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Posts Tagged ‘a date’

A Colorful and Festive Scallop Ceviche with Blood Orange Sauce

Posted on: February 12th, 2020 by Ellen Swandiak

A Valentine’s Day dish. Winter is the season for blood oranges, and the brightness of their juice makes for a festive scallop ceviche indeed. Add the sprinkling of jalapeño pepper bits and pomegranate for an extra happy touch.

I included this recipe in our Aphrodisiac party menu specifically to create a stir. The color red is purported to arouse passion. So I’ve included not only the blood orange juice, but a sprinkling of pomegranate arils—which also adds a nice crunch. Let’s get the night going! The goddess Aphrodite is credited with planting the first pomegranate tree which has since been associated with fertility.

If serving for a crowd, plate individually in clear plastic glasses, with diced ingredients as a topping.

MAKES ENOUGH FOR 4

PREPARE THE SCALLOPS

1/2 LB bay scallops
1/4 CUP lime juice, freshly squeezed (about 2 limes)
1/4 CUP pink grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed (about 1/2 grapefruit)

Cut scallops horizontally into 3 pieces. Toss ingredients together in a nonreactive bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

HOBNOBMAG scallops CEVICHE marinade

MAKE THE BLOOD ORANGE SAUCE

1/2 CUP blood orange juice (about 1-2 oranges)
juice from 1/2 lime
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 TB EV olive oil
1/2 tsp soy sauce
squirt of sriracha
s +p

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl or pitcher. Cover and refrigerate till ready to use.

PUT IT ALL TOGETHER

1 pink grapefruit, cut into supremes
2 TB cucumber, diced
1/2 jalapeño, diced
garnish:
1 TB fresh mint, cut into thin strips
pomegranate arils
1 watermelon radish, thinly sliced (optional)

Remove scallops from refrigerator, drain excess liquid. Set up your plating dishes. Arrange scallops, alternating citrus in between. Spoon the blood orange sauce over a little at a time, do not drown. Sprinkle cucumber and jalapeño. Garnish with mint, pomegranate, and radish.

First Blush: Celebrating Rosé in a Summer Cocktail

Posted on: June 16th, 2019 by Ellen Swandiak

This summer cocktail features an unusual mix of sweet, bitter, and fruity flavors that play with bouncing blueberries. See the cocktail recipe and the exceptional ingredients used in the mix.

A light sipper accompanies red and white bites on the buffet. Garnish with blue or white straws if you have them.

DETAILS ON THE INGREDIENTS:

[1] Hangar One Handcrafted Vodka

Since launching in an airplane hangar in 2002, HANGAR ONE’s handcrafted vodkas have won fans around the world, so rest assured you will be tasting an exemplary spirit here. The creators were not happy with the “straight” vodkas that were in the market, so they decided to take matters into their own hands and create something new. Known for distilling brandies, Ansley Coale and Jorg Rupf started with wheat from the midwest, then combined that with a California Viognier grape eau de vie. The Viognier grapes are distilled using the whole fruit—including the stem, leaves, skin and blossoms, thus capturing its full flavor profile. Then, by distilling the same day it’s picked, flavor is captured at its peak. The vodka is known for its smoothness. Besides “straight” there are three infusions to choose from: Mandarin, Citron, and Kaffir Lime, all lovingly created. Available online at reservebar.com (check your state’s shipping details). About $35. hangarone.com

hobobmag summer cocktail

[2] Lillet’s Rosé Wine

Can you think of anything more suitable for a hot summer night than a nice glass of rosé? The debut of Lillet’s Rosé wine is the first time in over 50 years that the renowned French company has launched a new product, and it was well worth the wait. Consisting of a blend Grand Cru Bordeaux used in Lillet’s Rouge and Blanc, plus light aromas of berries, orange blossom and grapefruit, its flavor is a delight. Lillet Rosé is best served chilled. About $18. lillet.com

[3] Mathilde Framboise Liqueur

This formula comes from an old French family recipe. Only the best raspberries are hand picked from various parts of Scotland and the Hautes Côtes de Bourgogne, to give the liqueur it’s delicacy and sweetness. Just a spoonful is all you need. Berry nice. About $14. liqueurmathilde.com

[4] DRY Rhubarb Soda

Forget about traditional tonic, or generic soda—instead, add sophisticated flavor with this soda. The tartness of rhubarb in a refreshing bubbly drink, what’s not to love? And at only 60 calories, it is a perfectly guilt free option. Great to offer those not consuming alcohol as a elegant sip. Try all their amazing flavors like blood orange, vanilla bean, apple, cherry, lavender, juniper berry, wild lime, pear and cucumber. Available online at store.drysoda.com. $32 for a 24-pack of 12 oz bottles.

[5] Blueberries for garnish

Line the bar with blueberries in white bowls so guests can nibble and play with them in their cocktails.

Food Science Cookbook: Revealing the Chemical Secrets Behind Perfect Food Pairings

Posted on: October 1st, 2018 by Ellen Swandiak

This book ventures beyond convention. Instead of relying on already established complementary food pairs, this process uses the chemistry of shared molecular structures as its basis. That is, the aromatic fingerprints of each item are compared scientifically—and where they overlap, is where they complement each other. By proceeding with this method, unexpected and unusal results come to life.

The science behind food pairing started as an inspiration from James Briscioine, an instructor at ICE who interacted with Watson, IBM’s famous computer. Since then, food scientists have taught chefs that ingredients contain a complex network of chemical structures called volatile compounds. These compounds give each food its own unique flavor.

Starting with the six basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami, and fat, we perceive each of these tastes via chemical reactions that take place on the tongue, mouth, and throat when we consume food. According to the book, these tastes comprise only 20 percent of what we perceive as flavor—the other 80 percent is experienced through the nose via aromatic compounds.

The book takes 58 basic foods and zeroes in on each one’s tasting profile. Each food then lists the best pairings, some surprise pairings, and how to substitute each food. A recipe most unusual demonstrates one of the pairing ideas to get you started. The book contains charts galore that beautifully spell out the options, and provide ideas for future experimentation.

HOBNOBMAG Food Science Cookbook

PEA: Sweet Pea, Pork, and Coconut Tacos recipe with accompanying pairing chart.

