Monthly Archives

August 2015

In the Kitchen

Habanero and Watermelon Margaritas

August 31, 2015

Pink Watermelon Margarita

Looking for a perfect beverage to get you through the final days of summer? Look no further. This watermelon and habanero margarita perfectly matches the weather as we head into the first days of fall. It starts off cool and refreshing with a hint of sweetness from the watermelon, just like those first crisp days of September. Then the habanero kicks in, like a late summer heatwave, just when you thought you were through with all that. It’s sassy, sultry, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

My summer garden is beginning the slow descent into dormancy for the winter, but my hot pepper plants are just starting to ripen into their final fiery colors: white habaneros, orange scotch bonnets, red and purple Filius Blues, and the mother of all things spicy– ghost peppers.

White Habaneros

Scotch Bonnets

Filius Blue Peppers

Ghost Peppers

As they’ve started to ripen, first one by one, and then two by two, and now all in a jumbled mess of super-heat, I’ve started to panic. When one or two habaneros is enough to bring a pot of chili to my perfect heat level, how on earth am I possibly going to eat the dozens of peppers that are practically dripping off my plants? I’ve had to get creative to find new places to sneak in the heat. This watermelon habanero margarita is the first of a string of hot pepper recipes I’ll be posting over the coming month, so keep your eyes peeled for a host of tongue-tingling recipes as part of my new month-long series: September Spice!

White Habanero Watermelon Margaritas

Serves 6, or 4 thirsty individuals.

Not sure if you can take the heat? Don’t worry. These margaritas are the perfect blend of sweet and sour with just a hint of spice. But if it’s still too much you can modify the recipe to use a jalapeño instead, or omit the peppers altogether. You can make these with traditional red or pink watermelon, or try it with an heirloom yellow watermelon for a fun twist! Or be like me and make both!

Margaritas

To make the Habanero Tequila:

Infusing the Tequila

  • 2 cups tequila
  • 1 white habanero, sliced into rounds

Place habanero slices in a pint-sized mason jar or other sealable container. Pour tequila over top and seal. Let sit for 4 hours or overnight. Strain out habanero pieces before using.

To make the Margaritas:

More Margarita Ingredients

Margarita Ingredients

  • 1 cup habanero tequila
  • ¾ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz agave syrup
  • 6 cups cubed watermelon, orange or pink
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Add all ingredients to a blender and whiz until smooth. Strain to removed watermelon pulp, or leave as is for a little extra texture. Pour over ice and enjoy with some salsa and guac!

Yellow Watermelon Margarita

In the Garden

Reminder: Time to Start Sowing

August 20, 2015

Sprouts

Just a friendly reminder to start thinking about what you’re going to plant in your garden this fall.

Here in Palo Alto, USDA plant hardiness zone 9b, it’s time to start sowing seeds indoors for cool-season crops like broccoli, cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, and kale. These winter crops can be shockingly slow-growing so the earlier you can get them started, the sooner you’ll be reaping the rewards!

Happy sowing!

 

Adventure Time

5 of My Favorite Spots to Grab a Bite in Austin, TX

August 14, 2015

Austin

Paris may be for lovers, but Austin is for eaters. As someone who tends to plan my trips around my three main meals, that made it impossibly hard to pick just a handful of restaurants, taco trucks, and coffee shops from the hundreds of mouthwatering Yelp reviews I’d read in anticipation of my recent trip to Texas’s funky, food-forward capital city.

I didn’t get to visit even a fraction of the places that were recommended to me, but I still managed to walk (okay roll) away from the city feeling pretty satisfied with my choices.

Here are, in no particular order, 5 of my favorite spots to grab a bite or a brew in Austin, TX:

Freedmen’s BBQ

Freedman's

Holy mother of all things smoked! When it comes to BBQ, Freedmen’s does not mess around. Freedmen’s is different from many of the other Austin meat meccas in that it is primarily a bar, which just happens to serve tremendous BBQ brisket on the side, but don’t let its upscale appearance and small table count fool you– Freedmen’s BBQ is ridiculously tasty. I got the chopped brisket sandwich with potato salad, and a smoked banana pudding for dessert. I was a happy, happy camper.

But do you want to know the best thing about Freedmen’s? No line. That’s right, not only are the desserts smoked, but you can also be in and out in the time it took your buddies to Instagram their view of the line at Franklin’s.

So, next time you’re passing through Austin and don’t have an entire morning to devote to waiting for your BBQ fix, head on over to Freedmen’s. They’ll treat you right.

Uchiko

Uchiko

Uchiko is the sister restaurant to the ever popular Uchi. That’s me and my pops standing outside, getting ready to chow down on some serious deliciousness.

Between the ultra-fresh, cleverly plated sashimi and aptly, yet ridiculously names Jar Jar Duck (delightfully tender, melt-in-your-mouth morsels of duck marinated in an applewood smoke that poofs out of the jar when you open it) Uchiko has the hipster farmhouse Japanese cuisine niche on lock.

Uchiko Sashimi

Uchiko Jar Jar Duck

Go for the perfectly curated ambience and make sure to bring friends– you’re going to want to try it all.

Veracruz Taco Truck

I visited a couple of taco trucks on my sojourn through Austin, and the original Veracruz truck on E Cesar Chavez was by far my favorite. Order the migas tacos and a Mexico Lindo smoothie. You will not be disappointed.

