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July 16, 2005

Making Light of other days
Posted by Teresa at 05:18 AM * 73 comments

We’re now into the season of nectarines, blackberries, and prodigious quantities of tomatoes, so:

Bread and tomato salad.

Peppered nectarine salad.

Midsummer cocktails.

Making liqueurs, especially blackberry.

As ever, watch the comment threads; other recipes turn up there.

Joyful cooks (and fans thereof) should keep an eye on Looka!, Chuck Taggart’s weblog, which is part of his knowledgeably hedonistic Gumbo Pages. He’s my source on this site, Gunther Anderson’s page on making liqueurs, which some readers may find a more methodical introduction to the subject than my in medias res narrative recipes.

Plus two new recipes:

Avocado & pummelo salad

one large ripe pummelo
one or two ripe avocados
a scant palmful of chopped green onions or finely chopped red onion
balsamic vinegar
olive or hazelnut oil
salt, freshly ground black pepper

Peel the pummelo, then separate and peel the segments. If they’re big, pull them in half. (This is a good thing to do while you’re watching TV, or reading stuff online.) Cut the avocado in half, hoick out the pit, make a series of cuts one way then the other to the avocado in its skin, then turn the skin inside-out to pop them out. Loosely and gently mix the pummelo, avocado, and onion, give it a scant dressing with oil and balsamic vinegar, then salt and pepper to taste.

(Note: in a pinch, a good big mellow grapefruit can substitute for the pummelo.)

High-octane limeade concentrate

To do this right, you really need to afford yourself one of those wicked brilliant new microplane graters, justly hailed as the best graters and zesters ever. Here’s the microplane story:

It started out in 1990, merely as a new type of woodworking tool with hundreds of tiny stainless steel razors designed to shape or to file wood.

The big moment came in 1994, when Lorraine Lee, a homemaker in Ottawa, Canada, was making an Armenian orange cake. Out of frustration with her old grater, she picked up a new tool her husband, Leonard, had brought home from their hardware store, Lee Valley Tools. She slid the orange across its blades and was amazed. Lacy shards of zest fell from its surface like snowflakes. The Lees marveled at the tool, ate the cake, then promptly changed the product description in their catalogue. The Microplane™ grater had earned permanent space in the kitchen. …

Microplane™ graters’ tiny razor-like edges are formed by a totally different process called photo-etching in which holes are dissolved with a chemical, leaving edges that finely slice the food (or wood!) instead of tearing or shredding.
It’s all true. You take one of these babies and stroke it across the surface of a citrus fruit, using no force, and the zest comes off in perfect thin dry shavings, cut rather than ripped or gouged from the underlying peel. I haven’t been so surprised by the efficacy of a blade since the day I played pop-up baseball with a bowl of withered half-dry apples and a katana.

If microplane grater thou canst none, use a conventional grater and do your best to leave out the white bits.

Here begins the recipe proper:

limes
granulated white sugar
Everclear, other high-proof neutral grain spirits, or vodka

Wash and drain as many limes as you feel like processing. Finely grate off the zest and deposit it in a bowl, setting aside the denuded limes. (This is a good thing to do while you’re watching television.) Mix the grated peel with a generously equal volume of sugar, and gently rub it together. Let it sit.

If your limes are susceptible to being peeled, take the remaining white peel off them. If not, not. Slice them into roundels a quarter to a half inch thick, piling them into a bowl as you work, and periodically strewing sugar over them.

Pause partway through this process to have a look at the sugar and peel mixture. If it’s interacting—that is, if the sugar is extracting the peel’s vital bodily fluids—let it sit. If it’s still dry and inert, squeeze enough lime juice over it to dampen the whole. When you’re done slicing and sugaring your limes, give the peel-and-sugar mixture a squeeze of lime juice even if it is interacting.

Cover both mixtures and let them sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so. At the end of that time, the limes should have yielded up a good deal of their juice, but you want the rest of it, so now you squeeze them. If you have a ricer or one of those nice cast-aluminum juicers, they’ll work here; if not, wash your hands well and do it by fist. (Actually, if you have one of those juicers, you could skip the slicing and sugaring part, and just juice them; but I have a superstitious belief in the superiority of sugar extraction. If you don’t share my belief, you’ll need to add sugar to taste when you’re done squeezing.)

Take your lime juice and mix it with the peel and sugar mixture. Put it back in the refrigerator for an hour or more, then strain it. Juice goes back in the fridge. Take the peel, put it in a lidded (only not lidded just now) container, and pour in enough Everclear to cover it. Put the lid on, shake it up, and let it macerate—but not for very long, say an hour or so at most. Strain it. The peel should now be a faded and feeble green, and the Everclear should be a potent extract of lime peel. Throw away the peel.

Add the lime-flavored Everclear to the sweetened lime juice. Temper it up with additional Everclear, but stop before the taste of the alcohol becomes too obtrusive. (If you want, you can add a drop or so of vanilla, though I wouldn’t. Vanilla’s better with oranges, lemons, and kumquats.)

You now have your basic high-octane limeade concentrate. If you’re having a party, want to increase the quantity, and don’t mind the adulteration, you can throw in a can of frozen lemonade or limeade concentrate and increase the alcohol accordingly. Either way, keep the concentrate in the freezer. It probably won’t freeze solid. It may not freeze at all.

