Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Maiden's Prayer Cocktail

Maiden's Prayer Cocktail in cocktail glass with orange slice garnish

The sunny, citrus flavor makes this a perfect pre-dinner drink for summer

On hot summer days, drinks like the Cuba Libre, the Gin Rickey, the Mojito, and the Gin and Tonic rule. They’re just right for lazy, hot hours by the pool or at the beach — where you want a nice, slow sipper that cools you down and takes a while to finish.

But when the sun goes down, most of us want something less voluminous — but still with bracing and refreshing flavor. We could try old favorites like the Martini or the Manhattan Cocktail, of course, but they seem way too heavy for a warm-weather drink. How about something lighter, preferably with a sunny citrus flavor?

Something like the Maiden’s Prayer. This delightful combination of dry gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, and orange juice delivers an authoritative flavor that sharpens your appetite for dinner, but isn’t too boozy for hot summer nights.

And it’s a drink most of your friends probably haven’t heard of.  So when you serve it, they’ll admire your vast knowledge of cocktails (and your good taste in drinks).  Go ahead and take a bow – you deserve it for introducing them to a top-flight tipple.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Plum Salsa

Plum Salsa with tortilla chip in red ramekin, overhead view on black

Great as a dip, perfect as a sauce for grilled chicken or fish

Love all the berries and stone fruit that summer brings?  If you’re anything like us, you’ve been making fruit desserts (pies, shortcakes, cobblers, buckles, fools, and more) like there’s no tomorrow. 

But fruit can do more than end a meal with something sweet — it works well in savory dishes, too.  Like today’s easy-to-make Plum Salsa.

Salsa is an excellent dip for chips and raw veggies, of course.  So it’s a natural to serve while you’re outdoors on the patio, waiting for your main course to finish grilling. But it can also dress up your dinner plate.  ”Salsa” means sauce, after all — and this one combines particularly well with chicken or fish.

When you make your own fruit salsa, you can create flavors that you’ll never find in stores.  And once you try this Plum Salsa, you’ll be adapting the recipe to all sorts of fruits.  You may even develop your own signature salsa.  And best of all, you’ll be finding new ways to include healthy fruit in your daily diet.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Cuba Libre Cocktail

Cuba Libre Cocktail with Lime Garnish, on black acrylic

AKA Rum and Coke, this highball will slake your summer thirst

“Cuba Libre!” (Free Cuba!) was the battle cry of the Cuban Liberation Army during the country’s War of Independence (which became known as the Spanish-American War when the US intervened in 1898).  This rallying cry bequeathed its name to one of the world’s most famous drinks — one that many of us just call Rum and Coke. 

The Cuba Libre is often the first mixed drink that people sample in their youth.  Problem is, those college dorm bartenders tend to just pour glasses of rum and top them up with Coke — none of that fancy measuring!  And they generally leave out a key ingredient:  lime juice.  Which is a shame, because citrus takes the Cuba Libre to a whole ‘nother — and better — level. 

Lime adds a tingle of tropical delight that makes the Cuba Libre an excellent choice for long, slow sipping.  The drink is a tasty way to battle the hot afternoons we’re experiencing now in the US.  You can even skip the booze (but keep the lime) for a wonderfully tasty mocktail — perfect for youngsters, not to mention designated drivers.

So mix up a Cuba Libre — and free yourself from the summer heat.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Peachy Cream Shortcake

Peach Shortcake on plate with fork and napkin in background

Why should strawberries have all the fun?

When we think shortcake, we usually picture strawberries.  But shortcakes can friend any fruit.  So with fresh local peaches hitting the stores now in the US, the time is right to use them in one of America’s favorite desserts.

That explains the Peachy part of the title, but what about the Cream?  Well, this recipe is heavy on cream.  In addition to using whipped cream as a topping (natch!), it also features cream-biscuit shortcakes.  For double the flavor, you know. 

But be warned:  This dish is so tasty that once you serve it, all conversation at the table will probably cease — until the plates are licked clean.  The next words you hear will be, “Could I have seconds, please?”

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail

Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail with cocktail umbrella and garnish of orange slice and maraschino cherry

It’s like liquid sunshine, dude

The Harvey Wallbanger is a refreshing mix of vodka, orange juice, and Galliano liqueur. Its sunny flavor is perfect for poolside sipping, and it makes an ideal brunch drink if you’re looking for an alternative to the Bloody Mary Cocktail or the Mimosa.

The Harvey Wallbanger was among the most popular cocktails of the 1970s.  There’s confusion about how the drink originated (more on that later).  One thing is certain, though.  Its rise to prominence was fueled by a successful advertising campaign that featured a cartoon surfer in sandals.  His slogan?  “Harvey Wallbanger is the name and I can be made.”  (Yeah, I know.)

