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!
I think this is the world’s easiest breakfast recipe. Oatmeal magically overnight and NO cooking involved! Simply combine whatever milk you like (I love almond milk here) with the oats in a jar and the oats absorb the liquid overnight. All you have to do is top with your favorite oatmeal toppings. I never thought I’d enjoy a cold oatmeal, but it is so incredibly refreshing. Frozen blueberries work perfect with this and for a little texture, I added crunchy buckwheat groats, sliced almonds and coconut flakes. I drizzle extra honey on top which gets cold from the frozen blueberries and, combined with the other crunchy toppings, turns into an almost-granola. So fantastic, especially for hot summer mornings!
Tomorrow is Derby Day, and it’s taken quite a bit of willpower to save my julep consumption for the weekend. As you know, we’re big Derby fans in my house. There’s no better reason to sip minty-sweet bourbon from a frosty glass like a slurpee. It’s an American tradition!! Now, I know that a Spicy Thai Mint Julep doesn’t sound very American, but hear me out. First, sweet and spicy is a classic combo that never fails. Second, the Thai basil adds an aromatic complexity that perfectly compliments the mint. Third, it’s a delicious cocktail and that’s all that matters, am I right?! I teamed up with Sarah for this shoot. Well, technically she had her own shoot (recipe coming soon), as she’s not a big cocktail gal. We both tried our hand at creating a cinemagraph (skip to the last photo), essentially a photograph that has a bit of subtle movement within an otherwise still photo. I’ve attempted a few others over the years (here, here), and needless to say it’s still a pretty difficult process to execute. If you want to see some stunning examples, checkout cinemagraph pioneers Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg. Maybe I’ll elaborate sometime on the whole cinemagraph process, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with a few Kentucky Derby picks. At 3-1 odds, Nyquist is the easy pick to win, however, I’m going with Mor Spirit . . . for obvious reasons. And for my long shot pick, I’m going with Suddenbreakingnews at 16-1. You’re welcome.