HOW TO: INFUSED ALCOHOL (Bay Leaf Gin, Hibiscus Tequila & Strawberry + Pink Peppercorn Vodka)

I've always wanted to infuse my own alcohols, but that was before I realized how stupidly easy it actually is.  (I mean, this process almost doesn't require any googling.)  All you need is to pick a liquor you love, decide on some interesting ingredient to infuse, and let it sit for about a week.  It's as easy to make as it is to drink - the hardest part is picking what to use!

BAY LEAF INFUSED GIN ( Makes about 25 oz)

1 (750ml) bottle of gin, I recommend ST. GEORGE (my favorite gin, ever)

15 fresh bay leaves

In a large glass bottle, pour your bottle of gin over around 15 fresh bay leaves.  Cover and let sit for one week in a dry, cool place.  Once infused, remove all bay leaves, and use as you would any other gin.  Bay leaf gin and tonics are awesome.

STRAWBERRY & PINK PEPPERCORN INFUSED VODKA (Makes about 25 oz)

1 (750ml) bottle of vodka, I recommend TITO'S VODKA

1 pint strawberries, hulled

2 tablespoons pink peppercorns

In a large glass bottle, pour your bottle of vodka over fresh, hulled strawberries and pink peppercorns.  Cover and let sit for one week in a dry, cool place.  Once infused, strain peppercorns and strawberries (which will be white and weird!), and use as you would any other gin.  I love this vodka with soda or tonic.

HIBISCUS-INFUSED TEQUILA (Makes about 25 oz.)

1 (750ml) bottle of tequila, I recommend ESPOLON Tequila Blanco

About 1/2 cup hibiscus leaves

In a large glass bottle, pour the bottle of tequila over dried hibiscus leaves.  Cover and let sit for one week in a dry, cool place.  Once infused, strain hibiscus leaves, and use as you would any other tequila.  Hibiscus margaritas are amazing ;).

HENRY STREET STUDIO CERAMICS

Loren and Aliza Simons are the mother-daughter duo behind Henry Street Ceramics.   They work as a team, each piece being "the work of two pairs of hands." (I know, I can't.) I had the pleasure of photographing these gorgeous pieces in person, and let me say, it's hard to do them justice even with the nicest camera. It's the feeling you get when you are in the presence of truly beautiful work.  If I washed my produce out of their perfect colander just once, I could die happy.

Luckily for all of us, they are gifting us with an upcoming Fall Sale starting THIS SUNDAY (debuting their new colors!).  It starts at 5pm, so set your iPhone reminders because things are going to sell out quickly.   I can't say how lovely these pieces are, so please show support to these talented two.  

FIG AND HAZELNUT CREME TART WITH BUCKWHEAT CRUST

I totally get why people aren't into baking.  I'm sure for some it seems too detailed, time-intensive, maybe even technical.  Especially when it comes to gluten-free, it gets dicey and sometimes expensive, with the addition of 2-3 flours for every dough. But for me, baking has always been how-do-I-say…healing?  There is nothing in the world like the feeling of finishing a tart or pie, with all the steps, techniques, chilling, pulsing, rolling, etc.  It can cure any bad mood.  The fact that it takes time is what I love about it most.  Baking makes you work for it, and I've always loved that kind of attitude.

This Summer has kept me so baking-busy that I've been just trying to see how much I can bang out on any given weekend.  (Yes, Summer baking.  Where the true bakers lie.) Sometimes though, the best days are when you spend the whole afternoon making one…single…dessert.  Even if maybe baking isn't your thing, I suggest you use it as a tool -- if only to cure a little depression and/or eat something sweet.  There's something about it that really fills you up when nothing else can. 

FIG AND HAZELNUT CREME TART WITH BUCKWHEAT CRUST (gluten-free) Serves 6

FILLING (Adapted from Martha Stewart)

3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 stick butter (8 tablespoons), soft

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cognac

8 oz figs, thinly sliced

2 plums, thinly sliced

Handful of red currants

Raw sugar, to top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a food processor, pulse together sugar and hazelnuts until the size of hazelnut meal.  Add the next four ingredients and pulse until well combined and smooth.  Set aside.

