Summer Berry Spritzers and a Mojito



~ Blackberry, Lime and Mint Spritzers~

It’s summertime and the living is easy. And what better way to enjoy the sultry season than with a refreshing, thirst-quenching drink? During this window of time when berries are prolific, I like to make a syrup which I add to drinks.  Depending on the mood or time of day, I’ll stir a few spoonfuls of the vibrant, tangy syrup into icy glasses of Prosecco or sparkling water. If we’re feeling extra festive, I’ll muddle a jigger-full with mint, lime and rum and call it a mojito. The following recipes call for blackberries, but raspberries are a great substitute. And if you’re lucky enough to have a bunch of black currants growing in your garden, then go for it.

Blackberry Syrup
Makes about 1 cup.

12 ounces blackberries
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until blackberries soften and release their juices, about 10 minutes. Cool. Purée in a food processor, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Discard the seeds.

Blackberry Spritzers
Makes 1 

Ice cubes
1 part blackberry syrup
2 parts sparkling water, white wine or Proscecco
Lime wedge and mint leaves for garnish

Fill a wine or cocktail glass with ice. Add syrup and sparkling water. Stir. Garnish with lime and mint.

Blackberry Mojito
Makes 1 

1/2 lime, cut in 4 wedges
2 sprigs mint, plus extra leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) blackberry syrup
Crushed ice
1.5 ounces white rum
Sparkling water
1-2 blackberries for garnish

Muddle 2 lime wedges, mint sprigs and syrup together in a sturdy highball glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Pour rum over ice. Top with sparkling water to taste. Garnish with whole blackberries, remaining lime wedges and mint.

 

Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake  tastefoodReprinted from the TasteFood archives, because it’s the end of the school year, and  we all deserve cake.

More strawberries, you say? You bet. I am greedy at this time of year when spring produce is cluttering up the market shelves. A rotation of asparagus, peas, and strawberries passes through our kitchen to the table on a daily basis. You would think we would tire of all of this goodness, but it never seems to be the case. It also helps to have a variety of recipes to choose from to change things up a bit. While nothing beats fresh strawberries with a little cream, put a few aside to make this simple cake. It’s light, gently sweetened, and generously studded with more strawberries than you know what to do with. Actually, I don’t mean that – we all know what to do with strawberries. Just be sure to save some to make this cake.

Strawberry Cake

I halved my jumbo sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they will begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess.  Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
1 pound strawberries, halved – or quartered if very large

Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 10-inch (25 cm) pie or tart pan (I used a 9-inch extra-deep pie pan).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the butter and 3/4 cup sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest on medium speed. Add the flour and mix to combine without over-mixing. Spread the batter in the prepared dish. Arrange the strawberries, cut-side down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible – it’s ok to be greedy. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake in the oven until the top of the cake is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Before serving, sprinkle 1 teaspoon lemon zest over the cake. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Ricotta Beet Bruschette with Garden Pesto

beet pesto plate tastefood
There’s something very pleasing about an open-faced sandwich a.k.a. bruschetta in Italy, tartine in France, or smørrebrød in Scandinavia. The filling becomes the topping, which is a lovely reflection of the sum of its parts and a visual tease, beckoning a bite. It begins with day old bread which gets a revitalizing browning on the grill. From there you can get as creative as you like. This rendition includes fresh ricotta, roasted beets and a generous smear of a garden pesto I made with parsley and mint.

Ricotta Beet Bruschette with Garden Pesto
Makes 6.

Garden Pesto:
2 cups fresh parsley
1 cup fresh mint
1 small garlic clove
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 slices day-old ciabatta or country loaf bread, about 3/4-inch thick each
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh ricotta cheese
6 roasted and peeled baby beets, cut into wedges
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh baby oregano and thyme flowers

Make the pesto:
Place the parsley, mint, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped. With the motor running add the 1/2 cup oil in a steady stream until blended. If too thick, add extra oil to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven broiler or a grill. Brush the bread slices with oil. Broil or grill until toasted golden on both sides but still tender in the center. Remove and cool the bread for 5 minutes. Smear the ricotta on the bread, then drizzle some of the pesto over the ricotta. Top with beets. Brush the beets with a little oil and season the bruschetta with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh oregano and thyme flowers. Serve whole or cut in half for smaller bites.

Jerk Chicken

jerk chicken

Jamaican Jerk is a thick and heady Afro-Carribean marinade chock-a-block full of ingredients. Don’t let the lengthy list of spices and aromatics deter you. All you need is the fire of a grill to unify the flavors and create a spicy-sweet finger licking dinner – perfect for a summer barbecue. The heat in the marinade traditionally comes from Scotch Bonnet peppers (super hot). I’ve modified that with jalapeños – but feel free to go all out with a scotch bonnet (carefully seeded with gloved hands!) if you dare. And remember – as with most meat marinades, the longer the chicken can soak in the marinade, the better the flavor.

