Project: Persian New Year

I love a good project. Whether it’s for the house, crafting or making the yard new again, I just can’t seem to get enough. I love the sense of making and creating and with my continual effort to do something new, cooking has long fulfilled all of these desires. I have tried so many things, and yet there is still more to be attempted and more to be perfected.

Enter, Project: Persian New Year Dinner Party.

Back in college a friend hosted a group of us on Spring Break at her parents’ house in Santa Monica and I’ll never forget having Persian rice for the first time. The crispy bottom a delicacy adding texture and extra flavor to the rice, and the rest of the rice steamed to perfection. I don’t remember much about other dishes, but in general I do love middle eastern/Afghan/Indian food, so when I read the extensive article in Food & Wine about the ultimate Persian New Year feast I was intrigued. I happened to mention to a friend about the article to which she replied that she could actually make most of the dishes (having learned from her mom and aunt) and before we knew it a dinner party was born.

I hosted at my house and filled my dining table to the max. Jenny did an AWESOME job with the stews and rice, while I managed desserts recipes straight from the inspirational article and a delightful cocktail inspired by the holiday. I had an absolute blast at the international market she suggested – in Denver these places are not as easily accessible as in San Francisco, but they do exist! I loaded up on rosewater, flat breads, Persian cucumbers and so much more. It was also a blast from the past seeing so many products/brands I was familiar with from Germany, making me oh so nostalgic.

All of the dishes came out just wonderfully and were a smashing success with everyone. All five guests loved the food and lingered late into the evening – you know people are having a good time when there is an empty bottle of wine for each attendee! Jenny explained that Persian New Year is in the Spring, aligning with the fresh start of nature outside. It starts on a specific day, but the celebration lasts for about two weeks as it’s a time to spend with family and friends, popping by each other’s houses to collectively enjoy what life has to offer, and of course, indulging and eating way too much. The dinner party felt just that: a little celebration of the life I’ve started to build here in Denver, appreciating good friends with good food and new endeavors.

leftover wraps for lunch the next few days

The recipes we made are below, which are only a small sampling of the traditional dishes for the holiday. The Food & Wine link below has quite the variety and a Google Search will yield even more! The first three are recipes that have been passed down so they are a little less precise – go with your gut on quantities, stew consistencies and adjustments for flavor. Continue reading

Video: Shrimp Tacos + Cardamom Margaritas

Sometimes dreams come true. Craftsy has started an employee appreciation effort where they try to make random dreams come true. Someone had a dream to ride the zamboni at an Avalanche game, someone else a dream to learn to breakdance, and I had a dream to make my own cooking show episode. Obviously Craftsy has the production resources to make this happen, and I’m so grateful that they decided to spend those resources on me!

It was awesome. I got to see all the ins and outs of what goes into doing a cooking lesson on camera. Balancing looking at the camera and cooking, coming up with the right things to say (I winged it!), taking the right pauses before making no go back moves, only to mention a few – it was just so cool to be a part of.

While it’s definitely not perfect, I like to think it’s still pretty good for a first timer and that all these years of watching cooking shows finally came to some good use! So without further ado, my first cooking video… Shrimp Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa and Cardamom Margaritas!

And some stills of behind the scenes and the set:IMG_0529IMG_0479

Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Mango Salsa

Shrimp

  • 1 lb peeled devained shrimp
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Lowrey’s seasoning salt, or salt
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • ground pepper to taste
  • pinch cayenne pepper, to taste

Salsa

  • 1 large mango
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1/4 red onion, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 taco sized corn tortillas (corn/flour mix with jalapeños, if you can find them)

Directions:

Mix shrimp with garlic and spices, making sure all shrimp are covered. Set aside to marinate while you make the salsa.

Salsa: Peel mango, remove fruit from the pith and chop it into 1/4 in.-1/2 in. pieces. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, score the fruit into 1/4 in.-1/2 in. pieces in the skin, then remove the fruit with a spoon. Mix the mango, avocado, jalapeño, onion and lime juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside salsa and cook shrimp.