HOBNOBMAG Food Science Cookbook

VANILLA: The recipe for Vanilla Butter, shown on corn, with vanilla’s tasting profile.

HOBNOBMAG Food Science Cookbook

More unusual recipes: FISH: A Coffee-Cured Salmon sits on a bagel, left. GRAPE: Spice-Roasted Grapes turn something sweet into something more savory.

The book ends with more analysis of flavors, textures, tastes, and aromas that encompass the eating experience. I particularly liked the section on Aromas, which describe and list everything from Fruity to Maillard (found in baked bread, roasted meat, and chocolate).

Check out this recipe from the book for an attractive and unusual pairing of chocolate and beets. (photo at the top of this post.)

recipe

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE WITH CRISP BEET MERINGUE

This recipe delivers unexpected flavors atop a familiar foundation. There is nothing more comforting than a creamy bowl of chocolate mousse. Beets, camomile, and orange zest punch up the flavor of that classic dish, while the beet meringue adds crunch and makes for a dramatic presentation.

SERVES 6

BEET MERINGUE

3 large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup roasted beet purée (or 1 cup peeled and chopped beets, boiled until very soft, peeled, and puréed in a food processor or blender until smooth)

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

3/4 cup heavy cream
Grated zest of 1 orange (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon dried camomile flowers (optional)
8 ounce semisweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
6 large egg whites
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Make the beet meringue: Preheat the oven to 150 to 200°F. Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar (if using) with an electric mixer until frothy. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form and the whites are smooth and glossy. Sift the powdered sugar over the meringue, then gently fold it in.

Place dollops of meringue all over the baking pan. Measure out 1/2 cup of the beet purée; set aside the remaining 1/4 cup for the mousse. Drop spoonfuls of the beet purée in between dollops of meringue, then gently swirl with a spatula and smooth into a thin layer. Bake for about 6 hours at 150°F or 3 hours at 200°F, until crisp but not browned. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Make the mousse: Combine the cream, orange zest, and camomile (if using) in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let steep for 10 minutes.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Strain the cream through a fine- mesh sieve into the chocolate and let stand for 3 minutes. Whisk until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the reserved beet purée.

Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture one- third at a time until fully incorporated. Refrigerate until well chilled.

When you’re ready to serve, divide the mousse among six bowls and top each with pieces of beet meringue.    

Excerpted from THE FLAVOR MATRIX © 2018 by James Briscione with Brooke Parkhurst. Photography © 2018 by Andrew Purcell. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common Ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes by James Briscione

Umami Cookbook: Flavor Bombs Showcases the Fifth Taste with Aplomb

Posted on: October 1st, 2018 by Ellen Swandiak

Founder of Umami Burger, Adam Fleischman takes the elements of umami and creates combinations that will have your taste buds dancing in his new cookbook. The meaty leanings of umami carry through many foods: tomatoes, mushrooms, parmesan cheese, asparagus, and much more. Fleischman loves to stack these foods together for extra spectacular results.

It all started with his analysis of the typical American burger, one with melted cheese, caramelized onions, tomatoes, and ketchup. All those ingredients are umami-based, and together really add up to much more than a sum of their parts. Same idea with pizza—tomato sauce plus melted mozzarella cheese plus mushrooms plus sausage makes it that much more special. Hence, the Flavor Bombs.

HOBNOBMAG Umami Cookbook2

The term “umami” is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “tasty,” or “delicious.” Coined by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda who was amazed by the meat-like flavor in a bowl of dashi. It got him wondering why his soup had a distinctly savory, meaty flavor even though there was no meat in it. He would later link the taste to tomatoes, cheeses, asparagus, and meats.

Fleischman even looks at the chemicals compounds found in many umami which falls into three categories: glutamate, inosinate, guanylate. Each of these groups have a phenomenal tastes on their own, but when combined the flavor amplifies exponentially. Then Fleischman offers up the techniques for amplifying umami: searing, salting, long-cooking, fermenting, and curing in his recipes to create his Flavor Bombs.

The section on stocking your pantry to get even more impact, includes anchovies, duck fat, dried mushrooms, miso, and—are you catching my drift?

To start your umami journey, you might want to try his master recipes that can be used for many purposes. Umami Master Dust can be sprinkled on foods or used as a rub. Umami Master Sauce is perfect for use in extended cooking, like stews or braised meats. Umami Ketchup is guaranteed to wow. There are seven other basic condiments that he has designed to umami-up your cooking gauge, so you will be set.

Please enjoy this recipe for a Veggie Burger from the book, and see if it doesn’t hit the spot.

recipe

Veggie Burger

I use mushrooms as the primary component for my veggie burger and infuse them with miso, a bit of Umami Master Sauce, and egg yolks—all from the Umami Pantry—to bump up the flavor even more.

Because the patties need a few hours to set, prep them the night before and they’ll be ready to go when it’s time to start cooking.

Note: Textured vegetable protein (TVP), also sold as textured soy protein, is available at Whole Foods, health food stores, or online at Amazon.

MAKES 2 BURGERS

UMAMI MASTER SAUCE

MAKES ABOUT 3 CUPS

2 cups top-quality tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sherry wine
1/4 cup dried wild mushrooms, like porcini
1/4 cup red or white miso
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon Marmite
1 tablespoon shio koji
Hot sauce
1 (4-by-4-inch) piece dried kombu

Start with the tamari or soy sauce, in a pan over medium heat; do not let boil. Add the sherry wine, dried wild mushrooms, and miso. Stir.

Add the honey, Marmite, shio koji, some hot sauce, and the dried kombu. Stir for a minute, remove from the heat, and strain. Add water to taste to dilute its intensity, then cool.

Store, covered, in glass jars for up to around 6 months in your pantry.

VEGGIE BURGER

4 dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup medium-dry sherry, like amontillado
1 tablespoon white miso
Splash of Umami Master Sauce (see above)
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs or textured vegetable protein (see headnote)
2 tablespoons toasted or regular sesame oil
1 cup stemmed and sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 potato buns or white hamburger buns, split
unsalted butter

OPTIONAL CONDIMENTS AND TOPPINGS
Mayonnaise
Ketchup
Mustard
Lettuce
Tomato

MAKE THE VEGGIE BURGER

Place the dried porcinis, sherry, miso, and master sauce in a small saucepan. Set the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid is almost gone, rehydrating the mushrooms, about 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, cool, then add the egg yolks and panko (or textured vegetable protein). Pulse the mixture in a food processor to incorporate. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over high heat for a few minutes—you want it to get superhot. Add 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil, wait a minute, then throw in the shiitakes, being careful not to crowd the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté until they’re nicely caramelized, about 6 minutes. Remove the mushrooms to a large bowl and let cool.