Tacos Veracruz

Oh and the tortas are pretty bomb too.

Jacoby’s Mercantile

Jacoby's

Jacoby’s Restaurant and Mercantile is a gem of a place tucked along the Colorado River. The patio is where it’s at. With a whimsical yet homey vibe, it’s the perfect place to catch the sunset while snacking on upgraded Southern classics like pimento cheese and this divine pork chop, piled with peaches, and drizzled with a sweet and tart sorghum syrup.

Jacoby's Porkchop

Odd Duck

If I’m being really really honest with you, Odd Duck was probably my favorite restaurant of the trip. With a tapas-style menu full of small, funky dishes, there’s something to please most anyone who stops by this fine establishment.

Odd Duck Cocktail

Even my mother– who doesn’t care for most cocktails, and especially doesn’t like whiskey– swooned over their High Five cocktail. And as unappetizing as “pig face” sounds, their Parker house roll with pig face really hit the spot.

Odd Duck Buns

So did the crawfish boil. And the dessert. And pretty much everything we ate.

Odd Duck Crawfish

Odd Duck Crawfish Broil

Odd Duck Dessert

Yum!

Have you been to Austin? What were your favorites? I have to start compiling my must-eat list for my next visit!

In the Kitchen

Dill Cucumber Spears

August 10, 2015
Cucumber dill pickle spears ready to be bottled

Eat Your Flowers

Did you know that dill flowers are edible?

They tend to get a bad rap because, as with all annuals, the appearance of flowers is a sure sign that your dill plant is about to kick the bucket. The flowers, though a harbinger of impending death, actually have a lot going for them. They’re wonderful pollinator-attractors– bees, in particular, are big fans– and if you leave the flowers to set seed, you can harvest the seeds for use in breads, spice rubs, and seafood dishes. You can also use the flowers fresh, and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend eating one whole, they can be used with great effect to flavor pickles and soups– anywhere where you would like a subtle hint of dill.

I recently came across a bunch of flowering dill at my farmer’s market and was immediately seized with the need to make dill pickles.

Dill Flower

I’ve been getting cucumbers almost every week in my CSA box, and though I feel like a gardening fraud to admit it, I’m not really that big of a cucumber fan. I’ve gotten better at eating cucumbers, especially if they’re liberally dunked in hummus, but I still much prefer them in their pickled form. So when I got a bunch of pickling cucumbers in my CSA box the very same week that flowering dill appeared at the farmer’s market, I took it as a sign that it was time to get a’ picklin’!

Cucumber Pickles

Recipe: Cucumber Dill Pickle Spears

This recipe makes one quart jar of pickle spears.

These pickles are incredibly easy to make, and will last for 2-3 weeks in the fridge, though I’ve eaten them up to a month after making them, with no sign of deterioration of quality.

  • 2 large kirby cucumbers
  • 2 flowering dill heads*
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  1. Wash the cucumbers well, rubbing off any spines. Cut off the stem and blossom ends, and quarter lengthwise. Pack the spears into a clean quart-sized mason jar, trimming as needed to ensure they fit inside with a bit of room to spare at the top.
  2. Add the dill flower heads, spices, and garlic to the mason jar.
  3. Bring the salt, water, and white wine vinegar to a boil on the stove. Pour the boiling brine over the cucumbers to cover. Seal the jars and store in the refrigerator for a week before eating, to allow the flavors to meld together. Enjoy!

* If you can’t find dill flowers, you can simply substitute a sprig of dill leaves instead.

 

Cucumber Dill Spear

In the Garden

How to Harvest Basil for Maximum Yields

August 3, 2015
This is what the top of a basil plant looks like several days after removing the top set of leaves-- new growth is coming in

A couple of weeks ago we covered the basics of keeping a potted basil plant alive. Let’s dig in one step deeper. We don’t just want our basil to live, do we? We want it to thrive! Preferably, we’d like it to furnish us with countless verdant leaves with which to garnish our caprese salads and pizzas all summer long. These are attainable goals! It only takes a little know-how and a couple of minutes of maintenance to keep your basil productive well into the depths of summer.

The number one step you can take to encourage your basil to grow faster and more vigorously is… drumroll please…

Pruning Basil

Harvest it! It may seem counter-intuitive, but harvesting your basil actually encourages it to produce more new growth. So don’t be afraid to pluck a couple of leaves for your sandwich just because your plant isn’t all that big yet. The key is to harvest from the top. You can and should intentionally pluck off the very top set of tiny leaves when you first buy your basil plant to get a jump start on this process.

Top Leaves

Picking off the top leaves of your plant will encourage it to bush out, sending out additional side stems with new sets of leaves, rather than getting all tall and spindly.

New Leaves on Pruned Basil

 

IMG_5116

If it’s particularly hot or late in the season, you may notice your plant starting to put out pretty little flower spikes. These signal death for your basil plant.

Basil Flowers

Thai Basil Flowers

Basil is an annual, meaning it dies after it has completed its reproductive cycle, and the act of flowering is your basil plant telling you it’s wrapping up its time here on earth. You can halt this cycle, however, by plucking off the flowers (which are totally edible, and can replace basil leaves in many recipes). Better yet, whack off the entire top third of your plant, whizz it up into pesto, and watch as your plant miraculously regrows before your eyes.

New Basil Shoots