Monday, February 15, 2010

"Drink Me!" Artemesia Cocktail Hour: Ginger Twist

Almost immediately after letting friends know that I had posted my new Grapefruit Margarita recipe, a desperate plea came in from my friend Ginger: "For the love of God, Woman! The future of humanity depends on your designing a new cocktail using the Artemesia Ginger Liqueur - Stat!" At least I think that's how she put it... perhaps the exact wording escapes me.....

Well, with a challenge like that before me, I certainly had no choice - none whatsoever - as to what I'd be doing next. I fell asleep that night thinking about what tastes great with ginger; immediately came the thought - ginger and lemon! And I researched proportions, and sampled and tinkered, and served the results to family and friends. Tirelessly, we all gave it up for the good of humanity. Last night, at last, came the perfection I sought. And here, before you, the results. The Meyer lemon* juice, a common varietal in California backyards, brings a refreshing lemon lift, tempered by its characteristic sweet notes, while the ginger liqueur gives a pleasing, long finish with warmth that you feel all the way down.

Artemesia Ginger Twist

Makes two cocktails

2 1/2 ounces Artemesia Ginger Liqueur
1 1/2 ounces Artemesia Limoncello
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce Meyer Lemon Juice*

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until it's really cold; I like to count to about "20 Mississippi." Pour, garnish with an optional lemon twist, and enjoy!

*The Meyer lemon is a sweet, thin-skinned California native. Said to be a cross between a tangerine and a lemon, it grows beautifully and prolifically in many a backyard. They are not generally available commercially, and seldom outside of California. Should you not have access, you can ask a California neighbor to share, or a friend to mail some to you. If you need to substitute with another varietal, you may need to adjust the quantity, or add a little sweetener.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Drink Me!" Artemesia Cocktail: Grapefruit Margarita

I admit it; I'm obsessed. At this very moment I have Limoncello, Rosemary Meyer Limoncello, Kumquat, Buddha's Hand Citron, Blood Orange, Ginger, Bergamot Citron, and Oro Blanco Grapefruit liqueurs infusing in my basement. I also have finished batches of Walnut liqueurs; Nocino and Orahovica (the Vin de Noix is gone) Chocolate, more Buddha's Hand Citron, and "Brad and Darryl's" Grapefruit liqueurs. I call my little obsession "Artemesia;" I guess giving it a name says something, eh? I try to grow as much of the fruit as possible, which is challenging, as our entire lot, including the 1,200 square feet occupied by our house, is about 1/32nd of an acre. So far, I have crammed in a lime tree (the Bearss variety grows really well here in Berkeley, and yes, that really is how you spell it) a Buddha's Hand Citron (because you just can't buy them organic) and newly planted Fuyu Persimmon, Blenheim Apricot, Meiwa Kumquat, and Feminello Santa Teresa Lemon trees (because the Feminello Santa Teresa is the rare sub-cultivar grown in Sorrento and on the Amalfi Coast for Limoncello.)

Since my obsession far outstrips my available land, last year I started harvesting from what I have dubbed "NIMBY" fruit trees; "Not In My Back Yard." Nina lets me gather her Meyer Lemons, Bob lets me pick his mystery lemons (Eureka or Lisbon? Don't know...) neighbors let me gather green walnuts from a street tree growing in a secret cul de sac, and Brad and Darryl invited me to pick their grapefruits - another unknown varietal. They have a big old tree, with lots of fruit...perhaps I did get a little carried away...

Anyway, it's all quite delicious on its own, but sometimes a gal wants a cocktail, and I love a good Margarita. A Margarita is typically made from tequila, fresh lime juice, and triple sec, in a myriad of proportional possibilities; 2:2:1, 3:2:1, 1:1:1... Triple Sec is a liqueur flavored with three different types of oranges; I have yet to find one that I really like - mostly they taste kind of, well - cheap. Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Citronge all make decent substitutes. After experimenting, ahem, quite a bit, I decided that I like 3:2:1, i.e. 3 parts tequila, two parts fresh lime juice, 1 part orange liqueur.

Of course, I got to thinking.... why orange? Why not some other citrus? Obviously, I have a number of fine options available to me. Grapefruit "Brad and Darryl" immediately came to mind; assertive, clean - and completely different from lime. So I decided to start there, and, well, yum! (Otherwise, you wouldn't be hearing about it, right? I will only share recipes which are worthy of the ages here in this blog. Should I waste your precious time describing disappointing results from a new recipe? I think not!) So get out your cocktail shakers, and let's get this party started!