When the mushrooms have cooled, add the egg yolk mixture and stir to incorporate. I use a 3-inch ring mold to press out the patties, but if you don’t have a mold, free-form 2 patties with your hands. Be sure to pack the patties fairly tight so they don’t fall apart when you cook them. Refrigerate the patties at least 6 hours or overnight, to set.

You can also place the patties side by side on a baking sheet or dish and stick them in the freezer; when they’re frozen, place the patties in an airtight bag and keep them in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw completely before cooking.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil and sauté the patties for 3 minutes on each side. Remove the patties and set aside. Place the Koji-Porcini Resting Sauce or butter in the pan and place the buns cut side down in the pan for a few minutes, just until they’re toasted and warmed through.

Place the patties in the buns and serve with the condiments and toppings of your choice.

Flavor Bombs: The Umami Ingredients That Make Taste Explode by Adam Fleischman

Excerpted from FLAVOR BOMBS © 2018 by Adam Fleischman. Photographs © 2018 by Wendy Sue Lamm.  Used by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Duck Breast Hors d’oeuvre with Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce on Endive

Posted on: September 20th, 2017 by Ellen Swandiak

I love a rich and savory duck breast, nothing compares to its luscious, game-y decadence. That’s why I wanted to include this duck breast hors d’oeuvre in a party menu. Set on endive and topped with a semi-sweet sauce, you have the makings of something special to offer at your next gathering.

This recipe was developed to work with our paleo party theme, which focuses on meats and vegetables. As for the paleo part, there’s a tiny bit of cheating here, in reference to the pomegranate molasses in the sauce, which does contain sugar, but oh-so-worth the combo with the duck. Substitute a high-end balsamic vinegar if you don’t want the sugar.

Let the duck breast sit out at room temp for 20 min to 1 hour before cooking. I was inspired by the recipe from Honest Food for cooking the duck breast, read up if this is your first time cooking it. It’s really quite simple.

MAKES 30 BITES

SEAR THE DUCK BREAST

1 1/2 TB almond oil
duck breast

To a cold skillet, add oil, then place duck breast fat side down, cook for 7 min. Flip over and cook another 4 min. Remove from pan and let sit for 5 min. Slice into thin strips, then cut those in thirds to fit on the endive.

MAKE THE CRANBERRY POMEGRANATE SAUCE

1/4 CUP pine nuts
1/4 CUP dried cranberries, soaked for 15 min to soften, then chopped
1/4 CUP pomegranate arils
1 TB red onion, finely chopped
2 TB mint, chopped
1 TB orange zest
1 1/2 TB pomegranate molasses
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

In a bowl combine all ingredients.

 

PUT IT ALL TOGETHER

2-3 heads endive
sliced duck
cranberry pomegranate sauce

garnish: mint, finely chopped

Cut the stem of the endive and pull off leaves in sections. Place one slice of duck on each leaf, top with sauce, then sprinkle chopped mint.

Chicken Paillard Salad with Garlic-Parsley Mayo + Chorizo Butter

Posted on: July 18th, 2017 by Ellen Swandiak

Sometimes when eating out, you find a simple dish that just wows. How many times have you had a salad with grilled chicken? In this case, the chicken paillard salad prompted me to inquire about its secrets, which I will share with you here. All the elements play so wonderfully together, I can still taste it in my mind. Thank you, Chef Gordon Watton for coming to our table and sharing the secrets to this extraordinary dish.

This recipe is truly a labor of love, and has touches that only the most ambitious will create for themselves. But, perhaps, if you are entertaining guests, you might want to create all the elements. (for the lazy, in London, be sure to order this at Berners Tavern.)  Even if you do some of the components, you will have the makings of an absolutely superb salad.

MAKE THE CHICKEN PAILLARD

Pound chicken breasts thinly, and grill. (They use a Spanish Grill with charcoal.)

MAKE THE CHORIZO BUTTER

Dice chorizo and caramelize. Let cool. Incorporate into butter. Smother on top of chicken after grilling.

MAKE THE GARLIC PARSLEY MAYO

Chop garlic and parsley and combine with mayo. Dollop 3 spoons onto chicken.

MAKE THE SALAD

Combine arugula, roasted piquillo peppers, manchego shavings, and thinly sliced red onion rings.

ADD THE DRESSING

oil, mustard, lemon, lime, vinegar

THE GARNISH: CRISPY SHALLOTS

Fry thinly sliced shallots in cold pan of oil, cook slowly until golden brown, then dehydrate.

The Philter: A Tantalizing-Tricked Up-Tequila Love Potion

Posted on: February 2nd, 2017 by Ellen Swandiak

Your night is about to get interesting. The Philter (another word for love potion) brings together a trio of flavors: a tantalizing tequila, chai tea, and freshly-squeezed blood orange juice.

HOBNOB’s signature cocktail for the Aphrodisiac party plan begins with an exquisite tequila as its base, adding a delicacy of spiciness not found in other spirits, providing a nice tingling on the tongue. Add to that some chai tea, which is considered an aphrodisiac because it’s packed with antioxidants—which increase blood flow and sensitivity to sexual organs. A little dose of caffeine also does its part to add focus and energy. Lastly, the blood orange balances out the drink, adds some vitamin C, and lends its beautiful stimulating, red color.

