As you might have already gathered, I love me some guacamole. And I love avocados, period. If I had to live off one food for the rest of my life, I would choose the blessed Green fruit-vegetable, without a doubt. I made the mistake of eating an *over-ripe* one a few years ago (tasted a little like bacon…and not in a good way) and was turned off the A-bomb for a short period of time, but we won’t talk about that…

Nathan Meyers must love the guac’ as much as I do–or dare I say, MORE–because he’s written a book dedicated to it. Not only does Guac Off! include 30 (!) different recipes for the perfect meal/snack that is guacamole, but he’s also included a section detailing the history of the avocado, which some people may think is a bit much, but I think is a bit magic. And who WOULDN’T want to be the Guacamole Champion of the World?

via oh happy day

via oh happy day

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The New York Times has a great article with “recipes” for 101 different summer salads. I don’t know about you, but I always feel proud of myself when I make a salad. Sure, they’re not as simple to put together as, say, a Hot Pocket (for which “putting together” means unwrapping, microwaving, and scalding one’s tongue on lava-like cheesy filling), but most of the salads on this list are pretty fast and easy. And salads are good for you. We could all stand to eat more salads. And many of these recipes require only the sort of ingredients that you probably already have in your fridge and pantry…unless, of course, you ONLY eat Hot Pockets. And if that’s the case, then you’re on your own, fatty.

Here’s a delightful cocktail recipe, care of The Martha, in honor of my astrological sign, the traits of which include (but, of course, aren’t limited to): adaptable, communicative, witty, intellectual, eloquent, youthful, nervous, inconsistent, cunning, and inquisitive. Yep, I’m a true Gemini…excluding the bad traits, obviously.

The Gemini

4 ounces fresh grapefruit juice, strained
3 ounces St-Germain liqueur
2 ounces vodka
Ice cubes
Prosecco
2 grapefruit-rind twists

Mix grapefruit juice, St-Germain, vodka, and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into 2 chilled glasses. Top each with Prosecco. Serve each with a grapefruit twist.

I used to suck at making cookies.  I could whip out a delicious pie, a dozen or more adorable and scrumptious cupcakes in any variety of flavors, but for whatever reason, my cookies always turned out burnt or raw.  Truly a shameful thing to admit for the daughter of a talented pastry chef.  But I was committed–I would not let myself be beat by the most basic of baking scenarios.  I WOULD bake a good cookie, eventually, so help me god…

There’s a bazillion different recipes for chocolate chip cookies out there, but I finally found the one that worked best for me, and learned to remove the pan from the oven at the right time–just as the little doughballs hit a golden brown, but still look slightly gooey and shiny with butter. (mmmm…butter…) So now I’m proud to say that I can bake a mean cookie: slightly crunchy around the edges and chewy in the middle–my favorite combination.

I’m in the mood to make a batch today, just because.  This recipe produces a fair amount of cookies, but don’t worry, I know how to share.  Go ahead and make your own, even if you’re a baking neophyte.  And if yours turn out like little hockey pucks or basically just warm cookie dough, it’s cool.  I feel your pain.  Keep at it and, even if you keep muffing up, your apartment will smell like burnt chocolate and sugar. I can certainly think of worse.

Chocolate Chip Cookies via Epicurious

makes about 28 large (4 1/2 inch) cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (16 ounces)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or wax paper.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Lightly beat 1 egg with a fork in a small bowl and add 1 3/4 tablespoons of it plus 2 remaining whole eggs to butter mixture, beating with mixer until creamy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture until just blended, then stir in chips.Scoop 1/4 cup batter for each cookie, arranging mounds 3 inches apart, on 2 baking sheets. Flatten mounds into 3-inch rounds using moistened palm of your hand. Form remaining cookies on additional sheets of parchment.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool and continue making cookies in same manner using cooled baking sheets.

*cooled cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days.

Chocolate+Chip+Cookies

When I was younger, living under the same roof as my mother, and thus benefiting greatly from her arsenal of cooking skills, I could always look forward to a big, seemingly bottomless pot of hearty vegetable soup in the winter. In the summer, it would be a big, refrigerated tub of fresh gazpacho, or as Mom called it, “gazplatcho” (the woman could fill a dictionary with made up words). Regardless of the season, Mama always made enough soup to feed us for a week. Yeah, I know, that’s a lotta soup, but it was always so delicious we never got sick of it.

