Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bermuda Rum Swizzle

Bermuda Rum Swizzle with Swizzle Stick, Orange Slice, and Maraschino Cherry Garnish, Black Background

The Drink That Inspired the Swizzle Stick

We all know what a swizzle stick is — or at least think we do.  It’s one of those colorful rods made of florescent plastic that bartenders put in some drinks because . . . because why?  To stir it?

Today swizzle sticks are more decorative than functional, but originally they were an important part of drink making.  In fact, it was impossible to make a drink called a “swizzle” without a swizzle stick.  (A swizzle is an entire class of drinks, like a sour, or a fizz, or a Collins, or a punch.) 

The original swizzle sticks were cut from bushes and measured maybe a foot long.  The root end of the stick was trimmed to form little “blades.”  You would put it in a glass filled with crushed ice, booze, and mixers, and then quickly rotate the shaft of the stick between your palms so the root end would spin back and forth, churning your drink.  This propeller action would help froth and chill the cocktail — no shaking necessary!

The Bermuda Rum Swizzle is by far the best drink in the swizzle family, IMO.  It’s a tall, delightful  combination of rum and citrus.  Refreshing and thirst quenching. 

Just the summer sipper you need for Labor Day weekend.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Garlic Coleslaw

Garlic Coleslaw with Red Jalapeño Pepper Garnish on Blue Plate

A Vinegar-Based Version of a Summer Classic

When most of us think coleslaw, we picture Creamy Coleslaw — the kind made with mayonnaise. It’s exceptionally good stuff.

But have you ever tried a vinegar-based coleslaw?   It’s usually made with a classic vinaigrette dressing — you know, one made with oil, vinegar, and seasonings.

I flavor my version of this coleslaw with garlic (lots and lots of garlic).  That’s because cabbage and garlic have a natural affinity for each other, as you’ll discover when you taste this.  Combine them with vinegar and just a touch of red (fully ripe) jalapeño pepper, and you’ve got a flavor explosion happening on your tongue.

With Labor Day weekend coming up in the US, it means we’ve got another great cookout opportunity.  We’ll all want to serve coleslaw, no?  I mean, what goes better with grilled and barbecued meats?

And when your guests taste this garlic coleslaw?  Well, they’ll be urging you to open your own restaurant.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Piña Colada Cocktail

Piña Colada Cocktails with Pineapple and Maraschino Cherry Garnish, White Background

The Perfect Drink for a Weekend Escape

OK, we all know the Rupert Holmes ditty called Escape, a/k/a The Piña Colada song. You know: “If you like Piña Coladas/And getting caught in the rain.” That’s not the escape I’m talking about.

What I have in mind is the sort of weekend where you go to a nice, exotic location — preferably one with a beach — and relax with a tall, cool, refreshing drink (and forget about the rest of the world).

Or if that’s not possible, one where you stay at home and camp out in your back yard with the same tall, cool, refreshing drink (and forget about the rest of the world).

Enter the Piña Colada: Tall, cool, and refreshing. With excellent flavor and super good looks. Ready to unwind?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Healthy Edamame and Bean Salad

Edamame and Bean Salad in White Ramekin, Black Background

This Three-Bean Salad Is a Great Side Dish — But Has Enough Flavor for a Main

Looking for a healthy twist on three-bean salad?  Then try this beauty.  It features edamame, which — combined with black beans and black-eyed peas — create a dish that is every bit as flavorful as it is nutritious.

Bean salads of any description are crowd pleasers around the world. Here in the US, they’re a favorite at summer picnic tables and winter pot-luck dinners alike.

This one makes a great side dish. But its flavor is so interesting that you can serve it as a main course, perhaps adding some nice bread and butter to complete the menu.

A healthy salad that’s easy to make, with flavor to spare: This one is a keeper.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling Cocktail with Pineapple and Maraschino Chery Garnish, Black Background

Colorful, Exotic, Legendary — Yet Most of Us Have Never Tasted It

You’ve probably heard of this classic cocktail, but have you ever tasted one?  No?  Well, you’re not alone.  It’s a drink people rarely think to order these days.  That’s a shame, because the Singapore Sling is a tall looker with an enticing flavor.  Perfect for summer sippin’.

The Singapore Sling originated in the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore (natch) sometime between 1905 and 1915.  The whiz who created the drink was one of the establishment’s bartenders, Ngiam Tong Boon.  It was an instant hit, and earned the hotel worldwide fame.  Over time, however, the cocktail — and the Raffles Hotel — fell out of favor.  The hotel even lost the recipe.

