Saturday, June 27, 2015

10 Awesome Summer Cocktails!


It's Summer Cocktail Time at Go Ahead... Take A Bite!!

So pull up a stool,  grab a notepad and a pen (or use the "print friendly" feature that's at the bottom of each post) and jot down a recipe or two. Heck, why not get 'em all down on paper so you can be ready to rock like a pro mixologist with this whole line-up of awesome cocktails at your next summer gathering!!

I'm going to include the brand names of some liquors or get specific about other ingredients in the cocktails listed here today, but please note that I have not been compensated for mentioning or sharing my opinion about these products. They are simply just my preferences.

All amounts are for one cocktail, unless **otherwise specified. I've made sure to include tips for making the best cocktails that you can. Of course, here at GATAB, we always drink responsibly.  Please don't ever drink and drive!


1)

 Blood Orange Martini

I discovered this cocktail at a very nice restaurant that Hubbs and I visited while on vacation. I only had a tiny sip, since I already had my cocktail of choice in front of me. (that would be recipe number 3, in case you were wondering.) If I hadn't, or if I was a two cocktail kind of gal these days, I'd have ordered one of these in a heartbeat!
  • 4 Oz Vodka
  • 1/2 Oz Triple Sec or other Orange flavored Liqueur
  • 2 Oz Blood Orange Juice
  • Slice of Orange for garnish
Combine all ingredients (except the orange slice), with a generous amount of ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for a few seconds. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the orange slice.


 2)
 Tom Collins

This cocktail (or technically "highball") can be made with either Gin or Vodka (Vodka Collins) which is my personal preference. It's a light and refreshing summer thirst quencher that goes down smooth and easy on a hot summer day, so try not to get too carried away!
  • 2 Oz Gin
  • 1 Oz Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tsp Superfine Sugar (or 1 Tbls Simple Syrup)
  • 3 Oz Club Soda or Collins Mix
  • 1 Maraschino Cherry
  • 1 Orange or Lemon Slice
In a shaker that is half-filled with ice cubes, combine the gin or vodka, lemon juice, and sugar. Shake well. Strain into a tall glass filled with more ice. Add the club soda. Stir gently and garnish with the cherry and orange or lemon slice.


3)

 The Dirty Martini

This is one of my favorites, on the rare occasions that I treat myself to a cocktail. I don't drink much alcohol these days, because of some of the medications I take, but when I do.... well, let's just say that I like my Dirty Martini's extra dirty. ;~) If you like (or love, as is the case with moi) green olives, then you'll go bonkers for this smooth and savory libation!
  • 2 Oz Grey Goose (unflavored) Vodka
  • 1 Oz Brine from the Olive Jar
  • Splash of Dry Vermouth
  • Olives for garnish
Pour just a bit of Dry Vermouth into a chilled martini glass and swirl it around a couple of times. Pour it out. (yes, I said pour it out - it should just be a whisper) Pour the rest of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker full of ice. Shake well and strain into the chilled martini glass. Garnish with as many olives as you can fit on a toothpick or one of those cute cocktail spears.

4)
Gin and Tonic

This is another well know, established cocktail in the "highball" category. According to what I've always been told, it's considered the "official" cocktail of Great Britain. I found this recipe in magazine article interviewing an American ex-pat who'd been living in England for several years and what follows is his recipe for "THE Perfect Gin and Tonic". I do like to try and defer to the experts when it comes to such classic food and libation, so cheerio, let's go! 
  • 3 Oz Bombay Sapphire Gin (or "Mother's Ruin")
  • 4 Oz Schweppes's Tonic Water (the use of any other brand of tonic is likened to treason - or so I've heard)
  • 1 Tbls Lime Juice (fresh... never bottled, also as per above mentioned reason, but I do agree)
  • Lime Wedge for garnish
Pour the Gin over ice in a tall glass. Add the Tonic and the Lime Juice and stir gently.  Garnish with the Lime Wedge. Now, I've also been told that one should make a batch of ice cubes out of the tonic water, specifically for these beloved G&T's, but it isn't mandatory. I'll leave that up to you.

The use of Bombay Sapphire gin is also highly recommended by many Brits, but since I despise all things Gin, I'll leave that up to you. I must admit that the idea of rimming the glass with the wedge of lime before adding it as a garnish, is a great one and I actually recommend it highly for just about any highball recipe. 

5)

 Limoncello Spritzer

Limoncello is an Italian Lemon Liqueur made by simply taking handfuls of fresh lemon rind and soaking it in grain alcohol (Vodka works perfectly) for a couple of weeks. It can be as smooth or as hearty as you like it to be, depending on the amount of lemon rind you use and the length of time that you allow it to steep.