Jerk Chicken
Serves 6

Marinade:
6 garlic cloves
4 scallions, chopped
2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded (optional)
1 (2-inch) knob ginger, peeled, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 chicken legs and/or breasts with skin and ribs

Method:
1. Place the marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to form a paste. Arrange the chicken in a large baking dish. Rub the marinade all over the chicken and under the skin where possible. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
2. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium heat. Grill the chicken over indirect heat until charred and golden brown and thoroughly cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size and thickness. During the last few moments of grilling, move the chicken to direct heat to char the skin as needed.
3. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley.

Rhubarb Boysenberry Crisp – Gluten Free

berry crisp

It was one-stop shopping at the farmer’s market this weekend. A little rickety table in the far corner of the maze of our Sunday market was lined with pint-sized cartons seeping with blue-violet blotches. They brimmed with wild raspberries, blueberries, and – best of all – boysenberries, a tart flamboyant cone-shaped berry resembling a floppy blackberry. Next to the berries was a wide wicker basket filled with dainty upright rhubarb stalks awash in green and fuschia. The message was clear: Come and get it. And so I did.

Rhubarb Boysenberry Crisp (Gluten-Free)

I made this dessert for our dinner guests that night, one of whom is gluten-free. The topping was crisp, nutty and sweet, faintly spiced with cinnamon – delicious for gluten-free and gluten-lovers alike. Serves 6.

Topping:
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup oats (gluten-free or regular)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled

Filling:
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
2 cups boysenberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine all of the topping ingredients, except the butter, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Place the rhubarb and half of the boysenberries in an 8 x 8-inch (or similar size) baking dish. Sprinkle the sugar over and gently mix to combine. Whisk the orange juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Pour over the fruit and gently stir to coat. Arrange the remaining boysenberries over the top of the fruit, then evenly spread the topping over the fruit.

Bake in the oven until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 45 minutes. If the topping browns before the filling is fully cooked, then loosely cover with foil to prevent burning. Remove and cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

5 Salads for your Memorial Day Grill Menu

It’s Memorial Day weekend, which not only is the gate to summer, but an excuse to get outside and grill. Here are 5 fresh salads to see you through the upcoming BBQ season, perfect to accompany any grill menu.

pepper potatoes tastefood

No -Mayo Peppery Potato Salad – hard to believe there’s no mayonnaise in this creamy salad, chock-a-block full of peppers, chiles and onion.

fava green saladMixed Greens with Fava Beans and Mint – the essence of late spring on a plate.

Corn Tomato SaladCorn and Tomato Salad – this classic summer salad is sweet, juicy and fresh with the kick of poblano chiles and crisp red onion.

mustard blue potato tastefoodBlue Potato and Mustard Salad – another no-mayo potato salad, napped with olive oil and spiked with fresh mustard leaves. Use blue potatoes if you can find them for color value. Otherwise, yellow potatoes will work too.

fattoush salad tastefoodFattoush Salad – a hearty and fresh Middle Eastern salad fragrant with mint and coriander, composed of crisp greens, crumbled feta and grilled pita bread.

 

Prosciutto, Fennel, Mint Rolls – a different kind of Spring Roll

prosciutto rolls tastefood These Italian-inspired rolls are bursting with fresh spring ingredients, including baby fennel, mint, and lemon. In method, they are inspired by Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls, where fresh vegetables are wrapped in a sheet of rice paper and served raw. In this appetizer, prosciutto replaces the rice paper as the wrap, adding a salty savory component to the crisp vegetables and piquant Parmesan. Serve these rolls as a bright appetizer. You can prepare them up to 4 hours in advance – lightly brush the rolls with oil, then cover with plastic and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

Prosciutto Rolls with Arugula, Fennel and Mint
Makes 16

8 slices prosiutto, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil
Finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups baby arugula leaves
1 medium fennel bulb, core and fronds removed, halved lengthwise, each half thinly sliced lengthwise
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved
16 mint leaves

