The Modern Martini (cilantro-lime gin cocktail)

In the name of science and the public good, I’ve infused another bottle of spirits. I know some might be nervous about potentially wasting a perfectly good bottle of booze by stuffing it full of a bunch of nonsense. And as of the date this is published, there are no comments nor reviews on the recipe at bonappetit.com. Someone had to step up to see if it was any good.

the modern martini (gin + cilantro + lime)

cilantro + lime gin

making the modern martini

This is very good. Yes, I am big fan of cilantro, but I am not a big fan of gin. I’ve had a number of several gin and tonics at Stephanie and Jack’s (first with Bombay Sapphire, later with Gordon’s, which I preferred), always with high expectations, but I’ve always been slightly put off by the flavor. When I first sampled this concoction after one day of infusing, I was disappointed because that distinct gin flavor was still there. It also tasted strongly of cilantro. However, when I tried it again the next day, something magical had happened. It tasted herbaceous and smooth. The flavors had melded. And while it tasted a bit green, if I hadn’t known that it was infused with cilantro, I don’t think I could have put my finger on it.

This really couldn’t be easier to make. If a fresh-tasting, simple (and strong) cocktail is what you’re after, you should definitely make this. I also appreciate that all of the effort happens upfront with this cocktail. When you are ready to drink it, you just need to shake it up with some ice and garnish it with a twist.

The Modern Martini

from bon appétit, June 2013

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 750-ml bottle London dry gin
  • 3 cups fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 8 lime twists or rounds (to garnish the finished cocktail)

To make the gin, combine sugar and 2 tablespoons hot water in a large jar, cover, and shake until sugar is dissolved. Add gin, cilantro, and lime juice (save gin bottle for finished product). Cover and chill 2 days. Strain into a medium bowl; discard cilantro. Pour cilantro-lime gin back into reserved bottle.

For each cocktail, pour 3 ounces cilantro-lime gin into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Cover; shake until cocktail shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled Martini glass and garnish with lime twists.

Cilantro-Lime Gin can be made 1 month ahead. Keep chilled.

Cheers!

Megan

P.S. We enjoyed these cocktails with the delightful company of Martha, who was in town at the time. Her visit was the perfect opportunity to finally make a rhubarb recipe I’ve been itching to make for a while now: rustic corn tarts with rhubarb compote! It is now listed under the appropriate category with notes in Rhubarb Roundup Part 1, but I’ll just stick the pics here:

rustic rhubarb tarts

 rustic rhubarb tart with ice cream
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Coconut Maple Granola

Although I’ve always loved granola (who doesn’t?), I never got into the habit of eating it consistently for a few reasons. First of all, it’s not that nutritious. While it contains some wholesome ingredients, granola contains plenty of fat and sugar (especially in the grocery store brands made by the big food companies). Second of all, the brands that are the more nutritious, least processed options are crazy expensive. I will not pay upwards of $7 for 8 ounces of granola.

Granola and Yogurt

Granola Ingredients

I had heard that making your own granola was ridiculously easy, but held off for several years not wanting to go down that tasty, addictive road. But alas, the granola recipe in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook finally looked too good to resist. This is now a regular in my life. No, it is not a health food. But it could be a lot worse! And luckily, a little goes a long way…although a lot goes a long way, too.

Coconut Maple Granola

slightly adapted from the Big Cluster Maple Granola in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman

The main thing I’ve changed from the original recipe is that I’ve swapped coconut oil for olive oil. I melt the oil in the microwave before adding it. I’ve made it with olive oil, and it’s fine, but the flavor is sweeter and the granola more fragrant with the coconut oil. I also love the flavor of maple syrup, so to emphasize that, I use 2/3 of a cup of the darker grade B syrup. Recently I also added some cardamom along with the cinnamon, and while I couldn’t pick out the flavor per se, I did think that batch was extra delicious.

Although dried cherries are kind of expensive, they are really good in this. I used raisins one time when I was out of cherries, but they were too one-dimensional and sweet to add much to the granola. If you don’t want to spend the money on unsweetened dried cherries, just omit them and add berries to your yogurt and granola. Also, the original recipe calls for toasted wheat germ. My bag doesn’t say that it is toasted, and it definitely gets toasted in the oven, so I think whatever you have will be fine!

The other thing I’d add is that to get the big cluster effect don’t spread out the granola too much on your baking sheet. It needs to be touching in a thin layer. Sometimes it ends up in clusters, sometimes not. In the end, I don’t really care if the granola is in big clusters or not — sprinkled over yogurt, I don’t notice a difference.

