Sunday, December 6, 2009

rosemary gin fizz

rosemary gin fizz

Face it, there’s only so much eggnog you can drink before you’ll need to loosen that belt one notch. I’m not one to count calories – I drink my milk whole, braise my brussels sprouts in cream, and never ever skip dessert. I’m a girl who likes to indulge, albeit in moderation, but I find that life restrained is not for me. I like balance, but I like to have my fun too. Clotted cream? Why, thank you! Bacon with my pancakes? But of course! And when real-to-goodness-made-from-scratch eggnog is offered to me, I, mostly, can’t say no.

rosemary gin fizz

However, I have to be prudent. A drink made with eggs, heavy cream and milk can only be considered a protein shake for so long. Yes, I’ve actually referred to it as such, but I’m prone to stretching definitions. Also, there will come a time in every holiday season, when I look at a perfectly respectable eggnog, lovingly garnished with freshly grated nutmeg, and I want to gag. This usually happens a few days before Christmas when I’ve been liberally indulging in the holiday spirit and start wearing leggings, sweater dresses and outfits generous enough to hide a food baby. But indulgences aside, sometimes eggnog just is too rich for my taste. Sometimes, I want a holiday cocktail that’s light and effervescent and smells of Christmas. Please take that Christmas tree, shove it in my drink and serve it forth!

I’d like to present to you with such a drink – the Rosemary Gin Fizz. Now, doesn’t that sound celebratory in and of itself? Just saying fizz makes me feel festive, like I want to put on a flapper dress and one of those cute hats and go dance a foxtrot. Never mind that I don’t know how to dance a foxtrot; it’s the spirit of the idea, well, you get the point. A Fizz is actually a cocktail dating back to the 19th century, and the Gin Fizz is the most famous Fizz variation. The Gin Fizz is supposed to contain gin, lemon juice, sugar and carbonated water – and is to be served in a highball glass. The version here, infused with rosemary, is kind of a genius idea – highlighting the woodsy, green notes of gin, and deviating from the traditional, expected gin and tonic citrus notes. Here, gin matures and steps up in sophistication. I like to think of it as a gin’s cotillion, when it finally steps out in society.

rosemary gin fizz

When I first had the Rosemary Gin Fizz, it was years ago, at a colleague’s holiday party, and I was beside myself – it was the kind of clean, crisp, wintry taste you immediately take to and think to yourself, “Where has this cocktail been all my life?” It’s an instant, immediate friendship. And if one could become besotted with a cocktail, then I certainly was. I must have consumed a goodly amount of the made-to-order cocktail. My colleague’s then-girlfriend, now-wife, worked for Food & Wine magazine, and got the recipe from their holiday entertaining issue. The secret, she told me, was a rosemary-infused simple syrup. Add to that some gin, a little club soda, some fresh lemon juice and a sprig of red currant (missing from the pictures here because when I made these for my housewarming party in October, red currants were nowhere to be found) – and you got yourself a very festive cocktail. One that smells just like Christmas in a glass!

I had much to learn. At the time, I didn’t even know what simple syrup was, never mind one infused with an herb.

rosemary gin fizz

Well, tipsy and giddy, I diligently (or so I thought) copied the recipe down. You can only imagine my penmanship after half a dozen of these babies. In the morning, upon looking at my scribbles, I couldn’t read a thing. Embarrassing, as I could barely remember the act of scribbling itself. I felt like a pest and didn’t want to bother my colleague about the recipe again, but the cocktail swirled around in my mind each holiday season. And each holiday season, I would forget to make it. And so the years flew by, until my housewarming party in October, when I decided to make Rosemary Gin Fizz for my guests.

rosemary gin fizz

Well, it was a hit.

