Sunday, October 27, 2013

Autumn Pot Roasted Lemon, Fennel and Garlic Chicken

Sometimes a simple pot roast or roasted chicken is just what the doctor ordered for a relaxing Sunday. Something easy to throw in the oven while you're busy around the house or the yard can't be beat. A one pot wonder!

I got to thinking, why not "pot roast" a chicken? No reason why not to at all, so that's exactly what went on the menu. I still had a fennel bulb and one lone leek in the veggie drawer...sounded like a good start to me. Sliced leeks, fennel and whole garlic cloves went into my enameled cast iron Dutch oven before anything else. 

Then I created a mixture of softened butter, more garlic, lemon zest, finely chopped fennel fronds and my secret ingredient, fennel pollen. (You remember fennel pollen, don't you? Here's the link again!) Rubbed and massaged between the skin and breast of the chicken to intensify the flavor (and to keep the bird nice and moist), the flavored butter became the next layer of flavor.

Why stop there, though? Those long celery-like stalks of fennel - you know, the ones that stick out from the bulb - went into the cavity of the chicken along with a well-pierced whole lemon to further infuse the chicken with flavor...this time from the inside out. 

Once in the oven, the fennel-y, lemon-y, garlic-y, chicken-y aroma emanating from the oven repeatedly led us into the kitchen by our noses! 

Part way through the roasting, tiny potatoes were added to make it almost a complete meal. Beets - roasted separately but in the same oven at the same time was the only other thing that was added to the meal. Okay...and a green salad. 

Don't you just love a simple, yet very special Sunday dinner? Me, too. Especially when that one-pot-wonder Sunday dinner was simply delicious! 

Autumn Pot Roasted Lemon, Fennel and 
Garlic Chicken

  • 5-6 pound roasting chicken

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 cup fennel, fronds only, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fennel pollen - see below for link to buy this magical stuff!
  • zest of one lemon - then juice and reserve the naked lemon - set the juice aside

  • 1 leek, sliced in half lengthwise, washed thoroughly and sliced across into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, stalks cut off and reserved, stem end cut off, bulb cut in half lengthwise and sliced across
  • 1 garlic bulb, Separated into cloves, peeled and smashed, make 2 piles of the smashed garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, small ones - cut in half if larger

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Remove the guts from a whole roasting chicken - rinse in cold water and dry well with paper towels. Set aside.

Fennel garlic butter: Put the softened butter, fennel, lemon zest, garlic, kosher salt & pepper and fennel pollen into the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined, stopping and pushing the contents down as necessary. Set butter aside.

Pile the leeks, half the garlic cloves and sliced fennel bulb into the bottom of a covered roaster or enameled cast iron Dutch oven. (I use a deep oval one that holds the chicken perfectly.)

Loosen the skin on the breast of the chicken by gently running your fingers between the flesh and the skin to loosen - be gentle so the skin doesn't tear. Rub about 2-3 T. of the fennel butter under the skin on one side of the breast and do the same with another 2-3 T. of the butter (more or less) on the other side. Rub what's left of the butter over the outside of the bird all over the breast and legs. Squeeze the lemon you used for the lemon zest over top of all.

Roast the chicken UNcovered at 450 for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes all around the chicken, put the lid on, lower the temperature to 350 degrees and roast another hour. Remove lid and continue roasting until the chicken is lightly browned. 

Let rest. Remove chicken from pot onto a large serving platter, lift the veggies out with a slotted spoon and arrange them around the chicken. Carve and serve!

NOTE: Want more veggies? Feel free to add carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, onions...whatever strikes your fancy. It's a pot roast! There aren't many rules where pot roasts are concerned now, are there? 

Friday, October 25, 2013

One for the Weekend - Fennel, Lemon & Hendrick's

When one is in possession of lacy, fragrant fennel fronds - those that weren't needed for soup - one simply does NOT throw them away! No the house of Dinner Plan-it, they become simple syrup for a delicate, anise-y gin cocktail to sip and savor with friends. Of course!

Why Hendrick's? Although juniper is definitely part of the ingredients equation, this gin is not overpowered by a juniper jolt. Hendrick's alluring botanical Bulgarian rose and light cucumber notes are
so graceful they don't crush the nuance of fennel and fresh lemon components in the cocktail. Well, that and I just really like Hendrick's!

