May 25, 2010


This past week was finals week at school, the second worst week of the semester.   The hands down worst being the week that classes start up again after a break.  Don't get me wrong, I like being back in school and this past semester wouldn't qualify as a tough one in anybody's book, but I'm glad to have washed my hands of it.  To be free from school, at least until the summer session starts back up in a few weeks.  So in honor of being done with classes and also because it was such a gorgeous day, I made this Aperol cocktail last Thursday.  I've actually been holding on to this bottle of Aperol since last summer when it was gifted to me for my birthday.  Have you heard of this Italian aperitivo?  It's fantastic - like Campari's kid sister - just a little brighter, a little orangier and a little less bitter.  It's the bitter that keeps you interested sip after sip and before you know it, your drink has disappeared.  Aperol is warm summer evenings sitting on a porch, watching the sun set, it's bar-b-ques and finding relief from the hot hot sun under the shade of a tree.

Anyhow, back to this bottle that I've been hanging onto for the past 9 months.  Originally I had intentions of drinking it mixed with prosecco, but for some reason it never happened.  And then it cooled down and it didn't seem like the appropriate weather to enjoy my Aperol and prosecco.  Fast forward to last week when Alice Q Foodie mentioned Aperol cocktails in her "Ten Things I'm Excited About This Summer" list (oh, I'm such a sucker for lists!) and a subsequent email from Tasting Table featuring cocktails inspired by the Negroni and boom, I'm inspiration!  So I began my internet scouring for related recipes and lo and behold I found this gem from the famed Pegu Club in Manhattan.  I've never been to Pegu Club, nor I have I even been to NYC, but this cocktail called to me.  Similar to the Negroni it replaces the Campari with Aperol and the sweet vermouth with lemon juice and simple syrup and keeps the gin.  I've read that at the bar they garnish the drink with an orange peel that's been flamed, but I'm not that fancy and simply used an orange twist.  It really is a perfect summertime cocktail.

Intro to Aperol
from Pegu Club in NYC

2 ounces Aperol
1 ounce gin
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup**
dash of Angostura bitter
twist of orange peel, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the Aperol, gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters. Shake well, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Twist the orange peel over the drink to release its oils, then drop it into the glass.

**To make simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a slow rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof container and let cool to room temperature. Cover tightly, and refrigerate until chilled through; store indefinitely.

May 17, 2010

Apropos of the Weather

Please excuse this most unseasonal post.

I know this is an awfully wintry, hearty sounding soup to be presented to you here in the middle of May, but our weather is being a little uncooperative and finicky.  In defense of this soup, however, the kale was newly harvested from D's mom's garden.  Sweet, meaty lacinato kale, that nutrient packed darling of the cabbage family; I could eat it every day.  Did you see I threw some in my miso soup as well?  When I brought the bag of kale home (a grocery bag at least half way full) I had grand plans.  First I'd make this soup, as it was recommended by the grower herself, and with the leftovers I'd make a batch of kale chips.  Pipe dreams.  I though surely, staring at this pile of greens, there was well over a pound to distribute between the two recipes, but I would be wrong.  Pulling out my digital kitchen scale I leaned my haul was merely 3/4 of a pound.  Next time kale chips, next time.

Determined not to be defeated, or let the kale go to waste, I moved on and decided to prepare the soup.  Making modifications as needed - not using a full pound of kale - and switching things up because I just plain felt like it - using just 2 precooked chicken andouille sausages from Trader Joe's instead of a full pound of turkey sausage (what the heck kind of turkey sausage, it doesn't say?!?) turned out a pretty tasty soup.  It had a nice amount of spice from both the sausage and the added red pepper flakes and was thick with greens and potatoes.  And you know, I can most always get behind a bowl of soup, even when it's warmer out.  Especially if said soup has a bit of peppery heat to it.

**Oh, hey there!  If you look closely, I accidentally sneaked into the picture!

Potato Kale Soup with Chicken Andouille Sausage
Adapted from Food and Wine, January 1997

4 - 6 servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken andouille sausages
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart water
2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Pinch dried red-pepper flakes
3/4 pound kale, stems removed, leaves shredded

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pot and, when it is cool enough to handle, cut it into slices and cut each slice into quarters. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan.

Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute longer.

Add the water, broth, and salt and bring the soup to a boil. Add the sausage, potatoes, and red-pepper flakes and bring back to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, for 5 minutes. Add the kale and bring the soup back to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, until the potatoes and kale are tender, about 6 minutes longer.

May 13, 2010

A Jumpstart on Grilling Season

Can you smell it?  All the BBQs that are being pulled out and put back into heavy rotation?  People getting out of the kitchen and gathering around grills in backyards everywhere, soaking up all the sun they've been missing these past cool months?  See you later you long and involved recipes.  No more braising or oven roasting or lingering by the stove for warmth.  It's May and everyone is moving it outdoors.

It's the season of grilling.  Grilling and salads.  I saw this recipe on the Fine Cooking website a few weeks back, before fresh corn started showing up, and needed something to bring along to a friends house.  It was calling my name.  Telling me not only would this be a yummy salad/side, but once I assembled it I could sneak a few bites, scooped up with tortilla chips, before hand. (Full disclosure, I'll put anything remotely dip like on a tortilla chip.  I may even go so far as to make a meal out of it - though in this case I did not since the salad's ultimate destination was not meant to be for me, my fridge or on my chips.)  I adapted the recipe for what I had on hand; using kidney beans instead of black beans and frozen corn in place of the freshly grilled ears.  I made less of the vinaigrette than was called for because I prefer for the salad to be just coated with the dressing not swimming in it, and minced up a whole jalapeno because I couldn't see just a teaspoon adding much flavor.  And you know, it worked out quite nicely.

Tomato Avocado Corn and Bean Salad
Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

yields about 4 cups

1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 small red onion, cut into a medium dice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 - 2 limes, juiced
1 jalapeño, minced
4 roma tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
1 medium avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into medium dice
1 scallion, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt 

In a nonstick pan over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  Add the diced onion and corn, and saute until onions have turned translucent and the corn begins to brown just slightly, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Chop up tomatoes, cilantro, scallion, jalapeno and avocado.  Add these along with the cooled corn and onions to a medium size bowl and mix.  Add in remaining olive oil, cumin and lime juice to taste.  Season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy as a side salad to grilled meats or scoop it up with tortilla chips.

May 7, 2010


Beenleigh Blue.
Tipsy Onions.
(not pictured, wildflower honey)

May 4, 2010

Eating in Patterns

Sometimes I get into these obsessive food kicks.  Actually, I suffer these obsessive tendencies towards food a lot.  I can and will eat the same thing for lunch everyday, for weeks on end, and still not get sick of it.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crackers and cheese and apples, yogurt with pretzels and fruit salad, ants on a log.  (And would you look at that!  My lunch habits closely resemble that of an elementary school kid!)  The same goes for breakfast, Cheerios or Special K nearly every single day.  I can't help it, I like the routine.  No, I crave it.

Right now I can't get enough of Asian flavors - hello miso soup, hey there banh mi.  And now these lettuce cups.  While these are by no means traditional fare, or even indicative of one particular cuisine, the chicken salad certainly has the elements that I've been hankering after.  This recipe won't blow you out of the water, but it's solid and I'd say the flavors are easily accessible.  The creeping heat of the sambal oelek is balanced by a tangy yogurt dressing and crisp fresh lettuce.  Nothing too overwhelming.  Nothing too unexpected.  I did these up for dinner, serving three at a time, but honestly, I think they'd work better as an appetizer.  Preferably served with a refreshing Saison or Farmhouse Ale.

Spicy Asian Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine, September 2009

12 lettuce cups

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4  cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 pound chicken breast, poached and meat shredded
1/3 cup water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
12 Bibb lettuce leaves (not the biggest outer leaves)
1 Hass avocado, peeled and cut into 12 slices
Lime wedges, for serving

In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise and yogurt with the sambal oelek, mustard and sesame oil. Stir in the chicken, water chestnuts and scallions and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the chicken salad into the lettuce cups and top with a slice of avocado. Serve with lime wedges.