicking :)
This new house has a grape-vine. Never had access to fresh grape leaves before....hmmmmm.

November 17, 2009

Nam Prik Pao and Happy Hubby Sauce


However you want to spell it, this is some tasty stuff. A delicious dark paste made from deeply caramelized onions and garlic and chiles, it is seasoned with fish sauce and shrimp paste, tamarind and sugar. Sound Thai? It is. And also, I should say, it is traditionally made with shallots and not onions, but I can't get a reliable source for good shallots, so I use onions with good results.

Anyway, this paste has so many uses. My kids use it instead of that nasty seasoning packet in their ramen noodles. I use it in stir-fry noodles, soups, etc, etc. Just try it and taste it, and you too will find a million and one uses for it. It's that tasty.

My disclaimer- this may not be the most authentic or traditional way to make nam prik pao, I'm not really sure, but I get good results, and I definitely think it's better than store-bought.

Nam Prik Pao
1 very large onion, or use two smaller, or use shallots if you can find them
2 heads of garlic
Dried chiles to taste or a mix of chiles and red pepper
1 cup oil
A few Tablespoons of sugar- you can use coconut or palm sugar as well
1-2 Tablespoons thai-style shrimp paste
few Tablespoons fish sauce
few Tablespoons of tamarind
few Tablespoons of water

Slice the onions very thin and fry them in the oil until dark and crisp and then remove. Then fry the garlic- I've fried them, sliced, chopped, and whole, but smashed and I didn't really detect much of a difference, so it's up to you to decide how you want to process them. Remove from the oil.

Then fry the dried chiles for a bit- depending on how small your chiles are and how many you are using. You don't want them to burn, so be careful. I usually replace quite a bit of the chiles for sweet red peppers that I fry because my family only likes things moderately hot at most. Also, removing the seeds of the chiles will reduce the heat.

Puree the onions, garlic and chiles/peppers in a blender. You may add oil and the tamarind and fish sauce and a bit of water as needed to get lubrication for blending.

In your wok or frying pan, fry the shrimp paste in some of the oil until it begins to release it's aroma. (it doesn't smell all that great, but it really adds a great flavor to the finished product) Then add the blended puree back to the wok, add the sugar and anything else you didn't add and cook until dark and bubbly, the texture loosely thick. The sauce will thicken as it stands. Taste the sauce for seasoning. It should be sweet and spicy- but not overly so, with the sweet tempered with the tang of the tamarind, and dark, caramelized, smokey undertones. Add a bit more sugar, or fish sauce or tamarind to suit your taste.

Happy Hubby Sauce is a sauce I created and it became a hit in our house. I make it from a mixture of nam prik pao, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, water and a bit of chile paste with garlic. My husband loves it so much, I named it Happy Hubby sauce for him- otherwise it didn't have a name and I got tired of hey- can you make me that stuff?...

Enjoy!



August 18, 2009

Well, not New Mexico and Pomegranate Juice

So I moved- Not to New Mexico.

Ha! How 'bout that, life is interesting!

So I bought a 110 year old house in upstate NY, and am in the process of renovating it, which is a trip in and of itself. It's been taking most of my attention, which has led me to neglect this blog a bit, and for that I apologise.

However, I have been concocting some foodie experiments on the sly. I'm actually quite pleased with how it's turned out. The experiment was spearheaded by the fact that I was contacted by POM Wonderful, and they asked me if they could send me some free product. Well sure! Send away. So I became the proud and happy owner of a box of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice.
So I started think of all the wonderful things I could do with the juice.

The other catalyst was that I found in my new local grocery store a bottle of Bragg's Cider Vinegar which is undistilled or cooked, and still contains the "mother", or, the bacteria necessary for the fermentation of sugar into vinegar.

Can you see where I'm going with this?

Yes! I decided to see if I could turn some of the POM Wonderful Pomegranate juice into pomegranate juice vinegar. Many juice manufacturers add preservatives to juice to prevent it from naturally turning into vinegar on the shelf. The fact that the mother of vinegar culture took hold in the pomegrante juice and started doing it's thing backed up POM Wonderful's claim that their juice does not contain preservatives. Great for vinegar! If you can't get juice from a non-preservative brand, or make your own, frozen juice concentrate is the way to go.

I was unprepared for the onslaught of fruit-flys. I found that I had to rubberband my coffee-filter to my jar and that kept it safe. But wow...they must like the smell of vinegar doing it's thing. Also, mother of vinegar forming is rather unattractive. This is a great article on making vingegar from left-over wine, complete with a photo of the mother.


I found a really yummy recipe using pomegranate vinegar that sounds tasty. I already do something similiar with balsamic. However, pomegranate juice is such a beautiful ruby color, I imagine this has a pretty look to it.

Must note though, homemade vinegar is really strong. Most store-bought vinegar is already diluted, and if I tried to use 1/4c of my homemade vinegar undiluted like the recipe calls for, my mouth would turn inside out. I don't know of any real hard and fast rules for dilution. Most commercial vinegar is diluted to 5% acidity, but I just dilute to taste.