How to use it: The operative word here is “dilute.” Drinking this stuff straight is not good for you, and besides, you won’t get the full flavor. Put it in a shaker with crushed ice, or trickle it over shaved or finely crushed ice, or just add water till it’s civilized and then serve it on the rocks. I expect it could be mixed with Jamaican ginger beer to produce a truly lethal Moscow Mule, but I haven’t tried that yet.

This same extraction procedure works with oranges, lemons, sour oranges, and grapefruit. With kumquats, just slice them up or lightly mash them, macerate them in sugar until they yield up their virtue, soak the carcasses in alcohol for a couple of hours, and proceed as described. If you use vodka instead of Everclear, you may want to increase your maceration times. Monitor the process. I assume this recipe would work with tequila or cachaça, but I’d be more inclined to go with neutral spirits, then use the limeade concentrate as a mixer.

(If you mix Everclear and cachaça, and omit to take two ibuprofen and drink a liter of water before going to bed, do not come crying to me next morning.)

[Recipe Index]

Comments on Making Light of other days:
#1 ::: A Married New York City Math Teacher ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 07:24 AM:

sweet and sour cherry season is now passing, and with the last few fresh sour cherries left in the sugar bowl, I made cherry-almond upside-down cake.

Now, I've made different upside down cakes, and God Knows Alton Brown has some kind of cast-iron fetish and a predilection for bizarro wet-dry batter combinations, but his recipe for cornmeal upside down cake tastes good.

#2 ::: A Married New York City Math Teacher ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 08:47 AM:

Oh, the key difference between pineapple upside down cake and sour cherry-almond upside down cake is that instead of layering pineapple slices in the prototoffee butter/brown sugar, you layer split sour cherries and flaked almonds.

Serve soaked in the tiniest bit of kirsch and/or pflaumenliqueur.

#3 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 09:37 AM:

Is "Making Light of other days" a sly reference to the Slow Food movement?

#4 ::: Peter Hentges ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 09:38 AM:

One note about your tomato and bread salad: If you grill the bread lightly before building (resulting in a toasty texture with just a hint of char) you'll be amazed at how much more flavor it brings to the party.

#5 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 10:17 AM:

Ann Willans had in one of her books a raspberry cordial which was basically a pound of raspberries and a pound of sugar, put into a jar and left to sit for a while. (It's apparently a Russian invention, from what she wrote about it). I keep wanting to try it. Should work with blackberries also.

And I remember hearing years ago about some people making snowcones using fruit wine as the added flavoring (this was when Bargetto was still making things like peach and pomegranate wines).

#6 ::: ben wolfson ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 10:49 AM:

Someone in the liqueurs thread asked about making cocktail bitters. This egullet thread contains enough and more than enough to get anyone started on it.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 11:56 AM:

MNYCMT, it still uses the prototoffee, yes? But is it cherries first, almonds first, or both together?

Not so slow, Bruce; just the old trick of one title failing to notice that the title in front of it has stopped.

Peter, that sounds like a very good variation. Usually when it's tomato salad time I'm unwilling to heat up the oven; but next time I'm making it with imported tomatoes in a cooler season, I'll have to try it.

P J Evans, a pound of any soft fruit plus a pound of sugar will yield a heavy fruit syrup, well-flavored but not stable, and inclined to spoil, so the extraction's best done in a jar in the refrigerator. The sugar sucks the liquid out of the fruit, and the flavor comes with it.

It would be interesting to do that trick with raspberries, then add vodka or everclear to the syrup, bottle it up, and age it as you would any other fruit liqueur. Instead of adding simple syrup to an alcohol-based fruit extract, you'd be adding alcohol to a sugar-based fruit extract.

Come to think of it (smacks forehead), I've already been doing exactly that. Sorry. I'd been feeling a little wistful because I didn't have any new summer recipes to add to the list from previous years, only I do, so I'm going to go add it to the main post.

#8 ::: risa ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 12:21 PM:

I had a sudden vision of tomato liqueur and was oddly intrigued.

#9 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 12:31 PM:

The bread-and-tomato salad sounds like a cross between Alton Brown's BLT salad (he actually calls it TBL) and a sort of al fresco gazpacho. In other words, it sounds delicious.

And do you grow the nectarines yourself or do you get them from a market? I'm an enthusiastic eater of fruit -- now there would be a great line in a resumé! -- but I know very little about how (and where) they grow.

#10 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 12:42 PM:

when am i coming to dinner? i could bring dessert.

#11 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 01:34 PM:

I've had good success recently making my own apricot brandy (the stuff they sell as "*flavor* brandy" tastes too harsh and chemical for me), and I do that as a dried-fruit-and-sugar syrup, add the brandy, tuck it away and forget about it for a month or so, then decant it. The leftover apricot slices are very good on vanilla ice cream. My partner expanded on that to make strawberry brandy back in May, and it's some good stuff. I don't usually much care for brandy, but with good, real fruit flavoring, I find I'll drink more of it than anyone ever should.

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 02:10 PM:

I have now added my high-octane limeade concentrate recipe to the main post.

Risa, I've heard of people making tomato liqueur, though I haven't seen it done. I expect it would throw off a lot of sediment. Depending on how you handled the tomatoes, it might come up more straw-yellow than red. Bet it would taste good, though.

Anarch, the BLT salad recipe sounds delicious, but it uses a very different range of flavors.

