My brother has the best food scene in his city. I love where I live but the multiculturalism of Chicago? I can’t compete with that. Luckily, he and my sister-in-law have introduced me to some spice and specialty shops in their area, and I live for it! This post is inspired and fueled by a gift from them, some delicious balsamic vinegar. A lovely gift, I tried it out in a few different recipes!
Prosciutto-Wrapped Watermelon Skewers
- 2 cups cubed watermelons
- 4 slices prosciutto
- Mint (optional)
- Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
- Bamboo skewers
- Slice or tear prosciutto in half lengthwise. Wrap one slice around watermelon cube.
- Use bamboo skewer to secure prosciutto over watermelon.
- Stack four wrapped watermelon cubes on skewers, adding torn mint leaves in between each cube, if desired.
- Drizzle skewers with balsamic vinegar.
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 ball of mozzarella
- Basil, fresh
- Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
- Slice tomatoes and mozzarella in 1/2in discs.
- Layer tomato and mozzarella slices, alternating and with a basil leaf after each mozzarella slice. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Strawberry Balsamic Shrub
- 2 cups strawberries, hulled
- 2 cups balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Add strawberries to mason jar, making sure all stems are removed.
- Add sugar and cover all with balsamic vinegar.
- Shake and store in fridge for at least 5 days, shaking every once in a while to stir ingredients.
Strawberry Balsamic Martini
Mix 1oz vodka with 2oz shrub and shake over ice. Serve and enjoy!
While it might not feel like it to Amanda right now, or me for that matter, Fall is here! Alright, I might be feeling it a little bit more than Amanda (yay for 60° nights!) but I’m not really there quite yet (ugh, 85° days…). If I can’t bust out my knee-high boots and box of scarves just yet, I at least want to sip some flavors of Fall while I light my “Scents of Fall” candle and pretend my nose is a little chilly. This cocktail did just that.
With cinnamon, nutmeg and notes of ginger, this yummy adult beverage leaves the familiar comfort of Fall desserts on your tongue and the rum sure does help to make your tummy warm, even if it is too warm outside for something more of the Hot Toddy variety. This is also a great way to utilize that delicious, seasonal, apple cider hitting the shelves right now. Feel free to make yours a little cider heavy, it’s always a tasty choice.
- 2 parts spiced dark rum
- 1 part ginger beer
- 1 part orange juice
- 1 part apple cider
- Splash of lemon juice
- Dash of nutmeg
- Dash of cinnamon
- Stir all ingredients together* and pour over ice. If you want to get fancy, rim a glass with some cinnamon sugar and stick in a cinnamon stick. Enjoy!
*Note: I did use my cocktail shaker for this one, and it does work but just be warned that ginger beer has bubbles and will expand when agitated as my kitchen floor soon found out. I’m sure you all knew that but I’m not good at carbonation. okay?
Tonight is the season 7 finale of Game of Thrones, and after this season and especially after the last few episodes (no real spoilers, I promise) I think we all need a drink. The Night King, with his steely gaze, has been quite the busy boy lately. I’ve always been a fan of blue drinks anyway, so I thought a cocktail in his and the other White Walkers’ honor (or to sip while we hate-watch him) sounded like the perfect beverage to enjoy at the close of the season.
The juices in this drink are not tropical, as that seemed inappropriate with the White Walkers inhabiting the snowy land beyond the wall, but they still combine to make a delicious mixture that might make even the Night’s Watch jealous.
- 2 parts Vodka
- 3 parts Hypnotiq
- 1 part Apple Juice
- 1 Part White Cranberry Juice
- Splash of Lemon Juice
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 2-3 cubes of ice and shake until the outside of the shaker gets uncomfortably cold to hold.
- Strain into a martini glass rimmed with sugar or frosting if you desire (although no lining needed to enjoy!). You could even add a rock candy javeli— *ahem* –stirrer if you’d like.
- Get ready to watch Game of Thrones and pray your favorite characters make it through the night.
