Tag Archives: Beverages

Tangerine-Kumquat Martini

Tangerine Kumquat Martini
This was the signature martini Christina and I served at our winter wedding. It’s rarified, tricky to make and absolutely worth the effort. The “prize” at the bottom of the glass is the candied kumquat. Kumquats are available in the fall and winter, so set this recipe aside during the rest of the year.

do ahead Kumquats can be made up to one week ahead. Martinis can be made up to one day ahead and chilled until serving.

Candied Kumquats
12 kumquats
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Tangerine Kumquat Martini
11⁄4 cups tangerine juice, pulp strained out
2⁄3 cup lemon juice, pulp strained out
21⁄2 cups vodka
11⁄4 cups Cointreau or Triple Sec
2⁄3 cup syrup from candied kumquats
2 cups cold water

1 Make candied kumquats: In a small pot, combine kumquats with sugar and water. Bring to a simmer. Cook until kumquats are glossy and translucent, about 30 minutes. Chill. When ready to use, remove kumquats from syrup, reserving syrup for martini.
2 In a pitcher, combine tangerine juice, lemon juice, vodka, Cointreau or Triple Sec, kumquat syrup and water. Stir. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving.
3 Pour martinis into glasses and garnish each one with a candied kumquat.
serves 8

Drying the candied kumquats for 12 to 24 hours improves their texture.

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Cold Cucumber-Yogurt Soup with Dill

Cold Cucumber-Yogurt Soup with Dill

Some crops are so prolific that their yield outstrips their uses. Late summer zucchini comes to mind. Cucumbers are another. Make sure to check out the end of this recipe for more things to do with cucumbers. (On the other hand, you can never have too many tomatoes.) This easy recipe uses the classic combination of cucumbers, yogurt and dill as a basis for a cold, chunky and refreshing warm weather soup. We made an even simpler version of this soup in the early days of Frog that used only cucumbers, yogurt, water, dill, salt and pepper. Here I have added an undercurrent of red wine vinegar and a little olive oil. For a small variation, don’t mix the olive oil into the soup — as the recipe instructs, but instead drizzle a very fine olive oil on top of each serving as a nice added garnishing touch.

Do ahead You can make soup two to three days in advance and store in refrigerator.

6 medium to large whole cucumbers, about 3 pounds
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill plus about 1/4 cup larger torn dill leaves for garnish
2 cups whole milk plain yogurt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon quality red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 thinly sliced radishes, optional garnish
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup water

1 . Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scape out seeds and discard. Cut half cucumbers into a few pieces each. Place in work bowl of food processor. Process until smooth puree.
2 . Cut balance of cucumbers into long, thin strips. Line into piles and cut across into cubes. Dice into small cubes — 1/4 to 1/8th inch.
3 . In a large bowl, combine yogurt, vinegar, olive oil and mix well. Add pureed cucumber, diced cucumber, garlic, red onion, 1/2 cup dill, salt and pepper.
4 . Adjusting consistency: Soup should have consistency of half and half. The chunks of cucumber should be prevalent, but this is a soup and not a salsa. Gradually add a little water until it reaches right consistency.  It will thicken as it chills and you can always add a touch more water if it seems too thick after it chills. But once you add the water, it’s impossible to go back and you will have to serve a thin soup.
5 . Chill until very cold, at least two hours. Check for salt and pepper. Serve in bowls with feathery sprigs of dill in spread on the top. For optional garnish, place 5-6 overlapping radish slices in center.

Yield 6-7 cups serving 6

Simple to make with relatively few ingredients. Use plain whole milk yogurt. I used Greek yogurt, but that is not necessary. In fact, the next time I make this I will not use Greek yogurt.

Regardless of how you use them, cucumbers are always better if you scrape out the seeds – — except for whole pickled cucumbers. Cut peeled cucumbers in half lengthwise and with a spoon and scrape out the seeds as seen on the “upper” cucumber.

To cut cucumbers or other vegetables into small cubes, start by cutting long, thin strips. Then cut across the strips to make cubes.

Here are cubes that I felt were a bit too large.

So I diced the cucumbers more until they were fairly uniform and the size I wanted.

I chopped all my cucumbers and then divided them into equal piles and pureed one pile. But then I decided it made more sense to take half the cucumbers before chopping and cut them into “food processor-friendly” chunks. Since I was going to puree half the cucumbers, there was no reason to dice this half — extra work. This re-think is reflected in the recipe above. Please note the dough scrapper that I consider an essential “prep tool.” For more on how to make your prep work easier, see At Home Page 21 –  Setting Up for Prep and Cooking.