I have to buy my nectarines. Basically, they're a very tasty fuzz-free peach. Late summer is their best season. Perfect nectarines should be devoured out of hand. They also turn up as out-of-season imports that aren't fully ripe, which is where the peppered nectarine salad recipe comes in.

Sharyn: So you could! Is tomato salad okay? I'm still feeling fretful about that less-than-perfect nectarine salad I served you last summer.

Alsafi, do you just simmer the dried apricots in the sugar syrup? That'd be good.

You're right about most fruit-flavored brandies being undrinkable; they contain synthetic flavorings, and are mostly used as cheap mixers for fancy cocktails.

This reminds me that soaking fresh fruit in sugar and decent brandy, then serving it over angel food cake with whipped cream, is as good a dessert as any I know.

#13 ::: Peter Hentges ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 02:28 PM:

When it is tomato time, Teresa, it is also usually grilling time. So making the salad when grilling a nice piece of tuna works out well if you take a couple of minutes to toast your bread over the grill. I usually quarter a half-baguette, toast it all 'round and then let it cool a bit before slicing it into bite-size chunks. (This variation, btw, comes from Mark Bittman in his The Minimalist Cooks At Home book, he left out the mayo, favoring olive oil and basalmic vinegar.

#14 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 02:31 PM:

I have to buy my nectarines. Basically, they're a very tasty fuzz-free peach. Late summer is their best season.

Yep, I loves me some nectarines. Peaches too. However:

Perfect nectarines should be devoured out of hand. They also turn up as out-of-season imports that aren't fully ripe, which is where the peppered nectarine salad recipe comes in.

Hmmmm. There's been a problem around these parts that the peaches and nectarines have tended to be, well, mealy. They smell perfectly ripe and fragrant, they're nicely soft along the seams... but bite into one and you'll get a mouthful of near-flavorless granular mush. That's probably a result of being over- rather than under-ripe; but I wonder if the peppering could salvage even those puppies...

#15 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 02:47 PM:

You are a wicked young lady who will come to a bad end.

It's so nice to have a recipe like this!

#16 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 02:47 PM:

Anarch: what you do with peaches or nectarines like that is puree them and add almond extract. They would be worse than tasteless in a salad: they'd be oboxious.

Last year I had too many pomegranates so I made pomegranate liqueur (there weren't enough to make wine, much less brandy).

I'm going to have too many golden muscatel grapes and almost enough concord grapes this year, but almost no plums or apricots -- the farmers here, likewise.

I think it's funny that all you people in inhospitable climates get your blackberries earlier than us (we get ours in August, but we only go after the wild ones, we don't grow them).

#17 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 03:10 PM:

risa - Hmmm, perhaps not just tomato, but tomato and basil. The question is - sundried tomatoes or fresh? And what would be an appropriate mixer?

On nectarines and peaches, of the ones we're getting up here in chilly WA (everyone keeps telling me summer is coming...) only the white ones are any good this year. The yellow ones go mushy before they get sweet. Likewise, the red plums are great and the black ones are awful. Go figure.

I've been devouring mountains of chard this year, cooked simply in garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes and canned tomatoes (1/3 roughly chopped, the rest pureed.) Yum.

#18 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 04:36 PM:

Take the peel, put it in a lidded (only not lidded just now) container, and pour in enough Everclear to cover it.

Ha! I just caught that aside; sounds like the voice of one too many octanes there.

#19 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 06:51 PM:

Dead sober, Anarch; it was the logic of putting something into a lidded (with lid on) vs. lidded (possessing a lid) container that gave me pause.

Larry, fresh or sun-dried tomatoes would both work, but they'd taste different, same way that grape wine and raisin wine do. I don't think I'd put basil in, though; it'd give the game away. More fun just to do straight tomato, and see who can spot the flavor in such an unfamiliar context.

Lucy: almond extract with peaches and nectarines? That makes sense; they're closely related. I'll swap you for my fix-up for woody, underripe strawberries: slice, sweeten, and add a dab of orange juice or OJ concentrate plus a drop or two of vanilla. The orange and vanilla flavors fill in a bunch of the bands that are missing in an underripe strawberry's spectrographic signature.

Scorpio, thank you very much. It has been my long-cherished ambition to be the sort of wicked young lady for whom a bad end is universally prophesied. Alas, I'm no longer young, and I've never shown any real talent where wickedness is concerned; but the thought of it still warms my heart.

Anarch again, mealiness is not a sign of overripe peaches and nectarines. It's a sign that they were picked before they were completely ripe, and then held for too long and/or held at an inappropriate temperature. If their interior flesh showed a brownish discoloration, consider the diagnosis confirmed.

If they were also flavorless, neither sweet nor sour, that's another indication that they weren't ripe enough when picked. As stone fruits ripen, their acidity decreases and their sugar content increases. That process stops when they're picked. Sugar content won't disappear during storage, but acid content can; so if they're neither sweet nor acid, they started out acid.

I observe three tests when I'm thinking of buying them. First one's my nose: do they smell strongly of ripe peach or nectarine? Second, are they reasonably soft?

The third test is density: hold one in your palm, give it a small toss, catch it gently. If it doesn't feel as heavy as it should, it's not a good fruit. Same goes for citrus: an inadequately ripened fruit doesn't weigh as heavy in the hand as it should.

Peter: Ah. Grilling. All is now clear. I'll try that.

