Pisco Sour

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Last year, my husband and I took a major trip through Central and South American countries. It had been our dream to visit Machu Piccu In Peru and we finally did.

After getting to Cusco right in time for lunch, I was handed my first Pisco sour. After one sip, I handed it off to my husband, who loves strong drinks.

So after that experience, I didn’t seek them out. At least I’d had a respectful sip!

Pisco is a clear brandy made by distilling fermented grape juice into a high-proof spirit. It reminds me of grappa, which you won’t be surprised that I also don’t like.

Peru and Chile both claim the pisco sour as their national drink. Ironically, the most pisco sours offered to us were in Brazil. Here is the staff making pisco sours in Rio de Janeiro, at the Copacabana Palace Hotel in town.

But then, when visiting the Christ the Redeemer statue, I was a bit parched (honestly, it was hot hot hot) and I ordered a pisco sour. And it was fabulous! Totally different. Look at all those limes! Unfortunately I never found another one like it.

Pisco Capel is the variety I can purchase where I live. Here is a nice description of it from Market View Liquor’s website:

There’s a story, that when Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations, drank a pisco sour in Valparaiso, Chile, he supposedly said, “That’s good, but… next time I’ll have a beer.”

Pisco Sour
Makes 2 drinks

4 ounces Capel Pisco
2 ounces fresh lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup
2 egg whites
4 drops Angostura Bitters, regular flavor

I used my handy dandy electric citrus juicer to squeeze the limes, plus more, cause freshly squeezed lime juice really comes in handy.


Place all ingredients in a blender jar or shaker jar. Blend until smooth and foamy. Pour in to glasses neat, or glasses with ice, if you prefer.


Serve immediately.

If you don’t want your pisco sours on ice, make sure all of the important ingredients are chilled first.

I actually really liked this ratio of ingredients. I wouldn’t want the drink any sweeter, stronger, or more tart.

Tinto de Verano

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One day during quarantine when it was too hot to be outside, I happened upon a show called Amy Schumer Learns to Cook. Now I do like Amy Schumer, but this cooking show, where she partners with chef-husband Chris Fischer, shows Amy from a totally different perspective.

I had to google Chris Fischer, and he’s no line cook at Applebees. From Martha’s Vineyard originally, he inherited the family farm, and started the Beetlebung Farmer’s Market, which includes a restaurant. Oh, and he is a James Beard award winner for the Beetlebung Farm Cookbook. The name Beetlebung kind of gives insight into the humor that bonds the two of them.

So, the guy know his chops. And for the show, he attempts to teach his wife basic cooking during their quarantine. Great concept. They’re really cute together, lower left pic. This drink requires a red vermouth called Noilly Prat, pictured below right.


This refreshing drink is reminiscent of sangria, but simpler, and not as alcoholic. It translates to “red wine of summer.”


I estimated the amounts by watching Ms. Schumer pour the first three ingredients into her pitcher. Feel free to adjust according to your taste. I don’t know what it’s “supposed” to taste like!

Tinto de Verano

1 bottle of Spanish red, chilled
2 cans Fresca, chilled
1 cup Noilly Prat rouge, chilled
Juice of 1 lemon
2 oranges, one juiced, one sliced

Pour the wine and Noilly Prat into a large pitcher.

Add the juiced lemon and orange and stir well. Toss in the sliced oranges, and save some for the glasses.

Add the fresca at the last minute. You want the tinto de verona nice and bubbly.

I added ice to two glasses instead of adding ice to the pitcher. I didn’t want it watered down, and it was hot hot hot outside.

The verdict? A perfect ratio of wine, bubbly, and sweet vermouth. I like the citrus flavors as well.

I think I might enjoy this a little bit more than traditional sangria, but I’ll continue to test…

The only negative, is that Amy Schumer Learns to Cook is only four episodes. I want more!

Cacio e Pepe Salad

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At the end of a certain magazine about People, which I only read on planes and road trips, there are recipes provided typically by chefs, sometimes by celebrities. I seldom take notice, except when something unique really pops out, like David Chang’s bacon fried rice. And that was a HIT!

This time, it was a cacio e Pepe salad, which was intriguing, since it’s well known as a pasta dish.

