Thursday, July 25, 2013

Helpful Tip: Washing Berries

Ever feel like berries just don't last that long when you bring them home, especially those just-picked from the farm? You're not alone. Berries have little germies on them that cause mold to form at an alarming rate (here's a more sciencey explanation).

To extend the fridge life of your berries, here's a simple trick. As soon as you bring them home, fill a clean sink basin (or a big bowl, if you must) with several inches of cool to lukewarm water. Add a half-cup of distilled white vinegar to the water. Then add in your berries. Gently swish them around with your hands and let them sit for a few minutes. Strain the berries and dry them (for firm berries like blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries, you can send them through a salad spinner. More delicate berries, like currants and raspberries, should be left on a towel to air dry). Place them in an airtight container and store in the fridge.

Or freeze them.

The vinegar disinfects the berries naturally and keeps bacteria from eating the soft flesh of the berries too quickly.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sangria Sauce

Oof. It's too hot to cook or bake.

Well, that is to say it was too hot. Thankfully the heatwave that plagued my little corner of the world has passed, and more temperature weather is here.

I recently picked up a copy of She Cooks, She Scores: The Steamy Stories Behind the Recipes by Chicago-based Chef Jennifer F. Stoker. Besides offering a sometimes-hilarious peek into one woman's romantic interludes and the meals inspired by them, there were a lot of handy recipes perfect for, "I'm hungry but it's too hot/humid to cook" moments.

One recipe in particular that grabbed me was Grilled Fruit Over Angel Food Cake with Sangria Sauce. Sounds like the perfect antidote to steamy sun-drenched days. The recipe is below. I'm looking forward to trying my hand at some of Chef Stoker's other dishes, like Asparagus Guacamole (wut?), Sweet Potato and Sausage Gratin with Savory Maple Glaze, Watermelon and Jicama Coleslaw (oh twist my arm why don'tcha - she serves it with fried coconut shrimp), and Thai Coconut Chicken Soup.

If it's too humid or hot to make angel food cake, don't feel too guilty about buying one from a local bakery.

Grilled Fruit Over Angel Food Cake with Sangria Sauce
From She Cooks, She Scores by Jennifer F. Stoker
Makes Six Servings

1 pineapple, top and bottom removed, skin removed, cut lengthwise into strips, 1/2-inch wide.
2 peaches, halved and pitted
1 mango, peeled, cut lengthwise, 1/2-inch wide
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lemon
1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup chopped kiwi
1/2 cup blueberries
1 angel food cake, whole

Sangia Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup peach schnapps
1/2 cup champagne or white wine*
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1 cup grape juice
1 lime, squeezed

Preheat grill to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, add olive oil and squeeze lemon into oil. Mix together until incorporated. Brush mango, pineapple, and peaches with lemon oil and set aside.

To make sangria sauce: heat water and sugar in a medium saucepan on medium-high. Dissolve sugar and add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a medium simmer until sauce reduces to 1 cup. Cool completely; sauce will thicken as it cools.

Grill or saute fruit until golden brown on all sides. Let cool. Cut up in bite-size pieces and put in bowl along with rest of fruit. Mix together.

Cut angel food cake into individual pieces. Sprinkle fruit mixture over each piece of angel food cake and drizzle sangria sauce over top.

*I used Thirsty Owl's Snow Owl wine, just like I would for regular ol' Sangria. Because the sauce gets cooked, I wouldn't open a new bottle of sparkling wine for this, but a split/mini bottle would do the trick!

Angel Food Cake
(Deanna's Recipe!)
Makes one cake

1 1/2 cups egg whites (from about 10-12 large eggs)
1 1/2 cups sifted Confectioners sugar
1 cup sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar

In an extra-large mixing bowl, allow the egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Whisk together Confectioners sugar and flour in a separate bowl, being sure to remove all lumps.

Adjust the baking rack to the lowest position in the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add the cream of tartar and vanilla to egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add in granulated sugar, about two tablespoons at a time, beating until soft peaks form.

Add about one-fourth of the flour mixture over beaten egg whites, fold in gently. Repeat, folding in remaining flour mixture by fourths. Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube or bundt pan. Gently cut through batter with a butter knife to remove any large air pockets.

Bake on the lowest rack for 40 to 45 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert the cake and allow to cook through inverted pan. Loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and remove from the pan completely. Allow to cook and dust with Confectioners sugar.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Playlist

There's just something about summer that's inexplicable. Maybe it's the reckless potential of all that it contains. The days are long, the nights are hot, and the restlessness that they bring makes us all feel young, even if for a bit.

Barnside Movie at Silly Goose Farm
From Summer 2011 Barnside Movie Party

When I think of summer, I think of swimming with my high school boyfriend ('sup Brian) with a crank radio on the dock broadcasting the Yankees game; I think of throwing bocce in the backyard with a good drink in hand while laughing with friends as the sun goes down and the fireflies come out; I reminisce of hot, sweaty days pitching hay into the barn and the smell of tractor oil.