A Note about the chopped garlic: Chop the garlic very fine. I love garlic. When I made this soup Christina expressed the concern that maybe it had too much garlic for a dinner party so I backed off the garlic a little in the recipe. Regardless of your garlic preferences, this is raw garlic and you don’t want your guest biting into a big piece. So don’t skimp on the garlic but especially don’t skimp on the chopping. See At Home Page 39 for tips on making chopping garlic  easy.

Here’s the finished soup. Make sure it spends at least two hours in the refrigerator before serving. It will thicken more as it chills so adjust with a touch of cold water if needed. Also, the colder something is, the more salt it needs so check for salt.

And here it is ready to be served. Note the over-lapping slices of radish and the feathery leaves of dill.

Some other things to do with cucumbers:
Cucumbers with Lime Salt  See At Home Page 67
Cucumber red onion salad  See At Home Page 255
Asian Cucumber Salsa  See At Home Page 210
Sauteed cucumbers with garlic and mint – peel and seed cucumbers and cut into “batons”
Vietnamese pickled cucumber slices  See At Home Page 219  Substite sliced cucumbers for dikon
Pickles with Kirby cucumbers  See At Home Note on Pickling on Page 220
Pimm’s #1 Cup Cocktail  – a wonderful summer cocktail that we are serving at a party on July 17th
Cucumber Vodka  — vodka infused with cucumber — and Cucumber Cooler  See At Home Page 52

Maple Acres Pickling Demonstration
Speaking of what to do with cucumbers, Maple Acres is holding a “Pickling Demonstration” on Saturday, July 3rd at 11:00 AM. I love pickling and think it is very underused by home entertainers. (I always keep a container of Vietnamese pickled carrots and daikon in my refrigerator.) So, this Saturday is a good day to visit Maple Acres.

New Blog Recipe Index
If you are not reading the blog on the blog site you are missing out on lots of features including a better looking blog. It’s easy to get to the blog site by just clicking on the blog title. We have recently added tags that enable you to search blogs that might interest you. And today we added a Recipe Index that provides an easy way to locate the nearly 80 recipes that have been featured in the blog since it started about a year ago. Use the Recipe Index to check-out the Cold Corn Soup and other recipes from last summer. This July 4th Weekend there should be lots of fresh local corn around.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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My Plan to Entertain: New Year’s Weekend

Between promoting At Home, and Frog Commissary’s catering and our move to and operation of The Franklin Institute restaurants, I have hardly had a moment to think about our own entertaining at home. Finally, Tuesday morning I made a plan and announced to Christina Tuesday evening that “I’ll have the food. You round up the guests.”

New Year’s Eve will begin with early evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres for our Christmas hosts — Christina’s brother Larry, wife Susan and daughter Sarah — plus my entertaining son Noah, who is planning his own New Year’s Eve shin-dig in his shared Italian Market digs. A few other guests are in the works, but that’s not my department.

My goal is to spend time with guests and not in the kitchen. Everything is room temperature and sitting out with the exception of the Jerusalem artichoke bisque, the baby octopus and the cheese souffle. The soup is easy. Just heat and serve. Souffle’s are actually quite simple and a wonderful way to end the year. Souffle dishes can be prepared ahead, the souffle base made in the afternoon, the oven pre-heated and the egg whites in the Kitchen Aid mixer, ready to whip and fold. I had not planned for the baby octopus — but it was available at Whole Foods and I love octopus and know Larry does too. It will be marinated and ready to grill quickly in a grill pan just before serving.

Menu for New Year’s Eve Cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres

Tangerine-Kumquat Martinis (We served these sensational martinis at our wedding last November. The Recipe is below and on page 47 of At Home.)

Olives & Pappedews

Roasted Sweet & Hot Peppers with Crostini

Demitasse of Jerusalem Artichoke Bisque with White Truffle Oil

Shrimp Cocktail

Citrus-cured Salmon with Cilantro Crème Fraiche

Scallops Cru with Pink Peppercorns

Mussels with Mustard Mayonnaise

Tuna Tartare

Paprika-grilled Baby Octopus

Cheese Souffle

New Year’s Eve marks the anniversary of Christina’s and my engagement. I cooked dinner for two. At midnight I popped the question, followed by a midnight walk and champagne toast to the New Year in Rittenhouse Square with Izzy. (It took us four years to actually tie the knot.) So our New Year’s celebration is dinner for two. Everything is cooked and ready to be heated and served except for the shellfish that will go into the hot stew shortly before serving.

