Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Ultimate Chocolate Brownie

Ultimate Chocolate Brownies on Napkin with Milk, Black Background


Moist, Luscious, and Irresistible

If you like chocolate, you like brownies.  There’s no better vehicle for bundling maximum chocolate flavor into an easy-to-eat package.  Brownies combine chocolate with fat and sugar in a delicate balance that seems to make chocolate even more chocolaty.  And this recipe does it better than any other.

OK, so I haven’t sampled every brownie recipe known to mankind (there are thousands!), but I’ve had more than my share.  And if there’s a better recipe out there — one that delivers deeper, richer chocolate flavor — I’d like to know about it.  Until someone demonstrates otherwise, I can confidently say that this recipe is the champion.

How appropriate!  With the Olympics going on right now, you can bake a batch — and win your own gold medal.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Planter's Punch

Planter's Punch Cocktails with Pineapple Garnish and Umbrellas, White Background

The Great Grandaddy of Tiki Drinks 

Let’s begin by acknowledging that Planter’s Punch originally had nothing to do with Tiki.  How could it?  It started out in Jamaica about 200 years ago, while Tiki is an American invention that was born in the 1930s.

Still, if Planter’s Punch had not existed, Tiki might not either.  I’ll explain that later.

But first we need to introduce today’s drink:  It’s tall, cool, rum-laden, and delectable.

Anything this refreshing has got my number, especially with the miserably hot summer we’re having.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

BLT Salad

BLT Salad on Black Acrylic

Perfect for When Tomatoes Are Ripe — and It’s Too Hot to Cook

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but in St. Louis (where I live), we’re having a hot, hot, hot summer.  So when it’s time for dinner, I want something light — and something that won’t require me to spend much time standing over a hot stove.

Enter the BLT Salad. 

When we think about the classic combination of bacon, lettuce, and tomato, we usually think sandwich.  But these ingredients are also prime salad fare.  And if you microwave the bacon (a great way to cook it, if you’re careful), you won’t heat up your kitchen at all. 

As a bonus, tomatoes are in season right now throughout much of the US.  You can probably find some ripe red ones at your local farmers’ market — or in your own backyard garden.  Tomatoes are at their most flavorful this time of year.  And this salad is a great showcase for them.

Terrific flavor, prime seasonal ingredients, easy to prepare — not to mention light and cool.  Sounds too good to be true. 

So what’s the catch?  Well, sometimes there isn’t one.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Tequila Sunrise Cocktail

Tequila Sunrise Cocktail in Tall Glass with Orange Slice and Umbrella

A 70s Drink with Far Out Flavor

Remember John-boy?  Ever yelled “shazam” or “right on”?  Ever shake your booty at the disco? 

If so, you probably remember the Tequila Sunrise, that trippy combo of tequila, orange juice, and grenadine that became the rage early in the 1970s.  It was the drink that introduced lots of people to tequila.

I’ll bet you haven’t had one in ages — even if you’re old enough to remember it.  So with National Tequila Day coming up on July 24th, what better time to get reacquainted with this drink? 

Rediscover what you once knew:  The Tequila Sunrise is outta sight.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Homemade Grenadine

Grenadine and Vanilla Ice Cream on Black Acrylic

Superb on Ice Cream — or in Cocktails

Grenadine is a bright red, pomegranate-flavored syrup.  You’ve probably heard of it, though it’s not a regular item on most grocery shopping lists. 

Which is probably a good thing.  Because, well . . . have you tried buying grenadine lately?  Every grocery store has something they call “grenadine” that they’ll be happy to sell you.  But take a look at the list of ingredients:  no pomegranate to be found.  Instead, you see high-fructose sugar syrup and “flavorings.”  And when you taste the store-bought stuff?  You encounter a sickeningly sweet liquid with a flavor that’s (very) vaguely reminiscent of cherries.  These supermarket concoctions bear almost no resemblance to real grenadine. 