Artemesia Grapefruit Margarita

Makes 1 big or 2 smallish drinks; make each pour a generous one if you want bigger drinks

3 ounces Tequila (Your choice)
2 ounces fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 ounce Grapefruit "Brad and Darryl" liqueur
1/2 tsp or so agave nectar or sugar, to taste

Squeeze your limes; you will need from 1-4 of them, depending on how juicy they are. Put a little kosher salt on a plate. Measure everything and pour the ingredients into your cocktail shaker. Add a little additional sweetener, stir it up and taste it; adjust as needed. Using any leftover lime juice, smear some lightly on the outside of the rim of your chosen glass(es)- I use Martini glasses - and roll the outer rim in the salt. Add a few ice cubes to the cocktail shaker, put on the lid, and shake away until it feels really cold; I usually count to "20 Mississippi." While you're shaking, make sure to hold the lids on! Now take off the cap and pour out every delicious drop.


p.s. If you would like some Grapefruit "Brad and Darryl," drop me a line!

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Berkleyer Than Thou" Cookies

One day when Johanna was in preschool, we were hanging out at our neighborhood "tot lot" in Berkeley with her friend Faith, Faith's little sister Grace, and their Dad, Patrick. In the custom of such play-dates, Patrick and I sat on the park bench, holding an adult conversation interspersed with conflict resolution breaks, and Patrick told me a memorable story about a similar afternoon he had spent in a local park with the girls. As is common, he and another mother struck up a conversation on the park bench. As is also common - in Berkeley - it rapidly became a game of P.C. one-upsmanship. This is how it went:

He got out organic store-bought snacks for his girls, the Other Mother's (hereinafter known as "OM") were homemade. He mentioned that they were Vegetarians, "OM" said her family was Vegan. He said that his family had only one car, "OM" said her's went everywhere by bicycle. He bought his family's produce at the Farmers' Market, "OM" grew their own. He bought local, organic, whole grain bread, "OM" made her own. He used natural disposable diapers, "OM" used cloth. And so it went, on and on, until Patrick finally laughed and said "You win!"

As I laughingly reflected on the story, an expression formed itself in my mind: "Berkeleyer Than Thou." And when I was looking for a good name for the super healthy, nutritious cookies I had devised, that seemed like just the perfect one.

At that time, Johanna weighed about 30 pounds, was a fussy eater, and I was trying to figure out how to cram maximum nutrition into every bite she ate. I looked for a cookie recipe that would work with my new food strategy, but still be tasty enough that she would want to eat them. At last, I found one that I thought would accommodate my "master plan." Then I tinkered with it, altering and cramming until I reached its limits of structural integrity. The results are an excellent alternative to energy bars and their disposable packaging.

Now, I'll be frank: this cookie could be "Berkeleyer;" it's not Vegan (there are eggs in it) it's not gluten-free, it contains chocolate, and it uses cane sugar. If you wish to be even Berkeleyer than me, please feel free to break out your spelt flour, agave or yacon nectar and carob chips, and figure out how to replace the egg with silken tofu. There's always a way to be "Berkeleyer Than Thou!"

"Berkeleyer Than Thou" Cookies
Makes 4 Baker's Dozen cookies

Use as many organic ingredients as you can, otherwise your playground bragging rights decline.

½ cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
½ cup shortening (trans-fat free, of course) or butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup molasses
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in 2 TB warm water
1 TB dry milk powder or plain whey protein powder
1 TB soy protein concentrate
1 tsp wheat germ
1 cup plus 2 TB whole wheat flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
3 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 cup sweetened coconut
12 oz chocolate chips
2/3 cups nuts or seeds of your choice (pumpkin seeds are a good source of iron and vitamin E)
1 cup raisins

Cream the shortening and nut butter together. Add the sugar, molasses and eggs and beat until well-mixed. Mix in the baking soda solution and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk the flour, wheat germ, milk powder, soy protein, and salt to combine, and then add to the liquids. Mix well. Now, mixing in one ingredient at a time, add the oats, coconut, chocolate chips, nuts and raisins until well combined.

Drop rounded teaspoons on a baking sheet and flatten and spread with a fork. Bake at 375 F oven for 8-10 minutes, or until they are firm. Cool on racks.

These cookies are tastiest when fresh, so I like to make “freezer cookies;” divide the dough into 4 equal portions, placing it on parchment paper or wax paper. Use the paper to roll it into a firm log. Wrap well in the parchment and a plastic bag (the wrapper from your newspaper is just the right shape) and freeze until needed. Then cut into disks and flatten with a fork. I bake them for 15 minutes at 375 F when the dough is cold or frozen.