Tuesday, June 28, 2011

mixology: summer quenchers with Royal Rose Syrups

I love to drink things: lemonade, limeade, berry drinks and fresh seasonal juices quench my thirst.  Of course I am not one to shy away from a great cocktail or a nice glass of wine either, though with the impending arrival of Baby #2 I stick to 'virgin' drinks these days.   After making Brian's Berry Limeade a few weeks ago, I decided I should really post more drink recipes.  

Royal Rose Syrups is a local Brooklyn-based company that makes simple syrups using organic ingredients, fair trade sugar, filtered water in addition to fruits and spices. The company was started by Emily Butters and her fiancé Forrest Butler. According to a piece the Tasting Table, canning peaches innocently led to the company's start.  Forrest asked if he could use left-over canning liquid which was then used in experimental batches of simple syrup…and Royal Rose Syrups was born.

I got my hands on some samples which included Raspberry, Lavender-Lemon, Cardamon-Clove, Rose and Three-Chiles.  
Here are a few recipes using Royal Rose Syrups.  These drinks are delicious and are perfect for a summer picnic or your July 4th BBQ party.  So go ahead, get in touch with your inner mixologist...bottoms up and enjoy!

For the mama-to-be/non-alcoholic...
Eternal Summer  (Courtesy of Royal Rose Syrups)
Yields: 1 serving
Juice of half an orange
3.5 oz. cranberry juice
3/4 oz. of Royal Rose Lavender-Lemon Syrup
Half a shot of lemon juice
Shake like mad, pour over ice, top with 7-Up (I went with some San Pellegrino) and garnish with an orange. Enjoy!

For those who imbibe the real stuff...
Cigarette Girl (Courtesy of Royal Rose Syrups)
Yield: 1 serving
2 oz. gin
3 teaspoons Royal Rose Raspberry Syrup
3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh mint
Soda water
In a Boston shaker or jam jar, combine mint with raspberry syrup and lemon juice.  Add ice and gin and shake vigorously.  Serve on the rocks with a splash of soda water and a sprig of mint.  Enjoy!

World's End (Courtesy of Tasting Table, Adapted from Royal Rose)
Yield: 1 serving
½ ounce Royal Rose C
ardamom-Clove Syrup
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
2½ ounces white rum
Lime wedge
Combine the syrup, lemon juice and ice in a Boston shaker. Add the white rum. Shake vigorously and serve straight up or on the rocks with a lime wedge.

Full size syrups cost $10 and are available at: Stinky Bklyn, Blue Apron, By Brooklyn, Brooklyn Larder and online at royalroseny.com
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beaches and Bars: Hampton Beach and Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

Getting three friends together for a picnic requires some advanced planning. We all have significant others with busy schedules, and some of us have kids with their own internal napping patterns that make impromptu gatherings a bit of a challenge.  But we finally found a day to all hang out in Prospect Park.  
It was a really nice time. The weather cooperated and the kids were in great spirits. My friend Alice and her fiancé (who is a professional chef in the city) were in charge of the main course(s). They made a vegetarian pasta with red pepper, zucchini, eggplant and cheese (yum) and meatball burgers that were topped with a homemade salsa verde sauce, which my husband said were out-of-this-world. I made a French Potato Salad and a refreshing Chilled Cucumber Soup. My other friend Jeanne was in charge of dessert and she brought these Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars-- and they were fantastic. 
knew I had to make them, so here they are!  They are great for a summer picnic or a trip to the beach. We took them to Hampton Beach, a little beach that is part of the 18 mile coastline in New Hampshire. Enjoy!   

Delicious Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars (Courtesy of Allrecipes)
Serves 12 (though next time I'm going to double the recipe)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 8 inch square pan, and line with greased foil.
Combine brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and rolled oats. Rub in the butter using your hands or a pastry blender to form a crumbly mixture. Press 2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the jam to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top, and lightly press it into the jam.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Sugar Magnolia Brunch: Cream Cheese Filled Challah French Toast with Fresh Strawberries

