« June 2010 | Main | September 2010 »

August 2010

Pizza: a pictorial

I made pizza on Wednesday. Because of the weird weather, I was in between tomato harvestings until today, and used canned. I think that's all right; better those than "fresh" winter tomatoes from the grocery store produce section. If tomato season is over, it's over, you know? (Though I do like these little imported Italian ones that Costco has sometimes, but that's another story.)

I might wax on about how to make a good pizza in the food blog on another day, but the next entry there will be a garnish one and also butternut squash and leek soup. 















Plus a splash of vermouth before adding the tomatoes. A splash of soup stock would suffice. Reduce for a couple minutes, then add tomatoes and paste. 

Speaking of gimlets...

Weren't we just? I know schmope and I often are, and I mentioned them in the post below this one. There was a Twitter discussion, marginally, about whether to use Rose's for a gimlet or make your own syrup. It used to be absolutely de rigueur to use Rose's Lime. 

But that was when it was made with sugar. In this country, at least, that is no longer so. In my blog, I will never get into the complexities of why I think high-fructose corn syrup is more bad for you, or why I loathe the corn industry. I'd rather talk about aesthetics. Drinks made with any corn syrup leave phlegm in your throat and have a very slightly metallic flavor. Yuck. I admit I'm *almost* a super-taster. I can tell the difference, often, between beet sugar and cane sugar, for example. Artificial sweeteners give me the crawls. But whether or not you can taste the difference between all these sweeteners, I'm sure you can feel them. 

Anyway. A gimlet is 4 parts gin to 1 part lime syrup. Use Rose's, if you like, but if you use a "jug gin," it'll be extra cloying. A gimlet made with premium gin will be crisp and sharp. Depending on the one you choose, the varying botanicals will lend more spice or more floral to the drink. A cucumber garnish is lovely with a Hendrick's or Martin Miller gimlet. I first learned to love a gimlet made with Tanqueray Ten, and though I rarely buy it these days, I would recommend it for this drink. 

A vodka gimlet, same principal. Now, it must be apparent that they're not my thing at all. I firmly believe vodka should usually not be a substitute for gin. I think it's better for other stuff; mainly fruity or fizzy tall drinks or short drinks with intense liqueurs. Or if you're a drunk and want a quick alcohol delivery. But it would lend itself to some interesting gimlet garnishes; strawberries, for example, or nearly-frozen raspberries or blackberries. 

I do feel gin sometimes can be an interesting substitute for vodka, but not always. It's good in a Bloody Mary, for example, but I wouldn't use it for a White Russian. 

Here's the magazine that ad came from, and another ad from the same issue. 

Apropos of—not much—gonna stick this here because I don't want every post in this blog to be about cocktails—here's a neat two-page cocktail recipe spread from a coffee cookbook sponsored by Maxwell House (it's downstairs; I'll properly cite later.) It's fairly large when you view it full-sized.
The next post will feature another unpleasant old cookbook photo, but it's getting on toward cooking season so soon I'll share some more of my own recipes, as well. 

Syrup Mania!

Yeah, this is kind of long. There are recipes to reward you for reading the blather. 

I have been using this blog less than I'd like, because I can't take good food pictures these days; my tripod seems to be on permanent loan somewhere else. So the photos in this post are mostly old ones that are not entirely relevant...

I'm on a simple syrup blitz. It started a year or so ago, when I could no longer easily find Stirrings Clarified Key Lime syrup. So I made up my own syrup with limes, water, and sugar. Later, I made some with fresh mint added to it. 

Then I tried it with lemons. And I've been making it now and then ever since, though I sometimes use the juice rather than the fruit, as in the recipe below. 

A couple of weeks ago, I wanted to try a new cocktail recipe that included grenadine. Most store varieties aren't real grenadine, in any way, so I found out how to make it. It's just pomegranate juice and sugar, so that's simple. We made a modified Clara Bow cocktail* with it, which was delicious, and I've been experimenting with simpler cocktail recipes that combine the syrup with lime juice or vermouth.  

Today I made syrup with some blueberries that were turning a bit mushy. Then I made mint syrup with fresh peppermint & spearmint, and then more lime syrup. I was on a roll! Wanting to branch out a bit, I had a look at what Google offered me, and found a recipe for brown sugar ginger syrup. So that's on the stove right now. 

