Vanilla rosemary vodka spritz

There’s a lot to celebrate today!  Not only are we smack dab in that cookies and cocktails time of year (where every day feels sort of celebratory), but I’m especially happy to tell you that I didn’t die over the past semester.  Yesterday I turned in my dissertation proposal, which means that I’m now free of classes and could feasibly go on to write my dissertation from a Parisian cafe or a Caribbean beach town (or, more likely, my desk in Oakland…but it’s nice to dream).  Also, I’m really proud to announce (albeit a bit late — this happened, like, a month ago), that we’ve joined up with Gojee Drinks.  You can now find our recipes mixed in with others from some incredibly inspiring drink bloggers over on Gojee’s website.  So, a big cheers all around!

Today we’re going to celebrate with this vanilla rosemary cocktail.  Vanilla feels pleasantly wintery without being too heavy, especially when it’s mixed with herbs (or citrus, but let’s do that another day).  So, I’ve been heading out to our badly neglected herb garden, scavenging herbs, and then making simple syrups.

For the vanilla, it would be entirely wonderful and yummy to use a real vanilla pod, but I’ve been cheating and using vanilla bean paste, which is a vanilla extract that’s thick with ground up vanilla beans.  It’s kinda expensive initially (I found a 4 oz bottle for $8 in the bulk section at my local grocery store), but seems to last forever.  You can certainly use vanilla extract, but I think the flavor is more authentically vanilla with the paste (and of course, would probably be even better with a real pod).  By the way, if you’re substituting, 1 t vanilla paste = 1 t vanilla extract = 1 vanilla pod.

Another variation might be to serve these drinks in sugar rimmed champagne flutes.  Maybe they would look like a platter of icicles?

Vanilla rosemary vodka spritz
Makes one drink

  • 0.5 oz vanilla rosemary simple syrup *
  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 3 oz club soda
  • ice
  • optional rosemary sprig for garnish
  • optional sugar for rimming glass

With your finger, a towel or a brush, cover the rim of your glass with a bit of the simple syrup.  Next, sprinkle some sugar on a plate and dip the rim of your glass in the sugar (like we did with the cheladas way back when).  Add ice to the glass.

In a shaker or a separate glass, stir together the simple syrup, vodka and club soda.  Pour it into your glass and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

* Vanilla rosemary simple syrup

Makes 2 oz — or enough for 4 drinks

  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 1/4 c natural cane sugar
  • 1/2 c water
  • 2 drops vanilla bean paste

Combine rosemary, sugar and water in a small point.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add vanilla.  Strain to remove rosemary.

Baked apple crisp

Last week was a glorious week.  I turned in the written portion of those tests I’ve been moaning about, and then one of my best friends and my sister ended up in town for work.  We went on an eating bender, of course, because that’s what I do whenever there’s out-of-towners to take the blame.  Among the highlights: black pepper broth and tofu skins at cramped, hipster-filled Mission Chinese (oh, and we ran into Martha Stewart on our way out the door, which felt like a very misplaced celebrity siting — her aura of handcrafted holiday wreaths clashed with the gritty Mission), a winter squash and parsnip soup at Outerlands, vegan charcuterie at Gather, and a tea leaf salad at Burma Superstar (I need to learn how to cook Burmese food…I am so in love…).

You might think that would be the end of it, but my sister and I decided that there should also be dessert.  Of course!  So, on Monday night, after the restaurant tour was winding down, we made a baked apple with a crisp topping.  Warm, sweet apples almost make me glad it’s getting cold out.

Teel and I tried out a bunch of different apples after being inspired by a recent Saveur test on baked apples.  We used a Macintosh, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and a Braeburn.  Like Saveur, we found that the Macintosh (not pictured) and Granny Smith apples split open/exploded.  The Braeburn looked the best, but it wasn’t juicy enough.  The Golden Delicious turned out to be our favorite, which was surprising since neither of us love them raw.

