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uly
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Flower Adorned Ice Cubes


Remember those old lady knickknacks of the late 70s of a flower completely frozen in a globe of lucite?  There were a few geriatric abodes I visited during that era, and those stopped-in-their-tracks flowers were always a fascination.  So perfect and yet so bizarrely frozen.

You can make your own, a bit more ephemeral, version as another gorgeous use for edible flowers.  Encase your posies in ice cubes to chic up late summer cocktails or mocktails.  You can use any edible flowers for this project.  The flower doesn’t impart all that much flavor to the cube or drink when simply frozen or floating, so it is possible to just focus on color.  However, if you think they’ll be eaten, or floating around for a while after they’ve thawed, there are a few pairing ideas below.

This is a super quick, nearly effortless way to bring some garden to your cocktail hour.  I think it would also be a stunning addition to the season’s bridal and baby showers.

Ring-a-round the spritzer, a pocket full of on the rocks.

 

Directions:

1.  Wash your flowers gently and carefully, making sure to get rid of any unsuspecting bugs so you don’t accidentally go all fossilized wooly-mammoth on your guests.  Tiny, perfect flowers can be frozen whole, but large, somewhat less perfect blossoms, can be torn for an equally pretty effect.

2.  In an ice cube tray, pour the slightest amount of water to just cover the bottom (which will be the top) surface.  Place your flowers in, facing the bottom (so ultimately right-side-up) touching the thin layer of water as much as possible.  Remember:  The larger the ice cubes, the longer it will take them to melt…

3.  Place trays in the freezer, until the first layer is solid.  Remove from freezer, and top with a bit more water and another layer of flowers, if desired, or fill completely.

4.  Return ice cube trays to the freezer until frozen and ready to use.  Unmold and cheers!

 

Ideas for Use:

--  Clear drinks work best.  This is even a great way to doll-up a simple glass of seltzer.

--  Use flowers from mint, lemon verbena, chamomile, lemon balm, lavender, and even thyme for lemonade.

--  Try mint, leaves and flowers, in ice cubes for mojitos

-Try thai basil blossoms in ice cubes for thai basil mojitos.

-Mint, chamomile, apple blossoms, rose petals and rose hips would be delish in iced tea.

-Elderflowers or cucumbery Borage in a gin and tonic on a summer evening.  Oh my.



 


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ay
26
Cornmeal Crusted Soft Shell Crab with Buttermilk Apple and Chive Coleslaw


This remarkably quick meal is a colorful and crunchy way to use the insanely good soft shell crabs that are coming into season right now.  I made this for my husband and I a few nights ago, and was so pleased with the speed to wow ratio.  But in addition it was so so so good that we craved the exact same thing for dinner the following night with the extra crabs I bought to photograph for the blog.

Though the crabs need to be served immediately after pan-frying, they take just minutes, and so still could be a great alternative for a small group BBQ, turning out crabs as you would burgers off the grill.  You can also skip the rolls and just serve them atop a salad of greens and slaw.

I also highly recommend trying the same recipe using thick green tomato slices in place of the crabs later in the summer.  Oh, how I love cooking during these months...

 

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pril
13
Homemade Ginger Soda Syrup


Perhaps because of the few (very few) days of slightly decent weather we've had lately, my attention has recently shifted from hot teas and afternoon hot mochas to cold, effervescent beverages.

We are not big soda drinkers in our house, almost none at all, for all of the obvious reasons (high fructose corn syrup, chemicals, artificial colors,and the environmental impact of all of the packaging and distribution.)  But a small spell of stomach queasiness that my husband and I both shared not too long ago (lovely), had me at the grocery store searching for ginger ale, or even better a more gingery ginger beer, sans HFCS and with real ginger as an ingredient.  After not an easy time I did find a couple of options, but all ended up being too sweet for my liking.

I've been following the blog and success of Brooklyn's P&H Soda Co., a small artisanal producer of all natural, small batch, soda syrups, for a little while now.  With flavors including hibiscus, lime and cream, I can't wait for my next time in the city to pick up some at one of their new retail locations.  But it also occurred to me that with my flail at the grocery store, and with summer gatherings-on-the-porch weather quickly approaching, perhaps I should just get myself in the kitchen and try to figure out the whole shebang, or at least part of the shebang, myself.

The result made me and my stomach very happy.  And like so many of my DIY endeavors, was ultimately not difficult, offers endless delicious possibilities, and has everything I want and nothing I don't.

I mixed the gorgeous syrup with seltzer for an outstanding ginger soda.  (A side note, we have owned the SodaStream home seltzer maker for a few years, use it every day, and it is one of my top 3 favorite things in the kitchen.  It has saved us a fortune, and saves thousands of plastic bottles from having to be manufactured, recycled or land-filled.)  I'm also looking forward to using the syrup for mixed drinks and ginger martini's, or to wake up lemonade.

The best part of all is that you can control the sweetness, by adding more or less sugar to taste, and the ka-pow of the soda, by adding more or less syrup to your seltzer.  Experiment, concoct and enjoy.



