Thursday, April 27

Vanilla-Ginger Mojito

Last month I came across an article about how you can tell a lot about someone by the way they take their drinks, and I've been secretly observing my friends' drink habits ever since.  It's fascinating!  Do they take their coffee with a splash of milk in the morning and with sugar after lunch? (They're easygoing & laid back.)  Enjoy a little Glenlivet in the afternoon? (An artist!)  Margarita with colleagues after work? (The year-round spring-breaker.)  Drink wine only after eight? (Responsible to the nth degree.)

As a rule, I like my morning coffee black (moody) and my tea with a lump of sugar (dangerous!).  I like a glass of Rosé while I cook; whisky on rare winter evenings; martinis stirred & dirty. (I prefer sandals & sundresses; tend to be melancholy; am trying too hard!)  And I've never been one for fruity cocktails. (Boring!)

Last week, though, I broke my rule and made Mojitos in the afternoon.  They were inspired by an iced tea I had a few years ago that was sweetened with ginger and vanilla syrup.  The combination is amazing!  In fact, they make such nice partners, they appear side-by-side and hand-in-hand in many of my recipes.

Thursday, April 6

Three Traditions

As I'm writing this, I'm looking out the window at a cold white sky above fragile tree branches, soft with baby-green leaves, bending low to the ground under the weight of the heavy blanket of snow which continues to float from the clouds -  and I'm wondering, exactly where did spring go?  The electricity went out at 3:30 this morning - a tree that fell on the lines, they say - and it only came on briefly about an hour ago, but long enough to make a pot of coffee.  Fingers crossed that my laptop battery will hold out until it comes back on again!

I'm feeling a little nostalgic, I guess, as I watch the winter scene unfold (in April!) and here's why.  I always wanted a spring baby.  There's something so special about being born during the season of renewal and rebirth.  When I became pregnant with Eva I was elated and began thinking of Spring-inspired names and perusing the pages of the Pottery Barn Kids catalogue in search of the perfect "gardenesque" nursery set, and when we found out she was due on Easter Sunday my mind happily wandered to lilac Easter sundresses and sunny straw hats.  She ended up coming a few days before Easter and I remember that first Easter Sunday was very much like today - snowy, wet, cloudy and cold.  So much for the dreams of dresses and sun hats, but I had something better to occupy my thoughts.

Wednesday, February 22

Rum Apple Tart

As a child we used to take frequent trips to the country where my extended family lived.  My aunt and uncle owned an apple orchard, and as soon as the car pulled into their long dirt driveway my brother and I would run out into the trees, without even so much as a "Hello!" to my aunt who was waiting at the front door.  I use to love to skip between the rows of trees, imagining I was Dorothy on the yellow brick road - and there was always a dog around to play the part of Toto.

In the spring, when the branches were covered in blossoms and the orchard smelled fresh and new, we'd forage for the tender, wild asparagus that grew in the shade.  In summer, when the trees baked in the hot sun and the grass turned golden and crunched beneath our feet, we'd pick up fallen apples from off the ground and toss them at one another, pretending the sneaky trees had come to life and were throwing them at us like they did in the movie.

We'd imagine the trees had faces, tracing our fingers over eyes and noses hidden in the bark.  This one is friendly, we declared, he's smiling.  This one not so much.  Look at that scowl!  Children can find faces in almost anything.

Friday, January 27

Blood Orange & Vanilla Whisky Sour

Blood Orange Whiskey Sour

Some weeks are vodka weeks - straightforward & easy.  For some, complex but comfortable gin is more fitting.  And then there are those formidable weeks, packed with obscurities and paradoxes.  Those are best capped off with a good, old-fashioned whiskey cocktail.  And this week was definitely a "whiskey week."  It wasn't a bad week, just complicated, filled with interruptions, with contractors flooding the house, insurance adjustors descending on the roof, an enormous work project that filled every available nook and cranny and a kid home sick with the flu all week.   Luckily this "whiskey week" happened to fall during blood orange season.  That makes things less complicated.

Friday, January 6

Vanilla & Rum Biscotti

Is it just me, or does it seem like the whole northern hemisphere is buried under a blanket of snow this week?  This would be just fine with me except that instead of going back to school on Thursday like they were supposed to, the kids have had two consecutive snow days, officially making this the longest Christmas Vacation ever  - or at least it feels that way to me.  I've been working from home and spending countless hours on and off over the last two days with the snow shovel in hand, trying to kick this cabin fever, while the kids make artificial sledding hills out of the mountains of snow I'm dumping into our very flat yard.  I've discovered that it's through mundane activities like snow shoveling that my mind becomes its most creative and that's especially useful when you're snowed-in & haven't been to the market in almost a week.  I should have been coming up with creative ideas for what to make for dinner but instead I was daydreaming about what sweet treat I could whip together for a little afternoon snack - going through the contents of the (very bare) pantry in my head as the shovel scraped back & forth, up and down the driveway.

