Down to the last few days in my twenties. Eric has been joking for the past month that I need to order my coffin. My gay death is quickly approaching, he tells me, at which point I remind him that, no matter how old I get, I’ll always be his younger man. Ever since he turned thirty, I’ve tried to envision what we’d do to celebrate my introduction to the next decade of my life. For his birthday, we ate at The French Laundry. I had it in my head that we should do something equally extravagant for mine. Maybe a trip to New York to eat at Eleven Madison or Le Bernadin. One of our bucket list restaurants. Then we moved into our house and everything changed. I had dreams of hosting friends and family, gathering in our backyard, eating food fresh off the grill. There’d be copious amounts of cheese and wine. And laughter.
That’s all I really want and that’s exactly what we have planned for this coming weekend. As always, Eric and I have made plans to do a more intimate dinner on my actual birthday on Monday (I also have a much needed massage scheduled for that morning). Overall, I think we have some nice activities in the works.
Everyone’s been asking me if I’ll be cooking for the party. We had talked briefly about having it catered, but that just didn’t feel right. I get so much joy out of feeding people that it would be odd for me to present someone else’s food. One of the dishes I’ve prepared are these marinated mushrooms. It’s a very easy appetizer to create and one that can be multiplied for larger groups. I expect that they’ll go well with the rest of our spread: cheeses, olives, roasted tomatoes, grilled fish and smoked brisket.
In other news, I am thrilled to share that I have a few of my photos being displayed at the Boston Center for Adult Education. Ok… maybe a few is an understatement, since it’s actually 50. I was so honored when I was asked to create a show for the gallery space. It’s titled The Mood of Food and it’ll be up for the next month. On September 19th, the BCAE is hosting a reception that’s open to the public. They’ve put together quite the event… with wine, beer, a cocktail (they’re serving up my blackberry shrub) and some tasty bites. If you live in Boston, I’d love to see you there! (Click here for more details)
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I try to mix things up when it comes to what we eat. If we have fish one night, I’ll prepare something vegetarian the next. If one meal is heavy, I’ll be sure to create a lighter dish the following evening. From time to time, I’ll throw a pizza into the mix. We don’t take in pizza very often because I’m picky when it comes to my slice. I haven’t found a pie that compares to what I grew up with in my New Jersey hometown. The oven or grilled variety has grown on me, though, and that’s what I’ll usually do if I make it for dinner. We’ll roll out some dough and give it whatever spin we’re feeling. Clams and pesto or maybe a garlic scape and zucchini pie. I like to top my pizzas with seasonal ingredients, ideally those that are homegrown or from the co-op we’re members of.
The inspiration for this beet pizza came to me as I flipped through the newly released cookbook, Seriously Delish, by blogger Jessica Merchant of How Sweet It Is. I’ve always admired how Jessica will balance out a decadent recipe (usually it involves a gooey, chocolatey (sometimes boozy) dessert or something bacon-wrapped) with a simple salad. That’s how I like to eat. As long as it’s using fresh ingredients, I’m on board.
It didn’t take long for me to develop this recipe. I came across her beet salad creation and thought, “Hey, that’d make for a great pizza topping! Something unique. Kind of healthy, totally delish.”
The publishers of Seriously Delish have generously offered to giveaway a copy to one lucky A Thought For Food reader. Of course, I suggest ordering a copy anyway (you can always give one to a friend or family member), so be sure to head over to pick up a copy.
Here’s how to enter the giveaway:
Leave a comment on this post… it can be anything, but I’d love to hear what your favorite pizza topping is.
Additional entry: Tweet the following and then come back and leave a comment telling us you’ve done so -
Check out this Beet and Arugula Pizza + a giveaway of Seriously Delish by @howsweetblog over at @myfoodthoughts - http://tinyurl.com/mfrl9cx
Rules: This giveaway will end on Friday, September 12, 2014 at 12:00 PM EST. I’ll pick 1 winner via random.org and that person will be contacted via e-mail. Limit to two entries per person (one comment, one tweet) and entrants must have a US mailing address (sorry international friends) and provide a valid email address. Best of luck!
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It’s around 6 o’clock when we begin to get things in order for dinner. As Eric lights the charcoal for the grill, I head into the kitchen to mix drinks. From time to time, we’ll pop open a bottle of wine, but more often than not, it’s gin and tonics. I take pride in my g+t-making skills, which were picked up by watching Eric during our first years together. I realized early on in our relationship that if I was going to last in this family, I’d have to learn to prepare one properly. I grab a lime, cut it in half, squeeze the juice into each glass, making sure to get as much of the pulp in that I can. The used wedges are reserved for the end (Eric likes to eat the rind… it’s something I’ve come to accept). The next step: add the gin. Sometimes it’s measured out in a jigger, but to speed up the process I’ll often just eyeball it. A few handfuls of ice cubes and then topped off with tonic and we’re good to go!
