A group of friends and I went out last night — there was spicy caramel popcorn. Oh, and a few drinks.
This morning, I made a full pot of coffee.
I’ve got a long day ahead of me.
Until tomorrow, have a great today.
If I dared, I’d don a cap and short pants and knee socks and a sweater vest and stand on the nearest street corner hawking newspapers and shouting, “extra, extra, read all about it.”
Instead, my hair is in a braid down my back and I’m wearing a long skirt and wedge sandals. I’m sitting in front of a computer with a glass of wine. I insert a link to an article in a newspaper and pinch myself with excitement: I’m a columnist for the Jerusalem Post.
The conversations started when snow was on the ground. The drafts went back and forth across time zones and around vacations. Now that the farmers markets are open and the sun is making a regular appearance, the column is hot off the press.
It’s called “Come to the Table,” a reference to the French phrase “à table” – the rally cry that gathers family and friends in kitchens and dining rooms morning, noon, and night. The first time I heard it, I was standing in a bathtub in the Loire Valley just a few kilometers away from the Château de Chambord.
I had just arrived in France for the summer and had flooded my host family’s bathroom with a hand-held shower head. Panicking, I wrapped a towel around myself, gingerly stepped out of the tub, spread the remaining towels on the floor, dripped my way to the top of the staircase, and shouted down in the most cheerful, insouciant voice I could muster, “je viens” – I’m coming!
I threw on some jeans and a t-shirt, swatted at my wet footprints, and joined the family at the table in the garden. I smiled my way through dinner and almost made it to dessert before I was discovered. After a group effort at mopping the bathroom floor, we sat back down to a plate of fruit and the father smiled. “Bienvenue dans la famille” – welcome to the family.
It’s in this spirit that I will share in the column stories and recipes from my international travels, gaffes and all.
The first article is based on the trip that my friend Sarah and I took last year. We ate our way through Seville and Lisbon and I posted a recipe for salmorejo – a cold tomato soup thickened with bread. For the Jerusalem Post, I added a recipe for tinto de verano – the red wine of summer – a mix of cold red table wine and lemon soda served in tumblers under the Mediterranean sun.
Over the summer, Come to the Table will wander to France and Panama and hopefully find its way into your kitchen.
Tinto de verano
Tinto de verano is a simplified version of sangria popular in the south of Spain, essentially a 1:1 mixture of red table wine and lemon-lime soda called gaseosa. You can substitute Sprite or 7-Up. If you don’t like the artificial taste of soda, make your own with a lemon-lime simple syrup and plain carbonated water. Simple syrup is a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water that can be infused with different flavors or left plain and is often used in mixed drinks.
Makes 6 cups
- 1 bottle red table wine – don’t bother using a fancy wine; I use a very inexpensive Cabernet
- 1.5 C sugar
- 1.5 C water
- 2 lemons
- 1 lime
- 1.5 C seltzer or club soda or more to taste
Chill. Chill the red wine.
Boil. Make a lemon- and lime-infused simple syrup. Bring to a boil water and sugar and stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Remove from heat. Thinly slice the lemons and lime and drop them into the sugar water. Let cool to room temperature and then chill in the refrigerator. Remove the lemon and lime slices and reserve for garnish.
Mix. In a very large pitcher (or two), mix together the chilled wine, simple syrup, and seltzer or club soda. Serve in tumblers with a slice of lemon.
I went to Thinking Cup Cafe the other day before settling in for a picnic and a little Shakespeare on the Common with my friend Dee. One sip of their cold-brewed iced coffee had me begging for the recipe and buying a 12-ounce bag of Stumptown Egyptian Mordecofe, medium grind.
I had heard about cold-brew in the past, but never thought to make it myself until my friend Chavi started asking around about it.
A quick search online pulled up the 2007 NYT recipe that may indeed have started it all.
Where was I four years ago when the rest of the world made this discovery? My excuse – I only get the Times on weekends.
Cold-brewed iced coffee
The nice thing about cold brewing is that it isn’t bitter the way hot coffee or espresso poured over ice can be. I’m not entirely sure why that is – does the heat draw out the bitterness? Does the heat draw out good stuff that masks the bitterness? Does anyone know the science behind this? Anyone?