In all of those situations, certain songs that are intrinsically summer come to mind. There are those tunes that are mandatory listening as the temperature rises; they make you want to put an extra cuff in your cut-offs, slather on sunscreen, and dance in the most fun, seductive manner with your best friends and lovers. Songs by The Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, John Mellencamp, Snoop... Sure, they're good any time of year, but even better when the windows are down and the wind whips through your hair, pulling tiny little beads of sweat off your skin. They beg of lazy adventures, limited clothing, and getting lost in a moment seemingly suspended in time.

I've asked some of my favorite people to help me compile a quintessential summer playlist, complete with songs of nostalgia, novelty, obscurity, and apropos seasonal mentions. It seems for each person, there is a song that just can't be heard without flashbacks to a summer memory (for me, it's driving my first car, my Mustang, at unreasonably high speeds with Bowie on repeat, headbobbing harder than an over-zealous hooker). Read on (and listen) below - there's about 50 songs, so scroll through. Did we miss your favorite summer song? Got a memory to accompany? Share in the comments and I'll work to update the list!

Jenny Witte, impeccably stylish editor-in-chief and my gadabout soul sister: Although not technically ABOUT summer, "Waiting on a Friend," by The Rolling Stones always reminds me of summertime. Mick is hanging out on that front stoop in the video, just sort of wasting the day away the way summer days can sometimes go, where it starts getting dark and you realize you've just been hanging out all day. It's so relaxed and laid back, it makes you want to just sit around and wait too. And of course Mick is just at his most louche, tight pants best in this video. I love it.

Tom Makovitch, Artist Extraordinaire: I couldn't decide on just one song, so two it is. The first is "Origins" by Tennis. Whenever I listen to music I never hear the lyrics separately from the instruments. I hear them as one digesting the song as a whole piece. My second is "Naked Kids" by Grouplove and it overwhelms me with nostalgic happiness.

Kelly Kramer, Resident BFF and music festival champion: Long days filled with sunshine, road trips to the beach, outdoor brunches that last until nightfall, and baseball games - thinking about summer yet? For me, nothing can bring about these feelings of summer better than music. The music of summer should automatically make you dance, put you in a good mood, or at least make you think about all the things that make you cherish the summer. The scenario that epitomizes what summer means to me is sitting on a mountain at a music festival listening to my favorite jams. And what song will you ALWAYS hear at a festival? "The Weight," by The Band. Imagine day drinking with all your best friends when you heat the first few chords of "The Weight." You automatically know that for the next four and a half minutes, everyone will be engrossed in the song. Whether you know all the lyrics of have made up your own, it's a hell of a good time singing at the top of your lungs to the ultimate story song. There will be lots of smiles, cheers with beverages, and lighters in the air. You just can't be in a bad mood once those chords are played, and for me that's the best part of the summer - getting lost in the feeling that the season, these friendships, and the beer supply will never end.

Jillian Kalonick, everyone's favorite red-headed librarian: I used to date a guy who liked any song that had "ooh ooh oohs" in it. I know he would dig "White Wave" by Portastatic. I love the nostalgia for teenage rebellion, the stinging sunburn, and "Yelloe Brick Road" on the jukebox. It's the perfect thing to blast with the windows down on the way to the shore.

Braden Russom, cookbook author, brother-in-the-bonds, and business confidante:  I know it's a bit cheesy, but I guess I'd say "Boys of Summer," by Don Henley. It's kinda got everything. It's a summer love/lust story, and the repeated, driving drums and guitar have a relentlessness that's almost oppressive, like a long, hot, summer. I think my attachment to it comes from being about 12 and seeing it on VH1. The sepia-toned video and the not-so-subtle sexiness really grabbed me. I felt a bit like I was getting a glimpse into what the older, more popular kids were doing during their summers.

Julie White Eklund, my cocktail co-conspirator and touchstone of what's cool in the best esoteric ways: Despite my penchant for thoughtful, lyric-driving music, there is just something about humid weather that calls out for crunk. I find that "Get Low," by Lil Jon is perfect for cooking and dancing around in the kitchen on one of those muggy thunderstorm nights when the sweat is dripping down your neck in little rivulets that are either gross or the sexiest thing ever. It's just a matter of where your head is at. (editor's note: Julie has here own list right here.)

Shannon McGill, tempting songstress with hair one could lost in for days: "Green Garden," by Laura Mvula is infectious, ebullient, beautiful, and lust like its title. Mvula's voice is warm and inviting and the backing vocals... woah! The thing is just perfection, it just envelops you in beauty. Swallows you right up and makes you a devotee instantly! Like the refrain says, "I'll go wherever you go, wherever you take me, I'll go." I'd follow this woman anywhere! This song just knocks me out and oozes summer. It's what summer sounds like. "Birmingham" is a winding, stomping, snaking story of two musicians in love. After I first heard it, I listened to it for 4 days straight, just this one song. It's all my ears wanted. Here is the wanderlust and restlessness that's inherent in summer. Forever this song will represent summer of 2013 for me. 

Taya Matthews, operatic crooner and master of brevity: "Breathe," by Telepopmusik. Gosh is this ever the song...

Share your songs below!