Bay Lime Cooler

Here’s a refreshing summer cocktail that uses my Bay Leaf Liqueur.  It’s a balanced sweet/tart flavor, fabulously aromatic with bay and lime mint over a base of gin.

Bay Lime Cooler

sprigs of lime mint, fresh from my garden

I love growing scents in my garden — and lime mint is unique, in that it doesn’t smell minty.  Instead it’s more green, limey and herbal.  You may substitute a strip of lime zest if you can’t find lime mint.  Enjoy!

Bay Lime Cooler
(serves two)

3 oz Gin
1 1/2 oz Bay Leaf Liqueur
a big sprig of lime mint, or strip of lime zest
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
ice for mixing
crushed ice
(bay leaf and lime slice optional garnish)

Give the lime mint a gentle squeeze, and place in shaker.  Add the gin, bay liqueur, lime juice, and ice.  Shake for 20 seconds, or until cocktail is very cold.  Strain into two glasses over crushed ice, garnishing with lime slice and bay leaf, if desired.

Bay Leaf Liqueur

Many years ago I planted a tiny sweet bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) in my garden*.  It has flourished, and produces an abundance of dark green leaves.

Bay Laurel leaves

I love experimenting with flavors in my cooking and cocktails, and decided to do something bold with my bay leaves.  The result is Bay Leaf Liqueur — an elixor long enjoyed in the Mediterranean from whence this noble plant comes.

Bay Leaf Liqueur

While the scent of the crushed bay leaf is pungent, the liqueur is surprisingly rounded and balanced.  It’s gentle on the taste buds, but full of scent and depth.  This liqueur is strong and sweet — rather like Absinthe.  Served over ice in small quantities, it is an intriguing apertif.  I like to use it as a mixer in cocktails.

bay leaves covered with grain alcohol

Creating this sweet liqueur is simple, and made in two stages.  The first stage involves packing fresh bay leaves in a jar and covering with grain alcohol.  After soaking for five days or so, strain off the bay leaves.  The resulting infusion is a stunning deep emerald green.

emerald green bay leaf infused grain alcohol

Mix the infused grain alcohol with equal parts simple syrup, filter, then you have Bay Leaf Liqueur.  Enjoy!

Bay Leaf Liqueur
(makes about 3 cups liqueur)

Fresh bay leaves — enough to lightly pack a 14 oz lidded glass jar (I didn’t actually count them — maybe 60 leaves)

Grain alcohol** — about 12 oz (I used the 191 proof, but 151 proof is also fine to use)

Simple syrup: mix 12 oz boiling water with 1 1.2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar.  Stir to dissolve, and cool.

Pack the rinsed and dried bay leaves in glass working jar.   The goal is to completely fill the jar with bay leaves.  Pour grain alcohol over the bay leaves to the top of the jar.  Cover, and set aside in a cool dark place for several days.

Filter the resulting infusion into another glass jar.  I filter mine through a new paper coffee filter, which removes any particulate matter that may cloud the liqueur.

Mix the resulting infusion 1 to 1 with simple syrup.  Store in a glass container, choosing a container that is the right size to minimize air in the closed jar.  Allow to sit for several days.  If the mixture clouds, and doesn’t quickly clarify with stirring, filter it again through a clean paper coffee filter.

This liqueur should last for months.  Store airtight in the refrigerator, though it will not spoil at room temperature.

*Laurus nobilis is not the same plant as the California native bay laurel.

**Grain alcohol is quite flammable as it is basically pure alcohol — be careful!

 

Rose Drop

My beautiful Gertrude Jekyll rose is about to bloom — time for a Rose Drop.  This recipe was recently featured in the May 2017 Sunset magazine.  Enjoy!

For me, the garden is a place of deep inspiration for my cooking.  I have a beautiful rose bush* — right now in full bloom with deep pink, fragrant blossoms.  A few years ago, while weeding alongside this righteous proclamation of Spring, I envisioned a cocktail — the Rose Drop.

I imagined the luscious scent of my rose concentrated in one beautiful cocktail.  After a bit of tinkering, I was rewarded with a lovely surprise when I infused the petals of this rose, which I reveal to you in the recipe below.  Enjoy!

Gertrude Jekyll Rose

Gertrude Jekyll Rose

For the Rose infused vodka:
Start by picking 9 – 10 full rose blossoms.  Rinse them and pluck the petals.

Rose petals

Rose petals

Lightly pack all the petals into a large lidded jar.  I used a 20 oz glass lidded working jar.  Add vodka to the brim, then cover and place in the fridge.  Give it a shake after an hour or so.

roses in vodka - the first minute

rose petals in vodka – the first minute

After a couple hours the petals will have been drained of most of their color, and the infused vodka will be a pale straw pink color.  (When this first happened, I was most disappointed, as I was really hoping for the color and fragrance of my rose in my cocktail.  I was stunningly surprised later, when I used this infusion in a cocktail, with the addition of acidic lemon juice — a little food chemistry magic to come.)

rose infused vodka - after three hours in the fridge

rose infused vodka – after three hours in the fridge

rose infused vodka, after straining

rose infused vodka, after straining

Strain the rose infused vodka into a jar and store airtight in the fridge until you’re ready for a cocktail.  Enjoy! (in moderation, of course)

The Rose Drop
(makes two)

4 oz Rose infused vodka (see recipe, above)
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 – 2 oz simple syrup** (add to suit your sweetness preference)
4 ice cubes

Stir all ingredients together until very cold.  When you add the lime juice to the rose infused vodka the beautiful colors of the rose revert to their acidified state and shine brilliant pink.  And the rose scent blooms in the glass.  Strain into two lovely cocktail glasses, garnish with a rose petal, and enjoy.

