The majority of the time, I'm the one who prepares dinner. It makes sense. I'm home before Eric, I can often get to the store... plus, I enjoy doing it. It's not that he can't cook or that he's not good at it (he's actually very good), it's just become a task that I've taken over. But why not find some time to cook together? The idea has been lingering in my mind ever since I read Ashley's Date Night In, a cookbook featuring recipes and stories from the evenings she and her husband spend preparing dishes. I found the whole thing truly inspiring and at one point even suggested it... but over a year went by gone and we never followed through. A few weeks ago, however, after a particularly hectic week, Eric suggested that we spend our Saturday night at home. The lightbulb flickered on. "Hey, we have all of these cookbooks around. Why don't we make something from one of them?" We pulled out a recent addition to our collection that features authentic Chinese recipes, made a list, went to the store, and cooked up a storm. The food was incredible. Probably the best we've ever made. And we did it together (all while sipping on palomas). This past weekend we did it again, this time going in a more Mediterranean direction: braised octopus, roasted eggplant, whipped goat cheese, and homemade pita (that evening we went with martinis).
The paloma, featured here, is an easy, refreshing drink. Typically it includes tequila, but I like the slightly smoky notes the mezcal provides. A simpler version of the recipe can be made by using grapefruit soda instead of the fresh grapefruit juice, sugar and soda water, but if you have grapefruits on hand, I prefer this method.
Highball or rocks glass
1 lime wedge
1/4 ounce lime juice
2 ounces grapefruit juice
2 ounces mezcal (or tequila)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ounces soda water
1 grapefruit wedge, for garnish
1. To rim the glass, pour salt onto a plate. Rub the rim of the glass with the lime wedge and then dip the rim into the salt, spin slowly until rim is lightly coated in salt.
2. Pour lime juice, grapefruit juice, mezcal and sugar into a glass. Using a spoon, stir until sugar has dissolved. Fill glass with ice cubes and top with soda water.
One might think that a gin and tonic is impossible to mess up. And on a level that's true. But a well-made one has a good amount of lime, at least two ounces of gin (no less, maybe a little more) and is topped with tonic (ideally without HFCS or quinine). Like any good cocktail, you don't want any one ingredient overpowering the others, so the proportions are key. This is what's consumed most on the Cape, often as we prepare dinner and watch the sunset over the lake. Now, I don't like to mess with a good thing, but I had this idea of adding a few more ingredients. We had some leftover Thai basil in the fridge and a few cucumbers and I thought that if there were any two ingredients that could possibly make a G+T even more enjoyable to drink, it'd be these. It works beautifully together and, as I suspected, these are very easy to sip on.
Cucumber Thai Basil Gin and Tonic
2 oz gin
1 thickly cut slice of cucumber, peeled and chopped into a few pieces
Juice of 1/2 a lime
2 Thai basil leaves, ripped into pieces
Thai basil, for garnish
Pour the lime juice and gin into the highball glass. Add the cucumber and Thai basil and muddle for 30 seconds, until the they've broken up and the cucumber has released juices.
Fill 3/4 of the way with ice cubes. Fill the remainder of the glass with tonic. Garnish with a bunch of Thai basil.