Monthly Archives: February 2009

Heart’s Inspiration

My mother and I whipped up a batch of Cranberry Margaritas as our Christmas Eve pre-dinner drink. We liked them so much that we cranberrymargarita21repeated them again on Christmas day, and more recently for a Sunday evening get together. They’re tart and a tiny bit sweet, and they mix up quickly in a blender. Plus, they translate easily into a virgin-version for your pregnant sister-in-law (just add a bit more lime juice and a splash of OJ in place of the tequila and Cointreau)! Given their heart-toned hue, they make for a festive Valentine’s drink, too.

Cranberry Margarita
Recipe comes from cocktail.com

  • 1 1/4 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar (Miss M recommends substantially less sugar – start with 1 Tbl and taste frequently)
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh frozen cranberries, rinsed (freeze on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper)
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 cup tequila
  • 1/2 cup Cointreau (orginal recipe calls for Grand Marnier, but Miss M recommends this substitute)
  • Ice

Mix together the first six ingredients. Pour half of mixture in the blender and fill rest with ice. Blend. Repeat with second half of mixture. Makes about two blender batches – which is enough to meet 4-6 people’s margarita desires, depending upon individual thirst levels.valentinesbandolino

For a romantic, flirtatious and Valentine’s inspired footwear choice, this floral suede pair by Bandolino is calling my name. And the coral patent sandals from Banana Republic bring a smile to my face. valentines1

My heart-toned picks might be a bit clichéd and traditional, but isn’t that the point of Valentine’s Day, anyways?

 

posted by Miss Mojito

Be mine

Dear Mr. S&C,

Valentine’s Day is approaching — the day when lovers express their love with gifts of chocolates, flowers, homemade cards, and maybe even shoes? Ms. S&C tells me that you’ve been working like a madman over the past couple of months. I bet you haven’t had much time to think of a gift for your lovely wife? I seem to recall that last year you tried to order flowers on February 13, and the florist laughed at you? Perhaps I can help by offering a few recommendations?

These Giuseppe Zanotti floral pumps are pretty incredible — and a much better gift than a dozen roses. With the rounded toe and pleated detail — they are like a work of art.  Another option is this Noah Love Birds clutch. Bright red and love birds! It practically has Perfect. Valentine’s Day. Gift. written all over it.

floral_pumps

love-birds-clutch

Yours truly,
A Concerned Friend

posted by Ms. S&C

Gone fishin’

Last week’s episode of Top Chef featured chef Eric Ripert as guest judge. And now, I am totally crushing on him. He was super friendly and sweet and encouraging, and he seemed to be without pretense. He has definitely skyrocketed into my Top 5 celebrity chef picks. And, as good timing would have it, Ms. S&C was able to visit Chef Ripert’s Washington, DC, restaurant, Westend Bistro, over the weekend. Like the acclaimed Le Bernardin, seafood is the star at Westend. The Salmon Rillettes and Fish Burger may sound like average dishes, but they were excellent. Ms. S&C had a great cocktail too – the Memorial Bridge Sunset was made with Campari and Champagne, garnished with a dollop of pink grapefruit sorbet. I’ve never mixed Campari with Champagne before, but I definitely will again.

On to the Top Chef recap. The Quickfire Challenge had the cheftestants competing in a three-round fish filleting tournament with sardines, Artic char and fresh water eels. Stefan easily beat Hosea in the final round, after hammering the eel to his cutting board and peeling back the skin. It was a little disconcerting, to be honest. Stefan did not get immunity but got a huge advantage in the Elimination Challenge. After dining with Chef Ripert at Le Bernardin for lunch, the cheftestants had to draw knives to see which of his dishes they had to recreate for the Elimination. Stefan’s Quickfire win meant he could choose his dish outright. Naturally, Stefan chose the easiest dish and tops Fabio and Carla to get another win. Hosea, Leah and Jamie were on the bottom. I would have paid money to see Leah go, but it was Jamie who was sent home, presumably for not liking braised celery and not knowing how to use serrano ham in a sauce.

lobster-asparagusStefan’s winning dish of lobster and asparagus with hollandaise

For the drink pairing, I would personally have a glass of champagne or a crisp sauvignon blanc with this dish, as to not overpower the lobster.  So, in honor of a killer deal I found on champagne over at Pearson’s Wine & Spirits, I’ll pair it with the Fat Bastard Blanc de Blancs. They are practically giving it away over there — $5.99 a bottle! I so regret not buying a case.

posted by Ms. S&C

Sipping Sours

All this recession business has me in a bit of a sour mood. And you know what they say: when life gives you lemons, make a whiskey sour! Or a pisco, midori or rum sour, as the case may be.

Winter is the perfect time to delve into this citrus-friendly group of cocktails, with the abundant availability AND relative affordability of oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit in your grocery store. Let’s start with the classic.

