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Posts Tagged ‘refreshing’

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

This recipe is a fast and simple twist on the original, with no accurate measurements needed. It’s all about taste. I grabbed a quart of colorful local heirloom tomatoes at the market and I couldn’t wait to pick some of the beautiful heirloom black cherry tomatoes from my own garden to make a big tasty salad with. Since the tomatoes themselves had so much flavor and the basil from our garden was abundant, I decided to not go crazy and put the full 8 oz of fresh mozzarella into the salad, it just didn’t need it. I also decided that by saving half of it, I could use it to add to an omelette with the next morning.

I wanted to get a nice sweet and tart punch from the balsamic, so rather than just pouring it on as is, I made a simple reduction syrup to drizzle over top the salad when serving. It is incredible how the concentrated flavors from the vinegar reduction really sing with the subtle sweetness. It is one of my favorite, simple kitchen tricks that works for so many dishes. In addition to drizzling over top salads like this one, the balsamic reduction is also wonderful drizzled over a steak, grilled fruit and so much more.

There is something about a good insalata caprese that just screams summer to me. But much like the balsamic, it is bitter-sweet, by the time the tomatoes in our gardens are ripe enough to start picking for the beautiful salad, summer is on the down-swing and definitely more than half over.

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction
serves 4

Approximately 1 quart of mixed heirloom tomatoes, any variety. (Mine were all smallish – cherry and grape sized, some from our garden)
4 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes (you can use the full 8oz, but I was attempting to keep this light and much more about the tomatoes)
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup high quality balsamic vinegar
3 teaspoons brown sugar
A few tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan over a medium-high heat bring the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil, constantly whisking to prevent burning. Continue cooking until it is reduced by half, stirring often. Remove from heat, allow to cool. (The sugar is optional as the vinegar has a natural sweetness when reduced, but I find that just a little is nice to compliment the tartness of the vinegar)

Meanwhile, half or quarter the tomatoes and place in a large serving bowl. Add the fresh mozzarella and basil. Toss lightly to combine. Season the salad with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Serve individual servings of the salad on small side plates, drizzle both the olive oil and the balsamic reduction over top each serving. Serve immediately.

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Horchata

It has been a hot summer in Buffalo. One of the hottest that I personally can recall. We’ve been traveling a ton and trying to enjoy every last-minute of the heat and sun while we are in town. We don’t leave again for another month so we hope to get the bikes out a few times, head to the beach and maybe even squeeze in some hiking or camping or something. Now that we are working from home, we really want to take advantage of the summer months while we can and enjoy the beautiful weather, before the snow and cold set in.

One of my favorite things about the short-lived summertime in Buffalo, is playing around with refreshing drink recipes. Admittedly, I planted mint in my yard, just to make mojitos and this summer I even infused my own liquors after reading this article in Bon Appetit magazine. Now that I made my first two batches and they turned out great, I plan to write-up a post about them.  Don’t worry though, it isn’t just “adult beverages” I like to create, I love making fresh smoothies in the morning, iced teas, flavored sparkling waters and the like. Naturally, when I came across a post on David Lebovitz’s blog about making homemade horchata, I couldn’t wait to try it. There is nothing better than an ice-cold refreshing glass at an authentic mexican restaurant. OK, so maybe it is a close second to a good margarita, but it’s still incredible. It’s light, full of delicious flavors and it is perfect on ice on a hot summer day. There are few “authentic” Mexican restaurants here in Buffalo, (as far as I am concerned, none of them are authentic) and definitely no taquerias, so the chances of finding horchata here, are slim to none. I usually reserve my mexican indulgences for when we travel, rather than being let down, so when we aren’t traveling and I am craving Mexican, I tackle it myself at home. It isn’t nearly the same, but I still find it to be better than any of the Mexican restaurants here. I make my own tortillas, pico de gallo and guacamole, which is already a step above most places. We are actually having black bean tacos at home this week and I cannot wait.

When I saw how easy this horchata recipe was, I knew that this would be another Mexican treat worth trying at home. It is quite simple, you will spend more time waiting for the rice to soak then all of the prep time combined. You definitely want to make sure you strain in through cheese-cloth so you get all the rice bits, otherwise it will settle to the bottom of the pitcher in the fridge.

In addition to David’s recipe, I also checked out Rick Bayless’ recipe and many others. I came across many variations on the recipe, some include almonds, lime zest, etc. I decided to alter them all slightly and go with my own combination and I was very happy with the results. Oh and definitely try a glass with a shot of good rum stirred in, YUM!

Another fun twist you can take with the horchata is something that I have now learned is called a “Cochata”: Iced Coffee + Horchata. I made this apparently trendy drink in accidental desperation the morning after making the horchata. I wanted an iced coffee and realized after it was poured that we were out of any milk or cream, so I poured in a large glug of the horchata and was instantly in love. You have to try it.

On a side note, I apologize for the lack of posts and recipes on here, we just got home from nearly 2 weeks on the west coast. So I am hoping to get more recipes up here in the next few weeks as we are home for a month straight, finally. It has been a busy summer, full of travel and events, so I am excited to have some time at home.

Ground up rice and spices for horchata

Horchata
Makes 7 servings
Adapted from recipes from Rick Bayless and David Lebovitz

2/3 cup white rice
2 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
3 2-inch strips of lime zest (colored rind only) 3/4 inch wide
3 cups of hot water
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
3 cups of cold water

Grind the rice in a blender or spice grinder into fine pieces. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add in the cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and lime zest. Stir in 3 cups of hot tap water, cover and let stand at least 6 hours or preferably, overnight.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and pour the mixture into a blender and blend for 3 to 4 minutes, until it no longer feels very gritty. Add 2 cups of water, and then blend for a few seconds more. Set a large sieve over a mixing bowl and line with 3 layers of dampened cheese cloth. Pour in the mixture a little at time, gently stirring to help the liquid pass through. Squeeze the cheese cloth firmly to extract as much of the rice flavor as possible.

Add 1 cup of water and stir in your desired amount of sugar, mix until the sugar is dissolved. Taste, and adjust sweetness, if necessary. If the consistency is too thick, add additional water. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Stir before pouring.  Serve over ice with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon on top.

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Thai Basil Mojito

I wish I could take credit for the idea of this drink, but I can’t. My dad dreamt it up after tasting the thai basil I had growing in my garden. The thai basil has a subtle anise flavor and is very different from Italian basil. This was a refreshing summer drink, that was perfect for a hot day and grilling out.

Thai Basil Mojito
serves 1

1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
a small handful of fresh thai basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon organic pure cane sugar (or 2 oz of simple syrup)
2 oz white rum
ice cubes
club soda

Place the lemon wedges at the bottom of a tall glass along with the basil leaves. Add sugar or simple syrup and muddle the mixture. Stir in the rum and top with ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with a lemon wedge and couple thai basil leaves.

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