Friday, December 3, 2010

Thirsty Thursdays: Festive Friday Edition

Yes, I do realize that its Friday today, but as we're kicking off the holiday cocktail party season, it only seems fitting to toast the weekend with a festive libation.

Last week, the Diva Family Thanksgiving celebration began with a lovely little sipper that's just perfect for any holiday gathering. I'd like to share it with you today.

This ruby red beauty features a seasonally appropriate mix of pomegranate juice and champagne (or sparkling wine), spiced with a subtle hint of ginger and mellowed with just a bit of orange juice.

Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail:
  • 2 cups pure pomegranate juice (such as POM Wonderful)
  • 4 tablespoons ginger syrup *
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine
  • some pomegranate seeds (arils) for garnish
In a small pitcher, combine the pomegranate juice and ginger syrup, whisking well with a small wire whisk to combine. Add the orange juice and stir to blend.

Fill a champagne flute 1/3 full with pomegranate mixture, then top with Champagne to fill. Garnish with a few pomegranate arils if desired. Serve and enjoy, repeat as necessary!

*A brief note about the ginger syrup: I used bottled ginger syrup (see above link), though you could certainly make your own simple syrup and infuse it with some fresh ginger, if you're feeling enterprising. If not, avail yourself of the bottled ginger syrup - its wonderful stuff.

Of course we did have turkey ...

and all the trimmings as well.

While the turkey was the star of the show, the pomegranate cocktail was a close second! Why it even received the Mama Diva Seal of Approval, so you know it must be good. I hope you'll try it for your next holiday brunch or cocktail party.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm cooking and cleaning and generally getting my Martha on today. Busy trying to cross things off my seemingly endless to do list and really looking forward to the festive meal tomorrow.

I'll be posting a holiday round-up next week. Just popping in to wish all of you and yours a wonderful, joyous, delicious, Happy Thanksgiving! May your cups runneth over and your waistbands be forgiving!

Enjoy the holiday!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes

Here we are staring straight down the barrel of another Thanksgiving. And every year at this time, I find myself asking the same questions: "Who are these people and why must I continue to provide them with nourishment??"

I kid, I kid. These people are my family and I'm happy to provide them with nourishment. The trouble is, my people prefer to take their holiday nourishment in the exact same form every year. Not a single deviation would be welcomed. They want what they want, and the people will have their traditional foods this Thanksgiving ... as they have every other year since the dawn of creation.

Now, that wouldn't be so bad, were I not a food blogger and in need of fresh content! Hello, might we have some lovely crisp-roasted brussels sprouts instead of the green bean casserole? No. No, we can't. So what's a blogger to do?

Provide you with links to my previously posted holiday recipes. Perhaps you're a new reader and you've missed them the first time. Or maybe your people are amenable to a bit of deviation at the holidays. If so, color me jealous. In any case, consider this a "Best of Diva" Thanksgiving style. Enjoy!

Diva Family Thanksgiving Favorites:

Recipe for Make-Ahead Gravy - this one's a time saver and a life-saver.

Herbed Bread Stuffing - my take on a classic.

Cranberry Port Conserve - my all-time favorite cranberry sauce.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread - a seasonal treat with all the warm spices.

Pork Stuffing - a tender recreation of my mother in law's recipe.

So, tell me about your people. Do you switch up the holiday menu? Or are you part of a traditional tribe? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Joy of Cooking: Gingersnaps

Do you read cookbooks like novels? Does your staggering stack of culinary tomes make Imelda Marcos' shoe collection look like child's play? (And, by the way, I'm guilty as charged on both counts.) If so, you're not alone and I have fabulous recommendation for you, its called: Cookbook Lovers Unite. A brand new blog dedicated to celebrating the cookbook whore in all of us.

Cookbook Lovers Unite is a group of bloggers intent on treasuring the joys of the printed cookbook. Anyone can join in the fun and the rules of the group are simple. Twice a month, a theme will be posted on Cookbook Lovers Unite and bloggers are encouraged to make something from, and post about, a recipe from a book in their collection. All recipes must be from a printed cookbook, so no online recipes, word of mouth creations, or - well - you get the drift. Once you've posted, be sure to link your creation to the theme's original post via the linky widget provided. Its just that easy and just that fun. I hope to see you there!

I very much wanted to join the first group theme - Your First Love: Our First Theme - but I've missed the deadline. While I did, in fact, make a recipe from my first cookbook love, I just didn't have time to write about it ... so I'm doing it now. Consider this my way of introducing you to the Cookbook Lovers Unite project.

