Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Healthy Cocktail

  I have to thank and give credit to my friend Molly for this magnificent rhubarb elixir recipe. It came about from an abundance in her garden and a need to somehow utilize rather than waste a terrific crop. 


 The pink hue is so intense, when she brought out a jug of the fuchsia colored juice , I could only imagine something forbidden and fake like that thirst quenching concoction from my childhood of a packet of food coloring and sugar dumped into a pitcher of water.  You know the one where the guy shaped like a huge pitcher of red "fruit" juice smashes through the wall?  Imagine my delight when Molly told me that her punch recipe is made up of chopped rhubarb, a large handful of mint, a light dusting of sugar and water.   It's actually quite healthy.
  Molly pours hers into a glass filled with ice: about 2/3 full of the rhubarb magic and tops it off with soda water, then adds a wedge of lemon or lime.  The concoction is perfectly refreshing.  The small amount of sugar still allows the tartness of the rhubarb to to come through and the steeped mint gives the drink and earthy funk.  I love it.
  Of course, I think this potion is even better used in a cocktail.   (Don't you know me by now?)  See below for the antidote to a hot summer day or just any kind of "day".  But if you are feeling like a detox is in order, or you have a need to keep it "healthy", the non-alcoholic version is divine, too.  Especially when you add even more anti-oxidants by coupling your mock-tail with a piece of fine dark chocolate.  No guilt!



Rhubarb Elixir
(makes one large pitcher)
5 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar (or less, depending on taste)
1 big bunch fresh mint
8 cups water

Add all ingredients to a stock pot.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes until rhubarb is completely broken down and mint has wilted.  Cool mixture.  Strain in a mesh sieve.  Discard all solids.  Refrigerate magical juice for up to a week.


Rhubarb Margarita
(makes 2)

1 cup Rhubarb Elixir
1 1/2 teaspoons agave nectar
2 oz. silver tequila
lime wedges

Add Rhubarb Elixir, agave nectar and tequila to a shaker filled with ice.  Cover and shake vigorously until your hands stick to the outside of the shaker.  Pour into fancy glasses.  Squeeze one wedge of lime into each glass and toss into drink.  Enjoy thoroughly.
 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

$$ Signs for Eyes

  

 Memorial Day weekend. I already feel like I am going to miss out on summer.  While everyone else on Cape Cod is tweeting and posting about boat rides and backyard barbecues, all I can think about is fighting traffic on my way to work and then driving around in circles until I find a parking space.  I will be lucky if I clock in on time.  I am on the schedule for all three days of this long holiday weekend.  To top it all off, I am doing the dreaded closing shift on Saturday night.  After 6:00pm, families with multiple, whiny, tired little children wander in after dinner to "browse".  More like, make a disaster of all the neatly folded t-shirts and utterly destroy the rowboat display full of stuffed black puppies.  Nearing closer to 8:00pm, the store is filled with patrons who imbibed one too many margaritas on the patio of the Mexican joint around the corner.  An hour wait to get a plate of tacos can really put someone under a table.  Since all these people do is mess up the store without dropping any cash, we might as well close at 5:59pm and save on payroll.
    But who am I to complain?  I was the one who agreed to work these shifts.  A few weeks ago, when it was raining, raw and cold: typical Cape Cod in the springtime, when summer seemed so out of reach that it was never going to get here, I looked at the schedule and said, "O.K."  It's my own fault that I forgot just as I always do, that when I least expect it, the beautiful weather appears suddenly out of nowhere.  The grass is green, needing to be mowed, the snap peas are  beginning to climb the fence and right on cue, the tourists are heading over the bridge in a long, endless line of cars from who knows where, invading this sanctuary I call home 365 days a year.  Most of them are so delighted to be here that I can't help but be open to sharing this beautiful space of sand and ocean.  However, some can be downright rude, making me want to lock imaginary gates across the Cape Cod Canal to keep them all out.
   Each unpleasant interaction is etched in my memory.  Like the time we were heading to the beach one hot July day.  Val was driving us three kids in the dilapidated, fatigue green Oldsmobile to our daily swimming lesson at Old Silver Beach.  There was a car on the road in front of us, cruising slowly, below the 30 mile an hour speed limit in a residential neighborhood.  It's navy and orange license plate glinted in the sun.  Just some tourists driving too slow, probably not knowing where they were going.  We grumbled that we would be late for our lessons (an embarrassment especially I could not bear).  Val admonished us to be patient. The next thing we knew, food containers and soda cans were being hurled out the windows of the vehicle ahead, trash landing on pristine front lawns and along picket fences.  Now, normally calm Val was agitated  Wasn't it enough that so many people descended into our town, congesting our streets and crowding our beaches?  Do they also have to dirty our homes with their garbage? That was it! Val jammed her foot on the gas and pulled our clunky green car alongside those fancy tourist wheels.  She was going to teach those rude interlopers a lesson, never mind that we were now cruising down the middle of a windy back road. Our polite and well-mannered mother leaned across the passenger side and yelled out the window to the offending litterbugs,
 "TAKE YOUR NEW YORK TRASH AND GO HOME!"
 Then she sped up and cut them off.  Moments later, she casually turned the car into the beach lot and we went for our usual day at the beach, as if nothing happened, at all.  But my brother, sister and I giggled in secret about her outburst for the rest of the summer, secretly proud that our mother would not put up with such New York nonsense.
   I'm sure those tourists didn't pick up their trash or leave right then and go home.  But my mother probably felt better after speaking her mind, at least for a short while.  You see, it's hard to live through a long, boring winter, a seemingly endless, chilly spring and finally get to the fleeting joys of summer here in this idyllic place of sun and surf only to have to share it with so many others who may not be respectful during their stay.
   So, while I'm trying to get to work, taking a secret side road to avoid the increasing traffic and leaving my house an additional 30 minutes earlier, I need to remember another thing my mother taught me.  Especially in late August when my patience wanes and I'm so darn sick of people and I want to punch a few of them right in the face. One day when I was frazzled, at the end of my rope and ready to walk off the job, she said to me,
"Just look at them and see a pair of dollar signs instead of their eyes."
That's right.  When my parents had three little ones at home, Val had a typical summer job to stash away some extra cash for the winter.  She was a smart waitress that killed her annoying customers with kindness until they racked up a big tab and left her a hefty tip.  Ruthless, maybe but we are pretty burned out around here by August 15th.
   If you happen to come by the shop where I am peddling t-shirts and fond vacation memories, don't be surprised that the temperature in the store is around 60 degrees on a bright, sunny 80 degree summer day.  If you are cold, buy a sweatshirt.  (Why do you think I turned up the a/c?)  And while you are at it, perhaps you need a beach towel and a baseball hat.  Heck, didn't you need to bring something back to the person caring for your dog and everyone in your extended family?  ( I need to make my goal today and I'm pretty ruthless about it, too.) I'm sorry if I don't recognize you from your visit last year.  I hope you understand, everyone looks the same when they have $$ signs for eyes.