You can make syrup thin or thick, depending on your sugar to liquid ratio, and how long you let it simmer. A thicker syrup is nice for cocktails and hot drinks. The mint syrup I made today will primarily be used in iced tea, and that's thinner than the others, since we want it to stir in easily and well. 

I've used heat-resistant plastic storage containers for the syrups, because all the jars I'd set aside to use later were put into the recycling bin by some well-meaning offspring. ::sigh:: That would have made a pretty photo. 

Also, my herb garden was shot to Mercury this summer with the dry heat, or I'd be trying more herb syrups. But I think I'm going to do a rosemary one, possibly with orange. I also have cinnamon basil and lemon thyme to try. Stay tuned for the report on that. 


You can keep all these syrups in the refrigerator for several months: the blueberry & pomegranate for two months, the others up to six. They will thicken when they are cold. 

For a cold fizzy drink, use about 1/4 cup of syrup for a cup of sparkling water, and add ice. That's just a guideline. To flavor hot tea or coffee, well, that's really up to you, 1-2 tbs generally. 

As I try out the syrups in more cocktails, I'll post some recipes. But basically, you can do a 4:1 balance of alcohol to flavoring with bourbon, gin, or vodka for a good drink. Measure, shake, strain, garnish with something pretty or tasty or both.

Blueberry Syrup (altered from an Alton Brown recipe)

2 cups blueberries

1 1/2 cups water

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp lime juice

Bring to boil, then simmer blueberries and water in medium saucepan, 15 minutes. Pour the mixture through a strainer or cheesecloth-lined colander into a large bowl, let it cool for awhile. Squeeze out as much liquid from blueberries as you can. Return the juice to the pan with sugar and lime juice. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. This makes about a cup of thick syrup. 

Mint Syrup (this is a process, not a recipe…)

2-3 large handfuls of mint, very lightly rinsed

6 + cups water

2-3 cups sugar

Put all three in a dutch oven and bring to a boil. Simmer for at least 15 minutes. Strain out the leaves and bring to boil again, simmering until it's reduced by half. Add a couple of wedges of lemon during the second simmer, if you like. This will make around 3 cups of thin syrupy tea. Strain and cool, then use 2-4 tbs per glass of iced tea. 

Lime Syrup

1 cup lime juice

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups sugar

Bring to boil, lightly boil for about 10 minutes, then cool. 1 1/2 cups medium thick syrup.

Brown Sugar Ginger Syrup (from coffeetea.about.com)

I made double their recipe, so:

2 cups semi-packed brown sugar

2 cups water

2 1 inch chunks of peeled ginger (I cut them in half and made 4)

Combine in a saucepan, bring to boil, simmer for 30 minutes. (Keep an eye on this one!) Strain and cool. You'll have about one cup of thick syrup. (I'm adding a tsp of vanilla extract to mine.)

Pomegranate Syrup (Grenadine)

2 cups POM pomegranate juice (The POM website says this takes 46 pomegranates!)

1 cup sugar

Combine in saucepan, bring to boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes until reduced to one cup. This one you also have to stir frequently. Remove from heat, cool and store. Fairly thick syrup.

*Clara Bow recipe found here. We substituted Maker's Mark for Bulleit and lime juice for the lemon. I'm thinking if you used Bulleit, the lemon would match better, but the lime is great with Maker's. We also shorted the St-Germain slightly, but I think most people would be happy with the amount given. 

Classic for a reason

This is the only brand of vermouth I buy. Some things are too good to mess with.

This ad is from the May, 1964 issue of Playboy Magazine. I will probably share more scans from it at my other blog, liliales.


Classic Martini: 3 oz premium gin, 1/2 oz (1 tbs) Noilly Prat dry (French) vermouth, shake and strain and garnish with a lovely lovely olive. And an onion, if you're me. This is the contemporary standard of six parts gin to one part vermouth. People who sneer at vermouth probably aren't tasting the best stuff. It's not a martini without it. 

Mer's Perfect Manhattan*: 3 oz premium bourbon, 1/2 oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth, 1/4 oz Noilly Prat sweet (Italian) vermouth, shake and strain into a cocktail glass or pour over a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with two cherries, because the bourbon makes them delicious, and you can share one.

*Usually a Perfect Manhattan has equal parts sweet & dry vermouth. A regular Manhattan has only sweet vermouth, and a Dry Manhattan only dry, both traditionally with a couple of shakes of bitters, which you leave out of the Perfect. I like my own balance best. However you make it, the proportion of four parts bourbon to one part vermouth works nicely.