We've been doing a fair amount of grilling this summer. It helps that we live a short hop away from Eagle Provisions, a great Polish grocery store that makes its own kielbasa daily.

#20 ::: hanne ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 07:10 PM:

I hope lots of people try your limeade recipe. It's such a fabulous standby, though I was taught to make it with cachaça by a Brazilian conductor friend and have never tried Everclear. (When it's done you make it straightaway into caipirinhas, and it's delicious and lethal in the way that Brazilian summer drinks have the tendency to be.)

And to think I just put vanilla beans and a big heap of freshly-pitted tart cherries into a vat of dark rum this morning, and I'm *still* thinking about going out and buying limes...

#21 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 08:42 PM:

" . . . a pound of raspberries and a pound of sugar, put into a jar and left to sit for a while."

My mother's family had a tradition of making some kind of peasants' alcoholic drink from a wild cherry called (undoubtedly wrong spelling, from memory) "shetazing."

One of the trees in backyard of the house where I grew up dropped the messy, pitty things, and I recall my mom and various aunts gathering them once for this purpose.

* * *

One thing I know you can do with frozen canned fruit is make sherbert. I did this once with pineapple. Just shoved the can in the freezer and put the stuff in a blender. It was pretty good.

What would it take to turn fresh blackberries into sherbert? Just freeze them?

#22 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 09:04 PM:

tomato salad is definitely okay. i am an omnivore. also, i just pinged pnh about this, so he'll talk to you. YAY

and let me know what you want me to bring.

#23 ::: ben wolfson ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2005, 09:31 PM:

(If you mix Everclear and cachaça, and omit to take two ibuprofen and drink a liter of water before going to bed, do not come crying to me next morning.)

Isn't doing this (drinking lots and taking ibuprofen) insanely bad for your liver? Such has been my impression, anyway.

I've also been told, but never tried doing this (I've always just used 100 proof vodka), that it's best to use just a small amount of Everclear--enough that you benefit from the increased flavor-stripping power of all that alcohol--and dilute with vodka (or vodka and water), since straight everclear has nasty congeners & the like. But clearly if it's worked for you, it works well enough.

#24 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 12:53 AM:

Teresa wrote:
"Scorpio, thank you very much. It has been my long-cherished ambition to be the sort of wicked young lady for whom a bad end is universally prophesied. Alas, I'm no longer young, and I've never shown any real talent where wickedness is concerned; but the thought of it still warms my heart."

This, from the person who once snuck into Hilde's and my bedroom and hooked a set of camel-bells to the underside of the bed....

#25 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 01:06 AM:

I seem to recall being told that a delightful apricot brandy could be made by stuffing a jar as full as possible of apricots (seeds removed, but otherwise untouched), and then filling it up with a bottle of brandy and a bottle of white wine, sealing it up, and proceeding to ignore it for 6 weeks-or-so.

OTOH, having consumed notable amounts of said apricot brandy, I'm not convinced of the accuracy of my recollection.

#26 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 01:50 AM:

The third test is density: hold one in your palm, give it a small toss, catch it gently. If it doesn't feel as heavy as it should, it's not a good fruit. Same goes for citrus: an inadequately ripened fruit doesn't weigh as heavy in the hand as it should.

Hmmmmm. I knew the first two tests; I've never tried density per se before, although I'm quite fond of tossing (actually, more spinning) fruit before buying. Must give that a whirl, if you'll pardon the pun.

Peter: Ah. Grilling. All is now clear. I'll try that.

Which is a lovely segue into one of my favorite desserts: grilled peaches or nectarines, macerated in amaretto and a little brown sugar, served over vanilla ice cream. [You can either macerate first then grill and serve warm, or grill first, then macerate and serve chilled.] High-quality fresh Wisconsin ice cream, for preference, but any rich, buttery ice cream will do.

#27 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 01:56 AM:

I've also been told, but never tried doing this (I've always just used 100 proof vodka), that it's best to use just a small amount of Everclear--enough that you benefit from the increased flavor-stripping power of all that alcohol--and dilute with vodka (or vodka and water), since straight everclear has nasty congeners & the like. But clearly if it's worked for you, it works well enough.

The student newspaper here had a rather interesting, as well as useful, article on buying cheap vodka and filtering out the impurities. Apparently a liter of Fleischmann's vodka, filtered three times through a Brita water filter (which takes about 45 minutes?), turns the varnish-remover into something quite potable. This was confirmed by a highly scientific double-blind test involving freshman volunteers and copious amounts of vodka, so you know it's true!

#28 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 02:34 AM:

I use the density test for everything that isn't open leaves.

Xopher, when you make things with apricots, you will get a richer, more interesting flavor if you crack a few pits and put in the kernels. Don't use too many, and don't let them disintegrate(i.e, only use whole or half kernels) because they do contain small amounts of cyanide which could potentially make a person sick if they ate too many, though I've never gotten sick from the nice fellow's apricot jam and anyway the kernels by themselves are too bitter to eat much of.

Anyway, they point up the taste of the apricots really well.

In have volunteer cucurbits this year. One seems to produce little zucchinis but it's a rangy vine and I thought zucchinis grew on compact bushes? Another is making something round or maybe egg-shaped, striped green on green like some zucchinis, with a shinier, possibly togher skin, and no ridges. The third has more rounded leaves and has not flowered yet. I think the second one may be a gourd and not a squash.

