Wednesday, April 23, 2014

G & Tea (Gin with Cucumber and Meringue)

Three things happened this week that led up to the creation of this drink.

1 - We received a ubiquitous amount of cucumbers in our Lufa basket.
2 - A friend gave me a bag of Cool Cucumber flavoured David's Tea. 
3 - Josh brought home a bottle of Hendrick's gin to celebrate the long weekend.

While chatting over a freshly brewed pot of the tea, we both concluded that it would pair marvellously with gin. I'm quite the novice at making cocktails (read: I've never actually made one), but I was inclined to test this one out - with a little help from the boy, of course.

"Could you make a cucumber foam to go on top?" he asked, bright eyed.

I wasn't quite sure what I'd do to make such a thing, but the first idea that came to mind was to use egg whites. Seeing as I've been mastering meringue techniques at school, I thought that this could would work out nicely. I opted to first test it out using a Swiss meringue, mostly because it's easy to prepare, but also because I find it to be a little less stiff than the Italian version. While Italian meringue holds well in a buttercream, I wanted something that would break up into foam once mixed into my drink.

A juiced cucumber, three egg whites and a dash of sugar later, cucumber meringue was born. It broke down into a foam exactly as I'd hoped for. Even once it was stirred into the drink, a significant amount remained floating on top, creating a rather elegant presentation.

To fancy it up even more, we mixed the leftover juicing pulp with a little bit of water to make cucumber ice cubes.

Note: vegans / egg intolerant peeps: a little bit of frothed soy or almond milk would work in place of the meringue. Add a couple of drops of agave nectar to the tea, adjusting to your preferred level of sweetness.

G & Tea
an original recipe by allison sklar (with help from josh m. elkin)

what you'll need
4 cups boiling water
4 tbsp David's Tea Cool Cucumber tea

4 oz Hendrick's Gin

42 grams egg whites
66 grams sugar
8 grams light/white corn syrup

2 medium-sized cucumbers

how to do it
Steep tea in water for about 3 minutes. Remove tea leaves and refrigerate until cool.

Juice one cucumber and set aside, reserving juice pulp.

Mix juice pulp with about 1/4 cup water and divide among ice cube tray. Freeze.

Meanwhile, over a bain marie, prepare egg whites, sugar and invert sugar. Heat, stirring continuously, until sugar is dissolved. Do NOT overheat, or your eggs will cook! Transfer to stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until stiff peaks form (note: when beating egg whites, peaks are different than when beating cream. stiff egg whites are similar to medium peaks in whipped creams). Pour in cucumber juice and continue beating on medium-low speed.

Stir gin into cooled tea.

Assemble drinks: Thinly slice remaining cucumber, placing a few slices at the bottom of 4 glasses. Add cucumber ice cubes. Pour tea & gin mixture on top, leaving 1/2 an inch for foam. Spoon meringue mixture into glasses and stir gently, until meringue breaks up into foam. Garnish with basil leaf, if desired.

Serves 4.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cook the Cover (Fennel & Cabbage Salad with Sesame and Orange)

Monday: walking on the mountain while wearing a cute summer dress and sandals.
Tuesday: cleaning the snow off my car while wearing a winter coat, mittens and boots.

Ah, a  common Montreal "spring".  

With our weather being quite literally bipolar, it's hard enough knowing which tires we should have on, let alone what kind of meals we should be preparing. Light and healthy, or hearty and comforting? Sweet and tangy or salty and savory? Seeing as I'm as indecisive as Mother Nature, I want a meal that satisfies all of the above.

Canadian Living's May cover recipe features deliciously savoury chicken (or tofu!) on a bed of peppery cabbage and sweet fennel, tossed together with a comforting dressing (hello honey mustard!) and topped with bright segments of tangy orange. Yes, it is possible to have it all! 

I enjoyed this dressing so much that I ended up making a double batch of it. I used it as a dip for fresh veggies the next day, and I used the last little bit as a sandwich spread. Using a grainy mustard gave it a nice kick. Also to note: I only have Vegenaise in my fridge, and it worked in the place of mayo. If you want to make this fully vegan, sub some agave for the honey, and you're all set. 

If you're going the tofu route, use the same quantity as you would chicken, and cut it into strips. I suggest you double, or even triple, the dressing and marinate the tofu in it about an hour before for ultimate flavour. Pan-fry until browned and sprinkle with sesame. For the complete recipe, (salad, dressing, chicken and all!) click here: Canadian Living: Sesame Chicken and Orange Salad

This post is featured on Canadian Living's website this month! See it here:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Worth Your Salt (Salted Chocolate Toffee Bites)

Confession: this recipe was the result of a happy accident. I was originally making a simple caramel sauce for brunch this weekend when I absentmindedly let the caramel cook on the stove much longer than anticipated. Even though i had shut the burner off, I forgot to take the caramel out of the pot. So, doing as caramel does, it continued to cook, until it reached a much harder stage, and then it cooled.  Lo and behold, when I went to serve the sauce, all I had was a pot with a brick of toffee at the bottom. I was in a panic. This was supposed to be the star of my brunch! "No problem," said my easygoing guest. "Just dip it in chocolate and we'll eat it later!"

Making chocolate is quick and simple, if you follow two rules: 1 - use good quality chocolate pastilles. Poor quality (cheap) chocolate will yield poor results. Uneven melting, poor taste, poor texture, etc.
2. Temper. Always, always temper. If your chocolate reaches a temperature above 50 degrees C, it burns, and though you might not see it, you'll definitely taste it. The texture will change once it hardens, and it will have an unpleasantly bitter, charred taste.

To make these, all you really have to do is make caramel, pour it out onto a tray, let it cool & break it up into chunks. Then, you melt the chocolate, pour it on top, and let it harden. Hit it a few times with a blunt knife and voila! Salty caramel chocolate brittle.

I hear brittle and I usually think "Christmas," but you don't really need an occasion to make this.  It keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, so you can put some in a mason jar, wrap a piece of twine around it and you've got a pretty last-minute hostess gift. You can also just save it all for yourself - it makes a great snack when you're torn between salty and sweet - that is, if you have the willpower not to eat it all in one sitting. Seriously. Make this. This stuff is delicious and dangerous and addictive and full of unadulterated happiness.

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