Fennel-y, gin-y, just a light lift of lemon...cheers to the weekend!

Fennel, Lemon & Hendrick's

  • 2 ounces Hendrick's
  • 1/2 ounce fennel simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • a nice wedge of lemon
  • a strip of fresh lemon zest for garnish
  •  a small fennel frond for garnish, too

In a cocktail tin, add Hendrick's, fennel simple syrup and the juice of a nice wedge of lemon. Add ice 3/4 of the way up the tin, cap tightly and shake vigorously until the tin is frosted.

Strain into a coupe or favorite glass and garnish with the lemon strip and fennel frond. Cheers!

Fennel Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 - 1 cup fresh fennel fronds from a bulb of fennel

In a small pot, bring water and sugar to a boil and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the fennel fronds and stir down into the syrup. Remove from heat and let sit until the mixture is cool. 

Pour the cooled syrup through a strainer into a jar or bottle and refrigerate. Keeps 1-2 weeks in the fridge. Try it in iced tea or in an iced glass of soda or seltzer with a little lemon. Yum!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Cowboy and the Dude Coffee-Rubbed Smoked Babybacks (Oven-style!)

Imagine the scene. A cattle ranch in the old west. Nearing nighttime. A sole coyote howls at the low-slung moon. Riding herd among the softly lowing cattle, cowboys come across a stranded wagon with a lone, derbied, pinstripe-suited, mustachioed gentleman who is clearly out of his element, sitting balefully upon a broken wheel. The cowhands take pity on the dude, fix his wagon and invite him to dine around the campfire that evening.

The only thing the stranded traveler has to contribute to dinner is some mighty fancy coffee...he IS a dude, after all. The cowboys scoff at his maple cinnamon coffee. REAL men don't drink that sissy stuff and they turn up their noses. The cook, on the other hand, has an idea!

Cook added that fancy-ass ground coffee to his rib rub. Eureka! Those cowboys were amazed by the most incredible ribs they'd ever wrapped their lips around. 

The cowboys whooped and hollered, lifted the dude onto their shoulders and danced a little jig around the campfire under the starlit prairie skies. They were so happy! on a cattle drive there wouldn't be pork ribs. I'm sure there were beef ribs, though. The end. 

The Cowboy and the Dude
Coffee-Rubbed Smoked Babybacks

  • 1/4 cup ground maple cinnamon coffee (I get mine at Nicholas Coffee in Market Square) - if you can't get maple cinnamon, use a similar flavored coffee...pecan cinnamon, pumpkin get the idea, DUDE coffee!
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Colmans mustard powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 rack babyback pork ribs, silverskin removed (check online for a method to perform this maneuver...Google's easy, but complicated to describe)

In a small bowl, mix all rub ingredients well - I mash mine together with a fork. 

Massage 1/2 of the rub into one side of the ribs, the other half on the other side of the ribs. Do this at least 4 hours before or overnight. Wrap them well in plastic wrap.

The next day, bring them to room temp and set the oven to 325 degrees. 

Take the plastic wrap off the ribs, rewrap them in heavy duty aluminum foil and seal well. Put the foil-wrapped ribs into a large roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet that will comfortably hold the ribs. Cook for 3 hours or until tender, just shy of falling off the bone. Remove from oven; open the foil, exposing the ribs completely.

Raise the oven temp to 400 degrees, put the ribs back in and let 'er rip for half an hour. Cowboy campfire goodness from the oven. YeeHAW!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chilled Fennel Leek Soup With Lemon

When you think of seasonal fall veggies, what's your first thought? Cabbage? Acorn or butternut squash? Maybe sweet potatoes? What about one of my favorite fall veggies, fennel? Is fennel even in your top 10? Whoa! You're not familiar with fennel? Okay, maybe you know it as anise since it goes by both names. (A veggie with an aka?! Is there a veggie witness protection program? What has fennel done?!)

Even if you haven't actually tried it, I hope you've at least noticed the bulbous, celery-like, ferny-topped pretty veg in the produce aisle. Did you get close up enough to get a good whiff? Licorice! At least a nicely mild licorice scent. It tastes gently licorice-y, too.

