Annette requested a drink called an apricot smash, so I got on line and looked at recipes using vodka and rye, but selected one that called for bourbon. You were supposed to muddle a fresh apricot, but there are none in the supermarket at this time of year, so I got canned apricots instead.
For one drink I used four ounces of bourbon and two canned apricot halves, the juice of one lemon, and about a teaspoon of simple syrup. Recently I splurged on a nifty muddler from Crate and Barrel, but it didn't seem the thing for canned apricots, so I put the whisky, the lemon juice and the apricot halves in the blender and whizzed them up. Then I strained the mixture into a shaker and added the syrup.
You can buy simple syrup at the liquor store, but it's easy to make. You stir equal measures of sugar and water in a pan and boil it until the liquid becomes clear. Put the syrup in a covered jar and store it in the refrigerator. Don't make too much because it will become moldy after a while and have to be thrown away. Always check the syrup for spots of mold before using.
Another New England classic, easy to make, with a wonderful old-time flavor!
This is good to make on a snowy winter evening when you've had just about enough of January or February and a little something special is in order, especially if it's not too complicated.
Sometimes I sprinkle some sugar on top before baking it, or some chopped up crystallized ginger, but honestly it doesn't need any of that claptrap - this is a fine classic recipe for a winter's evening!
Florida is a state I associate with traffic-clogged highways lined with fast food joints, body shops, psychic readers, and strip clubs. The locals call people like me Q-Tips.
Nevertheless, Annette and I were invited to a Florida wedding we couldn’t miss. As we started out for Logan Airport with boarding passes for a flight to Miami, the car thermometer read 6°above and soared to 9° by the time we arrived at the terminal. I can gripe about flat, scrubby landscape and the high-rise blighted beaches, but when you walk out of any Florida airport, including Miami International, you smell vegetation and warm soil. Coral Gables is an exception to my prejudiced view of the Sunshine State, and the Biltmore Miami Hotel, where our hosts had reserved a block of rooms has a lot of class. On the evening we arrived we went to dinner at the Plame d’Or restaurant in the hotel.
My memory reaches back to the day when waiters in French Restaurants were stiff and condescending. When you ordered, they’d repeat what you said, correcting your pronunciation. On at least one occasion I pronounced my selection properly, and a wannabe French snob got it wrong. Usually they managed to give me the feeling I’d somehow gotten in where I didn’t belong.
Type of Post:
What's on my Plate?
I was preparing a recipe that called for a fowl. That's not so unusual; fowl are tough old birds, stringier and better suited for the stockpot than for roasting or frying. Fowl are used instead of younger birds when flavor is important and tenderness is not.
But I encountered an unexpected complication. At Compare Foods in downtown Worcester, I found Fresh Heavy Fowl and Fresh Light Fowl - what to do? The heavy fowl was much more expensive per pound (although still cheap), but I had no other clues. So I came home and did some more research. Here's what I learned.
Chickens are raised for meat or for laying eggs, and the birds that are bred to be good at one are not so well suited for the other. Of course, the ones bred for meat come from eggs, too, but those eggs are laid by big meaty mamas.
When either type reaches the end of her laying life, it is slaughtered for fowl. The meat-producer chickens become heavy fowl and the egg-producing chickens become light fowl. Since you're looking for flavor, the heavy fowl is the superior choice for stocks and stews.
Type of Post:
Best of Show
Have you seen the listing of cookbooks in What's on My Shelf? If you're the sort to enjoy whiling away a winter evening with a few good cookbooks and dreams of great ingredients and friendly farmers' markets...Well you could do worse than the two dozen+ books on that section of this site.
There is a broad variety of books listed there, with links to Amazon pages for the same books. Most (all?) of them feature in recipes on this site. And they have writer's insights about the books, and more. It's not a comprehensive list of the best cookbooks in the world, or even of the best in New England. Honestly, who has the presumption to tell you what's best? Why would you listen to that presumptuous fool?
This list is randomly generated from the sources of the recipes on this site, and the few books that simply could not be ignored - This is what's on my shelf. What's on yours?
