Watermelon Basil Martini

summer martini on deck

I make fun of Jeff for ordering pink drinks.  I think I’ve given him a complex.  When a cocktail sounds especially girly he even makes me order it for him.  But this is a different kind of pink drink.  OK, it’s still pink.  But it’s complex and flavorful enough that you almost forget the color.

We’ve been making our own flavored vodka for some time now, orange cinnamon, smokey chili… I promise to tell you about those soon.  But I never considered herb-infused vodka. My brother, knowing that I have an extremely prolific basil plant, suggested that basil-infused vodka might be a great way to use up some basil and play around behind the bar at the same time.

watermelon basil martini

Once we had the vodka, watermelon was a natural mixer.  One of my favorite summer meals is a simple plate of sliced watermelon, feta cheese and basil.  Minus the cheese it becomes a fantastically refreshing summer drink.  Don’t skip the basil garnish as the fragrance of fresh basil here really makes the experience. And if you don’t have a fancy juicer and therefore are stumped at watermelon juice here, never fear.  You can simply puree watermelon chunks in a blender and strain out the solids through cheese cloth. 

watermelon basil martini

Watermelon Basil Martini

Serves 2

3 ounces basil infused vodka (recipe below)

5 ounces fresh watermelon juice

ice

basil leaves for garnish

2 slices cucumber for garnish (optional)

In a cocktail shaker combine the vodka, juice and ice.  Shake and then strain into two chilled martini glasses.  Garnish with basil and cucumber. 

Basil Infused Vodka

4 cups vodka

2 cups basil leaves and stems

Combine the basil and vodka in a bottle or large jar, making sure all basil is submerged.  Allow vodka to sit in a cool place, out of the sun, for 1-2 days.  Do not steep longer than two days. Strain the vodka and store at room temperature.

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Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm  Comments (26)  
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In the Moment: Poblano Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Corn Relish

quesadilla

It’s probably been 10 years since I spoke to my college roommate. We didn’t live well together and we weren’t really even friends.  But sometimes life  (or student residential services) puts people in your path for a reason.  Jess had an uncanny ability to ignore the future.  Were a meteor expected to hit the earth tomorrow, a really fantastic cup of coffee would make her happy right now. Falling leaves fascinated her, despite midterms looming in the morning. I, on the other hand, am a planner – a neurotic dreamer who struggles to live in the moment.

But there is something about eating with the seasons, enjoying the freshest flavors, that helps, just a little bit, to keep me in the here and now.  It’s hard to think about my dream house when I’m shucking corn in my current kitchen.  And we’ve had some fantastic corn this season.  So I’ve been trying out new recipes, keeping myself grounded in this day, this moment, this meal.

grilled corn and grilled quesadillas

I love simple steamed corn smeared with butter, but this year I’ve been all about the grill.  Charred bits of summer sweetness make this corn relish outstanding.  And if you have never made quesadillas on the grill, do it now!  More flavor and less grease, what’s not to love about that?

Poblano Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Corn Relish

Serves 4

2 poblano peppers

2 ears corn

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 small avocado, diced

salt and pepper to taste

8 whole wheat tortillas

5 ounces goat cheese

1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese

1/4 cup diced tomato

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill.  Roast the peppers over a direct flame until blistered on all sides. Remove from the heat, place in a bowl, and cover.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, remove the silky fibers from the corn and replace the husks.  Grill the corn in the husks until slightly charred.  Remove and set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut the kernels from the cobs and place in a bowl.  Toss the corn with the vinegar, oil, basil, onion and avocado. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Peel, seed and dice the poblanos.  To make the quesadillas, place four tortillas on the grill.  Quickly sprinkle evenly with the two cheeses, the tomato, and the diced poblanos.  Top with the remaining four tortillas and close the grill.  Cook just one minute until the cheese melts, and then carefully flip the quesadillas.  Cook until browned on the bottom, remove and slice into quarters.  Serve with the relish.

Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 6:30 pm  Comments (27)  
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Girl Food: Strawberry, Balsamic, Goat Cheese Bruschetta

strawberry balsamic jam bruschetta

I think Jeff secretly loves when I go out of town.  Oh, sure, he calls to tell me he misses me, and he says the house is too quiet.  But he gets to hog the tv remote, crank up the air conditioning, and order Domino’s pizza. What’s not to love about that?  When I’m not around, Jeff dives into the foods I eschew – greasy take-out, Doritos, candy bars.  And I bet he’s not alone among husbands in his wife-free habits. 

balsamic bruschettastrawberry balsamic goat cheese

Of course, I indulge myself when Jeff is away, too.  My indulgences are just a little different…  no football or Snickers for me.  No, I go all-out girl.  Facial masks and whiney chick music and pretty, luxurious food.  Tea sandwiches and macerated fruit salads, and gorgeous strawberry, balsamic, and goat cheese bruschetta.

fruit bruschettaI had made the strawberry balsamic jam a few weeks ago, when our CSA share was bursting with red berries.  I’ve been spreading it on everything from English muffins to ham sandwiches, but this is by far my favorite way to enjoy the jam. Tangy, creamy goat cheese and rich, sweet strawberry jam with fresh, aromatic basil.  Perfection. These little gems would be a great brunch hors d’oeuvre, or a perfect light lunch with a salad.  They’d make awesome picnic fare, or a book-club treat, or even a midnight snack.  Basically, they are just yummy.  Anytime.  Particularly when your goat-cheese hating husband is out of town.