#29 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 02:42 AM:

Anarch - For cheap vodka, I say leave the Brita alone and just buy either Monopolova potato vodka from Vienna or Moskovskaya from, well, Moscow (added bonus, the bottles still say CCCP in the glass). Both are less than $10 in CA, and slightly more than $11 in liquor-tax mad WA.

They're both 80 proof though, so you many need to boost the octane with Everclear if you really need to use 100 proof hootch.

#30 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 09:58 AM:

From the links:
If you drink half of a substantial bottle of blackberry liqueur, and you aren’t likely to drink the other half anytime soon, decant it into a much smaller bottle. Otherwise it’ll oxidize, and won't be nearly as nice as it was.

My oldest cousin once had a business that kept sample bottles of wine, flushed with nitrogen, near (in?) San Francisco; his idea was that the bottles wouldn't die after opening, so vintners scattered around the west coast would pay him to store their bottles where restaurateurs could taste them conveniently. (IIRC it didn't do well; maybe the city people considered traveling a perk.) How many people here could get hold of clean nitrogen so open bottles wouldn't have to be decanted?

Or clean CO2. I remember the bottling machine at the Old Dominion brewery had a neat solution to their beer oxidizing in the bottle; it squirted a very fine, very high-pressure water jet into each filled bottle, making it foam enough to flush the
air out.

#31 ::: risa ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 01:29 PM:

Larry: in my opinion, it should be fresh tomatoes, not sundried. If you're using basil, the best mixer would then likely be tonic water or unflavored seltzer so you can taste the tomato in the concotion. However, in my world I would have added handfuls of cilantro to the mix instead of basil, and thus lime juice would be my mixer of choice. Salsa cocktails, indeed! :)

#32 ::: risa ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 01:34 PM:

Teresa: straw yellow sounds rather gorgeous! Since my family does tomato plants further upstate in the Finger Lakes area and I'll be visiting them soon, I think it might be worth a try. I'll experiment with cherry tomatoes to try to avoid the sediment issue, but since I do herbal extracts I have the props for filtering, should I need to do so. Thanks :)

#33 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 02:05 PM:

Hanne, I was introduced to caipirinhas by a publicist working at another house. They were seductively drinkable. Next morning, I awoke with the conviction that I'd been the target of industrial sabotage. Wicked, wicked drink. It was a lot of the inspiration for my limeade. I wanted that intense sweet cold lime rush, only without so much penance afterward.

Vanilla beans, tart cherries, dark rum. That's going to be delicious.

Bruce, I'm trying to remember now whether that was the same set of camel bells that hung on my front door in Staten Island, and eventually wound up as chattel of St. Augustine RC in Brooklyn, where they see liturgical use annually in the hands of the parish rugrats. If it is the same string, and I think maybe it is, what a long strange trip that's been.

Xeger, that would work just fine. You can do the same trick with brandy and any other fruit, though the softer ones lose their fine appearance as they macerate.

Anarch, how do you grill a nectarine?

Patrick told me about that trick with the Britta filter. He didn't try it himself, but he says various bloggers did when the story first came out, and that they reported good results.

Lucy, one does the same pit-cracking trick with cherries. It was an essential element in the original maraschino cherries, which were once a thing you'd want to eat, not at all like the bizarre modern version.

The original maraschino was a liqueur made from the fermented juice of a variety of small black cherry -- the marasca -- with some crushed cherry stones thrown in for the almond flavor. Maraschino cherries were those same black cherries, pitted and bottled up in maraschino liqueur. (The previous year's liqueur, at a guess; cherry season doesn't last that long.) They were a luxury item.

Before the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act, ingenious Americans supplied the maraschino cherry market by using cheap indigenous Queen Anne cherries, soaked in less maraschino liqueur, making up the deficiencies with artificial coloring and almond oil for flavoring.

Then, during Prohibition, someone figured out how to preserve the cherries in brine rather than alcohol, and the modern maraschino cherry was born. I don't know whether it was before or during Prohibition that they started bleaching all the natural color out of the cherries to make room for that flaming artificial red.

This is why the cherries that become maraschinos have to be picked green: since cherries soften as they get ripe, only green ones are sturdy enough to survive all the chemical processing, and the used brine is so nasty that it has to be professionally disposed of.

This is the same thing that happened to fruitcake. Originally it was made with confectionery-quality nuts and candied fruits (the latter cut into fine julienne strips), and was a popular but expensive seasonal luxury. Now it's made with crude hunks of overprocessed candied fruit and substandard nuts, and not given its proper aging. Surprise: few people like it.

CHip, I know that trick. You know that Mormon thing about keeping a year's supply? The backs of our closets were full of steel containers of hard winter wheat packed in nitrogen.

Risa, why not just make a V-8 Bloody Mary with a cilantro garnish? If you decide you don't like it, you can hand it off to Patrick.

#34 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 02:09 PM:

Whoops. Lucy, I meant to ask whether you previously grew F1 hybrid cucurbits there. You could be seeing the interim stage of a reversion to type. I've done that with marigolds and morning glories.

#35 ::: Mina W ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 02:43 PM:

In the nectarine salad thread, ASweeney had a recipe for peaches and avocado that sounded delicious. I think I'll try nectarines, avocado, and raspberries, with raspberry vinegar.

The botany prof had us making salad with bananas, pineapple and avocado, which was delicious. Avocado is a fruit, after all, he said.

