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Archive for March, 2012

My birthday cake!

Ugh. I don’t know why I hate birthdays so much. But whatever. I’m making myself a cake today. Sort of counter-intuitive for a devout birthday hater, but it seemed like the thing to do. Since no one will probably be eating it but me, I’ve decided upon a classic yellow cake with white buttercream frosting and shaved coconut.

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This bread is a delight with a big bowl of beef or lamb stew, or just about anything that’s been cooked for hours in a velvety gravy. I’ve made this many times, believe me, I wouldn’t lead you astray. And if you happen to have a record album of old Irish rebel songs playing in the background as you’re kneading, so much the better. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, all!

2 tbsp dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp sugar
7 oz. Guinness stout
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp powdered ginger (don’t leave this out; it really makes a difference!)
1 tbsp butter (to brush on loaf after baking)

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To make the infusion:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • about 20 leaves fresh sage, roughly chopped

Cook sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a simmer and add the sage leaves, stirring it into the sugar water. Cook a few minutes longer and turn off the heat. Allow the leaves to steep until the syrup cools a bit. Strain out sage leaves and decant into a container to place in the refrigerator. Add a shot of vodka to help preserve the syrup.

OK, now what to do with it? Here’s what! My ‘take’ on a lovely elixir — ‘Belladonna’ — once served at The Columbus Inn in Wilmington, Delaware…

Combine all ingredients (except seltzer) into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously until well chilled. Pour in highball glass filled with ice; garnish with lemon twist.

She’s deadly. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Makes one cocktail.

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Yesterday, after attending the Philadelphia Flower Show, my husband took me to Parc, a French bistro in Rittenhouse Square, for a wonderful lunch. On the menu was a cocktail called ‘Basilic’ (pron. baz-ill-LEEK!) with the noted ingredients: Smirnoff Citrus, elderflower liqueur, basil, and cucumber.

A childhood friend, Ramona, introduced me to a very similar cocktail several years ago. Accompanying the recipe, she included this observation: “this is what ‘green’ tastes like”. And so it was that I fell in love with St. Germain: a delightfully floral, herbal liqueur made from alpine elderberry flowers hand-plucked, tucked into burlap sacks, and brought down from the mountains by bicycle. As you can imagine, only a limited number of bottles are prepared each year.

But I digress.

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Pepper-infused vodka.

This morning (yes, this morning), I was thinking I’d like to start writing about my adventures with cocktail hour. Wasn’t sure where to begin, when I was greeted this afternoon by an email from an old friend to whom I’d given some of my spicy pepper-infused vodka when he was here for dinner not long ago. If I do say so myself, I was very pleased with the result: it was a bit like being maced by the police, but you could taste the actual peppers involved (so it was not just a painful experience; there was pleasure there as well).

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Homemade croutons.

I realize you can buy them at the grocery. And yes, they cost maybe $.99 for a box. But they have nothing on what you can make yourself. This task is exponentially easier if you have a loaf (or half) of homemade bread sitting around getting stale. You could bake a loaf for this purpose, and I must admit, I have actually done so.

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I couldn’t be more pleased. After sending my back into tsunami-like waves of misery from pulling up just a few (okay, more than ‘just a
few’) weeds from the gardens, I’m not fit for more strenuous activity than leafing through all of those hope-filled catalogs that are delivered by the armful this time of year.

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