Cookbook wise, my first love is decidedly classic: The Joy of Cooking (1974 edition). I fell hard and fast for it while deep in the throes of a particularly violent episode of Chicken Pox. I was in my late teens - far, far too old for such an illness - and as such I was really knocked out, just spectacularly sick. Recovery was slow, scratchy, and hopelessly boring.

While doing hard time on the couch, mostly in front of the TV watching the 1984 winter Olympics, I casually picked a well-worn copy of The Joy of Cooking off my mother's cookbook shelf. Instantly charmed by the kitschy, retro illustrations, the book captured my attention far more than I expected; I read it cover to cover. And, more than that, it captured my imagination. I began to envision elegant dinner parties with chic canapes and fizzy punch. Or luscious, long-simmered stews, served bubbling hot from the oven on crisp winter nights. I began dog-earring the pages, creating my imaginary menus and longing to feel well enough to get cooking. Eventually I recovered and, if memory serves, I made my family a meal from Joy shortly thereafter.

I still have and treasure that battered old copy of Joy. Over the years, I've returned to it again and again ... for quiches, pot pies, French bread, and my all time favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. It truly is a classic and I continue to be charmed by its retro tone and whimsical presentation. I mean, c'mon, this edition contains recipes for: moose, beaver, and bear! Its a hoot!

To honor my first love, I decided to bake Gingersnaps. And, for once, I decided to simply make the recipe as directed. This was my first time using this recipe and I wanted to give it a chance before fiddling with it. Though I did add an extra 1/2 tsp. of ginger. Shush, don't tell.

Honestly, these aren't the Gingersnaps of my dreams. They're delightfully crisp, the texture is just prefect, but they're altogether too sweet for my tastes. Next time I will cut back on the sugar and increase the ginger. I intend to play around with it and report back. Stay tuned. Though if you enjoy a sweeter cookie, this baby's for you.

Lastly, as a nod to tradition, I'm presenting the recipe as written in the book. I find the distinct lack of instruction amusing. I hope you will too. Seasoned bakers will know to follow proper creaming / wet /dry ingredient technique here. (Basically, cream your wet ingredients, whisk together and beat in the dry, form the cookies and bake. ) As written this recipe provides only two steps with very little instruction. Given such brevity, its a wonder the book is 787 pages long!

Recipe from the 1974 Edition of The Joy of Cooking
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1. Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Mix ingredients until blended. Form dough into 3/4 inch balls. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 12 minutes.* As the ball melts down during baking, the cookie develops the characteristic crinkled surface.

Yield: about 10 Dozen 2 inch cookies

* Unless your cookie sheets are old and forlorn, there's really no need to grease the cookie sheets. I didn't and it worked out just fine. Do immediately transfer the baked cookies from the sheet to a wire rack to cool. That is a must!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Braised Red Cabbage

We may be nearing the end of October, but its never too late to enjoy a German classic in celebration of Oktoberfest. I may be a bit behind the curve with this one, as the classic Bavarian festival traditionally takes place in late September, but those in the know know I like to get my wurst on from time to time.

I've never been a huge fan of sauerkraut, especially of the pre-packaged variety, so I opted to pair some lovely little bratwursts with a traditional Bavarian side: braised red cabbage. This gorgeous dish makes a fine bed, and wonderful foil, for the savory links. It has just enough acid to balance the porky goodness and just enough crunch to keep things interesting.

Braised Red Cabbage:
  • 1 small head of red cabbage
  • red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup of thinly sliced onion
  • 1 1/2 cups non-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (or granulated sugar, agave nectar)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and studded with 3 whole cloves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of Bavarian Seasoning, optional
  • small pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
1. Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, cut it into quarters, and remove the core from all sections. Using a very sharp knife, slice the cabbage into thin shreds, one quarter at a time. As soon as each section is sliced, place the shreds in a large bowl and drizzle with a bit of red wine vinegar, tossing to lightly coat. This will help preserve the vibrant color. Repeat until all cabbage is sliced and tossed with vinegar.

2. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed, saucepan over medium high heat and add the olive oil. When hot, but not smoking, add the cabbage and toss with tongs to coat. Continue tossing gently until the cabbage begins to wilt a bit, about 2 to 3 minutes, then add the apples and sliced onions and saute together for 1 minute.