It's great on it's own as an aperitif or even better in this luscious summer cooler. Just be sure to take only the yellow skin from the lemons, leaving as much of the white pith behind. It's the most bitter part of the rind.
  • 3 Oz Limoncello
  • 1 Oz Frozen Lemonade Concentrate
  • 4 Oz Sparkling Water
  • Lemon Wedge for garnish
Pour the Limoncello over a glass filled with ice. Add the Frozen Lemonade Concentrate (in a small amount first and then taste for desired sweetness) and top it off with the Sparkling Water. Stir gently and garnish with a Lemon Wedge.
(I also recommend rimming the glass with a bit of lemon juice and sugar! Yum!)

6)

 Cosmopolitan (or Pink See-Thru)

Here's another favorite of mine that I tend to gravitate toward in the warmer months. It's best known as the drink of choice for four very famous (although fictitious) New York City ladies named Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte & Samantha!

Some recipes I've seen call for a full ounce (or more) of Cranberry Juice, but the majority of bartenders that I've asked, say to use "just a splash" to give it color. The splash is my preference, but if you like more Cranberry, by all means, be my guest!
  • 2 Oz Gray Goose L'Orange Vodka (or unflavored)
  • 1 Oz Cointreau
  • 1 Oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 Oz (splash) Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice
  • Slice of Lime for garnish
Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice.  Shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a wedge or a slice of lime.

7)


Watermelon Martini

I've never made this yummy drink myself because well... frankly, I'm a bit too lazy to make the Watermelon puree/juice.  It really isn't that difficult to do, but it's a few more steps than I usually feel like taking when I'm in the mood for a cocktail! The best way to remove my laziness from the equation of course, is to make the puree a day ahead so that it's right there in your fridge, ready to build a delicious fruity summer treat. (a treat that's just for the adults, though!)  **This recipe makes two drinks.
  • 1 Cup Watermelon Juice (press fresh watermelon chunks through a sieve or cheesecloth)
  • 1/2 Cup (4 oz) Vodka
  • 1/4 Cup Simple Syrup (we've done that a couple of times... check here for the recipe)
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • Ice
  • Watermelon Slices, for garnish
In a shaker that's half filled with ice, add the Watermelon Juice/Puree, Lime Juice, Vodka and Simple Syrup. Shake vigorously. Strain into chilled martini glasses and garnish with fresh watermelon slices.  Now, that's refreshing!


8)
 Margarita

Ahhhh! The ubiquitous, yet always festive Margarita! Now, I must confess that I simply cannot drink a Margarita made with "bar mix". Bar mix is that pre-made lemon-lime mixture that some bars use for cocktails requiring a citrus base. Not only do I not care for the taste that this concoction lends to a drink, but it gives me horrific heartburn too. So.... why use the stuff?  Especially when it's just as easy and quick to do it the right way?  You can certainly make your drink the way that you want to, but I really think if you try it my way, you'll never go back to a mix!
  • 1 1/2 OZ Tequila (100% agave is what we prefer)
  • 1 1/2 OZ Triple Sec or Cointreau (for this basic version I use Triple Sec)
  • 1 to 1 1/4 OZ of Fresh Lime Juice
  • Salt for the rim of the glass
  • Wedge of Lime for garnish
Pour all ingredients (except lime wedge and salt) into a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a well chilled margarita or martini glass that has been "rimmed" with the lime wedge and dipped in salt. I use coarse Kosher Salt, but if you like, you can use Sea Salt, regular Table Salt or no salt at all.

9)
Creamsicle Martini

This cocktail is one that I consider to be more of an after dinner drink. You could call it, dessert in a glass, really. It's rich, creamy and icy cold. What better way to end the perfect Summer meal? Or, maybe just to have as a treat after a long day of work?
  • 2 Oz Vodka
  • 1 Oz Triple Sec
  • 1 Oz Orange Juice
  • 1 Oz Heavy Cream
  • 2 Tbls Sugar, mixed with the zest of 1/2 an Orange
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass, rimmed with the Orange and Sugar.

10)

Classic Mojito

What would a list of Summer cocktails be without the classic Mojito! This drink has been around for many years, but has regained it's popularity within the last decade or so. It's often referred to as Earnest Hemingway's favorite drink, during his years spent living & writing in Key West Florida, but that's not exactly true. 

The drink that "Papa" Hemingway made famous, (first in Cuba and then in the Keys) is actually called a "Hemingway Daiquiri" and while the ingredients are somewhat similar to a Mojito, it's flavor is different. And quite tasty, at that!