Raw, fennel has the almost the same crunch of celery and resembles the cooked texture of celery. A fresh raw fennel salad is wonderful with buttery greens and a nice fennel/orange vinaigrette...with maybe a few sliced, toasted and salted almonds over the top. My friend, Marti, makes a fabulous fennel gratin! that appeared here in May of 2012. 

This time, it was soup I had in mind. Specifically, a nice chilled cream of fennel soup with leeks, brightened with just a squeeze of lemon before serving. One nice thing about making this cream soup ahead is you end up having a choice. serve it chilled like vichyssoise or warm? Our warm October day made the choice an easy one - chilled!

Since fennel is such a subtle flavor, it was the perfect opportunity to use one of my new favorite spices, fennel pollen. It really amps up the fennel volume. You know how heat intensifies flavor and releases more of the bouquet of a soup, chilled soups often need just a little more oomph of flavor. That's where the lemon came in, too. A little squeeze of fresh lemon just before serving took the flavors over the top!

Next time you see fennel in the produce aisle or at you local farmers market, pick it up, inhale the sweet scent and give it a try. Oh...and those beautiful fronds? Use them for a garnish or chopped in salads or make fennel simple syrup. It makes for a lovely cocktail! Just wait and see in a few days when my fennel syrup is done and gets together with a little gin! See you then.

Chilled Fennel Leek Soup With Lemon

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 cups leeks, sliced almost to stem end lengthwise into quarters, run under water while fanning out the leaves, being sure to wash all sand and dirt from top to bottom - pat dry and slice across into about 1/4" pieces - I used 3 leeks
  • 4 cups fennel bulbs - remove the stalks and fronds, remove any tough outer layers, slice in half lengthwise and cut into slivers - I used 3 medium bulbs - be sure to reserve the fronds for garnishes and other uses
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup potato flakes, be sure it's a gluten-free brand to make this GF (Why potato flakes? They thicken the soup without using of my favorite tricks for thickening soups and still keeping it gluten-free!)
  • 1/16 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Tabasco sauce, just a couple drops or so for zing
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chicken soup base - similar to bouillon, but not as salty
  • 1 teaspoon fennel pollen, plus more for garnish

In a large, heavy soup pot, melt the butter, then add the leeks, fennel and garlic. Cook and stir over low until the veggies are very soft. Add the stock, bring to boil and lower to a simmer. Cover and cook until the veggies are VERY soft. Remove from heat.

Cool slightly, then buzz with a stick blender until smooth. Check the bottom of the stick blender occasionally. If the bottom gets clogged with fibers from the veggies, pull them out and discard them. I had to do that a couple of times.

Once the soup is smooth, return to low heat and add the half & half, potato flakes, nutmeg, Tabasco, soup base and fennel pollen. Stir well with a whisk or wooden spoon. - you don't need the stick blender here! Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, adjust the seasonings - add salt only if necessary. Whisk well and ladle into bowls if you're serving the soup chilled. Warm it up if you want it hot...your decision...both equally yum!

If serving chilled, garnish with a fennel frond or chopped fennel, a pinch of fennel pollen and a squeeze of lemon. Enjoy!

NOTE: If you want the soup extra silky and creamy, after pureeing the soup with the stick blender, put the soup through a food mill. I don't think it's necessary...I like a bit of texture!

NOTE 2: If you use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock, you've got a vegetarian soup!

NOTE 3: You can get fennel pollen online at Gourmet Delights. LOVE this site! (That's where I get my truffle salt, too!)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Puppy Chow

Look who is back (guest appearance?!) with a sweet and crunchy snack recipe that's easy to make and satisfies every pumpkin spice, fall-ish flavor craving that comes right along with October. Kimber brought us a twist on an old favorite...Pumpkin Spice Puppy Chow!