Earlier this summer, I was chatting with Vijay (of Nosh On It) and Brandon (of Kitchen Konfidence) and we came up with the idea to do a series on our favorite cocktails. We’re calling it “What I Drink,” where, from time to time, we’ll post our favorite drink recipes. Sometimes these will be classics, but we may also give them a little twist. Be sure to check out Vijay’s 1794 and Brandon’s Old Fashioned posts.
Seeing that gin and tonics are what we drink during the summer, I immediately knew that’s what I’d be making. As I explained above, the recipe for a g+t isn’t all that complicated, so I’ve spruced things up here by making a blackberry shrub that replaces the lime juice in the drink
But before you scroll down for the recipe, here’s a little Q+A to give you all a bit more info about why I love gin and tonics and what the heck a shrub is. Hope you enjoy! Cheers.
What flavor profile best fits your cocktail? Sweet, fresh, bitter or savory?
What’s great about shrubs is that they’re a combination of sweet (from the sugar and fruit) and tangy (from the vinegar), making for a balanced cocktail.
Why is this drink your favorite?
Well, the gin and tonic is certainly my favorite summer drink and I pretty much only consume it from June through August. It’s a simple drink to prepare and it’s very refreshing.
Do you enjoy variations, or do you just stick to the original recipe?
Often I stick to the original recipe (gin, lime juice, tonic), though, in this case, I played around a bit. I’ve also been known to add a splash of Aperol or bitters to my gin and tonic.
When making cocktails, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received (or read)?
I’m not sure there’s one piece of advice that sticks out. It’s more like a combination of tips and tricks I’ve picked up from watching bartenders. I’ve learned to taste my drink as I add ingredients to see if it needs more sweetness or citrus or something to smooth it out. One bartender told me that you should add the alcohol at the end… or at least the most expensive liquor… because that way if you screw up the drink, you don’t lose the pricier ingredient. Sometimes I’ll follow that rule, but it doesn’t always make sense.
What’s the worst alcoholic beverage you’ve tasted? Please describe the experience.
When we go out, we tend to hit up places that we know will mix up a well-crafted cocktail. However, there have been a few times when we try out a new place and we’re terribly disappointed by the results. I don’t expect much from a dive bar, but nicer establishments should be able to produce a balanced drink. There have been a couple of occasions when we’re served a drink that’s flat for some reason… it’s missing some acidity or sweetness or, in the worst of circumstances, any discernible booze.
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Growing up, my father, like most dads, was the grill master. He will still find any excuse to cook outside… nothing will deter him. A little rain? Put on a jacket and get an umbrella! Eric’s the same way and has been known to uncover the grill in the middle of winter. I certainly have an appreciation for the art of grilling and realize how exhilarating it is to cook over an open flame. But I let these guys enjoy their moment. They know what they’re doing and they seem to take great pride in their talents, so why take that away from them? I’ll stand back and let them do their thing. Of course, my mother and I are the ones who season the food before it hits the grate… but I’ll let that little detail slide.
I learned something recently that blew my mind, and yet it makes perfect sense. If one uses a marinade to baste meat or fish, then that liquid must first be cooked before it can be applied. I will often marinate whatever we’re cooking, but seeing that I’m rarely in charge of grilling, I didn’t pay attention to the process after the fish left the kitchen. It wasn’t until I started to develop this recipe that I found out that marinade that’s been used on raw fish or meat shouldn’t be used to baste the protein, unless it’s been heated prior to this point.
Now that we’re half way through the work week, I suggest you get your weekend grill plans in order. We’ll be using it quite a bit over ourselves, including next week when we spend a little time on the Cape.
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Sunday night, Eric and I stumbled across a party in our neighborhood. Well, the truth is that the reason we ended up there was because we were complaining about the music. We had been trying to relax and had pulled out some lounge chairs in our backyard. The weather was perfect; warm, but not humid. The dog was sleeping next to us, exhausted after a jam-packed weekend.
“I’m going to take Maki for a walk and see where that’s coming from.”
“Yeah, I just want to see and maybe tell them to turn it down a bit.”
I laughed, knowing how ridiculous it was that the youngest homeowners on the street (and quite possibly in the three blocks surrounding us), the ones who were supposed it be hip and cool, were actually two crotchety guys who moan about the kids blasting their music too loudly.
Ten minutes later, Eric returned. It turned out the music was actually a live band (a band, I should add, that specializes in covering the songs of Jimmy Buffet, though they make it clear in their marketing materials that they do other genres) and that the woman whose party it was was very nice and had them turn down the volume. Oh, and if we wanted we were welcome to come over and join them. Not being ones to turn down an invitation to a party, we headed off.
“This is so random.” I said as we approached their driveway. We knew no one and the only interaction we’d had with them was Eric’s brief confrontation.
The next thing we knew, three hours had gone by. A couple glasses of wine consumed. New friends made. We got to hear lots of gossip (and who isn’t a sucker for that) and felt even more connected to the neighborhood that we just moved into four months ago.
Of course, none of this has to do with ceviche. I’m not even going to try to bridge these two. All I can tell you is that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it’d be to make. In fact, it was really simple and so refreshing on these brutal summer days we’ve been having. There may have been some margaritas consumed as well… or gin and tonics. Definitely one of those.
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