Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Peach Blueberry Gratin

The fruit was taunting me. "Fresh from Jersey!" the signs proclaimed as I passed mounds of soft looking peaches and containers of blueberries. It wasn't that I didn't know what to do with them. I knew all too well. Last summer I had labored over a pie that was straight from heaven, full of juicy peaches and blueberries that burst with flavor. The problem? Pie crust. Under the very best circumstances, I kind of suck at them.  Last years attempt turned out kinda wonky, as illustrated on the right. I pulled off a half decent one at Thanksgiving, but I benefited from it being a normal temperature in my apartment. Currently this place has reached about the 4th circle of Hell, strictly in a mercury moving sense. This recipe already has me blanching peaches to get the skin off, the added frustration of throwing a mass of crust in the freezer every 3 minutes just to keep it from melting on me was NOT going to happen.

Inspiration hit, when I ran across Smitten Kitchen's recipe for a blueberry peach cobbler. "Wait," I thought, "you can make a fruit desert without the pie crust tragedy?" My brain nearly exploded. I wasn't too keen on the dropping of biscuit dough on my dessert, it's a little hard to divide up all pretty. It started me on the research path though, and before I knew it I had discovered a little french dessert known as a Gratin. All the gooey filling, some crunchy topping, none of the melting and freezing. I had only known gratins in the potato form before and was never a huge fan. Take out the bechameled potatoes and throwing some yummy sugary fruit, however, and you've got one hell of a dish. This version uses bread crumbs to make the topping, but according to my America's Test Kitchen cookbook, the French are fond of it as a way to use up stale croissants. I used it as a handy way to use up the end of an Italian Bread Loaf.

There was one last way this dessert was going to help me out. My dearest friend Anne had just moved into a brand new apartment with brand new roommates. Nothing says "I'm awesome to live with" then coming in with a big tasty treat. I was going to make a housewarming gift. Instead of putting this in a traditional gratin dish I plunked it into my pie plate, but the one I own is a bit shallow. Oh darn, that meant there was enough left to fill four ramekins that I would have to keep. This could probably fill one deep pie dish, or a whole bunch of ramekins, or just portion it out as I did.

Blueberry Peach Gratin
Adapted from PARADE magazine (filling) and America's Test Kitchen (filling)

- 3 to 3 1/2 pounds ripe peaches
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup (packed) light-brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

- 3 slices high-quality sandwich bread (such as a pullman loaf) torn up, slightly stale
- 1/4 cup light-brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°.

Using a paring knife, cut an X into the bottom of each peach. Drop the peaches into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute (this step is sometimes easiest when done in batches). Remove to a bowl. When they are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins, Cut peaches into 3/4 inch slices and place in a large bowl. Toss with the lemon juice to prevent discoloring. Add the blueberries, vanilla, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and the flour, toss well.

To prepare topping pulse all topping ingredients in a food processor until the mixture resembles course crumbs, about 10 pulses.

Distribute filling among pie plate and ramekins. Sprinkle topping over the filling evenly in all baking containers. Place containers on baking sheets. If using a pie plate, cover that with tin foil.

Bake 10 minutes. If the toppings on the ramekins are deep golden brown and the fruit is hot (blueberries will have burst), remove them from the oven (if not they can bake 5 minutes more). Remove foil from pie plate, and bake another 10 minutes, until the topping is deep golden brown. Let cool on wire rack before serving.

I took some of the ramekins out when they were only light brown, and then finished them in the toaster oven at 325° for 3 minutes later that night, making it perfect for dinner parties. Anne raved about her pie sized gratin, I'm not sure if her new roomies ever got any. The dish goes PERFECT with vanilla ice cream, and since my friend Megan had sent me vanilla beans last year I made my own ice cream for the occasion. If Will hadn't already gone ahead and married me I think this would have sealed the deal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pirate's Cocktail

Keeping in line with some of the themes I've been playing around with--savory cocktails, summer drinks, pirates--I thought I would share with you fine people a delightful cocktail that is fairly simple and yet deeply satisfying.

adapted from Epicurious

-1 1/2 oz. dark rum
-3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
-dash angostura bitters
-3-4 ice cubes

Stir ingredients in a cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass.