DETAILS ON THE INGREDIENTS:

[1] Fortaleza Reposado Tequila Fortaleza Reposado has a very distinct character, and is made with 100% of the finest estate-grown Blue Agave Tequilana Weber, aged in oak barrels for 6 to 9 months. The full story: Picture a thick-walled brick oven which cooks the agaves for 36 hours. Afterwards, a horse-drawn stone mill crushes the agaves, which then get washed with pure mountain water that separate the pulp from the woody fibers, creating an agave juice called mosto. The agave mosto is then naturally fermented for five days in small wood vats, and then double distilled using small, labor-intensive copper pot stills. TASTING NOTES: Flavors include cooked agave, citrus, vanilla, apple, earth, and cinnamon. The finish is long and rich, delicately spicy, and it has an oily texture the make this a joy to drink. Tequila Fortaleza is the American label for Tequila Los Abuelos, due to a Rum with the name “Abuelos” already being distributed in the USA. About $65. tequilafortaleza.com

HOBNOBMAG love potion cocktail w tequila

[2] Dona Chai chai tea concentrate is a convenient pre-brewed chai, made in Brooklyn. The brewing process begins with cold-pressed fresh ginger and freshly-ground whole spices: cinnamon bark, cardamom, vanilla bean, cloves, black peppercorns. Organic, loose-leaf black tea is then slowly brewed in small batches to bring out a powerful balance of flavors. The caffeine and mix of herbals will enhance your energy levels. A little goes a long way, just one of these bottles will create many a cocktail. Available in Manhattan at Forager’s Grocery on 22nd/9th. donachai.com

[3] Blood Orange Juice Blood oranges are in season over the winter, and lend a special orange aroma and unique flavor. If you cannot find fresh blood oranges, or cannot be bothered to fresh squeeze, try a carton of Noble’s Blood Orange Juice instead. noblejuice.com

[4] Luxardo The Original Maraschino Cherries One taste of these cherries, offered to me by a die-hard fan, and I was sold, and thankfully only one block from where I could purchase a jar of my very own. They are perfectly textured, sour Marasca cherries in a sweet syrup. From the Veneto region of Italy, The Luxardo family has been cultivating cherry trees for this treat and its renowned Maraschino Liqueur. No preservatives or thickeners added. About $20. luxardo.it

Quick Dessert: 10-Minute Cherry Chocolate Mousse

Posted on: February 1st, 2017 by Ellen Swandiak

Sometimes you are just looking for a simple, quick dessert, that still wows in delivering a sweet jolt. This mousse can be served on its own, or as an accompaniment with cookies or fresh fruit, as we have done here. Cherries and currants top this 10 minute work of art.

We included this recipe as part of the menu of aphrodisiacs. Chocolate has THE reputation for promoting amorous feelings. Casanova is known to have indulged in cups of chocolate to help sustain his lustful wanderings. The passion-inducing results come from phenethylamine, a chemical released in the brain when people fall in love, and tryptophan which produces serotonin, leading to elevated moods and sexual arousal.

In searching for a sensational, and easy, mousse recipe I came across this recipe for Bill’s Food Processor Chocolate Mousse. It turned out to be a cinch to make. Below, you will see that I doctored his recipe with a spoon of Kirschwasser, a cherry liqueur, for extra lusciousness, and garnished with red berries: fresh currants, and sugar-coated cherries.

MAKES ENOUGH FOR 6 (YOU WILL WANT EXTRA)

GET OUT THE FOOD PROCESSOR…

7 oz semisweet chocolate (62% cacao or less), broken into pieces

Process the chocolate until finely ground.

PROCESS THE CHOCOLATE…

ground chocolate

2 TB grape seed oil
1 TB Kirschwasser liqueur
1 TB pure vanilla extract

1/3 CUP milk
2 TB sugar

You will be adding these ingredients into the food processor to start the mousse. Combine oil, liqueur, and vanilla in a measuring cup. Separately, in a small saucepan, simmer milk and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Turn on the processor, and with it running, pour the warmed-up milk in, and process for 15 to 20 sec, until the chocolate is melted. Add the oil mixture and process additional 5 to 10 sec, till thoroughly blended. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, let cool in the fridge for 5 min (so chocolate is not warm for the next step).

WHILE CHOCOLATE COOLS PREPARE THE CREAM

1 CUP heavy cream
Pinch salt
cooled chocolate mix

GARNISH:
currants on the stem
fresh cherries, brushed with egg white and rolled in sugar, cooled in the fridge (optional)

With a hand mixer, beat the cream and salt until it holds a soft shape, but not stiff. Remove cooled chocolate from the fridge and fold 1/3 of the cream into it, then the rest. Stop folding the moment the cream is incorporated, and scoop into glasses. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving. Garnish with currants and sugared cherries.

Bubble-licious! Sparkling Rosé Minis

Posted on: February 10th, 2016 by Ellen Swandiak

Serious, not so serious? Who cares? Take a light, and tickle-y approach to your Valentine’s Day sipping. Martini & Rossi Sparkling Rosé Minis are the most adorable way to share that romantic moment.

There’s something a little romantic about sharing champagne, and the rose color of this species adds more to the mood. A lightly-sweet flavor is packed into petite, pink bottles. Be playful, and add a straw for extra sipping pleasure.

The mini bottles come in a 4-pack, for $14.99; traditional 750 mL bottle, $12.99. martinirose.com

Instant Success: Dinner Party Shortcuts

Posted on: December 21st, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

With weekend guests, you need to have stuff on hand. HOBNOB suggests stocking your pantry and freezer with these sophisticated flavors and dinner party shortcuts—so you come off as a hosting pro.

As part of the plan for hosting weekend guests, we found some fab ingredient to have on hand: a sensational American caviar in two price ranges, a collection of intense sophisticated sauces to accent your cooking, a line of instant cheesecakes and for the purists, the taste of just picked herbs from the freezer.

[1] Kelley’s Katch Kaviar This company produces caviar that rivals its Russian counterparts. Kelley’s Katch, a small producer based out of Savannah, Tennessee, harvests roe from wild fish from throughout the American South. The Kelleys, a husband and wife team, have been in the caviar business for over twenty years, and they own their own boats and processing and packing facilities, cutting out the middleman and passing savings along to their customers. Choose from their most popular paddlefish roe ($30 for 2 oz tin) or an even more luxurious option, American sturgeon ($99 for 2 oz tin) , seen in the photo. kelleyskatch.com

[2] La Maison Signature Sauces Whipping up dinner for weekend guests without sacrificing flavor and quality is easy with these sauces. La Maison’s line is made with fresh, flavorful ingredients, that can be used as a sauce on pan-seared steaks and chops; a glaze for roasts or vegetables; or as a creamy base for casseroles and pastas. Choose from a range of flavors, including red-wine based Burgundy Peppercorn, smoky Chipotle cream, spicy Thai Coconut Curry, herbaceous Pesto Cream, and rich Sherried Mushroom. $8 for 9 oz jars. vermontsigsauces.appspot.com