Engagement Anniversary Dinner for Two

First Course Paparadelle with Red Wine Braised Boneless Short Ribs

Entree Seafood Stew with Lobster, Crab, Shrimp & Clams served with Rouille (Garlic, Bread, Sweet Red Pepper Mayonnaise)

Dessert Cara Cara, Navel & Blood Oranges & Red Grapefruit

Biscotti & Belgian Chocolate (in honor of our Belgian friends Pascal, Manou and Maelle)

For weekend visitors, my plan is sitting around and enjoying hors d’oeuvres in the living room, plus a help-yourself Thai Curry with Jasmine Rice on the stove in the kitchen, and taco’s made with a slow-roasted pork and a jicama-chayote slaw. Most of the hors d’oeuvres are remainders from New Year’s eve supplemented by some very fine cheeses. I’ll prepare the slaw vegetables Wednesday evening and dress them on Saturday. The pork shoulder for the tacos — infused with garlic and lime — will go in the oven when we go to bed on New Year’s Eve and come out of the oven late morning or early afternoon. I will make the base for the eggnog Wednesday evening and add the whipped cream just before guests arrive.

Menu for Casual New Year’s Weekend Visitors

Champagne

Traditional Eggnog

Hors d’oeuvres

Olives & Pappedews

Roasted Sweet & Hot Peppers

Shrimp Cocktail

Citrus-cured Salmon with Cilantro Crème Fraiche

Selection of Cheeses

• Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk (Washed rind cow)

• FireFly Farms Allegheny Chevre (Fresh Goat)

• Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor (Goat)

• Gorgonzola Dolce (Cow)

• Neals Yard Ardrahan (Cow)

Served with Metropolitan Bakery Breads & Crackers and Truffle Honey

Dinner Options

Thai Chicken Curry with Thai Basil and Jasmine Rice

Corn Tacos with Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder infused with Garlic, Thyme & Lime. Over Jicama-Chayote Slaw topped with Pico de Gallo.

Desserts

Almond Cookies (Gluten-free)

Cornmeal Sugar Cookies from At Home

Christina and I married last November at The Franklin Institute. I created this unusual and delicious martini as our house cocktail to mark the occasion. It’s also on page 47 of At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining.

Tangerine Kumquat Martini

This was the signature martini Christina and I served at our winter wedding. It’s rarified, tricky to make and absolutely worth the effort. The “prize” at the bottom of the glass is the candied kumquat. Kumquats are available in the fall and winter, so set this recipe aside during the rest of the year.

do ahead Kumquats can be made up to one week ahead. Martinis can be made up to one day ahead and chilled until serving.

Candied Kumquats

12 kumquats

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Martini

11⁄4 cups tangerine juice, pulp strained out

2⁄3 cup lemon juice, pulp strained out

21⁄2 cups vodka

11⁄4 cups Cointreau or Triple Sec

2⁄3 cup syrup from candied kumquats

2 cups cold water

1 Make candied kumquats: In a small pot, combine kumquats with sugar and water. Bring to a simmer. Cook until kumquats are glossy and translucent, about 30 minutes. Chill. When ready to use, remove kumquats from syrup, reserving syrup for martini.

2 In a pitcher, combine tangerine juice, lemon juice, vodka, Cointreau or Triple Sec, kumquat syrup and water. Stir. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

3 Pour martinis into glasses and garnish each one with a candied kumquat.

serves 8

Drying the candied kumquats for 12 to 24 hours improves their texture

Thank you for visiting.

Steve

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My Best Wishes for Eggnog

I will be signing At Home at Reading Terminal Market today (Wednesay) from about 11 AM. Look for me in Center Court across from Meze. Books are also available at Coopermarket at 302 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd and at Joseph Fox Bookshop at 1724 Sansom Street.

Please pass this post along to any friends and family responsible for the eggnog at the Christmas celebration.

Among the joys of Christmas is eggnog and there is nothing like homemade. I learned to make eggnog from the legendary Peter von Starck nearly 40 years ago as a cook at his La Panetiere restaurant. For a Jewish kid from Yonkers, Peter was an epiphany — as was his eggnog. Peter, an extravagant personality, took no culinary shortcuts. And for a once a year treat for guests, you should not take shortcuts either.

