MOJITO POPSICLES

Rum and I haven’t always been friends.

After a collegiate night of bad choices featuring one too many glasses of Diet Coke & cheap rum, I swore off the stuff for years.  But a few months ago at my favorite Houston bar, I took a tentative sip of a friend’s rum-based cocktail.  And rum and I have been going steady ever since.  Dark & stormys?  Rum swizzles?  Mojitos?

Yes, please.

Popsicle recipes seem to be the trend of this summer, and I’m okay with that.  I love this version, and this one too, both capturing the whimsy and nostalgia of eating off a dripping popsicle stick but using more sophisticated flavors.  I wanted to do something based on a cocktail and turned to my newfound love of rum for inspiration.

These little guys were a big hit when I served them to friends this weekend: tangy, refreshing, and dead-easy to make.  You’re going to want more than one, I promise.

MOJITO POPSICLES

I found these little plastic shot glasses in the dollar section of Target and used them to make 12 mini-pops, with kids’ craft sticks providing the assist.  You can make bigger popsicles, of course, in which case I’m guessing this recipe will yield 6-8.

If you’ve never bought superfine sugar, you should be able to find it on the baking aisle of well-stocked grocery stores or at specialty baking stores or cooking-supply stores like Williams Sonoma.

ingredients:

1 packed cup mint leaves
1 cup water
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup superfine sugar
1/3 cup white rum (I used Flor de Caña)

Purée all ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Skim off any foam, then pour the mixture into molds.  Freeze for an hour, then insert the popsicle sticks (if the popsicles aren’t firm enough, wait a little bit longer).  Freeze until the popsicles are firm, overnight or up to 24 hours, depending on the size of your molds.

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PEACHES, THREE WAYS

I’ll take the brutal South Texas heat if it means that I get to buy a flat of these every weekend at the Farmers Market:

The smell of ripe peaches, the fuzz of their skin, the feel of peach juice running down my arm—all scream “summer” to my senses.  Peaches arrived a few weeks ago down here, just a few weeks shy of strawberries, bringing with them black & blue berries, soon to be followed by garden-ripe tomatoes and sweet, sweet corn.

Yesterday I watched my eighth graders graduate from middle school; I called their names as they walked across the stage to accept their certificates of achievement, and I got all teary as they and their parents came up in the reception to say goodbye.

While the advent of summer vacation is thrilling (and almost feels like cheating as I sheepishly silence my celebrations in the presence of friends who work, you know, all year round), I know I’m going to miss my kids.  In fact, I already do.

I had the pleasure of teaching these students twice—in their sixth grade AND their eighth grade year–and they have become part of my daily life, their mood swings, our inside jokes, and a whole bunch of good conversation.  I have witnessed them coming into themselves, becoming these funny, brave, uncertain, kind, perceptive, and hard-working people before my very eyes.

Teenagers don’t get very good publicity, and I know that parenting one is different from teaching sixty-five, but I’m here to tell you; the kids are alright.  They are better than alright, in fact, they are awesome.

That being said, I’m still pretty psyched about summer.  I’ll miss those punks, but at least I have peaches.

PEACH MARGARITAS

ingredients:

1 ½ cups fresh peach puree*
juice of 1 orange
juice of 2 lemons
½ cup tequila
shot of Cointreau or other orange liquor

Fill your blender with ice, pour in the remaining ingredients.  Blend until frothy, serve.

* Peel 3-4 ripe peaches.  Remove the pits & slice, then process in the blender until smooth, adding a wee bit of water if necessary.  Strain if you’re feeling fussy.

PEACH TART



Gingersnap crust, marscapone filling–need I say more?  A favorite make-ahead dessert from last summer.

PEACH ICE CREAM
barely adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, which you should buy immediately

ingredients:

4-5 ripe peaches
½ cup water
¾ cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sour cream
½ tsp. vanilla
squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Cook peaches, water, & sugar in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally until soft–about 10 minutes.  Allow the mixture to cool before processing it in the blender with the rest of the ingredients–I like to leave a few chunks of peaches for texture’s sake.

Chill the mixture in the refrigerator before churning in your ice cream maker.  Like most homemade ice cream, this one is best served fresh.  If you store it in your freezer for more than an hour or two, it will need significant time at room temperature to thaw to a scoop-able state.

Of course, if Dolly is any indication, it won’t be hard for you to finish the batch straightaway.

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SUMMER’S SWAN SONG

Today’s post marks the last in our Summer Classics Series.  I know summer’s not quite done yet—the temperatures alone here in Houston will attest—but it seems we are shifting into late summer, that mode in which we savor the last of the stone fruit, can and jam what we can, begin to long for a little nip in the air and think “Hmm, maybe I need that jacket even though it’s 80 degrees outside.”