HOBNOBMAG Dinner Party Shortcuts

[3] Just in Time Gourmet: Key Lime Cheesecake Just in Time Gourmet’s dessert mixes are perfect for busy weekenders with a sweet tooth. So easy to put together that guests can get in on the cooking action too, their mixes only require a few additional ingredients like cream cheese and a graham cracker crust. Luscious and not too sweet, their cheesecake line, which includes Lemonade, Key Lime Cheesecake, Pumpkin Pie, and Caramel Apple flavors, is our favorite for family gatherings. About $9. phoenixfoodco.com Get it online at amazon.com

[4] Daregal Frozen Fresh Herbs Daregal’s frozen fresh herbs are the next best thing to picking herbs straight from your garden. Their herbs are harvested, washed, chopped (only the tender leaves are used), and frozen within three hours, maximizing freshness and flavor. Stored conveniently in your freezer for use all year, they can be used straight from the container, no thawing necessary. With more flavor than dried herbs, and more convenience than fresh herbs (no spoilage, no prep), stock your kitchen with chopped basil, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, chives, and more (organic varieties also available). About $3. Darengal

Remee Klos of Holiday Cocktail Lounge Shares a Couple of Retro Cocktails

Posted on: October 17th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Retro cocktails from a landmark spot on St. Marks Place in the East Village, NYC. One comes complete with cocktail umbrella and plastic toy you can keep as souvenirs. It’s sophisticated kitsch.

It’s so commendable, and quite rare, to see a NYC neighborhood stand-by come back to life without losing its original charm and downtown spirit. For nearly 100 years, this St. Marks Place bar has attracted notables with personality (including Madonna, Sinatra, Keith Richards, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, Allen Ginsburg, Leon Trotsky) that have infused their mark and energy into the space.

HOBNOBMAG Retro Cocktails from a NYC landmark

Holiday Cocktail Lounge, has received a loving, modern-with-kitsch makeover with the vision of Barbara Sibley, the East Village’s ‘resident anthropologist’. Under her guidance, extruded paneled walnut walls and a mint-green banquette give the space a vintage feel, transporting you right back to the ’50s. The renovation unearthed remnants of past incarnations, including a mural of a harem scene from the bar’s time as Ali Baba; a phone booth (one of only a handful left in NYC) with its original phone number; and, remarkably, a Prohibition-era tunnel that allows escape across St. Marks Place.

Her menu is hyper-local, featuring the best within a five-minute stroll from Holiday—including saffron, turmeric and shiso leaves to home-cured kielbasa and freshly baked challah. Sibley is chef and owner of neighboring restaurant, La Palapa, another staple of the neighborhood.

HOBNOBMAG Retro Cocktails from a NYC landmark

Cocktails are cultivated by brothers Michael and Danny Neff, so you know they are stellar. “We are committed to honoring its gritty, celebrity-studded past, while maintaining the creative ‘anything can happen’ ethos of the East Village. By marrying the bonhomie and warmth of a timeless neighborhood bar with a world-class drinks program, we’re planning to incubate some fantastic experiences,” says Michael Neff. ‘Nuff said.

On our visit, we got our cocktails from the funky and lovely Remee Klos, who gives us her terse report on working at Holiday.

HOBNOB: What’s the vibe like at Holiday?
RK: Fun. Always.

Do you get any visits from former luminaries?
What happens at Holiday, stays at Holiday.

What’s the best night to go?

That depends on how much tomfoolery you are in the mood for. You get more quality time with the fantastic bartenders Sundays and Mondays. But here, everyday is a Holiday.

Where have we seen you before Holiday?
The Library, Saxon & Parole, Hop Sing Laundromat.

Open every day from 3pm to 4am, as a landmark should be. holidaycocktaillounge.nyc

I included these two cocktails as part of a plan for hosting a Day of the Dead party because right next door at La Palapa, Barbara Sibley hosts a fabulous tribute to the holiday, with her authentic, traditional Mexican fare.

The Chocoholic Cocktail Featuring Exotic Dark Rum with Pineapple

Posted on: October 11th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

The Day of the Dead party gets even more spooky with this shadowy concoction. In this chocoholic cocktail, I  created a deep, dark mix with a unique, antique rum and married it with tropical flavors. Chocolate and cherries also make an appearance.

This recipe goes with the party plan for hosting a Day of the Dead party or Halloween party, with all of the food is celebratory orange and black.

DETAILS ON THE COCKTAIL’S INGREDIENTS:

[1] Signature Cocktail: The Chocoholic Dark and stormy hues, and strong waves of fruit and chocolate make this the perfect autumn sipper. Brew the tea ahead of time and store in the fridge before your gathering. See the recipe with this post.

[2] Plantation “Stiggin’s Fancy” Pineapple Dark Rum Do not think of this as a flavored rum, a la Captain Morgan. Cocktail historian David Wondrich worked with the owner of Maison Ferrand to create this Caribbean wonder. In fact, recipes from the 1700s were referred to, and this experiment wowed bartenders from around the world at the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail event in New Orleans. To create this exquisite mix, pineapples are first soaked in the dark rum for 3 months, then the rind of the pineapple is macerated into the blend, thus extracting all its essential oils. It’s a truly sophisticated taste that can be sipped on its own, or mixed as it is here. $30.

hobnobmag chocoholic cocktail

[3] Republic of Tea Hibiscus Coconut Tea In keeping with a tropical palate, hibiscus flowers and coconut join the notes of pineapple in the rum in this cocktail. So refreshing, and positively good for you. Buying this tea allows you to Support Action Against Hunger, with $1 for each tin donated to create sustainable food and water solutions to communities faced with scarcity. Republic of Tea responsibly packages the goods in air-tight, light-resistant tins holding 36 unbleached tea bags, without unnecessary envelopes, strings, tags or staples. $10.25. republicoftea.com

[4] Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters A family business since 1864, these bitters add the chocolate-y touch, and take the cocktail over to the dark side. About $10. feebrothers.com

[5] Luxardo The Original Maraschino Cherries It is highly recommended to keep a jar of these in your fridge, for adding a punch of wow to cocktails, cheese boards, and sweets. These specimens are perfectly textured, sour Marasca cherries in a bright, sweet syrup. From the Veneto region of Italy, The Luxardo family has been cultivating cherry trees for this treat and its renowned Maraschino Liqueur. No preservatives or thickeners added. About $20. luxardo.it

Chipotle Salsa with Brown Tomatoes: A Deeper Tone

Posted on: October 9th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

When you see brown tomatoes in your supermarket, give them a shot. They are mild and juicy and work wonderfully in a salsa. Tip: Removing the seeds from the tomatoes makes for a chunkier, and less wet salsa, and much nicer to eat.