So, here’s my recipe for Traditional Eggnog — an homage to Peter — from At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining. Don’t be intimidated by making the custard base. Just keep the heat low and the custard moving to avoid scrambling your eggs. If your eggs do scramble slightly, pass custard through a fine strainer and it will be fine. Bourbon is my favorite alcoholic accent but feel free to substitute brandy or rum — and don’t skimp on the quantity of alcohol.

(Book owners, once you get comfortable with making a custard base, check out my Peppermint Ice Cream Sundaes on Page 416 of At Home. Ice cream is the ultimate do ahead in desserts. There’s no a better holiday ice cream than my peppermint made with chunks of candy canes.)

At Home’s Traditional Eggnog

There are all sorts of approaches to eggnog, but our favorite is to make a custard base, add some spice and bourbon, brandy or rum, and enrich with some whipped cream. It’s thick but delightfully drinkable. Serve very cold.

do ahead Eggnog can be made up to four days ahead, but add whipped cream no more than a few hours before serving. Stir as needed.

7 cups whole milk
10 egg yolks
11⁄2 cups sugar
3 cups heavy cream, divided
11⁄2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups bourbon, rum or brandy
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
8 cinnamon sticks

1 In a large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar and beat until mixture thickens and turns pale yellow.
2 Add milk to a 4-quart pot and over moderately high heat, scald milk to just below boiling. Working very gradually at first, add milk to egg-sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Once you’ve added about a third of the milk, you can add the rest more quickly.
3 Return mixture to pot over low heat and cook, constantly stirring, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. If you’re using a thermometer, shoot for a temperature of 170°. Remove from heat, and immediately transfer mixture back to the mixing bowl. Add 1 cup heavy cream, vanilla, bourbon and nutmeg and mix well. Allow to cool and transfer to refrigerator. Chill for at least 6 hours.
4 Just prior to serving, whip 2 cups heavy cream until soft peaks form and fold into custard mixture. Transfer eggnog to a pitcher. Divide between glasses and serve with a cinnamon stick and some grated nutmeg on top.

yields 3 quarts

Thank you for visiting.

Steve


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For Christmas Eve: Two Do Ahead Recipes and a Cocktail

Note: For last minute shoppers, I will be signing books in Reading Terminal Market’s Center Court on Tuesday, December 22nd and Wednesday, December 23rd beginning at 11 AM. Books are available at Coopermarket in Bala Cynwyd and Joseph Fox Bookshop in Center City. Please pass this along to any harried last minute shoppers you know as I’m sure all your shopping is completed.

My Christmas Eve assignment from my brother-in-law Larry: something with seafood. I married into the tradition of a family Christmas at Larry and Susan’s. And a tradition that centers around food at night and gift exchange in the morning was a welcome addition to my life.

Larry is an excellent cook who handles the seven fishes with gustatory enthusiasm and finesse. Guests get assignments, but the heavy lifting is done by Larry. As Larry and Susan live some two hours away in Tuxedo, NY and as we plan to arrive just as the first bottle of sparkling wine is popped, my plan needs to be very do ahead with a minimum of last minute preparation.

Mediterranean Seafood Cakes with Green Olive Tapenade

These simple to prepare seafood cakes are made from shrimp and scallops with an accent of fennel and sundried tomatoes. They can be made fully ahead and reheated. Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients — it’s mostly shopping with a little chopping. The final coating of a little flour gets a flavor boost from the addition of ground toasted fennel seed, but this is totally optional. The do ahead green olive tapenade adds a piquant bite. You can make miniature versions and serve as an hors d’oeuvres for a crowd. The green olive tapenade also makes for an excellent sitting around hors d’ouvres — a change from the more typical black olive tapenade. Reheating takes just ten minutes in the oven.

Mediterranean Seafood Cakes with Green Olive Tapenade

In the work bowl of a food processor, combine garlic, parsley, olives, anchovies, capers and pepper and process until finely chopped. Add olive oil and process until smooth.

