Wednesday night’s blackberry thyme margarita may have been a royal epic fail, but this summer has already yielded some refreshing culinary successes.
Notably, a fresh toasted tomato basil sandwich…
…a refreshing cucumber raspberry cocktail…
…absolutely delicious and extremely flavorful homemade baked jalapeno poppers….
…and sweet Brazilian lemonade made with two very unexpected ingredients, sweet condensed milk and limes!
Here’s how it works: While the cat’s away, the mice will play. In this instance, Ted is the cat (he hates this metaphor already) and I am the mouse. I have a taste for spices, eclectic flavors, and variety. Ted’s a little more cut and dry when it comes to culinary experimentation. He’s got his favorites and that’s what he tends to stick to. For example, he won’t eat black beans, tomato, asparagus, shrimp, artichoke, jalapeno, feta cheese, spicy foods, avocado, or guacamole. I eat guacamole like it is my job. So when Ted has to work late at CCM or has a gig doing an install for some company, I take the opportunity to enjoy my Friday night in true fat-ass fashion – with an impromptu feast of recipes I’ve been itching to try, but that I know Ted would abhor if I churned them out for dinner one night. So while my cat is away, I settle in for a wild and crazy night of cooking, eating, drinking, eating some more, and washing dishes. This is a win-win situation for both of us. I get to relish the flavors of foods I don’t normally get to make, and Ted doesn’t have to suffer through my loony array of dishes that include every single thing he does not eat.
By the way, I know I said I wouldn’t be trying my hand at another cocktail for at least the next month or so since I can’t seem to make them without exploding staining berries all over the kitchen, but how could I pass up the raspberry cucumber cocktail? I already had all the major ingredients on hand and what I didn’t have I substituted for other classics I did have in stock. The raspberries have been so sweet and plump this season, and the cucumbers so crisp and cool. The combination was bound to be impressive. I’m proud to report that it was a delicious success of a cocktail – a definite keeper!
And the Brazilian lemonade? I owe its first-time success to the fact, although it required ice and a blender, it is non-alcoholic. I seem to have better luck with virgin drinks. Anyhow, if you’re looking for something sweet to serve at a BBQ or party, this recipe should do the trick. I also admit that this was my very first time to use sweet condensed milk in anything. It’s strange stuff, so syrupy sweet that I can’t imagine it has very many uses outside of Mexican desserts, but I’m glad I finally got to try it!
Back to those fantastic sandwiches! Unfortunately, my basil plant hasn’t grown large enough yet to actually use any of the basil in my recipes. Also, I haven’t had a free Saturday morning with which to try out our local Farmers Market since it opened at the end of May, which is disappointing. But as soon as I make it to the Farmers Market at the beginning of July, I’ll be stocking up on fresh, home-grown produce for these toasted tomato basil sandwiches! Here’s the ingredients you’ll need: a fresh loaf of sourdough bread, a vine-ripe tomato, basil leaves, a fresh garlic clove, salt, olive oil, and a slice of provolone cheese. Though the cheese is optional because the sandwich tastes just as nice without it.
The fresher the ingredients, the tastier the sandwich! Healthy and beaming with flavor? I seriously can’t stop eating these! Do yourself a favor and toast the bread – it really does make a difference. I love garlic, so I slice a clove of it and rub it on the toasted bread to bring out the flavor and then I top the tomato with the remaining pieces of chopped garlic. The link above has loose instructions for how to compile this masterpiece, in case you’re looking for some guidance.
All I have to say about the jalapeno poppers is that they are Tasty, with a capital T! Of course fried greasy jalapeno poppers are delicious (hence the words “fried” and “greasy”) but these baked ones are not only much healthier, but the variety of spices the recipe calls for really gives them a great kick of flavor unlike any other jalapeno popper I’ve ever had. I’d definitely recommend that you try out this recipe. It makes a fantastic appetizer.
The watermelons this season have been juicy and sweet as well. Excellent for cookouts and homemade frozen watermelon juice pops. I can’t wait for the summer to progress to peach and cherry season! I’m anxious to track down a local farm and do some picking of my own! Also in the works this summer will be homemade ice cream (I’m thinking chocolate, peach, and cherry!), though this might be difficult without the aide of an ice cream maker. Any hints where I can pick one up on the cheap? Or is it possible to make it without if I’m willing to put in a little extra physical labor?
Also on the menu will be my first attempt at homemade ravioli – cheese and lobster and a homemade tomato cream sauce if I can swing it! Likely, I won’t make the dough for the ravioli shells unless I’m feeling especially advantageous. I’ll use pre-made ravioli/wanton wrappers, make the filling and sauce, then stuff, seal and bake the raviolis. My mouth is watering just thinking about them!
Yesterday I had the day off so I took a few hours to meet Ted for a rare lunch date at Cactus Pear, a downtown Cincinnati restaurant with a southwest flair I’ve been aching to try. And it was delicious! They boast a menu of corn chips and flavorful brown salsa for starters, and unique southwest style sandwiches and entrees featuring ingredients like pork, pepper jack cheese, cumin spread, and roasted potatoes with sweet chili glaze. I think we’ve found a new favorite lunching spot. Not to mention getting to see Ted in the middle of the day was truly awesome! I wish we could lunch together more often. And by “lunch together more often,” I really mean “lunch together more often at Cactus Pear.”
This is going to be a tasty summer!