• Weekly Cocktail #25: Corn ‘n Oil

    Corn ‘n Oil cocktail.

    Let’s start by noting that this is not a drink that we expect many people to make at home. The Corn ‘n Oil is a very good cocktail, but perhaps a bit random “esoteric” for some. But since this week’s bonus cocktail was a Manhattan variant, we figured we could try something a bit different for our weekly post. And the Corn ‘n Oil certainly is “different”.

    Blackstrap rum and velvet falernum are not common ingredients, but are useful in plenty of cocktails.

    The Corn ‘n Oil combines blackstrap rum, velvet falernum, lime juice and Angostura bitters and is served on the rocks. And if you are unfamiliar with blackstrap rum and velvet falernum, you are not alone. To be honest, we only have them on hand because both are common accents in tiki drinks, and we do like our tiki drinks. Blackstrap rum is basically very dark rum. Cruzan is the blackstrap rum in tiki circles and in the Corn ‘n Oil. It has overt molasses and spice flavors with some clear bitter notes. On first sip, it seems unappealing, but somehow it grows on you. Many tiki drink aficionados use the Cruzan as the “float” instead of more common dark rums like Meyers. Cruzan Blackstrap rum is cheap ($15) and good stuff- so worth a try if you find it.

    As for velvet falernum, it is a sweet, spicy, lightly-alcoholic liqueur with lime notes. There are also non-alcoholic falernum syrups, Fee Brothers makes a version that’s widely available. You can also make your own. Falernum, along with Orgeat, is a popular sweetener in many tiki drinks. The only velvet falernum widely sold in the US is John D. Taylor’s from Barbados, the original home of falernum. It is inexpensive (under $20) and will last a long time, but it may be hard to find. In this recipe we suggest you use velvet falernum, but falernum syrup will work in a pinch.

    As for making the actual drink, like many cocktails, the recipes vary. Not surprisingly, the recipe on the back of the John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum bottle suggests a ratio of 3-1 falernum to rum. This is OK, but most current recipes suggest anywhere from a 50/50 split to 3-1 rum to falernum, particularly if using the Cruzan Blackstrap rum. Most recipes do agree that you need 1/4 to 1/3 of an ounce of fresh lime juice and some even suggest a splash of coke. We use a recipe from the cocktail book “Bitters” by Brad Parsons. We like the book and this recipe, but feel free to play around. We like just a bit more lime juice.

    Yes, it does look like old motor oil…but it tastes better.

    As for the flavor of the Corn ‘n Oil, it tastes like a much more flavorful version of a rum and coke. And this is a good thing. (C’mon, secretly most of us like a rum and coke every once in a while ;-) ) The blackstrap rum adds spice, bitterness and depth. The falernum adds clove and sweet lime notes that compliment the acidity of the fresh lime juice. The bitters add even more spice. Overall, there is a lot of good flavor in this drink. But there is one big caveat, the first sip is tough. The overt molasses flavor and bitterness from the blackstrap rum can be overwhelming. But then, suddenly with the next sip, it gets better. And as the ice melts into the drink, it gets good. Real good.

    As we noted earlier, we don’t expect that many people will have the ingredients to make this drink at home, but the next time you see this drink in a good bar, give it a try. If you get past the first sip and the odd name, you are in for a pleasant surprise.

    The Corn ‘n Oil:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. blackstrap rum (preferably Cruzan)
    • 1/2 oz. John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum (or substitute falernum syrup)
    • 1/3 oz. fresh lime juice
    • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
    • Lime shell or wedge for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Fill a lowball or old-fashioned glass with crushed ice. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well chilled. Add the lime garnish and serve.
  • Gratitude, Awards And Apologies!

    Olives. Something to look forward to.

    A few years ago, our kids sang a song at a school event called “An Attitude of Gratitude”. It was the kind of semi-campy and non-offensive song you often get at school performances, and the basic chorus was “an attitude of gratitude will get you through the day”. And while it is tempting to roll one’s eyes a bit, the message does hold true. Every day we wake up, there is something we are grateful for. And we are very grateful for so many things, we look forward to every day.

