Saturday, May 30, 2009

Gin Drinks


Both Abby and I think it is incredibly cool to try the cocktails that have gone completely out of style for some reason or another - though I would think no reason is good enough for many of those drinks to be underappreciated.  Firstly would be the Ramos Gin Fizz, which is positively delicious.  We had seen it several times while perusing various other blogs.  Its single obscure ingredient (for most Americans) is orange flower water.  We made ours with a few drops of vanilla extract; this is apparently sacrilige to some, but it was pretty tasty regardless.  The recipe we used is as follows:

1 shot gin
1 egg white
2 oz cream
3-4 drops orange flower water
2 drops vanilla extract
1/2 oz each of lime juice and lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup

Shake dry first for about a minute, then shake with ice for however long you like.  Longer is better.  Then pour and top with soda water. 

Of course, after all the shaking, we had completely forgotten about the soda water.  We ended up both having a Ramos Gin, apparently, but it was still pretty darn good.  Next time, the plan is to actually follow through and add the soda water.  I'd also really like to try the Rose Gin Fizz recipe from

The second drink is a Fizz a la Violette.  It uses a more obscure ingredient in that orange flower water can often be found in Middle Eastern marketplaces, whereas a Fizz a la Violette uses creme de violette, which only recently came back into production after a long hiatus.  We used the Rothman & Winter brand.  The recipe I used is: 

2 oz gin
1 oz creme de violette
1 egg white
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 oz each of lime juice and lemon juice
Shake this in the same manner as the Ramos Gin Fizz, though longer shaking is unnecessary here.  Top with soda water. 

Personally, I really like the sweet, almost dusky flavor of the creme de violette, so I omit the citrus juices in the recipe.  I'm a sucker for sweet, so I might not be the best judge.  Adjust accordingly to your own taste, as always.  I am contemplating trying this with a bit of rose flower water, but haven't had the courage (for lack of a better word) to try yet.

A quick note here:  If you worry about the idea of egg white in your drinks, don't.  It's completely unnoticeable
flavor-wise and is used solely for texture.  Plus, it has protein.  Pretend it's making your drinks healthful.  If salmonella is your concern, buy a box of white.  They're relatively cheap and go a long way.


I lied to myself.  I did not make a Blue Moon, as originally planned.  Instead, I did something that I'm certain has been done before, although I haven't come across it yet.  The bitters in this drink are not optional -- and next time, I would add another dash.  It was very enjoyable, even for somebody who doesn't like the taste of gin as much as I do.

1-1/2 oz Gordons gin
juice of 1 orange
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Fill to top with seltzer

Shake all ingredients but the seltzer in a shaker, with ice.  Strain into a glass filled with ice.  Finish with a twist of orange.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Polenta with Mushrooms

We haven't made polenta before, so this ended up being an adventure.  Most recipes indicate hardware including a heavy-bottomed pot, and we do not have one... although we do have a cast-iron skillet and a flimsy pot.  I placed the pot on the skillet and hoped for the best, and it seemed to work well, although it took the water a good amount of time to boil.

I made a mushroom saute to put on top, using a couple cloves of garlic, a little dried basil, a healthy dose of olive oil, and topped with smoked salt.  I've seen polenta topped with everything from meat sauce to a dab of butter.  The topping is entirely up to you.  If we had them around, a mix of wild mushrooms (morels, porcinis, lobster mushrooms) would have been excellent.  As it was, the button mushrooms served their purpose and were great. 

The recipe itself is easy.  I made extra to keep in the refrigerator so that we could bake it and top with Parmesan at a later date, and I strongly recommend you do the same, if only because it can be all too easy to burn the polenta if you are using a small amount.


1 + 2/3 cups polenta (NOT instant)
7 cups water
1 tbsp Kosher salt

Bring the water to a boil with the salt.  Add the polenta slowly, while whisking - you want to avoid clumps.  If you want, you could mix a small amount of water in with the polenta before doing this in order to prevent it from seizing in the water.  Stir continuously for 35-40 minutes, using a wooden spoon.  Keep the water boiling.  
I added about 1/2 of a cup of grated mozzarella at the end and stirred until it melted into it. 

