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Grilled Sausage Salad

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I don’t know about you, but when it’s hot, I’m never very hungry. I’ll nibble here and there, but I never like big, heavy meals because there’s just too much food that usually ends up making me feel really blech. So, when it’s hot, I tend to eat light and that means salad.

While I have no problem eating salads that are full of fresh produce like heirloom tomatoes, lettuce and baby carrots, I love it when a salad has proteins in it, especially if they’re grilled. Absolutely nothing compares to a salad full of grilled chicken or steak to add a little salt and a delicious smokey flavor to a bowl full of leafy greens. So, when I found this Grilled Sausage Salad from Jamie Bissonnette, I knew I had to make it. It was simple, ready in no time and absolutely delicious.

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What makes this salad unlike others I’ve had, is that the vegetables are marinated in the dressing. See, Bissonnette grew up eating salads that were drowning in bottled Italian dressing. So, he decided it would be healthier to not only make his own dressing but marinate the produce in it before hand. By marinating the carrots and cucumbers ahead of time, you get that wonderful tang from the dressing throughout the whole dish without feeling like you’re drowning.

Just like Bissonnette, I also hate salads that are served with waaaay too much dressing, which is why, whenever I order a salad, I always ask for dressing on the side. It’s also why I never, ever dress a salad when I make my own because I know there are those who prefer lighter dressed salads. By serving the dressing on the side everyone gets the kind of salad they want. But by marinating the veggies ahead of time you get a salad that doesn’t even need dressing since the carrots and cucumbers already have the flavor seeping from every pore. Then when you toss the grilled sausage and lettuce in the mix, those marinated veggies get a smokey flavor while the sausage gets the tang from the marinade. It’s the perfect combination: filling, but light enough to be a great summer dinner option.

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Grilled Sausage Salad (adapted from Food & Wine Magazine)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 small head of butter lettuce, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the grill to 350°F.
  2. Whisk together the first six ingredients (through the salt and pepper) in a large bowl. Add the carrots and cucumbers and toss to coat. Set aside and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  3. While the veggies marinate, grill the sausages for 15 – 20 minutes or until charred and cooked all the way through. Transfer the sausages to a cutting board and slice into 1-inch slices.
  4. Transfer the carrots and cucumbers to another bowl. Add the sausage and lettuce and toss until combined. Season with a little more salt and pepper, drizzle with as much of the leftover dressing you like and serve.

Boxcar

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When I think of gin drinks that are served in cocktail glasses, the martini is the first to come to mind. But it turns out there are lots of cocktails that use gin and are served up in martini glasses: the vesper, the gibson, the gimlet… you get the picture. They’re all strong classics from a bygone era that are well worth a sip or two. So, whenever I find another, I shake it up and give it a taste. The Boxcar is just such a drink.

While I couldn’t find a lot about the cocktail’s history other than it’s from Prohibition, I can tell you it’s a little sweeter than the Vesper or the Martini thanks to the Cointreau and the sugar rim. Then there’s the Grenadine. Some recipes I found use it and others don’t. It’s all a matter of preference, much like the gin you use. If you do choose to use the grenadine, all you need is a dash or two because that’s all it takes to turn this drink pale pink and make it slightly sweeter. If you’d like it even sweeter though, then go with a sweeter gin like Citadelle. If however, you prefer your gin cocktails on the dryer side, forget the grenadine and use a nice dry London gin like Bombay.

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But it’s not the grenadine or gin that make this cocktail stand out. It’s the egg white. Now, I know there are those who might balk at the idea of using a raw egg in a cocktail, but I can tell you, you have nothing to worry about. As a matter of fact, the American Egg Board estimates that only one in every 20,000 eggs might be infected with the salmonella virus. So, the odds of you getting sick from a raw egg are pretty slim. Those odds are more than enough for me to add that egg. But it’s not just those odds that have me going back for fizzes and flips, it’s the fact that that egg white gives the cocktail a nice creamy texture that feels great on the palate. It makes the whole cocktail richer and better for special occasions.