A wide variety of recipes for the drink have sprung up since then, many claiming to be “authentic.”  We may never know the precise ingredients and proportions of the original recipe.  But cocktail sleuths and historians have done yeoman’s duty researching the composition of the drink.  So today we have a good “standard” recipe.

And what a drink that recipe produces!  Once you taste it, the Singapore Sling just might become your favorite summer cooler.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Summer Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad with Dill Garnish in White Ramekin

A Riff on Bert Greene’s Famous Ziti Salad

Cold pasta salad is almost a food group of its own in the United States.  It’s a dish we can eat year round, but particularly love when the weather turns hot and sultry — as it does every July and August in my part of the US.  And there’s something about a pasta salad made with mayonnaise that’s particularly satisfying.

My favorite main course pasta/mayo salad is Tuna Pasta Salad. But when I want to use a cold pasta salad as a side dish, this dill-heavy delight is the one I often turn to, particularly when homegrown tomatoes are in season. It’s a riff on the pasta salad made famous by the late Bert Greene at his gourmet food store (appropriately called “The Store”) on Long Island in the 1960s. This single recipe put his shop on the map — people would line up to buy the stuff.

Make this dish and your family will be lining up at dinner time with happy and hungry faces. And they’ll probably bring friends.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fog Cutter Cocktail

Fog Cutter Cocktail with Orange and Maraschino Cherry Garnish, and Umbrella

A Tiki Charmer from Trader Vic

Trader Vic didn’t invent Tiki.  Credit (or blame) for that goes to Donn Beach (founder of the Don the Beachcomber restaurants), as discussed in our posts on The Zombie and Planter's Punch. But these days, Trader Vic (a/k/a Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr.) is probably better known than Beach.

Don the Beachcomber restaurants have mostly died out (the 3 that currently bear the name were revived in 2001), but Trader Vic’s moniker is still on restaurants in the US and throughout the world. And he invented perhaps the most famous Tiki drink of all time — the Mai Tai.

Trader Vic also concocted other popular (and flavorful) Tiki drinks, including today’s special: The Fog Cutter. It’s a smooth potion with delightful citrus flavor. The Fog Cutter lost some luster in the 80s (when mixed drinks in general, and Tiki specifically, fell out of favor). But its tremendous taste has been rediscovered in the past decade or so.

Take a sip of this beauty, and you’ll wonder how anyone could ever stop drinking it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

Hungarian Cucumber Salad in White Ramekin with Napkin and Fork, Black Background

Fresh Dill Adds Flavor Magic

Throughout much of the US, local cucumbers are plentiful and inexpensive in our markets.  And if you’re growing them in your garden, you may be looking for new ways to use them.

This simple cucumber salad has a cool, refreshing flavor that mates well with grilled and barbecued meats, fish, and poultry — all the staples of the summer table.  But it also works with hearty stews and casseroles, so you can keep serving it when the weather turns cooler.  It makes a tangy side dish, but it has enough eye- and taste-appeal that you can serve it as a first course.  And because the dressing contains no oil, each serving has very few calories — so eat as much as you like! 

It’s inexpensive, healthy, and takes just minutes to prepare.  Best of all, the flavor improves if you make it a few hours ahead of time.  Perfect. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Zombie

Zombie Cocktails in Minature Tiki Mugs with Cocktail Umbrellas, on Black Acrylic

The Bad Boy of Tiki Drinks

There are zombies and there are Zombies. We all know the zombie that Wikipedia calls “an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means, such as witchcraft.” They’re a staple of horror flicks. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

We’re talking about the Zombie Cocktail. Wikipedia says it “was concocted to help a hung-over customer get through a business meeting” — but the customer returned a few days later complaining that the drink had turned him into “a zombie.”

Which wasn’t surprising. Because as originally mixed, this was one potent drink — so potent that its originator, Donn Beach (founder of the Don the Beachcomber restaurants) instituted a limit of two per customer.

Of course, that policy probably served as marketing hype, since it almost guaranteed that a fair number of customers would try to order more than their allotted quota of these bad boys. Given the popularity this drink achieved, it sounds like the marketing worked.

But what really worked was the taste. This is one outstanding cocktail — and it’s largely responsible for launching the Tiki craze.

By the way, you don’t have to worry about becoming a zombie when you drink a Zombie. There’s a less potent version that still retains the great taste of the original.