BUCKWHEAT ALMOND CRUST (adapted from The Bojon Gourmet)

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 cup almond flour

1/4 cup arrowroot starch

1/2 tsp. xanthum gum

1/4 tsp. salt

6T butter, chilled + cubed

6 tablespoons ice water

Add the first six ingredients to a food processor. Pulse your dough until butter is about pea-sized and crumbly. Then add one tablespoon of water at a time until dough forms and begins to come away from the edge.  Fraisage your dough (shown here, starts at 2:00), meaning use the heel of your hand to smear dough, a little at a time, across the counter.  This helps to add long strands of butter into your dough for better texture.  

Pat your dough together into a 6'' disk, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.  Once chilled, roll out between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Roll out a few inches wider than your intended tart dish (I used an 8 inch).

Place your greased tart pan nearby, remove one side of plastic wrap and carefully (using two hands) flip dough over into your pie dish.  Remove last sheet of syran wrap and carefully fit and press dough into your tart pan evenly.  

Gluten-free dough can be dicey, but remain calm! If any piece rips of gets torn, carefully pinch it together again.  Remove the excess tart dough (save for a mini tart) and parbake for 10 minutes.

Once tart crust is parbaked, reduce oven heat to 325 degrees.  Pour in filling making sure to spread evenly before topping with figs, plum and red currant.  Arrange in a pleasing fashion and sprinkle with raw sugar.  Bake for 1 hour, then cool for 25 minutes before serving.  

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(For those asking, you can purchase this tart pan HERE)

AUGUST 2014 FAVORITES

FOOD52 Finds:


Eva Kolenko, her work is as beautiful as her website design by the talented, Emma Robertson. 


Can't live without these lately:


Loving Bon Boutique's new design + product:

SIMPLE THINGS JULY 2014 ISSUE: Summer Picnic

Summer is really coming to an end now. Even though it's still warm weather, we have officially entered September.  I'm happy the heat and Mosquitos are on their way out, but I will miss a farmers market with more than just root vegetables. 

Since we're on our last days of festive outdoor activities, I myself am looking to have another picnic or BBQ before the month is over. These recipes and images were shot for the July issue of Simple Things UK, so please pick up a copy and look at the rest of the spread!  Hopefully, you can get some last minute, end-of-Summer inspiration. 

SALMON SALAD WITH SHAVED FENNEL. PISTACHIO, DILL & CELERY SEED VINAIGRETTE (gluten-free)  SERVES 6

1lb. wild salmon

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lemon, sliced

5-8 oz. mixed spring greens

2 heads of fennel, shaved

2 large bunches of mixed greens

3/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper

Celery Seed Vinaigrette:

1 garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons celery seed

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper

Add all ingredients to a small mason jar.  Shake well to combine.  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Add salmon to a foil-lined large baking sheet.  Rub with olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Top salmon filets with sliced lemon and bake for 15-17 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together spring greens, fennel, fresh dill and crushed pistachios.  Toss with celery seed vinaigrette, then top with baked salmon.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

GARLIC POTATO SALAD WITH PICKLED RED ONION, CHIVES & LEMON CREME FRAICHE (gluten-free, vegetarian) SERVES 6

3.5lbs. mixed potatoes, cubed

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 oz. creme fraiche

1 tablespoon maille mustard

1 lemon, juice + zest

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 tablespoons. fresh chives, thinly sliced

1/2 cup pickled red onion

1 tablespoon fresh dill

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Add potatoes in a single layer to a large baking sheet with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Bake for 45-1hr or until golden brown and crisped.  Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together lemon juice + zest, creme fraiche, mustard and garlic.  Whisk together, then toss with potatoes, making sure to coat everything well.  Top with fresh chives, dill and pickled red onion.  Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Pickled red onion

1 large onion 

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 garlic clove, halved

1 teaspoon pepper corns

Add sliced onion to a large mason jar with peppercorns, garlic and salt.   In a small saucepan, bring sugar and apple cider vinegar to a boil.  Slowly pour liquid into mason jar.  Set aside to cool, then chill overnight.