I know it's been a while since I've contributed anything to Dinner Plan-it.  You know, life has been a little crazy between work and getting ready for my first NPC bikini competition.  With all the intense workouts and pre-competition meal prepping going on...and not the fun creative meals that I usually like...I had to make time for a little fun time mixing it up with spices!! 
I did something to torture myself this week, I made Pumpkin Spiced Puppy Chow. Mind you it is pretty much fall and I could eat pumpkin anything and everything and Puppy Chow is a long time favorite of mine!  I have not been able to even taste this with my prep going on, but I made a batch for work and another batch for a friend's birthday. You know what? One recipient thinks he may like this one even better than the original! 

I took my mom's recipe for puppy chow and kind of mixed that up with ideas for all sorts of pumpkin spice things out there. But come on, no matter what spices and ingredients you add or delete, it is and will always be puppy chow!
All tied up and ready to go - Pumpkin Spice Puppy Chow!
Pumpkin Spice Puppy Chow

  • 1/2 Stick Butter
  • 1 1/2 cup Trader Joe's cookie butter - or other cookie butter ( I just used the whole jar, and it was approx 1.5 cups) 
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 17.9 box Crispix
  • 1 lb box powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups Reese's Pieces

Melt butter in saucepan, add cookie butter and pumpkin pie spice; stir until smooth.  Add chips and stir until melted, then stir in vanilla. 

Using plastic trash bag or other VERY large clean plastic bag, put 1/2 box of powdered sugar in the bottom, then cereal, then cookie butter mixture and then the rest of the powdered sugar and Reese's Pieces.  Shake and knead the bag until cereal is well-coated; cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy until you pumpkin heart is content!

Now that you've had a chance to see Kimber's original recipe, here's a gluten-free version. I tried to give the same flavor as the cookie butter (cookie butter is NOT gluten-free) only without the COOKIE part of cookie butter...hence, the use of almond butter and extra spices. 

(For those of you unfamiliar with cookie butter, it's the new hot item in hip grocery aisles. Basically, it's a spreadable "butter" made with almondy-y, ginger-y, caramel-y speculos cookies. What's not to love?!)

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Puppy Chow

  • 1/2 Stick butter
  • 1 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup finely minced crystallized ginger
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons powdered ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 12 ounce package white chocolate chips
  • 1 lb box powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups Reese's Pieces
  • 15 ounce box of gluten-free Chex - rice or corn variety

Melt butter in saucepan, add almond butter, crystallized ginger and spices; stir until smooth.  Add chips and stir until melted. 

Using plastic trash bag or other large clean plastic bag, put 1/2 box of powdered sugar in the bottom, then cereal, then the almond butter mixture and then the rest of the powdered sugar and Reese's Pieces. 

Shake and knead the bag until cereal is well-coated and let cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Like Kimber said...enjoy until your little pumpkin heart is content!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Apple Caraway Sauerkraut Slaw

It's been a while since I've done a quickie - fast to make with a few ingredients - a few words to tell about it. It's time!
Apple Caraway Sauerkraut Slaw is perfectly designed for Autumn. As fall is a segue between warm and cold weather, this slaw combines a fresh and crunchy summer cabbage slaw with sweet apples and tart cool weather sauerkraut.  The essence of autumn in a slaw, for sure.

Instead of a creamy dressing, a vinegar, sugar and honey dressing accents the mix. There's not much vinegar needed in the dressing compared to the amount of sugar and honey - sauerkraut helps to balance what might initially seem like too much sweetness. 

Can't you just imagine this tart/sweet treat on top of a beautifully browned brat or hot dog OR as a spiffy side dish?! Yeah, me too. With no further adieu....enjoy!

 Apple Caraway Sauerkraut Slaw

  • 4 cups store-bought coleslaw mix
  • 1/2 green pepper, slivered into 3/4" pieces
  • 3/4 cup store-bought sauerkraut
  • 1 small tart apple, skin on, cut into slivers

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey - you know I like my organic orange blossom honey!
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds

Combine all the dressing ingredients. Set aside.

Combine all the slaw ingredients. Pour dressing over slaw. Mix very well. Serve.

That's it!

Told you it was a quickie!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Grilled Apple, Bacon & Swiss Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Looking at the abundance of apple orchards in Pittsburgh's North Hills, it clearly appears that Johnny Appleseed  traversed our hillocks, hummocks and slopes long ago, all the while leaving the fruits of his labors for many future generations. If not literally descended from Mr. Appleseed, the Shenots, Soergels, Kaelins, Reillys (to name just a few) have done an outstanding job of being the next best thing to old Johnny and his sack of seeds. Our North Hills are covered with apple orchards!