1 pound shrimp, peeled
1/2 pound dry scallops, divided
3 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced fennel
2 tablespoons diced sundried tomato
1/2 cup diced scallion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fennel fronds (the whispy leaves that look like dill)
1 lightly beaten large eggs
1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine
2 tablespoons fennel seed (optional)
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup flour
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper, divided

Do ahead Cakes may be made up to three days ahead and reheated in 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

1 Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to medium sauté pan over low heat. Heat oil. Add fennel, onion and garlic and cook about 5 minutes until translucent. Add sundried tomato and dry vermouth and cook until there is just a small residue of liquid. Off heat. Set aside and allow to cool.
2 Add shrimp and 1/4 pound scallops to work bowl of food processor. Pulse into paste. Transfer to medium mixing bowl.
3 Cut remaining scallops into small cubes. Cubes should be between an eighth and quarter inch.
4 Add to mixing bowl cubed scallops, sautéed vegetables, basil, parsley, fennel fronds, egg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
6 Making cakes: Have a small bowl of water to moisten hands making it easier to work with sticky shrimp mixture. You will make 12 cakes. Form ball with 3 ounces mixture. Flatten into cake about 1/2-inch thick by 3-inch diameter. Lay out cakes on rimmed cookie sheet. Chill at least one hour or up to two days. If making hors d’oeuvres, reduce 1 ounce cakes.
7 Optional: In small dry pan over moderate heat, toast fennel seed until it lightly tans and releases its fragrance. Immediately transfer out of pan to stop cooking. Cool. Transfer to spice grinder and grind until powder.
8 Combine flour, optional ground fennel seed and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper on a dinner plate. Lightly coat seafood cakes all over with flour.
9 Add 2 tablespoons oil to medium sauté pan over low-moderate heat. When oil is hot, add cakes and cook until first side is well-browned, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until second side is browned, another 2 minutes. Don’t cook over too high a heat or outside will brown before inside gets cooked. Continue until all cakes are cooked, adding more oil as needed.

Yield 12 3-inch cakes or 30-26 hors d’oeuvres-sized cakes

Green Olive Tapenade
do ahead Tapenade can be made up to a week ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups good quality green olives, rinsed, drained and pitted
2 anchovy filets, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

In the work bowl of a food processor, combine garlic, parsley, olives, anchovies, capers and pepper and process until finely chopped. Add olive oil and process until smooth.

Serve tapenade on the side, family-style or top seafood cakes.

Yield 1 cup

To dice fennel, start by cutting into slices and dice the slices.

You want a thin layer of liquid left in pan to add flavor to cakes.

Dry toasting optional fennel seed. From here it goes into a spice (coffee) grinder.

Cooking seafood cakes in batches. Add oil as needed.

The finished result: Mediterranean Seafood Cakes with Green Olive Tapenade. You too can do this with crowd-pleasing results.

An Entertainer’s 911: Roasted Sweet and Hot Peppers

A big, colorful bowl of roasted sweet and hot peppers is an Entertainer’s 911. They are at the ready, whenever guests show up. Add crostini or good bread and you have an instant “sitting around” hors d’oeuvres. My inspiration for this was a saute of Long Hots at Ralph’s on 9th Street on Friday where Christina and I met Noah and his friend Jake for a little post-Oregon Avenue Christmas tree purchase dinner. (Noah just rented a house with two friends on League Street in the heart of the Italian market.)

I love the combination of sweet and hot — a common Asian flavor profile, but less so in Western cooking. Start by selecting a mix of mostly sweet with a few hot peppers added for interest and surprise. If you have a total of seven peppers, no more than two should be hot. None of the peppers pictured below are very hot — just pleasantly so. However, take care whenever handling hot peppers. Do not touch your fingers to your eyes or other soft membrane and wash your hands and cutting board when done.

Types of peppers purchased Saturday at Reading Terminal Market.
Pictured above beginning at the bottom center is a dark, moderately hot poblano. To the left and running clockwise: a moderately hot Anaheim, orange and yellow sweet peppers, a green bell pepper, assorted mild frying peppers, long hots and a moderately hot banana pepper.

Roasting whole peppers over intense heat chars the skin — softening it and/or enabling you to peel your peppers, while the peppers also get cooked from the inside by the steam that builds up. The simplest way to roast peppers is on an outdoor grill with ample space to roast all in one batch. You can also roast peppers — one at a time — by placing directly on the cooking grate of a gas burner. This is an easy way to roast a single pepper. But if you are roasting the big batch and your grill is buried under two feet of snow, then the broiler method works best.