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Zucchini pie with yeasted olive oil crust

I am so happy with this savory pie.  Here’s the deal: the filling takes about four minutes to pull together and you can use any pie shell you want.  You can make this recipe in a snap with a pre-made crust, or you can give it a little more love and make the crust yourself.

I went with a yeasted olive oil crust from one of my most favorite cookbooks, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  I usually shy away from tart and quiche type things for dinner because, with a buttery crust, they can be pretty high in calories.  This crust is lighter.  In many ways, it’s like a thin pizza dough enriched with olive oil and an egg.  It’s seriously very easy to make — not fussy and it comes together within a few minutes.  I think it’s much easier than a regular pie dough.  All you need is a bit of time to let the dough rise.

If you prefer a traditional shell, I am currently digging on this recipe for a for a flaky rye pie crust on 101 cookbooks.  I would definitely go the beer route for the liquid in the crust.  A Pilsner style would be perfect.

So, on to the filling.  Ever since that zucchini casserole, I’ve been thinking about a pie.  The flavors in this pie, white wine vinegar and mustard, draw from a southern French salad dressing recipe a friend taught me a while back.  The dressing, combined with Gruyere, pulls together a very flavorful dish.

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Amaranth and quinoa porridge

Every PhD student’s life is marked by a bit of academically sanctioned torture that’s known as a “qualifying exam.”  In my case, the qualifying exam is a month long written test followed by a 3 hour oral exam.  It’s a scary test, but preparing for it is even scarier — my desk is currently hidden under teetering piles of papers and books.  Thankfully, the prep is almost over.  I start my exams in 10 days.

Because of this exam situation, I haven’t left my desk as often as I’d like over the past month.  That also means I’ve been eating less fresh fruits and veggies and more stuff from the pantry (or the proverbial pantry, as our tiny kitchen definitely does not have a real pantry).  One of the dishes that’s become a new staple over the last month — and one I absolutely adore! — is a multigrain porridge.

I’ve always liked a warm breakfast cereal.  I started veering away from the usual flaked grains one day when I laid my eyes on a bag of amaranth that had been sitting around the house for a while.  I cooked a bit of it.  Then I mixed it with some other grains.  At points I was stirring together some combination of amaranth, quinoa, short grained brown rice, jasmine rice and millet, seeking a lightly sweet and creamy breakfast porridge.  I also added different types of milks, spices, fruits and nuts.

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A vegetarian BBQ menu for Labor Day

Back with another Labor Day menu.  If you missed the antipasti-themed menu, here it is.  As with before, this menu is a mix of some of our own recipes and ones I’ve seen floating around other blogs that have caught my attention.  I haven’t made them all yet, but I hope to…maybe this weekend?

SALADS

corn, cucumber and tomato salad

Salt and Vinegar Potato Salad (with green beans!) from Joy the Baker

Heirloom tomato and peach salad from A Couple Cooks

Here’s some more corn recipes, because if you’re anything like me, you want to eat A LOT of corn before the summer is up.  This recipe sounds awesome:  Roasted corn with manchego and lime from the Wednesday Chef. Or, if you prefer your corn to stay on its cob, I love the idea of making different flavored butters: Corn butters from A Muse in my Kitchen.

MAINS

BBQ tempeh burger with jalapeno slaw

Portobello and Peach Burger from Green Kitchen Stories on Design Sponge (I think I’d sub blue cheese for the guacamole)

And I’m really digging on the concept of feta or haloumi (/halloumi/halumi) skewered on veggie kebobs.  Apparently it doesn’t turn into a melted puddle.  I haven’t tried that yet, but can’t wait to give it a shot.  Here’s a bunch of veggie kebob recipes from The Kitchn.