The contributor is Stefano Secchi, who I’ve never heard of until now, but he chefs at the New York City restaurant Rezdôra, in the Flatiron district. Even though this is called a salad, he serves it as an appetizer.

I was only capable of taking these terrible photos when I initially saw the recipe, because I was in the back seat of a car headed to Nashville, but they were enough to piece together the recipe!

All I needed was Little Gem lettuce, and a girlfriend came through for me!


Cacio e Pepe Salad

1/4 cup canola oil
1 ounce Pecorino cheese, grated
1 ounce Parmesan, grated, plus 1/2 ounce shaved
1/2 cup water ( I used 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons mustard
4 heads Little Gem lettuce
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Process the oil with the grated cheeses, water, lemon juice and mustard, just until emulsified, about 20 seconds.

Spread about 3/4 cup of the dressing on the cut sides of lettuce halves on a plate.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle on the pepper.


Add the shaved Parmesan.

So much like a Caesar salad, if truth be told, but oh so good.


Full disclosure: I subscribe to People magazine. Yes, I do.

Green Goddess Chicken Salad

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I discovered this recipe at the Food and Wine website. It’s a recipe for a salad with green goddess dressing, by Melissa Rubel Jacobson.

Green goddess is a really wonderful dressing that uses lots of fresh herbs, which accounts for the green color. Sometimes an avocado is included as well. According to Food and Wine, the dressing was created at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the 1920’s, as a tribute to an actor starring in a play called The Green Goddess. Never heard of it, but it’s slightly before my time.

Today I’m following Ms. Jacobson’s recipe for green goddess dressing, but not so much her salad.

Create any kind of salad you want with your favorite ingredients, and drizzle on the beautiful green goddess dressing, which I made exactly as printed. It’s good!

Green Goddess Chicken Garden Salad
Moderately Adapted

Dressing:
2 oil-packed anchovies, drained
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup packed basil leaves
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons snipped chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad:
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced or chopped
1 head romaine or butter lettuce, chopped
1/2 small cabbage, chopped
Approximately 1/2 garbanzo beans, well drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Peas or asparagus, optional
Hard-boiled eggs, optional

In a blender, purée mayonnaise with the herbs, lemon juice, and chives until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

This makes approximately 1 cup of dressing.


For the salad, there are so many options for preparing and serving. I chose to create a composed salad, just because they’re pretty.


Alternatively, you could combine chopped chicken, garbanzo beans, and tomatoes with some of the dressing, and serve on top of the lettuce and cabbage.


But that’s not as pretty, especially if you have company.


Just about any salad ingredient that goes well with an herby dressing will work perfectly.

The Best Salmon Spread

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Another salmon spread? There are so many out there, and I even have a few on this blog, but I love salmon in all forms. What makes this spread different is that both grilled salmon and smoked salmon are used, and it’s served warm.

So it’s not just a cream cheese mixed with bits of smoked salmon, or rillettes, or a layered concoction. (All of which are wonderful!) It’s a warm, delightfully sensorally captivating salmon spread.

It’s not terribly pretty. In fact, it’s probably best used for canapés. But if you’re not serving the Queen of England, it’s perfect to serve alongside pumpernickel bread or crackers to normal folks.

Double Salmon Spread

3 tablespoons butter
10 ounces salmon filets
Old Bay seasoning
10 ounces smoked salmon (lox), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup drained small capers
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Chives or dill leaves, optional

Heat the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. A little browning of the butter is fine. Sprinkle salmon filets with Old Bay.


Add the filets to the skillet and sauté until barely opaque in the center, turning over halfway through cooking. Remove the skin if they aren’t skinless.

Using a spatula, flake the cooked salmon into bits that aren’t too small.

Meanwhile, weigh out the smoked salmon and chop it. Place in a mixing bowl.

Add the capers, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice.

Then stir in everything from the skillet, including the warm butter. Gently stir and combine the ingredients well. Taste for seasoning.

To serve as canapés, spread a generous amount of the salmon mixture on each toast, and top with a dill sprig or chopped chives.

If preferred, serve the dip in a bowl on a serving platter surrounded by your favorite toasts and crackers.


The most important thing with this spread is that it’s served warm. Then you really get all of the flavors from the cooked and smoked salmon.