Broiling Peppers

Pre-heat broiler to high. Begin by very lightly rubbing each pepper with olive oil. Place peppers on a sturdy rimmed baking sheet and place on upper oven shelf, but not so high that peppers touch broiler. As peppers broil, blister and darken, rotate peppers to cook all over. Kitchen tongs is the ideal implement to do this because you do not want to poke a hole in the pepper and release the steam.

Peppers in the broiler.

Firm and meaty sweet peppers take to charring and peeling. Thinner skinned peppers just need a light charring — mostly blistering to soften the skin as you will not peel these. Remove peppers from broiler, place in bowl. When cool enough to handle, cut away or pull away stem. Split peppers in half with skin side down. Gently scrape away and discard seeds by scraping gently with a paring knife. While doing this it is helpful to keep your scraping area clean of seeds with a dough scraper, damp cloth or knife blade as the seeds will adhere back on to just cleaned peppers and you will have to scrape them off again. Be patient.

Ready for removing stems, splitting, scraping away seeds and cutting into strips — julienne.

Once seeds are scraped away, remove black char from peppers. Not every bit needs to be removed. Next, make small stacks of peppers and cut into julienne strips. Very long strips should be cut in half. Place pepper julienne in bowl. Add lots of chopped garlic — about a teaspoon of chopped garlic for every pepper, good olive oil, salt and pepper. I also like to add some cracked toasted coriander seeds, but strictly optional.

A festive bowl of holiday peppers

In selecting peppers, pick a nice holiday mix of lots of sweet red and orange peppers with green peppers — ideally more red than I selected above. Roasted peppers will keep in the refrigerator through the entire holiday season.

Winter: Pomegranate-Lemon Martini

At Home’s seven Sections are organized from hello to good-bye beginning with Section 1: Welcoming Guests. And there are few better ways to welcome holiday guests than with a “house cocktail” such as my Pomegranate-Lemon Martini. It is one of four Four Seasons of Martinis included in At Home.

Four Seasons of Martinis — Winter — From At Home
Typically, martinis are made one at a time in a shaker with ice, which serves the function of diluting the alcohol a bit. But you don’t want to be bothered making drinks for each guest when you have a big group. Below, we’ve given you recipes for cocktails that can be made in a pitcher ahead, using water to dilute the alcohol instead of the traditional ice.
do ahead Martinis can be made up to one day ahead and chilled until serving.

General Procedure
In a pitcher, combine vodka and all other liquids. Stir. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving. Pour martinis into glasses and garnish each one with recommended garnish.

Winter: Pomegranate-Lemon Martini
21⁄2 cups lemon-flavored vodka
2⁄3 cup limoncello
2⁄3 cup lemon juice
3 cups pomegranate juice
3 cups water
long strips of lemon peel, for garnish
serves 6

These martinis go down very easily. As with serving any alcohol, as host you have the responsibility to make sure your guests do not drink and drive. If you have any concerns or a driving guest seems impaired, stop drinks early and extend the evening. Do not let an impaired guest drive.

At Home for the New Year – Still the Perfect Gift

At Home: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining is an ideal house gift throughout the holiday season and for the host of a New Year’s gathering. Online ordering is easy.

Thank you for visiting.
Steve

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Lime Rickey: A Lemonade Alternative

I love fresh lemonade as much as the next person. But, by this time of summer it’s a little “been there, done that.” So, a lime rickey is an easy and unexpected alternative for your guests.

IMG_4755

To make limeade or lemonade, the key is to balance the sour — lime or lemon — with the sweet of sugar, in this case simple syrup — diluted with water or, in this case, seltzer. It is seltzer that transforms an “ade” to a “rickey.’ You need enough sweet and sour for flavor and enough water to lighten without over-diluting the sweet-sour flavor.  The basic mix is one part juice, one part simple syrup and two parts water or seltzer over ice. If your mixture is not chilled, more ice will melt and further dilute your beverage so you could back off the water or seltzer if your mix is not pre-chilled.

Do ahead You can make the “base” of fresh lime juice and simple syrup up to a week in advance. Finish with ice, seltzer and a wedge of lime.

1 quart fresh lime juice, chilled (See Note)
2 3/4 cup sugar
2 3/4 cup water
2 quarts seltzer (See Note)
16 lime wedges
16 sprigs mint, optional

1. Make simple syrup: In a small pot over moderate heat combine sugar and water. Heat until sugar is fully melted into water. Chill.
2. In a pitcher, combine fresh lime juice, simple syrup. Chill.
3. To serve, fill glasses with ice. Add equal parts of lime-syrup mix and seltzer. Stir. Pour into glass leaving space for seltzer. Top with seltzer and stir. Garnish with lime wedge and optional mint sprig. If you would like your rickey a touch more sour, be sure to squeeze your lime wedge and/or add a second lime wedge.

