Fun with Cucumbers

Hot Off the Press: a new magazine start-up called Our Green Plate—focused on farm to table and food culture in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. #ourgreenplate

I had the opportunity to do some recipe photography for the magazine. It was so much fun to work with the art director Brian Donahue at BeDesign Inc. and Karla Spies the amazing food stylist and set design collaborator.  cucumberMartini_heroThe recipes are delicious and perfect for the bounty of cucumbers harvested from the garden.

 

Cucumber Martini

1 serving

7 1⁄2 tablespoons or a scant 1⁄2 cup vodka, preferably organic

1 1⁄2 teaspoons cucumber simple syrup*

1 cucumber 1 lime

lemon bitters (optional)

Peel and thinly slice the cucumber. Cut the lime into eighths. Place 4 cucumber slices in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and add the simple syrup. Squeeze in one of the lime pieces and muddle them together.

Fill the shaker with ice, add vodka, cover and shake for about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Add 2 or 3 drops of lemon bitters and garnish with thin slices of cucumber.

*For cucumber simple syrup, mix 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water together in a small saucepan. Heat on low, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, about 5–8 minutes. Remove from heat, add 6 or so cucumber slices. Pour in glass jar and store in the refrigerator up to a week.

 

Tzatziki Dip

This is a very flexible recipe; you can make it with or without the herbs, and omit any herb you don’t like or don’t have. If you just have parsley, that’s delicious too. If you like it extra garlicky, add another clove. Bottom line: it’s basically impossible to mess this recipe up!

4 servings

1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt

  • 1⁄2  cucumber, English preferred
  • 1⁄2  tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste or put through a garlic press olive oil

Peel and grate the cucumber on the large holes of a grater. Place in a small sieve and sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then squeeze out all the excess water. Mix the cucumber in a small mixing bowl with the Greek yogurt, garlic, chopped herbs, and lemon juice. Allow to rest in refrigerator for an hour or more before serving to develop flavors. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Serve on a plate or in a bowl with a little olive oil drizzled on top (optional).

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Lemon Lime Shrub

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This Lemon lime shrub is a refreshing beverage to sip on as the temps and humidity keeps rising.  The discovery of shrubs continues for me,.  I found this recipe and many more in this book by Michael Dietsch, this is a great resource for process and recipes.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-orourke/cookbook-review-shrubs-by-michael-dietsch_b_7336720.html

I mix this lemon lime shrub with sparkly water and either vodka or gin for a simple cocktail. With shrubs I suggest using a milder vinegar like a champagne or white wine and start by adding the vinegar in small quantities and continue to taste till you like the flavor.

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lemons (yields one cup of juice)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 3/4 cup champagne vinegar

Process

  1. remove the yellow part of the lemon peel. Juice the lemons.
  2. add the lemon and lime juice to vinegar and the oleo-saccharum. Blend to combine. put in jar and shake to blend. allow 3 to 4 days for flavors to meld.

In addition you do a process called oleo-saccharum with the peels of the lemons to add some more in-depth flavor to the sugar with blending the oils of the lemon peels and the sugar.

  1. With a vegetable  peeler remove the rind of the the lemon, careful to remove the white pith. And use the remaining zest.
  2. place zest in bowl with sugar. Muddle the zest with sugar with a wooden spoon.
  3. cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for an hour or longer. After remove the peels and discard save the oily sugar to use in the shrub.

the sugar will add some zesty flavor to your shrub.

cheers

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub

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I discovery a shrub at a farmers market in Madison Wisconsin, a lady was selling kombucha and this syrup called a shrub.

The fascination still continues as I read about the history and google recipes online. As most things usually go once you discover something then you start to notice it..  My friend Karla and I did some research and made a few shrubs at home. There are a lot of techniques for making shrubs we use the cold process.

The shrub is a fruit, sugar and vinegar syrup that can be mixed with soda, booze or both. A shrub is both tart and sweet; the acidic trace enhances the fruit and smooths out the sweetness of the sugar.  In colonial America shrub syrup was a method to preserve fruit before we had refrigeration. And a thirst quencher on hot days.

As I mentioned there are several methods to making a shrub, I use the simple cold process.

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       Recipe

Ingredients are all equal parts

1cup fruit diced up into pieces

1 cup sugar

1 cup vinegar {cider, champagne or balsamic}

Place fruit in bowl. Cover with sugar and stir.