Fortunately, this drink is tasty enough to live down those 70s associations.  It’s also exceptionally easy to mix, and you can even lower the alcohol content if you choose.  Which means you can enjoy two or three of these over a lazy afternoon, and still be alert and ready to party that night.  Or be in shape to catch the big wave when it rolls in.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer White Bean and Quinoa Salad

White Bean and Quinoa Salad in white ramekin, overhead view

Fresh tomatoes and cucumbers flavor this protein-rich vegan main course dish

By the time midsummer heat rolls around, I’m craving light and fresh dishes.  And I’m in luck, because right now in the US we’re enjoying an abundance of locally grown vegetables (including some from our own backyards).  Tomatoes and cucumbers are my favorites — for a few short weeks in summer, their flavors are at a peak.  With the hot weather we typically face at this time of the year, they’re about all I want to eat.

But of course we need a bit more than that, so it’s time for main-course bean and/or grain salads loaded up with ripe summer veggies.  Today’s salad is really a meal in itself, although you may want to add some bread — and if you’re feeling indulgent, a nice glass of wine. 

You’ll probably have some leftovers, which will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  Pack them in small containers, and you can brown bag them in lunches for the next day.

So this recipe gives you a terrific-tasting, exceptionally healthy main-course salad.  And you can enjoy it again for lunch the next day.  Totally keen — or is that quin?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail with lime garnish

More refreshing than a tropical sea breeze

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club began “under a calabash tree” in 1844, founded by British army officers and Bermudian sailing enthusiasts (“royal” was added to the name in 1846, after Prince Albert became a patron of the private club). In the 1940s, Trader Vic popularized its namesake cocktail.

The club co-hosts the Bermuda Race, a biennial yachting competition that is the world’s oldest regularly scheduled ocean race.  It begins in Newport, Rhode Island and ends (where else?) in Bermuda.

Of course, Newport has hosted a lot of yachting races, including the most famous of them all, the America’s Cup (from 1930 to 1983).  Speaking of which, this September will see the 34th sailing of that fabled race.  And earlier this week, the Louis Vuitton Cup races (to determine which team will challenge the current holder of the America’s Cup) started in San Francisco.

All of this has put us in a seafaring mood here at Kitchen Riffs central — and made us ponder what beverage we should enjoy while following the racing events.  Well, what could be more appropriate than the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail?

This refreshing mix of Barbados rum, lime, Cointreau, and falernum has a tangy tropical taste that goes down easy.  It’s perfect for beating the summer heat we’re now experiencing in most of the US.

Best of all?  You don’t need to wear one of those silly little yachting caps to enjoy it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Easy, No-Cook Fruit Fool

Fruit Fool made with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream, overhead view on black

Blueberries & strawberries star in this luscious dessert — but your favorite fruit probably works too

Summer in North America brings an abundance of fresh, ripe berries and other fruits.  They’re wonderful eaten as is, but eventually we hanker after variety.  Time to transform some of that fruit into dessert.

And when summer turns up the heat, no dessert can beat a Fruit Fool.  The no-cook version of this dish gives you sweet deliciousness without heating up the kitchen (you just macerate some fresh fruit and mix with whipped cream).  It’s easy to make, looks gorgeous, and tastes even better. 

The Fruit Fool is a cousin of the trifle and parfait, and might even be an inspiration for the smoothie.  But it has a flavor that’s all summer.

So after all those berry cobblers, pies, and buckles, why not try something different?  And discover a new adage:  A fool and its berries are soon eaten.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Gin Rickey Cocktail

Gin Rickey Cocktail in tall glass with lime garnish

This refreshing drink is “air conditioning in a glass”

In the US, July can be the hottest month of the year.  So most of us are eating light — and drinking lighter — to avoid overheating. 

Sure, these days we have air conditioning.  But what to do at all those outdoor functions that seem to be so popular this time of the year?  Like tomorrow’s big Independence Day blowout?

Enter the Gin Rickey.  This refreshing mix of lime, gin, and club soda (or seltzer) is the ultimate cooler.  It’s a tall drink that takes a while to finish — giving you time to enjoy its great flavor without risking overindulgence.  And for those avoiding alcohol, it’s easy to make a mocktail version.

July 4th is America’s birthday.  And it just so happens that this drink was created in our nation’s capital (circa 1883).  It has even been designated Washington, DC’s “native drink.”

So it’s practically our patriotic duty to drink a Gin Rickey on the 4th of July, don't you think?