Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Straits Sling Cocktail

Straits Sling Cocktail with orange and cherry garnish

Mother of the Singapore Sling?

Most people have heard of the Singapore Sling Cocktail, a drink created in the early 20th century at the Raffles Hotel (located in—no surprise—Singapore).

But the original recipe for the Singapore Sling was lost. What we have today is a recreation, and maybe not an exact one. Some mixologists think the Singapore Sling is a not-quite-accurate rendition of another drink that was being served at the Raffles Hotel bar around that time—one called the Straits Sling (locals called Singapore the “Straits”).

More about all this later. For now, the important thing to know about the Straits Sling is that it’s less complicated to make than the Singapore Sling (fewer ingredients). It also has a bright, perky flavor that’s not nearly as sweet. Which makes it a perfect drink for celebrating the last weeks of summer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pasta Caprese

Pasta Caprese on plate with basil garnish

A great way to celebrate peak tomato (and basil) season

It’s been summer for a while here in North America. Which means our veggie gardens are overflowing with ripe tomatoes and knee-high basil. And every farmers’ market has mounds of both. So now is the perfect time to enjoy the classic pairing of these two warm-weather favorites.

If you add fresh mozzarella to the mix—taking an already wonderful flavor combination to an even higher level—you have the makings for Caprese salad. We eat a lot of that at our house, but sometimes we want something more substantial. Something that can also serve as a one-dish meal. Then we opt for Pasta Caprese—which is really just Caprese salad with a pasta base.

Pasta Caprese serves up healthy flavor that almost everyone likes—kids included. It’s also an easy-to-make recipe that can be ready in minutes. You won’t spend much time in the kitchen preparing this beauty. Which means you’ll have more time to enjoy all that summer sunshine.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Doctor Funk Cocktail

Doctor Funk Cocktail in hurricane glass

The Tiki drink named after Robert Louis Stevenson’s physician

Everyone knows Robert Louis Stevenson, right? He wrote classics like Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Swell swashbuckling stuff, some of those books.

What you might not know is that Stevenson spent his final years in Samoa. There he was attended by Bernhard Funk, a German physician who was also an accomplished mixologist. One of Funk’s concoctions (and one which he reportedly served to Stevenson) is the inspiration for the drink we know today as the Dr. Funk Cocktail.

The drink originally was intended to be a tonic. Modern medicine might quibble with that claim, but all would agree that this drink is a great way to beat summer’s heat. So if the dog days of August are getting you down, Dr. Funk has just the prescription for you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Rum Daisy Cocktail

Rum Daisy Cocktail in cocktail glass, with daisies in background

A modern twist on a 19th century American original  

Many popular cocktails combine booze and citrus (lemon or lime), with a bit of sugar added to balance the citrusy tartness. Indeed, that’s the basic recipe for a whole class of drinks called “sours” (such as the Whiskey Sour).

But what happens if you add some effervescence in the form of sparkling water? The mid-19th century bartenders who made this modification to the sour decided they had invented an entirely new class of drink. They called it the daisy.

Back then, brandy was the spirit of choice for daisies. But you can make this drink with any spirit—whiskey, gin, even tequila (and we like them all). During the hot summer months, though, we tend to prefer a rum-based daisy. Rum makes a perfect warm-weather spirit, and a Rum Daisy Cocktail is delicious before a light dinner.

Which is why we’ve been drinking this cocktail a lot lately. You might say we’re half crazy for it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Dill

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Dill in bowl

Beat the heat with this tangy starter

It’s cucumber season in our part of the world. We can’t seem to harvest them fast enough in our backyard garden. And every farmers’ market is overflowing with them.

So how about turning some of those cukes into a cool, refreshing first course? One that’s brimming with flavor, but not too heavy.

Chilled Cucumber Soup is the perfect summer starter. It’s also a versatile performer—you can change up ingredients to give it a different character every time you make it (more about this in the Notes). Best of all, it takes just minutes to prepare in the food processor.

You can make it ahead of time too. In fact, the flavor improves if you allow it to rest in the refrigerator for a few hours, or even overnight. So whip up this soup—and then head to the hammock for a summertime siesta. Because, hey, soup isn’t the only thing that improves with rest.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Brandy Smash Cocktail

Brandy Smash Cocktail with orange and mint garnish

The Mint Julep’s little brother

Long ago, in a century far away, the Brandy Smash was America’s most popular mixed drink. During the 1850s and 60s, drinkers flocked to this mint-infused charmer. But then (as so often happens with cocktails), it fell from favor.

Well, it’s about time for a revival, don’t you think?

A Brandy Smash is basically a shorter, less elaborate version of a Mint Julep. It’s easier to make than a julep, and (usually) contains less booze. And because it’s a smaller drink, it’s perfect for times when you want a refreshing tipple, but don’t have all afternoon to enjoy a long, slow sipper.

You don’t even need to use brandy in this drink if you don’t want to. Just substitute whiskey or gin—or almost any spirit that catches your fancy.

And the flavor? Smashing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

White Bean, Tuna, and Swiss Chard Salad

White Bean, Tuna, and Swiss Chard Salad with cherry tomato garnish

Beat the heat with this savory no-cook summer dish

There comes a time every summer when the heat gets us down. And cooking sounds like no fun at all.

So what to do? Well, just raid the garden for greens and the pantry for a few staples. Then put together this quick no-cook dish. It’s satisfying but not heavy, with loads of healthy flavor.

This salad makes a great one-dish meal or a hearty side. It’s perfect for picnics too. And it takes only minutes to prepare, so you’ll be out of the kitchen in no time—and ready for some summer fun. Pool party, anyone?