 

AUGUST 2014: INSPIRED WORKS

We all know him well.  Nordic master and innovative chef behind Denmark's NOMA, Rene Redzepi, has turned the method of foraging and obscure edibles into a true culinary art.  I've admired his work (and collaborations with my favorite photographers) for years, but recently read an article on one of my favorite sites for creatives.

I struggle a lot with satisfaction in my work - always feeling like I could/should be working harder/better, etc.  The idea of hard work isn't just about gritting through it and putting in the hours, but staying engaged and self-breeding the consistent ability to evolve.  I loved this quote (below) that so perfectly addresses the true meaning of hard work.  

Some may see this as eccentric or overbearing, but for some of us with constant hunger (figuratively so), it perfectly encompasses that feeling.  As much as I hear people speak about satisfaction in work and "doing what they love," I relate more to the emotional struggle of trying to be my own version of "great."  The moments of inspiration are obviously wonderful, but most of it is putting in the hours and chipping away at the block of what you desire.  It takes a certain amount of stamina to keep performing and creating when maybe you're exhausted by the sheer idea of that.

My favorite Ted Talk of all time is led by Elizabeth Gilbert, none other than the Eat, Pray, Love author.  I never read her book (and don't really need to), but I come back to her lecture over and over, especially when feeling a little depleted.  I don't want to ruin the poignancy of this talk, so please go listen.  Her storytelling perfectly examines the evolution of the creative plight and that no matter the struggle, what always remains is showing up.

 

ROASTED MIRABELLE PLUM, RED CURRANT & LEMON VERBENA POPSICLES

I really can't believe it's the last week of August.  Even with my excessive farmer's market trips and making/baking everything I can, I still feel it's gone by too fast.  I surely have not complained about the humidity or received enough mosquito bites for it to be almost September.

Luckily, since the temperature has not quite dropped yet, we still have time for some frozen treats.  I've been obsessed with coconut milk popsicles (1 can coconut milk, 2 tablespoons maple syrup and some shredded coconut for texture. That's it.) that remind me of my favorite fruit-a-freeze pops as a kid.  They are dairy-free and almost sugar-free, too.

These plum pops were my absolute favorite though & used some of my beloved new lemon verbena plant.  Not only is the color awesome, but they are tart and sweet, like every Summer popsicle should be.  And obviously the second I see a concord grape, I'm making these again.  

ROASTED MIRABELLE PLUM, RED CURRANT & LEMON VERBENA POPSICLES (Makes 6 popsicles) 

3 pints mirabelle plums, halved and seeded

1-2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/4 cup maple sugar, divided

Half pint red currants

Handful of lemon verbena leaves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Add plums to a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Brush with coconut oil and top with sprinkled maple sugar (about 1-2 tablespoons).  Roast for 10-12 minutes or until juicy and tender.  Set aside to cool.

In a small saucepan, add 3/4 cup water with a good handful of lemon verbena leaves and 2 tablespoon maple sugar.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes or until mixture is very fragrant and begins to reduce.

 Add plums to blender with strained lemon verbena "syrup" with 1/4 cup water.  Blend until smooth.  Strain through a sieve (or leave with little bits) and pour into chilled popsicle molds.  Leave about 1 inch of room for each, then drop 3-4 currants into each popsicle mold.  Add lid + popsicle sticks, then chill! 

CHOCOLATE-COVERED WAFFLE BITES

If you're entertaining in a pinch, don't fret. These chocolate-covered waffles are the perfect go-to treat for a last-minute party or even everyday snack (I don't judge). I mean, how could you not pair a breakfast favorite with melted chocolate? 

