Wow, what a weekend!! After watching an incredible Warriors comeback win on Saturday night, I woke up to a text from a friend saying that he had a ticket to game 7 with my name on it 😮. There was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to attend a playoff game, let alone a game 7. I’m a lifelong Warriors fan, so I still remember that for 19 straight years we didn’t even make the playoffs. Fortunes are fickle in the sports world. Best to enjoy the good times while they last. Other than watching sports, the rest of my weekend was filled with birthday celebrations (happy birthday Arthur!!), early mornings at the park with Fiona, and sipping cold drinks in the sun. I first had these pineapple mint coolers a few weeks ago at Erica’s, and they were so refreshing that I knew I had to make them myself for Memorial Day weekend. As with any agua fresca, the sweetness will vary significantly depending on each particular fruit, which is why I highly recommend you sweeten to taste after juicing. The pineapples in the batch I made this weekend were very sweet, and ended up not needing simple syrup at all. Lastly, feel free to add a shot of rum – perfect for these ingredients! Just sayin’. Go Warriors!!
A lightbulb went off in my head a few days ago as the random craving for cornbread harassed me for hours on end. As usual, it started with me standing in front of an open, somewhat empty refrigerator about hmm . . . umpteen times. As if, after opening the door 5 times, piping hot jalapeño cornbread with gooey, melted honey butter would magically appear in the cheese drawer. Nope, no such luck. But as usual, during grilling season, our fridge is stocked with fresh corn. And jalapeños. And that’s when it hit me. Grilled corn. Jalapeños. Honey. Buttah. Cheddar Cheese. YES. Jalapeño cornbread. Just without the bread. Yes, yes, yes. I implore you to try this. And then I dare you not to spread this glorious jalapeño honey butter on everything.
Clay and I recently bought a grill. We had been waiting a long time to purchase one since we wanted our backyard remodel to be complete before buying one. Since we haven’t even started the remodel, we decided it was a pretty lame reason to forgo the summer grilling season. We bought a combined gas and charcoal grill because I couldn’t decide which one I wanted and I just knew I had to have a charcoal grill. My love for charcoal grilling developed in part due to the time I’ve spent in Vietnam. Almost everything is grilled over these small charcoal grills. The smokey flavor of charcoal goes so perfectly with the intense sweet-savory flavors of meats marinated in ingredients like fish sauce, sugar and soy. And my favorite part of Vietnamese food is that it’s all paired with fresh and bright herbs like mint and cilantro. It’s honestly one of the few things I could eat for weeks on end and not be tired of. This dish (nem lui hue) uses stalks of lemongrass to impart a mild lemongrass aroma to the meat. Its fibrous stalks double perfectly as skewers. I’ve made little sandwiches with the skewers here, but they would be perfect on their own. Also, you can easily turn these into lettuce cups by omitting the bread. After the skewers are cooked simply dip them into a little nuoc cham, the ubiquitous Vietnamese sauce made of fish sauce and lime juice, and eat it anyway you like. I can’t wait to make loads of these this summer!
You might say I’m getting old, but I’ve been particularly fond of low-alcohol cocktails of late. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a stiff drink at the end of a long day. It’s just that if I’m sipping low-proof libations, I can indulge in more than just one. Needless to say, when I read about these fennel rhubarb cocktail pitchers from Outerlands in a recent version of Bon Appétit, I was on board and ready to ride. Outerlands takes the time to infuse their vermouth with the fennel in advance. It takes 48 hours, is super simple, and worth the wait. I suggest you give their version a go if (unlike me) you can plan in advance, and/or are looking for a larger batch of cocktails – their recipe serves eight. Instead, I wanted to come up with a way to achieve a similar fennel flavor, just a bit quicker. I went ahead and used the fennel bulb in addition to the rhubarb in the syrup. Also, garnishing with a big fresh fennel frond also helps pull out those lovely aromatics as you sip. This recipe is for one cocktail, but I might just have to make myself a couple extra . . .
Audrey and I have been taking a break from baking . . . I know, I know, such a shame. It’s just that the whole house heats up the instant we turn on the oven. Consequently, we open the windows and doors, only to attract a host of fluttering insects that seem to thoroughly enjoy orbiting my head during photoshoots. So rather than suppress my sweet tooth entirely, I’ve opted for more appropriate warm weather desserts, such as ice cream, fresh fruit, and this panna cotta. The first time we made Claire’s coconut panna cotta, we were hooked. Something about that cool, silky coconut cream that is simply irresistible. I decided to make a topping that was reflective of what I had in the kitchen at the moment – blackberries, thyme, and sloe gin. Sloe gin is made by soaking sloe berries (a relative of the plum) in gin. The result is a bright, fruit forward liqueur that I feel perfectly compliments both the blackberries and thyme in the sauce. Bon appétit!!
Here’s a little cocktail 101: a “buck” is a type of cocktail that combines ginger beer and citrus with the spirit of your choice. So for example, a Moscow mule (vodka, lime, and ginger beer) is technically also a vodka buck. Today’s cocktail is from one of my all-time favorite bartenders, Erick Castro. For a twist on a bourbon buck, Erick adds a strawberry and couple dashes of Angostura bitters. File this away under the category of simple, but devilishly delicious. Just because the Kentucky Derby has come and gone, doesn’t mean I have to put away that bottle of bourbon. In fact, with the weather heating up, I think I’ll keep it out right on the kitchen counter!