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Maiden’s Prayer

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Summer months call for cool, refreshing cocktails. And to me, cool and refreshing usually means something with fruit juice as its main mixer. My favorite mixer is without a doubt, citrus juice. I don’t care if it’s orange, lemon or lime, as long as it’s citrus, I’m happy. Since these are some of my favorite cocktails, I knew I’d love a Maiden’s Prayer.

Unlike other citrus cocktails out there, the Maiden’s Prayer packs a serious punch because there’s triple the alcohol in one glass. That’s right, where some drinks are equal parts liquor and mixer, (or even more mixer than liquor) this one is all liquor with just a splash or two of mixer to give it that bright citrus flavor. That extra alcohol also helps do what the cocktail was created for – ply the weaker sex. Hey, I didn’t create the cocktail, but honestly, with a name like the Maiden’s Prayer, what did you expect? While the drink may make it easier to lose one’s inhibitions, the real reason to taste this cocktail (and the reason it’s one of my faves) is that the lemon and orange juices don’t overpower it. Instead, they compliment the gin making that the reason you should shake up a Maiden’s Prayer to woo that special someone.

In 1856 Thekla Badarzewska-Baranowska published a simple piano piece called “La prière d’une vierge.” It took Europe by storm and quickly jumped over to these shores, whereupon John Stowell Adams added some lyrics and re-titled it “A Maiden’s Prayer.” Of course it was a big hit. So several years later (though no one knows why it took so long) Frank Newman, a Parisian bartender, created his version of a Maiden’s Prayer. His version, made of rum, orgeat syrup, créme de menthe, curaçao and champagne is not the version we all know and love today. It’s also not the refreshing cocktail anyone would dream of ordering during these dog days of summer. The modern version showed up on the bar scene around 1930, isn’t nearly as complicated and is definitely more palatable.

Having sampled both, I’m here to tell you that the 1930′s version is the one to shake up, especially if you’re a citrus fan. And if you are looking to woo someone, this drink will definitely put them in the mood.

Maiden’s Prayer

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 oz. dry gin
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. orange juice

Directions:

  1. Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for 1 minute. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve.

You’ve heard me talk about the Food Bloggers of Los Angeles. We’re a group of food bloggers who get together once a month to discuss our blogs, food and everything in between. That in between could be as simple as discussing the future of social media or as exciting as tours of local farms, restaurants or even markets. This month, we were lucky enough to get a tour of that wonderful indoor market in downtown Los Angeles, the Grand Central Market. If you’re like me and you’ve never been, you need to get over there. The place is amazing and the food choices are out of this world!

Grand Central Market today

I’ve been wanting to go to the Grand Central Market ever since I saw it featured in the Meg Ryan movie, City of Angels. While the movie isn’t anything special, those scenes in the market really intrigued me. It was cool seeing rows and rows of produce housed inside a big warehouse. I originally thought the Market was just a permanent farmers market, but turns out it’s much, much more.

Grand Central Market in the 20's courtesy of grandcentralmarket.com

The Grand Central Market has been sitting between Broadway and Hill since it first opened in 1917. While it was originally a place to get all your basic groceries from produce to baked goods and coffee, just like the city around it, the market has evolved to include several specialty vendors and restaurants. No matter what you’re craving, I guarantee there’s a booth for it. Want coffee? G & B Coffee will make it anyway you want. Not sure what to include on your cheese plate for your next party?  Lydia Clarke and her sister, Marnie at DTLA Cheese will help you find the perfect choice by simply asking a couple questions. Looking for fresh pressed juice? Press Brothers has every concoction imaginable and they’re so fresh, each bottle has its own expiration date. Looking for that perfect cut of meat? Talk to head butcher, Jered Standing at Belcampo Meat Co. That’s what I did, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Lydia and Reed standing over their amazing cheeses

Recently I’ve been buying steaks at the farmer’s markets because they just seem to taste better. I’d love to go to a butcher, but there really aren’t any near me. So I was thrilled to meet Jered and hear all about Belcampo. They sell beef, pork, lamb, chicken and duck and they’re all bred right here in California. But unlike other butchers (or the supermarket for that matter), Belcampo prides itself on selling and using as much of the animal as they can.

While there weren’t any in the display case that day, they do usually have a cow’s head or two to sell, beef tongue is very popular, the hides cover banquets in their San Francisco restaurant and they frequently use the bones for soups and stocks. Of course they sell lard, and they make a lip smacking lard butter. But what interested me most was the velvet steak.

