Tips for making the Perfect Sangria for a Balcony Party

Testing Cherry Sangria and White Sangria

Testing Cherry Sangria and White Sangria

City dwellers may be strapped for outdoor space, but if you have access to a balcony you can create one of those wonderful movie scenes where suggestive conversations take place leaning over the balcony rail with a cocktail in hand.  Or not.  You can also just relax with friends without the subtle, suggestive innuendos.  Sangria is the perfect pitcher to have ready for your balcony get-togethers.  I’ve included a recipe for a white (blanco) sangria as well as a cherry sangria with red wine. There are dozens of great sangria recipes.  These two are my favorites.

Eight Tips for Making Great Sangrias

  • Soak the fruit for a whole day in Rum, Triple Sec, Brandy or some other spirit. It makes a difference to really get the fruit infused into the wine. If you are in a rush you can microwave the fruit and liquor for 30 seconds but it’s a shabby second to letting it slowly infuse.
  • Many recipes include a variety of fruits (like peaches or strawberries).  The classic Spanish sangria only includes citrus and if you want to be true to the form, stick with citrus.
  • Fill the glass with ice first and then use a pitcher that has a strainer on the spout. If you use a regular pitcher you’ll keep filling everyone’s glass with large chunks of fruit or ice.
  • Slice the fruit or cut into large wedges.  Don’t chop or mince the fruit.  It doesn’t look attractive in the pitcher, and it won’t infuse into the wine in the same way.
  • Use inexpensive wines.  The fruit and sugar will mask any of the subtle flavors an expensive wine.
  • If the sangria is too sweet, add some more wine (a dry wine like merlot or cabernet).  You can also add some lemon juice.
  • If the sangria is too sour, add a can of orange soda pop or lemon-lime soda
  • If the sangria is too “winey”, add some flavorings.  Examples might include:  cinnamon sticks, fruit flavored rum, ginger ale, tawny port, orange liqueur (like triple sec), or fruit syrups.

Recipe for White Sangria (Blanco)

Sangria ingredients

Sangria ingredients (strawberries optional)

Ingredients:

  • 2 (750 ml) bottles dry white wine (i.e., Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1/2 cup orange liqueur (Triple Sec, Cointreau, Grand Marnier)
  • 1/4 cup brandy (or amber rum)
  • 1/2 cup flavored syrup (I used Vanilla Mint syrup from HeathGlen, aka Moroccan Mint)
  • 2 oranges, thinly sliced
  • 2 limes, thinly sliced
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cups of something carbonated or sparkling (i.e., lemon-lime soda, sparkling water, sparkling wine like Prosecco)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients, except for the fresh mint and the lemon-lime soda, in a large container.  Cover and chill 4 hours. Stir in lemon-lime soft drink and mint just before serving. Serve over ice, if desired.

Recipe for Red Sangria with Bing Cherry Jam:

Ingredients:

  • 2 bottles red wine with cherry undertones (I used Mirassou Sunset Red @ $8.99 each)
  • 1/2 cup orange liqueur (triple sec)
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup flavored syrup (I used Smoked Cherry)
  • 1/2 cup Bing Cherry jam or syrup
  • 2 oranges, thinly sliced
  • 2 limes, thinly sliced
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced
  • fresh mint to garnish

Directions:

Combine all ingredients except mint in a large container.  Cover and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 24.

Pre-party Sangria Toast

Pre-party Sangria Toast

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Bastille Day Raspberry Chambord Trifle

Raspberry Chambord Trifle

Raspberry Chambord Trifle

Whether or not you subscribe to the legend of Marie-Antoinette inciting riots contributing to the French Revolution by pompously declaring “Let them eat cake” when told the French citizens were starving, it is certainly a memorable quote that has resonated with much of the world at some time or another.

That infamous statement is reported to have contributed to her beheading by guillotine, for reasons of Treason, at the Bastille in 1793. Always interested in the food and drink surrounding celebrations, I put together a simple recipe for Bastille Day, which I’m sure both Marie-Antoinette and the peasants would find delicious.  It’s a very easy but tasteful Raspberry Chambord Trifle that brings in a little Italian influence with a touch of Limoncello.  Champagne, of course, is the drink to pair with the trifles for the July 14th celebration of Bastille Day.

A (very) Little History of Bastille Day:

When Parisian revolutionaries and rebellious troops stormed the royal fortress of Bastille it signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, a decade of political turmoil and terror in which King Louis XVI was overthrown and tens of thousands of people, including the king and his wife Marie Antoinette, were executed.