Place a slice of prosciutto on a work surface, short end closest to you. Lightly brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange 4 to 6 arugula leaves horizontally at the base. Place a few slices of fennel and Parmesan shavings over the arugula. Top with a mint leaf. Roll up from the base, tucking the prosciutto tightly around the vegetables, and continue to roll, placing 1 or 2 additional arugula leaves in the fold as you roll up. Place seam side down on a platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Cauliflower Purée

cauliflower puree tastefoodCan you ever get tired of potatoes? No, you firmly say, and I would agree. Sometimes, however, a fluffy-creamy-comforting side dish is called for, and potatoes (shocker) just don’t do the trick. Usually it’s simply a menu issue, meaning potatoes are not a perfect match to the entree. Think shellfish, for instance, such as scallops or shrimp. Or a cuisine that doesn’t traditionally include potatoes. Step in, caulflower. There’s something a little magical about this gnarly crucifer. Eaten raw, its flavor is pronounced in an earthy, grassy, unmistakably cruciferous way. When steamed, it transforms into something else, morphing into a buttery, milder version of itself – slightly sweet, a little fresh, and beautifully enhanced with, yes, butter. When roasted, it becomes something else entirely, evoking adjectives which include caramelized, nutty, crisp, and addictive. I made this puree recently to accompany a dinner of slow-cooked lamb. It goes equally well with just about anything.

Cauliflower Purée

The chicken stock adds great flavor to the purée. If you prefer a vegetarian version, substitute vegetable stock. Alternatively, you can use water, but adjust the seasoning accordingly. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

1 large head cauliflower, florets and core cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, loosely packed
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1  teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish
Fresh thyme leaves

Place the cauliflower and chicken stock in a large pot. Bring the stock to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the cauliflower is very tender, about 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the cauliflower to the bowl of a food processor. Add 1/4 cup of the chicken stock and process until smooth. Add the cheese, butter, garlic, salt, and pepper and process to blend. If the purée is too thick, thin with additional spoonfuls of the stock to your desired consistency. Serve garnished with fresh thyme leaves and extra black pepper.

Roasted Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto and Egg

Asparagus salad tastefood

I made this salad for an Easter brunch last weekend. It’s a lovely way to serve asparagus; and prosciutto; and egg. There is not much else you need to add to this trio except a squeeze of lemon and a good splash of olive oil. If you can get your hands on a bunch of baby greens, then use them as a bed for the asparagus to absorb the oil and lemon.

Roasted Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto and Egg
Serves 6 to 8

1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 ounces prosciutto
2 hard cooked eggs
3 ounces mixed baby greens (such as kale, arugula, mizuna, spinach)

Heat the oven to 375°F. Spread the asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil over the asparagus and turn to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until the asparagus are bright green and crisp tender, 10 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness of the stalks. They should be crisp tender and not too floppy (unless you like them that way; then cook a bit longer). Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate to cool. Keep the oven on.

Arrange the prosciutto on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake until shriveled and firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to the touch. The prosciutto will continue to harden as it cools. When cool enough to handle, break into shards.

Spread the greens on a serving platter. Arrange the asparagus over the greens. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the asparagus and greens. Grate the egg over the asparagus, then sprinkle the prosciutto shards over the salad. Garnish with black pepper.

Coconut Chocolate Macaroons

coconut macaron tastefood

Happy Passover: Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

The bane of my childhood candy experience was a Mounds Bar. I just didn’t get it. I would bite into the chocolate nugget, which would immediately give way to a grainy, chewy, grassy interior, that in my opinion had no rightful place in a candy bar. I was mystified by my friends who bought supersized packages of Almond Joys to scarf down when we were at the movies. Every halloween when my brothers and I would pile our loot in the middle of the kitchen table, gloating, eyeing and sizing trade-ups, my chocolate covered coconut bars were the first to go with no regrets. Unfortunately, my brothers were not so keen on coconut either, so the negotiating could get ugly.

It baffles me that my family loves coconut. As a result, I have slowly, with time, age and parental compromise, learned to like coconut. I’ve come to terms with its flaky texture and appreciate its nuttiness in a sea of sweetness. I eat it now, unforced, and prefer it paired with dark chocolate. Sometimes I make macaroons, a jumble of coconut bound together with egg white and, ahem, condensed milk. Yes, the milk is icky-sweet, but it seems to yield the best  juicy soft interior, which is what distinguishes a great macaroon – and alleviates its propensity to dryness. I’ve followed a recipe from Ina Garten from time to time, but switch out some of the sweetened coconut with unsweetened. It helps to tamp down excessive cloyiness. And I always dunk them in dark chocolate, which has a magnificent grounding effect on, well, everything.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Makes about 24

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
8 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
6 ounces unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 ounces dark (70-72%) chocolate, melted

Heat oven to 350° F (180° C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour milk, coconut and vanilla in a large bowl and stir to combine. Beat egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks from. Fold into the coconut.

Drop tablespoon-sized mounds of coconut on baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool on rack. Dip half of the macaroons in melted chocolate. Transfer to a plate lined with parchment. Refrigerate until set.