(I'm feeling pretty generous today, so as a bonus, I'll include the recipe for this lovely concoction as well. Consider it my little gift to you! But first, let's get on with the Mojito, shall we?)
  • 8 fresh Mint Leaves, stems removed
  • 1/2 Lime, cut into fourths
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Superfine (or "bar") Sugar
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 2 OZ Cruzan or Bacardi White Rum
  • 4 OZ Club Soda
Place the mint leaves and 2 wedges of lime into a rocks or highball glass. Crush the lime and mint leaves with a muddler to release the oils from the mint and the juice and oils from the lime. Add a third lime wedge and the bar sugar, and muddle a little bit more, until you've released as much lime juice as possible and the mint leaves are in tiny pieces.

Here's the part where you might want to, but please don't, strain the drink. Fill your glass 3/4 full with ice. Pour in the rum, then top it off with the club soda. Give it a stir, then give it a sip. If it's a little too bitter for your tastes, just add another 1/2 to 1 tsp. of sugar and stir it in. Garnish the glass with the last of your lime wedges and enjoy!

11) Bonus!!


The Hemingway Daiquiri

So, here it is... The little bonus cocktail that I promised to share! (see above) My first experience with this drink was at an awesome restaurant in Jensen Beach Florida, called Conchy Joe's. They serve the "HD" in icy cold metal mugs with a piece of sugar cane to use as a stirring stick. Talk about refreshing!


If you've never tried this cocktail before, I highly recommend that you give it a go! If you have the opportunity to experience one (or three) of them at Conchy's, all the better! 
  • 2 & 1/2 ounces White Rum, like Bambu (or Bacardi)
  • 1 ounce fresh Lime Juice
  • 1 ounce fresh Grapefruit Juice (please don't use the concentrated stuff)
  • 1/2 ounce of a good Croatian Maraschino Liqueur, like Maraska
Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker full of ice and shake it up vigorously. Strain the drink into a large rocks glass (or a metal mug, if you've got one) add a wheel of lime to the rim and if you just happen to have one on hand, a short stalk of sugar cane... and enjoy!


Earnest "Papa" Hemingway



Enjoy!  And please remember to drink responsibly... Please don't drink and drive!




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(This Post Was Formerly Titled Seasonal Food Friday: Week Seven)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Caprese Paninis With Prosciutto and Garlic Basil Aioli


Have I ever mentioned that we're a family of lovers? Lovers of pretty much all food that the Italian people have graciously introduced to the rest of the world, that is. When it comes to tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, we love it in every form that we know of. Whether it's on a crispy thin crusted Pizza Margarita, a stacked (or layered) salad and now, or technically since last Summer, in the form of a toasty, golden brown and buttery grilled sandwich.

I'd seen similar sandwiches before, but you know me, right? I couldn't just "let it be". Nope. I had to add just a little more to the "classic" ingredients to make the sandwich even more decadent. Trust me. It might not be quite the time for those juicy garden ripe tomatoes from the back yard, patio or local Farmer's Market... But, if you can get your hands on a few good organic vine ripened tomatoes at your local grocery store, I wouldn't hold off on making this sandwich. Although I try not to be so bold as to toot my own horn, I can't help but have the feeling that you'll come back here later and thank me for my inability to leave well enough alone. :)

You don't have to have a fancy panini press to make these. You'll find a video from HowCast that shows a couple of different methods, at the bottom of this post and you'll see in the photos I've posted, how we do it sometimes too!

Oh...and please excuse the photo quality in this post. I hadn't planned to put this recipe on the blog at first, but at the last minute I had a feeling it might be a good one, so I grabbed my phone and snapped a few shots here and there.

Caprese Paninis With Prosciutto
Serves 4
  • 8 Slices Rustic Peasant, Tuscan or Sourdough Bread
  • 2 to 3 Lg Ripe Tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 16 oz Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1/2 Lb Prosciutto, sliced paper thin
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Butter for Pan Grilling

Garlic Basil Aioli (Mayo) ***see note below
  • 1 Cup Real Mayonnaise (no "sandwich spread" please!)
  • 2 Lg Cloves Garlic, finely minced
  • 5 or 6 Lg Basil Leaves, finely chopped
1. Start by making the garlic basil aioli. I didn't take photos of the process because, well... I wasn't really thinking about posting this until I had all of the ingredients ready to go. Not to worry, though... It's not like it's rocket science. lol

***Just put all of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and combine thoroughly with a fork or a whisk. Set aside while you prep your other ingredients.


2. Lay out all of your slices of bread on a large cutting board or any surface where it's easy to assemble the sandwiches.

3. Spread a generous amount of the Garlic Basil Aioli onto each slice.

4. Lay down enough tomato slices to cover from end to end, on 4 of the slices of bread, trying not to overlap them too much.