In 1789, there were severe food shortages in France, and popular resentment against the rule of King Louis XVI was turning to fury as the citizens were starving while the monarchy luxuriated in comfort and excess.  The capture of the Bastille on July 14th symbolized the end of the ancien regime and provided the French revolutionary cause with an irresistible momentum.

Joined by four-fifths of the French army, the revolutionaries seized control of Paris and then the French countryside, forcing King Louis XVI to accept a constitutional government. In 1792, the monarchy was abolished and Louis and his wife, Marie-Antoinette, were sent to the guillotine for treason in 1793.

For the peasant class, the Bastille stood as a symbol of the hypocrisy and corruption of the aristocratic government – controlled mostly by nobility and clergy. The French recognize Bastille Day as the end of the monarchy and beginning of the modern republic.

Today, Parisians celebrate this national holiday with a grand military parade up the Champs Elysées, colorful arts festivals, and raucous parties marking the holiday. Here on the farm we intend to uncork a bottle of sparkling wine, serve up some Raspberry Chambord Trifles, and celebrate. Vive la France!

How to Make Raspberry Chambord Trifles

(the recipe is in middle of our stunning reenactment of the Storming of Bastille)

Bastille Day Raspberry Chambord Trifle

Bastille Day Raspberry Chambord Trifle

Recipe for Raspberry Chambord Trifles:

  • 3 Tbsp Raspberry Chambord Jam (or your favorite raspberry jam)
  • 1 Tbsp. Limoncello
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ladyfingers, halved crosswise
  • fresh raspberries and mint for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer beat together cream cheese and sugar on medium speed for 1 minute or until creamy.  Rinse and dry the mixer bowl and beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form (about 1 minute).
  2. Fold whipped cream and cream cheese mixture together in small bowl.  Add mixture to a plastic ziplock bag and snip off one of the ends of the bag (alternatively just leave in bowl and use a spoon to dollop the mixture on the trifle)
  3. Microwave raspberry jam and limoncello together for about 20 seconds and stir.
  4. Place 1 of the ladyfinger halves in a shot glass or small tulip glass, drizzle on a spoonful  of the raspberry chambord/limoncello mixture, and dollop on a spoonful of the whipped cream mixture (or squeeze the whipped cream mixture through the end of the ziplock if you want a more elegant look).
  5. Repeat the layering process above and top with a raspberry and a mint leaf.  Cover and chill if not eating right away (chilling will make the ladyfingers less crunchy, but still delicious).

Vive la France!!

 

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Sliders and Beer Cocktails on the Porch

Mini-burgers (aka Sliders)

Mini-burgers (aka Sliders)

Sliders and beer….a combo that works for any casual gathering:  outdoors on the deck, tailgating in the parking lot, or in your living room during Superbowl Sundays.  While classic unadorned sliders and beer are fine on their own, it’s always fun to elevate the simplistic into the sublime, especially when it is easy.  Adding one of the sauces from  “Not Ketchup”  to to the sliders and adding an orange chipotle syrup to the beer gives each of these classics a delightful punch to the tastebuds.

First the sliders:

I was most fortunate to meet Erika Kerekes , the brains and developer of  a new line of sauces from California called Not Ketchup.  We were both attendees at a wonderful conference/camp for food and drink bloggers called “Camp Blogaway”.  After exchanging stories and ideas, Erika sent me back home to MN with a sampler package of her sauces.  I’m a huge fan of Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar in Las Vegas (and Hubert Keller in general), and thought her sauces would pair beautifully with some mini-burgers inspired by one of his shows on PBS.  They did!

The following recipe used the Cherry Chipotle sauce, but I tried them all on different days (it was a week full of sliders), and they were all awesome.  Here is one of the slider recipes, inspired by Hubert Keller and Erika’s Not Ketchup sauces:

Chow Chow Mini-Burger (aka Chow Chow Slider)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1/2 lb green tomatoes (optional, depending on availability)
  • 1 cup red bell peppers, chopped (I used jarred roasted red peppers)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 Tblsp mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup green onion, sliced
  • 2 lbs. ground chuck, 20 % fat
  • buns (or Kaiser rolls), split
  • 1/4 cup “Not Ketchup” sauce (any flavor works well)
  • salt & pepper

Preparation:

