Monday, August 31, 2009

Home Made Ginger Ale

The New York Times published this article a few months ago about a new trend of artisanal ginger ales gaining popularity around the country. Intrigued, I tore it out and saved it - forgot about it - then found it once again. And today, I made it, and.... it was great! Ginger ale has been around for ages, as a home remedy for aching stomachs and nausea. It's zippy bite can quench almost any degree of thirst.
To make one 16 oz drink for myself, I ventured down two different gingery paths - first by hand grating ginger root against a micro-plane and then squeezed the juice from the pulp. The flavor, once everything was added, stirred and poured, was weak. (Not to mention it's kind of a royal pain!).
My second attempt, suggested by the article, was to make a ginger syrup. (I have recently discovered the beauty of making different syrups and keeping them on hand for quick and easy use. See my post on making rose water syrup for other types of delicious drinks).
I found that this way makes a better, more authentic ginger ale. The gentle heating of sugar and ginger juice deepens the flavors, the end result being zingy, spicy and slightly syrupy. Keep ginger syrup in fridge and it's ready for your next craving of that certain zippy fizz we all have every now and then.

Note: You will need a juicer in order to extract large amounts of juice from the ginger root. If you don't have one, a health food store with a juice bar can sell you fresh squeezed ginger juice. Be sure to ask them to run water through the juicer before starting on your order, otherwise you will get muddled ginger juice.

Ginger Ale
Adapted from The New York Times.
Makes 1 (16 oz.) drink

4 tsp fresh ginger juice (see note)
1-2 TBLS sugar
2 TBLS fresh lime juice
1 1/4 cup club soda

Stir ginger juice, sugar and lime juice until sugar dissolves. Add ice and club soda.

Make a ginger syrup by dissolving 3/4 cup sugar into 1 cup ginger juice. I did this combining the two ingredients and heating just until a simmer, then shut off the heat, and stir often, until sugar is dissolved, cool completely. Add ice, lime juice and club soda to 2 TBLS syrup just before serving. Bottoms up!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hail to the Farmer!

It's something - going to the Farmer's market. The seasons predict the bounty, and the farmers bring us the fruits, (literally), of all their labor. The beauty is that it's offerings are fleeting, there a few weeks, then gone for a year. It's kind of romantic, like a love lost, found again.
As I walked through yesterday, I had an idea of what I wanted, (usually I blank out completely, due to sensory over-load), but it is deathly hot right now and I knew that a salad was in our future. Passing by an organic heirloom tomato stand helped steer me in the right direction. As it happened, the next stand over had beautiful ears of corn which also caught my attention and then it was all over, a light bulb moment, I was finished. I picked up an herbed salad mix and basil from my favorite lettuce stand, Maggie's Farms, (out of Agoura Hills, CA. The "stellar mix", a combination of every possible herb, wild flowers and baby lettuces is so good, I eat it straight from the bag).

I have a particular fondness for the combination of fresh corn, summer tomatoes, goat cheese and basil - hopefully you will share my affection...

Farmer's Market Greens with Tomato-Corn Relish, topped with Goat Cheese Medallion

Serves 4

Bag of herbed mixed greens (the herbs really make this salad, so if you can't find an herb mix, buy some baby greens or arugula and add a variety of herbs - trust me, the more herbs, the better).
2 ears of corn, roasted and kernels removed
1-2 tomatoes, I used the Brandywine heirloom variety, chopped
Basil, chopped thinly
Scallions, chopped thinly
8 oz. goat cheese
1 1/2 cup panko-style Japanese bread crumbs
1 egg
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Goat Cheese Medallions
Prepping the medallions:
(Can be done up to one day in advance, covered and refrigerated)
Leave goat cheese out to room temp. Form 4 round and flat medallions, think hockey puck. Place on a plate and put in the refrigerator for at least a half hour, to harden.
Once hardened, whisk one egg in a bowl and place panko crumbs in a separate bowl.
Working gently, one at a time, roll medallions first in egg, then coat with panko crumbs. Once all 4 are coated, return to refrigerator until ready to prepare.

Cooking Instructions:
(This should be done just before service, with the rest of the salad components prepared).
Heat a heavy pan, (I use a cast iron), add olive oil, enough to fry in, about 1/8 cup), add medallions and cook for about 2-3 minutes, the crumbs should look nice and golden. Gently flip with a spatula, and cook another 2-3 minutes. Carefully remove from heat, again with a spatula, and let rest on a paper bag or paper towel to drain excess oil.

Step 2:
Tomato - Corn Relish
Heat cast iron skillet to med - high and place corn in it. Rotate every few minutes, it will char and cook nicely this way. You can also grill it.
Chop tomatoes, scallions and basil and combine in a bowl.
Add corn kernels and drizzle juice of one lemon and olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Toss gently and set aside.

