Friday, March 27, 2015

Bourbon and Jam

Here we go!  Spring cocktail season has arrived and we couldn't think of a better way to start it off than with this bourbon jam cocktail.  It's sweet, simple, a little spicy and perfect for sipping as we transition into warmer weather.  Also, the blueberry-jalapeno jam isn't just for cocktails (or is it?) it can be spread on your toast, baked in the oven over chicken or pork, paired with your favorite cheese (I suggest manchego), used as a pancake or french toast topping or my go to...make more cocktails.  So get shaking and happy Spring!

Blueberry-Jalapeno Jam

2 cups fresh blueberries
1 jalapeno, diced (seeds optional)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 lemon, juiced

Combine all of the ingredients into a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stir frequently.  Bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.  Using a potato smasher or the back of a spoon, slightly smash the blueberries.  Allow the jam to cool and transfer to an airtight container.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.  Makes about 2 cups.

Bourbon Jam Cocktail

2 ounces bourbon (I use Maker's Mark)
1-1/2 tablespoons Blueberry-Jalapeno Jam
3 fresh blueberries for garnish
1-2 slices fresh jalapenos for garnish

In a cocktail shaker add the bourbon and jam.  Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously until the outside of your shaker is frosty.  Strain the cocktail into an ice filled rocks glass and garnish with a blueberry skewer and jalapeno slices.  Makes 1 cocktail.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Saucy Dreams

I'm a dreamer and by that I mean I have vivid dreams almost every night.  I have been told I talk in my sleep and I often wake up thinking that my dreams are real.  Mostly I have the dance teacher dream where I'm getting fired, forgot to order costumes or am at an audition for something outrageous like a Gwen Stefani tour.  When it comes to food, I'm a total day dreamer.  I often find myself sipping my coffee thinking about what my next meal will be or getting creative by perusing the fridge with my usual glass of wine.  However, this recipe came to me in a dream.  Well, in the middle of a weird dance dream where my students are requesting recipes (actually this happens in real life too) during a performance.  I woke up thinking about this roasted red pepper sauce and continued to think about it all day.  So thanks to my dance kids who always continue to inspire me, even in my dreams, I was able to create this creamy, saucy, slightly spicy goodness!

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

2 large red bell peppers
2 cups whole cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red peppers (optional)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to broil.

Cut the bell peppers in half discarding the seeds, membrane and stem.  Rub 1 teaspoon of olive oil on the pepper halves, both skin and flesh sides.  On a foil lined rimmed baking sheet place the peppers flesh side down.  Broil in the oven for about 7-9 minutes, until the skins are black and burnt.  Remove the peppers from the oven and carefully place them into a large plastic Ziploc bag.  Seal shut and steam for 25 minutes.

Reduce the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the tomatoes in one teaspoon of olive oil and place on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet.  Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the skins are wrinkled a bit and some of the tomatoes have popped open.  

In a large pot or dutch oven heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until soft and translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Add the roasted tomatoes and give it a good stir to combine.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  

Remove the bell peppers from the plastic bag and peal the skin off carefully with a pairing knife.  Roughly chop the bell peppers.

In a food processor add the roasted bell peppers, basil, and tomato onion mixture.  Blend until smooth.  Add the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and pulse to combine.  Return the sauce back to the large pot or dutch oven.  Over low heat add the heavy cream and shredded parmesan cheese.  Stir to combine until the cheese has melted and the sauce is heated through.  Makes 2 cups.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

How to use your Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

 - Add 2 cups of sauce to one pound of cooked pasta.  Double the sauce recipe for an extra saucy dish.  Garnish with fresh basil and shredded or grated parmesan.

- Replace your usual pizza sauce with it for a unique and rustic flavor.  

- Use it as a dipping sauce for calamari, mozzarella stick or these pesto mascarpone poppers

Short on time?  Substitute the fresh roasted red peppers with one or two jars of already roasted bell peppers.  I prefer Trader Joe's of course!