Anyway, enjoy!

May 5, 2009

Homemade Mayonnaise...easier than you might think

Everyone has a line drawn in the sand. A point at where you just raise your fist to the heavens and shout "No more!". This, my friends, is what has happened to me.  My line was crossed. In the grocery store isles, shopping for mayonnaise, the ugly scene ensued... it went something along the lines of, "Are you freaking kidding me? Over $4 a quart for freaking mayonnaise?"
Freaking indeed.

Now I make my own mayonnaise, because I no longer find it convienant to be fleeced in that particular aspect of my life. Yes I realize I'm fleeced in many other areas that I have no control over. But darn it, I know how to make some darn tasty mayonnaise, and now I'm mad and motivated, and I will share with you :)

First off, I have come to love making mayonnaise. It really is kitchen chemistry at it's finest. It sort of makes me feel like a mad scientist..and not just mad at the cost of store mayo. Anyway, mayo is tempermental ...but only at first. Then it's relatively forgiving. However, you MUST follow the beginning steps or else you will not have mayonnaise. But no worries, I'll get to that.

Mayonnaise is an emulsion of eggs and oil. According to chemistry, an emulsion is "any colloidal suspension of a liquid in another liquid." Thank you dictionary.com. Good eggs are important for taste and also because we're going to use them raw- as in uncooked. You can use pasteurized eggs, and if you're at all sqeamish about raw eggs, that's what you should do. You can use any oil. The Spanish love to make mayo with olive oil for the taste, but in this post I'm aiming to reproduce store-bought mayo, so we want to use a neutral-flavored oil. Pick your favorite.

I like to make mayonnaise in my kitchenaid with the whisk attatchment. It's easiest for me, but you can adapt to a hand beater or a whisk if you're determined to get an arm workout.

Basic Recipe for Mayonnaise

(all seasoning will be tasted for and adjusted up if needed at the end, so you can go lightly)

3 eggs- separated and reserved
1.5-2.5 c. oil approximately
1-2 T. of acid (lemon juice, lime juice, assorted vinegars)
.5-1 t. salt
pinch of sugar if desired
a squirt of prepared mustard or some mustard powder if desired
also: some people enjoy a few drops of hot sauce or pinch of cayenne. It's up to you.


Start with eggs that have been out of the refrigerator for a few minutes. 
Ice-cold ingredients can doom your mayonnaise.
We start with the egg-yolks only.



This is the fairly runny mixture of egg-yolk, acid, mustard and salt/sugar.


Now this is where I get serious. With the mixer running,
or you whisking away, start adding the oil to the egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon at a time. 
This is literally a few drops at a time, a dribble, a wee bit.
You must do this for at least the first 1/4 cup of the oil
if you want the mayonnaise to form properly.
If you over-dribble, stop oiling and let it beat in for a bit
and pray for the best!! 

You can see it starting to thicken some more here.
Yes, it is very yellow at first, but will gradually get
lighter as you keep adding oil. You don't have to be
quite so precise after the first 1/4 cup, but do add
slowly and let it mix in before you add more.


Keep going, but you can see it getting lighter and thicker.


Here I'm scraping down the sides. The downside of
my mixer on high speed is that it likes to kick stuff
onto the sides of the bowl.


It's really gelling here. You can see that the texture is
definately thick. I'm going to add a bit more oil.


Ok, so we're going to stop for a bit. We need to chat mayonnaise. What we have here is called "heavy mayonnaise". Obviously, you can tell from the picture that it is very thick and saturated stuff. It's used in the food industry quite often. It is better for foods like mayonnaise salads that are going to be made ahead of time. It doesn't get as weepy or icky since the moisture content is minimal, it coats very well and doesn't get absorbed as easily as regular mayo. This is useful to know, especially if you are going to make something with mayonnaise and need to hold it for awhile.

Here you can see the very custard-y texture of the heavy mayonnaise. Like I said, heavy mayonnaise has lots of uses. However, this is not quite the product that we buy in the supermarket when we pick up a jar. (or not if it's $4!!!!) For that type of mayonnaise, we must do a final step.


See what happened?  We went from gloopy to creamy, yellow-y to ivory in a single bound by simply adding 2 of the reserved egg whites back into the mix. It's magic, I tell you! See how pretty it is? Now you can taste it and check for seasonings...does it need more lemon juice? more salt? Add it in and mix it up. It's quite forgiving at this point.

So now, all that's left to do is put the delicious, homemade, preservative-free (and cheap, did I mention cheap? as in not $4 a jar?) mayonnaise into a jar and into the fridge.  With all the sandwhiches that get made at my house for school lunches, it goes pretty fast and I haven't had a problem with spoilage.  However, you can easily make a smaller batch if you have a smaller group to feed.

Enjoy!