So, if you find yourself puckering at the thought of sipping on the drier Vesper or Martini, give the Boxcar a try. Not only is it a beautiful cocktail, it’s a great introduction to those stronger Prohibition drinks that are also served up in coupes or cocktail glasses.

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Boxcar

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine (optional)
  • 1 egg white

Directions:

  1. Sugar the rim of a coupe glass by rubbing the rim of the glass with a wedge of a lime and then dip in sugar.
  2. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Add ice and shake again for another 20 seconds.
  3. Strain into the prepared coupe and serve.

Grilled Orange Chicken

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I hate being inside when the weather’s warm. All I want to do is hang by the pool or play on the beach or just lay in the backyard and read a book or magazine. The last thing I want to do is be stuck inside and cook over a hot stove, especially when my stove is a vintage gas range where the gas is always on. That means my kitchen is always hot. So, during the summer, I cook outside and use my grill.

My favorite things to grill are chicken, steak, vegetables as well as fruit. While they’re all good on their own, they’re even better when you mix and match. Every summer I make my Grilled Chicken and Corn Salad because it’s so easy and so good. I also like to grill up a few oranges and lemons and make Sangria. But this year I discovered a delicious chicken and orange recipe from Good Housekeeping that will definitely be on my summer menu from now on.

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What’s great about this recipe is that it doesn’t take very long to make (only about 35 minutes once the grill is hot), and the chicken comes out juicy and crispy thanks to the spice rub and orange juice. But what I really love about this recipe is how versatile it is. See, my children and I hate spicy food, but my husband loves it, as do a lot of other people I know. So, while the recipe calls for couple teaspoons of ground chipotle chiles, they can easily be left out of the savory spice rub and you won’t lose any of the delicious flavor. But that rub isn’t the only reason these thighs are so good.

See, I love savory spices on proteins. But when you add a sweet and tangy juice… well that just raises the bar to a whole other level. The juice in this recipe comes from oranges. I used Valencias because they’re so sweet, but any orange will do. I didn’t just squeeze the orange juice over the chicken, though. I grilled them first. Grilling the oranges add a nice smokey tang that’s unlike eating the oranges straight out of the peel. It’s that smokey tang combined with the savory spices that move this chicken dish to the top of my summer dinner menu and make it perfect for either a large backyard barbecue or a small family dinner.

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Grilled Orange Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground chipotle chile (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 4 pounds chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Valencia oranges, cut into quarters
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Preheat the grill to about 350°F.
  2. Whisk together the sugar, chile (if using), cumin, garlic and onion powders, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Toss the chicken with the oil in a large bowl and then sprinkle with the spice mixture, rubbing it in to make sure the thighs are evenly coated.
  4. Place the chicken on the grill and cover and cook for 20 – 25 minutes, flipping once. Place the oranges on the grill for the last 5 minutes, or until there’s a nice char on them. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Then squeeze the juice from the oranges over the chicken, garnish with the scallions and serve.

Merciless Virgin

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I’ve been doing a lot of gin and vodka cocktails this summer because like I’ve said in the past, I prefer drinking the lighter liquors when the weather gets warm. But this week I’m making a tiki cocktail because if there’s a drink more suited to summer, it’s a tiki drink.

Tiki drinks almost always have rum and a variety of tropical fruit juices to simulate life on the tropical islands. Islands like Hawaii or Tahiti or the Bahamas. Those same islands where most of us dream of vacationing. But if you can’t get to the South Pacific, you can still drink like you’re there with a variety of tiki drinks from the Mai Tai to the Singapore Sling.

The Merciless Virgin is another cocktail that will have you dreaming of tranquil waters and white beaches. Although not as well known as the Hurricane or Zombie, this cocktail absolutely falls into the tiki category thanks to its tropical, fruity flavors. But unlike those other classics, the flavors in the Virgin don’t come from the standard mixers of pineapple and/or passion fruit juices. Instead fruit liquors like orange curaçao and Cherry Heering keep this drink sweet and tropical while giving it a bit of a kick.