Heat a couple of teaspoons of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When hot, lay the shrimp in the pan in one layer. Cook on one side for about 2-3 min until opaque half way through, curled and pink. Flip shrimp until just cooked through, about another 2-3 min.

If you have a gas stove, heat the tortillas over a flame, using tongs to continually rotate the tortilla. Heat on both sides. Another option is to head in the bottom of a dry pan until browned and heated through.

Cardamom Margaritas (makes two large margaritas)

  • 3/4 cup tequilla
  • 1/4 cup grapefruit juice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup cardamom simple syrup, recipe below

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake to cool ingredients. Distribute between two glasses with ice.

Cadamom simple syrup

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp cardamom pods, lightly crushed

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Stir to dissove sugar and continue to heat until simmering. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Remove cardamom pods and seeds.

Grown Up Floats: Tomato Sorbet + Champagne

I started subscribing to Sunset Magazine back in February. I signed up for it by snail mailing in a check. REALLY old school. I know. Seeing as that I send most of my mail from the office, my coworkers laughed and made fun of me as I made my way to the mail area, but you know what, is it so unreasonable to not want to be signed up for recurring charges? I don’t think so. And about the subscription itself? I was laughed at about that too, but let me tell you, it’s not just for old people. I know that’s what you’re thinking… But if you spent any time flipping through, you’d see it’s actually a celebration of living in the west, with great day and weekend trip ideas, seasonal garden ideas and seasonal recipes as well.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed the local inspirations and was taken with the recipe for Yellow Tomato Lime Sorbet in the August issue. I made it a little while ago, when tomatoes were at their peak, and book club this weekend was the perfect time to serve it up. These grown up floats were an absolutely delightful bit of summer, so appropriate to enjoy when San Francisco is experiencing its true Summer weather. The sorbet alone is sweet and tomato-y with really nice balance from the lime. The champagne in the float helps balance the sweetness and mingles so nicely with the dissolving sorbet. Book club was impressed and so was I. Not to mention, I was happy to have an excuse to use my really cute new glasses from Seattle.

With recipes like this, I could have skipped the embarrassment of mailing in a check and gone forward with the recurring subscription!

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Yellow Tomato & Lime Sorbet recipe here

Floats: cover sorbet with champagne and a little bit more.

Margarita Jello Shots

Aren’t these the CUTEST Jello shots ever?

I can’t take full credit for the in-a-lime-half idea because I saw them here, but regardless, they are awesome.

I made them for a day trip to Tomales Bay with some friends and of course everyone loved them. They are really fresh with tons of lime juice with just enough flavor from the tequila too. I shouldn’t have to really sell you on them… just do it.

IMG_4498Juice and remove the insides of 16 limes. I inverted the squeezed rind, and peeled

labor of love, folks – it took me about an hour for all 32 halves

IMG_4501prepare jello, pour and let set – mini muffin tins hold the halves PERFECTLY

photolet them chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours – when solid cut each lime half in half

ENJOY!

Margarita Jello, recipe inspiration here:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 packets powdered gelatin
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup tequila

Heat water and sugar until simmering and sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle over gelatin, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until dissolved, about 1 min. Add lime juice and tequila.

Pour into lime halves or other container(s). Makes about 32 lime halves + maybe a little extra.

Let set in the fridge at least 3 hours. If using limes halves, cut them in half again after they’ve set. Now it’s time to have a party!

Note: 32 limes will yield more juice than you need, so make limeade!

Limeade for 1:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup (or more to taste)

Thoroughly mix or shake the ingredients and serve over ice – yum!

