Archive for March, 2010

Spring break

I wasn’t planning to take much of a spring break this year, but a last minute opportunity presented itself and I ended up in St. Louis (where I grew up) visiting the midwestern branch of my family.

In addition to various, disparate, adventures (including seeing the new movie,  Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and hearing the smokingly loud band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at local venue The Pageant), and the pleasure of being surrounded by people wearing St. Louis Cardinals paraphenalia, I am luxuriating in having the time to slowly read a new book by one of my favorite authors, Peter HesslerCountry Driving is his third book about living in and exploring modern-day China (following Oracle Bones and River Town) and I am enjoying it as much as the first two.

And, just to celebrate the official arrival of spring, I thought I’d share a couple of springy pictures.

Happy Spring!

I hope it’s sunny and warm wherever you are.


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With spring firmly underway here in the Northwest (despite a few cooler days this past week) my thoughts inevitably turn to fresher foods and lighter drinks.  The other night S and I were out for sushi at our newest local favorite sushi place, Masu Sushi, and S decided to try their seasonal drink — a cantaloupe martini.  I had a sip and it was so tasty that when I saw ripe cantaloupes (from Mexico, I have to admit) at Whole Foods on Saturday I had to buy one and try to make my own version of the drink at home.

After a few juicy minutes spent peeling and chopping, I tossed some chunks of cantaloupe into the food processor, whirled them around until I had a smooth, salmon colored puree that shook (over ice) with lime juice, vodka and a dash of simple syrup. Voilà! a new spring favorite was born.

Cantaloupe martini
Makes 2 generous drinks (or 3 smaller ones)

½ medium (approx 7”) cantaloupe, cubed
4 ounces vodka
1 – 2 teaspoons simple syrup
juice of 1 lime, and additional lime wedges for garnish

Puree cantaloupe in a blender until smooth.

Pour cantaloupe puree, vodka, simple syrup (use more if you like a sweeter drink, or if the cantaloupe is not sweet enough for you on its own) and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with ice.

Shake vigorously.  Pour into pretty glasses and serve garnished with lime wedges.

I am already dreaming of sitting on the deck, sipping one of these and watching the sun slowly set behind the pine trees.

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Tomato vinaigrette

Sometimes a favorite new ingredient presents itself unexpectedly.  That’s what happened recently when we received a gift bag filled with gourmet vinegars.  I’m a big fan of vinegar, I love to  use it to add brightness to salad dressings (of course), soups and sauces, roasted vegetables — almost any savory dish in fact — and I often have at least three different varieties open on my counter-top at a time.

The surprising new vinegar in this wonderful gift was this one:

a thick, almost pulpy, tomato vinegar from France.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it at first, but then decided to use it just like any other vinegar.  I started with salad dressing.  Instead of the (inexpensive, I’ll admit) balsamic vinegar I usually use in the dressing I make for my favorite winter radicchio salad, I tried the tomato vinegar.

It was great  — tangy and rich with a deep, almost-sweet, tomato-ey flavor — the dressing complemented the bitter taste of the radicchio perfectly.

Tomato Vinaigrette
1/8 cup Tomato vinegar
1/8 cup Champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the two vinegars with the Dijon mustard in a measuring cup or small bowl and mix well.

Slowly add the olive oil, whisking with a fork or small whisk until all the oil has been added and the liquids are emulsified.

Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Note:  This makes a good ½ cup of dressing, more than you need for all but the biggest salads.  The dressing will keep, in an air-tight container, for several days.

Since then I have added tomato vinegar to roasted cauliflower (drizzled it sparingly on the florets near the end of their roasting time) and to traditional marinara sauce for spaghetti.  In both cases the vinegar added just the right amount of bright freshness and a bit of depth as well.

If you’re in the Portland area you can buy this brand of tomato vinegar locally at Zupan’s (the Belmont store stocks it for sure); it’s also available online from Cybercucina.

I am definitely making this vinegar a regular part of my pantry!

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