We chose to plate the chipotle salsa with blue corn tortilla chips to continue the serious deep mood. This will make a statement on your party buffet for sure. This recipe is part of our Halloween menu, which conforms to an orange and black color theme to give your buffet a holiday feel.

MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS

GRAB A NICE SHARP KNIFE…

5 brown tomatoes
1 can of chipotle peppers, chopped, adobo sauce reserved
juice of half lime
2 TB cilantro, chopped finely

To create nice little tomato chunks, cut a slice off the top, then cut in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and flatten. In a bowl, mix in chipotles, lime juice, and cilantro. Depending on how spicy you want it, add adobo sauce incrementally.

Squid Ink Pasta with Shrimp & Toasted Breadcrumbs

Posted on: October 9th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

If you’ve never tried squid ink pasta, then this is the recipe that will make you fall in love with it. Not only does it have a captivating look, it lends a flavor all its own.

We thought it would be a great dish to serve at a Halloween or Day of the Dead party, and paired it with toasted breadcrumbs and shrimp to adhere to an orange and black menu that we developed especially for Halloween entertaining. This dish is truly spectacular, and so simple to make. It ranks as one of my top recipes on this website, when I see the photo, I just crave it. Do not leave off the breadcrumb mixture, they complete the dish beautifully.

MAKES ABOUT 20 SMALL BOWLS

COOK THE PASTA

1 LB Filotea La Pasta Originale Spaghetti Chitarra al Nero di Seppia (squid ink pasta)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta for 3 min. When draining pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water for the sauce.

TOAST THE BREADCRUMBS

2 TB EV olive oil
1 CUP panko breadcrumbs
1/8 CUP thyme, roughly chopped
zest of 1 lemon

Heat olive oil gently in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir in breadcrumbs, herbs and lemon zest, saute for about 3 min, till the crumbs have browned. Set aside.

MAKE THE SAUCE

1/2 CUP EV olive oil
1 onion, sliced into thin rings
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 CUP white wine
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 5 min. Add garlic, saute for about 1 min (do not let it brown). Add wine, crushed red pepper, and salt and let reduce by half, about 5 min.

ADD THE SHRIMP

1/2 CUP pasta water
1 LB shrimp, shells removed

Add water and shrimp, bring to a boil, cover and let shrimp poach for 2 min, stirring once. Toss with cooked pasta, and let flavors meld another 2 min.

To serve individually, use small bowls or cups and top with 1 shrimp apiece, with a sprinkling of breadcrumb mix on the top. Place dessert forks in each serving.

Marinated Black Olive Bruschetta: Back in Black for Halloween

Posted on: October 9th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Bruschetta is a fun party offering, where you can set our pre-made toasts, or just let your guests make their own. We chose crinkly Moroccan olives for this Black Olive Bruschetta, because of their intense taste, and the ability to hold up to the marinade without getting mushy. They lost a little of their leathery texture and soaked up the flavors nicely. The orange slices and curls add to the orange and black theme, in addition to giving the olives an additional level of taste.

Halloween and Day of the Dead parties are getting spookier by the minute! See the full menu in our party theme Spooky Harvest: a squid ink pasta, roasted carrots, and tomato soup—to name a few recipes in the party mix.

MAKES ABOUT 30 BITES

MARINATE THE OLIVES

2 CUPS black olives
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp orange zest
3 slices orange
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 TB parsley, chopped
EV olive oil

Lightly crush the olives, and transfer to a glass jar with a lid. Add the spices and cover with olive oil. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 1 to 3 days, shaking the jar occasionally.

MAKE THE BLACK OLIVE BRUSCHETTA

crusty baguette, cut into thin slices
EV olive oil
orange curls, for garnish
thyme, minced, for garnish

Drizzle olive oil onto bread. Take marinated olives and crush 3 onto each baguette slice. Top with orange curls and a touch of thyme. Or just leave out the ingredients and let guests make their own toasts.

A Cognac Cocktail from Gregory Buda of The Dead Rabbit

Posted on: September 15th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Enjoy this exquisite sipper from the bar voted “best in the world”. This cognac cocktail includes a touch of rye, madeira, and amaro, a trifecta of smooth, intense notes.

This party’s suggested  cocktail comes from the renowned bar located all the way downtown, NYC. The Dead Rabbit models itself on a traditional Irish bar from the 1800s, where a shop selling pantry favorites would be located on the ground floor. There are two more floors boasting truly excellent cocktails, some served in tea cups, and all in a boisterous atmosphere. The second floor is where you want to be for the full-service exoerience.

See more of my tips for hosting a five-star sports viewing in the UP YOUR GAME party plan. You’ll see recipes for upscale small bites, and more. Serve this potent cognac cocktail sipper to your fellow fans at the end of the game, to drown your sorrows, or celebrate!

Read our interview with Gregory Buda, and his take on working at this extremely popular establishment.

The Dead Rabbit was just awarded “World’s Best Bar” at Tales of the Cocktail. Has there been an increase in customers? Is the pressure on?
I would say that there has definitely been an increase in volume resulting from the press about our awards, which is great, especially in the summer. As for the pressure, it’s always on! Being the best means being dynamic, and we recognize that we can always do better and always improve. We have an awesome staff that constantly brings new ideas to the table on how we can up our game. We won that award not because our drinks are better than everyone else’s, but rather because we offer a really cool and unique experience when you come in.

hobnobmag Cognac Cocktail The Dead Rabbit

What is the most asked for spirit at the bar?