Strawberry, Balsamic, Goat Cheese Bruschetta

makes about 2 dozen

2 cups hulled strawberries

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 small baguette

5 ounces soft goat cheese

pinch of salt

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mash the berries slightly.  Add the sugar and vinegar and simmer on low heat about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick.  Cool to room temperature.

Cut the bread on a diagonal into 1/2 inch thick slices and toast the bread lightly in the toaster oven.  Spread the toasts with the goat cheese and sprinkle with salt.  Spoon the strawberry balsamic jam over the goat cheese and top with the basil.  Serve immediately.

berries

Published in: on July 18, 2010 at 7:03 am  Comments (38)  
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Cornmeal Blueberry Waffles

waffles with blueberries

My step-dad makes the most amazing cornmeal pancakes.  They are buttery and bursting with fresh blueberries.  Sometimes, in late summer, he’ll even use the blueberries from the bushes in the backyard. 

blueberriesOn lazy summer weekend mornings he’ll make a batch of batter and cook up a single huge pancake for each of us, one by one, as we wake up.  It’s a wonderfully forgiving batter that holds happily sitting on the countertop for a few hours.  Cooked in more rich, sweet butter than I really want to think about, his pancakes have crisp edges and soft, fluffy interiors.  The crunch of the cornmeal in those crisp edges is what makes Chuck’s pancakes call to me like no other pancakes ever have. 

In an effort to maximize the crispy edges, I revamped Chuck’s pancakes into waffles.  All those divets make for endless crispyness!  And the berries burst through as wonderfully as in the original pancakes.  Plus, I get to use my waffle maker, which always gives me a bit of a kick.  I love getting mileage out of all those appliances tucked away in the back pantry.

blueberry wafflesWith blueberry season upon us, I featured these waffles in my July column for the Dedham Transcript. Simple and just sweet enough, these waffles are great for brunch, but in our house are more often dinner. 

Blueberry Cornmeal Waffles

Serves 6-8

1 cup milk

¾ cup plain yogurt

2 eggs, beaten

5 tablespoons melted butter, cooled

1 ½ cups flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt

1 cup fresh blueberries

Butter and maple syrup, for serving

Wisk together the milk, yogurt, eggs and butter in a large bowl. In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Combine the dry ingredients into the wet and let sit for 15 minutes to allow the cornmeal to soften. Fold in the blueberries. Drop and spread the batter onto a hot greased waffle iron and bake until crisp. Serve with plenty of butter and warmed real maple syrup

waffle

Published in: on July 14, 2010 at 6:58 pm  Comments (21)  
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A Chocolate Malt From Route 66

chocolate and vanilla milkshakes

The Grand Canyon was great.  It really, truly was.  Mind boggling, majestic, picturesque… all of that. 

But it’s not the Grand Canyon that I’ve been dreaming about since we got home.  It’s the chocolate malt from Twister’s 50’s Soda Fountain.  I’m a total sucker for nostalgia, and the town of William’s, AZ was right up my alley.  The main drag is an homage to the Route 66 glory days, complete with poodle skirts and James Dean posters and, of course, an authentic soda fountain.

old fashioned chocolate maltWe were headed back to our bed and breakfast when we saw the sign for Twister’s, and my husband (bless him for knowing me so very well) yanked the wheel hard, crossed two lanes of traffic, slammed on the brakes and whirled into the parking lot. He was rewarded with a strawberry freeze (strawberry ice cream blended with lemon-lime soda).  The freeze was lovely, but there is nothing better than a rich, sweet malt.  Dusty and sweaty from our walk at the canyon, we lounged at the outdoor chrome-top tables, enjoying the sunset and our frosty treats.

And the minute we got home I sent Jeff off to the store for malt powder. And straws. You can’t have a shake or malt without a fun straw. Unless you enjoy your malt from a shot glass.  Yep, a shot glass.  Little milkshake shooters served with a big plate of cookies make for a pretty awesome dinner party dessert.  Your friends will swoon.  And if you go for half chocolate shooters and half vanilla (use regular malt powder, skip the chocolate syrup and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract) you’ll please every last picky guest.

chocolate malt shooters

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Malt

Makes two big servings (or about two dozen shooters)

2 cups vanilla ice cream

2 cups milk

1/8 cup chocolate malt powder

1/4 cup chocolate syrup

1 ounce dark chocolate

Combine ice cream, milk, malt powder and syrup in a blender and whir until well blended.  Pour the chocolate malts into two big cups.  Grate the dark chocolate over the top of each malt.  Serve with straws.

 chocolate malt

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm  Comments (37)  
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