When Amanda was kind enough to come and visit me this summer, I knew we’d have a weekend with plenty of kitchen time, and lots of wine. Since I wasn’t sure how energetic we’d be feeling in the mornings, I wanted to have something easily prepped ahead of time and low maintenance for breakfast just in case all we wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch Netflix.
The beauty of this casserole, which is my go-to dish for any brunch hosting occasion, is in both its potential for customization as well as its ability to be assembled the night previous, minus the egg mixture. Then, even on the groggiest of mornings you can whisk up those eggs and pour over everything else, stick it in the oven and take a nap until the timer buzzes. You will be rewarded with a delicious and low maintenance crowd pleaser!
- 12 oz of shredded cheese (I like to go 4 oz of velveeta and 8 oz of sharp cheddar but you do you)
- 2 cups frozen homestyle hashbrown potatoes
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 10 oz ground turkey or pork sausage meat
- 8 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown the seasoned ground meat. Use your spatula to make sure it cooks into sausage crumbles. When fully cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes (can be done in advance).
- In a 9″x9″ pan, add 8oz of the cheese, potatoes, bell pepper, onion, (cooled) sausage meat, and 1 tsp of salt (you can also add extra pepper if you’d like). Mix all these items together so there is an even distribution. If you do this with your hands, this is where the sausage meat being cool is kind of important.
- In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs, milk, remaining salt, pepper and garlic powder together until combined.
- Pour egg mixture over your other ingredients in the baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
- Cover with foil and bake for 45-55 minutes until the eggs are set. For browning, remove the foil in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Enjoy!
Wine pairing: Well, I mean you’re probably eating this before noon right? I’d stick with a mimosa to be “socially acceptable” but again, you do you. Also, stay tuned for Amanda’s Bellini recipe if you’re not feeling the orange juice!
Its settled down now, but a few weeks ago it was raining nonstop here in Florida. We badly needed the rain, but it left outdoor dining options pretty limited (and gave me a good excuse to sit inside and enjoy the cloudy night!) Not having a grill anyway, I decided to go for a baked chickpea burger. The pineapple salsa was a last minute addition and made dinner feel tropical on a stormy night!
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1 egg (or equivalent egg substitute)
- Hamburger buns (I used Hawaiian sweet rolls!)
- Pineapple chunks, drained
- Red wine vinegar
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Add garlic, onion, chickpeas, and salt and pepper to taste to food processor and drizzle oil into bowl. Blend until it forms a rough paste.
- Empty food processor into medium bowl. Add egg and bread crumbs and combine.
- Mold chickpea blend into palm-sized patties, about 3 inches across and half an inch thing. If they cannot hold their shape, add a little more olive oil.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Drain pineapple through colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 20 minutes.
- Move pineapple to bowl and toss with red wine vinegar and cilantro to taste.
- Serve on top of chickpea patty.
Rosé Strawberry Punch
Mix ingredients in a pitcher and serve!
- 1 bottle rosé
- Juice from can of pineapple, drained
- 1 liter Sprite
- Frozen whole strawberries (to chill your punch)
It was burger week for Amanda and me with our latest Distance Dishes date. While I don’t crave them often, something about that warm, summer air that has been moving in made me want to bite into a nice, juicy burger. While classic beef burgers are all well and good, we wanted to experiment with some alternatives for when red meat just won’t do.
Amanda got creative with a vegetarian version soon to come, but Mediterranean flavors were calling my name. With a heavily seasoned patty topped with a refreshing tzatziki, this burger packs an amazing flavor punch while still feeling refreshing. Biting into this delicious sandwich topped with fresh vegetables is quite the reward for standing over a hot grill (or pan).
One tip I will say Amanda and I both learned is not make your patties too thick or you’ll be waiting forever for that middle to cook. I had to delay our skype date because I was waiting for a safe internal temperature forever. The picture above is an eight ounce patty, but I’ve adjusted the recipe below. Learn from my mistakes 😉
Greek Chicken Burger Patty:
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 mini bell pepper, minced
- 1/4 cup cooked spinach, chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- In a large bowl, hand mix together all ingredients so that everything is well incorporated into the meat.