Dead Rabbit is known for having one of the most extensive Irish whiskey selections in the world, and a lot of people come in curious to try something new. It is also one of our goals to promote Irish whiskey as a category, which we do through cocktails, education, and tastings. However, in terms of other spirits, I have been thrilled that more and more guests come in asking about Japanese whisky, mezcal, and Armagnac, three categories that I am very excited about and that have been under people’s radar until recently.

hobnobmag Cognac Cocktail The Dead Rabbit

You are a photographer as well as mixologist. Are you influenced by how the drink looks as well as tastes?
Without question! Your experience of a drink has many facets to it. The obvious ones are aroma, taste, and texture, but presentation and glassware play a huge part as well. The visual appearance of a cocktail is the first part of your experience, so if I make sure it is spectacular, it sets your expectations appropriately for how the drink will taste. A normal comment that I get when I am behind the bar is “What is THAT drink over there?! I’ll have one of those.” And this is said without the guest having any idea what is in the cocktail or how it tastes. Personally, I prefer drinks to be presented in a classic but elegant way. Overly extravagant garnishes and glassware make me question whether the cocktail can speak for itself.

hobnobmag Cognac Cocktail The Dead Rabbit

How many cocktails at The Dead Rabbit can be credited to you? What’s your favorite ingredient that can improve almost any mix?
Currently, 12 of the cocktails in our third edition book menu are my creations, and I have come up with another seven or so for our seasonal menus. My secret ingredient is sherry, and I use different styles of sherry in almost all of the drinks I come up with, whether for menus, competitions, or articles. Before coming to Dead Rabbit, I worked at a beautiful sherry and cocktail bar called The Beagle (now closed) on the Lower East Side, and fell in love. As a bartender, it is a personal mission of mine to promote sherry as a category, and my favorite way to introduce people to its beauty is with a good sherry cocktail. I find that sherry really is a magical ingredient, and if I just can’t get a cocktail to taste the way that I want, adding a little sherry is usually the answer.

deadrabbit.com

Not So Sweet Dessert: Smoked Almond Dip with Apples

Posted on: September 6th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

I’m one of those people that is interested in finding recipes for desserts in the not so sweet category. In coming up with a menu for watching a sporting event,  I thought a savory nut dip would fit the bill. You can pair this dip with either crisp, citrus-y apples, carrots or pretzels. See more upscale recipes in our Classy Sports party theme menu.

MAKES ENOUGH DIP FOR AT LEAST 72 APPLE SLICES

GET OUT THE FOOD PROCESSOR

2 CUPS smoked roasted almonds

5 TB peanut oil

Pulse nuts till very crumbly. Drizzle oil into running processor. Process with light touch.

ADD FLAVOR TO THE MIXTURE

2 TB tamari
1/4 CUP of water
juice of 1 lime
2 TB maple syrup
1 TB smoked salt

Add all ingredients to almond mixture. Process till combined.

SLICE THE APPLES

3 apples
juice of 1/2 lime

Slice apples in half, quarter. Remove core, cut each quarter into 6 slices. In bowl, toss apple slices with freshly squeezed lime juice. When displaying, stick one or more apple slices in dip to encourage dipping.

Health-Conscious Party: Sesame-Crusted Tuna in Miso Ginger Sauce

Posted on: September 6th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Not every party dish needs to be corruptive to your normal focus on nutrition. Health-conscious party fare can be just as delicious as the junk. These barely-cooked tuna bites will provide a gourmet bit. Tip: Make sure to buy sushi-grade tuna, (here’s a great source) since it will be only seared. Your health-conscious and dieting sports fan friends will be duly impressed when they see this on the roster. The lettuce leaf not only makes a pretty wrap, it makes it easy to pick up and eat.

If you love to entertain in style, I’ve come up with a whole menu for impressing your favorite sports fans, see it all here. Forget hotdogs and chili.

MAKES 10-12 BITES + ABOUT 3/4 CUP OF SAUCE

MAKE THE MISO GINGER SAUCE

2-inch pc fresh ginger, chopped
3 TB brown rice miso
juice of 1 lime
1 TB tamari
1 TB grape seed oil
2 TB brown sugar
3 TB sesame oil
3 TB white balsamic vinegar

In a food processor, blend all ingredients until creamy. Refrigerate overnight for more intense flavors.

PREPARE THE TUNA

10 oz sushi-grade ahi tuna steak (if frozen, defrost overnight in the fridge)

Pat dry. Cut tuna into elongated cubes (about 1 1/2 inches square).

COAT THE TUNA

2 TB black sesame seeds
2 TB white sesame seeds
salt

In a flat bowl, add the sesame seeds and salt. Coat tuna on all four sides.

COOK THE TUNA

1 TB grape seed oil
tuna

In a warm skillet, heat oil. Sear tuna about 30 sec each side, using tongs to turn.

MAKE THE BITES

seared tuna
baby bibb lettuce leaves
miso ginger sauce

Cut tuna into 1/2 -inch slices. Place each slice on a leaf of bibb lettuce, top with sauce.

Wellness Cocktail: Pam Wiznitzer’s Low-Alcohol Sipper

Posted on: August 28th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Wellness cocktail, that may be an oxymoron, but there are certainly different degrees when it comes to imbibing. Pam Winitzer, of Seamstress, NYC, shares a recipe for her bright cocktail with low-alcohol, and her thoughts on mixology trends.

This month’s cocktail recipe, by the lovely Ms. Wiznitzer, is a lightly-sweet blend, with low-alcohol content, ideal for daytime parties.

You just attended Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and were busy giving seminars and classes. What are you focused on right now?
Right now my focus is on Seamstress and our team at the venue. We have a busy fall coming up and a killer team behind the bar and on the floor that keeps expanding and making every night really memorable for our guests. With menu changes on the horizon and some fun tricks up our sleeves, Seamstress keeps me pretty busy. Beyond the bar I have our amazing USBGNY chapter programming that keeps me attached to my emails and phone, some incredible projects with brands, travel and cocktails weeks, and just leading healthy lifestyle by keeping to a workout regiment and eating well.

Did you see any new trends that intrigued you?

The most outstanding trend that is sweeping our country right now is a focus on the health and wellness of bartenders. There is a stronger emphasis on not only eating well and working out, but also taking social responsibility by drinking less and keeping the “partying” to a more appropriate level. I felt that this year at Tales was and exemplary one with many bartenders and industry professionals really honing in on their behavior and enjoying the week without getting overly intoxicated. In fact, there are loads of people who are cutting out alcohol altogether!