Sliders on the Cuisinart Griddler Delux

Sliders on the Cuisinart Griddler Delux

  1. Combine the cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, onion, vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds,turmeric, cayenne and 1 1/2 tsp salt in a heavy saute pan and cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat a grill or a skillet to medium high, wiping down the grate or skillet with  olive oil before heating.  I have a Cuisinart Griddler Delux, which I bought after watching the Hubert Keller PBS series, and I love it for inside grilling. Turn the top and bottom plates both on sear if you have one of these.
  3. In a bowl, use your hands to gently mix together ground beef, green onions, and 1/2 tsp pepper (more to taste).  Do not add salt, as this will cause the meat to start to cure and give it a different texture.
  4. Use a 1/2 cup dry measuring cup to form the mini-burgers.  Pack the measuring cup with the burger mixture and level it off.  Turn the measuring cup over onto a plate and tap the bottom until the burger patty drops out.  Don’t handle the meat too much, as it is better texture and taste if it is light and airy.  Salt the burger patties right before grilling.
  5. Grill the burgers until charred on the outside and cooked inside until no longer pink (160 degrees), turning once.  It takes about 3-5 minutes per side (if desired, add cheese on top of the patties for the last couple of minutes to melt).  Remove the burgers and allow them to rest on a paper towel for a couple of minutes.  While the patties are resting, grill the buns, cut side down, until toasted.
  6. Spread the bottom buns with the dipping sauce or your favorite BBQ sauce.  Place the burger patty on the sauce and top with a generous portion of chow chow mix.  (I also added some sauteed spinach on top of the chow chow but that is optional).
  7. Serve with your favorite beer or drink.

Now the Michelada Beer with Orange Chipotle Syrup:

Beer Michalada with Orange Chipotle Syrup

Beer Michalada with Orange Chipotle Syrup

Sometimes you don’t want to mess with a good beer and just enjoy it in its natural state.  Sometimes you want to kick it up a notch and enjoy your beer with a little spice.  And…sometimes you want to do both!

If you’ve got a hot leisurely day of few responsibilities stretching out in front of you;

  • Make your first beer simple – just pop the top off a good beer (no enhancements);
  • make your next beer of the day a little more exotic by adding 1/2 ounce or so of  Orange Chipotle Spice Syrup (ala Michelada), rimming the glass with chipotle salt;
  • rinse and repeat.

The combination of Sliders and Beer cry out for casual and companionship.  Start the grill, text your friends to come over and enjoy!

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Brunch and Strawberry Lavender Cocktails for Mother’s Day

Mother's Day brunch menu

Mother’s Day brunch menu

Mother’s Day just seems to call out for champagne…and brunch…and champagne…and marmalade…and champagne!  Since my kids are at college, the hubby took on the Mother’s Day brunch, and it was an awesome feast with fresh salmon omelets, Almond Honey bread with Lemon Ginger Marmalade, and Strawberry Champagne cocktails!  Even though I made the marmalade and the syrup, you’ve got to give the man credit for putting it all together.  Recipes for brunch items below.

First the Strawberry Lavender Champagne Cocktails:

This drink is so good and so easy.  Just add an ounce or two of Strawberry Lavender simple syrup to a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine (or champagne).  Check out the video below to see him make it.  If you want to make your own strawberry lavender syrup, tie a handful of culinary lavender in a cheesecloth bag, place it in a pot that has equal parts of strawberry juice and sugar and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat off after it comes to a boil and let the lavender steep into the syrup for 20 minutes to a couple of hours.  Strain and bottle up.

The syrup is equally good with non-alcoholic bubbly drinks if you are a non-imbiber on Mother’s Day.

Now the Salmon Omelette:

Salmon Omelette

Salmon Omelette

The key to making any good egg dish is low heat and slow, gentle cooking.  It is very easy to overcook eggs and they do not have nearly the flavor or “mouthfeel” when they are overcooked.  The french say the texture of eggs in a scramble or an omelette should be “snotty”.  While not the most pleasant visualization, it is effective in helping you remember when to take them off the burner.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp oil, grapeseed is best because it has no flavor – olive oil is fine)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/2 lb shredded salmon, not canned salmon (I used a salmon filet that had been cooked the night before for dinner and just tore it into small pieces)
  • 1/4 cup chives, minced (could also use chopped asparagus)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Turn the burner on to low heat and sprinkle a little grapeseed or olive oil into a saute pan.
  2. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat together with a wire whisk. Add salt and pepper and whisk again.
  3. Pour the eggs into the saute pan and let them start to set up slowly.  When they are slightly firm around the edges of the pan, take a small silicon spatula and gently lift an outside edge of the omelette a bit, while tilting the pan slightly to let the eggs in the middle run over the edge.  Do this all around the outer edges as the eggs firm up.  It will result in the outer edges being a bit thicker than the middle but that is OK.  Keep doing this until the eggs in the middle are still runny but thick enough to hold the salmon on top without it sinking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Sprinkle the torn pieces of salmon on half of the omelette.  Sprinkle the chives or asparagus on top of the salmon.  Let this cook for about 1 minute to heat up the salmon.  Watch the eggs though, you don’t want them to get beyond the snotty stage.
  5. When salmon is slightly warm and eggs are snotty, lift the pan from the burner and tilt it to the side slightly.  Place a wide spatula under the side of the omelette with no salmon and quickly flip it over on top of the side with the salmon.  Don’t be shy about this and it is easier.  If you have oiled the pan (even if it is non-stick), it will also be easier.
  6. Let it rest for a half minute or so and use the spatula to help slide it out of the pan and onto a plate.  Done!  Beautiful!

Toast and Marmalade:

Lemon Ginger Marmalade and toast

Lemon Ginger Marmalade and toast

This is such a classic for Mother’s Day Brunch, and with good reason.  It is exceptionally good.  Get a good, hearty artisan loaf of bread.  I used a beautiful  “Almond Honey Wheat Bread” that I got at the St. Paul Farmers’ Market from a wonderful Wisconsin bakery called Douville Bakery.  

I (ahem, my husband) then used our own Meyer Lemon Marmalade from HeathGlen’s Kitchen, but there are many good marmalades out there.  Just don’t use the standard grocery store marmalade because it is way too sweet and doesn’t have a lot of fruit in it.

Now….have some coffee, sit back and enjoy your feast, kids or no kids!

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Cinco de Mayo: Horchata Cocktails and Chili-Lime Peanuts

Horchata Cocktail with Chili-Lime Peanuts

Horchata Cocktail with Chili-Lime Peanuts

Cinco de Mayo is here and although margaritas are the typical celebratory drinks, a spirited Horchata is my favorite drink for this “Mexican” holiday that we love so much in the US.  There are a number of variations for an “authentic” horchata, depending on whether you favor the Spanish version or one of the many Mexican versions.  Most of the recipes however, are quite sweet.  This Mexican version of the base horchata is made without the sugar, so that you can create individual cocktails, adding your favorite simple syrup to the drink at the sweetness level you prefer.  It is a dreamy, creamy drink that is one of my favorites, and it works wonderfully as a cocktail or as a mocktail.

Most research cites El Salvador as the origin of the Mexican version of Horchata, although the ingredients vary throughout Mexico and Spain.  In some countries the drink is tan and made with milk, some countries substitute moro seeds or jicaro seeds for rice, and Spain prefers tigernuts over almonds.  Ingredients that are common to most recipes however, include sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.  The recipe below includes the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in the form of a simple syrup added to a rice and almond horchata base.  I’ve used rum as the spirit, but brandy would make a nice cocktail also.  This one brings out the m-m-m from me each time I make it.

How to Make the Horchata Base

** Note:  this is easy but make it early as it needs to sit for quite a while before straining

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:1]

Horchata de Mayo Cocktail

Horchata de Mayo Cocktail

Horchata de Mayo Cocktail:

  • 2 oz rum (or brandy)
  • 1/2 oz vanilla liqueur
  • 1/2 Chai Spice Syrup
  • 4 oz horchata base

Combine all ingredients in a tall glass of ice. Stir and garnish with a cinnamon stick and a hot red pepper

Chili-Lime Spanish Peanut Appetizer:

The perfect foil for a rich, creamy Horchata cocktail is a bowl of light, somewhat spicy, spanish peanuts.  These are a cinch to make and pair well with the drink.  Recipe is from Serious Eats

Ingredients:

  • Chili Lime Spanish Peanuts

    Chili Lime Spanish Peanuts

    1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 or 3 large limes)

  • Freshly grated zest of one lime
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups shelled unsalted peanuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250ºF. Whisk lime juice, lime zest, chili powder, salt, sugar, and cayenne pepper together in large bowl. Add peanuts and stir until evenly coated. Scrape nuts onto large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until nuts are fragrant, dry, and beginning to darken, about 30 minutes

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