Saturday, August 5, 2017

summer in my kitchen | cocktails, grilled peaches and strawberry salsa

I had grand plans to do a weekly summer cocktail  series on the blog, but alas, it's August and while many cocktails have been made and enjoyed they have not been blogged about.  Typical. ;)  I'm going to round up a few that we really liked since there are still plenty of warm sunny days ahead!  I'm also going to share a couple other summer favorites while I'm at it and the farm stands are overflowing with fresh fruit.

For me, cocktails need to be pretty fuss free, with ingredients we almost always have on hand.  Nothing more annoying than having to make a special trip to the store just to prepare a spontaneous drink.  Ok, I take that back, plenty of things are more annoying, but you know what I mean.  If I have to run to the store to make it, it likely isn't going to happen.  After all, cocktails are an end of the day kind of affair and by then I don't have the energy to go seeking out special ingredients.  Now, if we were planning drinks for a party that would be different.

I do like the way this little bar tray area has taken shape in our dining room.  I love the collection of pretty bottles and the way it changes from week to week.  I never really quite had this table "styled" in a way that worked.  It always looked pretty when entertaining - I'd use it for cheese trays or desserts or drink set ups - but for everyday living it was kind of blah.   The tray sits on one of my favorite antique tables, a pretty barley twist gateleg that I found when antiquing for a day in Louisville with my Mum quite a few years ago. Now for the cocktails...

3 oz. Pimm's No. 1
San Pelligrino Limonata (Sparkling Lemon)
Garnish with a very thin sliver of cucumber, an orange slice, a mint leaf and a strawberry (I put them all on a single long toothpick across the top of the drink when I'm feeling fancy or skip the garnish all together when I'm feeling lazy.)

Fill a highball all the way with ice.  Pour in Pimms and Pellegrino and stir.  Then garnish.  I tried this with homemade lemonade, with lemon lime soda, and Pellegrino and the sparkling lemon Pellegrino was my favorite!!

1.5 oz Campari or Aperol
1.5 oz sweet vermouth
Orange Slice

Pour into a high ball full of ice and stir.  I LOVE this drink!

Lemon Basil Mojito
(adapted from The Forest Feat)
Basil leaf
Mint leaf
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs of rum

In a lowball, muddle basil and mint a little.  Add sugar, lemon juice, rum and stir. Top with seltzer.  Super refreshing!  Easy to drink and not too strong.

Blackberry Negroni
(from The Forest Feast)
2 Tbs gin
2 Tbs Campari
2 Tbs sweet vermouth

Shake together with ice.  Serve in a lowball or smaller glass with ice and blackberries.  This one is good but has a much bigger kick than the ones above.  

So from cocktails to dessert... (covering all the important bases this summer).  A couple weeks ago, fresh peaches started appearing at the farm stands and I was delighted.  My sister in law turned me on to grilling peaches last summer and they are such a simple luxury! Oh how a love eating warm fruit for dessert and when it's in season there is no need for a pie crust or crumble topping to make it amazing. I actually prefer using my grill pan but the outdoor grill works well too.  I like to use peaches that are ripe, makes a big difference in the texture and cooking time.

 I've tried all sorts of cooking techniques when grilling peaches but this is my favorite.

Grilled Peaches
Ripe peaches
Brown sugar
Olive oil
Mascarpone Cheese
Topping Options: Nuts or granola

Slice peach in half and remove the pit.  (Another reason you need a properly ripe peach or this step doesn't go as smoothly.) Very lightly brush each half with olive oil. (Canola works well too)  Place on a warm, but not super hot grill.  You want to grill it and have it warm the peach through but not char and burn it.  If the grill is too warm (which occasionally happens with our charcoal grill) it will burn/char the outside before the inside is fully warmed through.  Not tasty. Once they have light grill marks and are warmed through (a few minutes), remove and top with a little brown sugar (about 1 tsp), then a small dollop of Mascarpone (vanilla ice cream or whip cream would be delicious too!!) and garnish with nuts or granola if you like for a little crunch.  I don't bother toasting the nuts but I'm sure toasted nuts would be even better.

Now for my last recipe - strawberry salsa.  This whole post really exemplifies summer in the kitchen for me.  I keep things so simple and fresh.  It is all about what tastes good after a day spent in the sun but requires very little thinking and can easily adapt to omitting or adding ingredients based on what I've picked up at the farmer's market or from a friend's garden. ;)

The first time I saw a recipe for strawberry salsa was in the Forest Feast cookbook.  Some of the above cocktails were inspired by that book too. I've made some additions and modifications to the salsa recipe to suit our preferences, but like all salsas, you can add or delete as you like, just keep the strawberries, lime juice and something green and go from there.

This salsa is great on chips, crackers, with grilled shrimp, or as a little side salad with a brunch!

Strawberry Salsa
2 cups strawberries, diced
1 small tomato, seeded + diced
1 TBS chopped fresh mint
1 bundle cilantro, chopped
the juice of one lime
1/4 medium size red onion, very finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

Mix all together in a medium bowl and refrigerate.  Keeps for a couple days, but it never lasts longer than a couple hours. ;)  I had a hair dresser years ago that hosted a salsa party at the start of every summer for her girlfriends.  Each brought a salsa to share and she provided drinks and chips.  I've always wanted to recreate that and whenever I come across a unique salsa I make a mental note that it would be perfect for my future salsa party!  Her specialty was a mango salsa.  Maybe I should try plan one before school starts back up... Hmmm...