If you’re not a big fan of the generous amounts of mayonnaise and sour cream, simple reduce the amounts to 1/3 cup each.

If I’d made this in the summer, I would have used fresh dill on top of the spread, but chives will have to suffice for now!

Pistachio Feta Dip

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Pistachios add a beautiful emerald-green to holiday foods like Christmas bark and festive biscotti, but what about the really green holiday – St. Patrick’s Day?!!

Maybe I’m just really into color – I’ve certainly been accused of that – but I saw this dip online and just knew I’d be making it for St. Patrick’s day, on March 17th, 2018. Way more fun than Irish stew, and you can still enjoy your green beer.

I’m basing my recipe on the one from The Lemon Apron, a gorgeous blog by young Jennifer, who believes in “rustic, indulgent, and healthy home cooking.”

She got the original recipe from the book Persiana, by Sabrina Ghayour.

What I especially loved about this dip is that there is no TAHINI or CHICK PEAS in it!!! Hummus is wonderful, but there are other dips out there.

Case in point – this one is a beautiful purée of pistachios, along with feta and yogurt. YUM!

Pistachio Feta Dip
Slightly Adapted
Printable recipe below

3 1/2 oz (100 g) shelled pistachios
1/4 cup olive oil
7 oz (approx 200 g) feta cheese
2 handfuls of parsley, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove peeled and crushed
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
6 ounces Greek yogurt
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Blitz the pistachios and olive oil in a food processor for 30 seconds.

Add the feta, parsley, garlic, chile pepper, yogurt and lemon.

Blitz until the mixture is well combined and has a rustic texture and place in a serving dish. I drizzled some olive oil over the top.

Serve with warmed focaccia or flat bread, pita crackers, crackers, or crostini.

I used Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips because they’re so delicious.

I realized after-the-fact that if I’d removed the brown, thin skins from the pistachios, the dip would have been greener. But oh well. You will still be addicted!

There isn’t one thing I don’t absolutely love about this dip. I’ll be making it again, even when it’s not St. Patrick’s Day.

Note: In the original recipe, dill and cilantro are both used. I made an executive decision to just use parsley, because I wanted this dip to be more generic in flavor, in order to match it with other hors d’oeuvres I was serving.

I noticed that Jen spread the dip on toast and topped it with an egg! Yeah!!! (her photo below)

 

 

Herby Octopus Salad with Blueberries

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You’ve all put up with me lamenting about the fact that, living in the middle of the United States, with no nearby coastline, I can’t buy fresh seafood. And it’s pretty much my favorite thing to eat, well over beef and chicken.

I make up for it when on vacation, especially when it comes to squid and octopus. I eat them until tentacles are practically coming out my ears.

Besides being delicious, they’re fascinating creatures.

Instead of whining, I decided it was time to just order some frozen baby octopus. I actually see it frozen occasionally in recipes, so I’m not the only person who can’t always buy it fresh, or wants it out of season.

The company I ordered from is La Tienda, a Spanish website that I’ve used for years. Just about any Spanish product you desire, they sell.

It was a fluke that I found frozen octopus; I didn’t expect La Tienda to have it. I also bought some frozen cuttlefish at the same time – something I’d never tried before – at least not knowingly.

When I received the pound of baby octopus, there were only two, so about 8 ounces each, shown above. I expected baby octopuses to look like ones I’ve had on salads or seen at markets.

But it gave me the opportunity to learn how to break down an octopus. It’s a very straight-forward procedure, and takes minutes.

Herby Octopus Salad with Blueberries
Cause it’s still summer here….

1 pound frozen baby octopus, thawed
Olive oil
Greens of choice
Chopped basil, parsley, and cilantro, about 1/2 cup total
Fresh blueberries, about 1/2 cup
Lemon juice (I used 1 lemon for 1 pound of octopus)
Olive juice, to taste
Salt
Aleppo pepper, optional

Rinse the octopus well and lay on a cutting board. Admire it, because it’s a beautiful sea creature!

Slice just below the eyes, and just above the eyes and discard this middle piece.


Then get rid of the beak in the middle of the tentacles.


Turn the head, or hood, inside out. Pull out everything from inside, and discard.

Turn the hood back to outside-in. There is a thin skin covering the hood that can be removed by pulling firmly.

Cut the tentacles off at the very top.

