Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Jake's Mint Julep

This is a first and I'm still in shock. My husband was in the kitchen. And he made something I'm going to share! On. My. Blog.

Let me explain: I know that my husband ate before he met me. He must have cooked, too. But in the seventeen years that we have been together, he has only cooked (not counting the grill) a handful of times.

Let's see...seventeen and a half years. That's over 6300 days. Three meals a days. That's almost twenty thousand meals. And he's only cooked five of those. Maybe. But it's not because he's unwilling; it's because I'm territorial. I've eased into letting the Kitchen Elves in. But Jake doesn't come in unless I'm too sick to stand in front of the stove!

So, while we were unpacking from our 10-day camping trip, I was downloading photos and shuffling laundry. He and the boys had Alton Brown's Good Eats going on Netflix.

"Do you have bourbon?" I heard him ask.


"Do you have sugar?" he continued.


"Do you want a mint julep? Alton Brown just showed me how to make one."

Jake's Mint Julep
Click for Alton Brown's recipe: here. Unlike me, my husband can follow a recipe. Exactly.

And while he can follow the recipe, he did end up deviating for the second cocktail. He didn't think the drink was minty enough as written. Here's his slightly adapted version, AB-inspired.

  • 12 to 15 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 1/2 t organic granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 oz Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey (he used Knob Creek) 
  • ice cubes
  • sparkling water
  • mint sprig and flower for garnish

Combine mint leaves and sugar in an old-fashioned glass. Muddle together so that the mint releases its oils but is still green, approximately 1 minute. 

Add in the bourbon - that "a jigger and a pony's worth" if that means anything to you! I guess I need to watch that episode of Alton Brown's show - and set aside for several minutes.

Pound ice with a rolling pin to crush slightly. Fill the glass with ice and top with a splash of sparkling water. 

Stir and garnish. Serve immediately. It was a tasty drink. I think I'll have to have Jake make me another one soon.

D's Camp Kale Salad

When my garden goddess of a sister-in-law invited us to "come take as much kale as [we] wanted" from her beds, as we headed to the coast, I don't know if she really understood what that means to the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf. He loves his kale! He plucked and plucked, then asked if he could have some of her marigolds. She let him.

We had so much kale that we made this salad three times during the rest of our camping trip. It was delicious each time.

  • 1 to 2 bunches kale, larger ribs removed and torn into 1" pieces
  • 2 to 4 T olive oil
  • zest from 2 organic lemons
  • juice from 4 organic lemons
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • fresh herbs, destemmed and roughly torn (we used a mix of dill, parsley, and marigolds)

Place the kale in a large mixing bowl.

Pour the olive oil and lemon juice over the leaves. Massage until the leaves are softened and have turned from a greyish-green to a bright, deep emerald. Toss in the herbs.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving so that the herbs have a chance to meld into the salad.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ROUND-UP: The Interpreter of Maladies-Inspired Creations for #thebookclubcookbookCC

Remember we kicked off our year-long journey to cook - and read - for #thebookclubcookbookCC. Here's my invitation for the inaugural event: Interpreter of Maladies.*

I invited bloggers to make an egg curry or drink a lassi...or get creative with their favorite Indian recipes. The mango lassi seems to be the most popular choice with variations that included a parfait and a cocktail. Love the creativity!

photos used with permission from participating bloggers

But we did have a few wonderful entrees as well! Only Shannon braved the egg curry which Judy had cautioned was an acquired taste.

photos used with permission from participating bloggers

Here's what the hosting bloggers shared...
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm posted her recipe for Chingri Paturi, Steamed Mustard Shrimp. Wendy was inspired by A Real Durwan. “The woman tells the story of how she was once very wealthy and lived in the lap of luxury.  Nobody knows if these are truths or fallacies but Boori Ma's stories never change.  One of her stories is how they ate Prawns steamed in Banana Leaves.  This sounded delicious to me and my recipe was decided.” I agree and can’t wait to try Wendy’s version.

Andrea of Adventures in All Things Food went the Mango Lassi for her selection. She special ordered the mango pulp and left out the rosewater which is definitely a polarizing ingredient. The verdict: “Mango Lassi is an easy recipe with few ingredients. The results though is perfection! (Okay, minus the rosewater...).”

Ashley of Cheesecurd in Paradise whipped up a Simple Mango Lassi. She reports: “I opted to use a very simple recipe for a mango lassi: milk, yogurt, mango and honey. So simple and so easy. Traditionally, recipes might require a bit of rose water, but I do not use it in my recipe.  I made think drink for my family for an after dinner treat and they slurped it down like there was no tomorrow!” A hit! Love when that happens.

