Ruby Red Martini

Ruby Red Martini

Even as the summer feels like it's winding down, it is hot as heck outside here in Atlanta. The Friday night cocktails have to still be something cool and refreshing. This week, I'll pour a mix of Campari, vodka and Ruby Red grapefruit juice – the Ruby Red Martini. My friend Megan makes Ruby Reds, which she pours over ice in a highball, at many of her get togethers and I really love them. Since I can't find her recipe, I'm improvising tonight and turning her highball cocktail ingredients into a martini

Campari – embrace the bitterness

Campari is a bitter Italian liqueur, served as an aperitif and featured classically in the Negroni or with a little soda. It has a beautiful deep red color. As I've gotten older, I've come to love the bitterness of Campari. It's a grown-up liquor for grown-up tastes. It's meant to be sipped and savored on a hot day.

Although the ingredients of Campari are a trade secret, it has strong citrus and herbal overtones. This makes it pair well with grapefruit and lime. 

RubyRedIngredients Ruby Red Martini

Ruby Red Martini ingredients – Campari, vodka and Ruby Red Grapefruit juice

Ruby Red Martini

1 1/2 oz. Campari
1 oz. vodka – you can use Ruby Red vodka for a more intense grapefruit flavor
2 oz. fresh-squeezed Ruby Red grapefruit juice

Pour all the ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain the cocktail into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an lime twist. Cheers!

RubyRedMartini Ruby Red Martini

Ruby Red Martini cocktail with Campari, vodka and Ruby Red Grapefruit juice

Piccalilli Pepper Relish

Canned PiccalilliRelish

There is an American tradition of pickling and canning that goes back to the early settler days. Because of the seasonal uncertainty of food sources and the lack of refrigeration, it was really important to extend the bounty of the summer and fall harvests by putting up and preserving meats and vegetables. Pickling and brining foods provided special relishes, chutneys and sauces to liven up the monotony of winter meals. In the South, that meant chow-chow, a relish made of cabbage, onions, green tomatoes and cucumbers. In the North and Midwest, that meant chutneys and piccalilli, a sweet pepper relish that was a mix of pepper and green tomatoes derived from the English version of Piccalilli, which was a variation on an Indian Pickle.

Today, Piccalilli Pepper Relish is still a great way to use up all those sweet and hot peppers that start overflowing in July and August. It has a sweet and sour tanginess that is great as a condiment for pork roast or fried chicken, or greens. Like any good relish, you can also put it on hot dogs and in deviled eggs. You can really use it as a table condiment the same way you use salsa or ketchup.

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Caipirinha – celebrating the World Cup with Brazil’s national drink

Celebrating the 2014 World Cup with a Caipirinha, the official cocktail of Brazil

We are now into Week Two of this year's World Cup, hosted by Brazil. Maybe, like most Americans, you just aren't into it. Personally, I'm excited by the non-stop world-class soccer that is being played over the next few weeks. All that national pride! All that amazing play! All those hot players! And USA winning their first game!!! I think the best way to celebrate this year's World Cup in Brazil is to sip the official cocktail of Brazil – the Caipirinha.

Cachaça – the most popular spirit of Brazil

Similar to the mojito or the margarita, the caipirinha reigns supreme in Brazil. Like the margarita, the caipirinha is a lime sour – mixing spirits with sugar and lime juice. What sets it apart is the main ingredient - cachaça – a distilled spirit that is similar to rum. Unlike rum, which is distilled from cane sugar molasses, cachaça is distilled from fermented cane sugar syrup. Made almost exclusively in Brazil, it is now readily available in the U.S. I always use the light cachaça, even though it does come in a dark, aged version as well.

Cachaca Caipirinha   celebrating the World Cup with Brazils national drink

Cachaça – the most popular spirit in Brazil

Caipirinha recipe

1 1/2 ounces Cachaça (Brazilian rum)
2 tsp. simple syrup (or 2 teaspoons of brown sugar)
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
Club Soda

Drop the lime wedges into the bottom of a tall cocktail glass. Crush the limes against the bottom of the glass with a muddler or a sturdy wooden spoon to release all of their juices and the oil from the lime peels. Add the simple syrup (or brown sugar) and cachaça. Muddle again to mix with the lime. Add ice and stir to mix. It's ready to serve! 

I actually like to top mine off with sparkling water or Club Soda, to give it more fizz. That's not really “official” but I do think that it makes it more refreshing.

If you're not sure how to SAY Caipirinha (it IS a Portuguese word), just click on this helpful YouTube video.

How to Pronounce Caipirinha

Saúde (or Cheers)!!

TwoCaiparihnas Caipirinha   celebrating the World Cup with Brazils national drink

Caipirinhas – the official cocktail of Brazil

 

Tofu Crab Cakes recipe

Tofu "Crab" Cakes

It's summer and some of the classic tastes of the season derive from our memories of trips to the beach. Fried clams, fresh oysters, shrimp boils, lobster rolls. Seafood evokes the smell of the ocean and the feel of the sun on your face. One such summer treat is the crab cake. Crab cakes are rich and tasty, with the spiciness of Old Bay giving them that traditional American seafood flavor. But have you noticed that crab meat is pricey? Very pricey. At $30 a pound, it is a seldom-made special treat at our house (think 4th of July dinner).  On the other hand, a 1-lb. block of tofu only costs $1.50 and can take on all the tastes that make crab cakes so delicious – onion, celery, garlic, parsley, lemon and Old Bay Seasoning. So, for our family, I make a delicious meat-free substitute for crab cakes many times a year – Tofu Crab Cakes (of Tofu “Crab” Cakes).

