Saturday, February 21, 2015

Seasonal eclectic disorder

Ah, another snow day. What to do? Laundry? Check. Clean kitchen? Done. Watch Downton Abbey on Netflix? Waiting on the mailman. Breakfast #2? Eaten. Catching snowflakes on tongue while running errands? Completed. It's been a busy morning. And it's after 5pm somewhere in the world: time for a cocktail!

I do like the frou-frou drinks, especially since trying to limit my gluten intake -- oh, beer, how I miss you! -- and discovering that the mixed drinks in my neighborhood are not what one would call inexpensive. Delicious, yes, and often creative, but not so gentle on the wallet.

Now, I do not purport to be a mixologist, but every so often I hit on a good experiment. This afternoon was one of those times. Inspired by the fresh mint I had leftover from yesterday's chard tabbouleh wrap making class, the blackberries in my produce drawer (see, I'm not a local, seasonal purist after all), and bourbon giving me the eye from the liquor shelf in my freshly cleaned kitchen, I was thinking about some kind of smash. Then I remembered having blackberry smashes over the summer with some teaching colleagues and a debate sparking about what, precisely, a smash was (besides delicious). According to

"Like many cocktails, the question of the smash’s exact definition is a question of semantics. The smash is an open-ended cocktail, freely variable and seasonally flexible. There must be ice, though you may strain it out if you prefer. There should be fruit in season, though you may use it simply as a garnish. There should be a spirit base, though you may use your spirit of choice. Mint is a classic choice, though many other herbs can work. You may want to water your smash down a little or add a spritz of seltzer. At its heart, the smash is a wonderfully forgiving and flexible drink, made for hot days, for using what’s on hand and for smashing it all together over ice for pure sipping bliss."

Sounds fairly straightforward. And open to interpretation....

Sure, it's more of a warm weather drink, but I'm getting a little tired of hot toddies. Should you be so inclined for a taste of summertime, I offer you this latest recipe:

Winter Wonderland Blackberry Smash


  • 1 small handful fresh blackberries (or thawed frozen ones)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 shot bourbon
  • 1/4 tsp pomegranate syrup (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup packed fresh snow (make sure it's white because, you know....)
  • seltzer
  • 1 sprig fresh mint
  • 1 large slice of fresh lemon squeezed in at the end, if your drink is missing a little j'en est c'est quoi. (Thank you, creativeculinary,com, for that good suggestion, saving my drink from mediocrity.)

In a pint jar or sturdy glass, mash blackberries and sugar together with a fork.

Add bourbon and pomegranate syrup (if using -- I only did because I'm trying to use it up so I have a small jar for another culinary project, but it was a nice, tart addition).

While these flavors marinate for a few minutes, scamper outside to scoop up some snow. Add it to your mixture and top off the glass with cold seltzer.

Squeeze in lemon, then stir it all up with a mint sprig (or smash the mint with the blackberries in step 1).

Voila: happy summer-in-winter!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Lady donuts

This recipe for churros, adapted from the How to Cook That blog, is an instant favorite. It was so fun to watch Jenn and Alison drizzle the batter into fun curlicues for our Galentine's Day brunch in Brooklyn this morning. I had the infinitely important job of cinnamon sugar coating and taste testing our funnelcake-like creations, which we eventually dubbed "lady donuts" (for their delicate elegance). Cronuts, get ready for the next big pastry craze....


1 cup water
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablepoon of vanilla
Canola oil to fry in
Cinnamon and sugar for dusting


Melt the butter and the water in a saucepan.

Add the flour stirring continuously. Keep stirring over the heat until the mixture thickens and clumps together into a smooth 'ball'. (Kinda like profiterole dough, if that helps.)

Remove form the heat and stir in the eggs one at a time and watch your dough turn a lovely buttery yellow color.

Add the vanilla and sugar and mix til combined and creamy.

Spoon batter into a piping bag (aka ziploc bag with a small hole cut into one corner).

Heat the oil til a small piece of bread dropped in turns golden after about 20 seconds. Fish out bread tester.

Pipe churros batter straight into the hot oil. Use you fingers, scissors, or a knife to break off the batter when it is the required length. Jenn made some pretty shapes....

Once the curlicues are lightly browned, use tongs to lift them out and put onto a plate covered with some paper towels to drain. (Yes, one of the few times I will concede that paper towels are necessary - mark your calendar.)

Quickly toss them one at a time in a cinnamon sugar mix (1 part cinnamon to @ 10 parts sugar) and place in a pretty bowl.