* My rose bush, a Gertrude Jekyll Rose, is grown with no pesticides of any kind.  This is very important for using roses petals in cooking — don’t use any roses if you’re not entirely sure that there are no systemic or foliar pesticides that have been used on your flowers.

**simple syrup:  Blend equal proportions by volume sugar and boiling water.  Cool before using.

 

Jasmine Ice Cream

My pink jasmine is in full bloom and its intoxicating fragrance beckoned me to use it in my kitchen.

Pink Jasmine blossoms

Here is my take on a simple, creamy and luscious custard ice cream gently perfumed with fresh pink jasmine.

Jasmine Ice Cream

I use my trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker for homemade ice cream.  It only takes about 20 minutes to churn the cold base into soft serve ice cream.  I store the cylinder in the freezer so it’s always at the ready.  Enjoy!

Jasmine Ice Cream, just after churning

Jasmine Ice Cream
(makes a quart of ice cream)

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups fresh pink jasmine blossoms, stems and leaves removed
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 egg yolks

Combine cream, milk, sugar, salt, and jasmine blossoms in a medium sauce pan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot but not quite simmering.  Do not let come to a boil, but get it close.   Turn off heat, cover, and allow the blossoms to steep in the hot cream mixture until they are limp – about 15 – 20 minutes.  Strain off and discard the blossoms, and return the hot cream mixture to the pan.

Place the two egg yolks into a heat proof mixing bowl.

Bring the cream mixture to a gentle boil.  Pour a couple tablespoons of hot cream mixture into the egg yolks while stirring the egg yolks.  After the hot cream mixture is incorporated, add about 1/2 cup more, stirring all the while.  Return the pan with the remaining hot cream mixture to the stove over medium heat, and whisk in the egg yolk mixture.  (this is called tempering the yolks, BTW).  Stirring all the time, bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for one minute.  Strain into a quart container, cover, and chill completely — at least 6 hours.

Freeze the custard base until thick and soft serve consistency.  Store in the freezer for a couple hours to firm up the ice cream.

PB&J Smoothie

Calling all PB&J fans — this is YOUR smoothie!  It captures the taste of a childhood favorite sandwich in a grownup friendly (ie: less sugar) smoothie.

PB&J Smoothie

I love it for breakfast before heading out on a bike ride, as it has a great balance of energy for sustained activity.  Peanuts* are a fabulous source of protein and healthy fats, easy on the environment and the budget.
Probiotic drink
I started with frozen berries, added a Yakult probiotic shot for flavor and nutrition, and rounded it out with peanut butter and lowfat milk for healthy protein and fats.  And flavor?  YES please.  Enjoy!

PB&J Smoothie
(serves one)

1 cup frozen berries (blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
1 heaping TB smooth natural peanut butter*
1 Yakult drink (omit for vegans and dairy-allergic folks)
1/3 – 1/2 cup lowfat milk of your chosing (dairy, almond, coconut, hemp, soy — it’s up to you)
2 packets stevia (optional.  may use honey to sweeten to taste if desired)

Blend all ingredients in a blender until thick and creamy.  Adjust amount of milk to create the texture you prefer.  Enjoy!

*for those avoiding peanuts due to allergies, simply substitute a smooth nut butter of your choosing

Bulgur Salad with Spring Herbs

I grow a number of herbs in my garden.  They are not only great to have for cooking, they are also pretty, easy-going members of my garden plant communities.  While tabouleh is often made with parsley, I’m highlighting three mild fresh green herbs in this version:  mint, lemon balm, and fennel fronds.  They’re like good friends, and play well together on the palate.  And, just for fun, I added some primrose petals for a bit of color.  (Yes!  some flowers are edible)

lemon, primrose, mint, fennel fronds, and lemon balm

Bulgur Salad with Spring Herbs

Lemon balm is a delightful, easy to grow herb, and smells of lemon.  I grow a couple different types of mint.  In this recipe I use my favorite for cooking – Kentucky Colonel.  I lightly dressed the bulgur and herbs with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, seasoning with sea salt to taste.  Simple, easy, fresh and satisfying.  Enjoy!

Bulgur Salad with Spring Herbs

1 cup wheat bulgur
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
fresh squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
3 TB olive oil
2 – 3 sprigs mint
2 – 3 sprigs lemon balm
fennel fronds

In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over bulgur and salt.  Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.  Remove cover, fluff the bulgur, and cool in the fridge for another 20 minutes.

Chop herbs fine, then mix into the prepared bulgur with the olive oil and lemon juice.  Add more salt to taste if needed, then serve.  Garnish with edible flowers if desired.

Panna cotta with saffron & rose

The fluffy pink plum blossoms outside my window reminded me of this simple recipe from a couple years ago.  I’m gonna make it again soon!  Enjoy!

It’s February in the Bay area, but it feels like Spring.  The plum trees are covered in fluffy pink and white blossoms.  I wanted a dessert to fit the season, and created this delicate versio…

Source: Panna cotta with saffron & rose