    We are very grateful that so many of you visit us and read about our garden and kitchen (and bar). Your blogs, comments and insights have already made us much better gardeners, cooks and photographers. And these are lifetime interests- so we are happy (and grateful) to learn and improve. And the garden and kitchen can often be humbling places, so it is always good being part of a larger community.

    We are also lucky enough to be nominated for a few blogging awards. Thanks! And this is where the apology comes in. We both have what we call the “promptness gene”. We don’t like being slow to respond or simply be late with anything. But we are late in responding and apologize for being so slow. But better late, than never. As we have a few awards, we will bend the rules and mention the awards, tell you a few more things about ourselves and share some blogs we enjoy. And share some photos, just because we can.

    Here are the awards (Thanks again!):

    Beautiful Blogger by Fine Frugality: Good food and writing- recipes you will actually make.

    http://finefrugality.wordpress.com

    Inspiring Blog Award by Glitz Glamour Girl Guide: Fun, positive recipe and lifestyle blog.

    http://glitzgirlzglamourguide.com

    Versatile Blogger Award by Dockfam: This blog just supplies smiles…and smiles are good.

    http://dockfam.wordpress.com/

    Very Inspiring Blog by Sarah The Gardener: A great, honest gardening site- we wish we were this good.

    http://gardeningkiwi.wordpress.com/

    Stuff about us:

    • We do actually suffer from garden envy, even when ours is looking good. I guess we are greedy that way.
    • Same with kitchens.
    • We browse grocery stores, farmers markets and wine/liquor stores the way some folks shop at the mall. This drives our kids (somewhat rightfully) crazy.
    • We tried sausage making several times and have yet to crack it. Local suppliers and butchers do better than us- by a lot.
    • We still do OK with home-cured bacon, however. Some consolation.
    • We are starting to geek up on tea. This may go the way of cocktails and get a bit obsessive. Hmm.
    • We are really bummed and disappointed by Melky Cabrera. Ugh, this one hurts. Continue reading
  • Weekly Cocktail #24: Long Island Iced Tea

    Long Island Iced Tea Cocktail.

    Well, “when in Rome…” And in this case, “when in Long Island….make Long Island Iced Tea”.

    While this cocktail is much tastier than you might think, there is no tea in this drink, and there is nothing “long” about it. “Long” drinks usually denote cocktails that are less boozy and often served in higher volumes, like a Pimms Cup or Dark n Stormy (a Diablo is also a good long drink). Long drinks often make for good summer cocktails, as you can sip them over a lazy afternoon. But with the Long Island Iced Tea, you can sip one over a full afternoon and still feel like you had a Three-Martini lunch…umm… make that a four-martini lunch.

    Many ingredients, but most are easy to find or are in your bar right now.

    The trick with the Long Island Iced Tea (Latin translation: needus designus driverus) is that most recipes suggest anywhere from four to seven ounces of high-proof spirits per drink (most cocktails have two ounces)- but you really don’t taste the booze. The Long Island Iced Tea tastes good (very good if you tweak the recipe), and goes down way to easy for its own (and your own) good.

    Most recipes suggest an ounce to an ounce-and-a-half each of gin, vodka, tequila, rum and triple sec, with some lemon, simple syrup and a splash of coke. We include that recipe below, but it is a bit sweet for most. And while it tastes good, most of the attraction is of the “I can’t believe this drink is smooth with so much booze” category. Our version lightens the drink somewhat (not much) but omits the triple sec and adds more lemon and coke. Usually we don’t mess with original recipes without changing the name of the cocktail. But there are literally dozens of variations on the Long Island Iced Tea (see here, if curious), so whats one more version of the recipe?

    Long Island Iced Tea and ingredients.

