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Creole Cocktail

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If you’re a Manhattan fan, you’re going to love this week’s cocktail. If you’re not… just wait until next week. Since it’s the last week of Bourbon Heritage Month, I had to bring you at least one more bourbon cocktail. (Don’t worry, there will be more, especially since I’m off to Bourbon Central, Kentucky!)

As I mentioned, this cocktail bares a striking resemblance to the Manhattan. Both are made with bourbon and sweet Vermouth. But where the Manhattan uses bitters and an actual maraschino cherry, the Creole uses Benedictine and maraschino liqueur. While the original recipe from 1916 calls for Amer Picon, the maraschino has often been substituted since it’s impossible to get Amer Picon in the States. (It’s a French liqueur that isn’t even sold over here.) But no matter whether you use the Amer Picon or the Maraschino, both add some nice fruity notes that when coupled with the herbal tones of the Benedictine, make for one hell of a cocktail; something that should be sipped slowly by the dim crackle of a warm fire.

Sorry there’s no story today. Try as I might, I just couldn’t find anything on how or when the cocktail was created. The only thing I found was that the Creole was first listed in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks from 1916. But any cocktail from a book that predates WWI is vintage enough for me and this blog. The fact that it’s also delicious, makes it the perfect bourbon cocktail with which to close out Bourbon Heritage Month. Don’t you agree?

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Creole Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Maraschino liquor
  • 2 dashes Benedictine

Directions:

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

labeled steak

Summer is coming to a close, which means soon all those delicious stone fruits will be gone. But don’t cry just yet. There are still a few days of warm weather left and all that beautiful fruit is still available, which means there’s still time to make this wonderful dinner.

I found this recipe while flipping through my Food and Wine Magazine. I’ve always loved steak, especially when cooked on the grill. But I never thought about ladling fruit over it. If I put anything on top of my steak, it’s usually an herbed butter or some type of gravy. Sometimes for flavor, I’ll marinate the meat in a fruit juice or soy sauce. But whole pieces of fruit chopped up and served with the meat had never crossed my mind.

This salsa isn’t just made up of fruit though. It’s got onions and olives in it as well. So while the sweet flavors of the cherries and plums definitely stand out, the savory flavors of the onions and olives add a nice balance. And even though I used Lindsay’s California Green Ripe olives for my salsa, a plain black olive would work just as well. The important thing though, is to have all the flavors meld together, and a saltier olive, like a Kalamata, would overpower the salsa, turning it into a very different dish.

But the dish I made, green olives and all, was so tasty I’ll definitely make it again. See, I wasn’t the only one excited about this meal, my boys were too. Not that it’s any surprise, I mean, who can say no to cherries and plums? Yes, I said cherries and plums.

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Grilled Skirt Steak with Fruit Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large green tomato, cored and chopped
  • 1 large plum, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cherries, pitted and quartered (frozen is okay as long as they’ve been thawed)
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (2 pound) skirt steak, cut into 4 pieces

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the red wine vinegar and soy sauce.
  2. Heat the remaining olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Scrape the onion into the vinaigrette and let the mixture cool.
  3. Add the green tomato, plum, cherries, olives, basil, parsley and cilantro. Toss well, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. Preheat the grill. Brush the steaks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the steaks over high heat, turning once, until lightly charred outside and medium-rare within, about 6 minutes. Transfer the steaks to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes, then thinly slice across the grain. Place the steaks on 4 plates, top with the fruit salsa and serve.

Brown Derby

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Since we’re right smack dab in the middle of Bourbon Heritage Month, I would be remiss if I didn’t introduce you to another bourbon cocktail for your Friday Happy Hour. So, today I present the Brown Derby.

Yes, this cocktail was named after that famed Los Angeles restaurant, The Brown Derby. But funny story, this cocktail was not created at the restaurant. The cocktail was originally called the De Rigueur and could be found in Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. Sometime after Craddock’s book made the rounds another famous Los Angeles restaurant of the time, the Vendome, decided to rename the popular beverage. They titled it the Brown Derby, maybe as a tip of their hat to their friendly competitor. Since The Brown Derby restaurant was such a hot spot (there were three of them in their heyday) the name stuck.