No. That would be an understatement. I didn’t leave my kitchen bar area all night because I kept making more batches for my thirsty friends. It was beyond a hit. In fact, people still talk about that cocktail and apparently rave about it to friends and family. I suppose, in the spirit of the holidays, it’s time for me to share it with all of you. Because, like I said before, there’s only so much eggnog an individual can take. And since it is the season of giving, I suppose I should finally put my money where my mouth is.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

thai-spiced tomato soup

spicy tomato soup

A few weeks ago, a funny thing happened: my wallet was stolen. It didn’t feel quite so funny at the time as calling and canceling your credit cards is a painstakingly long process, but in looking back, this incident wasn’t without a silver lining: it prompted me to make this tomato soup.

I could have made this soup any day, week or month. Nothing was preventing me from making it as soon as I dog-eared the recipe in my October Gourmet. But I’m often easily distracted and October was giving us such gloriously sunny days I dared not think soup. And in the following weeks, I kind of forgot about it. It wasn’t until I was sitting in my apartment, sans cash, credit cards or even a metro card to my name, and quite hungry, that I remembered this soup and, more importantly, realized I had all the ingredients on hand!

spicy tomato soup

This whole stolen-wallet-and-no-cash-at-home incident is one big cautionary tale. Don’t be like me and have an emergency cash and credit card stashed somewhere. Keep both of these on hand and you won’t find yourself under involuntary “house arrest”. The loss of my wallet not only rendered me cashless and credit-card less, but also landlocked in Brooklyn, unable to even take the subway into the city, since my metro card also lived in my wallet. Thank goodness it was Sunday and I didn’t have to go in to work. And thanks to lovely Jane who saved the day by showing up with cash and a metro card in tow. With such lovely friends, I’m one lucky girl.

spicy tomato soup

However, there are silver linings when you have nary a nickle to your name. There are fewer decisions to make and that can feel liberating. You can take yourself on a walk, accompanied by coffee you made at home. You can take your camera and your keys (no wallet since it’s gone!) and just wander around snapping pictures without a care in the world. No temptation to buy anything because can’t even have that budgetary dialogue in your head! And after the walk, you come home and rummage around in your pantry, find your needed ingredients and get to work.

Somehow, being in a sort of a lock-down mode makes life seem a bit simpler and the simple act of chopping an onion in your kitchen becomes more comforting than rudimentary. You become aware of every cut, every little morsel that falls onto the cutting board as I diced away. You then slowly sauté your onion until pale and translucent before adding cumin and curry paste. All this stirring and sautéing creates a lovely paste of softened onions and spices that smell, well, sublime. And when you add the remaining ingredients and let the whole thing cook for 15 minutes or so. In that time you are free to go about as you like. In my case, it was calling various credit card companies and asking for replacements, but I can think of time better spent like reading a book perhaps, or watching the news. Either of these things is exponentially more exciting than calling credit card companies. But such is life and sometimes we do what we must and not what we’d prefer.

spicy tomato soup

But mere 15 minutes later, after a quick whir of your immersion blender and a drizzle of fresh lime juice, you have your soup ready for you. And while your wallet is still at large and your friend is en route with some cash to carry you over, somehow this is a soup that makes you feel better. You taste it and think, it is all going to be okay. The power of one’s pantry can be measured in these moments – when you can rummage around, find a few ingredients and whip up not just any meal, but one that is truly outstanding. You not only have a winning recipe on your hands; you’ve just demonstrated to yourself that you can be resourceful with the ingredients you have on hand. Somehow resourcefulness in the face of desperation is more appreciated. When you have no other choice, but to cook only with what you have at home, this accomplishment seems so much grander.

spicy tomato soup

And so in looking back, I’m glad I hadn’t made the soup the second I saw it in the magazine; I don’t don’t think I would have appreciated it, or my well-stocked pantry, even half as much were I not hungry and without any cash to my name. The ingredients, coupled with the time it takes to make this soup, make for a simple and comforting weeknight meal, an impromptu lunch friends, or a soothing supper if you’re stuck at home with a cold. And while the amount of effort it takes to make this soup is minimal, the results are anything but. I would even dare say – they are glamorous. Plus, and this is a bonus, the ingredients can be easily found hanging out in your pantry. Which is perfect for those days when your wallet goes missing and you haven’t got a penny to your name and, inevitably, hunger strikes. And what’s a girl to do?

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