I want food to be safe, and this can be tricky. Food can be a trigger for many different reasons. Body dysmorphia, eating disorders, a family history of food or the lack thereof being used as a tool of control – food can be a minefield. Keeping this in mind, I want to start things off with a few thoughts about how I’ll be approaching food in this space and how I want to make it safe.
This is a snob free zone. I want everything to come back to a fundamental reality of food that is so often forgotten: taste is subjective. Completely. Thus, there is no “wrong” or “right”, there is no “better” or “worse”, there is how you like it. If you want to drink a Cabernet Sauvignon with your raw oysters, get down with your bad self. Don’t let anyone tell you that the way you like your steak cooked renders too much fat and ruins the texture, or that the beer you’re enjoying is inferior to a smaller-batch brand. If you’re enjoying it, it’s literally the best thing in the world right then.
Food is for you. You know better than anyone what your likes and dislikes are, and how certain foods make you feel. Listen to your body. Do what makes you feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally. That includes having fun. Have fun! Build memories and positive association around food. Tastes and smells can bring back memories decades later, start building those experiences today. Eat with friends. Eat with your family. Eat by yourself. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re eating for you.
– Michael Benavidez, editor
The Best Things to Drink: Fall
A beverage professional’s guide to the drinks you’ll want to try.
In 1810, the crown prince of Munich got married, and threw an absolutely killer party. It was such a historically good time that it became an annual celebration and is still an absolutely killer party today. Oktoberfest is a celebration of a great culinary tradition, of which beer is an important and culturally significant part. The traditional beer served at Oktoberfest is a rich amber lager redolent of slightly caramelized malt sweetness. It’s an absolute treasure.
“Oktoberfest Beer” is a protected designation and only six breweries (Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker Pschorr-Bräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spatenbräu, and Hofbräu-München) are allowed to label their beers as such, but the American craft industry has produced some delicious takes on the style, also known as a Marzen lager. Oktoberfest-style beers make a great pairing for any kind of grilled food, as the caramelization from grilling will harmonize with the roasted character of Oktoberfest malts.
Great Lakes Oktoberfest, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland, Ohio.
The Kaiser, Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, Colo.
Märzen Bier, Augustiner BräuKloster Mülln, Salzburg, Austria
Autumn is a great time to drink our way back through our nation’s history with the original American craft spirit, applejack. Popular during the colonial era, applejack was a substitute for European brandies, made by freeze-distilling cider until only a high-proof spirit remained. Modern applejack is made much like brandies and cognacs, but still retains its rustic and uniquely American character. Try it in a Sidecar: 2 ounces of applejack, 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice, and a teaspoon of sugar.
Laird’s Blended Applejack, Scobeyvile, N.J.
Don’t Call It Mixology: The Sour
Go beyond following a recipe! In Don’t Call It Mixology, I show you the big picture of good cocktail making. Learn to improvise, adjust, invent, and trust your palette to make a drink that YOU enjoy. Because isn’t that what drinking is all about?
I have a T-shirt problem. I’m a grown man, a professional about to hit my 30s, but T-shirts are the staple of my wardrobe. In my mind they go with everything, can be easily classed up with some quick accessorizing, and make any situation a little more comfortable. The sour is the T-shirt of cocktail families and is incredibly simple to boot.
A sour, in its most basic form, consists of a spirit, a sweet component, and an acid. Balance is the underlying principle here. Acidity in a cocktail is similar to salt in food: it enlivens, brightens, and enhances the flavors around it, but becomes unpleasant when the dominant sensation. Sweetness similarly anchors a drink: it adds body, substance, and texture but becomes cloying when excessive. The spirit is the backbone of the drink and the star of the show, but if the heat of the alcohol isn’t mitigated by the other components, then we may as well just drink straight liquor—not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we’re here to talk cocktails today.
What I’ve described so far may sound complicated, but many of the common cocktails we enjoy are sours or close cousins. The Whiskey Sour is obvious, but other memberss of this family include the Sidecar (brandy, lemon, and sugar), the Cosmopolitan (citrus vodka, lime, and orange liqueur as the sweet component), and the Margarita (tequila, lime, and triple sec providing the sweetness). This range of drinks serves to illustrate the versatility of the sour, which makes it a great family of cocktails to keep in your arsenal. Just about any bottle on your home bar can be utilized in the form of a sour, so with the home bartender in mind here are some things to think about when putting a sour together:
General preparation: The typical ratio for a sour is right around 2 parts spirit to 1 parts each sweet and sour. This is a very loose prescription and can be adjusted to your personal palate. Sours are mixed in a shaker and served over ice in a highball or “collins” glass.