What you'll find is a cocktail that is not unlike a Manhattan but with a more tropical twist. It's warm and spicy but also oddly refreshing. The name is also appropriate. After my first sip, I felt the urge to yell out "Avast! Shiver me timbers!" I didn't yell it, but I encourage you all to.

While in Pennsylvania, we decided that we needed to invest in a bottle of dark rum. No more excuses. I'm tired of it being a thousand degrees this summer and not being able to take advantage of things like dark rum. Last week's cocktail called for dark rum and I had to use Bacardi instead. I let you all down and I'm sorry. After scoping out all the choices at the state store, we went with a rum called Gosling's, an 80 proof dark rum from Bermuda.

As Heather, her mother and I were waiting at the bus stop for our New York bound bus, (it was an hour late) Heather and I got bored and decided to sample the rum in the car, much to the disgust of my dear mother-in-law. It was a bit spicier than I expected it to be. I think I would have appreciated a more syrupy texture along the lines of a Myer's Dark rum, but it was pretty good. Plus it has a little cartoon seal on the front of the bottle balancing a barrel of rum on its nose.

I imagine that with the weather continuing to be as kiln-like as it is, we'll go through this bottle pretty fast and need to get another. We'll probably try a bunch until we find our favorite. Who knows? We might even go crazy and get one of those bottles that spells it "Rhum." Only time will tell. In the meantime, all that's left for me to do is work on my swashbuckling and pillaging. You know what they say--practice makes perfect.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Basil Zucchini Soup

After the grilled zucchini I made a few weeks ago, the flavor has been haunting me. That juicy, fresh flavor that a recently cut zucchini has, the vibrant green. Zucchini season just inspires me to eat veggies. Will and I have been on a bit of a veggie kick lately (which means that I'm on a veggie kick and Will eats what I make him. What's he going to do, cook for himself?) brought on by the amazing bounty of the farmers market, and my desire to not turn the oven on. I know I could stir fry, bring out the grill pan, or even saute a lot of meats, but the truth is at this time of year meat just takes too much time and too much heat. Most of the meat we've had lately has been in the form of prosciutto or salami, cooking already done.

It was a whim, really, that those two huge zucchinis ended up in my bag at the Jackson Heights Farmers Market last week. I didn't know what I was going to cook yet, and they just looked so hearty and awesome. It was time, I decided, for a fresh summer soup.

I wanted something simple, not too many ingredients, easy to make on a weeknight. This soup appealed to me because of its use of basil, another heavenly summer ingredient. Use a light hand with it, otherwise the soup can come out a bit too pestoy, though that's really not the worst thing in the world. I used chicken stock because I still had a large bag of it in the freezer, but next time I might use vegetable stock if I have it on hand to make it a completely vegetarian soup. (I would say vegan, except I loved dropping spoonfuls of sour cream or creme fraiche into it, making it decidedly unvegan.) *Editors Note: I tried making it with vegetable stock a few weeks later, also very delicious.

Zucchini Basil Soup
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

- 2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and cut crosswise into halves.
- 1/2 teasoon salt
- 3/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
- 1/3 cup basil leaves
- 1 cup of water

With a vegetable peeler, peel skin off of half a zucchini into thin strips; toss with salt and drain in a sieve until wilted, for at least 20 minutes. Coarsely chop remaining zucchini.

Cook onion and garlic in oil in a 3-4 quart heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add stock and simmer, parrtially covered, until tender, about 15 minutes. Using caution with the hot liquid, use an immersion blender, puree soup with basil.  (If you don't own an immersion blender you can puree soup in 2 batches in a normal blender.)

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan and blanch peeled zucchini skin 1 minute. Remove skin with a slotted spoon. If your soup is too thick, you can use the blanching water to thin it out.

Season soup with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls with zucchini skin strips mounded on top.

This soup was fantastic, fresh tasting and quick to put together. A few tips if you are making this on a weeknight: since the soup is eventually pureed, the chopping in this recipe does not need to be the most pretty. If you have one, you can chop the onion in a food processor, which I won't usually do because it can emulsify the onion, but in this case its not a big deal. The peeled skin garnish can be skipped, but they are really tasty and add something really nice to the soup, so I recommend making them, it doesn't take very long.