    As for the spirits used in the recipe, there is no need for anything special. Decent, inexpensive rum, gin, tequila and vodka will do fine. The real alchemy of the drink is how the spirits mesh, if you add something too good, or aged, it won’t help and may actually harm the drink- and why waste the money? If you do want the best result, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup will work better, but sour mix will work in a pinch. All recipes suggest Coke, and that’s what we use, but any decent cola should be fine. And serve with lots of ice, the dilution helps the drink, and softens the booze (a tiny bit). And in the end, you have a very tasty drink that is a good summer sip. Think rum and coke, but with more tartness, depth and complexity. Just be careful if you have more than one.

    A few too many and you may end up looking like this…

    As for the history of this drink, there are simply too many stories to know where it came from. TGI Fridays claims they invented it (doubtful), but bars from Long Island to Tennessee also claim to be the creators. And to make matters worse, the timeframe varies anywhere from the 1920′s to 1970′s. But since neither tequila or vodka were common in the states until the 1950′s, we suspect the Long Island Iced Tea is a more recent creation. But perhaps fittingly, after a few of these cocktails, no one would remember anyway… ;-)

    The Long Island Iced Tea: (Our version)

    Ingredients:

    • 3/4 oz. white rum
    • 3/4 oz. blanco tequila
    • 3/4 oz. dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. vodka
    • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
    • 1/4 oz. simple syrup
    • 2-3 oz. cola
    • Lemon wheel, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Combine the spirits, lemon juice and simple syrup in a highball or Collins glass with lots of ice. Mix and then top with the cola. Add the lemon wedge and serve.

    Continue reading

  • Simple Garden Recipes: Summer Corn Salad

    Corn on the cob. So easy we almost feel guilty posting it.

    Summer corn salad.

    When you see this, stop and buy some corn.

    On the east coast of the US no other food says “summer” quite like fresh corn on the cob. Farm stands selling corn picked that morning are literally everywhere. And it is quite common (at least with our family and friends) to hear people arguing over what stand has the “best” corn. These arguments sound like wine aficionados comparing appellations and vintages- slightly ridiculous, but great, harmless fun. And while all the fresh corn here is good, there are differences between farms. We are lucky to have so many choices.

    The other argument you might hear is where the best corn comes from. Not surprisingly we are fans of eastern Long Island corn. The weather and soil are perfect, the demand is high and the farmers compete to raise the best corn. A good combination. Now, we also enjoy corn from New Jersey and other mid-Atlantic states, but we know of no other area where the farms are just a few minutes away from most of the people. You can literally bring your water to a boil, drive, bike or walk to the farm stand in less than five minutes and then bring the corn back and put it in the pot. And then you are just three minutes from heaven. And we do mean 3 minutes…

    Why 3 minutes? Well, if you have fresh corn, the best way to enjoy it is to eat it off the cob with minimal cooking. Simply boil the water, drop the corn in the water for three minutes. Once cooked, remove the corn from the water, slather with butter, liberally apply salt and pepper and serve. Perfection. The corn will be cooked but still very crisp and sweet. If you must cook the corn longer we suggest that 3 minutes=”rare”, 3.5 minutes= “medium rare”, 4 minutes= “Medium”, etc. But we suggest that anything past medium will rob the corn of its crisp texture. And the corn’s flavor and texture are some of the best nature has to offer.

    3 minutes- Max!

    Continue reading

  • Weekly Cocktail #23: The Daiquiri

    The Daiquiri.

    If you are at the beach, and we are, there are few better flavor combinations than rum, limes and sugar. A simple trio, but one with many variables, and a canvas for almost endless experimentation. Rum comes in many styles, as does sugar, and it seems that almost all are used in some combination with lime to form an original cocktail. Rhum Agricole, cane syrup and lime gets you a Ti’ Punch. Cachaca, sugar and lime make a Caipirinha. Jamaican rum, lime and sugar (and sometimes bitters) forms a Planters Punch. And on it goes…

    Rum, lime sugar. Simple, but good.

