It’s time for summer cocktails. This weekend I did a little experimenting with some of my favorite flavors and came up with what I think is a pretty delightful little summer cooler.
Here’s what you need to make a pitcher (serves 4):
8 peach tea bags 3 cups water 1 large handful of mint 4-5 ripe peaches or plums cut up into small pieces Juice of 1/2 lemon 4 shots Cointreau (or other citrus liqueur) 1 bottle (25 oz) sweet or semi-sweet wine ice
Steep the tea bags in the water overnight in the fridge. You want the tea to be strong. In a small jar or cocktail shaker, put ice in with the lemon, mint, and Cointreau. Shake the mix to release the mint flavor and use the strainer to add the liquid to the tea. Add the fruit. Top off with the wine and stir.
Pour into glasses filled with ice, making sure to get some peaches into every cup, garnish with fresh mint.
Carrot, mint, and cilantro salad is paired with blueberry croissant bread pudding because sometimes no one cares about the mains.
When it’s hot outside, the best parts about the meal are the bookends. So today I’ll be sharing a not-boring summer salad and an easy dessert.
First up: A salad with carrot, radishes, cucumber, mint, and cilantro with feta, cashews, honey and sesame oil. This is a great slaw alternative and can be paired with grilled steaks or BBQ chicken.
Grate 3-4 carrots and 2-3 radishes into a bowl. Chop one medium cucumber into bite sized pieces. Chop up a handful of each of the herbs. Add those to the bowl and crumble in 1/2 cup of feta. Add a handful of the cashews (you can chop them or keep them whole, as you prefer). Drizzle in 1/2 tablespoon of honey, a splash or two of balsamic vinegar (or lemon), salt and pepper, and a teaspoon of sesame oil. Stir it up, and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. Then taste it and adjust the seasonings to your preference.
Got other veggies like shredded cabbage or broccoli? Maybe some strawberries? Toss them in. Green onions are great in this as well. Sub in sunflower seeds, pepitas, almonds, or walnuts instead of cashews. There are endless variations, based on what you have in your fridge. You could also add in some jalapeños for a little heat.
I love the fresh herbs in this salad—they add a beautiful brightness. Honey adds sweetness, and the feta does triple duty for salt, fat, and acid. The nuts contribute a texture variant, as well as a flavor carrier fat.
And now, blueberry croissant bread pudding. Cook immediately or prep the night before (and store in the fridge) and serve this as a French toast casserole for Sunday morning breakfast.
1 cup fresh blueberries (or any berry you have) 4-6 large stale croissants torn 5 eggs 1 1/2 cups milk (can also use half and half or cream) 3/4 cup sugar 1 tablespoon vanilla 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon salt
Other stuff you can use: 1 teaspoon orange zest 1-2 tablespoons Grand Marnier 1-2 tablespoons Maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350F. Distribute croissants and blueberries in a buttered baking dish that will fit everything.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Pour over croissants and let stand for 10 minutes (or in the refrigerator overnight). Press down lightly to ensure all the bread is soaked through.
Prepare a bain marie (water bath). I use a square Pyrex dish for the casserole and a larger rectangular Pyrex dish for the water bath. Be sure the smaller dish fits inside the larger one. Place it in and fill the outside dish with up to 1 inch of water. Cover the entire set up with foil and poke a few holes to vent.
Cook for 45 minutes with the foil on. Then remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 20-25 minutes.
If you are intimidated by the idea of a water bath or don’t have anything that will work, don’t sweat it. Put your oven at 375F and cook the pudding for 25-30 minutes. The water bath yields a silkier pudding texture, but you’ll still get a great result.
Now cut yourself a nice big slice and pour a generous cup of coffee.