Oh, there are quality commercial grenadines out there, but you have to hunt them down.  And when you find them, they’re expensive.  But the good news is, you don’t have to pay big bucks or troll the internet for obscure suppliers.  You can make excellent grenadine at home in just a few minutes — and begin enjoying the awesome flavor of the real thing. 

Grenadine is a traditional ingredient in several cocktails and “mocktails” (it’s a prime component of that kiddie favorite, the Shirley Temple, for example).  It’s also a great topping for ice cream and a wonderful flavoring agent for nonalchoholic summer coolers.

Bottom line:  Homemade Grenadine is flavorful, easy to make, and all natural.  And it’s so good, you’ll find dozens of uses for it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Champs Élysées Cocktail

Champs Elysées Cocktail with Lemon Garnish, Black Background

Perfect for Celebrating Bastille Day & the Tour de France

July means big doings in France.  On the 14th — le quatorze juillet (Bastille Day) — France celebrates her “national day” with festive eating, drinking, and fireworks. There will be a military parade along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, a broad, beautiful boulevard that runs through the heart of swanky northwestern Paris.

And throughout the first 3 weeks of July, France hosts the most famous bicycle race in the world, Le Tour de France. This 2000+ mile race takes cyclists through some of the planet’s most gorgeous scenery — and up some of its toughest mountain climbs. On the last day of le tour (July 22 this year), the cyclists ride triumphantly to Paris, where they finish with a sprint around the Champs-Élysées (usually riding 8 circuits of the avenue, about 19 miles total) at speeds exceeding 40 miles an hour.

Those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be in Paris this July can create our own celebration — with The Champs Élysées Cocktail.

C'est magnifique.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Soupe au Pistou

Soupe au Pistou with Pistou Sauce in Mortar, White Background

Pesto Is the Classic Garnish for this French Provençal Vegetable Soup 

Pistou is the French version of Pesto sauce. It is most often associated with the Provençal dish, Soupe au Pistou.

Although you can serve Soupe au Pistou almost anytime, it’s best from late spring through early fall (which is basil-growing weather). So it’s in season right now. And it’s versatile — the best versions contain whatever vegetables are in season and fresh.

So all that zucchini and summer squash that’s coming online in your garden, or overflowing the bins at your farmers’ market? This soup is their fate.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Betsy Ross Cocktail

Betsy Ross Cocktail, White Background

Celebrate July 4th with this Patriotic Beauty

In the US, Fourth of July means a picnic or cookout.  You probably have your own favorite menu.  Mine includes grilled or barbecued meat (often served on buns, in the form of hot dogs or hamburgers), sides of potato salad and coleslaw, and a yummy dessert.

To drink?  Well, most cookouts feature cold beer.  But this year I’m serving something different:  the Betsy Ross Cocktail.  Seems appropriate, don’t you think?

It’s an obscure drink, but tasty.  It’s also easy to make (none of the ingredients are obscure!) — and even easier to drink.

All in all, it’s a bang-up cocktail.  Perfect for July 4th fireworks.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Easy Pickled Watermelon Rind

Pickled Watemelon Rind with Star Anise on Black Acrylic

The Quickest Way to Make This Old-Time Favorite   

Pickled Watermelon Rind is a traditional dish, and a tasty one.  It’s a shame that so few people have sampled it — let alone tried to make it. 

Traditional recipes for this dish are time consuming (in fact, the whole process can take several days).  They also require canning procedures, which few people are equipped for these days.

But there’s a much quicker way to prepare Pickled Watermelon Rind, made popular by David Chang, of Momofuku restaurant fame.  His method takes only a few minutes of cooking time, and the rind will be ready to eat within hours.  This beats most of the traditional recipes by, well, days.  As an added bonus, his approach allows you to leave a bit of the red watermelon flesh on the rind (traditional preparation requires scrapping all of it off).

In most of the US, July is peak watermelon season.  The melons in the market now are the sweetest, the most luscious, and definitely the cheapest of the season.

So instead of throwing out the rind of your next watermelon, why not turn it into a delectable snack or side dish?