Cream Cheese Filled Challah French Toast probably isn't the first thing to come to mind when you think of New Orleans cuisine.  Jambalaya, Shrimp Remoulade, Oysters Rockefeller, Crawfish Étouffée and Corn Maque Choux are more likely contenders.
But I always think of Challah French Toast. That's because, during the six years I lived in New Orleans, I ordered this dish from the now-defunct Sugar Magnolia almost every Sunday.
Sugar Magnolia served the french toast with pure maple syrup and fresh berries. I choose between strawberries, raspberries or blueberries- depending on what's in season.  
This is my attempt to recreate their classic and I only used six ingredients:fresh organic strawberries (courtesy of a local farm in New Hampshire where I was vacationing last week), challah bread, Green Wind Farm maple syrup, eggs, cream cheese and butter.
It was an amazing pick for Father's Day brunch!
Cream Cheese Filled Challah French Toast (Inspired by Sugar Magnolia, New Orleans)
Serves 2 (4 slices per person)
2 tablespoons of butter
8 slices of challah bread
cream cheese
3-4 eggs
maple syrup
fresh strawberries or blueberries
(Optional: confectioners' sugar)
Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a fry pan.  (1 tablespoon per serving. I make 1 serving of french toast at a time.) 
Lightly whisk eggs in a shallow bowl.
Cut challah into 8, 1/2 inch slices.
Spread cream cheese in between two slices of challah, making 4 challah sandwiches.
Place cream cheese filled challah sandwiches into egg batter and coat both sides.
Place challah sandwiches (2 at a time) in fry pan and cook each side till it is golden brown.
Serve with fresh berries and maple syrup.
Dust with confectioners' sugar (optional).
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Heidi's Kale Salad with Toasted Coconut & Sesame Oil

I meant to post this last week, but getting the family ready for our annual New Hampshire vacation took more time than I thought it would...
Now we are back in Brooklyn and, with my Father's Day Cheesecake in the oven, I have some time to catch up on some posting. 
We had our first CSA pick-up from the Greenwood Heights CSA last weekend. In addition to garlic scapes, radishes, baby lettuce and bok choi, I got a big bunch of kale.  
My first thought was to make kale chips but somewhere in the back of my head I heard the word 'bor-rring.' I've made kale chips one time too many. My next thought was to make some sort of kale pesto. Not a bad thought, but I have (what seems like) a gazillion gallons of arugula pesto in the fridge and the freezer.  
Then I remembered a kale recipe in my spring/summer bible, Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Food Every Day. So, I went ahead with it.
I really liked the use of farro and coconut-- and it's a nice combination that I don't think I've seen before. The recipe was also easy enough to make.  
The recipe also made enough for more than one sitting, so I brought my leftovers on a play-date/picnic that I had at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens with one of Otis's closest friends.  Healthy, seasonal, good flavor...perfect.
Note:  I couldn't find unsweetened large-flake coconut so I used 1 1/2 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut- not too large and not too fine...somewhere in between. Super Natural recommends 1/2 cup (1.5 oz) of finely shredded unsweetened coconut if you can't find the large-flake. Adjust it to your liking.
Kale Salad (Courtesy of Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons shoyu, tamari or soy sauce
3 1/2 lightly packed cups chopped kale, stems trimmed, large ribs removed
1 1/2 cups unsweetened large-flake coconut
2 cups cooked farro or other whole grain like wild rice or quinoa...I'd go with the farro. [1 cup dried made about 2 1/2 cups cooked. Directions for preparing farro below.]
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with two racks in the top third of the oven.  
In a small bowl or jar, whisk or shake together the olive oil, sesame oil, and shoyu or soy sauce.  Put the kale and coconut in a large bowl and toss well with about two-thirds of the olive oil mixture.  
Spread the kale evenly across two baking sheets.  Bake for 12-18 minutes, until the coconut is deeply golden brown, tossing once or twice along the way.  If the kale mixture on the top baking sheet begins to get too browned, move it to a lower rack.
Remove from the oven and transfer the kale mixture to a medium bowl.  Taste.  If you feel it needs a bit more dressing, add some and toss.  Place the farro on a serving platter or bowl and top with the tossed kale.  Serve warm. 
This goes great with some grilled tofu or over a bowl of soba noddles. 

Cooking Farro from Food & Wine in Seattle Times: 1 cup whole-grain Italian farro; 2 quarts of boiling salted water.  Rinse farro in a strainer under cold running water.  Have the salted water boiling in a 6-quart pot.  Drop in the farro, stir and get water to a steady, lively simmer.  Partially cover the pot and cook 30 to 45 minutes, or until tender.  [Check to make sure the water doesn't evaporate completely.  If it does, add more water as needed.]  Drain the farro in a sieve.  Eat hot or at room temperature, seasoning to taste.

Happy Father's Day! 
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Monday, June 13, 2011

Weekly Mash Up: Brunch Inspiration, CSA Bounty No. 1, Wave Hill and a Picnic Pasta