Apologies for the photos this time -- we made dinner after the sun went down and it ended up being a little on the hard side to get good shots.  :)

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Lately, we have been picking up vine-on tomatoes almost every time we go grocery shopping.  It's becoming difficult to think of not having them around, similar to the idea of running out of olive oil or milk.  It did not occur to me to make salsa for some time, although thankfully, I appear to have come to my senses.

There's no specific recipe for this salsa, although I used one medium tomato, a small handful of torn cilantro, a clove of minced garlic, a splash of lime juice, half a roughly chopped jalapeno, a pinch of Hawaiian red salt and a grind of pepper.  I did try it earlier with basil, which was also good -- you can certainly substitute any herb for the cilantro that you like if you are one of the lucky ones who registers cilantro as being soapy.   You can also add onion, as is usual.  I simply left it out because raw onion is not one of my favorite things. 

Regardless of the combination used, mix everything together, drain some of the excess juice, and stash in the refrigerator for about one hour before serving to meld the flavors together.  

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Guava Noodles

Both of us are planning on going into science-related fields and we both, obviously, love cooking, so the spherification technique seemed like a fun idea. For some reason, we spent an exceptional amount of time thinking about it and not a lot of time actually getting the supplies to do it. The stars were apparently aligned the other day, because we finally made the leap to order the sodium alginate and calcium lactate gluconate which are required for the spherification process. We also went to a local surplus store and picked up some droppers, a syringe, six feet of tubing, and a bunch of squeezy-tubes. The syringe and tubing turned out to be immediately useful. The squeezy-tubes? Not so much - but I'm sure we'll stumble upon a way to use them soon enough.

I almost feel like I've been leading you on with that first paragraph since we didn't even use the spherification stuff for the guava noodles. What happened was we mixed the alginate and calcium into their separate fluids (we were trying Goldschlager) and decided to make something else molecular gastronomy-ish while we waited for the bubbles to come out of the alginate mix. As you may have gleaned from the title, we used the tubing to make noodles out of the guava-pineapple juice we had just bought. We didn't really taste the pineapple, so we're just saying guava noodles.

Our handy hydrocolloid of choice was agar-agar. It was the powdered sort, picked up from a local Asian supermarket awhile back for barely over a dollar. Take that, absurdly expensive brand at the co-op. We used slightly over a percent of the agar-agar in with the guava juice and brought it to a boil. After letting it cool for a little bit, I sucked some up with the syringe, stuck the syringe into the tubing, and filled it up. Then, I deposited the rest of the liquid back into the pot we were using and filled it with air to push the noodle out with.

We ran the tubing through an ice bath in order to have it solidify faster, but from our experience, it can really go both ways. It's pretty much dependent on timing. The first one worked very well and came out without a problem, barring a few breaks in the noodle. The next one must've sat for too long, because it became near impossible to get out. When the air escapes the rubber stopper-thing in the syringe before even budging the noodle, there's definitely a problem. Fortunately, exchanging the ice bath for a quick dip in hot water remedied this and the rest of the noodles came out perfectly. Not only did they taste like guava, they were hilarious to slurp up. Since the noodles were so thin, we didn't really experience the issue that tends to keep us away from agar-agar: the texture.

All in all, I would say making guava noodles was a definite success! If you happen to have some juice, agar, a syringe, tubing, and maybe a scale, try it!

(Also, if you're just starting spherification, don't try it with Goldschlager. We don't know what caused it to fail, but it failed spectacularly.)

For those interested, creme brulee is surprisingly successful while using agar. We used the leftover agar-guava mixture and poured it into a shallow ramekin, allowed the mixture to solify, then sprinkled the top with sugar and flamed the hell out of it. We were surprised to find that the combined textures were extremely pleasant.