Sunday, July 28, 2013

sweet pickled cherry lime gin spritz

Something very lazy, and very pleasant about a summer afternoon gin drink. 

Even though we know the days are getting shorter, they still feel so very long and hot here in Texas.  It's the kind of hot you certainly feel from the sweat on your brow, but can also hear in the chirping of the cicadas. That sound never fails to remind me of summers at my grandparents when we were little... sleeping with the windows wide open, barely a sheet to use as cover, the big box fan blowing out a breeze, and the cicadas singing us to sleep.  July in Texas, we do our outdoor work in the morning, and on a weekend afternoon, it's just too hot for much else.  Unless maybe you are sipping this drink.  Now that changes things.   

 It all starts with these sweet pickled cherries.  I hope you make them too.  They are kind of glorious, actually.  Wait until they show up in your farmer's market when they are in full, perfect season.  When that happens, you'll know it's time. Buy up a couple of quarts and pickle these.  

Muddle a few of them in the bottom of a glass with fresh squeezed lime juice and simple syrup.

Fill the glass with ice, gin and seltzer, and garnish with a pretty garden mint sprig speared through a cherry.  All you need now is to find the porch swing, and sit back to enjoy the afternoon.

sweet pickled cherry lime gin spritz
(makes one cocktail)

3-4 sweet pickled cherries, pitted
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 ounce gin
1 1/2 ounce seltzer
lime, mint and cherries to garnish

Place cherries in the bottom of a glass and add the simple syrup, and lime juice.  Gently muddle the cherries. Fill the glass with ice, add gin and stir to combine. Top with seltzer and garish with lime and a cherry speared through mint.  Sip.  Slowly. Savor.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Roasted Shrimp "Island" Salad with butterhead lettuce, avocado, egg, cucumber & jicama

Oh. Heck. Yeah.  This is what I've been waiting for.

It seems like once every summer I have an epiphany, and suddenly remember how much we love a good, homemade thousand island dressing -- remember it  like it's something brand new, because I haven't made it for many months (though I've been making it occasionally  for several years now), and I have to have it. As in, I have to have it right now.

It was this stunningly handsome Armenian cucumber and the gorgeous butterhead lettuce from this week's bushel that slapped me on the back of my head and jarred my memory: Must make Thousand Island Dressing.

Of course, this salad has to have roasted shrimp.  And avocado.  And jicama. Yes it does. Boiled egg too, no doubt.  Sweet, creamy, crunchy, savory. Yes, yes, yes, yes.  Okay, let's roast the shrimp. Simple and quick, lightly coat shrimp in olive oil and season with salt, pepper and Penzey's Northwood Seasoning.  It's my favorite blend for roasted shrimp, but if you want to create your own, it's made with coarse salt, black pepper, paprika, thyme, rosemary, garlic and chipotle.  Roast at 400 degrees for roughly 5-8 minutes, depending on size of shrimp.  These were smaller, and were ready in 5 minutes.

Hopefully, you, like me, have a couple of boiled eggs already handy in the fridge.  If not, fill a pot with your eggs, add water to cover.  Bring to a boil on the stove top.  Once the water comes to a boil, turn the heat off, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.  Drain and cool in an ice bath to stop the cooking.  Voila! Eggs ready to go.  Assemble your salad, and dive in. Don't try to stop smiling as you dine, it's good stuff.  You earned it.  Lean in and enjoy!

Roasted Shrimp "Island" Salad with butterhead lettuce, avocado, egg, cucumber & jicama
(serves 4)
For the salad:
28 medium shrimp, peeled, deviened, tails-on
olive oil
salt, pepper, and Penzye's Northwood seasing
4 boiled eggs, each quartered
1 Armenian cucumber (or Suyo Long or English Hothouse), sliced on the bias
2 small heads butterhead lettuce
1 lime (to squeeze on jicama and avocado)
1/2 small to medium jicama, peeled, cut into matchstix, with a squeeze of fresh lime
2 avocados, sliced with a squeeze of fresh lime
For the dressing:
Thousand Island -- Your favorite homemade or store-bought version. My favorite version has zip from sweet chili sauce, and crunch from sweet garlic dills.