#36 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 03:57 PM:

Teresa, the last couple of years I have tried to grow various cucurbits but they didn't germinate. That's why I have no idea what these are until they reveal themselves. They could also be seeds from melons or pumpkins we have eaten or gourds I have used for decoration -- we compost, and the compost is not as hot as some, and doesn't always thoroughly kill all the matter within it (which is why potatoes and tomatoes grow wild in my garden, but doesn't explain the borage, the love-in-a-mist, the feverfew, or the violets. They have different stories).

They sure do like a lot of water, those cucurbits. They wilt in a day or two, but they don't sem to mind wilting. And they seem to be tougher than beach morning glory, which is good.

#37 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 04:26 PM:

Mina, why not put avocado in fruit salad if it tastes good there? Our division of sweet fruits and savory vegetables is as arbitrary as our division of spices into sweet and savory. A good sweet onion has a substantial sugar content; that's why they caramelize so readily. You can make halvah out of carrots. And sweet potatoes baked in their skins will literally drip syrup.

You can put cinnamon into a beef-based dish. You can make ice cream flavored with lemon thyme. It's all just food.

#38 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 04:33 PM:

My brother likes to divide food into food you put garlic in and food you put chocolate in -- that's dishes, though, not ingredients -- but my father likes to remind him of mole sauce, which can contain both.

#39 ::: Beth ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 04:42 PM:

Teresa: Just a note to say that I am now very hungry, and would you please open a restaurant?

#40 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 05:22 PM:

My brother likes to divide food into food you put garlic in and food you put chocolate in

I do the same thing, only I use onions and not garlic. My father classifies dishes/foods as 'sweet' and 'salty', which breaks down much the same way.

--Mary Aileen

#41 ::: Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 05:22 PM:

Peel five or six (or seven if they're small) quite ripe tomatoes and about the same number of cucumbers. Cut them into bite-sized chunks. Take a package of Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix. Forget their directions. Put the mix into a jar with 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of really, really good red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar, and about three or four tablespoons of salad oil. Don't use your good extra-virgin oil for this, just use vegetable oil. Mix well, then pour about all of this over the tomatoes and cucumbers about an hour before you want to eat it. The vinegar will make juice come out of the tomatoes and blend into the dressing. Serves fewer folks than you'd think, because in my experience everyone will eat seconds, and even thirds. There seems to be a substantial minority who will drink the dressing with a spoon after they eat the salad.

#42 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 05:25 PM:

I've been making a yearly liquer for a while (made on new year's eve). This year I based it on what I wanted the year to be like: sweet, a little spicy, interesting but nice. I used orange peel, fresh gingerroot, a bit of allspice, a teensy bit of cayenne pepper, and some sugar in vodka. I had envisioned it as a winter warming drink, but it is actually quite nice in iced hibiscus tea.

A couple of summers ago I got ahold of bing cherries enough to fill a sun tea jug and make cherry liquer. I left most of the pits in. Wish I could do that again, but the cost of cherries is too high.

In addition to Teresa's tomato salad (now a staple summer thing in our house), I really like a simple salad of tomatoes, sliced oil cured olives, a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice; fresh basil optional but good. Especially good with grilled steak.

#43 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 05:47 PM:

"... divide food into food you put garlic in and food you put chocolate in..."

Stop me if I've told this before. There's a First Saturday [of the month] potluck dinner party that I've been going to for about 20 years, of JPL folks, Science Fiction folks, and Trailer/Special Effect folks. My son noticed what made them distinct. "They can carry on a conversation."

Once there was the usual random assortment of foods (there being no prearrangements, sometimes meaning all salads or all deserts), including brownies, shrimp, and other things. Someone tried to say "put another shrimp on the barbie," but it came out "put another shrimp on the brownie."

Just to see peoples' reaction, I immediately put a shrimp on a parallelopiped of brownie, popped it into my mouth, and chewed thoughtfully.

There was a loud chorus of "EEEEwwwwghhhhh." I commented "Not too bad, sort of a mole' effect." But nobody else would try. One man's squick is another man's squee, foodwise.

#44 ::: Sundre ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 07:10 PM:

Well, yes. If tomato can be a vegetable, then avacado can certainly be a fruit.

I think I was conditioned early on. If not by the mixing of mango with garlic, then by the inclusion of green bananas in chicken soup.

(Teresa: did you ever try the mango chow?)

#45 ::: A Married New York City Math Teacher ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 10:08 PM:

It still uses the prototoffee, and I think I layered the cherries first and then the almonds, because that way you have the beautiful ruby-colored morello cherries on top of the cake, and the slivered almonds giving a kind of stepped-mahogony appearance to the cake.

#46 ::: A Married New York City Math Teacher ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 10:17 PM:

Now, the other five pounds of morellos are wet-processed in the freezer, and are waiting, along with a couple of bottles of Polish morello syrup and five kilos of buckwheat honey, to be turned into cherry mead.

#47 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:26 AM:

Today, the cucurbit which was making little zucchini things has nothing but male flowers (I picked the zucchini things because they were the thickness of my thumb and that's when you pick them), and the one that might be a gourd looks even more like a gourd -- but its leaves are identical to the other, which makes me worry about the zucchini things which I have not eaten yet: and the third cucurbit, whose leaves are quite different from the others, has grown but has not blossomed.