When the weather cools and necessitates a long-sleeved shirt, I’ll be glad.  Of all the seasons, autumn makes me swoon the most.  But, summer’s not half bad, especially when it comes to eatin’, so for now, I’m going to hang onto tomatoes and corn, keep buying berries by the bushel and sweat it out.

farmer's market pasta

Wrapping up our series is a sweet ode to summer in the form of a meal, the kind you might be inspired to whip up after coming home from the Farmer’s Market or grocery store.  It’s one of life’s greatest pleasures, is it not, having a free swath of time in the kitchen and all possibility spread before you?

Should you be lingering over summer, or inviting summer to linger over you, consider one last key lime pie, a big bowl of vegetable-studded pasta salad, or these rather tasty lamb burgers.

We’ll be starting a new, fall-friendly series next Friday and going back to regular, miscellaneous posts on Tuesdays.  As always, if you have any requests or suggestions for us here at Blue Jean Gourmet, please leave them in the comments.  We heart comments.  We heart you, too.

figs in pan

SUMMER’S SWAN SONG DINNER

These dishes are homey and forgiving.  For the pasta, feel free to switch in whatever noodle you have handy.  Buy the veggies that look good, throw in herbs from your garden.  Serve with some wine and maybe a salad.

You may be skeptical about the idea of figs + balsamic vinegar + ice cream.  Trust me.  It’s freaking GOOD.  My dear friend Stephen, who inspired this recipe & fancily has his very own backyard fig tree (I’m jealous), often switches in Port for the balsamic, and you know what?  That’ll do.

FARMER’S MARKET PASTA

1 lb fettuccine (would be even better with fresh, but I used dried)
1 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
large bunch of spinach, washed & chopped
2 ears corn, kernels cut off the cob
herb-flavored goat cheese, such as chevre (between 2-4 oz)
a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
fresh herbs, like basil, chives, parsley
white wine
lemon juice
2 cloves garlic (or more or less), minced
olive oil

Start the pasta cooking in the background.

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat; add shrimp.  After just a minute or two, turn down the heat and add the garlic.  Allow another minute to pass, then pour in a glug of white wine & a squeeze of lemon.  Test your shrimp for doneness—be careful not to overcook!—and let everything simmer for just one or two minutes more.

Remove the shrimp from the pan and reserve off to the side.  Crank the heat back up on your skillet, adding a bit more olive oil if necessary.  Wilt the spinach, add the herbs, corn, & tomatoes and cook until heated through.  Toss in the goat cheese and just a few spoonfuls of pasta water to make a sauce.

Your pasta should be al dente by this point; drain it, add to the spinach mixture, and add in the shrimp.  Toss together and serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you like.

BALSAMIC FIGS OVER ICE CREAMbowl of fig & ice cream

figs, halved

balsamic vinegar, preferably a fig or other fruit-infused variety

sugar

a little butter

walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped

high-quality vanilla bean ice cream

Melt a little bit of butter in a large skillet.  Place the figs, cut side down, over the bottom.  Sprinkle a few tablespoons of sugar over the whole mess, allow to cook for a few minutes so the figs get nicely caramelized.

At this point, if you’re feeling fancy, you can remove the figs before adding the balsamic, thereby freeing up your skillet to reduce down the vinegar into a syrupy glaze.  It will work just as well, though, if you drizzle a generous amount of balsamic (say, a tablespoon or two) right onto the figs, turn down the heat, and leave them alone for a few minutes.

Whatever you do, don’t forget the nuts, because crunch is a good thing here.  Over vanilla ice cream, these figs make for a very elegant, very grownup, but nonetheless satisfying sundae.

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ICE CREAM PIE

This is totally one of those blog posts I would read & think “Come on!  Does she really think this counts as a recipe?  Who are we kidding here?”

I know.  It isn’t a recipe, more like a great idea.  Everyone loves ice cream, but scooping sundaes for a crowd can be kind-of a pain.  Instead, take good-quality ice cream (perhaps some you just made yourself?), soften it a bit, mix in nuts or chocolate or fruit or candy, spread that into the cookie shell you just made, and freeze the whole thing up.

ice cream pie

An hour later, you’ve got a simple, satisfying, & adaptable dessert, perfect for this hot, hot August.

Since this is sort of a slacker blog post, I’m going to throw in a little something extra here: our first Blue Jean Gourmet Mix.  Hope you enjoy these summer kitchen tunes as much as we do.

