Monthly Archives: June 2009

Jet Pilot

Living in the Bay Area, you eventually forget that most of the country is living in the middle of one season or another, each rather distinct.  In Boston where I spent well over a decade, that meant long, dreary winters of icy cold, nasty wind, and grey skies, punctuated by the occasional snowstorm to make everything postcard pretty.   Of course, that would last about a day and then the fluffy white snow turned into sooty piles of slush.  Surving this meant investing in a good supply of long-johns, parkas and L.L. Bean duck boots – as well as making sure you were within spitting distance of a pub serving comfort foot and good stouts.  Spring brought relatively warmer, but still uncomfortably cold weather – none of which mattered as it was raining all the time.  The one upside was that the Red Sox would be playing again.  Finally, summer would arrive and with it heat, heat and more heat, with a good dose of sticky humidity for good measure.  You combated this with flip flops, shorts, fried clams, and weekends on Cape Cod.  Finally, fall came and that meant crisp days, trees full of color, apple picking and the Head of the Charles regatta.  It also brought streets filled with clueless, spoiled, college freshmen crowding the subway and that neighborhood pub of yours.

Here in San Francisco, we seem to have less annoying college freshmen, but they are made up by the equally annoying hipster.  Also, we mainly just get room temperature weather, with the outdoor thermostat set between 55 and 75, for pretty much the entire year.  We get a few months of rain in the winter, a few months of chilly fog in the summer and the rest is some modest variation of 65, partly cloudy/foggy.  However, the last few days we have had honest to God summer weather.  Clear, sunny days.  Temps hitting 90.  Shorts and flip flop weather, where you even need some suntan lotion when you go outside.  Its fantastic.  Which means only one thing: I’m thirsty for a cold, fruity, tropical-esque drink.

Jet Pilot

1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 oz cinnamon syrup
1/2 oz falernum
1 oz dark Jamaican rum
3/4 oz gold Puerto Rican rum
3/4 oz Lemon Hart 151
1 dash Angostura bitters
6 drops Herbsaint, Pernod or absinthe
4 oz crushed ice

Combine all in blender, ice last.  Flash blend for 5 seconds.  Pour into mug.

Courtesy of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Sippin’ Safari, via Kaiser Penguin.

Kentucky Woman

Its turned into summer and that brings the hankering for floral, fruity digestables.   I made a batch of lavender syrup a few weeks back and came up with a Lavender-Ginger Collins that was quite tasty.  However, I had a pile of leftover dried lavender even after making the syrup.  So what to do? The answer, of course, was to make more syrup!  This time, a honey-lavender, with a tasty drink courtesy of Liquidity Preference and Mixology Monday.  It was both refreshing and addictive.

Kentucky Woman

1 3/4 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. lavender-honey syrup
1/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir with ice and pour into cocktail glass.  Garnish with lemon peel.   (although I bet a sprig of fresh lavender would be pretty sweet…)

Seared Scallops with Wine-Braised Leeks

The photo doesn’t do these justice.   If those jumbo scallops were cheaper, I’d eat these all the time.  Like  popcorn.  Or Cool Ranch Doritos.  Seriously, you’ll be tempted to eat them with your hands if only to lick your fingers afterward. 

Now I’m hungry.

Seared Scallops with Braised Leeks

1 lb large scallops
1 large leek, white and pale green parts only
1 cup dry white wine
1 chicken bullion cube
2 Tbs butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs  fresh tarragon, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
flour for dredging
salt, hot sauce, lemon juice, to taste

Trim bottom of the leek and cut crosswise into segments about 2-1/2″ long. Cut each segment in half lengthwise. Wash any grit from the leeks, keeping the half-cylinder segements intact.  Cut the leeks into sticks.  There should be 3 to 4 loosely packed cups.

Melt butter in a saucepan and add wine, boullion cube and leeks. (I use a teaspoon of concentrated chicken base, like Better Than Boullion).  Toss the leeks to coat with the butter and then cover tightly. Braise over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until leeks are very tender.

Drain leeks and return the braising liquid to saucepan.  Add the cream, stir, raise the heat to medium high and reduce the liquid by about half.  While the liquid is reducing, wash the scallops and dry them well. Place them in a ziploc bag with the 1/2 tsp salt and some flour. Shake well to coat.  Rest scallops on a plate for 10 minutes.

When the cream mixture has reduced, add tarragon, garlic and braised leeks.   Season with salt, hot sauce and lemon juice.    Keep warm while cooking scallops.

In a heavy frying pan, heat 1 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. olive oil until very hot but not smoking.  Sear the scallops for 1 minute, then turn and cook another 30 seconds.  Serve atop braised leeks.

Recipe courtesy of Stephen Cooks.

Hoskins Cocktail

Recently picked up a bottle of Torani Amer, the American version of the French bitter orange amaro called Amer Picon.  Amer Picon is a feature of many a classic cocktail, such as Picon Punch.  Sadly, there are no longer any American importers of Amer Picon.  Un-sadly, Torani – the folks who brought you the flavoured coffee syrups – make their own version, which by a wacky twist, is supposedly closer in flavor to the original taste of Amer Picon, which was re-formulated in the 1970s to a lower proof.  Whew – long story.   Some think the Torani Amer is a bit more vegetal/celery than the Amer Picon such that drinks like the Picon Punch taste off using it,  making it worthwhile to mix up your own replica of the original, but that takes two months!  Regardless, the Hoskins was invented with the Torani Amer specifically in mind, so really, who needs to wait that long.

Hoskins Cocktail

2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. Torani Amer or Amer Picon
1/2 oz. marascino liqueur
1/4 oz. Cointreau
dash of orange bitters

Stir with ice for least 30 seconds and strain into cocktail glass.  Flame an orange peel over glass and garnish with peel.