Trim the base of the hood, then slice the remaining hood into 1/4″ thick slices.

With the remaining center “upper thighs”, if you will, cut them each into 8 pie pieces.

From the left, the legs, the hood, and the upper thighs.

The below photo shows the legs at the top, the hood rings in the middle, and the thighs at the bottom.

Rinse the octopus parts, if necessary, then dry them well.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet. Over high heat and with your vent on, and perhaps a few open doors and windows, sear some of the octopus, without crowding it in the skillet, until browned. I cooked the legs, rings, and thighs separately, just because of the various thicknesses.

Remove to a plate and continue in batches; set aside.

Meanwhile, place the greens on a platter or plate.


In a small bowl, toss together the herbs and top the salad with the herbs.


Add the octopus parts, still warm, and the blueberries to the salad.


Drizzle on some fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle on a little salt.

If desired, add some Aleppo pepper for some zing!

And that’s it! The octopus was superb. All it takes is a little searing.

A simple combination of lemon juice and olive was wonderful. And the blueberries added fruitiness. The salad would also be good with warmed lentils.

I was very happy about the quality of the frozen octopus. It wasn’t old or water-logged.

At least I know now that I don’t need to turn up my nose at frozen octopus in the future. I will indeed be ordering it again.

I just have to find someone else to share it with…

And anyone who assumes that octopus is tough and rubbery, hasn’t tried it. (husband)

Salmon Crudo

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Facebook is something I check on a daily basis. There, I said it. Mostly because I can keep up with friends and their families. But it’s truly entertaining as well, like when puppy-chimpanzee videos pop up on my feed.

And then there are the food-related posts, not surprisingly, like this one that recently showed up from Williams-Sonoma Taste, which is the W-S blog.

Salmon Crudo with Red Onion and Fried Capers. What? I’ve never heard of salmon crudo, which in Italian means raw salmon. So I knew I just had to make it.

Fortunately, I happened upon a fresh piece of wild salmon at my grocery store. It was like this was all meant to be!

Here’s the recipe from Williams-Sonoma.

Salmon Crudo with Red Onion and Fried Capers

1/2 pound fresh sushi-grade salmon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup red onion, very thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving

First wrap the rinsed and dried salmon in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, skin the salmon, then slice the it against the grain into very thin slices. Arrange the slices on a serving platter, overlapping them slightly.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Carefully add the capers to the oil; they will splatter.

Fry, swirling the pan gently to move the capers around until they are golden brown, 30-60 seconds. Transfer the capers to a paper towel-lined plate, and let the olive oil cool for 5 minutes.

Add the lemon juice and parsley to the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is emulsified.

Arrange the red onion on top of the salmon and drizzle with the dressing. I also added some extra fresh parsley.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Scatter the capers on top and serve with lemon wedges.

The recipe serves four people.

Or one, in my case.

I enjoyed the salmon crudo on water crackers. And a little salt was definitely necessary.

I can honestly say that eating this salmon was an incredible experience. I’d have it any day over sashimi, and I love sashimi.

A Sunday Supper

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Sunday Suppers at Lucques is a James Beard Foundation award-winning cookbook by Suzanne Goin, published in 2005. The actual name is, Sunday Suppers at Lucques – Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table.

I wanted to purchase one of her cookbooks just because she’s so highly revered as a chef, and all of her culinary endeavors have been highly acclaimed and successful.

Her first restaurant, Lucques, was opened in 1998. I’m a little behind getting to “know” this talented chef, but I don’t visit Los Angeles, so have missed out experiencing its famous dining spots. After all these years, Lucques is still a quintessential West Hollywood dining spot.

The cookbook is really fun. Although I pride myself on menu planning, Ms. Goin puts meals together for the reader. And they’re fun meals.

So the one I’m making for this post is Bistecca California with Peperonata, Baked Ricotta, and Lemon.

Doesn’t that sound incredible?

Here are the recipes for the elements of this fantastic Sunday supper!

Steak

3 pounds prime beef or steak of your choice
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon thinly sliced chiles de arbol
2 lemons, zested, then juiced
2 scant tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
1 bunch arugula
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Trim the beef, if necessary. Season with the rosemary, sliced chile, lemon zest, and cracked black pepper. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

An outside charcoal grill can be used to cook the steak(s). I opted for cooking my filet mignons in a skillet on the stove. They were cooked medium-rare.

