You may ask yourself, what is a shrugroni? Well obviously, it’s a Negroni made with a shrub. In this case a watermelon shrub. I’ve been seeing shrubs all over the menus of hip cocktail bars around town; they always seem so mysterious. They often have fruit flavors like blackberry or rhubarb and apparently are not woody plants the way I usually think of shrubs, but what are they?? I bought a cookbook to find out – Michael Dietsch’s Shrubs: An old-fashioned drink for modern times. It turns out, shrubs are just vinegar and fruit (or vegetables). Meaning if you can juice it, you can probably shrub it. Which opens a whole world of cocktail possibilities…
As I try to develop my ability to create my own recipes, I think being able to recreate dishes that I’ve eaten at restaurants is a great step to understanding flavor BALANCE and RATIOS, and to hone my sense of taste. Cocktails are the beginners version of this strategy, because the restaurant usually lists all the ingredients on the menu so I just have to figure out the measurements. I had this particular cocktail (the name of which means “hello nameless” in Italian) at Stoddard’s in Downtown Boston, where a very nice waitress recommended it because I don’t like very sweet drinks. I chose it because I already had all the ingredients so it would be very easy to recreate.
Let’s face it, I always have a craving for buffalo wings. They’re spicy, they’re fatty, they make my face hurt, they are a huge mess to eat. And they’re so inextricably tied to atmosphere – game day, out with friends and family, having a boisterous fun time. On top of that, I lived the first 10 years of my life in Buffalo, NY, so one might say they’re my native food. The only thing not to like is that they’re so bad for you – fried meat and no vegetables (the celery doesn’t count)! I have a hard time justifying eating them when it’s not a special occasion. To satisfy these competing desires, I developed this pasta recipe to try to get the feel of buffalo wings on a weeknight. Does it look like buffalo wings? Definitely not. Does it taste like buffalo wings? Let’s find out…
Round 2 of raiding my parents’ kitchen. Now that I know my mom is not doing alcohol at the moment, I went with a mocktail so that she could enjoy it too! She loves fruity drinks and everyone loves pretty drinks, so I went very tropical on this one.
This recipe springs from a lovely gift of Parsi Sambhar Masala from an Indian friend and fellow foodie.
Sambhar Masala is a spice blend from southern India composed of chili, coriander, fenugreek, mustard, cumin, fennel, curry leaves, cloves, and (in this case) mango powder. I had never used or eaten it before, so I decided to start easy and marinate shrimp in it before giving them a quick saute. To accompany it, I tried a new recipe, Curried Chickpeas from Joan’s on Third’s on Food52, and added my favorite Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt (rice, lentils, and caramelized onions) recipe from Rivka on Food52. Even though Mujaddara is technically Middle Eastern, not Indian, Indian food often features rice and lentils, and doesn’t multiculturalism make everything richer?
To the full post!
Guys, I have a confession…
When I was a kid, I hated pizza. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the strong spices in the delivery tomato sauce. Maybe it was that I was slightly lactose intolerant. Maybe I just liked being difficult… At any rate, I was the bane of kids’ birthday parties for a long time, until I hit college and realized that pizza is the most reliable source of free food – one of my favorite things! Since then, I have learned that pizza is much more diverse than the simple red sauce-mozzarella-pepperoni slices you find in dorms. In Italy, pizza is really all about the crust, with a light swirl of fresh tomato sauce and cheese. But in the US, pizza toppings run the gamut and really offer an opportunity for creativity, for taking advantage of local and in-season ingredients, and for using up odds and ends left over in the fridge (my favorite). I have come to appreciate pizza in many of its forms, although I still won’t eat it cold, and I think warm pineapple is weird. What can I say? I’m still a work in progress!
Cocktail time! Please check out my Cocktails – thoughts post for some background on why I’m so into cocktail making. The way this recipe came about is that I was visiting my parents for the weekend and I felt like taking advantage of their pretty well-stocked bar and kitchen. My mom and I have a running joke that we should have a “signature cocktail” for every dinner gathering at their house, even though the gathering usually consists of me, my mom, and my dad, who doesn’t want anything to do with our signature cocktail tradition anyway. On top of that, my mom was doing a “dry month” as part of a New Year’s resolution, so the party consisted of JUST ME. But that’s FINE, because the great thing about cocktails is that you can make one at a time!
Welcome to my first recipe attempt! Through the writing of this blog I hope to learn how to develop my own recipes (and inspire you to try it yourself!) based on my 5 tenets of recipe development.
I decided to start with a simple pasta and tomato sauce for the following reasons:
- I love pasta. A lot. And I make tomato sauce fairly often.
- Pasta is cheap and can be vegetarian or vegan (yay environment!)
- Tomato sauce follows one of my tenets (CONFINE) pretty well – if all you do is pour tomatoes into a pan and add salt, it will probably turn out ok. That’s an excellent foundation for creativity.
- The scariest part of cooking without a recipe is getting to the end and having produced something inedible, or just not great. For that reason, tasting along the way as much as possible will help mitigate some of these risks. Some recipes, such as tomato sauce for pasta, lend themselves to this more than others.