The whiskey sour has become a tried and true winter favorite in Miss M’s household. Ina Garten provides a great basic recipe in her book, Barefoot Contessa at Home. This is apparently her favorite cocktail to offer guests (she likes to serve it along side a green herb dip, a recipe that I’ll be trying out on some friends to accompany my tonic tasting this weekend – more on that later!). I like this version because it relies on both lemon and lime juice. In a pinch, I’ve subbed some organic, bottled lime juice for the fresh when I was lacking limes and loving laziness.

Barefoot Contessa’s Fresh Whiskey Sourbarefootcontessa
Serves 4

• 3/4 cup whiskey (recommended: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey)
• 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
• 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
• 2/3 cup sugar syrup
• Ice cubes
• Maraschino cherries

Combine the whiskey, lemon juice, lime juice, and syrup. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and pour in the drink mix 2/3 full. Shake for 15 seconds and pour into glasses. Add a maraschino cherry and serve ice cold.

My proclivity for whiskey sours goes a long way back. In fact, we used to make big batches for tailgates in college, using cheap bourbon and frozen lemonade concentrate with delightful results. Still, I’m ready to branch out from this traditional choice. The Meyer Lemon Sour has me the most excited. According to my Food Lover’s Companion, the Meyer lemon could best be described as a cross between an orange and a lemon. Our food history lesson for the day tells us that the Meyer lemon is “named after F.N. Meyer who in 1908 imported it into the United States from China, where it’s been grown for centuries.” They’re characterized by a sweeter and less acidic juice than regular lemons. If I can’t put my hands on some Meyer lemons, I’m thinking a 50/50 mix of lemons and oranges might do the trick nicely. I found this recipe over on the Food Network, where it’s attributed to Mr. Bobby Flay.

Meyer Lemon Sour
Serves 6

• 12 ounces whiskey (recommended: Jim Beam)
• 9 ounces Meyer Lemon Sweet and Sour Mix, recipe follows
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 6 slices Meyer lemon
• 6 maraschino cherries

Shake the first 3 ingredients vigorously in a cocktail shaker or in a large container with a lid. Pour into glasses over ice. Garnish with slices of Meyer lemon and maraschino cherries.

Meyer Lemon Sweet and Sour Mix
4 cups Meyer lemon juice
1 cup simple syrup
2 egg whites
Pinch salt

Combine all the ingredients.

A brief bit of Internet research quickly expanded my limited sour knowledge. Apparently the sour category applies to any drink that combines liquor, lemon or lime juice and a sweetener. So it doesn’t have to actually have the word sour in its title—margaritas and sidecars also belong to this family. Why not add a sour to your winter cocktail family today?!

Posted by Miss Mojito

Super Bowl

Mr. and Ms. S&C hosted their seventh annual Super Bowl party over the weekend. I realize the Super Bowl has been covered ad nauseam, so there’s no need for a recap of the game, the commercials, or the Boss here. I will say Jennifer Hudson looked fabulous and I would kill for her outfit. Loved the jacket, the shoes and the jewelry.

Even Top Chef jumped on board for the media overload, so I may pass on the Top Chef recap/drink pairing from last week’s episode. Except to say, it was pretty cool that the Quickfire Challenge involved squares. I love playing football squares.

There were two items from our party I feel bound to share — bloody mary’s and the world’s best lasagna.

As of late, I’ve heard many cocktail enthusiasts who have been advocating a return to the original Bloody Mary. The original recipe, thought to have been created by either a bartender at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City or one in Paris, started with equal parts tomato juice and vodka. Some mixologists highly recommend this simplified version, with maybe a dash or two of Worcestershire, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Ms. S&C personally loves the bold spiciness that can come with a Bloody Mary. Lots of horseradish, Tabasco, old bay, celery seed, citrus — you could call it “the works.” And, I love to experiment with garnishes — maybe a fresh jalapeno and a shrimp, maybe bacon? Celery is an old favorite, but cucumber is now my go-to garnish of choice.

bloody_mary_bar

Bloody mary bar at the Super Bowl party. Cool football shaped glasses
were a gift from an aunt.

Our Super Bowl parties have usually featured traditional fare such as chili and sandwiches and the like. This year, we served lasagna. And, I have to say, it was pretty incredible. So good, that I’m going off-topic. The first time I made this lasagna, it was right after our trip to the city of brotherly love when I used a lot of fresh ingredients from the Italian market. I recommend you splurge on some premium canned tomato products because the sauce is the best part.

World’s Best Lasagna
(adapted from the recipe on all recipes.com)

Ingredients:
1 pound ground Italian sausage
¾ pound lean ground beef
1 cup minced onion
4 cloves minced garlic
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
½ cup dry red wine
3 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
8 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Lasagna noodles (it is okay to use the no-boil noodles)
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and red wine. Season with basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and 4 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. (Note: the sauce can be made a day in advance.)

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

To assemble, spread 1 ½ cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Cover with noodles. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Top with sauce. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil. To prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

posted by Ms. S&C