Will scarfed down three bowls before I stopped him--the man was going to eat my lunch for the next day! But then, confession time, I went out for lunch the next day. No problem, I popped the soup in the freezer and ate it nearly a week later, at which point it was still perfection. Though the recipe could be trimmed down (it makes 4-6 servings) I say make the whole thing and freeze, then eat it later with sour cream at work. I promise, co-workers will be jealous.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bolo Cocktail

As the weather heats up in the summer, one thing we try to do is keep plenty of rum on hand. We do this for two reasons:
1) Rum is incredibly versatile in a wide array of summer drinks.
2) We're pirates. Yarrrr.

Sometimes one gets bored with the typical things that can be done with rum (rum and cokes, daiquiris, mojitos and the like) and feels the desire to branch out and do other things. I was scouring my resources when I came across a drink called the Bolo Cocktail. It was in The Savoy Cocktail Book, which means that it has a history dating back to at least the 1930s if not sooner. I'm a fan of a cocktail that's tried and true.

Upon doing some internet research, I found a couple of different variations that I found intriguing. I kept the sugar part of the Savoy recipe, but incorporated some bitters into the mix. It is my opinion that a drink is rarely, if ever, made worse by the incorporation of bitters.

Bolo Cocktail
Adapted heavily from The Savoy Cocktail Book
-2 oz. rum
-1 oz. orange juice
-1/4 oz. simple syrup
-dash bitters (I used Fee Bros.)
-juice of half a lemon
Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon wedge.

I thought my adaptation worked out rather well. I wish I had dark rum, but under the circumstances I thought Bacardi was a nice substitute. Sometimes in this world, cocktails are mixed under less than perfect circumstances and we all just have to adapt. Like pirates. It had a fruity, sweet syrupy taste that would have made it a nice brunch cocktail. I'll have to keep it in mind the next time I feel the desire to drink in the morning.

What I like about this cocktail is its simplicity. It starts with a simple enough base--rum and citrus--and then throws in a couple of ingredients that are common enough but when put together, yields something unique.

Overall I thought it was a nice way to use some relatively inexpensive ingredients I had on hand. I love cognac, Benedictine, and single malt scotch as much as the next guy, but sometimes their use can be a little cost prohibitive. Sometimes you just want a nice cocktail that tastes like it costs a lot of money. Because if you know anything about pirates, they love rum, cocktails that taste expensive but aren't, and swashbuckling. Lots of swashbuckling.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Braised Kale

Queens is not really the coolest borough to live in. It lacks the history and inherent "we're better then everyone" nature of Manhattan, and it lacks the cool rep of Brooklyn. To those paying attention, however, Queens is building some pride. We have cool bars like Dutch Kills, Studio Square and Sweet Afton. 5 Napkin Burger, a place that has gained a following in Hell's Kitchen, just opened a location in Astoria. With the lower rent and bigger spaces, it's becoming harder for those who look to create cool things to overlook Queens. Which is, in all its weirdness, how we ended up with a rooftop farm named Brooklyn Grange.

I think they wanted to be in Brooklyn, but really only the wide open spaces of a Long Island City, Queens factory has the space to sustain a farm on its roof. A full acre, high above Northern Boulevard. They raised money with a Kick Start campaign and had a bit of a problem with a stop work order when they neglected to file permits. I've been following them for months and finally they've started to harvest and sell veggies off a table in the lobby of the very building they are growing on top of. I stopped in Thursday to peruse the goods, and I found mostly what you'd expect at this time of summer, beets, scallions, and a hell of a lot of greens. Among the bounty I found my gaze drawn to a leaf I've been pondering for some time. I strode out of the lobby armed with bunch cut that very morning, it was time to try my hand at Kale.

Kale has been on my mind for months now, ever since Smitten Kitchen showed the world how to turn it into green chips in March. I've never worked with it, seeing as I'm generally intimidated by all greens that are not baby spinach. Kale was just so hardy--so big and intimidating; I didn't know what the hell to do with it. But really, kale is just a type of cabbage, so not so scary. Not that I've ever been such a huge fan of cabbage, since my mother stewed it up in her bastardized Irish food every March, but this year I've started learning about slaw and have warmed to the strange round veggie. If kale was part of this family, I knew I could handle it.

