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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Welcome Weekend - Cocktail: The Gin Hound

      Weekend Update: 

You need a drink. And if you don't, we do. We recommend it be The Gin Hound. 

The Gin Hound, Photo: NK 
Gin has been the alpha and the omega in the cocktail evolution of my life thus far. The first "real" cocktail I ever consistently enjoyed was the Gin and Tonic. They were my go-to whenever I was out on the town for quite a while. I'd sweeten them with a splash of grenadine, ending up with a more drinkable yet still seemingly adult version of a Gin Rickey. 

The next spirit to spark my fancy was also in the clear family - Vodka. Thus, my drink of choice became the Screwdriver. Goes down easy, right?  When a maturer palette allowed me to actually appreciate the taste of certain liquors, I moved to the browns, Whiskey, Bourbon and Scotch, specifically. This also also coincided with the popularity of Mad Men and a major return to classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan. Good times! 

These days, I've come full circle. I still like all the others but I've come to appreciate the clean, herbal qualities of Gin all over again. Though it may be at its best with only light embellishment - give me a Gin and Cucumber-based cocktail any day - Gin also does great when paired with big flavors like Grapefruit. There's no need to dispense with fruit-driven libations when the winter months roll around. Grapefruit just happens to be great right now. You may even want to cook with it. Enjoy and thanks to the Food52 contributor who came up with this easy and delicious cocktail

The Gin Hound
Recipe from Food52/JRDSquared
Yields 2 Cocktails
3/4 Cups fresh Squeezed Grapefruit Juice
1 Tablespoon fresh Lemon Juice
4 Ounces of Gin *we like Bombay Sapphire
1 Ounce Sweet Vermouth

Combine the Lemon and Grapefruit juices. Fill a shaker with Ice and add the Gin, Vermouth and Juice. Shake well and serve on the rocks. We like to garnish ours with a wedge of Grapefruit. Cheers!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ancient Grains - Discovering Farro

Though Quinoa has dominated the national food conversation for quite some time, there's an upstart grain that's gaining steady popularity, and though it may seem newly on the scene, Farro is as old as they come. Ancient, in fact. Much of my education on Farro comes from this wonderful article I found on NPR. It was here that I learned that there are really three varieties of Farro, and that their differences are determined by whether or not the bran has been removed. We'll be using the Emmer Variety, which is the most common and best if you're looking for a shorter cook time. Aren't we always? 

Farro Salad With Arugula & Purple Carrots, Photo: NK
Emmer is also known by its Latin name, triticum dicoccum.  

Farro has an especially rich history - it is the grain from which many others sprung, and it served as the primary food of the Roman Legion. You might imagine it to be a pretty special grain if it could nourish an army. Indeed, the health benefits of Farro are many. Preparation-wise, it's just as versatile as rice, and it cooks -and looks- a lot like barley. Your can serve it on its own, add it to soups or toss into salads, as we are about to do today. Especially adept cooks might like to transform it into risotto. 
Purple Carrots, Photo: NK

Our hearty Farro Salad will get a little extra flair from the addition of Purple Carrots, a colorful variety of the more common veggie that I've recently discovered. Like Farro, Purple Carrots go back in time quite a ways themselves. In fact, all carrots were originally purple before being bred to be the orange roots that we recognize today. Why would they ever want to change these beauties? Gorgeous though they may be, this carrot variety is incredibly healthful as well.Their deep purple color is thanks to anthocyanins, the antioxidant compounds responsible for the deep hue of Blueberries and their super nutritious status. 

Peppery Arugula, another nutrient powerhouse, anchors our salad while a bright Orange Vinaigrette offers a subtle punch. Salty Pecorino Romano lends the round note to complete this satisfying melange of flavors. An ideal potluck, picnic dish, or make-ahead lunch, this Farro Salad tastes even better left over once seasonings truly marry. Farro is a sturdy grain, too. Make it ahead and it will keep its texture and pleasant chewiness until you're down to the last bite. Enjoy! 