Anyway, on to the recipe…
- 1/3 C medium ground coffee beans (you can ask your for a medium or french press grind)
- 1 1/2 C cold water
Brew. In a jar or liquid measuring cup, add 1/3 C coffee to cold water. Cover and let sit 12-20 hours at room temperature.
Filter. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. This filters out the grounds.
Filter again. Strain again through a paper filter this time. This second filter helps remove any remaining sediment.
Drink. Pour equal parts concentrate and cold water over ice (or to taste – I like mine pretty strong, so I don’t add much water). Add milk and/or sugar.
He walked through the door, bearing gifts. A bag of groceries – cheese, chicken, lemons, nectarines, and wine. Foraging through the pantry and fridge, he gathered the meal.
Bread with cheese to start things off, with a little care in the kosher kitchen where milk and meat are kept separate. Cheese stayed at one end of the dining room table.
On the kitchen counter, an assembly line was set up. A bottle of wine was opened and poured.
He said, every Jewish mother knows how to make schnitzel. No, she said, every Israeli mother knows how to make schnitzel. She was neither. She watched him carefully.
The pans heated and the schnitzel stacked up. Avoiding the splattering oil, she moved to the dining room and gathered linens, continuing to observe at a distance.
The table was set. The limonana was poured.
The smoke detector blared. Its battery was removed and all the windows and doors were opened. The breeze chased out the smoke. They sat down to dinner.
There were leftovers.
I had fresh lemonade at Joanne‘s this past winter. She uses Ina Garten’s (Barefoot Contessa Cookbook) ratio of 4:1:0.5 water-lemon-sugar, and who can argue with the recommendations of a woman with a lemon tree in her backyard? You can obviously adjust to your own preferences and I sometimes use less sugar. When you add mint, called nana in Hebrew, lemonade (limonada in Hebrew) becomes limonana.
- 4C cold water
- 1/2C sugar (superfine is best, but I have great results with regular granulated sugar)
- handful of mint
- ice cubes
Throw the first 3 ingredients in a blender. That’s it.
Either add mint to the blender as well for a green-tinted drink, or add a branch-worth of leaves to lemonade right before serving to turn the lemonade into limonana.
Schnitzel is breaded, fried chicken cutlets that are incredibly moist beneath the crispy crust. I don’t have exact quantities for this recipe, but more of a formula.
Slice boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets into thin strips, cover with wax paper or plastic wrap, and pound flat with a mallet. If yours has a tenderizing side, don’t use it. We made about one and three-quarters of a pound of chicken (3 large breasts) which we sliced into 12 strips.
Prepare four plates. Sprinkle flour on the first plate. On the second, break and beat a few eggs (we used 4). Dump a big pile of fine bread crumbs onto the third (you can also use panko, but I find the coating to be too thick and bready). Coat the chicken in flour, dredge through the egg, and coat with bread crumbs. Stack onto the fourth plate.
It’s best to use two pans to make quick work of the frying so you can serve all the chicken hot. Coat two pans with vegetable oil and turn heat to medium-high/high. Cover a fifth plate in paper towels and have the rest of the roll nearby. Once the oil is heated, add chicken to the pans in a single layer. Step away from the pan as you add the chicken (or if you’re cooking in a pair, the better dressed one should just step out of the kitchen and set the table) – this will splatter and make a mess. I think that’s part of the charm. After a few minutes when one side has browned, flip the chicken and cook for another few minutes until brown on both sides. Remove the schnitzel and lay over paper towels in a single layer. Add more paper towels between each layer to absorb the oil.
Serve hot, sprinkled with salt, and plan for 2-3 schnitzel per person.
If you have any left over, slice and throw on a salad the next day.
Simple syrup is just a well-saturated mix of water and sugar. Nothing more to it. Pretty simple! I believe it’s called a “simple” syrup because it isn’t maple or some syrup found in nature. But, I’m not sure.
Simple Simple Syrup
Purists will say that the water to sugar ratio should be 1:1. I’ve seen it diluted down to 2:1 and this is what I tried for my first experiment since I was thinking about that not-too-sweet Lavender Cosmo that I had last week. Adjust to taste — a 1:1 is probably best for cocktails when you’re concerned about not diluting the drink too much.
