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.

Fresh Lemon Bars

It’s been gray skies for a couple weeks, but my lemons are ripe.  They are little yellow reminders of warm sunshine in the midst of winter.   I made these fab bars this week, and will re-post this recipe for your pleasure.

lemon bar

It’s citrus season, and my lemon trees are loaded with beautiful, yellow gems.  Here’s a recipe for luscious, tangy-sweet lemon bars with a buttery crust.  Enjoy!

Fresh Lemon Bars
Makes 24 bars**

For the crust:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (10 oz) flour
2 TB cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

For the filling:
3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz) flour
5 large eggs
2 TB fine grated lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed, strained lemon juice*

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 9 X 13 baking dish with parchment.  Blend together the ingredients listed for the crust until a crumby mixture forms.  Pat into the parchment lined pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

While the crust is baking, mix the filling ingredients.  Begin by blending the sugar with the flour in a medium mixing bowl.  To this mixture add the eggs and stir until combined.  Add the lemon juice and zest, stirring until combined.

When the crust is lightly golden brown, pour the filling mixture onto the hot crust and put it right back into the oven.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the filling is no longer liquid in the middle.  Remove from oven and cool until room temperature.  Dust cooled bars with a powdered sugar for a beautiful snowy top.  Cut into bars and serve at room temp or cold.  Store any uneaten bars airtight in the refrigerator.

* These bars may be made with any type of lemon, as long as they are good, fresh lemons.  I especially like to use ripe Meyer lemons in this recipe.  Fresh limes may be substituted, but decrease the zest by 1 TB and the replace 1/4 cup of the juice with water.  You may very gently tint the filling green if making lime bars. Just use a couple drops green food coloring if desired.

** for a 1/2 batch, use a 8 X 8 inch square baking pan, and halve all ingredients.

Spiced Walnut Cookies

Deeply scented cookies have a crispy/chewy texture and the rich crunch of walnuts.

(I’ve been on a spice tear after reading DUNE).  They are fast and easy to make and your kitchen will smell wonderful as they bake.  The key is the spice mixture:  heavy on cinnamon with three others to lend intrigue:  cayenne, allspice, and nutmeg.

A hint for best flavor is to make sure your spices are fresh. I use whole nutmeg and grind just before using with a nutmeg grinder.  Enjoy!

Spiced Walnut Cookies

1 1/2 cups (11 oz) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) white sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
2 large eggs, room temp
2 1/3 cups (12 oz) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 TB ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayennne pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups walnuts, coarse chop

Preheat oven to 375.  Cream butter and sugars until combined. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Combine dry ingredients, then add to butter mixture. Mix on low until just combined. Fold in walnuts. Place balls of dough (2 – 3 TB per scoop) at least 2 inches apart on your baking sheet. If desired, top each ball of dough with additional walnuts before baking.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until the outer edges are lightly browned but the center is still a little soft. Transfer to cooling rack to cool.

Inside Out cocktail

Presenting my signature cocktail inspired by the film “Inside Out”.  I wanted to capture some of the luminous beauty of the memory orbs in a refreshing, tangy, gin-based cocktail.

Inside Out cocktail

Inside Out cocktail

The memory orbs are simple enough to make, and may be created up to several days in advance.  I wanted to keep their flavor neutral and in balance with the drink, and also fine tune the intensity of their color, so chose to use unflavored gelatin with lime juice and pure orange essence to make the gelatin memory orbs.  The only special equipment you’ll need is a small melon baller.

gelatin memory orbs and a melon baller

gelatin memory orbs and the melon baller used to shape them

Go see “Inside Out”, then make this cocktail to toast this beautiful film.  Enjoy!

Inside Out Cocktail
(makes two servings, with lots of extra memory orbs)

3 oz good quality gin
1 oz simple syrup*
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
2 each of the five different colored gelatin memory orbs

Prepare two cocktail coupes by placing one of each of the different colored gelatin memory orbs in to each coupe.  Shake together the gin, simple syrup and lime juice with ice until very cold.  Strain into the two coupes.  After sipping your cocktail, slurp up the memory orbs for a little extra fun.  Enjoy!

for the gelatin memory orbs:
2 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
6 TB sugar
1/4 cup cold water
2 TB fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp. pure orange essence (optional)
1 1/3 cup boiling water
liquid food colors: red, blue, green, yellow