There is nothing like a fresh-from-the-farm apple, especially if it's from one of those just-mentioned local farms. Such an apple stands heads and shoulders above the long-stored, sometimes mealy and dry variety that has been shipped across country to a nearby grocery store. Hooray for local apples!!!! 

Now that apple season is here...and you know it's ALWAYS grilling season(!)...I thought it was time to combine the two. 

Pondering a way to stuff grilled chicken breasts with tart, sweet apples, the other components of the dish naturally fell into place. A melange of diced apple, onion, crisp bacon, shredded Swiss cheese and stoneground mustard was mounded into the center of each butterflied chicken breast, then secured with toothpicks and then onto the grill. A nice slow flame insured both the inside of the chicken AND the stuffing cooked through without singeing!

Then...and only then...the outside was basted with a combo of honey, balsamic vinegar, Kosher salt and stoneground mustard...just enough sweet, sour and tangy to echo and accent the sweet and savory stuffing.

Although I used Granny Smith apples, you can use your very own favorite variety. Later in the season - after the first frost, my absolute all time fave apple is the crunchy sweet and tart Stayman Winesap. Maybe the apple that's dearest to your heart is a Honeycrisp or a Jonagold, maybe an old fashioned McIntosh tickles your fancy...or even the classic Red Delicious or a Fuji or a Gala or....I could go on and on. 

If a trip out to the suburbs is on your to-do list for the weekend, be sure to stop by the farm market to load up on all the bounty apple season has to offer. Johnny Appleseed would approve!

Grilled Apple, Bacon & Swiss 
Stuffed Chicken Breasts

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely minced
  • 4 slices bacon, crisped & crumbled
  • 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon stoneground mustard
  • 1/3 cup Granny Smith or similar tart, crisp apple - peeled, cored, diced medium fine - still some chunkiness to them

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - butterflied and opened like a book

Basting sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons stoneground mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat a skillet over medium heat and melt butter. Add onion and saute until softened. Add the crisp crumbled bacon, chopped apple and mustard. Remove from heat and add cheese. Mix just to combine. Set aside.

Mix the basting sauce - mustard, honey, balsamic vinegar and salt and set aside.

Open the butterflied chicken breasts and evenly divide the stuffing among the breasts, firmly mounding the stuffing along the inside seam. Fold the breasts over the filling, compacting the filling as you go. Secure the edges with toothpicks to keep all the goodness inside.

Preheat the grill. Grill the breasts over indirect heat until each is thoroughly cooked all the way through, making sure the stuffing is cooked through, as well. Once the breasts are done, baste with sauce on both sides and grill until browned, but don't let them burn.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Brunch Time Tomato Shrub Spritzer

My nearly 48 year obsession with that tomato-based brunch cocktail known as a Bloody Mary has taken a new twist. Still tomato-based, still using vodka....but instead of a heavy tomato juice I used a bit of tomato shrub I made from an overabundance of tomatoes from a recent CSA pickup.

Picture this. A tall glass of ice, a little vodka (or maybe a wee bit more), a touch of beautiful tomato pink shrub, a hint of Tabasco and a bare splash of seltzer...voila! Who knew that traditional brunch cocktail could be made light and refreshing?! Okay Will Groves...YOU did. Thank you Will Groves, Butterjoint and the Pittsburgh Cocktail Week class I took at this very fine establishment!

What's a shrub, you ask? It's a simple method of preserving fresh fruits - and sometimes vegetables or herbs - in a sugar and vinegar solution. The shrub can then be used in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and vinaigrettes. You know...I bet it might make a mighty fine drizzle over roasted or grilled chicken, too. I'll have to give that one a shot! It's basically one of the methods employed, before the age of modern refrigerators and freezers, to save the freshness and flavor of summer.