Ginger Beer, Gingersnaps & A Ginger Cat

I hope when I wrote that my new man was cuddling near my face that you gathered he’s none other than my new cat, Mr. Tibbs. I’ve had him for almost 2 months now and things are great. Mr. Tibbs (nee Marmalade) hails from the East Bay SPCA and we ‘met’ online. I was immediately taken with his orange color and sidekick demeanor that I read about – I just had to meet him in person. I couldn’t believe how comfortable and curious he was! As I confirmed with my friend that day – he’s awesome, life partner awesome. So I brought him home and the rest is history. He loves to play, is a voracious eater (would you expect anything else from my pet?) and after these couple of months, his coat is softer, brighter and more orangey than ever – I love it.

Screen shot 2013-06-05 at 9.04.23 PMNaturally, I decided to host a Mr. Tibbs Meet & Greet. Of course, based on his coloring I decided that only ginger and orange foods would do. Obviously, I made ginger beer from scratch and mixed it with Pimm’s for Tibbs’ Cups cocktails at the party. Without a doubt, I made home made gingersnaps too. The party, ginger beer and assorted treats were a HUGE success! Mr. Tibbs stayed out the whole time and loved all the attention, people loved the cocktails, and I had a great reason to have a party!

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IMG_4486Now I’ll tell you, the ginger beer took a little more time and testing than I originally anticipated spending. There are SO many recipes, tips and tricks online. I wanted something simple, that I didn’t need a juicer or micro plane for; and a recipe that was big enough to quench a crowd’s thirst – who is going to all that effort just tomake 1-2 bottles of ginger beer? I finally had to combine several recipes and came up with my own method that yielded a tasty spicy concoction, which was a hit with everyone. I’m so happy people enjoyed the drinks and I’ve been pressed to blog about this sooner rather than later – so here we go!

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Ginger Beer 101:

  1. Ginger Beer is NOT alcoholic. It’s like ginger ale, but usually stronger in flavor and yeast is used for flavor and carbonation instead of CO2
  2.  You can make it as spicy as you like by adding more ginger, steeping longer – people actually really enjoyed the spicier versions.
  3. I know those glass bottles look really cute and trendy, but I loved the ease of using plastic! You know exactly when it’s carbonated enough.
  4. Champagne yeast is the way to go. Some recipes say regular dry active is ok too, but make the effort for the champagne. It makes a difference.
  5. Add the lemon juice right before bottling. If you add it while the ginger is steeping, the liquid will turn pink.
  6. When you finally are ready to open your bottles, DO IT SLOWLY, or you’ll have ginger beer all over your kitchen. Yes, this happened to me. Twisting off the top a little bit at a time is the way to go.

Ingredients for Moderately Spicy Ginger Beer:

  • 6 oz fresh ginger, cut into large chunks (8oz if you want it really spicy)
  • 1 1/5 cups white sugar
  • 8 cups water
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 tsp Champagne yeast, you can get by with 1/8 tsp too.

Directions:

Using a food processor, mini chop or immersion blender chopping attachment to briefly pulse the ginger into a fine chop (see picture).

In a large pot with a lid bring water to a boil. Add sugar and ginger. Stir to dissolve.

Let it cool to ~100 degrees Fahrenheit, so you don’t kill your yeast. Once it’s the appropriate temp, add yeast, stir it up and cover with the lid. Let it sit for 24 hours. NOTE: If you let it sit just overnight ~12hrs you will have a milder flavor, if spicy isn’t your thing.

After 24 hours, strain the mixture through cheesecloth/fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Add lemon juice and stir to distribute.

Fill your vessel. This is what you’ll serve out of, so use what you like. You can see I have a mixture of glass, plastic and mason jars. That’s right, I made A LOT of this stuff. Leave a little space at the top, but too much air will take longer/prevent carbonation.

Let sit 24-48 hours at room temp until the plastic is rock hard, like a soda you buy in the store. THIS is why I like plastic, you know when it’s done! NOTE: If using glass, you can just wait that long, and maybe twist the top a bit to see if pressure comes out. For one batch I used just 1/8 tsp yeast, which worked too, I just had to leave it out closer to 72 hours to carbonate.