Like the restaurant, this cocktail is also a classic. Similar to a whiskey sour, it’s mixed with citrus juice and a sweetener. In this case the citrus is grapefruit and the sweetener is a honey syrup. The combination makes for a delightful cocktail that’s both sweet and sour at the same time. Plus the sweetness of the bourbon pairs nicely with the honey. And here’s the real kicker, since there are so many bourbons and so many different honeys, each cocktail will have a slightly different flavor. So, if you have a favorite bourbon (mine’s Woodford) and a favorite honey, go ahead and mix up a Brown Derby using those. But give another bourbon a try too because you never know, you just might like the alternative Derby better than the first. Hmmm… now that sounds like a challenge even I can get behind.

The Brown Derby

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz. honey syrup (1:1 honey to water)

Directions:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for at least one minute. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

Sweet Corn Risotto

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I’m so over the heat. It’s been hot and sticky here in Southern California for weeks now. While I’ve never been a fan of hot weather, I especially hate humidity. But evidently Mother Nature forgot that we don’t live on the east coast and has graced us with some serious humidity. It’s been awful. So awful in fact that the idea of cooking has been an absolute turn off. I know. Me having no desire to cook means the universe is seriously out of alignment. Unfortunately I and the rest of my family still have to eat which means I have to cook.

But just because I have to get dinner on the table doesn’t mean it has to be made on a stove or in an oven. As a matter of fact, there are tons of options that don’t involve turning those little dials. There’s the grill, which I adore because it gets me outside. There are salads which just involve chopping fresh fruits or vegetables. Or if you really want to cook, there’s the slow cooker.

Have I told you how much I love my slow cooker? It makes cooking so much easier. Just chop up the ingredients, put them all inside, turn on the pot, set the timer and voilà, you’re done. It’s cooking without standing over a hot stove. There’s no stirring, no waiting for the butter to melt, no standing over a hot stove… I know I already said that. But in this heat, that’s a huge plus. The kind of plus that puts a big ol’ smile on my face. I’m pretty sure it’ll put one on yours too.

Sweet Corn Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 4-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, like Chardonnay
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 4 ears of white corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Directions:

  1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain the bacon and reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in skillet. Crumble the bacon and set aside.
  2. Add the onion to the reserved fat in the skillet and cook until tender, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the wine to the skillet and simmer for 2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the rice and transfer the mixture to your slow cooker. Stir in the broth, corn and salt. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 90 minutes or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the butter until melted.
  4. Spoon the risotto into four bowls, top with the crumbled bacon and serve.

Ravioli with Peaches

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That’s right, peaches and ravioli. Weird combo, right? Not something you’d ever think of putting together on the same dish, right? Well, you’re not alone. When I saw this recipe in Better Homes and Gardens that’s exactly the first thought that went through my mind.

Could this actually be good? I mean, of course I’d had alfredo, bolognese, marinara and pesto over a variety of pastas. But fruit? Who puts fruit on pasta? Yes, I know that tomatoes are a fruit, but that’s different. Tomato sauce is a tradition as old as time. (Okay, maybe not quite that old.) The point is I’ve never, ever heard of sautéing sweet stone fruits and ladling them over cheese ravioli. But being the adventurous person that I am (and the fact that I love peaches) I figured I’d give it a try.

It actually works. I don’t know why I’m surprised though, because I’ve always been a big fan of sweet fruits and jellies spread over salty cheeses. You know, that whole sweet and salty thing. While I’m not sure the sautéed peaches would go well with a meat-filled pasta, they were wonderful with the 4-cheese ravioli I picked.

The best thing about this recipe? Since I used pre-made ravioli, it only took about 20 minutes to prepare and plate. If that doesn’t have week-night family dinner written all over it, I don’t know what does.

Ravioli with Peaches

Ingredients:

  • 20 oz. package of cheese ravioli
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 large peaches, sliced
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook the ravioli according to the package directions. Drain, return to the pot and cover to keep warm.
  2. While the ravioli is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned.
  3. Add the peaches, parsley, Parmesan, and lemon zest to the skillet and cook until heated through. Once the ravioli is finished cooking, add it to the skillet and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and serve.