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup wheat germ

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup to 2/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

scant 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (optional)

1 large egg white

1 1/2 cups dried cherries or another dried fruit, diced if large pieces (optional)

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients but the egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout. Spread it in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet (don’t use foil — it will stick!). Bake for 45 – 55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola carefully, breaking them up as little as possible. Rotate the pan if granola is baking unevenly. When it is evenly browned and feels dry t the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. Cool completely. Once it’s completely cool, break up granola into whatever size clusters delight you. Sprinkle in dried fruit.

yield: about 7 cups

Cinco de Mayo Family Dinner

What do you serve for  Cinco de Mayo when several of your guests are somewhat picky eaters or don’t like to eat with their hands? My family can be quite persnickety when it comes to food and eating.   What could I make that would be fitting for the day, delicious, semi-healthy and  be eaten with a fork?  Mexican Paella for Six from the Rick Bayless Fiesta at Rick’s cookbook!   Chicken, mussels, shrimp, chorizo sausage,  delicious tomato sauce, poblano pepper and tender rice.  I’ve always wanted to do a full blown Paella and someday I will  (mostly I think I just want the pan–sort of like when I was 5 and signed up for ballet–it was all about the shoes).

Before dinner I served homemade  guacamole and chips and  Margaritas.  With dinner I served a romaine salad, some crusty bread, and of course, red wine. Dessert was the previously blogged Rhubarb Ice Cream with Lemon Angel Food Cake.

Prepped ingredients

Prepped ingredients

The Paella was  easy to make and I was able to do a few steps ahead like browning the chicken and prepping the tomatoes and onions.  I used  actual paella rice–the recipe calls for medium grain and the paella rice wasn’t any more expensive and came in a fun cloth bag. Since Sunday was such a warm day, I  did the majority of the cooking outside  on the burner of the gas grill.  Jack’s expertly  seasoned cast iron skillet was the perfect pan to use for this dish as cast iron fries and sautes beautifully and the rice was tender with a bit of a crust on the bottom. The recipe calls for a 12 inch,  which I thought I was using, but  it was actually a 10 inch.  It worked fine until it came time to put the chicken, mussels and shrimp in the pan with the rice for the  finish in the oven.  Everything was crammed in the pan and it took 30 minutes longer at 50 degrees higher heat.

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I can’t find the recipe on-line, but here’s his regular Paella recipe– basically the same just scaled way down.  I used 6 chicken thighs, 1/2 pound of chorizo, 1/2 pound of shrimp, etc.  Make sure you use a large enough pan, or better yet, buy yourself a pretty paella pan, they’re not expensive, just hard to store.

Paella for 6

Paella for 6

If you need a a salad recipe that is super easy and will knock your guests socks off and make them wonder why they ever order salad at a restaurant, it’s this one from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Romaine Hearts with Parmesan and Lemon Vinaigrette

2 heads romaine lettuce

1 garlic clove

Salt and freshly milled pepper

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (use the Maille if you can!)

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff makes a difference here, too)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or more to taste

3/4 cup small toasted croutons (if you can’t make your own, the Metropolitan Market’s garlic croutons are yummy)

Slice the bottoms off the lettuce and remove most of the leaves until you get to the hearts.  Wash if needed and put the hearts ins spacious, wide bowl.

Pound the garlic with 1/2 teaspoon sale in a mortar until smooth.  Whisk in the lemon zest and juice, the mustard, then the oil.  Pour the dressing over the leaves and roll them over each other until coated. Sprinkle most of the cheese over the leaves, add the croutons, and toss again until the leaves are coated. Divide the sale among four large plates, add the remaining cheese, and finish with pepper (perhaps if you use a ridiculously large pepper grinder, your guests will think they are at a restaurant?)

Cook someone you love something yummy today and,  cheers!

Rhubarb Roundup (part 3)

IMG_1693This past weekend I tried two things rhubarb.

First on Saturday, which was a gloriously warm day, I had a Campari and soda.  Did you know Campari has rhubarb in it ?  Campari is considered a bitter and is an acquired taste but on a warm summer (or spring) day nothing beats sitting on the back porch with a little Campari over ice and a good portion of soda water while  picturing yourself  sitting at some little outdoor restaurant in Italy wiling away the afternoon. You can make other drinks with Campari like the Negroni, which usually elicits strong opinions–love or HATE!