    And if you start with white rum, add lime juice and a touch of simple syrup, you get the Daiquiri. The Daiquiri is probably the most famous of the rum/lime/sugar drinks, and perhaps rightfully so. While many will develop tastes that lean towards the funk of Cachaca or the richness of Jamaican rum, everyone must start somewhere- and the Daiquiri is a very good intro to this class of cocktails. Tasty, refreshing and simple to make, the Daiquiri is a perfect summer sip and an easy way to produce some smiles. Don’t take it from us, the Daiquiri was a favorite of both Hemingway and JFK. They knew how to party have a good time.

    As for the history of the Daiquiri, it is better documented than most cocktails. The Daiquiri is named after a beach in Cuba and was invented by Americans there after the Spanish-American war. The Daiquiri remained somewhat of a regional specialty until the late 1930′s, when it gained popularity in the states. The 1940′s brought more popularity for the Daiquiri, as rum was more available than many other spirits during the Second World War. And after the war the Daiquiri remained a cocktail staple.  (Note: There is a good recurring joke in the 1958 movie “Auntie Mame” about Daiquiris improperly made from honey. Lots of booze and bad judgement in that movie, if you like cocktails and parties it is worth renting ;-) .

    While the history of the Daiquiri is relatively well-known, there are some questions on how the make one. You would think it’s simple; white rum (Bacardi is a fine), lime juice and simple syrup (no honey, please), but the proportions are a challenge. Most recipes call for at least 2 oz. white rum, 1/2 – 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice and just a few dashes of simple syrup. While that may work for many, some (most?) will find the drink too sour. We suggest you play around until you find proportions you like. If you make your simple syrup in large batches, you will have plenty to experiment with. Our base recipe is 2 oz. white rum, 3/4 oz. lime juice and 1/2 oz. simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water), a bit sweeter than the traditional recipes, but the lime still leads the drink.

    And if you like the basic Daiquiri, there is plenty of room to experiment and expand. Different rums, liqueurs and sweeteners all make for easy variants of the Daiquiri, and many are very, very tasty. The Hemingway Daiquiri is also a very good cocktail (IMHO). So if you want an into to rum/lime/sugar drinks, or just a good summer sip, the Daiquiri is a great place to start.

    The Daiquiri:

    Note: To make simple syrup, combine 1 cup white sugar with 1 cup water and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves. Chill and store in the fridge. If you add 1/2 oz. of vodka to the syrup (off the stove) it will keep longer.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. white rum
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
    • 1/2 oz. simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
    • Lime wheel, for garnish (optional)

    Assemble:

    1. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe’. Garnish with lime wheel, if you like. Serve.
  • Quail Hill Farm: CSA? Heaven? Both?

    Flower at Quail Hill CSA.

    The rules.

    While we miss our own farm, it is hard to be sad here on the east end of Long Island. We are on some of the best farmland in the world, next to some of the best beaches in the world. And where you don’t have vacation homes, you still see many productive farms. And farm stands selling fresh produce are just about everywhere. The corn, potatoes, zucchini, squash, berries and stone fruit are all great this year. Yum.

    Today’s lineup.

    Your map.

    But there is one very special farm, Quail Hill, that is more than just some tasty produce. It shows the true potential of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to benefit an entire community. Quail Hill is a CSA on 30 acres of donated land and is supported by over 200 member families. The member families pay for a share of the produce and harvest a few times a week (anyone can visit, you just can’t harvest). The staff run the farm and have an apprentice program to educate future farmers. Farmland is preserved, new farmers are trained, families get access to a “real” farm. Oh, and the produce is awesome. Good land, great weather and hard work get you a good crop.

    Garlic for the taking.

    Fennel. We caramelized this and served with the steamed clams. Good match.

    Lots of squash and zucchini.

    While we aren’t members, our friends Chad and Monica are, and we got to visit for a Tuesday harvest. The farm is beautiful and bucolic, but also a place of work. Everything at the farm is there for a reason. While many people (including us) wax poetic about growing food, somebody has to spend some time in the dirt. But it is certainly good dirt. Good dirt makes a good farm. We will let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

    Huge herb garden- take what you need.

    The herbs for the steamed clams.

    Orchard- mostly stone fruit.

    Peaches.

    Rows of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and eggplant.

    A little of the weekly haul. Continue reading