Monday, August 25, 2014

Recipe: Peachy-Basil Sangria

Summer may be rolling to a (too fast) end, but there's still Labor Day weekend & plenty of warm days ahead.
Peachy-Basil Sangria
And per my summer potluck/party tradition, that also means it's sangria time! And this year's version might be my favorite yet, since it goes down so easy but has a few touches to keep the flavors interesting. On top of lusciously sweet & fragrant peaches, I've also added a hearty helping of refreshing aromatic basil and a pinch of sweet spices. Then the batched syrup is spiked with a nice slug of gold rum and ready to be combined with some crisp white wine & served when needed.

Peachy-Basil Sangria (for 2 pitchers' worth, approx. 10 to 16 servings)

Ingredients:

3 ripe medium peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced (alternatively, a 12 oz. bag of frozen peaches)
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 handful of fresh sweet basil leaves, plus additional for garnish
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
3/4 cup gold rum (I used Mount Gay Eclipse)
2 bottles of light and crisp white wine (I used Flip Flop's pinot grigio)
Ice cubes
1 medium ripe nectarine, for garnish (optional - and I only opted for the nectarine because I don't care for peaches' fuzzy skin)
Virgin option: Omit the rum, swap white wine for dry ginger ale.

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, combine water, peaches, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Allow it cool on stovetop for 10 minutes afterwards.
2. Place the mixture in a blender along with the fresh basil leaves, then pulse blend until the leaves are pulverized and incorporated. Then add rum to the mixture. The color/appearance will be a bit unseemly but this will improve when combined with the wine. (This mixture can also be stored up to three days in a fridge.)
3. In a pitcher, combine the wine & syrup in a 2:1 ratio and give it a quick stir, garnish with additional basil leaves and nectarine slices. Serve over ice.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Fun Facts Learned During California Avocado Grove Tour

Since Cinco de Mayo is one of the highest avocado-consuming days of the year, I figured its timely to post about my California Avocado tour in the Temecula Valley. And even though my love & familiarity with this buttery fruit spanned decades, I was surprised by the number of things I learned during this one-day outing.
avocado on trees
Our first stop was Persea Tree Nursery in Fallbrook, a nursery & greenhouse facility that grows, grafts and sells avocado rootstocks to groves and orchards. 
Avocado Nursery
As we toured through the facility, including an "avocado dark room" & swelteringly hot greenhouse (the humidity helps these young plants — which are native to the tropics — thrive,) I picked up on these fascinating tidbits:
  • a single avocado pit can supply enough energy to start up to 6-7 plants.
  • when properly cared for, a tree can start producing edible fruit in 2 years.
  • when stressed, the trees have a tendency to bear fruit on alternate years - resulting in a cycle of high & low yields (and consequently, prices in the market.)
  • 95 percent of avocados produced in California are of the Hass variety (I knew they are the most popular, but wasn't aware of how big a majority they made up; meanwhile, I'm crossing my fingers for the giant, round Reeds - my favorite varietal - to take up more of the market share & be more readily available.)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Pleasure of a Weekday Off at Copa Vida, Petrossian LAX & Crustacean

When given the option of an extra day off, most folks I know prefer to bookend their weekends, tacking on a Monday or Friday. Me? Personally, unless I have an out-of-town excursion, I actually prefer taking midweek days off. It splits up the workweek, I can "staycation" on a mellower day of the week, and not worry about the traffic & crowds from other long weekenders too.

Of course, being able to partake in some tastings was the icing on that cake. So that's exactly what I did last Wednesday.

My first pleasure was, to no one's surprise, sleeping in. Even though I did freak out and bolted up on my usual workday time, upon realizing "oh yeah, I took today off" I went back into the bliss of the warm bed and slumbered for another lovely 2 hours.
After finally getting up & ready around 10:30 a.m., I had a quick but leisurely breakfast at Copa Vida, my new favorite "fancy coffee" place in Pasadena. 
Normally I wouldn't hesitate to order their divine open-faced Croque Madame, but there's another food affair coming up soon so I opted for their ham-cheese-caramelized onions stromboli. And of course, one of their fantastic pourover coffee of the day (this time it's the Colombian El Roble estate roasted by 49th Parallel.)
Following the late breakfast, I headed to LAX; not to fly anywhere, but to check out Petrossian's newly opened shop at their new champagne & caviar bar at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (which has gotten quite a facelift recently). There, we were treated to caviar & roe-topped bites by Giselle Wellman, who heads up the kitchen here & at the Petrossian West Hollywood Restaurant/Boutique. They were all delicious, but my personal favorite were a simple spin off the classic caviar presentation—with a dollop of creme fraiche on a buckwheat blini.