We’re a gin household. Well, and bourbon. And rum. Ok, and tequila and mezcal. Pretty much all forms of wine and spirits are welcome. That is, however, except for vodka. We’ve always had a bottle in the cabinet, but I don’t remember the last time it’s been put to use. But here we are with a vodka cocktail. And it’s one that I quite enjoyed preparing (and, of course, consuming). It all started with an offer from Prairie Organic Spirits to see if I’d like to try a sample. Well, yes, I was up for giving it a go. Even before it arrived, I knew the direction I wanted to take the drink in. Years ago, friends/bartenders of mine put together a beet cocktail that totally impressed me. You think that beets, with their strong earthy (read: dirty) notes, especially in their raw/juiced form, wouldn’t do well in a cocktail. When paired with lemon juice and a touch of sweetness, however, the whole thing came to life.
That one was a red beet cocktail, but seeing that we only had golden beets in our fridge, I went with those. I got the juicer going and out came a beautiful yellow liquid. Finished off with some lemon juice and rosemary simple syrup, there are some really bright and rich flavors here. While the vodka doesn’t stand out, I’m not sure any other spirit would do as well paired with those ingredients.There’s a bit more creaminess to this vodka than you find in others, which gives a little body to the drink. Yes, it’s neutral. But in this case, that’s a good thing.
My cooking style, I’ve come to realize, is free-form. I prefer to let the ingredients, specifically what I already have in the fridge and pantry, direct me. This is where the magic happens. How fun it is to watch a random assortment of items turn into a flavorful dish. These often aren’t planned, just things that I whip together.
The remains of our food coop produce result in the most interesting creations. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going when I pulled the pointed cabbage out of the fridge. As I studied it, I was reminded of a warm romaine salad we had in New Orleans that left us wowed. As I quartered the cabbage, I realized that I could play off this idea. The cast iron skillet came out (yup, I used the stove despite it being a whopping 92 degrees outside). After a light drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, they were charred on each side. I let them simmer on the stove, covered, while I put the cashew dressing together (my first go at it… and I’m hooked). It couldn’t hurt to serve this alongside some grilled meat or fish, but to keep things a bit lighter (who wants to eat heavy food in this heat?), I put together a platter of grilled vegetables and that, along with a bottle of rosé, made for a truly satisfying summer dinner.