prickly pear punch

Prickly Pear Punch has a unique color and flavor.

Prickly Pear Punch has a unique color and flavor.

The other night at the bar, one of the cooks had brought an abundance of cactus pears and subsequently challenged me to make a drink out of them. I decided to approach this from the cactus angle and chose tequila as the base spirit. Basically, I made my own version of a prickly pear margarita which already exists. (And margaritas are actually punches) I used orange flavored brandy instead of curaçao liqueur or triple sec which gave the drink a bit more complexity. I think it was successful enough to publish here. I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients
1.5 Ounces Tequila
.5 Ounce Orange Flavored Brandy
3/4 Ounce Fresh lime Juice
1 Bar Spoon Agave Nectar
1 Cactus Pear

Cut of the ends and make an incision down 1 side in order to remove the flesh of the cactus pear.

Cut of the ends and make an incision down 1 side in order to remove the flesh of the cactus pear.

Muddle the cactus pear in the bottom of your shaker or mixing tin. Add the remaining ingredients and stir the agave nectar into the mixture prior to adding ice. Add ice to the tin and shake vigorously. Strain through a mesh strainer (to avoid getting the hard seeds into the punch) into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and suck it up!

 

the strand house

First Course - Smoked Norwegian Salmon ‘Pastrami’ Brioche, Pickled Beets, Horseradish Snow, Mustard Greens

First Course – Smoked Norwegian Salmon ‘Pastrami’ Brioche, Pickled Beets, Horseradish Snow, Mustard Greens

I was fortunate to attend a 6 course dinner at The Strand House in Manhattan Beach The dinner creatively highlighted Executive Chef Greg Hozinsky’s inspiration from his stay in Norway. The event featured seafood flown in from Norway specifically for the event sponsored by the Norwegian Seafood Council. Often restaurants at beachfront locations don’t try very hard because they can rely on their gorgeous views to attract customers. I can’t express in words how surprised I was at the caliber of Hozinsky’s cuisine. Fortunately, I took pictures.

Executive Chef Greg Hozinsky of The Strand House

Executive Chef Greg Hozinsky of The Strand House

Amuse-Bouche - Nordic black cod, celery sauce, white truffle

Amuse-Bouche – Nordic Black Cod, Celery Sauce, White Truffle

Second Course Pan Roasted Fresh Norwegian King Crab Brown Butter Broth, Sudachi, Corn Pudding

Second Course – Pan Roasted Fresh Norwegian King Crab Brown Butter Broth, Sudachi, Corn Pudding

Third Course Norwegian Halibut Smoked Sunchoke Puree, Matsutaki Mushroom, Cauliflower,YuzuKosho,Hijiki

Third Course – Norwegian Halibut, Smoked Sunchoke Puree, Matsutaki Mushroom, Cauliflower, YuzuKosho,Hijiki

Fourth Course Venison Strip Loin Huckleberries, Root Vegetable Mille-Feuille, Grilled Chicories

Fourth Course – Venison Strip Loin, Huckleberries, Root Vegetable Mille-Feuille, Grilled Chicories

Fifth Course Fried Brioche with Lingonberry Whiskey Sabayon, Pistachios

Fifth Course – Fried Brioche with Lingonberry Whiskey Sabayon, Pistachios

Sixth Course Warm Almond Apple Cake Geitost, Brown Buttered Apples, Cardamom Ice Cream

Sixth Course – Warm Almond Apple Cake, Geitost, Brown Buttered Apples, Cardamom Ice Cream

Pastry Chef Stephanie Franz

Pastry Chef Stephanie Franz

 

elemental mixology

Antique glassware collected from thrift stores.

Antique glassware collected from thrift stores.

Currently, I’m taking this truly amazing and eye opening course guided by the deft mind of Andrew Willett founder of Elemental Mixology in Los Angeles. He runs a school out of his home and offers abundant wisdom on his blog Elemental Mixology. His blog contains nuggets of wisdom like: Why you’ve never tasted a real Maraschino Cherry and how Curacao liqueur is completely misunderstood!

Anyhow, thanks to Andrew, I am inspired by all of this new (to me) knowledge and can’t wait to put it to use on my own blog!

curried butternut squash soup

Curried butternut squash soup with coconut milk drizzle.

Curried butternut squash soup with coconut milk drizzle.

It’s fall and even though the weather isn’t acting like it, I’m starting to crave certain seasonal dishes – like soup! Here’s an easy and delicious butternut squash soup recipe that can be made with or without the addition of curry powder. The coolest thing about it is that you don’t need any broth because it makes its own! Enjoy!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup 
1 butternut squash seeded, rind removed, chopped into 1 inch dice
3 stalks of celery – thinly sliced
1 onion – diced
1 large carrot – sliced
4 cloves of garlic – smashed
1 stalk of fennel – thinly sliced
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
2 tablespoons honey
10 branches fresh thyme
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup of olive oil plus 2 tablespoons for sautéing
1 can of coconut milk

In a large deep pot add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sauté first 6 ingredients for 8 minutes over medium high heat. Add remaining ingredients (except for the last 3) and cover with an inch  of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 40 minutes. Add lemon juice and blend to a smooth consistency with hand-held blender or counter-top blender. With blender running slowly add 1/2 cup of olive oil. Serve with a drizzle of coconut milk. Happy Fall y’all!

salted caramel ice cream sandwiches

Peanut butter cookies with salted caramel gelato.

Peanut butter cookies with salted caramel gelato.

It wouldn’t be Labor Day without ice cream sandwiches. Here’s an idea for some awesome salted caramel ice cream sandwiches with peanut butter cookies and salted caramel gelato that I LOVE!

Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup creamy natural peanut butter
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons sugar and coarse salt, for sprinkling on the cookies
1 quart Talenti sea salt caramel gelato

mixer

1. Beat the brown sugar, softened butter, and peanut butter with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer  until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat to combine. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix just until combined. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Use the tines of a fork to make crisscross pattern.

Use the tines of a fork to make crisscross pattern.

Sprinkle with coarse sugar and salt!

Sprinkle with coarse sugar and salt!

2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Using the palms of your hands, roll the dough into 1-inch balls, coat each ball in the salt and sugar mixture, and transfer to a baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Press the tines of a fork flat against each ball of dough, then make a second indentation perpendicular to the first one. Bake until the cookies are firm and their edges are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer the cookies to wire racks or paper towels to finish cooling. Once the cookies have cooled, use an ice cream scooper to add a generous portion of gelato to one half of the cookies. Sandwich them together withe the remaining halves and place in an airtight container. Can be stored for 2-3 days. Yields 12 sandwiches.

Let the peanut butter cookies cool before adding gelato.

Let the peanut butter cookies cool before adding gelato.