White Chocolate-Cranberry Oatmeal Cookie

This one is all Ms. ChinaNob – all I contributed was my sweet tooth.  I could eat these until I stuffed myself so round I looked like a weeble-wobble.   The addition of the whole wheat pastry flour gave it a nice crumb, almost like a scone.  On top of vanilla ice cream, these might be induce hallucinations.

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookie

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup dried cranberries
4 oz. white chocolate chips or chopped bar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375F.  In a large bowl, using electric mixer, cream together sugar, brown sugar and butter.  Stir in egg and vanilla until combined.  Add cinnamon, baking soda, salt & flour and mix well.  Finally, fold in the oatmeal, cranberries, walnuts and chocolate chips.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 3 inches apart on baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool 2-3 minutes on sheet, then transfer to cooling rack until cookies have firmed up.  Then attempt to eat only one.  Cry as you fail.  Eat another cookie to compensate for unworthy feelings.  Repeat as necessary.

Mint Julep

I feel a classic kick coming on.  Last night it was Manhattans.  Tonight it was “what to do with the leftover mint? Juleps!”  Not that I am complaining mind you – I always love a good excuse to thwack a bag of ice with a rolling pin.

Mint Julep

8-10 mint leaves
2 oz. bourbon
2 tsp. simple syrup
a whole mess of crushed ice

Put mint leaves in bottom of highball, double rocks glass, or if you are special – a silver julep cup.  Muddle gently to release mint oils.  Add simple syrup and a little of the bourbon.   Swirl around.  Cover with crushed ice.  Pour rest of bourbon on top of ice.  Stir gently.  Add more crushed ice to make a mound.  Garnish with large sprig of mint.  Add a short straw or two.   Sip like you have an obsession with seersucker, magnolias and the Waffle House.

Asparagus Chicken in Spicy Black Bean Sauce

When you are tired and hungry, some days its nice to just have Ms. ChinaNob do all the work.   Especially if it involves busting out the wok and clay pot.  In spite of Ms. CN’s protestations that “cooking with a wok on an electric stove SUCKS!”, this dish still came out gobbledy-good, that belly-filling comfort food that is so yummy you have gobbled it down before you knew what happened.

Asparagus Chicken

1 pound chicken thighs, skinless, boneless, slice into 1-inch strips
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs. canola oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 lb. asparagus, cut into two inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs. black bean sauce
1 tsp. oyster sauce
1/8 tsp. chili oil

Marinate chicken in soy sauce, garlic and ginger, half-hour minimum up to overnight.

Heat canola oil in wok over medium-high heat.   Saute onion until tender.   Add chicken and saute for 5 minutes.  Remove chicken and transfer to bowl.

Add asparagus and water, cook for 2 minutes.   Add back chicken, black bean sauce, oyster sauce, and chili oil.  Stir fry for 2 minutes or until chicken is cooked.  Serve over rice.

Classic Manhattan

Some nights you just need a classic.   Martini, Old Fashioned, Daiquiri, Aviation, Manhattan…  Tonight was a good night.   Got into the office early at eight before the phones started ringing, even got hit sideways after lunch with a firedrill project – those projects you get when its 2 PM and you are told it needs to be finished by the next morning or else.    Took it all in stride, logged a good productive 10, and called it a day.

Even mangaged to gobble down my lunch in 10 minutes so I had time to run across the street to the booze nerd liquour store.   I had recently discovered that vermouth – as a fortified wine – spoils.   Not as quick as regular wine, since it IS fortified, but it will spoil.  Especially if you don’t know this and leave it in your liquor cabinet and neglect to use it because you are too enamoured with your other recent booze purchases.   Ahem. Way too old vermouth = N.A.S.T.Y.

Doing some research (AKA seeking the Oracle at Mountain View), it turns out that the best means to prolong your vermouth is to treat it just like wine.  This means reducing oxidation – whether with a wine pump or injecting inert gas or the simple decanting to a smaller bottle.    Refridgeration also helps as well – combined with reducing the air in the storage bottle, it can take a shelf life of a month or two and prolong it up to six months.   Of course, drinking more frequently is another method!

This whole ramble is just prologue to an excuse to splurge a bit and pick up a bottle of Carpano Antica, the original sweet vermouth, which I had been dying to try.   It sure as heck looked fancy.  Came in a metal tin.  Big heavy glass bottle.  Even had a foil seal with a cork.  Boo-zwa-zee.    And the taste was 100% whoa – not too cloying sweet, orange peel scents, herbal, long finish.  Drinkable straight, on ice, with a little orange twist.   OK, Italy – you win.   You know how to make an aperitivo/digestivo.

All of which meant that what I needed at the end of this day, for vermouth this tasty, was good old American rye whiskey.

Classic Manhattan

2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica, or Carpano Punt y Mes for a twist)
a couple of dashes of your choice of bitters (Angostura, Peychaud’s, peach, rhubarb, cherry…)

Stir with plenty of ice.  Strain into cocktail glass.  Garnish with homemade brandied cherry.  Because you can.

Raspberry Flip

Another one from Jamie Boudreau, this one sounds good for summer berry season.   Having made flips before – my favorite being a rye flip – I was suprised at how light it tasted.  Its possible I overshook this one, leading to a wee bit over-dilution.  The framboise I used was Aqua Perfecta, a completely divine ambrosia, but also quite delicate.  It might require a more intensely sweet liqueur like Chambord.  This calls for further experimentation…

Raspberry Flip

1 1/2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. raspberry liqueur
6 raspberries
1 whole egg
2 dashes peach bitters

Combine all with ice and shake like the dickens.  Strain into coupe and garnish with raspberries.