This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light, May 2016 (Classic Margarita)



  

After Work Margarita
(makes one)
1 1/2 oz. silver tequila
1 ounce fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 1/2 teaspoons agave nectar
1/2 oz. Chambord (raspberry liquor)
1 lime wedge

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Seal and shake vigorously until your hands stick from the cold.  Strain into a fancy martini or margarita glass.  Add Chambord.  Garnish with lime wedge.

*For margarita with salt.  Before pouring margarita into fancy glass, run lime wedge around edge and dip into a dish filled with sea salt.

**Substitute Grand Marnier for Chambord, if you prefer.








Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Joy of Pancakes



Ava wants to make pancakes for breakfast.  It's Saturday morning and I am only on my first cup of coffee. Which means that I am still not yet functioning. Groan.  But we are out of Honey Nut Cheerios, her usual breakfast.  In fact, we are out of just about everything and badly in need of a large, time consuming grocery shopping trip.  Declan should be tumbling down the stairs, any moment now, asking for something to eat, too since I'm sure we are also out of his usual breakfast of Nutella on toast.
I should blame their father.  Especially since is still sleeping (or pretending to sleep).  It all started when the kids were tiny.  He would measure and mix and drop dollops of batter onto a hot griddle producing tiny disks the width of a juice glass.  He heaped them up steaming, on a plate and presented them, mile high, ready for little hands to dip into warm maple syrup, pooled in a saucer.  Sometimes he even added a sprinkling of chocolate chips.  Dark chocolate pock marks in the sweet, fluffy pancakes.  Ava's favorite.  Not too long after he began this occasional Saturday morning ritual, those two little hooligans demanded to "help".  Ava and Declan fought over who would dump the flour into the bowl and especially who got to crack the eggs.  But eventually, as Ava has become more responsible and Declan has become more interested in watching "Sports Center", she has been the one to pull out the large yellow mixing bowl and the whisk.  I remind her to tie back her long mane of caramel colored hair.  And "Don't forget to wash your hands!"  "Please don't lick your fingers!"  All of that.  But she knows what to do by now.
 Ava finds the "Joy of Cooking" among the shelves full of cookbooks, opens it to the page held with the now ratty, red ribbon book mark.  It's satin sheen worn from use.  Val found this old book for me at a yard sale, long before I had any thoughts of having little hungry mouths to feed. It's a hardcover 1975 edition, with the pen and ink drawings I remember from her paperback version of the book that we used to reference for creating so many memories in the kitchen on Old Meeting House Road.  We  mostly made sugary cookies and chocolate cakes with creamy frostings, special occasion waffles and of course, pancakes. The same recipe in the left hand margin on page 236 for "Pancakes, Griddle Cakes or Batter Cakes".  A very long title for such a simple recipe made from an assembly of everyday pantry staples.


"Joy" a shortened version of the title and what we called the large white cookbook back then, has been a backdrop in my life for as long as I can remember.  The ultimate reference for so many basic recipes, a starting point, a safe place, an old friend.  I began to cook and bake when I was about Ava's age. Burning batches of cookies, forgetting to add baking powder or putting in too much vanilla.  Somehow Val was always patient with me and allowed me to continue to try, continue to fail and ultimately succeed. Such a long time ago. I never thought even at the time my mother bought this copy for me that my life would be what it is today.  I never imagined that I would one day be watching my 12 year old daughter smearing gobs of butter on the pancakes she made.  I don't think I ever imagined myself as a mother, at all.  I most often lived in the moment, not thinking much of the next year, let alone my future.  Even though I never fathomed such a life, sitting at the kitchen table, sipping a hot cup of coffee while my daughter devours a plate of pancakes and goes back for another and another before her brother can eat more than her, is the only place I want to be right now.