I don't know if other people care about my little unfolding mystery, but I think it's cool.

I also picked half my plum crop: three. Such a comedown from my traditional too many plums: no plum wine this year.

#48 ::: Scott Lemieux ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 03:02 AM:

I used to have a bread and Roma tomato salad for lunch at my fave neighborhood resturant in Seattle almost every Sunday. Mmmmmmm.....

#49 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 05:43 AM:

Scott Lemieux: A fellow Seattlite would really like to know which restaurant that is.

Thanks.

MKK

#50 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 09:07 AM:

My favorite summer delicacy:

Red seedless grapes, halved, dipped in just enough black fresh pepper that you can see it coating the surface.

Add to spinich salad, with or without mozzerella chunks, as is your wont.

#51 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:14 AM:

This recipe started out in a great book called Too Many Tomatoes, but now it's Janet's Salsa. Though I say so myself, it's the best salsa I've ever tasted, and if I don't put up enough jars for everyone in the office at Christmas I'll be lynched. It's simple, tangy and sweet, and cures the summertime blues.

Take 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes, 1 very large or two medium onions, and five jalapeno peppers. Chop them all up very fine in a food processor. Put in a big heavy pot with 1 cup of white vinegar, 1/2 cup of Splenda (or white sugar for you folks who don't mind the carbs) and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (canning salt if you plan to can it). Simmer for an hour or two till it's just the right thickness, but be careful it doesn't burn. Keeps forever in the refrigerator, or can it in a boiling water bath at 20 minutes for pints, 30 minutes for quarts. For more fire, replace a jalapeno or two with something hotter.

#52 ::: A Married New York City Math Teacher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:44 AM:

Raspberry and blackberry season are rising to a climax now - unfortunately, my parents' landscapers cut down the bearing canes behind the house a couple of years ago, and I don't quite know where to trespass safely in order to collect the wild raspberries. The Catskills are a much different place now than they were twenty years ago - a lot more sprawly development in the parts of the Catskill State Park where we used to go to get blackberries, raspberries, and, glories of the Northern woods that they are, blueberries.

Dave Jaffee and Bob Sabloff had a deer blind in the wild country north of Hunter Lake, and about three hundred acres of woodland were you could wander the blueberry patches. We picked the tiny berries into rusty tin cans, which were suspended around our necks on string loops, and we could collect *bushels*.

Jaffees, Sabloffs, Keisers, Klafters, Yekke-arzts, we would load up into the back of Bob's pickup and the back of Dave's International Harvester, and make our way up the Dahlia Road to the backcountry, with Coleman coolers full of icewater, picnic snacks, and bottles and baby food for my sister.

#53 ::: A Married New York City Math Teacher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:57 AM:

Why pick wild blueberries?

Wet-process and freeze a pound of berries in your freezer. Wait seven months, until there is ice and gelid rain outside, and it is *dark*, *dark*, *dark* on a February Sunday morning short of eight am. The Snorks are hours off the air, Dad is still sleeping (he got back from manning the First Aid station at the Racetrack about 1AM) and mom is making pfannekuchen.

One pound of blueberries in the saucepot, electric coil on the "2" setting. A quarter cup of sugar and a little lemon juice. Stir. Fifteen minutes later, wild blueberry sauce, wrinkly burst huckleberries and blueberries in purple.

Remove pfannekuchen from oven, pour sauce on pfannekuchen, and reach back to slap the skeeter off your neck because winter is so banished it isn't even funny.

Wild blueberries are to store-bought or even farm-raised u-pick blueberries as... as...

They are so much better I can't construct an acceptable analogy unrooted in ridiculous cliché.

#54 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:30 PM:

Oh, man. I have got to try that limeade approach the next time I make margaritas.

#55 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:52 PM:

Grilled nectarines: split and destone nectarines. Oil lightly. Sprinkle w/ coarse salt & freshly cracked pepper. Grill over low heat for 5 minutes or so.

Works w/ all kinds of stone fruit. Nice variant: fill the 'hole' left by the stone w/ a pungent cheese - bleu, goat, what have you.

#56 ::: shosh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 05:45 PM:

Tomato liquer, but not quite: here in Minneapolis the Craftsman bar makes a clear, sediment-free martini with tomato water. Take one large amount of ripe tomatoes, cut them up smallish (no food processing). Tomato bits go into fine-mesh strainer, strainer goes into bowl, bowl goes into fridge. Wait twelve hours. (You may wish to weight the goods with something to get more juice.) It's a ridiculous amount of work for very little liquid but the liquid is pure tomato wonderfulness.

#57 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 05:46 PM:

I have stolen Chuck Nolan's recipe as it sounds just the sort of thing I like. I'll probably be one of the ones drinking the leftover dressing. Spoon? What spoon?

Avocado and citrus is a Highly Traditional pairing. Oil and acid you know.

That grape post of Cassandra's reminds me I need to make some of that wonderful chicken salad with the red grapes, pecans, and bleu cheese.

MKK

#58 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 07:50 PM:

I can vouch for the yumminess of the MNYCMT's upside-down cake. The MNYCMT (who is a mensch and helped me move around a thousand books) brought over a chunk. I had it for breakfast the next day, with a quart of milk. Delicious.

