Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dark Chocolate Balsamic Martini

If you haven't heard, gourmet cocktails are a big.  Just like with gourmet food, the quality of the ingredients is key.  This simple concoction is an amazing combination and a wonderful offering for a holiday cocktail party.

Tools and ingredients necessary include martini glasses, a cocktail shaker, a high quality vodka, an aged dark chocolate balsamic vinegar and lavender sugar to rim the glass - another option is shaved dark chocolate.
  • Rim two chilled martini glasses with lavender sugar
  • Chill approximately 3 ounces of vodka in the cocktail shaker
  • Add 1 tablespoon of Pastamoré Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
  • Shake all ingredients and strain into glasses

Monday, November 25, 2013

Christmas Caprese Salad

Here at Nan’s, one of our favorite summer foods is a Caprese salad, especially the heirloom tomatoes with a balsamic drizzle.  Of course in winter heirloom tomatoes are long gone, but that does not mean the idea of a tomato salad has to go away.  Cherry or Roma tomatoes are plentiful and usually good quality.  Here is a simple and beautiful holiday side dish inspired by the classic Caprese. The red tomatoes and fresh green basil make this holiday salad a stand out on the table. You can prepare the balsamic dressing ahead to save time.

for the salad:

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved.  Chopped Roma tomatoes will also work.
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, thinly sliced (chiffonade) 
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella pearls (or fresh mozzarella diced into bite-size pieces)

for the balsamic brown sugar reduction:

In a sauce pan over medium-low heat add the balsamic vinegar and the brown sugar. Cook for 3-5 minutes until bubbly and thick. Once reduced, it should be able to coat the back of a spoon. Allow to cool.

Add the halved tomatoes and fresh mozzarella pearls to a bowl. Before serving, add the fresh basil and drizzle the reduction over the salad.  Toss.

Serves 6 to 8.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Balsamic Lamb Burgers with Macerated Mint Leaves

I have a friend who while usually quite outgoing, has one interesting reservation regarding food.  She refuses to eat ‘Easter animals’.  This includes bunnies, ducks and of course lamb.  I always found this amusing and sad, there are some amazing gourmet dishes to be had from each.

Rather than make this a soapbox for non-vegetarians, lets instead focus on one of the more overlooked sources for a great burger – ground lamb.  Economical and with great flavor, it surprises me that this is not featured more.  And the natural parings with lamb are numerous, from rosemary, to chèvre, to mint and more.  This two part recipe features a sweet/tart pairing.  It is slightly sweet but in the best savory way, with deep layered flavors.  The burger will be quite juicy, and the slight bite of the softened mint refreshes the experience.

Please don’t let the word ‘macerate’ scare you away.  It simply means to soften using a liquid.  In this case, we are using the lemon/vinegar/soy mixture to soften the mint.  The mint soaks in the liquid and becomes quite limp.

for the mint maceration

for the burgers

Combine the lemon juice, pear vinegar, soy and sugar in a small bowl.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Crush the red pepper flakes with your fingers and add.   Remove the leaves from the mint stems and add to the liquid.  There will appear to be more leaves than liquid, but have faith, the acid will break down the mint leaves and soften them.  Set this aside for at least an hour.

In a large mixing bowl add the ground lamb.  Add remaining ingredients (except buns!) and gently mix into the meat.  As with any burger, do not over mix as this will dry out and toughen the meat.  Shape into six patties, place on plate and cover with plastic wrap.   Set aside in the refrigerator for at least an hour to meld flavors.

Grill the burgers on medium high heat, two minutes per side, flipping three times.  Toast buns.  Place burger on bun and top with a generous portion of the macerated mint leaves.

Makes 6 burgers.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Balsamic Watermelon Feta Cubes

At Nan’s, we admit we love to cook, and we cook all the time.  But truth be told, we are lazy, too.  We like great food served simply.  This can mean easy, too!  Here is a painless summer appetizer which will dazzle but is SO uncomplicated.  By the way, we found the toothpick/skewers shaped like tiny forks at a winery, but specialty cooking shops will have them too.

Oh, and most important – this is purely a serving suggestion!  You can modify this at your pleasure.  How about using mint instead of the basil?  Or using our Passion Fruit Balsamic Vinegar or our Raspberry Balsamic instead?  A different melon?  Have fun with this, make it yours!

  • ½ small seedless red watermelon, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 6 ounce package whole feta cheese (good quality), cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 12 to 18 basil leaves
  • Pastamoré Barrel-Aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • course sea salt, to taste

Skewer the watermelon as shown in the picture, with the skewer pointing up and in the left half of the watermelon.  Place a feta cube on each watermelon cube.  Chiffonade the basil into thin strips (stack the leaves, roll them tightly like a cigar, and then slice the leaves perpendicular to the roll).  After decoratively arranging the watermelon/feta cubes on a serving platter, carefully sprinkle the basil strips on the watermelon/feta cubes.

With your thumb placed over the balsamic bottle opening, or with a spoon, delicately drizzle a small amount of the vinegar on each watermelon/feta cube.  Sprinkle with a dash of course sea salt, and serve.

Makes approximately 25-30 appetizers.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Caprese Skewers

Summer evokes all kinds of season specific food cravings for me; from anything on the grill to icy-cold drinks by the pool.  BLT’s, fruit salads, ice cream, and corn on the cob all come to mind as well.  But the food I look forward to most in summer?  A classic Caprese salad.  Traditional 'Insalata Caprese' is nothing more than fresh basil, creamy buffalo mozzarella, and the key component you can only get in summer – great tomatoes.  Purist will season with salt, pepper and olive oil and you are set, but I love the almost as classic variation of the addition of an exceptional Modena balsamic vinegar.

Here is a simple departure on the classic – why not make it into an appetizer?

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, washed and stems removed
  • 1 pound bocconcini (fresh mozzarella in small balls), drained
  • fresh basil, leaves only
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & freshly cracked pepper
  • Pastamoré Barrel-Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Using small skewers (or larger ones cut in half with kitchen shears) start with a cherry tomato, followed by a bocconcini, a basil leaf folded over, another bocconcini, and finally a cherry tomato.  Arrange on serving plate and drizzle well with extra virgin olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and finally a smaller  drizzle of the Barrel-Aged Balsamic Vinegar.

These can be refrigerated for several hours, but do the seasoning & drizzling just before serving.

Alternatively, if you grocery store offers marinated bocconcini (usually in olive oil, salt & pepper) use these instead, or marinate them yourself for up to 24 hours.