Weeds and Margaritas!

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Magartia at the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA

I haven’t been cooking much lately…I’ve been working out in the yard.  And nothing tastes better after a day of yard work than a perfect Margarita.  A cold beer is a close second but I’m not making beer yet, so I’ll stick with the Margarita.  Now, I’m not talking you mowed your lawn or dead headed your pots kind of yard work, rather your hind-end up in the air for hours, hands hurt, and you see weeds when you close your eyes kind of yard work–that deserves a reward and that reward is the perfect Margarita.

My quest began after Megan and I had a delicious Margarita at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California.  We were on our way from Palm Desert to Los Angeles and had heard they had the “best” margaritas.  We decided to stretch our legs and wet our whistles and we were not disappointed.  Their Margarita was excellent as were their guacamole and quesadillas.

I’ve been trying to replicate the recipe at home ever since, as I have not found any at restaurants that I feel are worthy of the caloric intake. The Costco mix is fine in a pinch when you are in Maui and don’t have room to pack your Vitamix in your luggage but I would never drink it at home.   I tried a few internet recipes and was disappointed or they had really expensive ingredients like Cointreau in them.  I came across the Perfect Margarita recipe in one of my Barefoot Contessa books and gave it a try…PERFECT.  So good and so easy.

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Ingredients for the Perfect Margarita

Perfect Margaritas

Barefoot Contessa

Serves 6

1 cup Tequila (the Costco brand works fine for these)

1 cup Triple Sec

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

3 cups ice

Put it all in the blender and mix until blended (any good quality blender will do if you do not have a Vitamix)

I “salt” the rims of the glass with:

2T sugar

2T kosher salt

Zest of one lime

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Cheers!

Absolutely fantastic and it will almost make you forget how much your backside aches.  Give it a try–but only if you’ve worked hard enough!

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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

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).