Now why would a craft cocktail bar have an interest in preserving? Because Butterjoint is the bar inside of Pittsburgh's North Oakland restaurant, Legume. Owner of both Legume and Butterjoint, Chef Trevett Hooper is renowned for his expertise in preserving - particularly pickling. The fruits of his passion grace the menu at Legume throughout the year. Will Groves, Bar Manger at Butterjoint, serves up an array of very creative cocktails made of some intriguing shrubs and other pickling products he and Chef Trevett have made throughout the year.

Chef Hooper shares his knowledge on a regular basis via hands-on classes right in the restaurant kitchen. The post on Dinner Plan-it last year at the sauerkraut makingclass? That was at Legume with Chef Trevett at the helm! So you know it's only natural then that the bar side, and Will, shares knowledge and expertise, too. Education is part of the DNA at Legume and Butterjoint!

The shrub class? The bar was packed with eager learners, all in our places (with bright shiny faces), each student equipped with a bar glass of papery-husked ground cherries, a deli container of pineapple pieces submerged in sugar and another deli container of vinegar produced by none other than Chef Trevett and his staff. 

We husked ground cherries and plopped the freed fruit into a glass while Chef and Will spoke about preserving methods, the varieties of shrubs and pickles they make at Legume and Butterjoint and various uses for the resultant pickled products. Then we got down to business.

Ground cherries, sugar and pineapple were laboriously crushed together into a sweet, juicy pulp with aid of the biggest muddler I've ever seen. Almost the size of a baseball bat...well, a kid's bat anyway...the job was done quickly and efficiently. 

Next we.......put lids on the vinegar and the pulpy mass and took it all home! The next steps were undertaken several hours later instead of in class. And then again several hours after that. And then some aging was in store. You see time, patience and waiting is involved in a good shrub. According to Chef Trevett, the purpose of preserving is to "capture moments of time." So well said.

Baseball bat or muddler...YOU be the judge.

The bottled result of our labors were beautiful. And delicious! So good, in fact, the next day I put up a batch of tomato shrub and a separate batch of tomato basil shrub. My friends Jenn and Michael of the blog 101 Achievements (who were seated next to me at the bar for the class) were inspired to make tomato shrub and prune plum shrub. Yes, shrubs are that good and that easy to whip up! Another bonus of making shrubs is that it can be made with less than perfect fruit since you're just going to smash it all up anyway.

Confession time here...I didn't wait the entire recommended time to try my tomato shrub.  (You're not surprised, are you?) Without waiting for the aging and mellowing, it still made for a perfect brunch cocktail that tickled the palate with a tart, sweet, lightly vinegary, tomato-y and energizing zinginess. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to go cold turkey on my old favorite Bloody Marys. How very nice, though, to have something new in my arsenal of Sunday brunch cocktails that's both old and familiar, yet new and deliciously different at the same time. You know, it just might be time to have a few friends over for brunch...and new cocktails!

Brunch Time Tomato Shrub Spritzer

  • 2 ounces tomato or tomato basil shrub - more or less to your own liking
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • a few drops of Tabasco - more or less to taste (more for me, please!)
  • a splash or 2 of seltzer or club soda
  • ice

In a tall glass filled 3/4 of the way with ice, stir together everything but the seltzer or club soda. When it's well combined, add a splash or two of soda or seltzer, give a gentle stir and garnish. Serve with a straw. 

Tomato Shrub

  • 8 ounces coarsely chopped very ripe tomatoes
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 8 ounces organic vinegar - cider vinegar works nicely, but you can vary this according to your tastes...rice wine vinegar or champagne vinegar would work beautifully
  • (optional) a couple of fresh basil leaves torn and mixed in with the tomatoes at the beginning
Put tomatoes in a plastic or glass wide container, add the sugar on top and just let it sit, undisturbed and unstirred for several hours until the juices are drawn from the tomatoes and the sugar becomes wet.

Muddle the tomatoes and sugar until well incorporated. Cover securely. Let sit for 4 hours. Stir or shake and add the vinegar. Stir well, cover and let stand for at least 12 hours and up to 2 days. Strain out the solids with a fine mesh sieve, pour the liquid into a clean jar or bottle and refrigerate at least 5 days to mellow. After that, it's ready to use in cocktails, sodas or whatever your heart desires.

Check out more shrub recipes online and enjoy! OR...look for a shrub class at Legume or Butterjoint and get there!