Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Streusel shortcake, redux

Leftover streusel shortcake means one of two things: either you ran out of strawberries with cinnamon and amaretto, or you want to do something fun with the peaches you scored so you can eat more streusel shortcake. 

Yes, we ran out of strawberries.  And yes, we scored peaches.  And Vindaloo being Vindaloo, she decided to macerate the peaches in Domaine de Canton, a French ginger liqueur, which was a lovely counterpoint to the fresh peaches.

This is a gorgeous elixir, pungent with Vietnamese ginger, great for sipping on its own, or for enhancing whatever you think would pair well with ginger.  Think stonefruit, blueberries, apples and pears.  Domaine de Canton also makes beautiful cocktails.  Currently, The French Ginger Martini is a fave for its combination of orange and ginger elements.  Make sure your ingredients are ice cold before sipping so you can enjoy the transformation as the cocktail slowly warms.  I've found allowing the cocktail to warm slowly to be a challenge, however, since this drink is so intriguingly tasty.

You can find other magical cocktail recipes here, or you can sip Domaine de Canton straight up in elegant little cordial glasses, which is what we often do.  As you can see by the level of the liquid in the bottle, it's very popular as an after dinner drink at The Voluptuous Table.
Making the peach streusel shortcake is simple using leftover streusel shortcake from the original recipe.  Macerate the peaches, peeled and sliced, for about an hour with a little granulated sugar and a little Domaine de Canton.  Slice and warm the shortbread, spoon the peaches and their juices on top, then top with whipped cream and some chopped crystalized ginger.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Strawberry streusel shortcake with amaretto-cinnamon strawberries and amaretto whipped cream

When a good recipe idea starts with "Combine biscuit mix with...", I'm pretty much out the door.  But wanting an alternative to plain old strawberry shortcake, I persevered, remade the recipe from scratch and presented dessert to delighted tastebuds at a recent dinner party.

Start with lots of fresh strawberries and some good quality cinnamon.

Original photo by Jon Davis, enhanced by Vindaloo Tiramsu.
Then stem them, slice them and combine them with a little sugar, cinnamon and a glug or two of amaretto.  Let them macerate for at least an hour while you make the streusel shortcake.  When you're ready to serve, top with whipped cream sweetened with a little sugar and some more amaretto.

No Bisquick.  All bombshell.


Strawberry Streusel Shortcake with Amaretto-Cinnamon Strawberries and Amaretto Whipped Cream  (adapted from an idea from MrFood.com)

Make the strawberries:

2 cups strawberries, washed stemmed and sliced
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. good-quality cinnamon
1 oz. amaretto

Combine strawberries, sugar, cinnamon and amaretto in a bowl and mix well.  Cover and let sit for one hour at room temperature if using right away; otherwise, cover and chill until ready to use, up to 6 hours.

Make the streusel shortcake:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. sugar
1/2 cup oil 
2/3 to 3/4 cup half and half, milk, or cream
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. good-quality cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup whole skinned almonds, chopped or crushed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease an 8 x 8 baking pan.  Combine first four ingredients in a large bow, then stir in oil and enough milk or cream to make a soft dough.  Spread dough evenly in prepared pan, patting with your hands if necessary.
Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and butter until well-blended; stir in almonds.  Using your fingers, crumble mixture evenly over dough in pan.  Bake for about 15 to 17 minutes or until shortcake springs back when touched with a finger.  Cool on wire rack.

Make the whipped cream:

1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbs. sugar
1 oz. amaretto
toasted sliced almonds, for garnish

In a mixing bowl, combine cream and sugar and whip until soft peaks form. Continue whipping while drizzling in the amaretto.  To assemble dessert, cut shortcake into squares.  Spoon strawberries and some of their juices onto the shortcake.  Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds.  Makes four generous servings.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Blackberry-jalapeno mint juleps

Trust me, your mom needs this drink.  Now.  One or more blackberry-jalapeno mint juleps should make mom feel quite pampered today.  One drink is good.  Two is better.  Three would be just the ticket.  Then make sure you either offer her food or a nap.  Or both.  And even though my mom doesn't drink (her daughter more than makes up for it), I think she would want to start tippling if she had one of these on a pleasant May afternoon.
I've done quite a bit of sampling extensive research recently, testing this recipe until I thought it was fit for the rest of you.  Don't worry, it wasn't quite the sacrifice you might imagine.  I started the day before Derby Day  (those of you who are counting might assume I've been drinking blackberry-jalapeno mint juleps for the past 10 days--not true--I had new wines to try as well), and to further impress you, I taste-tested my final version on a large, scientifically significant sample a group of 35 people, which is plenty of time and effort to ensure credibility.  My home-base recipe was chef Edward Lee's jalapeno mint julep (waaaaaay good) and I wended my way until I wound up with the recipe I'm publishing today. 
Let's just say, for the record, that I'm very good at getting lost with a bottle of bourbon.
For the final Vindaloo-approved version, you'll need to make two simple syrups: one jalapeno and one mint.  Ideally, you'll get the best flavor when this concoction has time to mellow and macerate for at least 24 hours (Version No. 1), but you can do the quick and dirty version and serve it right away if you make Version No. 2, which only involves making the jalapeno simple syrup in enough time to cool it down.  Both versions will do the job, but they'll have different properties.  Version No. 1 is fine and mellow, refined and elegant in the glass; Version No. 2 is bright and peppery with lots of rustic qualities because it is not strained.
Pick your poison.
Vindaloo's Blackberry-Jalapeno Mint Juleps