Two international organizations cooperate to help ensure quality and production of Maple Syrup and the health of the often very local, small-farm maple syrup production industry:
The IMSI is all about the quality standards, espousing the mission:
(These three bullets and the two above are quoted from the IMSI website, linked above)
It's a great thing at my age to discover a new seafood, and I just devoured my first mess of Rock Shrimp. These little critters have been off the Florida Coast for a long time, but no one fished for them for a very good reason. They aren't named rock shrimp because of their habitat; it's because their shells are rock hard and until recently there was no practical way to get to the good stuff. Now with the invention of high speed splitting machines, these well armored crustaceans have hit the market, and I'm sending up a cheer.
I had my first taste of them at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville, Florida. If you're on your way to Cape Canaveral, it's a good place to stop. You may just spend your afternoon eating shrimp and forget all about outer space.
You can order rock shrimp by the pound. If you make a mistake and under-order, your friendly waitress will bring you more. She starts you off with corn fritters, which are addictive, but filling, so go easy. The shrimp are sweet. Some compare the flavor to lobster, but I think it's unique, and these were absolutely the best shrimp I ever tasted. They came broiled and accompanied by lemon and melted butter. Annette liked them with butter, but I thought they were perfect with just a side of cheese grits.
Should you have any room when the shrimp are gone, Dixie Crossroads serves an excellent key lime pie.
I see on the news this morning that the Cookie Monster on "Sesame Street" is on a diet. Instead of having a cookie every day, he's down to one a week.
We mustn't think Cookie's limiting himself. He represents the pleasure principle - raw unbridled desire. He portrays the propensity in every child to want what he wants when he wants it. I remember a story about the time the Cookie Monster went on a quest for a magic cookie that would bring its finder everlasting joy and happiness. The catch was he couldn't eat the cookie; he had to keep it as a sort of good luck charm. "Should I have everlasting joy and happiness, or should I eat cookie?" he asked himself. His indecision lasted for about a second. "EAT COOKIE," he cried.
Children laughed, parents laughed - no one expected Cookie to resist instant gratification. We'd have been disappointed if he showed restraint. I'm disappointed now - not in the shaggy blue Muppet, but in the producers and writers who are afraid they might make a child think that a cookie tastes better than a spear of broccoli.
Cookie Monster allows children to giggle at a human frailty, as does Oscar the Grouch. Next they'll have Oscar saying kind things so the children won't think it's OK to be in a bad mood.
In early colonial times, before the molasses trade established that sticky black substance as the sweetener of choice in Boston and much of New England, Maple Syrup and Honey were the only sweeteners available to most kitchens. Many recipes were adapted to use maple syrup, and those old versions are still worth exploring.
There's a good overview of maple syrup in cooking at the Maple Syrup page, with links to recipes.
So in March of 2013, we made a series of trips deep into the sugarbush country of northern New England. We wanted to learn more about maple syrup and how it gets from tree to table. There's a good, detailed overview of maple syrup production in the Exploring Maple Sugaring in Maine entry.
This event was strictly about the flavors of the syrups, both different grades and any evidence of terroir or of other geographical effects between Maine and Vermont. We set up the array shown in the first photo above. The samples were:
The only hard thing about baking bread is remembering how easy it is. Today I made St. Michael’s bread from Margaret Koehler's book Recipes from the Portuguese of Provincetown . By the way, I see this book is available used for small money from Amazon.
This is my go-to bread recipe, but it has been modified over the years. It calls for dissolving a yeast cake in warm water in which you dissolve two tablespoons of vegetable shortening. I always used Crisco. You wanted the water warm enough to dissolve the Crisco, but if you got it too hot, you would kill the yeast. It was always a cliff-hanger to see if the dough would rise.
I’ve made some notes in my old cookbook. I now use instant yeast that I buy from King Arthur Flour. It comes in quite a large package, but it keeps in the freezer. My notes say a scant tablespoon equals a package of yeast, which long ago substituted for the yeast cake. You just put it in with the dry ingredients. There’s no need to proof it.
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