DESSERT

Cobbler is always a favorite of mine.  And naturally I love my own recipe (though, make the desserty version of it, with 1/2 c of sugar on the fruit).

stone fruit cobber with a yummy almond topping

But, much as I love cobbler, I will admit that right now, for this BBQ menu, I might prefer an ice cream cake or pie. Still something fruity and fresh.  Or maybe citrusy?  I’m thinking something like meyer lemon ice cream in a gingersnap crust topped with fresh raspberries and blackberries.  But…I haven’t found a recipe for that yet…

DRINKS

Finally, the drinks.  Here’s a few that get me excited (and some other people, I guess — the blackberry bourbon lemonade was our most popular post of the summer):

blackberry bourbon lemonade

the john daly: sweet tea, lemonade and vodka

the chelada: light beer and lime juice

What’s your Labor Day style?  Which menu calls to you more, the antipasti menu or the BBQ menu?  Do you have any Labor Day or BBQ favorites?

An antipasti themed menu for Labor Day

Now that Irene has mostly come and gone and people seem to be doing generally well, I think it’s time to start talking about what to cook for Labor Day.  I can barely believe it’s next weekend.  As I was hemming and hawing over what I wanted to make, I put together this menu.  It’s buffet style and based on an antipasti theme.

Lots of small plates with fresh ingredients is probably my favorite way of eating, though I suppose that’s not totally reflected yet in the recipes I’ve put together on this blog (…we’re working on it slowly but surely…).  So, in addition to calling out a few of our own recipes (just click on the picture to open the recipe), I’m also linking to several recipes from other sites that are speaking to me.

Clearly making all of these recipes would be a little crazy, but if you do, could you invite me over?

SMALL PLATES

Start with a couple types of olives and a few nice cheeses.  Maybe a big bowl of hummus.  Then add a few more salads/side dishes and possibly a soup.  Here’s some recipes that are current favorites:

simple white bean salad

summer split pea soup

Also…

Shaved fennel salad from 101 Cookbooks

Roasted peppers with capers and mozzarella from Smitten Kitchen (maybe replace the mozzarella with burrata?)

Tomato salad with olives and coriander salad from Yummy Supper

Now would also be a tremendous time for bruschetta with a caponata or mushroom topping to provide a bit of an anchor for all of the salads, but I’m not finding any recipes I’m totally in love with online (anyone? anyone?).  So, let’s go with this Roasted Eggplant and Zatar pizza from Sprouted Kitchen.

DESSERT

The main meal is light and bright and I think dessert should feel equally fresh.  A nice stone fruit sorbet would be perfect to me.  But, I’d also like a fresh fruit galette (which would feel as rustic and casual as all the salads…and I think galettes look gorgeous on a big table of food) or these beautiful roasted apricots.

pluot sorbet (please mentally replace the book with wine)

Blueberry galette from Lottie + Doof

Simple roasted apricots from Joy the Baker (or maybe peaches would be better this time of year…)

DRINKS

Last but not least, drinks!  There’s definitely wine.  Which will be wonderful.  But, I think it would be nice to add a little extra sparkle to pre-dinner and post-dinner chatting.  So, here’s a few cocktails that would work well.

rosé sangria with peaches and cucumber (this one won an editor's pick at food52!)

tom collins (classic and wonderful)

cucumber-ginger-lime slushies

I’m going to share a BBQ-themed menu in a couple days…and then I’d love to hear which one you like better.  But for now, what are your Labor Day favorites?  Do you have any traditions?  (Other than buying, say, back to school supplies…let’s not talk about school!)

Raspberry Lillet cups

We’re on to week 10 of the summer cocktail series!  To browse through the  past 2.5 months of cocktail fun, check out the Cocktails category.

Now would be a totally appropriate time to drink a hurricane, with Irene bearing down on the East coast and all.  Or, maybe, by the time the evening comes around, it will be more appropriate to drink something called a Tropical Storm, which I momentarily considered inventing this week (I think there are some drinks out there with the name Tropical Storm, but all the recipes I found were too gross).  Rather than focusing on natural disasters, though, I thought it might be a little nicer to concentrate on one of the wonderful parts of late August.  Raspberries.