Yes, that's a whole lamb Jered's holding and those are the tools with which he's going to chop it up.

I’d never heard of velvet steak before, so I asked about it. According to Standing it’s a small piece of meat found buried in the hind shanks. While the meat surrounding the velvet steak can be tough, this is very moist and lean. I was intrigued, so I purchased it and decided to use Ina Garten’s marinade of olive oil salt and fresh tarragon. The end result was just as tender and delicious as Standing promised. And adding a dollop of Belcampo’s lard butter made it even better.

My experience with Grand Central Market and Belcampo Meats was so amazing I promise to return. But this time I’m bringing a big appetite and lots of cash so I can hit every single vendor Grand Central Market has to offer, including Belcampo’s amazing french fries fried in beef fat.

Tarragon Steak

Ingredients:

  • 2 velvet steaks
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons smoked sea salt
  • 10 branches fresh tarragon

Directions:

  1. Pat steaks dry with paper towel. Place the steaks in a deep dish and brush all over with the oil. Sprinkle all over with the salt. Place the tarragon branches on the steaks and tie in place with kitchen string to keep them from moving. Marinate in the fridge for at least one hour.
  2. Pour a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a heavy, 10″ iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Lower the heat to medium.
  3. Remove the branches from the steaks and place them in the skillet. Cook for 7-10 minutes per side for medium-rare. Serve immediately with a dollop of lard butter and your favorite side or salad.

As you all know it’s peach season, and for me, peaches always meant fruit salad, tarts, pies, cakes and maybe even ice cream. But recently I realized I was limiting myself. I mean, I love adding sweet things to savory dishes. It gives more depth to the dish and provides a delicious flavor that’s usually a nice surprise. I’ve added peaches to chicken and a few weeks ago I smothered pork chops with a delicious peach barbecue sauce. But I’ve never combined savory and sweet in a salad.

When I think of salad, I think of either mixed greens with a tangy dressing or chopped fruit with a splash of something sweet. Then I thought about all those fruit salsas that combine onions and herbs with mangoes or peaches for a spicy yet sweet topping over fish or steaks. I figured if it works so well as a salsa, why couldn’t it work as a salad?

I was not alone in my thinking. When I started searching on peach salads, so many options popped up, I didn’t know where to look first. I finally settled on a simple choice from My Recipes that not only happened to work with what I had in the fridge, it also allowed me to try out my newest OXO product: the Little Salad Dressing Shaker.

This little dressing shaker is absolutely awesome. First off I love the color! It’s so bright and happy, it’ll never get lost in the back of the fridge. But better than the color is how easy it is to use. I mean, even my two-year-old can use it (and has). All you do is pour all the dressing ingredients into the jar, screw on the lid, shake like crazy for a minute or so and pour over your salad. And if there’s any dressing left over (which if you’re anything like me there always is) simply seal the pour spout and stick it in the fridge. It won’t take up much space and depending on how much dressing you’ve made, it should keep your salads dressed for at least a week.

Even though the shaker is one of the coolest kitchen tools I own, this post is really about the salad. I enjoy the flavors so much in fact, I’ve made it several times. But while the salad is absolutely delicious on its own, it’s even better when paired with your favorite protein. Needless to say, I’m sure this side will be gracing my dinner plate again, especially since there are still a couple months left to peach season.

Summer Peach and Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound ripe peaches, pitted and cut into wedges
  • 1/4 pound of your favorite heirloom tomatoes, cut into thick wedges
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine first four ingredients (through the cheese) in a large salad bowl.
  2. Mix the vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper together in the dressing shaker. Cap and shake vigorously for about 1 minute.
  3. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Bee’s Knees

Posted by Jenn. Comment (0).

Looking back on my recent cocktail posts (excluding the specialized holiday ones), I was surprised to discover a lot of them were gin drinks. It seemed odd to me, especially since I’m a vodka girl. But when I thought about the fact that most of the recipes I post predate or are from the Prohibition, it made a little bit more sense. After all gin, especially the bathtub kind, was a lot easier to get (or make).

Gin is basically grain alcohol mixed with a variety of botanicals like juniper berries or liquorice. So the liquor tends to have a strong herbal flavor. Try to reproduce that flavor in your bathtub, you’ll probably end up with something that smells and tastes like turpentine, which in all likelihood is why so many of these cocktails are rather heavy handed when it comes to mixers. But enough of the genealogy of gin. All this preamble is to state that yes, I am in fact doing another gin cocktail.

