Still looking for the perfect New Year's cocktail? Hopefully this will do. It is special because not only is it festive and bubbly but it also will help keep you hydrated as you party the night away. How does it do this? It has what I consider a magic fix whenever I feel under the weather or headache-y or tired - coconut water! Seriously, if I feel crappy I drink coconut water and I swear I feel better right away. It is probably just in my head, but is rich in potassium I believe so is super hydrating. In addition to a touch of coconut water, this cocktail has muddled grapes, vodka and it is topped off with champagne. The recipe after the jump, Happy New Year to you, may 2012 bring sweet things to us all!
Sarah Waters' "The Night Watch" is a book I must tell you to go out and buy or download or borrow from the library right away. It is not a new book, it was written in 2006, but it somehow just made it my radar. Not until I finished the book (and I was so disappointed when I finished it) did I realize that Waters was the same author of The Little Stranger, which I reviewed here last year. The only similarity of the two books is that they feel so thoroughly British. I loved The Little Stranger - a country house ghost story, but The Night Watch really blew me away. It is set during WWII in London, and follows four young Londoners as they struggle through the blitz and war time London. The book is unique because it progressed backwards in time. We first meet the four main characters in 1947, after the war is over. The book then revisits them in 1944 and 1941. Waters performs somewhat of a magic trick by making this reverse storytelling really suspenseful - the reader first learns where the characters end up, then it becomes a real page turner to figure out how they got there. This dish, sticky toffee pudding, really doesn't have anything to do with the book other than that I associate it in my mind with being thoroughly British. Of course with the sugar and other food rations during WWII in London, this type of dish was probably never made during that time. Nevertheless, it seemed an appropriate dish for this time of year, and I wasn't really excited about making something that got by without sugar. More about this wonderful book and indulgent treat after the jump.
'Tis the season continues with this cute candy cane cocktail. I am almost getting sick of all the holiday stuff everywhere, including this blog, but not quite yet. It helped that the Charlie Brown Christmas Special was on the night I made this - don't you just love it? I especially love the music - so beautiful, and the scene with all those kids dancing is a classic! This was an improvised recipe, and it is a very strong drink. It is sweet, but it has a lot of alcohol that cuts through the sweetness a bit. This probably isn't a drink I would choose every day, but if you are having a Christmas party or feel like getting Christmas-ey, or, better yet, have a bunch of extra candy canes, this drink is perfect. I'll tell you how I made it after the jump.
Here is the second part of my Holiday Baking series, some fun decorated gingerbread cookies from Southern Living. I love the recipes in Southern Living, it is a great "hidden" food magazine since it isn't something that is really around the newsstands a lot up here, and as a Bostonian, why would I buy Southern Living, right? Anyway, these are easy and classic gingerbread cookies. The recipe after the jump.
I was flummoxed trying to come up with something to make for Fannie Flagg's "I Still Dream About You," which was surprising. I picked up the book with the expectation that it would have some great options for the blog in it, since Flagg's classic book "Fried Green Tomatoes and The Whistle Stop Cafe" obviously has some great food in it, ya know? Well, not so much food in I Still Dream About You, and even worse, the book was really no more than just OK. I struggled to get through it and feel entirely ambivalent about it. In those circumstances, it is hard to get inspired to whip something up. But, I managed, and here we have a really great lemon icebox pie. The main character of the book, Maggie, pretty much eats only frozen meals. The day before she is planning to kill herself however, she gives herself a bit of a treat, and some slices of icebox pie is part of it. In the midst of all the heavy chocolate and gingerbread and peppermint desserts (all of which I will share recipes with you in the coming weeks), this lemon was a nice, tart break. I am sorry to say I cannot recommend the book, but the pie, well the pie is definitely something you should make.
