Tag Archives: Concord grapes

I have no excuses.

It seems sort of ridiculous to be posting another recap when so many others are as of yet unfinished. There was that brunch at the start of the year. Then the East Meets [South] West dinner that I had planned. One of the out-of-towners from the aforementioned dinner has already been back in touch, and I haven’t even begun to share the Sweet Potato Ice Cream Recipe with you. And, there was the dinner party for a friend’s birthday where I neglected to take a single photo.

What can I say? It’s been a whirlwind, at best. And, I’m not good at managing my time.

I’ve managed, however, to do more cooking. You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I share with you a series of photos from the latest—a Jewish Deli Inspired Brunch.

Jewish Deli Spread

What if I give you a cocktail, too? Maybe two.

Ok, good then, that should assuage some of my guilt.

The menu, then:
Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls (or, Kanidela, as we call them in my family)
Rye Bread
Challah
Knishes, two ways (Classic and Spinach)
Corned Beef
Black and White Cookies
Rainbow Cookies (adapted from this recipe)

To drink:
Cel-Ray Tonics
Not quite Manischewitz Cocktails
Assorted Dr. Brown’s Sodas

And, as promised: the cocktails. Almost a year ago, I alluded to my plans for the first in this post. It’s a boozy twist on a deli classic: Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Tonic.

Cel-ray tonic is one of those things, like violet candies or marmite, that you either get or you don’t. Although I’ll never quite understand the appeal of marmite, I’m firmly in the “for” camp when it comes to the voilets and the cel-ray. Of course, I’m also of the school of thought that there is very little that cannot be improved upon with a good splash of booze. So, consider these Cel-Ray tonics my elevation of the classic. Bright green, floral, and surprisingly refreshing, the gin adds some subtle floral notes, you’ll want to use one with a stronger flavor—I like Tanqueray for this one—otherwise the gin flavor will get a bit lost.

Speaking of which—Manischewitz.

If ever there was an alcohol designed to put me off alcohol, this was it. At my temple, when you were Bat Mitzvah-ed, you were given a Kiddush cup and expected to say the Kiddish at the Shabbat Service the night before your Bat Mitzvah service. I lived in fear of this. It wasn’t the Hebrew—that, I had under control. It was the wine. It was cloying and harsh and the smell—I’ll just say this: I didn’t realize for many years that wine could taste good.

And, yet, as I get older, I’m finding myself more nostalgic—I still don’t want to drink Manischewitz, but the scent takes me instantly back to being thirteen in a sanctuary on Long Island, horrified as my cantor told me that I hadn’t poured enough wine into the Kiddish cup and trusting that I could count on my father to drink the balance. Keep reading for a cocktail that captures the scent and that you’ll actually want to drink.

Cel-Ray Tonic

Cel-Ray Tonics
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 celery stalks, with leaves still attached
1 cup celery juice
1 cup gin
Seltzer

Bring 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 2 celery stalks to a boil to make a simple syrup. Strain the celery and refrigerate the simple syrup.

Once the syrup has cooled, combine it with the celery juice and gin in a large pitcher. Top off with seltzer to taste.

Makes 6-8 drinks

Not quite Manischewitz Cocktails
1 oz Concord Grape Vodka
1 oz simple syrup
6 oz seltzer
splash of lime

Mix the first three ingredients together, serve over ice and finish with a splash of lime.

Makes one drink

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We Break for Drinks

I’m afraid that the picture below is the best that you’re going to get of the recipe that follows.

It was taken during the frantic part of the evening—guests were arriving and, well, you already know time management skills when it comes to event planning. So, I was trying to pull pork and greet my guests and get them drinks and well, you get the idea. I was also trying to seem relaxed. After all, no one likes a harried hostess (least of all the hostess herself).

Luckily, my usual cast of characters is used to this. And, somehow all end up serving as, much appreciated co-hosts. So, this past Saturday, after Andrea had helped me cook, and Rajni started handling greeting guests, Abbey joined me in kitchen, with simple statement, Drinks. I can do this!

She could, and with aplomb, taking my originally idea, and tweaking it so that it was so much better. When she discovered that there were frozen concord grapes, those went into the glasses as inspired ice cubes. Then she cut squeezed in a lime wedge. The acid of the brightens the drink, she said. Or something like that.

Honestly, none of us cared what it did. It just made the drink that much better.

Included below are recipes for homemade lemonade—if you’re going through the trouble of infusing your own vodka, then you might as well make everything from scratch, I think. And for a single cocktail. You can tweak the alcohol to your liking, based on how strong you want the vodka’s flavor to be (and how lethal the drink). This recipe is easy to make in batches, so perfect for a party.

Concord Grape Vodka Lemonade
1 oz Concord Grape Vodka
6 oz Lemonade (recipe follows)
1 lime wedge
2-3 frozen concord grapes

Mix well, and garnish with a squeezed lime and 2-3 concord grapes.

Serves One

Lemonade
Recipe courtesy of All Recipes
1.75 cups white sugar
8 cups water
1.5 cups lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Remove seeds from lemon juice, but leave pulp. In pitcher, stir together chilled syrup, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups water.

Makes 9.5 cups

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Only the Best

Did you know that there are ordinances in New York City governing when a building must turn on the heat?

I once called 311 about this, many years ago, when I had just moved into a new apartment. I know, it sounds like a punchline, and, yet, I’m embarrassed to admit, it’s totally true.