- Form into 4 patties and cook in a pan or grill over medium heat until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Then, they are ready for assembly.
- 1/4 cucumber, shredded
- 1 cup greek yogurt
- juice of half a lemon
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped dill
- Whisk together all ingredients and chill until ready to use.
- Ciabatta Rolls
- Red onion slices
Assemble as desired and top burger with Tzatziki. If you’d like, serve with the Grilled Balsamic Zucchini and enjoy!
Wine Pairing: For this meal, I wanted to try out a new pitcher and actually made a Summery Wine Punch (below) to add to the summery vibes. However, for a true pairing, actually a Pinot Noir might stand up to the tartness of the Tzatziki while also balancing out the flavor profile.
Summer Wine Punch:
- 1 bottle of dry white wine
- 1 qt pink lemonade
- 4 oz pineapple juice
- Fresh, sliced strawberries for garnish
Add all ingredients into a pitcher, stir and serve with ice.
While reality television has never quite captured my attention, Amanda has recently gotten me hooked on a little show about the elite of Charleston called Southern Charm. The fourth season recently premiered and the Amanda household was kind enough to include me via Skype for their premier-watching party. Naturally, I wanted to make a meal that allowed me to feel the elegance and flavors of the south and to celebrate with the Florida crew in spirit.
I wanted to make something light, summery, and fancy-feeling that both touched on a southern classic (pimento cheese! yum!) but also represented the class of our favorite character on the show. Therefore, this trio of tea sandwiches–two savory and one sweet–was the perfect option for a viewing party (even if it was a party of one) and let me pretend I was one of the Southern Charm gang at one of their fancy garden parties (but without any drama or drinks thrown in faces).
Spicy Cilantro Cucumber Sandwich:
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
- 4 oz can green chiles
- 1 cup spinach leaves
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
- 1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
- Combine cilantro, spinach, chiles, jalapeno and lime juice in a food processor and pulse until you have a fine puree. Add this mixture to a small bowl with the cream cheese and stir until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Spread the cream cheese mixture onto 3 of the white bread slices and top with cucumber slices. Top with the other 3 slices of bread to form 3 separate sandwiches.
- Trim edges and slice into triangles, and they are now ready to serve!
Pimento & Pulled Chicken Tea Sandwich:
- 4 oz of cream cheese
- 2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
- 4 oz jar of pimento peppers, drained and rinsed
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup greek yogurt
- 2 tsp hot sauce
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 6 slices of white bread
- Mix together the all ingredients (it does make it a bit easier if the chicken is still warm).
- Spread onto 3 slices of the white bread as thick and even as you can manage.
- Top with the other 3 slices of white bread to form 3 sandwiches.
- Trim edges and slice into triangles. Ready to serve!
Sweet Strawberry Mascarpone Tea Sandwich
- 3/4 cup of strawberries, trimmed of greens and roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 8 oz mascarpone cheese
- Loaf of angel food cake or pound cake
- 3-4 large strawberries, trimmed of greens and sliced longways-thinly
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the strawberries, sugar and salt and cook for about 5 minutes until the sugar is liquified and the strawberries are mushy
- Pass this mixture through a fine sieve to filter out the seeds and allow to cool slightly.
- Once cooled, mix together the strawberry puree and the mascarpone cheese until fully incorporated and there are no white specs in the cheese.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the cheese to cool.
- Slice the angel food cake/pound cake into 1/4″ thick slices.
- Spread the strawberry mascarpone onto one slice of bread and then top with sliced strawberries. Add another slice of the cake to the top. Trim edges and slice into triangles. Ready to Serve!
Drink Pairing: With these yummy sandwiches, I decided to forego wine this time in favor of a more Charleston representative cocktail: 2 parts firefly sweet tea vodka, 2 parts pink lemonade and 1 part firefly peach tea moonshine. Be warned though, these little numbers are tasty and dangerous.
As Amanda mentioned in her amazing Guava Cake recipe, the prodigal return of the Great British Baking Show to Netflix has taken us by storm. This show has an amazing ability to make me crave baking like no other, and many a Saturday have been surrendered to bread proofing and pie making after even a small binge Baking Show session. As you have probably seen, Amanda also caught the bug. So, for this Distance Dishes date, we wanted to try a bake we’d never done, and play with some techniques we might not have tried.
