Pop quiz!! Summer is great for . . . a) grilling b) cocktails c) spending time with friends outdoors, or d) all of the above. If you answered, ‘all of the above’ then go ahead and pat yourself on the back. While you’re at it, why don’t you pour yourself a cocktail. Speaking of which, today Erica and I are celebrating summer by gathering our families together for a casual brunch. We built a simple cheese platter with grilled baguette, soft-boiled eggs, seasonal fruit, and of course, Hangar 1 cocktails! Grilled cocktails no less.After all, it is grilling season. Pluots (plum + apricot hybrid) are one of my favorite fruits to grill because I feel their flavor significantly changes when charred over the hot flame. Eaten raw, pluots have a pretty intensely sweet flavor. They’re delicious, don’t get me wrong, but rather one-note. However, as often happens when something is cooked (especially grilled) the flavor deepens. In the case of pluots, a savory tanginess emerges, that when combined with the sweet caramelization of the charred fruit, makes for a truly magical combo.
I love using Hangar 1 Straight Vodka in these situations. Perfectly balanced, fresh, and crisp, it’s the ideal vodka for fresh-picked, seasonal cocktails. I started off the party by grilling a ton of juicy pluots – that way the drinks were flowing early. For some reason grilled fruit is always a crowd pleaser. We added a few of the extra grilled pluots to our cheese platter, because if there’s anything that’s as delicious as grilled fruit + vodka, it’s grilled fruit + cheese! Anyway, I hope you enjoy these cocktails as much as we all did. Let me know if you give them a try, and/or if you’re inspired to experiment with any other grilled fruit libations. Happy grilling!
Anybody who knows me knows that I’ve always had the blackest of black thumbs. I’ve never been able to keep anything green living – not even cacti. Honestly. So I’m happy to report that after the last couple of summers spent cultivating the beginnings of a modest vegetable garden, we’ve got beautiful, sun-kissed plum and cherry tomatoes that thriving! In fact, they’re growing so wildly and rapidly out of control, we have more tomatoes than we know what to do with. Until that is, I started roasting them and devouring them over eggs, on toast, alongside fish, and recently, tossed into pasta. I love how the sweetness of the roasted tomatoes compliments an herbaceous basil and spinach pesto, creamy burrata and salty prosciutto. It’s the perfect dish to latch onto those last few weeks of summer . . .
Today we’ll be discussing two of my favorite words in the English language: drink and summer. You see, my days of closing down the bar have come and gone (apparently along with sleeping in past 6am, and having a full head of hair). And while I love a good nightcap as much as the next guy, I’m a day drinker at heart. Set me out back in a hammock on a warm summer day, ballgame on the radio, and a cocktail in hand, and I’m one happy camper. Extra points if that cocktail has pickled watermelon rind, fresh herbs, and sotol!! Well, what do you know, that’s exactly what I’m mixing up for you today. If you couldn’t already tell, today we’re celebrating #drinkthesummer 2016 (links below), where dozens of creative imbibers are offering an abundance of seasonal drink recipes that showcase summer’s bounty in lovely liquid form. No disrespect to the stone fruits and the berries out there, but summer is all about watermelon in our house. Here, sweet watermelon juice and agave are countered with tart bursts of pickled rind and lime. A chiffonade of fresh mint and cilantro add depth, all punctuated by a nice earthy sotol . . . perfect for summer sipping if you ask me! Again, don’t forget to check out all the other yummy summer drink links below. A special thanks to Sherrie from With Food + Love for organizing!!
National Waffle Day is August 24th and to celebrate I got together with Alana from Fix Feast Flair and Lily from Kale and Caramel (two of my favorite ladies) to do a waffle feast. If you don’t already follow Lily and Alana, it’s time you do– they’re both crazy talented and make killer waffles! Lily made a delicious cornmeal basil waffle studded with chunks of parmesan cheese and topped it with an heirloom tomato and burrata caprese salad. Alana made something brilliant– mochi waffles. With a mochi waffle base, she made mochi waffles or “moffles” and used it to make a mochi Spam masubi and mochi waffle topped with adzuki, ice cream, strawberries and matcha powder. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and “donified” a waffle with this blueberry and vanilla glazed buttermilk “doffle” or “wonut.” The buttermilk batter is baked in the waffle iron and the waffle is then dipped in a blueberry glaze and topped with sprinkles! With all these waffles recipes, I think we have all your National Waffle Day needs covered. Oh, and if mouthwatering waffles isn’t enough to make you click past the jump, Alana’s adorable dog Vienna the Sausage should get you there!
Guys can you believe it . . . Fiona is two years old!! Well, technically she’ll be two on Monday, but we’re having family over this weekend to celebrate. I know it’s cliché, but it really does feel like she was born just yesterday. Where’d the last two years go?!! (Yikes, I’m kinda scared to look in the mirror!) Little Fiona monster has be been my roll-dog since day one. We dance, we wrestle, we cook, we read, we have coffee dates, and even the occasional happy hour. I’m so incredibly lucky to have a job that allows me the flexibility to see my daughter so often. I know it’s rare, especially these days, and in this country, and it’s certainly not something that I take for granted. Fiona, I love you. And now . . . spumoni time! (I always wanted to say that.) So whether you’re celebrating a birthday, stuck in the middle of a heatwave, or you’re simply just a sucker for creamy cherry ice cream sandwiched between two buttery pistachio shortbread cookies, dipped in gooey bittersweet chocolate, these beauties are for you!
To achieve the classic spumoni trio (pistachio, cherry, chocolate) I added some homemade pistachio butter to a classic shortbread recipe. If you’d like your cookies to match that pistachio-green you see in a traditional spumoni, you can add a bit of matcha powder as a natural food coloring. It won’t alter the taste, but gives a bit of green color, if that’s something you’re looking for. I added a teaspoon, and my cookies went from a light blond, to more of a yellowish-green, natural pistachio color. Again, totally optional. For the ice cream I used store bought. I really wanted to cut the ice cream in the same shape as my cookies for a cleaner look. But, if you were looking for a delicious homemade cherry ice cream recipe, I highly suggest Alanna’s (as well as her ice cream sandwiches).
I don’t know why we’re not all adding rice to our salads. It may sound weird to you, but if you’ve ever added croutons or quinoa or cous cous to your salad– this is no different. It adds a little more substance and texture to an otherwise ordinary arugula and strawberry salad. In my opinion, you have to use cold or room temperature rice– warm rice just doesn’t work here. Also, the combination of strawberries, goat cheese and herbs is SPOT ON. This is my new favorite summer salad and be prepared for other rice-salad variations. I’m hooked!