Serves 12-16

IMG_4749

To make a proper lime wedge, trim each end of a lime.

IMG_4750

Cut lime in half and cut each half into three or four wedges.

IMG_4751

Trim the white membrane from each wedge. The knife blade is pointing to the white membrane.

Note: Fresh lime juice.
There are few substitutes for fresh lime juice. My local Whole Foods carries a high quality “fresh” lime juice in a bottle that is fine. Make sure any bottled product you buy is just fresh juice and lightly processed. Otherwise, buy limes and squeeze you own juice.

IMG_4747

Note: Seltzer
Not all sparkling water is created equal. There’s a long note about sparkling water in At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining. Cheap seltzer is pretty harsh on its own, but you need the “muscle” of cheap seltzer to add the spritz required for a good rickey.

Tomorrow: One Relaxed Hour

We are about four weeks from having books in hand and starting to ship. If you buy your book(s) now, you will receive a signed, limited first edition.

Steve

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Simple Syrups Are Very Simple

During the peak of iced tea season the question asked around pitchers is, “Sweetened or unsweetened?”And if sweetened, “How sweet is it?”

The answer is to let your guests decide by sweetening their own. But granulated sugar is near impossible to dissolve in iced tea. The best solution to your custom sweetened iced tea is to make a simple syrup and serve it in a small pitcher alongside your big pitcher of tea. Both smart and crowd pleasing. Did I mention simple?

Simple Syrups 101

Plain simple syrup is very simple to make. If you can boil water you can do this. Just combine equal quantities of sugar and water in a pot and heat until sugar is dissolved. Actual boiling is usually not necessary so maybe this is even simpler than boiling water. A little stirring helps the process. Chill until cold. Transfer to a small pitcher. I cup of sugar and 1 cup of water will yield 1 3/4 cups simple syrup.

Another handy way to store and serve your simple syrup is to transfer it to an empty wine bottle. Label removal nice but optional. Place a liquor pourer on top.

Simple syrups will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month. They are also useful for sweetening iced coffee.

Infused Syrups

More advanced simple syrups are infused syrups. These are only slightly less simple than very simple. If you can make tea, you can infuse syrups. Simply add a quantity of whatever you want to use to flavor your syrup and steep it in warm syrup just as you would tea. If the flavoring is hard — like star anise or cardamom pods — you may need to steep over a very low heat for 15-20 minutes and then off heat and, ideally let sit overnight. Breaking up the pods helps. Take care not to cook down the syrup while steeping. You may need to add a bit of water back.

A little more or a little less flavoring is no big deal so don’t obsess about quantities of flavoring. You can always re-heat and add some more if the flavor is not strong enough.

During my recent visit to the Union Square Greenmarket I purchased an over-sized container of purple anise hyssop flowers. The friendly farmer said these are mostly used by restaurant bakers for breads and pastries. I wanted a bit of the pretty flowers to add to a berry salad, but I needed far less than was in the container. He suggested I make a syrup. I now have it happily chilling in my refrigerator ready and waiting to add a touch of sweet anise to my next batch of iced tea.

Section 1 of  At Home by Steve Poses is called Welcoming Guests. Chapter 1 is Beverages and features a page of recipes for infused syrups. See book’s Table of Contents.

Here’s a recipe for an ideal iced tea sweetener.

Lemon-Mint Syrup

Do ahead up to one month

3/4 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 ounce mint sprigs* — about enough mint sprigs when lightly presses fills 2 cups

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice — about 3-4 lemons (never use anything but fresh lemon juice!)

Combine sugar and water in a small pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved and syrup is just approaching a boil. Add mint and stir. After 20-30 minutes, strain out mint — squeezing mint to extract liquid. Allow to reach room temperature. Add lemon juice and chill.

* You can reserve a few springs of mint to garnish your tea along with a slice of lemon.

Having a pitcher of iced tea in the refrigerator with simple syrup means you are always ready to welcome guests…expected or not.

Picture 4

This illustration is by my friend Pascal Lemaitre. It’s from At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining. There are more than 200 more in the book.

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Thank you.

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