Recipes and Me

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Blackberry Rose Gin & Tonic

A fine cocktail is a wonderful thing.  That might be the understatement of the year. These days there is some serious street cred to be had for being a “mixologist." And I admit, when that urban trend started to catch steam I was all about poo pooing it, just like I was with the trend I thought had gotten out of hand, bacon cupcakes.  But alas, just like I found when I finally bit into a frustratingly mind blowing maple bacon cupcake from a favorite bakery, I was wrong. And I just admitted that in writing so that means I’m even fine with it.  I was happy to be proven wrong because mixology I have learned is, in fact, an art.  The concoctions are endless and when you really get going with all of the bitters, herbs, fruit, and endless pantry enhancements, you can really stumble onto something amazing.  That’s not to say you can throw everything but the kitchen sink into a drink and think you’re a genius.  Without some thought and basic knowledge of chemistry thrown in, you could end up with something truly disgusting (think Portlandia’s episode of The Mixologist).  But that’s all the more reason to have fun experimenting with flavors and to take notice when one of those fine experts makes a cocktail so delicious that you start to realize what you've been missing (at least in that department).

Blackberries. Gin. Rose water. Mint. Need I say more? Maybe not but you know me- I will.  I love a good gin and tonic, probably a little too much. It's classic and reliably satisfying. But sometimes you just want to mix it up a bit.  This cocktail does the trick with tartly sweet blackberries, good gin, delicate rose water, and fresh mint.  It's a supremely summery twist on a beloved classic. Cheers.

Blackberry Rose Gin & Tonic
serves 4

16 blackberries
20 medium sized mint leaves
1/4 cup simple syrup (instructions below)
12 oz. gin
1 bottle of tonic water (a little over 1 liter)
rose water (a little goes a long way)

Use highball glasses for this drink (I find the wider ones tend to work better for the berry muddling).  Line up 4 glasses.  Place 3 blackberries, 4 mint leaves, 1 tablespoon simple syrup, and a dash of rose water in each glass.  Muddle ingredients together.  Disclaimer: It's not the best idea to wear white while making these drinks.  Also, I recommend putting a small towel over each glass as you work to protect yourself from splashing.  Fill the glasses with ice.  Pour 3 oz. of gin into each glass.  Top off the drinks with tonic water and give each a quick stir.  I like to finish the drinks with a sprig of mint and an additional blackberry speared by a toothpick and placed on each glass.

Simple Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Heat 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar in a  small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Cool syrup before using in cocktails.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Blueberry Ginger Compote (sugar and spice and everything nice)

Hello friends. I've missed you terribly. 2013 (into much of 2014) was quite a year, and not in that generically good way. Unfortunately a lot went down that was "heavy" and I had to take some time off, readjust, find myself again, and find my way back. Back to the things I love. Like this. And you. It's like that saying, "home is where the heart is." With summer providing unwavering inspiration, I've started to see so much of the beauty that was faded for me for some time.  Sampling plump blueberries, nearly violet in color, so addictive you'd think they were chocolate candies; peaches in a spectrum of yellows and reds, dripping with sweet syrupy goodness, that you can't wait to get home and devour, and tomatoes so full of flavor you can eat them like apples, it's become much easier to find the heart of The Picky Pantry all over again. So thanks for being my people. I can't wait to share some fun new recipes with you.

Summer. That word embodies fun.  Fun trips and just plain fun in the sun. It's the season most of us look forward to because we see it as those few months when things will get a bit lighter, much needed vacation time will get nearer, and we'll be able to get twice as many things done on any given day with the sun on our side until nearly 9pm. But for me, the thing I look forward to the most about summer is all of my favorite fruits and vegetables (and flowers!) that will come into season, one right after the other.  Snap peas, Asparagus, Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Peaches, Tomatoes, Okra, Corn, Watermelon.  The list is never ending it seems, not the case during winter, so I'm always thankful for the bounty of summer.

One thing I can't stop buying right now is blueberries.  I feel their season slipping away and I'm trying to savor every last moment.  As blueberries near extinction for the year I get the itch to make a compote or jam.  If you can set aside a lazy Sunday morning to make fresh fruit jam, you will compliment yourself repeatedly on your genius come November.

This is a blueberry compote (a touch less fussy and laborious than jam) with a hint of ginger. I've found ginger to be an exceptional complement to various berry desserts and preserves.  It's not overpowering in this recipe, adding only a bit of complexity to the sweet blueberries.  My two favorite ways to serve (ah hell, eat) this compote are spooned over a really good scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled on a log of goat cheese, with crackers (perfect for a party). Enjoy!

Blueberry Ginger Compote
makes 1/2 pint

2 cups fresh blueberries (preferably organic)
1 small "nub" of ginger (about 2 inches)
1/4 cup good honey
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Peel the ginger.  I find a vegetable peeler makes very quick work of this but using a spoon to scrape the peel off also works exceptionally well.  Slice the 2 inch piece of ginger in two and quarter each 1 inch segment so you end up with 8 small but sturdy pieces of ginger (you'll need to fish them out of the water so you don't want them to be too small). In a small uncovered saucepan boil the water, honey, and ginger for 5 minutes.  Remove and discard the ginger.  Stir in 1 cup of the blueberries and simmer 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the blueberries start to burst.  Add the remaining blueberries and the tablespoon of lemon juice.  Simmer 4-6 minutes, still stirring, until the liquid reduces a bit and thickens.  This compote can be served warm (warm, not hot) over ice cream or at room temp for a variety of other uses.  As I mentioned above, I love it drizzled over goat cheese served alongside good crackers as a party appetizer.  It's visually stunning, easy to put together (especially if you already made your compote in advance), and delicious.  This compote will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.