Farro & Arugula Salad With Purple Carrots 
Serves 4 

2 Cups of Water
3/4 Cup Farro, the triticum dicoccum variety, optionally soaked a few hours and then rinsed 
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 large Purple or traditional Orange Carrots, peeled and diced 
1 small bunch of Arugula cut into thin ribbons and roughly chopped
1-2 ounces Pecorino Romano Cheese cut into thin shards and crumbled 
For the dressing:
1.5 teaspoons Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Orange Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste 

1. Combine the Farro and Water in a medium saucepan and add the Kosher Salt. Bring to a boil over a high flame. Reduce heat to a medium flame and simmer, covered, for about thirty minutes. Set Farro aside and allow to cool a bit.

2. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. 

3. Toss the Farro with the Arugula, diced Carrots, and Pecorino Cheese. Slowly pour the dressing over, tossing gently until well incorporated. Ideally, allow this to sit at least a half hour. If you need to serve it right away that's ok too. Taste for Salt and add a few turns of freshly ground Pepper. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sweet Treat - Pumpkin Coffee Cake With Pecan Streusel

A recipe success - Williams Sonoma Pumpkin Coffee Cake
Photo: NK
We're doing it! More pumpkin-infused treats. This week, we tested out a scrumptious looking Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Pecan Streusel recipe from Williams Sonoma. 

I was recently reminded of the joys of coffee cake when my Mom-in-Law brought us an Entenmann's from the supermarket. I hadn't had one in at least ten years, and though we all agreed that the cake, like many packaged foods, looked much smaller than we remembered, the taste was still pretty great. It was probably on my third trip to the kitchen to surreptitiously siphon off another sliver that I realized that I was obsessed. Why? The salty, buttery, crumbly streusel topping. 

Could I recreate this sort of goodness at home and would pumpkin have a place in the mix? Turns out, yes! Not only was the Williams Sonoma recipe easy, even considering that baking is not my strong suit, but the addition of canned Pumpkin worked very well. 

If you are looking for a quick baked good to bring to Thanksgiving, or even something for your post-turkey coma brunch, this cake would be a great choice. I didn't alter the recipe at all except that for the streusel, I subbed in Salted Butter because for me, the salty-sweet quality of Coffee Cake's crumb topping is what makes it sublime. Enjoy with or without your next cup of joe! 

Pumpkin Coffee Cake With Brown Sugar-Pecan Sugar by Williams Sonoma 
Click HERE for the Recipe 

Prepping the Pumpkin batter in a springform pan
The delectable Pecan Streusel Topping, Photo: NK

Monday, October 27, 2014

In Season - Kale & Apple Salad With Dates & Pecorino

Apple Picking at Seven Ponds Orchard, Watermill, NY Photo: NK 
I renew my love for Kale around this time each year. I think it's the chill in the air that gets my mind wandering to heartier, darker veggies. However, the inspiration for today's salad actually came from another kind of in-season produce - the gorgeous Apples we picked last weekend out on Long Island's Seven Ponds Orchard.

Sweet red Apples, so delicious this season, and bitter Kale, are really natural companions. We'll combine them today into one very well rounded salad. Dried Dates add a note of honey and Pecorino Romano Cheese provides the salty counterpoint. This superfood salad also travels well and does not get soggy overnight (thanks to Kale's sturdy leaves) It's great to pack as a lunch or if you need a make ahead dish for a potluck. For more ideas from our Kale archives check out Kale & Coconut Salad With Garnet YamsKale & Parsnip PanzanellaKale & Turnip Salad With Honey Lemon Vinaigrette. 

 Now let's get to it. 

Kale & Apple Salad With Dates & Pecorino, Photo: NK 

Kale & Apple Salad With Dates & Pecorino
Serves 6-8
Fresh Picked Macoun Apples, Photo: NK

1 Head of Curly Kale, ribs removed and discarded, leaves cut into thin ribbons
1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice (plus a bit more) 
1/4 Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Honey, Maple Syrup, or Agave
1/4 of a small, sweet White Onion, thinly sliced, or one Shallot thinly sliced
1 small Red Apple or 1/2 a large Red Apple, cored & thinly sliced 
3 Ounces of Pecorino Romano Cheese, diced
5 Dried Dates, diced 
Salt to taste


Photo: NK 
1. Combine Kale in a bowl and toss with Lemon Juice and Olive Oil. Toss very well and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, tossing several times. 

2. Add the Honey and toss again. Next, add the Onion, Dates and Pecorino Cheese. Sprinkle a little Lemon Juice on the sliced Apples and then add them to the salad. 

3. Combine again and taste for Salt. Add a few dashes to taste if needed. 

Serve and enjoy!