My second encounter with rhubarb was rhubarb ice cream for Sunday’s family dinner.  The recipe was super easy and with my Cusinart ice cream maker I had creamy rhubarb ice cream in no time.  But you can’t just serve rhubarb ice cream by itself because some in my family dislike it as much as they dislike purple onions and meatloaf.

I decided to make a Barefoot Contessa Lemon pound cake but instead of using full fat yogurt, which the recipe called for, I thought I would try using the non-fat Greek yogurt I always have in my fridge.  I wasn’t as concerned about the fat content as the ice cream had plenty of whipping cream, as I was not having to go to the store.  The recipe called for vegetable oil, which I rarely use, and when I measured it out I thought it smelled funny but I ignored my gut and carried on.  Well, my oil was rancid and the pound cake tasted terrible (though Jack ate several slices and Buster and the chickens liked it). Always follow your gut; if you think it smells or looks bad, save yourself the heartache (maybe a little dramatic) and don’t use it.  I think the non-fat yogurt also made it a bit tough.

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Earlier in the week Megan and I had a  conversation about whether angel food cake would be good served with rhubarb compote (which it would)  and I decided it would also be delicious with rhubarb ice cream.  I found the Lemon Angel Food Cake recipe in one of my Barefoot Contessa books and gave it a try. The cake turned out perfect! Light and airy and just a little lemony, which was the perfect accompaniment to the rhubarb ice cream–not to mention the Rick Bayless Paella for 6–but that’s another post.

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Rhubarb Ice Cream    

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Every  Which Way With Rhubarb by Amanda Brannon

1 pound rhubarb, finely chopped

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the rhubarb in a shallow baking dish along with the sugar and the lemon juice. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender. Let it cool slightly. Pour the rhubarb into a food processor and process until you have a smooth puree. Pour into a container, cover and transfer to the refrigerator and chill. Stir the vanilla and cream into the rhubarb puree, pour into an ice cream maker and churn until the mixture has the consistency of soft whipped cream.  Freeze for a minimum of two hours or until the ice cream is firm enough to serve.

Rhubarb ice cream and Lemon Angel Food cake!

Rhubarb ice cream and Lemon Angel Food cake!

Beet Vodka

People have strong opinions when it comes to beets. Some people love them. Some people only love them when accompanied by chèvre. Some people can’t stand them at all. I’m in the first camp. I love them roasted and tossed in a vinaigrette, smothered in a cream sauce, pickled, stewed in borscht — even shredded and from a can! But most of all, I love them infused in a bottle of vodka.

sliced beets

I had a delicious beet vodka cocktail at Marrow in Tacoma a while back. It was beety in the best way — ruby red, earthy, and sweet. So I was thrilled when I saw the recipe in Bon Appétit’s March issue for beet-infused vodka and the beetnik martini.

My trip to California to catch up with Mitch and Stephanie proved the perfect opportunity to buy some booze at a great price. Because my suitcase was pretty packed by the time we made it to Costco, I opted for the smallest bottle I could find, which happened to be Crater Lake vodka. Does this recipe really need artisanal quality vodka? Probably not. But I wasn’t complaining.

I was a little nervous about dedicating this much vodka for this recipe. What if it ended up just tasting like dirt? The recipe said to let it marinate for 5 to 7 days in the fridge. How would I know when it tasted like it should?

Well…such a procedure necessitates a taste-test! I tried a spoonful from my jug-o-booze at day 5. It had a lovely beet fragrance (I’m not the only one who thinks this is possible, right?), but kind of a thin taste. So I went all the way to day 7. It comforted me all week just knowing that I had a huge jar of vodka in the fridge filling up with beety goodness. By day 7, it tasted delicious!

Beetnik Martini

beetnik martinis

The original recipe called for 1 tablespoon of the ginger simple syrup per 1/4 cup of vodka, but I found there was a better bite when I used a scant tablespoon, or 1 1/2 tablespoons for two cocktails. I like my booze to taste boozy, you know? This is 1/4 cup of vodka we’re talking about. With more syrup, the boozy bite was lost. Also, although I read the recipe a dozen times, typing it up right now is the first time I noticed that it includes lime juice. I never once added it. I imagine it would be stellar. If you include it, you’ll probably want the full amount of ginger syrup. I guess it’s time for me to make round 2!