Now that summer appears to have officially struck Los Angeles, I’m thinking it might be time to make my own vat of gazpacho. It makes for a great summer lunch, and is best served with crusty bread for dipping.

Mama’s Gazplatcho

(makes about 6 servings)

2 large tomatoes, or about 1 pound

1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded

3 cups tomato juice

1 medium red onion

1 large roasted red pepper (roast a fresh one yourself, or buy jarred)

half a cup fresh chopped cilantro

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon Tabasco (Mama’s favorite hot sauce; others will work)

salt and fresh ground pepper

Chop tomatoes, cucumber, and half the onion into coarse pieces and place in blender or food processor along with roasted pepper. Pulse to desired consistency (some people like it more pureed, but Mama made it chunky). Transfer to bowl. Add tomato juice, cilantro, vinegar, oil, and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper, then refrigerate. Serve well chilled with crusty bread.

gazpacho

In my family, my mother is the person everyone thinks of as the culinary genius. But Aunt Sarah, my namesake, is no slouch in the kitchen, herself. She’s the slightly bohemian, artsy one of the four siblings (Uncle Henry’s the wild card, and Uncle John’s the…youngest one). She moved to San Antonio over a decade ago for the big-city-that-feels-like-a-small town vibe, the great arts & crafts scene, and (I’m convinced) the fact that no matter where you stand in the city, you could throw a rock and hit a restaurant boasting some of the best Tex-Mex food you’d ever want to eat.

Over the years, Aunt Sarah has picked up some pretty stellar Tex-Mex recipes and made the dishes her own. Regardless of what she might be preparing as the main dish, whenever I went over to her house for dinner, I knew there’d be a massive bowl of her special guacamole somewhere within chip-dipping distance. I am a HUGE fan of guacamole and The Avocado in all its incarnations, but Aunt Sarah’s guac recipe includes a couple ingenious ingredients not found in the run-of-the-mill versions. I’ve prepared it for friends in Boston, New Hampshire, and California, and people love it so much they will duke it out over the last bite. To help you avoid the fist fights and hair pulling between your own friends and family members, here’s a recipe that will produce  a big bowl…

Auntie Sarah Guacamole

5 ripe avocados, diced or “smooshed”

2 roma tomatoes, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 small red onion (or 1/2 a larger one), diced

1 fresh jalepeno, finely diced

juice from 1 lime

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice (use the actual fruit, people; not from the carton)

1/2 cup (or more, depending on how cheesy you like it) crumbled feta cheese

Mix it all together in a big bowl to the desired consistency (Auntie Sarah makes it kinda chunky), put it out with your favorite tortilla chips, and get ready for the stampede.

Auntie Sarah with Doo, my adorably disgruntled grandfather

Auntie Sarah with Doo, my adorably disgruntled grandfather

I am deeply envious of Mark, one of my most brilliant, witty, and charming writer pals. He lives in a beautiful home (the kind that makes me worry I’ll never be a “real” grown-up) where he occasionally hosts gatherings for his terribly fortunate friends. Mark’s partner, Darryl, is always creating the most delectable spreads of food and drink–inventive sushi, handmade pizzas with creative toppings, adorable mini burgers, and different seasonal libations. Everything is homemade and delicious. I figured Mark must be using devious methods to bend Darryl to his culinary will, but apparently threats and scare tactics aren’t necessary…Darryl just really enjoys whippin’ it up in the kitchen.

Yesterday was the first ridiculously hot day in Los Angeles (with many more to follow, no doubt). Mark and Darryl went for a hike through the hills and when they returned home, both of them were jonesin’ for a refresher–something cool and delicious that would provide them with that delightful Sunday Afternoon Buzz (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talkin’ about).

Being the pro that he is, Darryl headed into the kitchen and created this delightful concoction with just four ingredients–all the fruit was fresh, naturally. These measurements will get you a pitcher’s worth…trust me, you won’t want anything less.

Mark & Darryl’s Sunday Afternoon Pineapple Margaritas

1 1/2 cup fresh pineapple juice (Peel, core and cut the pineapple into large chunks. Wrap the chunks in cheesecloth and squeeze to extract the juice. If you use a juicer or blender, the juice will be pulpy and won’t work)

1 cup fresh lime juice

1 cup (or more…) quality agave tequila

2-3 tablespoons honey or organic agave nectar to taste

Pour over ice and enjoy responsibly…or not.

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