Just like most of my gin beverages, today’s cocktail predates the Prohibition. While it’s true that the cocktail appears in William Boothby’s 1930 cocktail compendium, World Drinks and How to Mix Them, it is believed that he originally published this recipe in a much earlier version. One that dates all the way back to 1900. But just because he published the cocktail doesn’t necessarily mean he created it. No one’s sure where it came from other than it’s a riff on the gin sour, sweetened up to hide the gasoline-like flavor of the early bathtub gins.

The name comes from a popular saying of the time. If someone or something was the bee’s knees, it meant they were top notch. This cocktail is definitely that. And since one of its main ingredients is honey, I’d say the moniker suits this beverage perfectly.

Bee’s Knees

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for 1 minute. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

I love this time of year. Not only can I finally pull my tank tops and shorts out of their drawers, but with the beach just a few blocks away, swimming has become my family’s national pastime. But this warm weather also means more dinners are being prepared via grill. There’s nothing better than cooking outside with that cool ocean breeze blowing through your hair. It doesn’t matter if you’re having friends over or just cooking for the family. Cooking outdoors can be a blast. Especially when you have the right tools.

OXO was nice enough to send me a grilling care package that included a Silicone Basting Brush and a pair of 16″ Tongs. I already had OXO’s regular basting brush which I use constantly so I was thrilled when they sent me their large one. Now I finally had a brush I could use to baste my protein without burning my fingers. This little brush is 14 inches long and holds the liquid from the sauces quite well. Plus its angled head means I won’t get sauce all over my nice new countertops.

I also own OXO’s Nylon Tongs which I’m so in love with I’ve given them as gifts to friends. So again, you can imagine how happy I was to get an extra long set specifically for the grill. Up until I had these 16-inch tongs, I was using a fork to flip my steaks and burgers, which isn’t nearly as handy. I could never get a good grip with a fork and sometimes I’d lose a piece of burger between the grates. With the tongs that’s not a problem. I get a good grip every time, and like the basting brush, the extra length keep my hands far from that burning flame.

But the tongs aren’t just good for picking up chicken or chops, they can handle fruit as well. Yes, I grill fruit; quite frequently actually. The heat makes the fruit even sweeter than it already is, and depending on what kind of wood or charcoal you use there’s a smokiness that just can’t be achieved indoors. Afraid the juices from the fruit will make it slippery? If it does, the tongs don’t know it. They can grab that fruit and flip it no problem. They’re actually what I used to make this peach barbecue sauce since the first ingredient is grilled peaches.

This recipe was actually perfect for OXO’s care package. Since we’re right in the middle of peach season, I’m using and eating peaches every chance I get. And while most people (including me) tend to use peaches for desserts and snacks, I like adding them to savory dishes as well. They bring an unexpected sweetness that rounds out the entrée and delights the tastebuds. This barbecue sauce did all that and more. It wasn’t anything like that tomato and molasses sauce that’s so common this time of year. Instead it was smokey, sweet and delightfully fruity. It paired perfectly with the pork but would be just as yummy on fish or even chicken.

So, thanks OXO for sending me these great tools to improve my grilling experience. It was hard to keep me away from the grill before I had them (just ask Hubs). But now… well it’s possible that my beautiful new stove may have been replaced… at least for the next couple months.

Grilled Pork Chops with Peach Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • 3 large peaches, halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium purple onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat your grill to 350°F.
  2. Mix together the first 6 ingredients (through the brown sugar) in a bowl until well combined. Generously rub the spices onto all sides of the pork chop. Set chops aside while you make the barbecue sauce.
  3. Oil the grill and place the peaches, cut side down on the grill until browned, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the grill, chop into small pieces and set aside.
  4. Pour the oil into a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until golden brown about 10 minutes. Add the ginger and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add the molasses, orange juice, sugar, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is reduced by half, 15- 20 minutes.
  6. Transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor. Add the grilled peaches and puree until smooth. Pour 1/3 of a cup of the barbecue sauce into a bowl to baste the chops with, then pour the rest into a small serving bowl and set aside.
  7. Baste the chops, and place on the grill to cook, flipping once, until desired doneness, 10 – 15 minutes. During the last minute of cooking on each side, baste the chops again with the sauce. Serve the chops with the extra barbecue sauce.

Disclosure: OXO provided me with the Silicone Basting Brush and Tongs to use and review.  I was not compensated for this review. Any opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced in any way by the manufacturer/PR firm as I only review products that I have personally tested and endorse.