For the record, here’s the official law:

Heat (During the heating season, October 1 through May 31)

  • Between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., heat must register at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees

  • Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., heat must register at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature falls below 40 degrees.

See? I supply you with recipes and lessons about New York City law.

Only the best for you, my friends. Only the best.

And, so, once again I find myself in that awkward part of the season when it’s not quite cold enough for sweaters but too warm for heat. I’ve taken to walking around my apartment in my ugly—but very, very warm—polka dot slippers. And, if it doesn’t get warmer soon, or cold enough to warrant heat within my building, I may break out my tie dye snuggie (It was a gift from a friend, I swear.)

This is a very long way of saying that I think the temperature in my apartment may, in fact, be colder than outside. Naturally, this makes me long for the blissful days of summer and early fall.

Although the weather is long gone, I’m pleased to say that, this year, I planned ahead so that I could preserve the flavors. And, while I haven’t attempted canning, yet, mostly due to a fear that I’m accident prone enough to afflict my friends with botulism, there is something that I can do:

Infuse alcohol.

I’m operating under the theory that alcohol kills most everything. Except flavor. So, now I have grand plans—Singapore Slings with sour cherry gin, Concord Grape Cocktails. There may be come limoncello in my future, too. It’s too late to get the sour cherries this year, but concord grapes are still in season. And, be honest, doesn’t Concord grape vodka seem so much more appealing that jam, or even focaccia.

Actually, on second thought, get enough grapes to make the perfect happy hour cocktail and snack.

Infused Spirits
Technique from About.com

This is more of a method than a recipe, and, as such infinitely adaptable. My biggest suggestion is to use cheaper, more mildly flavored spirits while you’re trying new flavors so that, in the event that they don’t work out, you haven’t spent a fortune.

Concord Grape Infused Vodka

750 ml vodka
1 cup fresh concord grapes

Crush the grapes and place them at the bottom of an infusion jar. Top with vodka, and allow to infuse in a cool, dark place for 5-7 days. Shake the jar periodically as the vodka is infusing. Once the infusion is ready, strain the concord grapes from it, using either cheese cloth or a coffee filter. Return the vodka to a serving container.

Sour Cherry Infused Gin

750 ml gin
1 cup fresh sour cherries

Pit the sour cherries and place them at the bottom of an infusion jar. Top with gin, and allow to infuse in a cool, dark place for 5-7 days. Shake the jar periodically as the vodka is infusing. Once the infusion is ready, strain the concord grapes from it, using either cheese cloth or a coffee filter. Return the gin to a serving container.

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The Post with the Confession

If ever there was a case for seasonal eating, this concord grape focaccia is it.

And, now, the confession alluded to in the title of this post:

I’m all about seasonal eating—I’m one of those people you hear waxing rhapsodic about things like the first peaches of the summer, makes multiple trips to the greenmarket to get as many sour cherries as possible, and who hunts down ramps (it counts if it’s in a restaurant, right?). I’ve been known to send alerts about the first appearance of cider donuts in the Union Square Greenmarket to a dear friend of mine who is obsessed (and, yes, I’m counting that as seasonal).

Except when I’m not.

This is all a long way of getting at this: last year, I totally dropped the ball.

Although I saw this recipe for concord grape focaccia on Smitten Kitchen in early September and put it to the top of my top “to cook” pile, I let it languish, assuming that I had more time. And, that it couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations at any rate.

Right. About that—it was even better than I had expected.

And, it’s grape season now. Which means, your Saturday plans should involve a trip to your local market. You could make this focaccia with grapes other than the concord variety, but really, why would you? The concord grapes work perfectly. Their intense sweetness makes them the perfect foil for saltiness of the bread. They’ve got just enough acid to compliment the bread base. Before you know it, you’ll have finished an entire focaccia loaf. And, thinking about hiding the second one from your brunch guests.

Do yourself a favor: buy an extra pint of concord grapes while you can. You’re going to want to freeze them, so you can make this long after the season has ended.

And, you might want to infuse some in vodka, too. Watch this space for some instructions.

Concord Grape Focaccia
Recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons milk, slightly warmed
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups halved Concord grapes (you can use red grapes here, too)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Deremera sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt

In the bowl of on electric mixer, combine water, milk, granulated sugar, and yeast and allow the mixture to sit until it is foamy. This should take approximately ten minutes.

Add the flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the yeast mixture and mix well, using a paddle attachment, on low. Once the mixture has been combined, replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook and knead the dough on medium-low for another 8 minutes.

Once the dough is well combined, scrape the dough into into a ball and place it in a well oiled bowl. The brush the top with additional oil. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a cool place, letting it rise until it doubles in size. This will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

One the dough has risen, press the dough down with a floured hand. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into two balls. Brush a large parchment lined baking sheet with olive oil. Place the dough balls on to the baking sheet and brush the tops with more oil. Set it aside for 20 minutes, lightly covered with a kitchen towel. After 20 minutes, dip your fingers in olive oil and press and stretch each ball of dough into a 8 to 9-inch circle-ish shape. The dough should be dimpled from your fingers. Cover again it again with the towel and let it rise for another 1 1/4 hours in a cool place.

While the dough is rising again, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Using the remaining olive oil, brush the dop of the dough. Top it with the grapes, rosemary, coarse sugar and coarse sea salt, spreading it all into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and puffed around edges. Cool before serving.

Makes two 8-9″ focaccia loaves

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