Once reached desired carbonation, refrigerate it to stop the yeast, or drink right then! If you refrigerate for a while, you may want to take it out a day or so before serving to make the yeast active again at room temp, to ensure proper carbonation. Also, no harm in giving the caps a little twist every now and then to make sure they don’t explode.

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Comments:

As you may be able to tell, I made quite a few versions, and the above is what worked best for me. Each time is a little different, which is exciting, and makes you feel like the possibilities are endless.

The guys at San Francisco Brewcraft, where I got my yeast, got all technical on me about how over time the yeast might eat the sugar making it dry, so time sitting and quantity are important, etc. I got overwhelmed being an amateur, but it’s actually really easy and I didn’t mess it up. They also got me excited about how this is where the creativity comes in! You can sweeten with whatever you want (white sugar, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, agave nectar), use whichever citrus you want (lemon, lime, grapefruit) – so many options!

Also FYI: We’re talking carbonated, but not CRAZY carbonated – it’s way more bubbly right when you open it, though it doesn’t really make a difference when you’re mixing a Tibbs Cup (see below).

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Tibbs’ Cup:

  • 1 part Pimm’s
  • 3 parts ginger beer
  • squeeze of lime

Mix the above over ice and enjoy! Feel free to adjust ratio to your liking. Video for how to make a real Pimm’s Cup here.

Gingersnaps:

This recipe was great! David Lebovitz and Alice Waters didn’t let me down. I added 1/4 tsp each of ground cloves and all spice. Best part is, you can make the dough ahead of time and just slice & bake the day of.

Pimm’s Cup Picnic – A VIDEO!

Well, it’s official – I’m OBSESSED with making videos. It’s just so fun! Shooting everything. Finding the right music. It’s one of the best creative outlets I’ve found in a while. Next up for you, the second of my summer cocktail videos.

A Pimm’s Cup was the first thing I knew I wanted to serve at my international cocktail birthday party last year. It’s the ultimate summer beverage, hailing from England, where I first discovered it during my study abroad quarter in college. Those were some of my best months in college and I can’t wait to return to London in just a few weeks, for the first time since 2004. With my upcoming trip, and the Olympics coming to a close, I decided to take full advantage of one of the rare warm weekend days in SF and make a Pimm’s Cup to take to the park.

This drink is light and refreshing, made of Pimm’s liquor and sparkling lemonade, with strawberries, orange, cucumber and mint thrown in. I got these strawberries (along with the mint and cucumber) from the farmer’s market so they were imbued with that bright red all the way through and loaded with flavor, which combined with mint, cucumber and lemonade are the epitome of refreshing and summer. You absolutely must try this drink before the heat fades and the leaves turn brown.

Grapefruit Radler – A VIDEO!

Remember how I had an amazing cocktail party for my last birthday? You may not because I was having too much fun to take any photos during it, but I did post the tasty cocktails from around the world, here. I find it slightly amusing that three of the four were summer cocktails given that my birthday is in November, but whatever. The favorites being a Pimm’s Cup, a Gin & Tonic and a Radler. So now that it’s actually summer, it’s the perfect time to mix these up again and actually share them with you!

For those of you who don’t know, a Radler is a German Shandy. That is, beer and lemonade (Sprite/7-up). In July’s Bon Appétit the Foodist Andrew Knowlton writes a little ode to the grapefruit, mostly about his changed opinion about this citrus beast along with some of his favorite recipes/products he’s found with it. I too have recently had a change of heart and when he mentioned a grapefruit radler, I couldn’t resist trying it myself.

I also finally got my video SD card that is compatible with my HD camera, so I am happy to present my very first self shot, edited, directed and produced Bon Appétit Diaries video. I’m still learning, so it’s a little elementary, but I hope you like it!

song: Rusted Root – Send Me On My Way

Grapefruit Radler

Mix one part beer and one part grapefruit soda for a slightly sweet and fruity summer libation.