Spirit – The base spirit sets the tone for your drink. Clear spirits usually result in cocktails that are lighter and citrus forward, while a dark spirit results in more mid-range notes, restrained flavors, and elegant smoothness. (Most brown spirits have spent time in oak, which has a profoundly mellowing influence.) Choose a spirit that has characteristics that you enjoy, then think about an sweetener/acid combination that will emphasize those flavors.
Sweetener – Sweet components typically take the form of either a syrup or a sweet liquor. Syrups are preferable to solid sugar crystals as they integrate into the drink easier. The most basic form of a cocktail syrup is the appropriately-named simple syrup, made by mixing sugar and water in a 50-50 ratio until the syrup is completely dissolved. This syrup can be used to sweeten cocktails, or become a blank slate that can be infused with almost any flavor you can imagine. Honey, maple syrup, molasses, and other sweeteners can be utilized but again, be careful to to maintain balance, as each of these sweeteners has their own distinct flavor that impact the finished product. When using honey and molasses, you want to first dilute them with a small amount of hot water to help them incorporate better into the cocktail and avoid clumping or crystallization.
Sweet liquors can also fill the role of a cocktail sweetener and can add an additional level of flavor for a elegant cocktail. Orange liquors are often utilized for this purpose (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and Triple Sec being common examples) but many other options exist. Try Domaine de Canton (ginger), St. Germaine (elderflower), or Licor 43 (vanilla and orange peel) and see what you like!
Acid – Use fresh! The difference between fresh-squeezed citrus and off-the-shelf juice is night and day. Not only do the flavor compounds begin degrading immediately upon contact with oxygen, but squeezing your own citrus results in intensely aromatic oils from the flesh of the fruit intermingling with the juice itself. The two most common fruits used for these purposes are lemons and limes. Lemons are more highly acidic but have a milder flavor, while limes are less acidic but have a more intense flavor. Use care here; lemon and lime can easily overpower the other components of a drink, especially since more lime is required to achieve the same levels of acidity.
I’ll leave you with a few ideas to try as you get a start on mixing your own sour cocktails. Remember, the only right way is the way you like best! Your goal is to create a cocktail that fits your palate, one that you enjoy drinking. Feel free to play around until you find the perfect refreshing note.
- Spirit: Spiced Rum
- Sweet: Ginger Beer
- Acid: Lime
- Spirit: Blended Scotch
- Sweet: Honey and Earl Gray Syrup
- Acid: Lemon
- Spirit: Gin
- Sweet: St. Germaine Elderflower Liquor
- Acid: Lime
À votre santé!
Garden Pasta Salad with BaconIngredients
2 ½ cups pasta. We recommend farfalle (bowties) or rotini.
¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup celery, thinly sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, thinly sliced
½-¾ cup mayonnaise
2 limes, juiced
Pinch of cayenne
3 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)
Salt & pepper, to taste
Fry bacon until brown and crispy. Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until tender but firm (al dente), about 9 minutes. Drain pasta and toss with a some cold water to prevent sticking. Slice all vegetables and toss together. Mix mayonnaise with lime juice and cayenne to make your dressing. Toss your pasta with the dressing in a medium bowl, then add the vegetables. Top with crumbled bacon. Add salt & pepper to taste. Chill salad before serving, about 1-2 hours.
Salmon Burgers with Summer TomatoIngredients
8 oz (2 packages) smoked salmon, flaked
¼ cup onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup celery, thinly sliced
½ lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic
Pinch each of cayenne, tarragon and parsley
Salt & pepper, to taste
¼ cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Mix salmon, vegetables, lemon juice and seasonings with a fork. Mix in the eggs and add bread crumbs if needed so that the mixture is not too wet. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Scoop and form 4 patties using a ⅓ cup measure and your hands. Fry on each side until crisp and firm. Serve on your favorite hamburger bun with fresh tomato, lettuce, and condiments of your choice.
Tasty Tuaca CheesecakeIngredients
1 10-inch graham cracker crust
24 oz (three packages) cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup sour cream
1 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
3 egg yolks
2 oz Tuaca liqueur
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 250°F
Place cream cheese and the sour cream in mixing bowl. Beat until well combined. Add sugar and mix. Add Tuaca and mix.