Growing up I spent July and August working at a local farm.  I remember being a kid, walking the dusty rows of raspberry brambles in the early morning with yogurt containers tied on pieces of twine around my neck.  I was supposed to fill the containers and bring them back to the farm stand for sale.  And I did, eventually.  But I think I ended up eating just as many raspberries as I picked and the sun rose high in the sky before I filled a few quarts (I liked making my rounds about the farm, curiously peering at all the veggies and seeing what was ripe before returning to the stand).  Thankfully for the farm I was only paid $2.50/hour (still not sure how that was legal), because I was a total profit sink.

After those days on the farm, raspberries will always remind me of the fading days of summer.  Sigh.  So, I suppose it’s only appropriate to use them today.  This is the last of the summer cocktail series.  School has started up again and it’s a bit difficult for me to get this post together on Fridays now.  (That said, I have a killer liqueur post in the works, so this will certainly not be the end of cocktails on this blog — we’re just going to take a break from the weekly thing.)

For our series finale, we’re combining those little bursts of sunshine and August with Lillet blanc, a fortified, citrusy aperitif wine. Lillet is yummy.  It also seems to be pretty trendy these days.  I’ve seen it all over cocktail menus this summer, it was on 101 Cookbooks last week, and it even made an appearance on Martha Stewart in June as the “perfect summer cocktail.”  So, I thought I’d contribute to the Lillet fury in this post.  Hopefully, like me, you already have a bottle in hand you’ve been wondering what to do with it, other than drink it straight (which is fine, but I think it’s even better as a mixer…).

Cheers to a wonderful and full summer!

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Simple white bean salad

In my ideal world, there would be a magical little fairy that would supply our refrigerator with a handful of rotating salads.  But, the salad fairy seems to have not found our house quite yet, so I’ve resorted to making some simple salads that hold up well to a few days in the fridge.  Here is one of my recent favorites.  It’s great right after it’s made, but gets even better as it marinates.  It’ll last 3 or 4 days.

For the herbs, use a mix of whatever you have around that veer toward provincial flavors.  I used mostly parsley and thyme, with some rosemary and a wee bit of mint.  I really liked the addition of the mint, but I wouldn’t go too heavy on it.  If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can substitute with 1 T of dried herbs de provence.

For the beans, I used some cannellini beans that I cooked from the dried beans, but any canned white bean will do just fine.

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Beermosa

Here’s to week 9 of our summer cocktail series!

I had my very first beermosa a couple months back at an awesome little pub in Oakland called Commonwealth Cafe.  Later I did a bit of googling, and it seems that they’re most frequently made with Bud or PBR and are affectionately dubbed hillbilly mimosas.  There’s nothing hillbilly about the Commonwealth beermosa, though.  It’s a real class act.

The difference between the hillbilly and the Commonwealth versions is that Commonwealth makes their beermosas with a wheat beer.  Most recently they were mixing with Ale Industries’ Orange Kush, brewed with orange peels, chamomile and coriander.  Earlier in the summer they were using a white beer.  Really, any sort of lighter wheat beer (like a hefeweisen, not a dunkleweisen) is great.  A blonde ale or a summer ale will also do the trick.

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Corn, cucumber and tomato salad

It’s high time for a salad post to balance out the booze and baked goods.  Especially since it’s that corn and tomato time of year.  So, here’s a simple salad I made the other day for a friend.  Mid-bite she said, “See, this is the kind of stuff you should be putting on your blog!  It’s so easy.”  Or something like that.  I agree.

In this recipe I use white balsamic vinegar, which my step-mom introduced me to a little while back.  It’s really nice on corn, since it conveys a sweet flavor without discoloring the salad.  It used to be pretty hard to find, but now Trader Joe’s stocks it and I’d imagine Whole Foods has it, too.  If you don’t own a bottle, I think it’s worth adding to your vinegar collection.  Just don’t show it to your cultured Italian friends, who will stare and say, “There is no such thing as white balsamic in Italy.”  (Hi, Christina!)

I also used some neat-o lemon cucumbers I happened upon at the farmer’s market.  They’re kind of funny looking, but a cute little kid behind the stand assured me that they were good.  I’m glad I took his word for it.  I really liked them.  But, this recipe will work with whatever cucumbers you have around.

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