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The Virgin may sound like something from the mantle of tiki masters Victor Bergeron of Trader Vic’s and Ernest “Donn” Gantt of Don the Beachcomber, but this cocktail actually comes from Frank “Skipper” Kent. Kent preceded both these titans with his own San Francisco tiki bar. Much like Trader Vic’s (which supposedly got its inspiration from Kent’s), Skipper Kent’s was a beacon of the tiki world. One magazine even called it “A rum bar where the world’s greatest collection of rums and liqueurs are stocked” and it was said of Kent that “He [was] considered a foremost authority on rum and has visited practically all the West Indies and other islands, where rum is the national drink.” So, it makes sense that Kent wanted to create a drink that would remind him of those virginal women of those tropical isles. He described this drink as “merciless. Ah! Moon of my delight – that knows no wane – The moon of heaven has risen once again. How oft hereafter rising – shall she look – through this same garden – after me – in vain!” With a description like that it’s easy to see why this cocktail is merciless. More than one, and you’ll no longer be a virgin to the tiki cocktail.

So this weekend (or any time this summer) shake up a Merciless Virgin and dream of warm summer breezes and white sandy beaches… after all that’s what the Skipper would have wanted.

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Merciless Virgin

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce club soda
  • 1/2 ounce Cherry Heering
  • 1/2 ounce Velvet Falernum
  • 1/4 ounce Dry Curaçao
  • 1-1/2 ounces lightly aged rum

Directions:

  1. Pour all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add crushed ice and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds.
  2. Pour contents of shaker into a footed pilsner glass, garnish with a couple maraschino cherries and serve.

Pegu Club Cocktail

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If there’s one thing that goes well with gin and vodka (my two liquors of choice during the spring and summer) it’s citrus juice. That pop of tart flavor melds very nicely with the lighter liquors which is why it’s such a popular choice both today and yesterday. I mean, look at the classic cocktails: the screwdriver uses orange juice and the gimlet uses lime. There’s the gin rickey which also uses lime juice but the gin fizz uses lemon. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

All of these drinks are delicious and have stood the test of time, so clearly using citrus juices wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Mixologists all over use a variety of citrus juices in both classics and new creations alike. The Pegu Club is no different, it uses lime juice. But where all those other classics only use one citrus, the Pegu uses several.

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Okay in reality, the Pegu only uses one juice: lime. But there’s another citrus flavor that’s pretty prominent in this drink. There’s orange thanks in no small part to the Orange Curaçao as well as orange bitters. All those citrus flavors meld nicely with the gin making this cocktail taste as if it’s just been plucked off a tree in the middle of an orange grove… which it kinda was.

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The original Pegu Club was a club built in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar) in 1880 to serve British army officers. Surrounded by orange groves and filled with that wonderful citrus sent, the club wanted to create a cocktail all its own. One that officers would travel far and wide to seek out. Since those orange blossoms filled the air, it only seemed right that the cocktail take those smells and turn them into flavors. While we’re not entirely sure when the cocktail was actually created, it first appeared in print in 1927, in Harry MacElhone’s Barflies and Cocktails. But it was Harry Craddock who wrote in his Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930 that the drink was “one of the favorite cocktails of The Pegu Club, Burma, and one that has traveled, and is asked for, around the world.”

Although the cocktail disappeared sometime around WWII,  Audrey Sauders, brought it back to life when she opened up a bar of the same name in Manhattan in 2005 using the tart tipple as her signature drink. It was such a hit, the drink and her “club” took off. After tasting it, I can see why. As I’ve seen in several classics that combine citrus and light liquors, they meld quite well together making this (and those other drinks I mentioned earlier) perfect for warm weather.

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Pegu Club

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce orange curaçao
  • a dash of Angostura bitters
  • a dash of orange bitters

Directions:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously until chilled.
  2. Strain into a coup glass, garnish with a wedge of lime and serve.