4. Drizzle a little good Balsamic Vinegar over each layer of tomatoes. It doesn't have to be a top shelf $30/bottle Balsamic, but you can get pretty good brands of imported vinegar these days in your grocery stores that don't cost a fortune. Just make sure to look for the words "Product of Modena" on the bottle.

If  you want to learn more about Balsamic Vinegars, they have fantastic post over on Serious Eats that will tell you just about anything that you'd want or need to know. You can check that out by clicking HERE.


5. Place enough of the sliced Mozzarella on top of the tomatoes, to cover end to end. Again, no matter how tempted you are to add more cheese, try not to overlap the cheese too much, because you don't want the ingredients to slide all over the place or fall out of the sandwich while grilling or pressing.

Besides, I can tell you from experience that this sandwich is as just as gooey and cheesy as anyone could want, just the way you see it here!


6. Sprinkle each sandwich half with a bit of kosher or Himalayan pink salt. (you can also add a bit of fresh ground black pepper if you like, but I didn't feel like this particular sandwich needed it. The fresh basil in the aioli already adds a bit of a peppery note)


7. Take 3 or 4 slices of the Prosciutto and pile them up loosely along the length of the sandwich.

As with the vinegar, you don't have to buy the most expensive Prosciutto out there for a sandwich like this. Our local grocery store carries a brand of Italian deli meats called Corando and they make a lovely Prosciutto that costs about 1/4 of the price of Prosciutto di Parma. I've know that I've seen the Corando brand in other chains located in other states.


Do have your deli counter person slice the prosciutto as thinly as possible. It is a dry cured or aged meat and can be a bit chewy when it's sliced too thickly. If you've never purchased prosciutto from the deli before, it helps to know that there is a right way and a wrong way for it to be packaged. Because it's sliced so thinly, it's done a bit differently than other deli meats.

So, don't be surprised if the deli person rolls his/her eyes at you when you order it. I'm sure they already know that the proper way to slice and pack up prosciutto, is to separate each piece with a sheet of deli paper and that takes a bit more time and effort on their part. I've had my fair share of "eye daggers" thrown at me by new deli workers in training.

Now, if I'm just ordering 8 to 10 slices, I'll often give my deli person a break and tell them to just pack it like any other meat. You could let it slide even if you're ordering more than that, but be prepared to have it take a bit more effort to get the slices apart when it's time to make your sandwiches.


8. Place the top slice of bread on each bottom slice and liberally butter both sides of each sandwich.


9. Place a large non-stick or cast iron skillet on your stove over medium high heat. If using a large griddle or grill pan that fits over two burners, obviously heat both of them equally.


10. Add your sandwiches (as many as will fit) to the pan and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, then flip them over and place whatever kind of weight you're using on top and press down a bit. The key is to keep the pressure heavy enough to press the sandwich together a bit, but not so hard that it causes any of the ingredients to squeeze out the sides


11. When you're really "pressed" for time (heehee - pun definitely intended!) you can also use a good sturdy spatula and a husband with some awesome sandwich squishing skills (that's a professional culinary term, right there) and just press the sandwiches down as they're cooking.

OK, So they might not get quite as flat using this method as a bona fide panini, straight out of a fancy press. But the true goal here is for the bread to get all nice and golden brown and crispy - which it certainly will - and for the mozzarella to get all gooey and melted - yup... mission accomplished!


12. Once the sandwiches are done, cut them in half on the diagonal, place them on some pretty plates (or on paper plates - if it's just the two of you and it's too danged hot to even load the dishes in the dishwasher) and serve!

I promise you... if you love caprese salads and you adore prosciutto, then you'll be making these sandwiches all Summer long! They're an easy, delicious supper on a hot muggy night, a lovely luncheon to serve to the gals in the book club, or a great snack for the guys when they come over to have a few pops and maybe play a little poker. And the kiddies will love them too! Just tell them that they're like "pizza sandwiches" and they'll dive right in!

Not the best photo, I know. But in my defense, I really hadn't planned to photograph the making of these sandwiches and I just grabbed my phone at random intervals and snapped a pic here & there.






Don't Forget To Follow Me On Social Media! I Post Blog Updates, Ideas For Kitchen "How To's", Restaurant Recommendations And Reviews And Always Lots Of Photos!




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Don't forget that you can print this (or any) recipe using the "Print Friendly" button at the foot of each post. It's a great little feature that allows you to remove any pictures (or any text that isn't relevant to the recipe) before printing. That can save on ink and paper & in today's economy, who doesn't want to save a little cash when you can?!


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