I thought about just making the Smitten Kitchen chips, but I didn't want a snack. I wanted a side dish, I really wanted to cook with this stuff. Searching around, I landed on a braised kale dish. Okay, here's the part where I admit I didn't read the whole recipe before I started working. If I had, I might have been more aware of the nearly two hours of cooking time and we wouldn't have had dinner at 10 pm. Also I might have noticed that the oven needs to be on for at least an hour of that time, during a heat wave. I give fair warning, unless you have a delightfully air-conditioned kitchen, this is not a summer dish. Or a weeknight dish.

If, however, you want to file this away for two months, you may find a Saturday when it's kinda chilly, and you want something warm, a little heavy, and packed with anti-oxidents and vitamin A. Not that I'm calling a veggie cooked in essentially bacon grease healthy. Just full of vitamins. Like the Flinstones. The recipe called for Tuscan Kale, but I actually don't know if that's what I had. It was one of those farmer's market type thing where the sign just said "Kale" and I didn't know there were different types until I got home and looked it up. It was flat leaf though, that much I know. Not curly. Apparently there's a difference.

Braised Kale with Pancetta and Caramelized Onions
Adapted from Gourmet magazine
Serves 2

- 1 Bunch of Kale (Flat leaf kind. Which might be called Tuscan, Cavolo Nero, Lacinato, or Dinosaur)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 3 oz of diced pancetta
- 1 fresh thyme sprig
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1 to 2 cups of unsalted chicken stock

Parchment paper, kitchen string

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°. Cut a round of parchment paper to fit just inside a 3-4 quart heavy ovenproof pot, and set aside.

Boil salted water in a large pot and blanch kale for 2 minutes. Transfer to a colander and drain well.

Warm oil in the 3-4 quart pot over moderate heat, then add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer pancetta with a slotted spoon to a plate and reserve, discarding all but 2 tablespoons of fat in pot.

Tie thyme and bay leaf together with kitchen string to make a bouquet garni. (To keep from crushing the dried bay leaf, I basically poked a hold in the leaf and pulled the string through it.) Add garni to pot along with onions and garlic. Cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until onions are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Return pancetta to pot then add butter and heat, stirring occasionally, until melted. Stir in kale and add enough stock to cover three fourths of kale. Increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Cover kale directly with parchment round, then transfer pot to oven and braise, stirring once or twice, until kale is very tender, about 35-40 minutes.

Transfer pot to stovetop setting on medium heat and discard parchment. Boil mixture, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid is evaporated but kale is still moist, about 25-30 minutes. Discard bouquet garni and garlic and season kale with salt and pepper.

It was a very heavy side dish, which was appropriate for the steak we put it next to but not necessarily for the season. It was damn tasty though, infused with all that cured pork and garlic. I've said it before: if your not sure how to make a veggie really tasty, covering it in cheese or cooking it with bacon will usually do the trick. Any vegan reading this is spitting at the screen right now. It was one of those dishes that I thought was even better warmed up the next day, so once September or October rolls around, I encourage you to enjoy this dish to the fullest!

Monday, July 12, 2010


The highlight of week in terms of alcohol is the new bar in downtown Manhattan called Painkiller. Heather an I have been reading about it for the last couple of weeks and have been scouring our calendar to figure out when we were going to finally do it. The stars aligned this past Wednesday night when Heather and I decided to meet our friend Sean after work for a couple of drinks.

So off we went, into the subway and down to the Delancy St. station in search of quality cocktails. Heather was playing with her Google Droid phone with built in GPS to get us there. As soon as we got ourselves oriented in the right direction, not always the easiest thing to do, we started down Essex St. towards Grand and found our mark. Though the name of the establishment is not prominently posted outside, the facade is a giant graffiti tag that says, "Tiki Bar."

Heather and I go in and sit down. As is the case with many of the nice bars we frequent, there was no space at the bar proper. But because it was a Wednesday night and fairly early in the evening, we had no trouble securing a booth.