I’ve been wanting to try petit-fours for a long time, and when I had my first taste one earlier in 2016, I knew I wanted to try to make it for myself. This was the perfect excuse to do it! I also had a basil plant growing out of control and wanted to incorporate it with complementary flavors and now here we are.
The cake is tart and fresh, the strawberries and wine add berry notes which are all to be tamed by the added sweetness of the pourable fondant. Since this was my first attempt, I did not want to invest in a special cutter, but thankfully with a sharp knife and a ruler, we can still achieve some cute little cakes.
Lemon Basil Pound Cake Ingredients:
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
- 5 eggs
- 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, shredded and chopped finely
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, either with a stand or hand mixer, beat together the sugar, butter, and eggs, first on low speed until everything comes together, then on high speed for 5 minutes. Incorporate the milk and lemon juice into the sugar mixture, then add your flour mixture slowly. Beat until smooth. Gently fold in basil leaves.
- Spread your cake batter thinly and evenly over the lined baking sheets with an offset spatula.
- Bake for about 15-20 minutes until springy when touched.
- Allow cake to cool completely before assembly.
Strawberry-Red Wine Filling:
- 8 oz strawberries, roughly chopped and greens removed
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/3 cup fruit forward red wine (I used a red blend with mentions of notes of berries on the label)
- Pinch of lemon zest, if available
- In a medium saucepan, heat all ingredients over low heat until the sugar granules are dissolved. Increase to medium heat so that the mixture is simmering.
- Stir over the heat for about 10 minutes until the strawberries lose their shape and the mixture thickens. The temperature should be around 220°F when finished.
- Strain through a sieve to help remove the seeds from the jam mixture.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until ready to use for the cake. Can be stored without canning procedures in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or frozen for up to a year.
Pourable Fondant Icing Ingredients:
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup hot water (I used plantation lemonade tea for something different, but not necessary)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- food coloring if desired
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
- Melt the white chocolate chips over low heat in a saucepan or in 10-20 second increments in the microwave stirring in between each session until very smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar, corn syrup, and hot water into a large bowl and stir gently until smooth. You can also use a stand mixer on low if you have one.
- Add the melted white chocolate and vanilla and stir until smooth. If you’re using food coloring, this is also the time to add until you get the desired effect.
- It is important to make sure this is still warm when you’re ready to use so make this immediately before you’re ready to dip your cakes (see assembly).
- Once your cakes have cooled, trim the crust-type edges from the cakes so that you have clean sides.
- Portion and cut the remaining cake rectangle into three equal sections as these will make your three layers.
- Spread a layer of jam onto one of the new portions. Place another one of the portions on top, and top with additional jam. Top with the final cake portion.
- Repeat the trimming, portioning and layering with your other sheet of cake and then freeze all newly layered cake portions for 30 minutes.
- Once the cakes have hardened a bit, get out your ruler and a sharp knife and cut the cakes into equal, bite-size squares. I aimed for about 1.25″x1.25″ but however you’re able to portion these equally and what looked right to you will work.
- Freeze the cut cakes for another 15-30 minutes and make your pourable fondant just before you are ready to remove them from the freezer.
- Once you have your fondant ready, using a fork, slowly lower the mini-cakes into the fondant until submerged and shake off the excess. Carefully lower onto a cooling rack (with liner underneath) to harden. Repeat with all your cakes.
- You can decorate your new petit-fours with more melted chocolate drizzled over, sprinkles, or get crazy with traditional fondant if you’d like. Whatever makes you happy!
Wine Pairing: The obvious choice for this would be to suggest the rest of the bottle you used to make the jam. However, if you’re like me and that bottle is looking a little low because you needed something to do while waiting for the jam, cakes and fondants to harden, then I’d suggest checking out Amanda’s Giggle Water Recipe since it’s a light, refreshing beverage perfect for an afternoon treat.