This week's cocktail was driven by the fact that I saw some beautiful tangerines in the market this week and bought some on a whim. I never buy tangerines, because with all those seeds, why would I grab tangerines instead of seedless clementines? But the flavor of clementines is mild compared to the slightly exotic tangerine, and they are less juicy. So, the tangerines sat in the fridge all week and when it was time to make a cocktail, they seemed like the perfect solution. Here is a whiskey sour made with fresh tangerine juice and garnished with a candied tangerine peel. I added some lemon to up the sour factor, but unlike cocktails that use sour mix, this does not taste like a sour patch kid - it is a more subtle creature. Topped with some soda water (champagne would work too!) it is easy but festive enough for this time a year.
While I don't celebrate Christmas and never have, I have always loved Christmas traditions and that general festive/cosy atmosphere that rolls around every December. Although my family is Jewish, my mother also loved Christmas traditions and they were a big part of this season growing up - we got presents from Santa (I know bad, it wasn't a religious thing but for my Mom just another opportunity to spoil us, which she never passed up), I even left cookies for him, she played holiday music, and once I remember she tried to cook a goose. That was not a success, though I should probably try again sometime. Anyway, even though Christmas is not my holiday so to speak, I still do love all the Christmas traditions I assume all of you who celebrate the holiday partake in, especially, given my love of food, the baking! Every year I plan on baking loads and loads of cookies, but most years I only make a few. This year may be the same, but I figured for the blog I would endeavor to share some holiday baking recipes with you. My plan will be to pick a cookie from each of the December issues of the leading cooking magazines, like this espresso chocolate snowball from Food & Wine. Maybe I will achieve that, maybe I will make different cookies, maybe I will try a Buche de Noel, which I have always wanted to try, maybe I will only make these cookies - who knows whether I will have the time do so much baking in the next few weeks, but I will try!
Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife has been topping most best books of lists for 2011 (see e.g. The New York Times, Amazon) so I was looking forward to sinking my teeth into it. While I must admit that it took me about half the book to really fall into it, it is most definitely a beautifully written, soulful book. What this book is about at its core is death - it is everywhere you turn in this book, and haunts all of the characters. Even though the book is undoubtedly dark (it is about death after all) it is also filled with great old fashioned storytelling that sets an almost whimsical tone to the book. The Tiger's Wife is set in a purposefully undisclosed country in the Balkans (I assume the country is what is now Serbia) shortly after the wars of the 1990s are over. There are new boundaries and country names, but the wounds are still deep, and the dangers of the war remain, both in the physic sense, through peoples remaining anger and mistrust towards each other and in a physical sense, through the many mines still dotting the countryside. The book follows a young doctor, Natalia, and she travels to an orphanage across the border (I think it what is now Croatia) to deliver vaccines shortly after she learns that her beloved grandfather, also a doctor, has died. Woven in with Natalia's journey to discover how her grandfather died are two fables told to her by her grandfather - "the deathless man" and "the tiger's wife." These tales fill as much of the book if not more than Natalia's story. I must admit, I expected to fall in love with the book more than I did. Although it was a beautifully written and thought provoking book, it was sometimes difficult to follow. I definitely think it is a book that would benefit from a second read, which I intend to to do. More about the book and this common Balkan kebab like dish after the jump.
For Cocktail Hour this week, here is a snowy white treat for the first week of December. It has been almost balmy here in Boston during November, and I must admit I am ready for some chill and maybe a little snow to set the season. This is a Ramos Gin Fizz, a fairly classic cocktail that employs egg white to get that nice froth. Yes, raw egg white. So be sure to use very fresh eggs with this, and if you are pregnant, don't make this drink (oh yeah... you wouldn't be making it anyway!) The egg white really gives a nice richness to the drink without being heavy. In addition, there is a touch of cream. I am totally not into drinks with cream or milk or Baileys etc... at all, cause they usually are so sweet and heavy. When I first started drinking, one the first drinks I tried was a Kahlua and Cream, cause that was the drink of choice of my super cool big sis (hi Marcie!) and I thought it must be sophisticated (Marcie also introduced me to delicious Malibu rum by leaving a bottle in her room when she went away to college). But it was not my thing. Here, the cream is mixed with bright and bracing gin, lots of citrus, and a touch of orange flower water. It is a refreshing and festive cocktail and I am converted to cocktails that employ a bit of cream. I know it is bad, but hey, it is the holiday season, treat yourself.