In a separate bowl, beat together the egg yolks and whole eggs. Add vanilla. Pour this egg mixture to the cream cheese mixture and stir together gently until well combined. The batter should be smooth and creamy.
Pour into the pie crust. Set the pie in a larger baking dish with water half-way up the sides of your pie tin; this is your water bath, which helps prevent your cheesecake from darkening or cracking.
Bake at 250°F for one hour and then turn the oven off. Leave the pie in the oven for another hour. Remove pie tin from the water bath and chill until cold and set, 1-2 hours or overnight. overnight.
Top with caramel sauce or preferred fruit. Pairs well with: your favorite dessert wine or a shot of Tuaca on the rocks.
Serves 12 slices
This summer is my first in Northern California. I’ve traded the sweltering, shimmering summers of Virginia for the presence of an almost anthropomorphically persistent fog. It can be romantic, but sometimes I miss the sweltering nights and open windows.
In their memory, I present a Garden Party. These are some ideas for summer entertaining; fun, easy, and light party foods that can be eaten with fingers, prepared in batches, and easily served.
I want to emphasize that these are ideas. Play with them! Change things out, add new things in. These recipes are to my taste. If your taste is different, adjust accordingly.
Grilled Brie, Pear, and Prosciutto Quesadillas
6 8-in flour tortillas
12 oz brie, rind removed (the rind on brie is edible and delicious, but doesn’t melt well)
10 oz prosciutto, chopped
1.5 cups sliced peaches (about 3 large fruits. For this, it’s better to peaches that are just barely ripe. Overly tender or juicy peaches will make soggy quesadillas.)
Evenly divide peaches, prosciutto, and brie between tortillas and fold in half to form quesadillas. Heat grill to medium and brush with olive oil. Grill quesadillas for 2 ½ minutes on each side with grill covered to melt cheese. Slice and serve.
Pickled Shishito Peppers
Shishito peppers are an amazing summer snack. They can be seared in a pan, blistered on a grill, or eaten raw. On average, about 1 out of every 10 is spicy. This is a ‘quick’ pickle preparation, not intended for canning or long-term preservation but rather for intensifying flavors.
40-50 shishito peppers
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups rice vinegar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
½ tsp coriander seeds
2 cloves garlic, gently crushed
In a pan over medium heat, bring olive oil to a shimmer. Working in batches, sear the shishito peppers until they are lightly toasted and their color has just begun to fade. Set aside in a heatproof bowl. In a medium saucepan, mix the vinegar, salt, garlic, and spices. Bring mixture to a boil. Pour hot brine over peppers. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Pickles will continue to develop flavor for 2-3 weeks.
Harissa Devilled Eggs
Harissa is a North African condiment that is basically Sriracha’s sophisticated older brother. Traditionally, it’s a paste of roasted red peppers, serranos, garlic, coriander, and caraway. It adds a complex, slightly smokiness to a classic party Hors d’oeuvre. Optionally, you can dice up a few of the pickled peppers from the previous recipe for a briny, delightfully contrasting garnish.
6 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tsp harissa
2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
Hard-boil the eggs. Cool in an ice bath, peel, and halve. Carefully remove yolks and set aside whites. Mix yolks, mustard, harissa, lime juice, and cilantro. Mash with fork until fully incorporated and smooth. Spoon mixture into egg yolks or use a pastry bag for an easy and elegant presentation. Garnish with chives or diced pickled peppers.
Gazpacho is summer in a bowl. All the garden’s bounty from the warm months, chilled and refreshing with bright acidity. This soup can double as an appetizer for a sit-down dinner, or serve it in shot glasses for a party canapé.
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 ½ lb tomatillos
1 green bell pepper
½ red onion
16 oz vegetable stock
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
In a medium saucepan, heat the stock, tomatillos, and garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until tomatillos are cooked through (about 1 min). Remove from heat, cool, and add mixture to blender. Do not blend hot liquids! Add remaining ingredients to blender and puree until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate at least an hour before serving. Garnish with diced scallions or feta crumbles.
When I think of summer drinks, I think fruity. Fruity drinks get a bad rap, but they can be done in a way that captures the flavors of fresh, seasonal fruit while avoiding fake, saccharine sweetness. Here are two suggestions for drinks that utilize some summer fruits. Not to be repetitive, but play with these! The formula for both is fairly straightforward: a base spirit, a sweetener, an acid, and a soda to finish the drink with some effervescence. If you stick to that formula, you can swap fruits, spirits, acids, and sweeteners in and out to your taste. Use peaches instead of blackberries, or raspberries instead of strawberries. And let me know how they turn out!
