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