What makes a better gift than DIY cocktail supplies? This kind of gift is cute, unique, and way more useful than another pair of hand-knit socks. Best of all, it’s surprisingly easy to make the components of one of my favorite cocktails, the Manhattan. Well, all of the components except for the rye whiskey. That one, I’ll leave to the experts.
Tag: new years
The autumn harvest is here, brilliant with salads laced with pomegranates and red Starkrimson pears, poached quinces, shredded Brussels sprouts sauteed with pancetta. And chestnuts, lovely, shiny brown chestnuts, here roasted and pureed into a rich and elegant soup, perfect for starting any holiday meal.
See these Greek coffee grounds? They just told me my future.
I am sitting here, wired and edgy from two cups of the stuff, trying to let my mind become open to what the residue left behind is trying to tell me.
And I am not entirely sure what to make of it.
Of course, there are a lot of people who might not know what I’m talking about, since I have encountered a hell of a lot of people who don’t even know what Greek coffee is, let alone what Greek coffee can tell a person.
I’m inaugurating a wine blog today on Bay Area Bites. It’s a labor of love for me. I worked for a decade in the wine trade in the seventies and eighties, in New York City, San Francisco, and the Napa Valley. I’ve kept a toehold in the industry since then, while working as a news editor, reporter and anchor at KQED Public Radio. I still get a thrill from tasting great wine, or decent wine that’s a great value; and my cup runneth over with suggestions. People look at me strangely (“Is this nut coming on to me?”) when I make recommendations in the liquor aisle at Safeway. So this blog will provide a more acceptable outlet for my tasting notes. I’ll try to avoid numbers, and talk about how these wines behave on the lunch or dinner table, where they belong. I did a bubbly tasting not long ago; and with New Year Eve upon us, I wanted to share my thoughts, and those of my guests, on what we liked.
One of the things I love about cooking around the holidays is experimenting with all the ingredients in my refrigerator. Although I have a great time planning our Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s feasts, I think I enjoy the impromptu ones even more. Take Christmas breakfast this year: although I had every intention of making cinnamon rolls the night before Christmas so we could have freshly-baked ooey gooey deliciousness in the morning, an ill-timed head cold forced me to bed early. So there we were, Christmas morning with no buns. What we did have, however, was a fridge full of fresh and luxurious holiday ingredients.
It’s the Holiday Season, if you haven’t noticed. Sappy music is piped into our ears if we dare venture pretty much anywhere outside. Macy’s is back to putting live kittens in their store windows. People are stressed out at the thought of having to entertain, buy presents, and spend their dwindling piles of money.
And I’m busy– I’ve got lots of parties to go to. Because I’m that popular.
I have decided that this year, in light of my own evaporating bankroll, I shall indulge in the spirit of giving by sharing with my friends and loved ones items I have made with my own little hands. Or not so little– I have more than an octave reach, in piano terms. Not that I play the piano.
This year, I am making Bourbon Balls. No jokes, please. They contain all the vitamins and minerals necessary to get me through the Season: sugar, chocolate, and alcohol. They are relatively easy to make, but look as though I’ve slaved away at them. And they’re good. Chocolaty, not too sweet, slightly salty, and just a little boozy.
This is a recipe taken (but is not exactly duplicated) from a cookbook I worked on several years ago called New England by Molly Stevens, which was part of a series called New American Cooking by the folks at Williams-Sonoma. I was the food styling assistant on this book and was initially disappointed that we didn’t photograph this recipe. Given the rather monochromatic nature of this dish, I now understand the wisdom of that decision. What this dish lacks in color, it definitely makes up for in flavor. It’s seriously good.
The original, quick-and-easy recipe from Gourmet (Dec 2000) skips the whole nuts, the fleur de sel, the excess rum and the butter bath that you’ll find in the recipe below. I obviously like booze, crunchiness and that sweet-salty thing, but both versions are equally yummy. The most important part is to splurge on the best white chocolate you can find. Burlingame-based E. Guittard’s wafers are among my favorites.
There are countless variations of this recipe (I even found a recipe for Hip Hoppin’ John), but the basics remain the same– black-eyed peas, some sort of smoked pig product, onion and water. Everything else that might be included seems to be a matter of either taste, region or whatever one might think is lucky. Throw in a diced rabbit’s foot or a horseshoe– I doubt anyone would notice. Here’s my version.