3. Nestle the clove studded onion into the mixture and add the remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste with the salt, pepper, Bavarian Seasoning, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Allow the mixture to come to the boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Taste the cabbage at the 30 minute mark. Adjust seasoning if necessary, adding more of whatever you wish. I happen to prefer a bit of crunch here, so I generally don't simmer beyond 30 minutes. If you prefer a softer texture, continue simmering for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until your desired texture is achieved.

As written, this recipe will serve 4 to 6, depending on portion size.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thirsty Thursdays: Sazerac Edition

It seems like a century ago, but, yes, I spent some time in New Orleans last month. It was our first time in the city and, quite frankly, I fell in love. That we would eat and drink well was a given, what surprised me was my deep affection for the city itself - or, more precisely, for the area know as The French Quarter.

Winding my way along the Quarter's sun-baked streets, seeking the shelter of its lush green balconies, I felt at home. Something about the gentile decay, the almost-but-not-quite-falling-apart-ness of the city, spoke to me. Seduced by each new and more beautiful vista, I felt the city wrapping its warmth around me like the arms of a would be lover, pulling me in for a kiss. Strange reference perhaps, but there's a subtle underlying decadence to almost everything in the French Quarter, so the metaphor seems to fit ... and I fell willingly into those arms.

And, in truth, the seduction didn't take long. It began an hour after I arrived, with my first sip of a Sazerac at The Sazerac Bar in The Roosevelt Hotel.

The Sazerac enjoys a long and much fabled history. So fabled, in fact, that it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. Fortunately, for our purposes, to do so is unnecessary. I happen to like the more popular story best, so I'll recount it briefly for you here. In this version, the Sazerac was invented by Antoine Amadie Peychaud, a New Orleans based apothecary, in 1838. Mr. Peychaud mixed a quantity of cognac with his health tonic - the substance we now know as Peychaud's bitters - and a bit of water and sugar. By 1870 or so, the drink had gained in popularity and, due to the tastes of the times, the cognac was replaced with Rye.

Somewhere along the way, a splash of absinthe was added to rinse the glass and when absinthe became illegal, it was replaced by Herbsaint, a pastis made in New Orleans. Phew! Still with me? Good. There's certainly more to this story and if you Google, you can read all your heart desires. At the end of the day, there's only one thing you need to know: this drink is enchanting.

The Sazerac Cocktail:
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 1/2 ounces of rye whiskey
  • 1/4 ounce Herbsaint
  • 3 dashes of Peychaud's Bitters
  • strip of lemon peel
Pack an old fashioned glass with ice and reserve. In a second glass, combine the cube of sugar and 3 dashes of Peychaud's Bitter. Crush the sugar cube to dissolve, using a muddling tool or a bartender's spoon. Add the rye and a few cubes of ice and stir, briefly, to chill. Reserve.

Pour out the ice from the old fashioned glass and add the Herbsaint, turn the glass to coat, then empty the rest of the Herbsaint from the glass. Strain the reserved rye and bitters mixture into the coated glass, garnish with a strip or twist of lemon. Serve and enjoy, repeat as necessary!

A brief note on the recipe: I've used The Roosevelt's formula here, but if you do decide to Google, you'll find others. Some add a drop of Angostura bitters; some council the use of simple syrup, rather than the sugar cube; and some urge absinthe rather than Herbsaint for sake of tradition. As always, do as you see fit. If it seems easier for you, go ahead and use the simple syrup. In that case, I'd use about a teaspoon.

Like New Orleans itself, there's much to be discovered here. Each sip reveals a new twist, a new layer of flavor ... and the experience only intensifies as the drink warms. Sip slowly, savor it a bit, and you'll notice the layers. The herbal, faintly licorice flavor of the Herbsaint is present, yet doesn't overwhelm. The sweetness of the rye is tempered by the aromatic bitters, and end result is something magical. Its as enchanting as a stroll through the Quarter and as seductive as the city itself. I hope you'll try it.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Off to BlogHer Food '10

Seems I've been meeting myself coming and going lately what with all of this travel to and fro. I've had little time to cook, much less write about cooking. I hope to remedy that later this month ... but, for now, I'm off to BlogHer Food '10 in San Francisco.

I'm looking forward to catching up with old bloggy friends and meeting some new ones, and hoping to soak up some California sunshine as it been raining for days here on the East Coast.

I'm Going!

We had a blast in New Orleans and I do, indeed, have a special NOLA themed cocktail to share with you for the return of Thirsty Thursdays ... next week. I promise. You'll want to stay tuned, because its a real treat.

In the meantime, are you going to BlogHer Food '10 this weekend? If so, shout it out in the comments so I'll know to look out for you.

Cheers and see you next week!