For cocktails, there is a shift towards low proof/session drinks and also incorporating more unique spirits onto a cocktail menu. Vermouth and sherry were stars of the show and incorporated into many of the cocktails currently on menus across the country. As well, the appearance of spirits such as applejack, pisco, Raicilla, Sotol, Eau de Vie, Cognac and other more obscure liquors are finally getting their chance to shine at bars. It’s an exciting time for the smaller spirit producers from these categories because consumers and bartenders are both seeking our new flavors for their programs.

hobnobmag Wellness Cocktail

You’ve switched bars from way downtown (The Dead Rabbit) to the upper east side…how would you say the clientele compare?
New York clientele are the best! I love that the majority of guests who come to Seamstress are locals from the UES, as well as many doctors, nurses, teachers and some other business individuals who work uptown. A phenomenal part of our guests happen to be other industry personnel who work in restaurants and bars above 59th street and love to join us post shift for a great cocktail. As well, many of my guests from the Dead Rabbit (along with my old co-workers from the bar) have traveled uptown to visit, which means the world to me. I really love the people who come to eat and drink with us every night and love to see the returning faces week after week!

hobnobmag Wellness Cocktail

There’s a wee store in the entryway of Seamstress, with a great selection of handmade items, how do you choose who to include?
Steve Laycock and Josh Mazza help to curate the store. We focus on American goods that are of the highest quality and reflect the same ideals that we have at Seamstress (craftsmanship, attention to detail). We currently have syrups from Max Messier’s company Cocktail & Sons, Original drawings from artists Meredith Wing (@moomooi on instagram), Lotuff leather bags, Shinola watches from Detroit and Pendleton Blankets. You can check out our store online to see all of the updates:

seamstressny.com

Greek Flavors Through the Eyes of a Preeminent Chef: Smashing Plates by Maria Elia

Posted on: August 3rd, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

In this cookbook review, we show a top international chef who relies on the Greek flavors of her childhood, and turns them into the most artistic and interesting plates.

Raised in a restaurant owned by her Greek Cypriot father and English mother, Maria Elia knew from the early age of four that she wanted to be a chef, to surround herself with the excitement of the kitchen she had grown up in. After years working in world-renowned professional kitchens such as El Bulli and Arzack, Elia found herself returning to those flavors of Greece, saying, “They are the ones that are most emotive to me; the ones that make my heart sing.”

BACK FULL CIRCLE

She rediscovered those flavors by spending a summer cooking with her father in the Troodos mountains of Cyprus, embracing the rural life as much as the villagers embraced her in return, sharing recipes old and new. There in Cyprus with her father she rediscovered Greek ingredients through her eyes as a professional chef, and found that they were inspirational on a whole new level. Smashing Plates represents the fruits of that rediscovery, Elia’s contemporary twists on the elevated, yet still rooted in the iconic flavors of Greece.

hobnobmag Greek Flavors Smashing Plates

A SHARED PLATE PHILOSOPHY

As is traditional, dishes in Smashing Plates are meant to be shared rather than individually plated, with 120 recipes divided into mezze-like small plates, more filling shared plates, salads, sides, and desserts that are all meant to be mixed and matched to enjoy amongst friends and family.

All the traditional, essential flavors and elements of Greek cooking remain—briny olives, bright lemon, luscious olive oil, vibrant herbs, juicy tomatoes, succulent lamb, and fresh seafood— but have been reimagined in creative, modern ways by Elia’s skilled touch in dishes such as Slow-Roasted Paper-Wrapped Leg of Lamb, Kalamata Olive Gnocchi, Zucchini-Coated Calamari, Carrot Tabbouleh, Sumac Flatbread, Honeyed Fried Feta, Rabbit Baklava, and Wild Greens Macaroni and Cheese.

Elia’s food is simple yet elegant, light yet lush, and absolutely belongs on your table. About $17. Enjoy this recipe from the book for a light and beautiful dessert, a twist on a traditional milk pudding.

hobnobmag COOKBOOK smashing plates Greek flavors

recipe

WATERMELON MAHALEPI

This is the only way I eat mahalepi, flavoured with one of my favourite fruits, the watermelon. Traditionally, mahalepi is made with water and cornflour – not the most enticing dessert, even when it’s served sprinkled with sugar and a glug of rose syrup! I’m in a minority, though, as the Greeks love it.

Variations: You can try various flavours – grape would be interesting, as would orange, scented with fresh basil. Just make a purée of the fruit, pass through a fine sieve and then make up to the required volume with water.

Serves 4

FOR THE ROSE SYRUP

5 oz [150ml] water
1/3 CUP [250g] sugar
2 TB rose water, or a few drops of rose essence
juice of 1/2 lemon
red food coloring

To make the syrup, place the water and sugar in a pan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat and boil for 3 minutes, then take off the heat and stir in the rose water and lemon juice and taste for strength. Add a tiny drop of food coloring and pour into a sterilized jar or bottle. Once cooled, seal and refrigerate.

FOR THE MAHALEPI

4.4 LB [2kg] watermelon, cut into small pieces (discard the rind)
1/4 CUP [60g] cornflour
1/3 CUP [75g] caster sugar

Place the watermelon pieces in a blender and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve into a large jug or bowl. Do this a little at a time as you’ll need to push the purée through the sieve with a spoon. You should end up with around 600ml watermelon juice in total – make up with a little water if necessary.
Whisk the cornflour with a little of the juice to make a smooth slurry, then whisk with the remaining juice and pour into a saucepan. Whisk over a low heat until the mixture comes to the boil and thickens. Cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and whisk in the sugar until it dissolves.

Pour the mixture into four shallow bowls that have been sprinkled with a few drops of cold water – this will make turning out the mahalepi a lot easier, as it stops them from sticking. Allow to cool before refrigerating overnight or for at least 3 hours.

TO GARNISH

8 strawberries
around 16 chopped pistachios
rose petals or violas (optional)

Turn the mahalepi out of their molds (they should easily slide out – add a splash of water if they don’t). Serve in deep dishes, topped with a glug of rose syrup, and garnished with strawberries, pistachios and rose petals or violas if you have them.

Buy the book: Smashing Plates: Greek Flavors Redefined>

Photo/Publisher: Credit: Taken by Smashing Plates by Maria Elia. Published by Kyle Cathie, priced £19.99. Photography by Jenny Zarins