*A note on measurements: These recipes are written as ratios so that amounts can be increased or decreased based on your needs. For a single serving, indicated amounts are in ounces.
Blackberry-Ginger Rum Punch
A variation on the classic Dark and Stormy with the addition of one of my favorite summer fruits. A quick syrup captures the color and flavor of fresh blackberries and combines it with the sweetness of spiced rum and the heat of ginger.
2 parts spiced rum
1 part blackberry-ginger syrup
.5 part fresh lime juice
Mix all ingredients, shake, and strain over ice into a highball glass. Top with ginger beer (I like Goslings).
1 lb fresh blackberries (frozen works too, just thaw beforehand)
1 ½ tbsp ginger, diced
1/4 cup sugar
¼ cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.
In a medium saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the berries are falling apart. Pour through a fine strainer, pushing on the berries to extract all the liquid. Refrigerate and the syrup will thicken as it chills.
Aperol is an Italian aperitif with a bitterness that is refreshing but not overpowering and a prominent orange aroma. Strawberries can be difficult to work with, because heat noticeably changes their flavor. To capture the essence of fresh strawberries, you have to find a way to extract their flavor without cooking them, and for this application a combination of sugar and the alcohol in the Aperol serves this purpose. This cocktail is a variation on a classic Italian mixed drink called an Americano, with the less aggressively bitter Aperol in place of Campari and an Italian Blood Orange soda in place of soda water. The procedure for infusing the Aperol can be used with any kind of spirit and fruit combination.
2 parts Strawberry-infused Aperol
1 part sweet vermouth
.5 part fresh lemon juice
Mix all ingredients, shake, and strain over ice into a highball. Top with San Pellegrino Blood Orange Soda
1 lb of strawberries, pitted and cored
¼ cup of sugar
1 750 ml bottle Aperol
Cover strawberries with sugar and Aperol in blender. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Blend and pour through fine mesh strainer.
2 tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ (scant) teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ (heaping) teaspoon chipotle chili pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 cup whole milk
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
⅔ – 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups cooked pasta; we recommend elbow macaroni or tri-color rotini.
⅔ to 1 cup fresh kale, chopped
About ⅓ cup shredded Parmesan or cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Grease a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe baking dish with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.
In boiling, salted water, cook 2 cups pasta of your choice until firm but tender (al dente), about 9 minutes. Drain and set aside in your baking dish.
Over medium heat, melt butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and seasonings, stir until roux forms, golden brown and bubbly.
Pour in 2 cups whole milk and reduce heat to medium-low, whisk until lumps are gone, careful not to scald your milk on the bottom of the pan. This could take a while.
Once milk begins to steam a little, dump in the cheese and whisk while it melts into your white sauce. As the sauce thickens, continue whisking the bottom of the pan to keep it from scalding. Stir out any lumps that form, allowing your sauce to become thick, creamy, and even. (Note: if using extra sharp cheddar, some grainy texture may be inevitable).
When your sauce has thickened sufficiently, smooth and not at all runny, turn off the heat and pour the sauce over the pasta. Stir around the edges of your dish to coat the pasta evenly. Add chopped kale and stir throughout.
Liberally sprinkle another ⅓ cup of cheese over the top of the pasta.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the cheese starts to get golden. Broil for another 2-3 minutes for an extra crunch on top.
Makes 4-8 servings.
You can eat this unaccompanied, but I like to top with strips of a bourbon-seared pepper chicken for protein.
My experience with food was limited, if not negative, while growing up. My father ate two slices of wheat toast with strawberry jelly for breakfast for 30 years. My mom managed to assemble dinner every night while eight kids ran through the kitchen distracting her at every opportunity.
Food normally when unseasoned or left forgotten in the microwave. We ate a lot of beans and overcooked rice. My father required a meat and a vegetable at dinner, resulting in the only culinary guidelines I grew up with. My parents viewed food as a necessity, never as a creative interest. The only seafood we were given were fish sticks and salmon patties with the little bones left in, and so I grew up thinking I hated seafood. We were punished with eating cold spaghetti squash when we were disobedient. To this day I avoid squash when possible.