Boil eggs.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roast the shrimp.   Lightly coat shrimp in olive oil and season with salt, pepper and Penzey's Northwood Seasoning.  Roast at 400 degrees for roughly 5-8 minutes, depending on size of shrimp.  These were smaller, and were ready in 5 minutes.  Arrange the butterhead lettuce on each plate.  Place cucumber slices around the outside of the plate, sweetly tucked under the lettuce.  Scatter jicama, avocado and egg slices atop the lettuce, and spoon on the glorious dressing ;).  Top with roasted shrimp.
You're welcome. :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

antipasto platter with marinated mushrooms

I love the simple beauty of an antipasto platter.  The plate, a blank canvas waiting for all those lovely colors and textures to come to life.  Not to mention the treat it is to your palate -- savory, sweet, salty, sour, crunchy, chewy, creamy.  Serious goodness, not much work.

This one included assorted cheeses, meats, pickled peppers, tomatoes, olives, stuffed grape leaves, brie and homemade fig jam, and marinated mushrooms, which were super yummy.

marinated mushrooms
8 oz package baby bella or button mushrooms (I used Kitchen Pride baby bella)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 T chopped fresh basil
2 T finely chopped red onion
1/8 t salt
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes

Bring water to boil in small pot, and salt water.  Remove stems from mushrooms, and add them to the boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer about 4-5 minutes.  Drain.  Combine mushrooms and remaining ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Assemble platter -- you're ready for a party.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

veggie pesto bolillo sandwich

This sandwich, one of our Summer favorites, is tied up in good memories for me:  Music festivals, girl's trips, good friends and visits to farmer's market and "the" bakery on Airline.

The very first time I remember having a really great avocado and tomato sandwich on an El Bolillo bolillo roll was on a camping trip at an Old Settler's Fest, back in April of 2001.   This was my friend April's picnic offering for lunch, and I still remember the white bakery bag from which the rolls were spilled, ready for us to split and pile high with creamy avocado slices and thick, juicy, red tomatoes.  The weekend holds vivid pictures in my mind, filled with amazing music, good friends, hoola hoops, barn shower stalls, sitting around guitar circle, "'pinka' moon" and talking "names" for the new Lab puppy joining our family later that month ("name MUST be in a song" -- "Rubylove, YES, that's it").  Every time we make this sandwich, I'm reminded of that weekend.

As most excellent things do, this sandwich evolved over time, and came to also feature pesto, as the result of a girl's trip to Santa Fe to visit our friend, Susan.  Gorgeous hikes, 10,000 Waves, and a special lunch spot that produced a turkey, avocado, provolone and pesto sandwich on thick sliced, homemade, grilled bread that had my friend Mel involuntarily muttering "mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm" the entire while we ate.  These are the things I remember.  (psssssst, I remember more, but that's all I'm saying here....)

The sandwich:  It starts with really good bread.

For those of you Houstonians that visit Canino's Farmer's Market on Airline, you've no doubt been by El Bolillo.  And if you've lived here a really, really long time, you'll remember when the bakery was the tiny dive on the corner right next to the Farmer''s Market, prior to expanding and moving to it's new larger, present location now located across the street.  Either way,  the bolillos are absolutely the best in town.  When our niece and nephew visit, it usually includes a trip to this local Mexican bakery --  grab the silver tongs and tray as you walk through the door and pile high with freshly baked goodies until you hit the check out counter.

As mentioned, the "evolved" version of this excellent sandwich includes pesto.  I made a big batch recently out of a harvest of basil from the garden.  

Creamy avocado with squeeze of fresh lime, and juicy slices of Summer red tomatoes jump on board here too.

Slice your rolls, and spread on some mayo and a good amount of pesto.  Top with sliced tomatoes, avocado, provolone and butter lettuce.

Voila!  Veggie Pesto Bolillo Sandwich.  A winner every time.  Get out the napkins and dig in, this one is messy, but oh so worth it.

veggie pesto bolillo sandwich
serves 4

4 bolillo rolls 
1 extra large red tomato
2 ripe avocados, sliced
1 lime 
provolone slices
butter lettuce

Slice the bolillo rolls.  Spread on a layer of mayo, then a generous layer of pesto.  Slice tomatoes and avocado, and squeeze fresh lime on the avocado.  Pile the tomato and avocado evenly between the sandwiches.  Add the provolone and butter lettuce.  Place the top of the bread on, and (here's the highly technical and important part) squish down so that all the ingredients have a better chance of staying between the bread as you feast.  Happy eating!