To make the gelatin orbs:  pour the 1/4 cup cold water & lime juice in a large Pyrex glass measuring cup.  Sprinkle the gelatin on top and allow to hydrate for a couple minutes.  Then add the sugar and boiling water.  Stir to dissolve.  Add the orange essence, if using.  Pour into five small flat-bottomed bowls, so that the height of the gelatin mixture is about 1/2 inch or more.  Stir liquid food color into each of the bowls, one drop at a time to create red, green, yellow, blue and purple colored gelatin.  (for purple, use red and blue in equal amounts).  Place in the fridge until completely cool and jelled.  Use a small (about 1/2 inch) melon baller to scoop out spheres of gelatin.  (Dipping the melon baller in warm water between scoops helps to create clean cuts)  Store in the fridge until needed.

*simple syrup is just one part sugar to one part water.  Make in advance and store in the fridge.


Dried Persimmon – 2015 update

Subtle, sweet, complex, mellow and addictively delicious Dried Persimmon – YES.  It’s Halloween, and in the bay area, backyard persimmons are at the best state of ripeness for drying:  orange, but still hard.  Once they begin to soften, they’re too ripe to use for this technique.  I’m re-posting this recipe to help get you inspired.   When to pick the fruit is key, and the time is upon us.

persimmons, washed and trimmed but not peeled

persimmons, washed and trimmed but not peeled

I LOVE Dried Persimmon when served with good cheese (manchego is fabulous) and a quality sherry for a lux happy hour.  Enjoy!

Dried Persimmon

My friend Janet has a mature Hachiya persimmon tree in her backyard, which produces lots of beautiful fruit each Fall.  I’ve picked the dark orange mature fruit, when they are the consistency of jelly, and made the puree into cakes and other confections.  Two years ago she learned a simple technique for drying these fruit, a practice that hails from Japan.

sliced of dried persimmon

sliced of dried persimmon

A stunning natural transformation occurs when these supremely astringent unripe fruit are peeled and left to air dry for several weeks:  they turn into a most delicious, delicate, sweet natural confection.  Here’s what to do, if you find yourself with a big crop of Hachiya persimmons one Fall.

Pick the persimmons when they are bright orange all over and still quite firm and opaque.  Keep a cross-shaped section of the branch on which the fruit hangs — you will need this to secure string for hanging.  Clip the sepals to a neat circle on the top of the fruit.  Peel the thin skin off the whole fruit, leaving a dime sized patch at the base.  Secure a string on the stem of the fruit from which to hang the fruit.

peeled persimmons, day 3 of drying

peeled persimmons, day 3 of drying

Hang each fruit so that it doesn’t touch its neighbor.  Good air circulation is key.  Hang the peeled persimmons in a warm dry room.  I hung a wooden closet dowel from some bike hooks I screwed into the ceiling, then secured the strung persimmons to this dowel.  I had 50 fruit, which was pretty heavy to begin with.  Over the course of several weeks the fruit will turn darker, and shrink, then pucker.

drying persimmon, after 3 weeks

drying persimmon, after 3 weeks

Some of the fruit may drop off — so it’s wise to place a towel under them, just in case.  When the fruit is about 1/2 as big as original, give each one a gentle massage.  This will help to distribute the moisture for even drying.

Dried whole persimmons, after 6 weeks

Dried whole persimmons, after 6 weeks

As long as the fruit doesn’t smell sour it’s good!  When the fruit is the consistency of a soft gummy bear, it’s ready to eat.  Slice into pieces and enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Warmly spiced, moist, sweet pumpkin cake is a natural choice for a Fall treat.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Pumpkin Spice Cake

This cake is fabulous on its own, or paired with whipped cream or buttercream.  This recipe works equally well using wheat flour or gluten free baking flour, and is dairy free, using creamy avocado oil instead of butter.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Cake
Makes a dozen cupcakes, a 9 or 10 inch round, or two 6 inch rounds.  Double it for a larger cake — it will bake up just a beautifully.

1 cup (5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour or Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves or allspice
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) white sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) avocado oil
1 cup (8 oz) pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare pans by using cupcake papers, or oiling and flouring the pans.

Sift together and set aside the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the sugars, eggs, oil, and pumpkin.  Beat until some air is incorporated into the mixture – about 2 minutes.  Gently stir in the flour mixture, mixing only until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans, and bake until done.  For cupcakes, check at 25 minutes.  For smaller layers, check at 30 minutes.  For a larger single layer, check at 35 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a baking rack.