Archive for the ‘drinks’ Category

{At Market} Strawberry Horchata

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

I still can’t believe how early strawberry season began this year. We got our first Virginia berries of the year at the Falls Church Farmers Market last weekend, and a few more this weekend. The foodie tots have been ecstatic. The first week, they downed a pint at breakfast as soon as I returned from the market. This past weekend, the toddler went with me and somehow managed to leave strawberry stains on the front and back of her t-shirt, and stroller seat, just while snacking on a few as we shopped. (She was also a big fan of the fresh mini cider doughnuts from Mama’s Donut Bites, new at the market this year. Also spotted: asparagus, ramps & morels — the locavore’s holy trinity of spring.)

falls church farmers market, april

I’ve been wanting to make horchata, a frothy rice-based drink I first tasted in L.A., for an embarrassingly long time. Like, since my last trip to L.A. In 2009. Ahem. Anyway, the drink is simple enough to make but requires advanced planning and patience as the ground rice and water must soak overnight. So it’s a good opportunity to give the kids a lesson in delayed gratification. It’s a fun recipe for kids who enjoy pressing the buttons on the blender, too. It’s lighter than a smoothie and its sweet, refreshing taste goes well with spicy tacos.

While some recipes call for almonds, I chose one that used only rice to keep things simple. I added fresh strawberries which helped sweeten the drink, so it requires less added sugar. (If your berries are very sweet, you may get away with using even less sugar.) You may be tempted to taste the preliminary soaked rice concoction …. (I confess, I did it.) If you do, don’t despair. The drink vastly improves once sweetened. I don’t plan to let another three years pass before making this again — in fact, I’m already envisioning sipping a watermelon version on the deck later this summer.

strawberry horchata @foodietots

Recipe: Strawberry Horchata
adapted from A Wooden Nest

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup long grain white rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 1 cup whole milk

Instructions:

1. Place rice in blender and grind to a fine meal. Add to water in a pitcher, drop in cinnamon stick and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

2. Pour mixture back into the blender and blend until cinnamon stick is finely chopped. Pour through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on the rice solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids.

3. Return strained mixture to the blender and add sugar, strawberries and milk. Blend on high speed until well combined and frothy. Chill before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Can’t wait overnight? Try our Strawberry Agua Fresca recipe.

{Summer Sweets} Watermelon Slush

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Without a doubt the best purchase I’ve made this summer is our sno cone maker. I keep these great natural fruit concentrates in the fridge and we can just come home, pop a few ice cubes in and voila — an icy, refreshing sweet treat in seconds with no added sugar.

The best part of having the sno cone maker is that we’re not limited to pre-made flavors. A little fresh fruit and simple syrup is all it takes to make our own custom flavors. This watermelon version was fabulous, and oh so simple. I happened to have vanilla simple syrup on hand, you could use any flavored or even herb-infused simple syrup to up the sophistication factor. But if you’re just craving a simple fruity slushie, watermelon and a little sugar are all you need.

Recipe: Watermelon Slushie (or Sno Cone)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups watermelon, cubed
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup*
  • shaved ice

Instructions: Load watermelon into your blender. Add simple syrup, cover and puree until smooth. Pour into a pitcher and refrigerate until ready to serve. Then, fill a glass or sno cone cup with shaved ice, pour watermelon syrup over and enjoy! Makes about a half quart of syrup.

* To make simple syrup: Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. When it begins to boil, remove from heat and let cool. (You can add a vanilla bean half or a handful of basil or mint after removing from heat to add flavor.) Store leftover syrup in the fridge — and use for iced tea, coffee or cocktails.

Real Milk as a Luxury Food? (and Homemade Butterscotch Pudding)

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Jane Black is the first byline I look for when reading the Washington Post weekly food section, and one of my favorite food writers anywhere. So I was excited to see her write up some fantastic local dairies this week. I was a little disturbed, though, to see some references on Twitter to her article calling milk the “next luxury food.” Huh? Yes, the glass-bottled, all-natural milk we buy from Maryland’s South Mountain Creamery is more expensive than conventional milk at the supermarket. But in my opinion, artificial-hormone-free milk from cows who aren’t fed GMO grain is one of the most important purchasing decisions I make for my family. I’ve written before about how milk was the gateway food into more natural/organic eating when I was pregnant with my son. During pregnancy and when children are first weaned onto cows’ milk, it is so important to make sure the milk you’re drinking is as pure as possible. Unfortunately, even commercial organic milk isn’t perfect as until just this year (June 17, to be exact), organic producers didn’t even have to allow cows to actually graze. Cows were made to eat grass, and grass-fed cows produce tastier and healthier milk. There are other ways to save money on food — cooking at home more, cutting out processed foods, etc. — that don’t require compromising on quality milk.

Now of course it happens from time to time that we wind up with too much milk in the fridge, and what better way to put it to use than with homemade pudding? It’s really not that much more difficult than stirring together a boxed mix, and tastes infinitely better. Of course, if the temperatures stay so high here we’ll be firing up the ice cream maker soon enough, but pudding requires less waiting.