Version No. 1 (serves 4)
Make the simple syrups:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped, seeds and all
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 bunch mint
In two separate saucepans, combine water and sugar.  Put the jalapenos in one pan and the mint in the other.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and steep with the lids on the pans until syrups have cooked.  Strain and, if you wish to be the Polish grand-daughter who wastes nothing that I am, make candied jalapenos from the dregs of the jalapeno syrup by combining the cooked jalapenos with 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 Tbs. sugar and a little salt in a very small pan and simmering until the liquid is thickened and viscous.  Note: I often make simple syrups out of herbs and other things and freeze them without straining to get maximum benefit from the ingredients. 
Make the drinks:
1/2 cup fresh blackberries, plus extra for garnish
8 oz. bourbon
3 oz. jalapeno simple syrup
3 oz. mint simple syrup
chilled club soda or seltzer water
mint sprigs, for garnish
In a non-reactive bowl or a mason jar, smash the 1/2 cup blackberries to release the juices.  Add the bourbon and the simple syrups and blend well.  Cover and chill for several hours, or up to two days.  When ready to serve fill four short glasses with crushed ice.  Strain and divide bourbon-blackberry mixture evenly among four glasses; top with club soda and stir gently.  Garnish with fresh blackberries and mint sprigs.  Makes 4 drinks.
Version No. 2 (serves 4)
16 mint leaves
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 cup fresh blackberries, plus extra for garnish
8 oz. bourbon
6 oz. jalapeno mint syrup (see instructions in Version No. 1)
chilled club soda or seltzer water
mint sprigs, for garnish
Smash the mint leaves and sugar with the 1/2 cup blackberries in a large pitcher.  Let sit for about 5 minutes to release the aromatics and juices.  Add bourbon and the jalapeno simple syrup and stir well.  Fill four short glasses or cooler with crushed ice.  Divide bourbon mixture among the glasses and top off each glass with club soda and stir gently.  Garnish with fresh blackberries and mint sprigs.  Makes 4 drinks.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Muffins with good intentions

My lovely and talented friend, Jeffrie, recently introduced me to a muffin recipe that has finally ousted a long-time favorite from my heart (and almost from my recipe box).  I used to be a die-hard fan of the classic recipe for refrigerator raisin bran muffins from, oh, I think at least the 1980's.  You remember the recipe?  An entire box of raisin bran, plus a lot more sugar, plus 4 eggs, a cup of oil, buttermilk and a lot of white flour.  You'd mix it up and let it sit overnight to soften the bran flakes, then bake as many as needed at a time.  But the real reason the recipe was a favorite?  The batter keeps in your fridge for up to a month.  So you can repeat your trip into early renal failure daily until the batter is gone. 

In case you haven't guessed it, I was the kind of muffin-eater that tried to accomplish renal failure and cardiac arrest all in one shot by baking all the batter at one time and then eating as many muffins as possible in one sitting.  With lots of butter and cream cheese.

So just in case you want to have a gluten-fest with a lot of extra refined sugar--hey, nothing wrong with that, dude, it's a free country and I'm told you can now get decent health insurance no matter what you've done to yourself--you can find that recipe here.  I'd have to admit they're really tasty, mostly because of the sugar and fat content.  And let's face reality: FAT TASTES GOOD.  It tastes really good when combined with sugar and salt.  I'd have to say that fat, sugar and salt are, at times, my three basic favorite food groups.  I am not ashamed to admit that I like to stimulate my dopamine receptors via oral means.

But I've become more militant responsible about food and in my efforts to clean up some self-destructive eating habits, I think I've finally found a recipe that meets my needs for a muffin of substance and texture, one that tastes great and is wonderfully moist and is wholesome and reliably delicious.  A muffin with good intentions, if you buy into the whole concept of anthropomorphizing your food. 

Which I do.  Because in my world, everything (and everyone) has an agenda.

Months ago, my friend Jeffrie, who loves to cook and has turned me on to some really great recipes (remember the brownies???) introduced me to a muffin recipe that she and her new husband both adore.  I have to agree with them both, these muffins are great.  You will need a food processor or a good blender to mill the oats into flour, but other than that, no special equipment.  I love this recipe for its ability to be transformed by endless variation.  I think you will too.  Find it here, on the blog Honest Fare.

And, just a little hint: husbands love these muffins.  They don't really care about the good intentions.