In the press that Painkiller has been receiving, they mention that one of Painkiller's signature drinks (other than their namesake, "The Painkiller") is a Zombie. Their recipe includes Absinthe and Rum among other things. They also mention that the Zombie is so strong that there is only one Zombie allowed per customer, per night. How do I not order that right off the bat?

Before we order we are seated and taken through their drink menu, which looks like something you might find on a diner placemat--little illustrations of what the drinks look like. Amongst the flights and swizzles and what-have-you, there was the coveted Zombie. I order that while Heather goes for the Painkiller, a rum based drink mixed with coconut milk. Not exactly my cup of tea but she seemed to enjoy it. We asked if the rumors were true about only being able to have one. Rumor confirmed.

The decor of the place is bright colors that are subdued by the fact that it's dimly lit. There are lots of Tiki heads that are hanging and painted all over the place as well as more graffiti-style tags bearing words like "Painkiller," "Aloha" and "Mahalo." Pretty soon, our drinks come and Sean arrives. I tell him what I'm drinking and that he can only have one and he's in.

Another thing we read in the press is that they have a machine that will crank out hot dogs by the dozens to dispense free of charge. Or at least they will have a machine that will do all that, because for the time being, it's not up and running. Heather made a frowny face. She hadn't eaten much that day. The ever benevolent waitress brought her a few pineapple slices and she perked back up. After our first round, Sean gets sneaky and tries to order another Zombie. Shut down. Rumor double confirmed.

Our next round consisted of Bartender's Choice, where we get to challenge the bartender to make something good. Perhaps I should have been taking notes but that Zombie packs a pretty big punch. I do recall that Heather's was sweet and tart. The drink didn't have a name so we lobbied for "Sweet Tart." Time will tell if the name sticks.

As for mine and Sean's, I'm a little hazy. I do know that a few of our drinks came with little flowers in them and that before the night was through we were all wearing them at lapel height. My second was another absinthe cocktail. There's a myth out there that absinthe is hallucinogenic but I don't think that's true--and the juggling centaur sitting next to me concurs.

I thought that Painkiller was a lot of fun. If a speakeasy had sex with some sexy hula girls, the resulting offspring would probably look a lot like this bar--if only woman and establishment could mate. What a wonderful world it would be.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Playing with Fire

In the boiling hot weather that has permeated the East Coast this summer, Americans favorite method of summer cooking has been everywhere. America loves to grill. Loves it. Can't get enough. From the NY Times 101 Ways to Grill last week to the increasing numbers of Food Network stars being shoved out of the comfortable havens of their studio kitchen sets and into really fake looking backyards, everyone has been excited to cook their food on a rack over flames.

Everyone, that is, except me. I have no backyard, no balcony, and therefore, no grill. For me summer doesn't mean "Oh fun, I'll just go outside to cook!" It means trying not to pass out from the heat in my not-air-conditioned kitchen. My grill pan delivers up Turkey Burgers and Steak just fine, but there is none of the atmosphere of standing out side on a summer evening, delivering up piles of burgers and veggies fresh off the open flame. On July 4th, however, I got a bit of a taste of the good life. Using the holiday weekend to shoot of to PA to visit the family, my mother gave me free range of her tiny little Weber grill. In my mom's world, everything is tiny and built for one, and this little glorified camp stove is no exception. Still, it was a grill, and I was going to cook dinner for 3 on it, even if it meant doing everything in shifts.

First up, I was going to grill corn. As corn season has begun I have started seeing the ears everywhere, and though corn grilling is a fairly simple procedure, I had never executed it.

Grilled Corn
Done exactly as Gourmet tells me to

- 3 ears of corn
- At least 1 gallon of cold water in a pot or clean bucket
- Butter and salt for serving

Peel back the corn husks and remove the silk. Pull the husks back up around the corn. Soak corn in water for 10 minutes.

While corn soaks, prepare grill. When fire is hot drain the corn and grill, in the husks on a lightly oiled grill rack, uncovered, turning, 10 minutes. Carefully pull back husks and grill corn, turning, until slightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes more.

I love how easy grilling recipes can be, and the corn turned out great, soft enough to eat but still crunchy, with that slightly smoky flavor you don't get from boiling or steaming. Once it was done I pulled off the husks completely and covered the plate in foil. It was time for round two.