Emily from Life on Food also made a Mango Lassi because she admits: "I am all for a good curry but one of my favorite treats when eating in Indian restaurants is a Mango Lassi." Ours, too. It's like a drink and a dessert all rolled in to one delicious glass.

Danielle from Mostly Food and Crafts made Curried Lentil Stew with Vegetables. She queried: “The flavors in this dish were strong and delicious.  I had it on the stove for a while simmering away and every time someone came to the door, they commented on how delicious it smelled in the house.  If I could turn this into a candle I would...would you buy my garlic, ginger, curry and cumin candles?” Yes, I would!

Sarah, The Pajama Chef, shared her Indian-Style Chicken Curry with Chickpeas and Raisins over Spiced Couscous. She wrote: “This is one of my very favorite curry recipes, and actually is the one that made me love Indian food! Ben and I have made this recipe a handful time over the past few years… it is absolutely delightful each time! Every bite is rich and flavorful, and your kitchen will smell absolutely wonderful while you’re cooking. Ginger! Garlic! Garam masala! Mmm, mmm, mmm.” 

Renee from Tortillas and Honey offered up her Mango Lassi Parfait. She decided to make a somewhat deconstructed mango lassi instead by making it into a parfait! She shared: “I guess this dish is somewhat fitting of the book for this month because this is an even further Americanized version of a mango lassi, but I think it captures the flavors.”

Erin of The Spiffy Cookie went a grown-up direction by making a Mango Lassi Cocktail. Erin suggests that we mix with rum or vodka based on preference and top with crushed pistachios for extra flair. Cheers!  But I have to ask – What is Thirsty Thursday? And why haven’t I heard of it before?!?!

Sarah from Things I Make (for Dinner) whipped up some Chicken Tikka Kebabs. Sarah took inspiration from When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine, admitting, “I had already started to toy with what to make, and when I saw the phrase ‘platters of kebabs’, I knew what I was going to do.” I would love some platters of kebabs in my life, too. I am certainly bookmarking this post.

Shannon of ZooeySuff braved the Egg Curry. Gold star, my friend, many gold stars! Shannon researched “egg curry” and learned that there is no one recipe for it. She warns: “In fact, it varies from household to household. It is however considered to be both a resourceful empty-pantry dish and a true comfort food. The recipe I chose to use includes a significant amount of grated ginger and potatoes. As ginger is one of my favorite flavors and the Irish in me can’t imagine a comfort food without potatoes (unless it’s beer. or pad thai. or a burger. or—), I decided to use the website recipe instead of the cook book recipe.”

A visual link-up...
In future months, I hope to have other bloggers join the fun. You'll find their recipes included in this section.

I was foiled...
Earlier in the month I hosted an entire dinner around the Interpreter of Maladies, making everything from baked samosas to beef biriyani and egg curry to mango lassi. It was delicious and beautiful. But just before I left for a 10-day vacation, my laptop went kaput. Dead as a doornail. And with its demise went all of my photos. Boo. And, sadly, the news from my computer guy read like this - "Your hard drive has a fatal error. No data is recoverable on it because it cannot be read." Great. Just great.

So, I thought I would have nothing to share this month without scrambling to recreate all of those dishes. And. I. Just. Couldn't. Do. It. But we had had a great Indian feast at a restaurant in Mountain View, at the end of our camping trip and I was inspired to make a quick Kachumber Salad. This easy, crisp salad paired nicely with Indian-spiced roasted chicken thighs. So, I have an offering to share after all.

Kachumber Salad

  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 Persian cucumbers, chopped
  • 6 mint leaves, chopped
  • ¼ C dill, chopped (traditional is cilantro leaves, but I had dill)
  • juice from 1 organic Meyer lemon
  • ½ t ground cumin
  • ¼ t red chili flakes
  • salt to taste

Toss all of the ingredients so that they are evenly mixed. Check seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve the kachumber salad immediately.

Click for my Indian-Spiced Roasted Chicken Thighs recipe. It was tasty, too.

And to kick-off the event, enter to win a copy of the cookbook so you can join us in future months, if you wish! You still have a couple of days to win. Giveaway ends on July 31st.

One of our lucky readers - US and Canada only! - can enter to win a copy of The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, courtesy of Tarcher-PenguinGiveaway runs from July 1st till July 31st at 6 o'clock PM, Pacific time. Please see terms and conditions in the rafflecopter widget below. Many thanks to Tarcher Books. You may find Tarcher: on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Pinterest.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Book Club Cookbook, Revised Edition: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp to use in this year-long project plus the opportunity to give a copy away. Opinions are my own. I received no further compensation for my post.