HOMEMADE GINGER SODA SYRUP
by Catie Schwalb

1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely grated on the large holes of a box grater
2 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

fine strainer
cheesecloth

TIP:  To peel ginger, wash and then use the front of a small spoon to scrape away the thin peel.  It will come off easily and a vegetable peeler tends to remove too much of the ginger meat.

Grate the ginger, and gently transfer it to a saucepan, careful not to squeeze out or lose any of the flavorful juice in the process.  Add the sugar, water, and lemon juice to the ginger.

Bring mixture to a gentle boil and turn off heat.  Allow mixture to steep and infuse for thirty minutes.

Return the ginger mixture to a gentle boil and reduce it by about half, until it has a slightly thicker, more syrupy consistency.  This is just really evaporating the extra water, and adjusting how concentrated you want the syrup to be, so go as long or short as you want, but do not let it cook so long that the syrup starts to get very thick, turn amber in color and caramelize.

Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool.  Strain through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth.  Squeeze cheesecloth to extract any remaining juices.  Refrigerate for up to a week.

For ginger soda:  Combine 1 part ginger syrup with 4 parts seltzer, or more or less to taste.


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arch
25
Pan-Seared Sea Scallops, with Pickled Watermelon Radish and Microgreen Salad
 


Here's a great little dish using those irresistable watermelon radishes and microgreens now growing at a farmers' market near you.  Ready in under a half hour, this would be a deceptively easy, super impressive first course for a local-chic dinner soiree.  Or triple the scallops, and pair it with cool buckwheat soba noodles dressed with sesame vinaigrette and sprinkled with additional microgreens for a light and springy main course.

Either way it uses some of the best items our farmers are offering up at this moment.  And after months and months of braised root vegetables, some very welcome fresh leafy crunchy variety.




PAN-SEARED SEA SCALLOPS,
WITH PICKLED WATERMELON RADISH AND MICROGREEN SALAD

Serves 4, as an appetizer. Triple recipe for a main course.

4 large sea scallops
12 thin slices of watermelon radish. (Other radish varieties will work well too, but will have a bit more bite.)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup loosely packed microgreens
2 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola, vegetable, or peanut oil

Remove the adductor muscle from the scallops.  Pat dry with paper towels and keep refrigerated.

In a small bowl combine the radish slices with the sugar and salt.  Allow to sit for about five minutes.  They are ready to use at this point, or can be refrigerated for up to four hours.  Before using, rinse gently and blot with paper towels.

Put the rice vinegar in a small bowl, with a small pinch of salt.  Gradually whisk in the sesame oil.  Set aside.

Arrange radish slices on plates.

Remove scallops from the refrigerator, season lightly with salt. In a saute pan, over high heat, melt a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of oil. When hot and shimmering carefully add the scallops to the very hot pan. Do not move them at first. After about a minute gently check to see if they are stuck to the pan, and if browning too quickly. Turn down heat slightly, if so. After about another minute, they should be nicely browned an caramelized, flip to the other side and sear for another minute.

Place scallops on radish slices on serving plates. In a medium bowl toss microgreens with sesame dressing (you may not need to use all of it), and top scallops with dressed greens. Serve immediately.



[caption id="attachment_2004" align="aligncenter" width="600"]http://www.pitchforkdiaries.com/2011/03/25/pan-seared-sea…crogreen-salad/ http://www.pitchforkdiaries.com/2011/03/25/pan-seared-sea…crogreen-salad/[/caption]

 


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ebruary
23
Homemade Infused Vodka and Spirits


The flavored vodka market appears to have exploded in the past few years.  On a recent trip to the spirits shop, there were shelves upon shelves of vodkas in all imaginable flavors.  Whipped cream, bacon, and sweet tea were new ones that caught my eye, but not quite my wallet.


Infusing alcohols is an ancient practice.  I read recently of a newly translated Mongolian cookbook dating from 1330, that included a recipe for lamb stew infused vodka.  When my husband and I were in China for our honeymoon, on several occasions we were offered a nip from a large glass bottle of grain alcohol, which housed several poisonous snakes.  The traditional elixir is thought to have medicinal properties, and held a place of honor in most of the homes we visited.  I can't comment on its medicinal effects, but when we finally gave in (impressed?), it wasn't awful, though had a slightly slippery feel as it went down my throat.  And I didn't die.

But snakes and bacon aside, infusing your own spirits is a simple and delicious project, and good skill to have at the ready.  A couple of months ago I posted a recipe for DIY Vanilla Extract, which included instructions for homemade vanilla vodka.  I took my own advice and gave a few of these as holiday hostess gifts, and was the belle of the ball.  My very first attempt at home infused alcohols was this beautiful recipe for fresh strawberry aquavit liqueur, from the gorgeous La Cucina Italiana magazine.  In both cases I very much appreciated that I was able to use fresh and natural ingredients, that resulted in a far superior flavor, from anything I had tasted from a store.

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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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