By the way, the prep picture up top is Jack’s, and the lovely coupe glass photo is his as well. And yes, two generations of Knottinghams made and approve of this recipe. Also, notes for this recipe say it keeps for a month. But as they say on Arrested Development, “It’s vodka. It goes bad once it’s opened.”

Beetnik Martini 

adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2013

Ingredients

Vodka and syrup

  • 6 medium red beets (about 2 1/2 pounds), scrubbed, trimmed
  • 1 750-ml bottle vodka
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated peeled ginger

Assembly

  • 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 3 ounces fresh lime juice
  • 12 lemon slices

Preparation

Vodka and syrup

Cook beets in a large saucepan of boiling water until tender, 1-1 1/4 hours. Drain; let cool slightly. Peel and slice. Combine warm beets and vodka in a large 1 1/2-quart jar (save vodka bottle to store finished product). Cover; chill for at least 5 days and up to 1 week. Strain into a medium bowl; discard beets. Pour beet vodka back into reserved bottle. Cover and chill.

Bring sugar, ginger, and 3/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Let cool. Strain ginger syrup into a medium jar; discard ginger. Cover and chill. DO AHEAD: Beet vodka and ginger syrup can be made 1 month ahead. Keep chilled separately.

Assembly

For each cocktail, combine 1/4 cup beet vodka, scant 1 tablespoon ginger syrup, and 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice (the original recipe calls for an equal amount of lime juice — I somehow missed this each time I made it! Include if you like. It’s still good without it. If you use it, you’ll want a full tablespoon of syrup). Shake vigorously until cocktail shaker is very cold. Strain drink into a coupe or Martini glass or whatever you have. Float a lemon slice on top (and add a giant ice cube if it makes you happy).

Rhubarb Roundup (part 2)

rhubarb stalks

rhubarb stalks — dino-sized snack

This year the  admission yield season and rhubarb season coincided and I almost missed rhubarb season. There was a time when I would not have been sad about that but I have changed how I feel about rhubarb over the past few years. Years ago, when Jack brought home three of his grandfather’s rhubarb plants, I was not excited or encouraging. As a child, I had an experience with a stalk of rhubarb and a cup of sugar that left an unpleasant memory. The rhubarb pies or rhubarb/strawberry pies I tried over the years seemed slimy or slimy and sour. I was always more than happy to give our rhubarb to anyone who got excited when I said we had rhubarb. A few years ago, I tried the Rhubarb Crisp a la mode with Strawberry Sauce recipe from our local newspaper which was adapted from Sylvia Thompson’s “The Kitchen Garden Cookbook”  and it changed my life.  Next was Martha Stewart’s Rhubarb Upside Down Cake–delicious!  My fear of the slimy and sour are gone and now it’s great fun to see what I can make with all my (notice it’s now my) free rhubarb!

When I was in Juneau two summers ago visiting Mitch and Rochele I picked up a cookbook titled “Every Which Way With Rhubarb” by Amanda Brannon.  Until this week the only recipe I had made from the book was a chutney and I was feeling some guilt about yet another cookbook that I haven’t really used, so I pulled it out of the cupboard and took it for a spin.  I do have a rhubarb recipe rule which is it has to use a LOT of rhubarb otherwise it’s not worth putting on the garden clogs and trekking to the side yard with a butcher knife to harvest.  This week I tried two recipes, Rhubarb Crumble Bars which used four cups and Rhubarb Cake II  which used two cups–both were delicious but I really like the Rhubarb Cake II.   It was moist and slightly sweet; a perfect snack cake!

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Every Which Way With Rhubarb by Amanda Brannon

2 cups rhubarb, diced

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda (I always use aluminum free)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch cake pan.  Combine the rhubarb and 1/2 cup sugar.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and 1 1/2 cup sugar. Add the eggs and beat until well blended.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk and vanilla.  Add the milk mixture alternately with the flour mixture to the egg mixture, beating well between additions.  Stir-in the rhubarb mixture.  Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool slightly and serve warm or room temperature, plain or with ice cream.

Now the Rhubarb Crumble Bars were perfectly nice but vague directions involving cornstarch, water and cooking until “thick” meant my bars were more a crisp and not bar-like.  Would have been delicious with ice cream or whipped cream but you certainly could not eat with your hands. I thought they would be more like Smitten Kitchen’s Kim Boyce’s via Orangette Rye Crumble Bars which are the most amazing thing ever.

Both were taken to work,  as two people do not need to eat that much cake or crumble, despite what Jack says. -Stephanie

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