Step 3:
Place salad greens on a plate, with your hands, gently place tomato and corn relish over greens. Add hot goat cheese medallion to the top of relish, season freshly ground pepper.
Serve with a crisp white wine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I heart pizza

One of our favorite things to do around here is to make our own pizza. It's kind of messy, but so much fun. No arguing over toppings, everyone can customize their own, (and you don't have to do ALL of that nights' cooking...), it's a DIY pizza party. With a scorching hot oven, (500), and 2 pizza stones awaiting, the production line moves along quite nicely, 2 at a time, which keeps hungry pizza eaters constantly fed.

Truth be told, most of the time I buy pizza dough from Trader Joe's. It's good, but fickle. It resists being manipulated and we often find ourselves with small, stubbornly thick pizzas. ( I have discovered that if you remove the dough from it's package and leave it out at room temp in a covered bowl for a few hours, it becomes much more cooperative.). For your toppings, the thinner, the better, so as to not weigh down the pizza dough. Also, I like to drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil before adding toppings and gently rub over dough.

If you are interested in making your own dough, a much more rewarding endeavor, here's is a fool-proof, easy recipe which will yield a small, thin crusted pizza - my favorite!

Easy Pizza Dough
from smittenkitchen

1 1/2 cup flour (you can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (you may need 1 to 2 TBLS more)
1 TBLS olive oil

Stir dry ingredients together, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil. Stir mixture into as close as a ball as you can. Dump everything onto a floured surface and knead until you have a homogenous ball. If this is difficult, take the now empty bowl and place over ball and step away for a few minutes.
Knead for a minute or two and place it into a lightly oiled bowl, turn the dough over so that all sides are lightly coated with oil and cover with plastic wrap for and hour or two. It should double in size.
Dump it back onto a floured surface and gently press air out of the dough with the palm of your hand. Fold it back into a ball and place it under plastic wrap for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle pizza stone or baking sheet, with corm meal and set oven to its highest temp.
Roll out dough and place toppings on, erring on the side of skimpy, so not to weigh down pizza.
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until just blistered.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Inspiration board

I thought I'd share this rather ingenious idea of mine with you - you know how you flip through magazines or newspapers and find a recipe that peeks your interest and you tear it out, fold it up and then forget about it until days, months, (years), later when one day you happen to rediscover it, now wrinkled, faded and torn? I have lost countless recipes and ideas because I am not exactly what you might call organized. But when I saw this magnetic strip bulletin thingy, I knew exactly what to do with it and exactly where to put it. So now, in my beloved pantry, I have my idea board filled with tear-outs just waiting for me to get inspired and tackle them. There is something to be said for organization! Go get yourself one and start saving those priceless recipes!

Click here for self-sticking strip.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ice Pops

Leave it to Martha Stewart to come up with these incredible pops that will make you one very happy person.  It's a grown up ice pop which will let you feel like a kid again.

Honeydew and Cream Ice Pops with Pistachios
Martha Stewart Living, June 2009.

1 honeydew melon (3 lbs), halved, seeded and cut in to 1 - inch chunks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup roasted, salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Working on batches, puree melon in a blender until smooth.  You should have about 4 cups puree.  Add honey and cream and stir to combine.
Sprinkle about 1 tsp chopped pistachios into each ice-pop mold.  Pour melon mixture into molds. Freeze until slushy, about 2 hours, add pop sticks and continue freezing until completely frozen, about 6 hours, or overnight.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I believe it is safe to say that by now, across the country, it's pretty darn HOT! Here, in Southern California, summer seemed a little delayed, but has finally hit at full-force, and I couldn't be happier -- and more dehydrated. For me, drinking water is a chore, I never seem to get enough and by the end of the day, I am absolutely parched. I was inspired to make this the other night when some friends came over and instead of serving Pellegrino, I made a pitcher of cucumber, lemon and basil water and it was well received. This is not any kind of revelation, many spas serve some sort of lovely infused water, and I always feel a little more pampered when something like this is handed to me - so I thought, why don't I just make it myself? This simple, gently flavored water is such a decadent way to quench ones thirst and I, for one, find myself drinking much more water when I have a pitcher of this in my fridge.

All you need is a large pitcher, (glass preferably), and fresh citrus, such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, etc and fresh herbs, such as mint or basil, fresh berries... the list is infinite. Be sure to thoroughly wash everything before you add water. Buying organic, in this case, is important, so as to not drink whatever has been sprayed on the fruit or herbs. It will keep for about 24 hours, you can keep replenishing water to the fruit/herbs throughout the day.