Rest the steak(s) for 8 to 10 minutes. Spoon the hot Peperonata (recipe below) onto a large warm platter and scatter the arugula over the top.

Slice the steak against the grain and arrange it over the peppers.

Squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over the meat, and drizzle it with a few tablespoons of oil. Serve the gratin dish of baked ricotta (recipe below) on the side.


Baked Ricotta


3 cups fresh whole milk ricotta cheese (1 1/3 lbs.)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon diagonally sliced chile de arbol
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the ricotta in a large bowl, and stir in 5 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, the chopped parsley, 1//2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Transfer the ricotta to an 8-inch gratin dish. Gently press the top of the cheese with your fingers to make slight indentations, and decorate the ricotta with the remaining thyme and the sliced chile.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the top. Bake 30-40 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Peperonata

4 large sweet peppers (1 3/4 lbs.)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups sliced red onion
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons oregano leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds, and membranes. Thinly slice the peppers lengthwise. Heat a very large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in 3 tablespoons olive oil and wait 1 minute. Add the onion, peppers, thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Sauté over high heat 5 to 6 minutes, tossing often, until the peppers soften. They should still have a little crunch to them but be tender.

Add the capers and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan, cook another minute, and transfer the peppers to a shallow nonreactive dish.

Turn the heat off, add the vinegar, and reduce by half. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the vinegar over the peppers. Add the oregano, and toss well to combine.

This was a really nice meal. I loved all of the aspects of it, but the lemon zest and rosemary on the steaks was a superb combination. I also added cayenne pepper flakes. And I will definitely make the baked ricotta again, even for an hors d’oeuvres platter.

Mediterranean Layered Dip

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A while back my friend had a happy hour at her house, and she served a Mediterranean-inspired dip. She’s a funny person, my friend. She claims to hate cooking, but she always serves the best and prettiest food, and even offers signature cocktails.

She’s also an expert at entertaining – to the point that once she had pressed fresh flowers between glass plates for a spring girls’ lunch at her home. I think she’s in Martha-Stewart-wanna-be denial…

Most of us are familiar with the 7-layer dip; sometimes the number varies. It’s Mexican, or Mexican-American, and typically contains layers of refried beans, guacamole, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, maybe seasoned ground beef, and so forth. If you love all of those ingredients, then you would love the dip, served with tortilla chips and margaritas.

My creative friend, however, was inspired by a recipe she’d seen in a magazine, and created a multi-layered dip using Mediterranean ingredients. It was fabulous.

We can’t find the recipe, so I’m creating this version with my own favorite ingredients from that part of the world. Whatever you use, you just can’t go wrong.

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Mediterranean Layered Dip

White bean dip, or hummus, preferably home-made
Cucumber
Tomatoes
Goat or feta cheese
Kalamata olives, sliced
Toasted pine nuts
Diced shallots
Pita pockets

Begin with having a plate or shallow bowl for serving. Place the white bean dip or hummus on the serving dish. I have had decent store-bought hummus, but I simply made a garlicky white bean dip. Smooth out the white bean dip.


Prepare the cucumber by removing the seeds. This can be done with a knife, or simply with a melon baller or small spoon. Cut up the cucumber and place on paper towels to drain.


Prepare the tomatoes by de-seeding them as much as possible, then cutting them finely, and placing them on paper towels to drain. Have all of the other ingredients on hand.


Begin the layering process by adding the cucumber and then the tomatoes.
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Add the crumbled goat cheese and drizzle with a little olive oil if desired.
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Then add the olives, pine nuts and shallots.

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Serve with pita triangles cut from pita breads. Alternatively, half the triangles, drizzle with olive oil, and toast until lightly browned for a crisper pita “chip.” (The photo below right shows the pita triangles halved, but not yet toasted.)


It was a hot day when I made this dip, so I served a rosé.
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The fun wth this recipe, is that you can substitute ingredients as you wish. Capers instead of olives, roasted red peppers instead of tomatoes, grilled artichokes, and more.

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You can top the dip with black pepper, oregano, sumac, za’atar, or a chiffonade of fresh basil.


Just stick with Mediterranean ingredients and you’ll love it!