Ceviche – Yes, You Too Can Make It!

CevicheWe ate a lot of well-cooked seafood last week on vacation in Brussels and Edinburgh so I thought I’d keep it going this week with some ceviche for our stay-home date night. Trust me when I say: everyone can make this. It is almost foolproof. And absolutely delicious. (more…)

48 Hours in Brussels – Mussels, Beer, and World Cup!

Brussels BelgiumIn what is becoming an annual summer rite, we once again set off on vacation over Fourth of July week. The past years have seen us journey to Italy, Quebec City, and Spain.  This year we were off to go visit her sister Shelly and her husband Ross in Edinburgh but decided a quick stop in another city would be a nice diversion. We chose Brussels. (more…)

Sangria – World Cup and Wedding Memories

SangriaSummer. Sangria. They go hand-in-hand. A cooling mix of wine, fruit, and some liquor really hits the spot on a hot day. When we lived in Washington DC we’d enjoy some sangria and tapas at a great Spanish restaurant, Taberna del Alabardero. With the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup I found myself fondly remembering the Spanish restaurant, the World Cup, and our wedding, and decided to make some sangria using an old Wall Street Journal article about Taberna’s.

Every four years around this time, in pretty much the rest of the world, everything stops for the month-long soccer (or football) tournament: the World Cup. Cheryl and I are passionate soccer fans and it’s something which has occupied a large amount of our time together especially since we met each other playing on a co-ed soccer team back in DC. And though we didn’t intend to, we even got married during the World Cup four years ago, so this year’s World Cup marks 4 blissful years of marriage for us. Yup we mark our time together by soccer. For example, we’ve watched two European championships (also a quadrennial competition) and now two World Cups in our time together. As you can see, soccer an important part of our lives.

During wedding week back in 2010, our families gathered in DC on the opening day of the World Cup and we ended up having an impromptu Happy Hour at Taberna where they have a half-price tapas happy hour. It was nice to be able to spend time with everyone and mingle without having to deal with the wedding responsibilities. Good food, good drink, good company. Anyway, that pre-wedding World Cup happy hour is a fond memory for me, thus the reason I wanted to make some this week.

Taberna’s sangria is really good and I suspect the WSJ tinkered with the recipe. Still, it makes a very refreshing drink. Of course, being a tinkerer myself I’ve made my own slight changes to the WSJ one. First, I upped the amounts of liquor. I did this not because I wanted more alcohol but because there’s a pretty good amount of fruit used which can soak it up so there’s not too much danger of making it too boozy. Second, I increased the amount of OJ and lemon soda, which also helps the sangria stand up to a few more ounces of alcohol. Also, instead of Spanish brandy I used some Calvados. Because I just don’t have Spanish brandy. I think it makes sense too since the liquor now matches the fruit in the sangria.

Sangria (adapted from WSJ which adapted from Taberna del Alabardero so no idea how close it actually is at this point)

  • 1 bottle Spanish wine (grenache)
  • 3 oz Calvados
  • 3 oz Cointreau
  • 3 oz peach liqueur
  • 1 peach, ½-1 green apple (depending on the size of it), and 1 orange, all peeled and diced
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 6 oz orange juice
  • 8oz San Pellegrino Limonata (or Sprite or 7UP)

Cut up all of the fruit and place in a large pitcher. Add the Calvados, Cointreau, and peach liqueur (you’ve got that bottle of peach schnapps sitting around for all those fuzzy navels you make right?)

Let the fruit soak in the liquors for the day.

Add the wine, cinnamon, OJ and San Pellegrino and stir to mix. Add ice to glasses and pour!

Cranberry and Orange Farro Salad

Cranberry Orange Farro SaladNot gonna lie, the Flavor Bible I bought in New Orleans is getting a lot of use and I think it’s probably one of the best kitchen/cooking investments anyone can make. It will bring your cooking to a new level and I am definitely using it when I get stuck like last Friday. My conundrum was: what kind of new side salad could I make to go along with the wonderful grilled duck we were going to be eating? One ingredient jumped out at me when looking up duck combinations in the book: farro. Cheryl and I both enjoy farro but we tend to eat it more in the fall and winter accompanying roasts or braises. But flavor is flavor, I thought to myself, regardless of the season. A cold Cranberry and Orange Farro Salad would work just fine. (more…)

Yay Spring! Ramp Gougères

Ramp gougeres Chicago rampsA few weeks ago when the weather finally turned gorgeous, my friend Chef Julius Russell and his wife Jada stopped by for a visit to catch up. As you can imagine, food was one of the topics and Chef told me all about some really cool things he was doing with ramps this spring. I mentioned I hadn’t gotten any yet and he said he’d get me some to play around with. A couple of weeks later on Memorial Day we got together with them (and the Martins!) for an impromptu cookout and some ramps were delivered. Even though these ramp gougères were not served, it was still a pretty awesome party! (more…)

Coppa – Here’s Where Curing Pork Gets Serious

Home cured CoppaCoppa. This is the one where I’ll look back and say ‘that’s where it really began.’ Of all the curing I’ve done in the past year this coppa is my best. I’ve wanted to make some since I first got Salumi but had to learn how to walk first with some smaller, quicker cures. I’m now jogging. As I slowly progress to bigger, more flavorful cuts, it’s only a matter of time before there’s a whole leg hanging in the curing fridge. When that time comes please remember, it began with coppa. (more…)