Next Month
Andrea of Adventures in All Things Food will be the host next month. Keep an eye out for her invitation, but rumor has it we'll be cooking from (and - totally optional! - reading) A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson.

*I've included an affiliate link below for this month's selection and next month's...if you would like to read them. If you are uncomfortable using the link, feel free to go to amazon and search on your own!


Campfire Salmon

One of our favorite camping dinners is campfire fish. It's so easy and flexible. Use whatever fish you have. Use some kind of citrus, some kind of herbs, and some kind of oil. That's all there is to it. The parchment and foil pouch keeps it moist and it's ready to eat within an hour. Perfect!

Thanks to my sister-in-law who let us grab the marigolds from her garden! Love you, Liv!!

  • fish filet (we used wild-caught salmon for this one)
  • organic lemon, thinly sliced
  • fresh herbs (we used dill and marigold petals)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Also need: parchment paper and aluminum foil

Lay a piece of heavy duty foil on the table. Lay a piece of parchment on top of that. Place your fish piece in the center of the parchment.

Lay lemon slices on top of the fish. Then layer it with fresh herbs, roughly chopped, on top of the fish. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Drizzle it all with olive oil.

Bring the long sides of the foil together and fold down to seal. Crimp in the ends to create a foil packet.

Place the packet on top of some smoldering coals. Cook time depends on the size of your fish and the amount of coals you have. But we had two 1-pound filets and cooked them for about 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove the packet with tongs or oven-mittens. Open foil carefully to release the steam. Serve hot.

Elderflower Soda

I've been mildly obsessed with elderflowers recently. So, as we were driving to our first campsite - during our 10-day camping trip around northern California - and I spotted the distinctive puff of creamy-hued flowers, I made a mental note to go pick some and make elderflower soda.

My mother-in-law and I hiked up the hill and liberated some flowers from their roosts. Then it was back to camp we went.

Elderflower Soda


  • 2 C elderflowers, large stems removed
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 C cold water
  • sparkling water for serving
  • ice for serving

Place elderflowers, sugar, and water in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake, shake, and shake some more until the sugar is dissolved. Let stand for at least an hour to let the flavor of the flowers permeate the cold syrup.

To Serve
Place 3 to 4 Tablespoons of syrup in the bottom of a cup. Fill with sparkling water. Add ice, if desired.

Blue Lake Trout

I love fish. I love cooking fish. I love eating fish. I do not love catching fish. And neither does Jake. Sitting on a boat, quietly, waiting for fish to bite. Ugh. Did I mention the silent part. Ugh. I'm just not that patient...or quiet.

Jake has fishermen on his Swedish and his Portuguese sides. My ancestors are from the Philippines; they ferment fish and sprinkle it on everything. So, even though the fishing gene obviously skipped us both, the boys have fishing in their blood...and they love it.

So, the first morning we were at Blue Lake with my in-laws, the boys were up, dressed, and on a boat before 6 in the morning.

Jake and I dragged ourselves out of our cozy tent, spent the morning on a canoe, and paddled over to see what they got. Back at camp, with the help of their cousin, the boys gutted and cleaned the catch.

Then I sprinkled them with herbs, drizzled them with olive oil, wrapped them in parchment and foil, and put them in the fire.

Pasta Stir-Sticks

The people in the shop probably thought: What is that looney woman doing...taking photos of the pasta sticks?!?

But I have just never seen this and loved the idea!

We were at a coffee shop in Point Reyes Station at the tail-end of our 10-day camping trip and R pointed these out to me. "Look, Mommy!" he exclaimed. "They use pasta to stir instead of cutting down trees."

I think this is pretty cool. What a great idea. I'll implement this soon.

Indian-Spiced Roasted Chicken Thighs

After 10 days in the wilderness, using my oven was a treat. I love that this recipe is so hands-off, but the resulting dish is tasty and tender!

  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 t ground cardamom
  • 1 t ground paprika
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1/2 t ground coriander
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 t ground turmeric
  • 3/4 t freshly ground sea salt
  • 3/4 t freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil

Place chicken thighs in a lidded container where they can lay flat in a single layer. Add the remaining ingredients and rub the spices into the meat. Drizzle with oil oil and cover the container. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you want to start cooking. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place chicken in a baking dish. Drizzle with more olive oil. Roast in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes, or until chicken is browned and crisp and cooked through. Serve hot.

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