#59 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:45 PM:

P J Evans, a pound of any soft fruit plus a pound of sugar will yield a heavy fruit syrup, well-flavored but not stable, and inclined to spoil, so the extraction's best done in a jar in the refrigerator. The sugar sucks the liquid out of the fruit, and the flavor comes with it.

I have a recipe for pomegranate syrup where the seeds are mixed with and equal volume of sugar, left to stand for a day, then heated to boiling and the now-dehydrated seeds are strained out. It's too heavy to freeze (in the freezer it's still liquid) but it does have flavor and color. I ususally put the seeds-and-sugar in a saucepan and stick in the fridge overnight.

The raspberries: if I can find the boxes my various cookbooks are in, I can see what else it said. (I think loosely-lidded and in the fridge is probably a good idea.) Some of the cookbooks are old enough to have cordials in them, and one I remember had a mint julep with a pineapple slice on the bottom (possibly crushed pineapple would be better).

#60 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:51 AM:

Teresa, re grilling nectarines: what protected static said. I usually use a vegetable oil if the peaches are macerated before grilling and a light olive oil if I'm going to macerate after. I also use a cast-iron griddle pan for the deed itself, although I'm sure a real grill would work as well.

In re pomelo... I love that stuff. Seriously. Love it. Fun fact: eat enough pomelo and it too will blister your tongue and the sides of your mouth, albeit not nearly as quickly as say pineapple or mango. The best dish I've ever had involving pomelo -- which is rare, because it's not often incorporated into dishes IME -- was in a little Thai restaurant in Mandalay on New Year's Eve 2004: catfish minced ultra-fine, battered and deep-fried into something I can only describe as ethereal, then mixed with pomelo pieces and liberally doused in a mild chilli vinaigrette. Unbelievable. It's also great in seafood salads; mango, pomelo and shrimp/lobster is a classic combo that can't be done enough.

No real content, I'm just pimping the pomelo here :)

JVP: I worked as a bartender for a number of years so I have a certain... uh... liberal approach to libations. My friends were aghast last week when I took the profound, yet stupid, step of mixing orange juice and Miller High Life. I called it "The Champagne of Bellinis".

It was surprisingly drinkable, though that's a relative term.

#61 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:05 AM:

It's not quite grilling nectarines, but I'm very fond of adding fresh mango to a stir fry - and frying peaches with brown sugar and butter is a wonderful thing!

#62 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:13 AM:

Waaah. I decided to serve high octane limeade at this Friday's Clarion West party only to discover that Everclear is not legal in Washington state. Grrr. I can only buy it, the guy at the liquor store says, if I have a thingy from the state because I'm using it to extract essences or whatever for a business. Sigh. I bought some 101 proof vodka, that being the highest proof neutral spirits available and I figure I'll just soak the lime zest somewhat longer. I also bought a bottle of lime flavored vodka and will report back on experiments.

MKK

#63 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:32 AM:

Mary Kay - I'm always surprised if something is legal in Washington state. The state liquor stores still weird me out, and the absence of variety and service is astounding. And the closed Sunday thing is a total nuisance. I wonder if you can make friends with a chef or a baker and get some underground everclear. (In NYC, if you knew the baker and half their family, you could get Rum Baba made with real liquor, so anything's possible.)

One of these days, I have to run up to Canada to buy some illegal sunscreen, with a pit-stop at the duty-free on the way home to check out the booze selection. Then again, I'm going on mega-diet-and-exercise program starting late this month, and alcohol will be totally verboten pretty much up until Christmastime. (Really-big-company, Inc. pays for it, so I might as well get all the mileage out of it as I can.)

In the interim, I've been sampling the Rosemary Vodka I made, and have found it tasty mixed with seltzer, or vermouth, white or red.

#64 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:23 AM:

Preferring A Taste And Recognizing It May Involve Separate Brain Areas, Study Shows

PASADENA, Calif. -- Are you disgusted when you hear about Elvis Presley's fried peanut butter 'n 'nanner sandwiches? A new study shows that it could all be in your head. In fact, our taste preferences may have little to do with whether we can even recognize the substance we're eating or drinking.

In the current issue of Nature Neuroscience, California Institute of Technology neuroscientist Ralph Adolphs and his colleagues at the University of Iowa report on their examinations of a patient whose sense of taste has been severely compromised. The patient suffered from a herpes brain infection years ago that left him with brain damage. Today, the patient is unable to name even familiar foods by taste or by smell, and shows remarkably little preference in his choice of food and drink....

#65 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 05:25 PM:

Rustic tomato bread salad recipe in the WashPost.

#66 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 11:43 AM:

Larry: illegal sunscreen?

#67 ::: Cassie Krahe ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 09:39 AM:

I'm starting to think I should make some of this stuff. With the berry liqueur, about what quantities of everything does one need? How much does it make? How on Earth does one stuff a cork in a bottle, or acquire either?

#68 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 10:29 AM:

When I made liqueurs last year I used this link mainly.

#69 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 12:17 PM:

Lucy, you're link is broken.

Post the url instead?

#70 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 12:19 PM:

Your. YOUR. YOUR!

Jeesh.

#71 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 04:58 PM:

I think Lucy might have had the same problem I've had lately with links. I put it all in correctly, but when I get to Preview, some part of it is gone. Maybe Teresa could put the html clues under the Preview box, too.

#72 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2009, 04:36 PM:

High octane orangeade concentrate is making me go teehee right now. Hooray for microplane graters and cheap vodka.

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