The day before at a picnic at my Aunt and Uncle's house, my very generous Uncle Joe allowed me to raid his vegetable garden. My Uncle Joe has been gardening for as long as I can remember, and quite frankly the garden is an organic localvore's dream. He uses no chemicals, creates his own little plants from seeds, and cares for the garden meticulously every year. From garlic to cherry tomatoes he brings in a great crop every year. My mother looks forward to being in charge of watering every year when they go on vacation so she can raid the freshly grown produce.

Uncle Joe gifted me with a gorgeous zucchini and two beautiful spring onions. The beauty of knowing a grower is you can eat things right after they are clipped from the plant, and I was going to eat that zucchini right away. I did it simply, two simply to lay out a detailed recipe for you. I simply sliced the zucchini into 1/4 inch slices, brushed with olive oil on both sides and sprinkled with salt and pepper. then I just tossed them on the grill, about 3-4 minutes per side, until they looked nice and charred. 

I decided I needed a sauce for the zucchini to be dipped in, so I thought I'd mix some mayo with garlic, to make a kind of aioli. To roast the garlic a bit I chopped up 1 large clove of garlic, brushed it with a bit of olive oil, wrapped in in a tin foil packet and threw it on the grill for 5 or 6 minutes next to the zucchini. Almost as an afterthought I cut a lemon in half and grilled it next to the veggie. Then I mixed the juice (about 1 tablespoon) with about a quarter cup of mayonnaise and the garlic. The zucchini was great, softened and juicy, and the aioli complemented it well giving it a tangy cool topping.

I also made mussels in beer, but that dish I feel is too incomplete to talk about yet, and I was trying to recreate a restaurant dish I had heard about but never tasted. If you've ever made mussels in beer and have tips, leave it in the comments. I'm back in NY now, hiding in the bedroom, the only room in the place with air conditioning. This doesn't mean I've entirely stopped cooking. Last week I made a fresh mint ice cream, and churned it in the bedroom so the bowl wouldn't defrost. Two months before the weather begins to cool, let's see how creative I can get!

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Refreshing Summer Swizzle

Sometimes in the world of drink mixing, it's important to be bold enough to improvise. The New York Times dining section from June 24th of last year had a great series of articles and recipes on summer drinks which I filed away for later. When we started to get bored with our old standby drinks this summer, I dusted it off and hunted around for inspiration. Many of the drinks--with the exception of the gin based ones--were ones that I've made before, but a few of them have yet to be tackled.

The one that caught my eye was a drink that was mentioned in an article about swizzling. It's called a Campbell Swizzle. It starts out simply enough: rum, lime, simple syrup, bitters. But the thing that provided a bit of a hangup was a liqueur called Velvet Falernum. Upon doing a little research on Wikipedia, I discovered that it embodies flavors of almond, ginger, lime, and vanilla. I replaced the Velvet Falernum with a little Frangelico to capture the essence of almond, a little Grand Marnier to complement the orange bitters and lime, and a dash of vanilla extract.

Campbell Swizzle
Adapted from the NY Times dining section
-1 oz. white rum
-3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
-1/4 oz. simple syrup
-3/8 oz. Frangelico
-3/8 oz. Grand Marnier
-4 dashes orange bitters
-dash Angostura bitters
-dash vanilla extract
-mint sprig for garnish

Pour all ingredients except for mint into a tall glass. Fill glass with crushed ice. Blend ingredients with a genuine swizzle stick or a bar spoon for about 20 seconds. Add more crushed ice to form a mound on top, and top with mint.

What resulted was a complex, sweet, citrusy blend of flavors. Heather commented that she could see this drink being featured at a swanky bar like Dutch Kills. Well used bitters has that effect on a drink. As far as the vanilla extract, a little goes a long way. Too much will overpower your drink and obscure the other flavors and aromas. Just a drop will do. On a humid day, the crushed ice will create a rewarding layer of frost on the glass.

When a drink recipe needs to be altered because of a missing ingredient, it's fun to brainstorm about the different solutions and combinations of ingredients that could also work. Not only is it a fun process, but it allows you to take ownership of the drink--to put your signature on it and tailor it to your tastes. It's one of the things that keeps mixing interesting.