Lately, I’ve been attempting to process things from my past and I feel like my family missed out on a lot of things by dismissing all the wonderful things about food. I think my parents spent more time judging certain foods and refusing to venture out of their comfort zone, than they did than helping their children understand different cultures, people groups, and their own personal tastes through different cuisines. We missed a lot, and now I find myself trying to make up lost ground.
Although I’m nearing the end of culinary school, I would not consider myself a “foodie.” I eat a bowl of cereal every day because I love cereal. You can look in my pantry and see canned salmon, animal crackers, and basic pasta. I don’t keep a lot of extraordinary ingredients on hand. When I first moved out and started cooking for myself, I felt trapped by my lack of experience and knowledge in this very basic discipline. I thought dinner must consist of a meat and a vegetable. I had no creative abilities in the kitchen and this made me feel uneducated, embarrassed, and like an extension of the family from which I was trying desperately to distance myself.
But all that is changing. I try new foods when we go out. I learned to try things before deciding if I liked them or not. I picked crabs for the first time today. Two years ago I learned to love fresh fish. One year ago I gave up meat to challenge my culinary ability to create amazing dishes without depending on proteins to carry the flavor. I learned how to use herbs and seasonings. I learned to cook live lobster and to use lots of salt on steak.
As I spent more time on my own, I began to see how burnt out I was from living in a very legalistic past where my actions, “heart motives,” and spirituality were constantly evaluated against other Christians. It had been a toxic environment. Coming out of that place, I needed a fresh start where I could begin to reconstruct my thought process. It was healthy and freeing for me when I discovered there are no rules in the culinary world. Principles, yes, but not rules. It was a safe place to begin again and it’s been a good journey so far. I’ve succeeded in taking a negative part of my past and making it something I can be proud of.
Food can be artistic expression. It can take on different meanings for individuals and it can be whatever you want it to be. I’m learning that I have the control when I’m the one cooking, creating a dish that suite me and what I want it to taste like. I love finding recipes and pulling out the parts I like and leaving the ingredients I’d rather not have. Recipes are only guides and aren’t meant to control anything. For examples and new ideas, I get a cooking magazine sent to me each month. This recipe came from Food Network.
Bucatini w/olive-caper sauce
2 garlic cloves
1 T. capers
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 T. Olive oil
1 lb tomatoes, diced
2/3 cups kalamata olives, chopped
3 T. butter
3 T. chopped fresh basil
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
Cook the pasta. Chop the garlic and combine all the ingredients except the butter. Toss the pasta with the butter and then combine with tomato mixture.
I enjoy modifying recipes, so I would take this recipe and sauté the veggies down to develop more flavor and add the fresh herbs right before tossing with the pasta. The cheese I would cube very small and toss in before serving, so that it just barely starts to melt. I might leave out the olives since I don’t like those, or else diced them very small. I would also add a little thyme and rosemary if I felt like it needed it. I think this recipe could also be prepared as a cold salad if the veggies were kept raw and the pasta tossed in oil. Additional seasonings might need to be added since flavors tend to be muted when served cold.
Enjoy the freedom of trying new things based on principles, rather than rules!
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons lard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
- 2 pints fresh blueberries
- c. 1 cup sugar
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- c. 2 tablespoons flour and water, to thicken
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons warm honey
Preheat oven to 425° F
Mix Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add butter and lard and blend with pastry blender or hands, until mixture is a loose crumb, with pea size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to hold together. (You can do this whole process with a food processor, if preferred.)
Set Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean, floured surface. Gently fold in two teaspoons honey, then shape the dough mixture into two disks. Work the dough just enough to form the disks, do not over-knead. You should be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. (These small chunks of butter are what will allow the resulting crust to be flaky.) Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Roll Remove one crust disk from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to soften. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the pie dish and flute as desired.
In a small saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest, and cinnamon over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened. (Add flour/water as necessary to thicken.) Leave it be for a few minutes to cool, then pour into prepared crust.
Crust and Glaze
Roll out second disk of dough, cut into 1 inch wide strips and weave lattice, over and under. Press the edges of the crust to seal, then brush with beaten egg yolk and warm honey to glaze.
Bake in 425° oven for 35-40 minutes. Remove to cool when crust is golden brown.
Serve warm, topped with goat cheese.
Connor is a writer and editor, living in Northwest Indiana and Boston, Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter @keepthemuse for topics like flour, flirting, fanfiction, and the process of becoming a literary highwayman in real time.