I thought I would have a chance to write one more post before my big two-week trip to Texas, but alas, I procrastinated on just about everything I had to do to get ready for this trip and so I won't have time after all. I'm heading to Austin, and Trevor, his brother Nick, and I will be making our way to New Orleans and San Antonio while we're over there, I couldn't be more excited, a getaway is just what I need right about now. Take care, and I promise I'll have tons of food stories when I return!
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
What do you like to drink during happy hour? Are you the kind who camps out at the cantina, downing margaritas and mojitos all evening? Or do you fancy yourself a bit more sophisticated, opting for a sidecar or a Manhattan? Despite the myriad options for happy hour cocktails, I think there's one thing we can all agree on: happy hour is absolutely, positively necessary. There's nothing quite like settling down with a nice stiff drink come 5 o'clock on a Friday evening after a long week (err, more relaxing week in my case).
Bloody Marys are one of my favorite cocktails for a few reasons.
1. They're very, very delicious (if they're done right).
2. They are healthy. Sort of. It's like spicy gazpacho with vodka.
3. You can drink them first thing in the morning if you like.
4. So many drinks quickly become too sweet. Bloody Marys are not sweet at all, it's savory's answer to sweet's monopoly over alcohol.
5. They're, like, the best drink ever for garnishes. You can add whatever you want! Celery, asparagus, olives, you name it.
I was very surprised when I tried my very first Bloody Mary and loved it. Because I do NOT like vodka. I also generally do not like tomato juice. But some how, in a magical twist of fate, when vodka and tomato juice join together, they taste completely incredible. Stir in some spices and you've got a perfectly lovely concoction.
I love this recipe from Ina Garten. I really like that this creates a thick Bloody Mary -- this is no watery Bloody Mary mix we're talking about here. I also love the huge punch of flavor from the celery salt, lemon, and Tabasco. And, although you may chuckle, I also really like that this is a veggie packed drink. Pureed celery and onions give these Bloody Marys great flavor and texture but also provide a kind of nutritious punch.
I just barely changed Ina's recipe. I omitted the horseradish because my mom doesn't like it, and I replaced the lost heat with about double the Tabasco sauce. I served these on Mother's Day morning, but they were even better the following Friday with blue cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped dates as appetizers (dates not pictured, they were gone too fast). Just add the vodka as you serve them and the mix will keep in the fridge for about a week. If you're a Bloody Mary fan, or would like to become one, give this drink a try. As for the rest of you, at least be sure and enjoy happy hour in style. Cheers!
Saturday, May 14, 2011
I love breakfast. It truly is my most important meal of the day. I've always been amazed by people who "forget" to eat breakfast, aren't hungry, or claim to not have time to eat in the morning. First of all, after sleeping (and therefore not eating, hopefully) for eight or nine hours, I'm pretty hungry the very second I wake up. I can't wait a few hours to eat, I need something in my tummy straight away. Secondly, how in the world could you miss out on not eating one of the most delicious meals of the day? I mean, how do you motivate yourself to get out of bed in the morning? With the thrilling idea of going to work or getting to class? I for one like to coax myself from my slumber with the idea of warm coffee and a delicious bowl of fresh fruit, or a healthful muffin, or a tasty scone, but I guess that's just me.
Breakfast can be elaborate or as simple as you want. Big breakfasts are marvelous. I like eggs benedict with asparagus smothered in hollindaise sauce, or French toast with Grand Marnier and lightly sweetened ricotta. I like bacon and scrambled eggs with big ribbons or cream cheese swirled in right at the end. I like pancakes. But as decadent and delicious as some breakfasts can be, I love the simple ones most of all. Nine times out of ten, simple breakfasts are what draws me into the kitchen each morning.
This granola is simple and true. There's not much too it -- almonds, honey, brown sugar, oats, a touch of butter -- they're real ingredients and make for a perfect accompaniment to plain yogurt. I threw in some fresh berries, but any delicious fruit will do. When I have a sweet tooth, I drizzle a bit of honey on top. It's probably one of the most simple and yet one of the most delightful breakfasts I can think of. The granola comes together in a flash, but what's great about making it is that you'll have plenty for the rest of the week. I adapted my recipe from Joy the Baker and, not surprisingly, it came out beautifully. For all of you "I have to eat breakfast immediately because I'm starving!" people out there (myself included), don't panic. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, grab a handful of almonds to tide you over, and the granola will be out of the oven and ready to eat before you know it. Plus, this granola will make your whole house smell like cinnamon and toasted almond goodness. It's simplicity at it's best, and a granola breakfast like this is just the kind of encouragement I need to roll out of bed and take on the day.
|Another close-up, but this time with a drizzle of orange blossom honey. How could I resist?|
Toasted Almond Granola
Adapted, slightly, from Joy the Baker
4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup whole raw almonds, roughly chopped into large pieces
1 cup slivered almonds (can be substituted for more chopped almonds or another kind of nut. Walnuts or pecans would be lovely)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons butter (salted)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup rasins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together oats, almonds, and cinnamon, and salt (to taste). Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, combine butter, oil, honey, and sugar. Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves completely. Pour oil mixture into the oat mixture and stir well, ensuring that all the oats are coated. Spread evenly onto two sheet pans.
3. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring once or twice during cooking. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Pour granola into a container and stir in raisins and cranberries. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
It's taken me so long to write about this soup because San Diego has been experiencing a terrible heat wave the past few days. And when I say terrible, I mean terrible. It's the kind of heat that's heavy, that makes you feel sticky and tired and miserable. Food hardly looked appetizing, much less this steamy soup. But now that the weather's cooled off (albeit only slightly), I can revisit this soup and tell you all about it.
Rao's minestrone soup, to be precise. Rao's is that really famous Italian restaurant in New York City where it's down right impossible to get a reservation. It's the big leagues of Italian cooking, and you can bet your bottom dollar those guys make amazing minestrone. I found out about this recipe when I tried it at my friend Emma's house. After one bite, I was swooning. After two bites I was head over heels in love. And after three bites I was ready to say my vows and commit the rest of my life to this soup. It's that good.
This minestrone soup is delicious. I mean it this time, dear readers. This is officially my favorite soup ever. I usually do not like chunky soups, and minestrone's usually one of my least favorite. But this is heavenly. It's rich and filling, singing of simple Italian flavors. The smell of this soup fills your house as it slowly simmers away, the flavors developing gently but deeply. I won't try and tell you that you can throw this soup together in a flash, because really, you can't. This soup takes time and love, but it is oh-so worth it in the end. Please give it a try. It's perfect in every way, and I don't say that (very) often.
Best Ever Minestrone Soup
Slightly adapted from Rao's Minestrone Soup recipe
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped leeks
1/4 cup Italian parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced new potatoes
2 cups diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups canned whole tomatoes, with juice
5-6 cups chicken broth (depending on how thick you like your soup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups cannellini beans
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for serving
1. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, leeks, parsley, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and begin to brown slightly and leeks are soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add remaining vegetables (potatoes, carrots, celery, zucchini, and peas) one at a time, sauteing each for about 3 minutes and seasoning with salt and pepper as you add more vegetables. When all the vegetables have been incorporated, add the tomatoes, tearing each tomato into big chunks with your hands as you add it.* Add chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, and then simmer, with the lid half off the pot, for at least one hour.
3. Add beans, reserving 1/2 a cup in a small bowl. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add one or two ladles of broth to the bowl of reserved beans, and mash the beans into the stock until a paste is formed. Add this mixture back into the soup, stirring well, and cook a few minutes more until soup has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Serve with a generous sprinkling of Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.