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Mai Tai cocktail – the classic Tiki drink

Mai Tai cocktail on the front porch

It's Memorial Day weekend – the official start to summer. Time to put away the dark whiskeys and brandies and pull out the lighter liquors and start pouring the fruity drinks. In that spirit, why don't you get out the rum and try a classic summer fruity drink. My weekend is starting with the drink that ruled over the Tiki lounges of the 50′s and 60′s – the Mai Tai cocktail.

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Making Hot Cross Buns at home – an Easter tradition

Hot Cross Buns

If you ever had to learn to play the recorder in elementary school, you probably learned the song “Hot Cross Buns”. “One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny.” You know the one. If you’ve never actually eaten a hot cross bun, they are a delicious, sweet yeast roll, made with currants, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, then marked with a cross of icing to celebrate Easter. Making and eating hot cross buns for Good Friday is an English tradition going back to the Tudors, after the small spiced cakes were outlawed for most of the year, excepting Easter week.  We carry on this tradition at my house and you can too. Here is a step-by-step guide on making hot cross buns at home. At the end of this post, I've also included instructions on how to make hot cross buns ahead of time, in case you are pressed for time during the holidays.

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Pegu Club Cocktail

Pegu Club Cocktail

Like many classic gin cocktails, the Pegu Club Cocktail has its origins in the British Colonial Empire. The cocktail was named after the original Pegu Club in Rangoon, Burma - part of the British Empire during Victorian times and now, independent present-day Myanmar. The Pegu Club was a gentleman's club that catered to the senior British military officers stationed there. The Prince of Wales and George Orwell both dined there. The British writer Rudyard Kipling stopped in on his brief visit to Rangoon and observed that…

“The Pegu Club seemed to be full of men on their way up or down, and the conversation was but an echo of the murmur of conquest far away to the north.”1

To me, this makes it sound like some backwater of the Empire, with officers biding their time before moving on to greater colonial glories in India.

During World War II, the Japanese took control of Rangoon and the Pegu Club, ending the British Empire's presence there. Its legend lives on today through its signature drink – the Pegu Club cocktail, a refreshing combination of gin, Orange Curaçao, fresh lime juice and bitters. 

Pegu Club postcard Pegu Club Cocktail

The Pegu Club in Rangoon, Burma – home of the Pegu Club Cocktail

The Pegu Club Cocktail

Pegu Club Cocktail calls for a London Dry-style gin, such as Gordon's, Tanqueray or Bombay.  The London Dry is the style most familiar to American gin drinkers. It has the classic juniper and citrus taste that we associate with gin. As the name implies, it is very dry and light. Curaçao is a liqueur made from the fragrant peel of the laraha fruit, which was cultivated from the Valencia orange on the Southern Caribbean island of Curaçao. It is naturally clear, but color is added – blue for Blue Curaçao or orange for Orange Curaçao. You'll see it often in tiki drinks, such as the Kamikaze or the Mai Tai.

PeguClubCocktailIngredients Pegu Club Cocktail

Pegu Club Cocktailgin, bitters and Orange Curaçao

Pegu Club Cocktail

2 oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz Orange Curaçao (you can substitute with Cointreau)
1/2 oz lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange or grapefruit twist.

1 Rudyard Kipling, From Sea to Sea, and Other Travel Sketches, Letters of Travel (1899)

Eating Dandelion greens – the bitter, delicious truth

Dandelion Greens

The fact that I can forage for dandelion greens in my urban backyard is a testament to both the tenacity of the plant and my laziness as a landscape gardener. As soon as the weather starts to warm up here in Georgia, I can see that distinctive yellow flower popping up all over my backyard. I'm not one to seek perfection in a lawn, so I rather like the little addition of color back there. Dandelions also provide something that most people choose to ignore – edible dandelion greens. Dandelions are loaded with calcium, iron, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and lots of other micronutrients. So…here are the basics on eating dandelion greens.

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The Mr. 404 cocktail

Mr. 404 Cocktail

We're in the middle of March Madness fever, and this year, I'm particularly excited because my team, the Tennessee Volunteers, has made it to the Sweet 16 round!. They play tonight, and because the Vols are known as the Big Orange, I need an appropriately  orange-colored cocktail to celebrate. A quick look at my bar and the bottle of bright orange Aperol popped out at me. I wanted to find an Aperol cocktail that wasn't an Aperol Spritz, so looking online, I found one that was originally from the Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide. It combined Aperel, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, vodka and fresh lemon juice to make a bright, refreshing mix – The Mr. 404 Cocktail.  

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Chocolate Truffle recipe – simple to make at home

Chocolate Truffles, ready to give

Oh my. Valentine's Day is tomorrow and we are snowed in. No chance to run out for cards or flowers or chocolates. I'm going to have to improvise with what I have in the pantry. I do have some good chocolate, so I'll make chocolate truffles. Here is a simple, step-by-step chocolate truffle recipe that you can easily make in a couple of hours.

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