Cover and store in refrigerator until juice exudes from fruit and starts to combine with sugar to form syrup. This may need a couple of days. Don’t worry how long the fruit sits in the frig it will not harm the syrup.

Strain syrup from fruit. I use a cheese cloth and squish lightly on the fruit to express any remaining juice. Add any remaining sugar into syrup.

Add vinegar and stir to combine.

Pour into clean bottle. Store in refrigerator.

Check to see if all the sugar has dissolved.

I’ve read that you can keep the shrub in the frig for up to a year.

         Cocktail Mixture

2 parts spirit {gin,vodka,rum ect}

½ part shrub

2 dashes of bitters {lemon,orange ect.}

other options are to add:

1 part flavored liqueur

combine ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker poor over ice in glass and add a splash of sparkly water.

images styled with Karla Spies

Red Hot Cinnamon Infused Whiskey

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If you like fireball this is even better.  I found this recipe published by Matt Allyn and have made it a few times. This is a nice fall whiskey for sipping round the fire pit while the leaves turn colors.

I have made the mistake of letting it infuse for too long and the cinnamon will over power the flavor.  I suggest trying a sip after four days and check the flavor until you find it just right. Another treat we enjoy is a hot apple cider with some cinnamon whiskey.

enjoy

Cranberry Infused Gin

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I have not always been a gin fan, but since we toured a local distillery called Du Nord and learned the process I’ve taken an interest. There are several ways to make gin but in my layman interpretation it’s a infusion or as they call it compounding botanicals with the spirits. Sounds like stuff I like to do.  For christmas I received this pretty pink bottle of cranberry gin.  It was delicious and an instant favorite. The recipe is so simple and easy to make. It is now on a sip and repeat cycle at my home.

Instructions

  1. Sterilise your bottles by washing them in hot soapy water, rinsing and then placing in an oven on a low heat until completely dry.
  2. Allow to cool
  3. Add the Craisons and cover with the gin.
  4. Seal the bottle and leave to infuse. Shake the bottle up like once a day or so. Place the bottle in a dark cool location.
  5. After just a few days you will see the gin go from being perfectly clear to pink and then bright red!
  6. Let infuse for 14 days.
  7. Serve chilled on ice with sparkling water and a wedge of lime.
  8. enjoy

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Smoothie

Smoothie season is upon us, It’s getting warm out and I crave something cold and creamy. Instead of grabbing the ice cream I’m gonna change a habit and make a smoothie.  This smoothie is great, tastes like pumpkin pie with lot fewer calories one might say healthy.  It has protein and even some fiber from the pumpkin.  What else can you ask for.

Town Hall Brewery Tour

The best Brew Pub in Minneapolis and St.Paul is Town Hall Brewery. They have a great selection of delicious beers they brew at the brew pub located in seven corners Minneapolis. The Masala Mama Indian Pale ale is always a growler of choice to bring home.  I didn’t come to appreciate beer till I was older and the keg parties of my college years were long over. A friend of mine let me try some of his home-brew, I then discovered there is such a thing as good beer. Now there are so many great brew pubs and beer it’s hard to decide what to buy.  But for me I will vote for Town Hall Brew Pub in my home town.

They have a brew tour once a month, well worth the seven dollars. You get a pint of beer to start the tour to sip while Andrew our tour guide fills your head with lots terminology.  You could tell he had a lot of knowledge to share with us in a short amount of time. It was a lot of information, I could take that tour over and over again, not just for the interesting tid bits but all the tasty samples.  Of course the fun part was going down into the basement and smelling the different hops and barley and all the samples of beer they brew. Each week they seem to have a new infused beer to try along with their five regulars on tap. Once you give it a try you will want to come back.  Cheers

Good Morning Iced Coffee

Let’s just start with one of my biggest vices, I can’t start the day without an extra large cup of coffee. No good conversation or clear thought will be had until I have had a sip of my coffee.  As I mentioned before it has been a very hot and humid summer, seems we are all enjoying some global warming across the country. So my new favorite habit is as an Iced Coffee.

While flipping threw an issue of Martha Stewart, I came across a great tip.  Take an ice cube tray and freeze your left over coffee. Martha’s recipe is to take the ice with some cream a little sugar and blend it up in a blender- Oh yes, it is delicious.

But that is too many calories for me every morning.  The coffee ritual begins the night before with making a pot of cold press coffee in my french press. I just leave the press in the frig till morning and then add some coffee ice cubes.  Fill up the travel mug and drive to the studio.

There is no such thing as strong coffee, just weak coffee drinkers.