We have entered the final countdown.  I'm full-term in a few days and that means the arrival of No. 2 is just around the corner. Eek. Yay. Eek. 
This past weekend Otis spent a night with his grandparents so that my husband and I could use a gift certificate for The Grocery in Carroll Gardens. We had a leisurely three hour dinner and the meal was delicious.  It had tons of local, seasonal ingredients that were bursting with flavor. Some highlights included: a chilled potato leek soup and hot potato croquettes; a fabulous radish salad with white beans, radicchio and an amazing vinaigrette; a seafood bread salad and a guinea hen for my husband; a seasonal mixed vegetable plate that would have taken me ten hours to assemble and fried artichoke. Wondering about dessert? Buttermilk panna cotta with hibiscus sorbet and citrus slices. I was stuffed! 
On Saturday we picked up our first CSA share. YIPPEE!
We got arugula (I'm going to make another batch of this pesto), garlic scapes (perfect in hummus), radishes (I'm going to recreate The Grocery salad mentioned above), bok choi, kale (perfect for Heidi Swanson's Kale and Farrow Salad) and a big bag of baby lettuce. 
After picking up our CSA bounty we decided to go to our favorite brunch spot-- Diner.   The 'Scone of the Day' was sliced in half and served with Devonshire cream and strawberry rhubarb compote.  It was delicious.  The Omelette of the Day was packed with market spinach and a garlic scape herbed goat cheese.  I nearly died and went to heaven!
Then it was off to The Renegade Art Festival.  I made a few purchases for No. 2 and purchased some tea towels I just had to have...
On Sunday, on the way to my father's birthday dinner, we made a little stop to Wave Hill for some late spring blooms...
[Some of you might recall that this is where I got married.  I also grew up a few blocks away. It's one of my favorite places in New York City.  Maybe even the world :) ]

For more Wave Hill photos click this post and this post:  
Now it feels like summer has really arrived: gardens are blooming, farmer's markets are full of the season's bounty and our CSA has started up again. This pasta salad is perfect for a summer picnic. It has lemon zest, arugula, asparagus and simple seasoning with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
Gemelli with Asparagus, Ricotta, Arugula and Lemon Zest (Courtesy of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt for Serious Eats in a Food Lab article on 'New Ways to Cook Pasta.')   
Serves 6
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound asparagus, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound of gemelli, fusilli, rotini or any other medium-thickness short pasta
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon zest from 1 lemon
2 cups loosely packed baby arugula leaves
2 ounces finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving tableside


  • Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed sauce pot over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add asparagus pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender-crisp and lightly browned. Season asparagus to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to bowl, and set aside. Do not clean sauce pot.
  • In a medium saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to a boil over high heat.  Add pasta and stir immediately.  Allow to return to a boil, stir once vigorously, cover pot, and shut off heat.  After one minute, stir one last time. Recover pot. Follow timing on box as a general guide for cooking time—start checking pasta 2 minutes before suggested cooking time and continue checking every minute until proper al dente texture is reached.  Pasta should be fully softened, but retain a slight bite in the center. Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups of cooking liquid.  Immediately transfer pasta to empty sauce pot from cooking asparagus. [* This is a great way to cook pasta.  It came out perfectly.  I'm a convert!] 
  • Add asparagus, ricotta, lemon zest, arugula, grated cheese, and a few big twists of black pepper to the pasta. Add 1 cup pasta water and stir until all ingredients are combined and arugula has wilted. Continue adding pasta water until desired consistency is reached (the ricotta should turn into a creamy sauce that coats the noodles). Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately, passing more grated cheese at the table.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shvitzfest Quencher: Brian's Homemade Berry Limeade

The temperature in New York City is above 90 degrees, so it's hot, hot, hot! Cooling stations have been opened city-wide and most playgrounds have the sprinklers going at full blast. Fans are oscillating and air-conditioners are running. We are officially in the midst of a heat wave.
We've been having a slight air-conditioning issue in our apartment because the security bars on the back porch windows 
have to be opened in order to put an air-conditioner in-- and it's a bit of a challenge to keep switching it in and out. So the bedrooms are cool and comfortable. The common/living area and kitchen, not so much. 
That means I am having chilled soups, big salads and some pasta salad I made yesterday for the next few days. I'd have to be insane to turn on the oven or have the burners on for more than a few minutes.
Lucky for me, I've got the perfect cool-down recipe...Brian's Berry Limeade. This refreshing beverage was a big hit at The Dinner Club, Part II and I'm making a big batch of it today.
Enjoy and keep cool!

Brian's Berry Limeade
8 limes, squeezed with no seeds
1 bottle of organic black cherry juice (I think it's Lakewood brand)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 container of roughly squeezed raspberries
2/3 container of raspberries
1/3 container of roughly squeezed blueberries
2/3 container of blueberries
1/2 cup of simple syrup
Combine lime juice, cherry juice and orange juice in large bowl with roughly squeezed blueberries & raspberries (I squeezed them in my hand and put all of the mushed bits in the concoction).  Let sit for 15-20 minutes.  Strain into two pitchers and add remaining raspberries & blueberries.  (I made everything in my oversized glass pitcher.) Add in simple syrup to taste.  Put into fridge & let it sit for at least 2 hours.  Will keep for 3 days (if it lasts that long).  
I add a few crushed mint leaves for garnish. 
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