Friday, December 30

England where my heart lies {Orange-Honey Scones}

And from the shelter of my mind,
Through the window of my eyes,
I gaze beyond the rain-drenched streets,
To England where my heart lies.  -Kathy's Song by Simon & Garfunkel

My heart is in England today. Perhaps it's the cold, steal grey skies. The sun, just a white orb, failing to penetrate the icy clouds with its warmth. Perhaps it's the damp air that clings to my hair and jacket when I walk out the door.  It coats my lungs with a cold film that makes me cough when I inhale, and then escapes in a burst of heavy steam.  Whatever the reason, I find myself thinking of Darjeeling tea, wool sweaters, green hills, scones with orange marmalade, Paddington Bear, and all things comforting and English.

These scones take me back to college when I spent a few weeks alone in London between semesters.  I can almost remember the smell of damp bookshops & smokey tabbaco shops.  And I most certainly can recall the smell of fresh-from-the-oven scones in a warm coffee shop with chairs upholstered in torn & faded leather, tables chipped & greasy from ages of use set in front of a picture window that looked out onto a wet, verdant green hill painted on a canvas of grey, not too unlike the one just outside my window today in Colorado. That must be why I'm craving scones.  Because, although the memories are fading like the leather on those chairs, when you leave a piece of your heart somewhere, you can return whenever you like.

Thursday, December 1

Potato & Leek Soup

December blew in on an icy wind, the kind that whips down the mountainsides and cuts like a knife across the snowy valleys.  The only problem was that the snow was missing - and a cold wind that's not tempered by the softness of snow is often unbearable.  In such cases a steamy bowl of soup is absolutely necessary to take the edge off - thick and hearty soup, like my grandmother certainly would have made on a day like today.  She ate soup everyday and I could always count on there being a pot of some kind or another in her refrigerator when I visited after school.  And yes, she used to stash the entire pot in her fridge, sometimes with the wooden spoon still inside, ready to be pulled out and set on a hot burner.  I always preferred a bowl of her soup to a cookie or a slice of buttered bread as an afternoon snack.

On Tuesday, the temperature dropped as the wind arrived.  I had a few potatoes and leeks leftover from Thanksgiving, so just as soon as I got home from dropping the kids off at school that morning, I was in the kitchen peeling and chopping.  I started with Julia Child's recipe for Potage Parmentier - a classic - but as always, after stirring and tasting, I abandoned the original recipe for what I found in the kitchen.  Half an onion here, a bay leaf there, a splash of lemon juice for freshness.  I left out the cream altogether, as I try to limit the amount of dairy I eat.  The creaminess of the potatoes more than makes up for it!   As my grandmother would have done, I've had the soup in the fridge, not in the original pot, but ready for lunch everyday, nonetheless.   It only gets better as it sits.  I was almost sad to ladle the last of it into my bowl today.

Below is the recipe, but of course, its just a guideline.  Potatoes are such a versatile "blank-slate," you can add just about any vegetable or herb to this recipe.

Saturday, November 19

Cinnamon Pancakes with Calvados Apple Compote

Cinnamon Pancakes Calvados Apple Compote by Rebecca Sherrow

There are sheer, white curtains in my bedroom window and every November morning, when winter approaches and the sun is low enough in the sky, they defuse the sunlight so that my bedroom becomes a brilliant, pearlescent snow globe.  I get up much too early during the work week to see this everyday, but on the weekends I sleep until that ethereal light wakes me.

Why do I tell you this?  Because on those lazy Saturday mornings I love to linger in bed, propped up by a mountain of pillows with a notepad on my lap, mixing flavors on paper & concocting recipes in my mind to play with throughout the week.  This time is precious to me, almost like an extension of a dream, and I find I'm most creative there in those early hours, bathed in that beautiful light.  This moment lasts only 15 to 20 minutes before the sun moves on & shadows fall upon the white curtains again, but in that time I've come up with several different recipe ideas & a shopping list to take to the market later in the day, where I'll plan the rest of the week's menu.  Then it's finally time to throw on my robe and head upstairs to the kitchen where the late autumn sun is shining through a different set of windows and will continue that way through the rest of the day.  It's my very favorite way to spend a Saturday!

A recent player in these culinary daydreams has been Calvados.  In cocktails, of course, but also in compotes, cakes,  tarts, sauces and breads.  That rich, slightly bitter, apple flavour adds such complexity to both baked goods & savory dishes - I've already gone through two bottles this fall! Here's a simple recipe for Calvados Apple Compote - a favorite on pancakes but just as good on pork chops.  I've included the pancake recipe, too, because, more often than not, on those slow Saturdays, when I finally do make it to the kitchen, these are what I cook.  I hope you'll enjoy them as much as we do!