I had had butterscotch pudding on the mind since reading about it on The Kitchn back at the start of the year. Of course, not one to leave easy enough alone I decided to follow David Lebovitz‘s simpler recipe (minus the whiskey) but cook the butterscotch more as per Shuna Fish Lydon‘s recommendation. If you read Shuna’s passionate plea to preserve real butterscotch, you’ll see why I felt compelled to follow her instructions. (Well, partially.) My brown sugar and butter took much longer than 10 minutes to melt and darken, probably because I used light brown sugar rather than dark (uh, duh), so my resulting butterscotch had an almost burnt taste. Next time I’ll stick with either one recipe or the other — or at least use dark brown sugar — but if you’re curious, here’s how I made it.

Butterscotch Pudding
adapted from David Lebovitz with inspiration from Shuna Fish Lydon

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed (dark) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons organic cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions: Melt the butter and sugar in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, stirring infrequently, until it reaches a syrupy consistency (10-15 minutes). Add salt and remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the milk and stir until smooth. Whisk in the eggs to combine.

Add the remaining milk to the melted brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Then add the cornstarch/egg mixture and again whisk until smooth.

Return to medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly, until pudding thickens. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour pudding into a bowl and chill for at least an hour, depending on your patience level. I probably dug into mine after about 30 minutes. Makes 4-6 servings, and is best served with fresh whipped cream on top.

Shared with Fight Back Friday at the Food Renegade.

Plant City Strawberry Agua Fresca

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Traveling to Florida is always a bit perplexing, foodwise. Has anyone else ever wondered how the sunny coast of California inspired smoothies and gourmet vegetarianism, while Florida is perfectly content with chain restaurants and a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner? Add to that the fact that the state surrounded on three sides with water is a virtual wasteland when it comes to safe, sustainable seafood choices (as per Seafood Watch‘s handy iPhone app), and well, it can be easier to try not to think while eating out. (Gulf shrimp, when you can find them, appear to be the safest choice.) We didn’t even time our trip to catch a weekend farmers market, so a quick stop at a roadside stand promising Plant City strawberries was the extent of our local food foraging (well, aside from taking advantage of my sister’s citrus trees). 

Plant City, Florida, is the winter strawberry capital of the world. While you can find Florida strawberries in supermarkets down here, the ones at the farmstand seemed fresher and juicier — without that telltale white top of berries picked before ripeness.

I picked up a couple quarts and made a pitcher of agua fresca back at the house. This is a fun project with kids, particularly if they’re old enough to safely hull strawberries. (If not, they can take a pass at plucking the stems at least.) Instead of lime juice, I used an orange from one of the trees at my sister’s house — one whose fruit tastes almost like a cross between a lime and an orange.

Recipe: Strawberry Agua Fresca
adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of the berries)
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

Instructions: In a tall pitcher, stir 1/4 cup sugar into the water until dissolved. Place strawberries in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into the pitcher. Stir in the orange juice, taste, and add additional sugar if desired. Chill in refrigerator several hours. Garnish glasses with a small strawberry, and enjoy! Makes 8 cups.

The finished drink was lighter than a smoothie, cool and refreshing, and a big hit with the kids. A sweet end to a day at the beach and a nice taste of things to come as our own berry season is just around the corner.

Avec Eric Holiday Cocktail Party

Monday, December 15th, 2008

The second installment of Eric Ripert’s Dinner Social event was a holiday cocktail party theme. We were having trouble finding a slot on our calendars and wound up doing a cocktail brunch. What better way to start a day than with some festive cocktails and hors d’ouevres?

Photo by Alison
photo by Alison

Alison of The Humble Gourmand hosted this time, and prepared the cranberry champagne cocktails, pita and spreads, and lettuce-wrapped beef rolls.

Tiffany of The Garden Apartment made the wonderfully crisp and flavorful cheese straws with cayenne and pistachios, and shrimp and chorizo skewers.

April of The Food Scribe made creamy smoked salmon deviled eggs — with creme fraiche in lieu of mayonnaise — and spiked apple cider.

And I made the portobella mushroom fries with truffled aioli and the ginger-infused bourbon smash. The fries were simple, seasoned with good pecorino and dried thyme, and were definitely addictive. The toddler even enjoyed the leftovers, asking for more when they ran out. I will definitely be making them again soon!

The cocktail called for muddling fresh ginger, lemon slices, and sugar cubes. Instead I made a ginger simple syrup (1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, 2-inch peeled piece of fresh ginger, sliced; bring to boil, cover and reduce to low simmer for 10 minutes), then muddled lemons and a little more fresh ginger. I don’t usually like bourbon but I really enjoyed the blend of the smoky liquor with ginger and lemons.

It was a shame we were rushed to get on with our other obligations for the day, but it was a fun time enjoying great food (and photography practice) with friends. If you have a cocktail party on your agenda, check out Chef Ripert’s recipes for some tasty inspiration.