- Cold water (I use tap)
- Granulated sugar (plain white is just fine)
Boil cold water. Add sugar. Adjust heat to low and stir mixture until sugar is completely dissolved. That’s it. Très simple!
Once the syrup has cooled, close with a stopper (or a stopper with a spout) and refrigerate. You should probably drain the herbs out too. That’s if you didn’t infuse your herbs in the bottle you want to store the syrup in. Whoops — my bad! I’ll probably use this infused syrup for everything from tea (hot and iced) to cosmos over the next few days, so it should be fine. But in the future, fresh leaves will likely not fare well after a day.
A few tricks and ideas:
- I made my syrup in a kettle — it was easier to pour into bottles since I only have a small funnel (yes, it is from the flask that I bought and have never used … but I am tempted to bring it on a date!)
- I let my syrup cool in the bottles — probably not the best idea because your bottles can shatter. Whoops! Plus, if you want to infuse fresh basil or mint and then want to strain — best to strain into the bottle. I didn’t quite think that one through.
- Infusing infusing infusing – I just threw about 2 T of dried lavender buds into one of the bottles and kept the other one “pure” for my iced tea. But you can try a whole host of different herbs and spices for different cocktails, sorbets, etc. Vanilla, roses petals, chile peppers (I like spicy sweet), mint, basil, rosemary…the list goes on and on.
Last night I meet a new friend, Katie, for drinks at Garden at the Cellar on Mass Ave between Central and Harvard Squares. We were given a wine menu, but I immediately flipped the menu over to search for cocktails. Two immediately caught my eye, and with my penchant for fresh herbs, I’m sure you can guess which I ordered.
The bartender, Heather, was nice and friendly, without being overbearing. You could tell that she really enjoyed her work and created the unique concoctions that I was so excited to imbibe.
Heather explained that the Lavender Cosmo is a simple syrup *infused with lavender* (sound familiar?), vodka, in this case, Svedka, a dash of cranberry juice, and a sprinkling of dried lavender. Shake, drain, and pour into a chilled glass. She was kind enough to make a little extra for Katie to try.
Unlike most cosmos, this one is not too sweet. It’s like the “Sex and the City” ladies all grown up, maybe moved to Cantabrigia. A little more sophistocated, a little more intellectual. No more Peter Pan syndrome. We’re ready for real life here, but with a hint of Paris …well, maybe Provence. One can only take a SATC analogy so far.
My one critique of the Lavender Cosmo is that while absolutely beautiful, the lavender buds are difficult to drink around and I did find myself having to … how can I say this delicately?… dispose of them in my napkin. I guess, like high heels, sometime aesthetics win over practicality. Even in Boston and Cambridge with all those cobblestones, I usually just walk on the paved streets (no Manolos, but some pretty rocking heels nonetheless) and avoid the cars driving by…
Katie soon enough ordered the Basil Lemon Drop. Fresh basil leaves (when available, which they were in this gastropub adorned by an edible potted garden) were muddled before us into a simple syrup (or otherwise would have been infused into simple syrup, as with the lavender), shaken with Stoli and lemon juice, and then poured into a glass whose rim was dipped in a mix of sugar and minced basil. The drink was then further garnished with a slice of lemon and a sprig of basil flower. And not the flower of just any basil plant. The flower of a Thai basil plant. Thai basil is purple. And so are its flowers. (By comparison, my own large leaf Italian basil plant has white flowers.)
Stunning as my (Philadelphia) Bubbie would say.
Again, Heather poured a little extra into a small glass for me to try (probably since I was snapping so many pictures!). This green and purple beauty was a little sweeter than the Lavender Cosmo, given its sugared rim, but still not overwhelmingly sweet like you might expect from the lemon drop shot that its name suggests. I’d call this drink the ultimate in sophistication … this one is Paris, sitting outside a bistro at 10 pm in November under the heating lamps and canopy as it gently rains outside and friends, new and old, keep dropping by to say hello.
I had to run off to a fundraiser, but Katie promised to let me know what food she ordered and whether it lived up to the high expectations set by our drinks.