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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hibiscus Cocktail Time

Holy cow! It looks like I’ve been bitten by the craft cocktail bug! Once upon a time I used to enjoy a well made Vodka Martini or Manhattan and even an occasional layered shot concoction, but that was another lifetime ago and I’ve been mostly a wine drinker for many years since. Fast forward to now. I live in Portland Oregon and the beverage is king around these parts. From coffee to spirits there is no shortage of creative craftspeople willing and able to take it up just one more notch, ever raising the bar to new heights.

Well now, with all this creativity swimming wildly around you, one can’t help but be swept up in it and now my old nemesis gin is my friend and I am more likely than not to step out of my comfort zone of old standbys and try something new. I still however haven’t really adopted a taste for beer, much to the dismay of many a friend who swore I would succumb after living in Portland for a while – they say one has no choice in the matter. Four years down at this point and I still am not a beer fan but as I’ve learned, never say never and only time will tell.

Clich├ęs aside, in the meantime cocktails it is and I have concocted a simply delicious one using a recipe for hibiscus punch (aka Jamaican Sorrel) as a base. From there I just do what I always do and play with my food, hoping to make something that puts a deep smile on my face (it has to pass my litmus test before I pass my experiments along to my trusted tasters). Sometimes it’s a hit, other times not so much – I nailed it with this one though and thought I would share. It’s one of my new favorites and feels so festive this time of year.

Fill cocktail shaker with ice and add:
1 part Ransom’s Old Tom gin*
2 parts Hibiscus punch
A splash of soda water and a squeeze of lime (I often add a vanilla bean)
Strain and pour into martini glass with a sugared rim
Garnish with a lime

*if you don’t use Ransom’s, I would add a dash of bitters and big yes on the vanilla bean or you can always substitute gin with a nice dark rum for another twist – play around, it’s fun (although if you haven’t tried Ransom’s you really should splurge and give it a try, it's unbelievably good)

Hibiscus punch (aka Jamaican Sorrel):

1 gallon water
3 oz Hibiscus
2 c. sugar

Soak Hibiscus in water for 2 hours. After soaking, bring mixture to a full boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for approx. 8 min. While simmering, add sugar stirring until well dissolved. Let cool and refrigerate.

Cheers and happy holidays to you all!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bagna Cauda revisited – the perfect cold lunch is in the leftovers

As an independent retailer I am always trying to come up with easy lunch solutions that do not require closing my doors during business hours to run out and grab a bite. Currently we have no refrigeration microwave toaster oven burner or any other appliance to cook or store shelf unstable foods in at the shop, so I am pretty limited on what I can brown bag for lunch and way too often I've just not eaten all day because I didn't plan ahead and have anything suitable on hand.

Now I love having Bagna Cauda for dinner. Seasonal vegetables freshly cooked in a rich garlic anchovy olive oil with rustic crusty bread is pretty much the most lip smacking hot meal one could have, but enjoying it the next day for lunch, cold, is something to behold. I can honestly say that I am not sure how I love it better, hot or cold.
After you’ve eaten your fill of that tasty Mediterranean fondue (Bagna Cauda) cook up the remaining veggies and let them cool in the olive oil. After it has cooled down, pour all of the ingredients into a refrigerator container (including the olive oil) and it’s ready for tomorrow’s lunch. It is delicious eaten at room temperature with a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel and freshly ground pink peppercorn and spreads oh so nicely onto a firm piece of crusty bread. Mmmm, mmmm, good!!