Thanksgiving Day, to me, is the best holiday of the year. It’s low key. No pressure to buy presents or decorate. Just family, friends and good food. My sister and I both love to cook and hang out in the kitchen while the turkey is roasting. We divide up the cooking chores, put on some tunes and open up a bottle of wine and start chopping the onions and sage for the dressing and snapping the green beans. My sister especially loves champagne or sparkling wine, so we’ll often open up a bottle of something sparkly right away. And we might just add a little something to make it more festive. If friends are around, I’ll pour a fun cocktail or two. With a well-stocked liquor cabinet and some cranberry juice, you can make quite a few great Thanksgiving cocktails with cranberries and more.
The holidays approach and it’s time to bring out the festive and the beautiful cocktails. First up is he Gilroy Cocktail. It is one of those delicious and pretty cocktails that everyone at the party enjoys. The Gilroy Cocktail has one ingredient that gives it a deep ruby color and it’s signature cherry flavor – Cherry Heering.
Similar to cherry brandy, Cherry Heering is a sweet, spicy Danish liqueur. It is made from crushed cherries and spices that are mixed with a neutral alcohol and aged in casks for five years. Distilled since 1818, It has a dark cherry color and flavor that adds a lot of depth to a cocktail. You’ll see Cherry Heering in the classic cocktail recipes, such as the Singapore Sling and the Blood and Sand.
1 oz gin
1 oz Cherry Heering liqueur
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz lemon juice (fresh, of course)
Shake with ice and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Thanksgiving is in a couple of weeks and I’m already starting to plan for the annual feast. If your family is like ours, then the Thanksgiving holiday is a time when you put aside new recipes and return to traditional food favorites and guilty pleasures. Even though I love the turkey and the sides, the dessert is what I most look forward to. Pecan and Pumpkin pies are always a part of our holiday meals. Here is step-by-step recipe to make your pumpkin pie from scratch, starting with roasting your pumpkin and finishing with a whole wheat crust.
A holiday food tradition at our house is Green Bean Casserole. Of course, being a child of the 60’s and 70’s, back in the day, my Mom would open up two cans of green beans, a can of Cream of Mushroom soup, mix them together and top with canned fried onions. Four cans, a little baking time, and she was done! I guess I can’t blame her for doing things the easy way, but now that I’m the cook for the holidays, I’m more than willing to trade convenience for taste. In that spirit, I’ve revisited that just-okay version and used fresh ingredients to make a homemade Green Bean casserole from scratch. Is it as easier? No, but it’s infinitely better tasting.
Since all my food thoughts have been taken over by Italian cuisine last August, I have worked to incorporate more easy Italian classics into my weekly cooking routine. I’ve been wanting to really master making homemade pasta, but with past failures, I’ve been a little gun shy of it now. But one thing I have been successful with in the past is homemade potato gnocchi. It is a kind of pasta, using grated cooked potato, egg and flour. It’s earthy and delicious. I’ll call it my “starter” pasta.
Gnocchi is Italian for “little lumps”, which describes it perfectly. Gnocchi are light little lumps of potato goodness. When they are done correctly, they should be as “soft as clouds”. They are pressed with grooves to hold onto a sauce, making them pair perfectly with a basic homemade tomato sauce.
The Corpse Reviver No. 2 is the perfect Halloween cocktail. Or maybe, like it’s original intent, it is the perfect AFTER-Halloween cocktail, when you need a bit of “the hair of the dog” to revive you. In fact, it used to be served as a “breakfast cocktail” to cure you after a night of debauchery.
Even though I said that I was putting my gin away until warm weather returns, this gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and absinthe cocktail is really delicious AND has the creepy name to commemorate either Hallow’s Eve or The Day of the Dead.
In Italy, late afternoon is the time for apertivo, a kind of happy hour with cocktails and snacks. Apertivo cocktails can be as simple as a beer or a glass of wine, or a traditional aperitif, such as Campari or Aperol Spritz. As for the snacks, they can be almost like a small meal. When we were in Fano, Italy recently, our apertivo came with olives, roasted peppers, tomatoes and mozzerella cheese, nuts, focaccia and pickled eggplant – a huge spread! I’ve had plenty of marinated or roasted eggplant before, but this was a tangy, raw eggplant pickle. When I came home, I knew that I had to try to make pickled eggplant myself.
In the cooler months, it’s traditional for those who imbibe to switch to the “brown liquors” – bourbon, whiskey, rye. I don’t want to mess with tradition, so I’ve put away the gin until the warm days return in March. In the meantime, instead of just sipping whiskey, I want to build my repertoire of good whiskey cocktails. One that I found last year was the Lion’s Tail cocktail. It is a spicy combination of rye or bourbon, lime juice, syrup, bitters and Pimento Dram. The Lion’s Tail became last year’s biggest holiday party hit.
I’m starting to see the fresh pomegranates back in the stores again this week. I do love cutting them open and popping out those garnet-colored seeds to eat. They stain your fingers bright pink, but I really don’t care. They are sweet, but have a slightly tart taste and a crunchy texture. If you turn the juice into a syrup, you have a homemade grenadine to make classic cocktails such as the Jack Rose, the Mistletoe and the El Presidente. Homemade grenadine is tart and sweet and adds a rich red color to any drink.
Let’s face it. Weeknight cooking when you’re working is a challenge and there are some nights you just can’t be that fussy about dinner. On those nights, I’m usually looking in the pantry and trying to throw together something that is somewhat healthy and somewhat easy to make. One cool trick that I’ve learned is to make tomato soup from canned tomatoes. I always keep cans of diced tomatoes in the pantry. If I dig a little deeper, I can usually find a can of coconut milk, too. So, if I just add some onion, garlic, celery, pepper and fresh basil & ginger, I have a delicious, creamy Thai-flavored Tomato Coconut soup that I can make in about 15 minutes.