Friday, October 28

Ghosts: Liquefied with a Raspberry Chaser

Rebecca Sherrow - Liquefied Ghost Cocktail Recipe

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream. 
-Edgar Allan Poe

Do you believe in ghosts?  As a kid, I was convinced my house was haunted - but what kid isn't?  There were little things - like waking in the middle of the night to the sound of men laughing in a dark corner of my room, or coming home from school to find that the contents of my dresser had been rearranged (always in the same order), or hearing - rather "feeling" - the slightest whisper over my shoulder and turning to see my posters hanging in the air before slowly drifting to the floor, always face down.

For as long as I can remember I've loved a good ghost story, so maybe these incidences were just the fabrications of an overactive imagination.  In any case, I still love them and never more than on Halloween!

This cocktail is a delicious ghost story in its own right.  It's my twist on a classic Halloween drink, The Liquefied Ghost.  I use coconut milk & finish it with a raspberry chaser - simply a purée spiked with Chambord - right in the same glass.  I freeze the purée in the glass and even though the Chambord prevents it from freezing solid, it does become firm enough that the cocktail doesn't disrupt it as it's poured.  The frozen purée keep the cocktail cold, but what I really love is that after it's thawed the cocktail stays suspended above the raspberries, even after swirling the glass, like a ghost hovering over the world of flesh and blood.   What's more fitting than that on All Hallows Eve?

Tuesday, September 13

Still Summer {Berry Tart}

I'm still trying to convince myself that summer's not almost over, even as the leaves are quickly starting to blush and the nights are turning so cold that we've had to add extra blankets to the beds (instead of turning on the heat - it's too soon for that!)  It started off imperceptibly enough, with just the slightest hint of yellow in the top branches of the trees that line our street.  But just yesterday, as I drove through the neighborhood I was shocked to see that the branches are suddenly more gold than green.  When did that happen?  And then the urgency struck.  To make summer last just one weekend longer, just one day more.

This is a curious new feeling for me.  Year after year I welcome fall like an old friend.  My best friend, in fact, for it is my favorite season.  I trudge through summer with my eyes always on her, like a wanderer plods through a desert; her cool nights are the oasis that is often just out of reach.  But not this year.  No, she showed up on our doorstep unannounced at the end of August.  Or so it seems.  And I wasn't ready for her.  However, despite the chill in the air and the changing leaves, the calendar still says it's summer, and I'm holding on to that as tightly as I can, for as long as I can.  Because if the calendar still says it's summer, then it's still summer in my kitchen and as such, there's no shame in sharing one or two more summer recipes before time runs out, is there?  Like the seasons, I feel their time is slipping through my fingers, too, just as strawberries & cherries are too quickly being replaced by apples & figs (which, by the way would look just as pretty on this tart).

Tuesday, August 9

The Summer of the Zucchini Tart

Every summer has it's signature dish.  The one thing I find myself making over and over.  That one dish that never seems to get old, though sometimes my family doesn't share that sentiment.  Last year it was tomato salad, marinated in sweet balsamic and spicy raw garlic, made with what seemed like an endless supply of tomatoes from the garden. The year before, crispy zucchini fries were on the table nearly every day.  The kids requested them cut into sticks instead of rounds and happily dipped them in just about anything from spicy marinara to creamy ranch dressing and even ketchup.  This year it's the zucchini tart, with juicy heirloom tomatoes and caramelized onions, that we can't get enough of.  In fact, I'm sure this summer will become know as "the summer of the zucchini tart" if ever, by chance, my children someday write about the recipes that populated their childhood. (Hey, a mom can dream!)

I've lost count of how many times I've made this tart in the past few weeks and zucchini season continues to stretch before us! Each time it's a little different, depending on what's sitting on the counter.  But this is my favorite variation.  I love the sweetness of the caramelized onions with the bright flavour of oregano.  Top it with a very good olive oil to really bring it to the next level.  I've fallen in love with Cobram Estate extra virgin olive oil.  Not only is it made in a completely peanut-free facility, but their small batch, tree-to-table practices produce the most pure and flavourful olive oil I've ever tasted!  In a tart that's this simple, it's those pure ingredients that make it so amazing. 

Thursday, July 28

Chocolate Sunflower-Butter Cake

I don't often crave peanut butter any more, but when I do it's fierce, relentless and has to be satisfied in the biggest and most extravagant of ways.  Last week I woke up with the craving and couldn't get it off my mind.  Like that catchy song that's stuck in your head.  You can't get it out until you sing it at the top of your lungs.  Well, this cake is the equivalent of me singing "peanut butter, peanut butter, peanut butter" in my loudest voice.  Only it's completely peanut free!  And it worked!