ICE CREAM PIE

The possibilities are really quite endless here; you can tailor to a sophisticated, adult palate, a gooier, kid-friendly palate, or somewhere in-between:

a)    chocolate cookie crust, chocolate ice cream, peppermint candies
b)    gingersnap crust, vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit
c)    vanilla wafer crust, banana ice cream, peanut butter cups
d)    graham cracker crust, Neapolitan ice cream, mini marshmallows

For this pie, I made an Oreo crust, coffee ice cream, & mixed in toasted almonds & chunks of semi-sweet chocolate.  To top it all off, homemade whipped cream & a few chocolate-covered espresso beans.  There were several “Whoah, I don’t know if I can finish this” remarks followed by clean plates.

To make the crust, I used a food processor to make crumbs of the Oreos & a few tablespoons of butter, then pressed the crumbs into a pie pan.  The whole thing went into the freezer for a while before I added in the ice cream filling.

Once you’ve filled the pie, be sure to cover it well to prevent freezer burn.  Take out at least 5 minutes before you’re planning to serve, so it can thaw a little, making your life easier when it comes time to cut wedges.

LATE SUMMER KITCHEN MIX (turntable links to iTunes)

1_turntable

We Used to Be Friends – The Dandy Warhols
Spiralling – Keane
We’re an American Band – Grand Funk Railroad
Rosanna – Toto
Believe in Me – Emily White
Woodstock – Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
Girls in Their Summer Clothes – Bruce Springsteen
Manhattan – Kings of Leon
Mr. Brownstone – Guns N’ Roses
Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin
No You Girls – Franz Ferdinand
Freeway of Love – Aretha Franklin
Wouldn’t It Be Nice – The Beach Boys
Miss Ferguson – Cory Branan
Abigail – Courtney Robbins
Cheated Hearts – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Overweight – Blue October
14th Street – Rufus Wainwright

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BERRY-CHAMPAGNE GRANITA

I know “granita” sounds like a type of dog that widowed Italian heiresses carry around in their Prada handbags, but it’s actually just flavored, shaved ice—think a subtler version of those snow cones you grew up loving in the summer.

And when you throw in some champagne, like I did, granita becomes a very grownup snow cone.

granita

What’s so great about granita is that

a) there are about a million different flavor combinations you can make
b) it’s almost impossible to mess up
c) you can make granita ahead of time
d) no fancy equipment require; just a baking pan & a fork.

The basic formula is to combine fruit with other flavors and freeze the whole mixture in a flat pan, popping in the freezer every hour or so to scrape it the granita with a fork every thirty minutes or so, creating fluffy crystals of goodness.

scraping granita

While the recipe below is pretty tasty, feel free to use it as a baseline for your own inspired granita ideas—Smitten Kitchen recently posted a lemon granita, for example, and John over at The Alphabet Cook has a recipe for traditional espresso granita.

Sonya, our badass Blue Jean Gourmet photographer, is a big snow cone fan, so she deserves credit for inspiring this recipe.  As soon as I get back to Houston, I’ll be making her my latest, Peach Margarita Granita, and I bet I can convince her to take a few pictures of the process so I don’t have to keep that recipe to myself.

BERRY-CHAMPAGNE GRANITA
serves 4-6

Simple syrup, one of the ingredients called for here, is a great things to make and keep on standby in the refrigerator.  Often used to sweeten cocktails and sauces, simple syrup gets its name because it’s terribly easy to make.  Just bring equal parts sugar & water to a boil and then simmer for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has thickened a bit.  Cool before using.

ingredients:

1 cup each:

raspberries
strawberries
champagne (if you’d like to make this non-alcoholic, use water or ginger ale)

½ – 2/3  cup simple syrup (adjust according to your palate & the sweetness of the fruit you are using)
a healthy squeeze of fresh lemon juice

pan: 13 x 9 metal or glass cake pan

Wash the berries, hulling & slicing the strawberries.  Blend both berries together along with the simple syrup, & lemon juice until smooth.  Strain the liquid to remove seeds—this should yield just over 2 cups of liquid.

Stir the champagne into the berry mixture and then pour into the pan.  Stash in the freezer, being careful to lay the pan flat.

After thirty minutes, check the mixture.  You should have a layer of ice crystals on top–using a fork, rake the outer edges in towards the center, then return the pan to the freezer.  Continue to check every thirty minutes for a total of 2 hours.

Once the granita has finished freezing, you can store it in a plastic container in the fridge indefinitely.  Serve it up in a pretty glass or bowl with a dollop of whipped cream, a garnish of fresh fruit, or all by itself.

granita

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