For my toppings I chose crushed pretzel, pistachio, coconut flakes and Maldon sea salt. I obviously gravitate towards the salty side, but feel free to shake it up with your favorite additions. You could even make this snack a little DIY fondue event for your party. Let your guests choose their favorite toppings and make their own waffle bites. You won't have to worry about conversation starters with this one.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED WAFFLE BITES WITH CRUSHED PISTACHIO, COCONUT, CRUSHED PRETZEL & SEA SALT (gluten-free)
Serves 6-8

2 (11oz) bags of semisweet and/or bittersweet chocolate
6 waffles, toasted and cut into triangles
1/4 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
1/4 cup crushed pretzels pieces
Sea salt to taste

Using a double broiler (or microwave), melt chocolate chips over medium-low heat until completely melted. Dip waffle triangles into melted chocolate and set on parchment lined baking sheet or tray.

SEARED SQUID WITH SERRANO CHILES & LIME

Some may refer to it as calamari, but I call it squid.  It may be weird looking, but it's absolutely amazing, especially when not battered and fried like many people love.  In fact, the first time I truly loved fell in love with squid was a sauteed spicy calamari from a japanese restaurant.  Obviously, they know how to do fish right.

If you're a feel at ease entertaining, I think this would be an entertaining win.  The dish is quick to cook and extremely delicious (and surprising).  If your guests are more comfortable hearing the term "calamari" then throw that at them, but I love the surprise of turning someone's expectations around on a certain ingredient.  All in all, this recipe is great and you should serve it to those you love.

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SEARED SQUID WITH SERRANO CHILES, PARSLEY & LIME (Barely adapted from NYT)

1 lb. squid, cleaned and dried well

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

2 serranos, sliced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 lemon, juice

1 lime, juice

Red Pepper Flakes

Sea salt to taste

Clean and dry squid very well.  Spread out on a single-layer layered with paper towels to absorb any moisture.  Once dry, sprinkle with sea salt.

Heat large skillet over high heat.  Let the pan get very hot (without oil) for 2-3 minutes.  Depending on how large your skillet is, you may be able to do this in one batch, but make sure not to overcrowd the squid.  

Add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add squid without moving for at least 1 minute.  This part will be a little dicey as the oil is hot and may spit a little, so be careful.  Let sear, then add sliced garlic, parsley and serannos and cook for about 2 more minutes.

Immediately remove from pan, squeeze with lime/lemon juice and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.  If you need to make another batch, repeat until all squid is seared. Serve (immediately) with rice or crusty bread, if you eat it ;)

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S. PELLEGRINO / Off The Menu

I was lucky enough to get an invite to S. Pellegrino's OFF THE MENU event in NYC last month.  The classic italian brand is one I've been a fan of for years, so I was obviously super flattered and excited to attend.  The night included a cocktail hour with the most delicious and refreshing Summer drinks including the "Pompelmo Negroni" (gin, campari, vermouth and San Pellegrino's Pompelmo, Grapefruit Peel) which I highly encourage you to try at home.  The space was prop-styled to perfection including an "Italian" farmer's market of produce and flowers, so by the end of the night I had about five pounds of meyer lemons and garlic in my purse.  Not a terrible thing.

The night included a four-course meal by Ink's Michael Voltaggio, which was not only memorable in terms of food, but served on Bathhouse Studios' roof deck in the East Village.  New York may not be known for good weather, but we definitely snagged one of the more perfect Summer nights to be eating outside.  It was such a beautiful gathering and I definitely had one too many of their signature Negroni cocktails.

Thank you San Pellegrino for sponsoring an incredible evening of fantastic food and cultural discovery.

I was selected for this opportunity by Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

You can also enter their ongoing Pinterest sweepstakes HERE for a chance to win a years supply of Pellegrino (um, yes please) and a chance to dine at your favorite chef's restaurant.  You can check out my dining-inspired board HERE.