Welcome to 2014! I hope yours is off to a bright start.
I had a few days off for the holidays and was hoping to tackle my end of the year list. I wanted to get a levain starter going, make a Christmas pulla, organize our kitchen, play for hours with my daughter, read a book or two, finish knitting Sophie's pink sweater, and go for lots of walks. Funny how many items on my list involved dough. I tend to bake when I need grounding, and I knit when I am content. Suffice to say that the sweater, which received only a cursory glance, is now too small for Sophie. I only had a few inches left to go on one of the sleeves. I definitely need some grounding!
We did get a few things done, but hubby and I are feeling a bit overwhelmed. Some days the workday routine grows tiresome. This is usually when I think about Italy and how there is time during the day to take a pause, enjoy a midday meal, and putter. I excel at puttering.
And yet I was raised with a New England-get-things-done attitude: You get up early and are expected to have something to show for it at the end of the day, whether you canned three bushels of tomatoes or stacked a cord of wood in a perfect row. When you live on a farm there are so many things that have to be done and our lives, as well as our animal lives, depended on these chores. If you didn't hay the fields before the rain came, you risked losing the whole crop, and the sheep and cows would have nothing to eat come winter.
When I went to college I was a bit untethered without all the chores. I moved off campus to channel some of this to making my own meals and baking a lot. But mostly I read. I disappeared for weekends just reading. At first I felt so guilty about it, but really when I think about moments of happiness in my life they are often tied to books and walks.
I have recently reconnected with a college friend via Instagram. We have been sharing long email missives that have made me feel more grounded, but have also made me miss the carefree days of making art, hanging out for hours over homemade pasta and glasses of Dinkel Aker, and hikes up at Lake Minnewaska to find mountain hillsides full of blueberries, secret swimming holes, and incredible waterfalls. I miss epic baking sessions with friends (banana cheese empanadas!) and long stretches of time to wander, read books, and just be. I treasure the memories that this correspondence has awakened.
These days free time is in short supply, but I try to spend part of every week experimenting with something. My most recent experiments have been with citrus. Winter time cocktails have the advantage of using a variety of fresh citrus. I miss the variety of citrus that we had in Berkeley – we had a very productive lemon tree behind our apartment, and we lived close to Monterey Market, an amazing produce market.
Blood oranges are starting to appear in markets now, so I thought I would share a couple of drinks featuring them. Blood oranges aren't just pretty fruit, the anthocyanins in them also add a raspberry like flavor.
I want to share two of the drinks with you here. One of them is a variation of a Boulevardier and the other is Blood Orange Cardamom Soda (you have the option of adding a little vermouth, if you like).
Boulevardier with Blood Orange
Boulevardiers are a negroni, but with whiskey instead of gin. I love a splash of orange in my negroni, so I thought I would try the same thing with a Boulevardier. The result is a winter version of one of my favorite summer drinks. A negroni is made with a 1:1:1 ratio of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. A Boulevardier is a 1.5:1:1 ratio of whiskey, Campari, and sweet vermouth.
For the Boulevardier with blood orange, I used Old Overholt rye (aka Old Overcoat in our house), Dolin rouge, and I tried several different potable bitters including Campari. The Campari made a prettier drink, but it tastes better with either Cardamaro or Cynar. I also changed the ratios a bit. Cardamaro is a cardoon and blessed thistle based amaro. Cynar is an artichoke based amaro. They are very similar, but Cardamaro is a tad smoother.
This drink is both warming and a is also a good way to begin a rich winter meal. If you like drinks on the bitter side, this is for you.
This makes two drinks
3 ounces bourbon or rye, I used Old Overholt rye
2 ounces Cardamaro or Cynar
2 ounces sweet vermouth, I used Dolin rouge
2 ounces blood orange juice
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker or mason jar. Add ice and shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or serve on the rocks in a rocks glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon, lime, or orange.
Blood Orange Cardamom Soda
This can be made with or without the vermouth. If you make it with vermouth, there is only a half ounce per drink, so it is really low in alcohol.
This makes two cocktails
Add the following to a pint glass or mixing glass:
Juice of 1 small blood orange
Juice of 1/2 lime (use the rest of the lime for garnish)
1 ounce or more cardamom simple syrup (see recipe below)
1 ounce sweet vermouth, I used Dolin Rouge (optional)
2 dashes of cardamom, vanilla, or orange bitters (I used Scrappy's orange bitters and homemade vanilla cardamom bitters)
Add some ice and stir well with a spoon.
Strain and pour into two Collins glasses. Add ice to fill glasses. Cut thin lime wheels from the remaining lime half and distribute between glasses. Top each glass with seltzer. Stir and serve. I actually served mine unstirred, because I thought the layers were pretty. If you serve it this way, be sure to include a swizzle stick or a straw. I love to use metal stirring straws.
Cardamom Simple Syrup
This is super easy. This recipe will make more than you need, but you could also use it to make a cardamom lassi, put in your coffee, or drizzle it on cake.
1 cup sugar, I use organic cane crystals
1 cup water
4 cardamom pods, lightly smashed open with a wooden spoon or muddler
Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and give it a stir. Simmer over medium low heat until the sugar is melted, around 10 minutes. Let cool, strain into a bottle. This will keep in a refrigerator for 2 weeks. Feel free to add a splash of vodka to preserve it longer.