The Kingston Club Cocktail #thirstythursdays

The Kingston Club. A fruity but restrained tiki drink with Drambuie, Fernet Branca, pineapple, and lime topped with fizzy water and an orange twist. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For the month of October, it’s #thirstythursdays on the blog. I’ll be featuring a drink recipe every Thursday. So far, I’ve written about the Bitter Giuseppe, a cocktail with Cynar and sweet vermouth, the Perfect Pear, a fruity sweet-tart cocktail using pear brandy, and the Martinez cocktail, a well-balanced spirit-forward cocktail with Old Tom gin. Next up: a visit to the world of tiki drinks with the Kingston Club cocktail, a fruity, tropical drink with Drambuie, Fernet Branca, pineapple, and lime.

We closed! We are officially owners of a condo on a quiet tree-lined street within walking distance of Lake Michigan and many of our favorite shops and restaurants. We love our neighborhood and are thrilled to be able to stay here.

The Kingston Club. A fruity but restrained tiki drink with Drambuie, Fernet Branca, pineapple, and lime topped with fizzy water and an orange twist. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

We still have the dreaded moving to do. I’ve been trying to reframe it in my head. I woke up early yesterday before our closing and nudged Dan and whispered “wake up, it’s Christmas!”. But really, I don’t think the closing day was Christmas, I think that comes on Saturday when we wake up in our new place to a tremendous pile of packages just waiting to be opened.

The Kingston Club. A fruity but restrained tiki drink with Drambuie, Fernet Branca, pineapple, and lime topped with fizzy water and an orange twist. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netThe Kingston Club. A fruity but restrained tiki drink with Drambuie, Fernet Branca, pineapple, and lime topped with fizzy water and an orange twist. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I think we might even be able to act surprised when we open them. We started packing over a month ago, and even though we’ve labeled the boxes, there is always some guesswork involved (yes, the box says “BOOKS” but, which books?) and some creative sorting and combining of disparate items for reasons involving weight and volume, that result in things like the ever popular box of pots and pans and yoga mats.

The Kingston Club. A fruity but restrained tiki drink with Drambuie, Fernet Branca, pineapple, and lime topped with fizzy water and an orange twist. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netThe Kingston Club. A fruity but restrained tiki drink with Drambuie, Fernet Branca, pineapple, and lime topped with fizzy water and an orange twist. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

We’re only part of the way through what is a very long week. So it’s a quick one today.

This cocktail comes from Jeffrey Morgenthaler. He’s pretty much a genius when it comes to mixing drinks. He has a new book that I can’t wait to get my hands on. It’s not just a book of drink recipes, it’s really a primer on cocktail techniques.

If you want to get a better understanding of the whys and hows of shaking and stirring and what role ice plays in the chilling and diluting of drinks, this is the book for you.

The Kingston Club. A fruity but restrained tiki drink with Drambuie, Fernet Branca, pineapple, and lime topped with fizzy water and an orange twist. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The Kingston Club is a tiki drink, a category of cocktails that tends to rely heavily on rum and tropical fruits and has been making quite a comeback in the last couple of years. Tiki drinks can easily cross the line from pleasantly fruity to overbearingly sweet, which is why I used to give them a wide berth.

But this drink is restrained on the sweetness front. Instead of rum, it uses Drambuie and fresh pineapple and lime juices and just a small splash of Fernet Branca for an herbaceous complexity and a few dashes of Angostura bitters for a hint of warm baking spices. It gets topped with some soda water for subtle effervescence and a twist of orange peel for that lovely sweet citrusy fragrance.

It’s a drink that feels both familiar and surprising. And I just love it.

The Kingston Club. A fruity but restrained tiki drink with Drambuie, Fernet Branca, pineapple, and lime topped with fizzy water and an orange twist. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netThe Kingston Club. A fruity but restrained tiki drink with Drambuie, Fernet Branca, pineapple, and lime topped with fizzy water and an orange twist. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netThe Kingston Club. A fruity but restrained tiki drink with Drambuie, Fernet Branca, pineapple, and lime topped with fizzy water and an orange twist. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The Kingston Club

Adapted from Jeffrey Morgethaler

This tiki drink is fruity but not too sweet. The sweetness of the pineapple is balanced with the sour of the lime juice and the herbal notes from the Fernet Branca. To make fresh pineapple juice without a juicer, you can puree pineapple chunks in a blender and then strain out the pulp with a fine mesh strainer. For squeezing limes, this is my weapon of choice. I prefer shaking drinks in a two-piece metal shaker, which is so much easier to open than the three-piece cobbler shakers you may be more familiar with.

1 1/2 ounces Drambuie
1 1/2 ounces pineapple juice
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon Fernet Branca
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Top with: soda water
Garnish: orange twist
Glass: Collins

Add the Drambuie, pineapple juice, lime juice, Fernet, and Angostura bitters to an ice-filled shaker. Shake until cold. Strain into an ice-filled collins glass and top with soda water and a twist of orange peel. Serve immediately.

Yield: one cocktail.

October Favorites

October in Chicago. From Blossom to Stem www.blossomtostem.net

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Listening:

Have you listened to Serial yet? It’s every bit as compelling as you’d expect longform true crime reporting from This American Life’s Sarah Koenig to be.

Speaking of longform journalism and podcasts, the Longform podcast is great if you like hearing articulate writers talk about writing and reporting. I recently enjoyed episode with historical gossip reporter Anne Helen Petersen. (Also, looking forward to her book.)

The self-titled album from Sylvan Esso. Ear candy.

Reading:

Amy Gerstler’s meditation on the elegiac form.

Sarah Miller’s honest, thoughtful and provocative essay on how cooking is the worst.

The Toast’s “The Internet: A Glossary” (you read The Toast, right?)

Watching:

Jill Soloway’s messy, funny, human Transparent (streaming on Amazon Prime).

Veronica Mars, a show I somehow didn’t really watch until now. Not sure what I was waiting for. Light enough to watch after a long day of packing, but still filled with brilliant bits of dialogue, lovable characters, and narrative surprises (streaming on Amazon Prime).

I can’t get enough of documentaries about design and craftsmanship. How to Make a Book with Steidl is a particularly delightful one (streaming on Netflix).

(And you’ve watched both seasons of The Bletchley Circle, right? I mean, you love historical drama featuring brilliant women solving crimes, right? [streaming on Netflix].)

Miscellania:

Brief internet diversion, how liberal or conservative is your first name? (Mine is just slightly liberal.)

My new MOO MiniCards. (They are small. And cute.)

The new hourglass Weck Deli Jars. (I know I shouldn’t buy more jars, but these are such a lovely shape.)

The Martinez Cocktail #thirstythursdays

The Martinez Cocktail. A predecessor to the martini featuring Old Tom gin. Delicious! #thirstythursdays From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious

For the month of October, it’s #thirstythursdays on the blog. I’ll be featuring a drink recipe every Thursday. So far, I’ve written about the Bitter Giuseppe, a cocktail with Cynar and sweet vermouth and the Perfect Pear, a fruity sweet-tart cocktail using pear brandy. Next up: the Martinez cocktail, a predecessor to the Martini made with Old Tom gin.

So. Deep breath. We close on our condo in six days and move in eight. We’re getting to the nitty and, especially, the gritty parts of preparing for a move. I spent this morning cleaning out the refrigerator. We’re only moving a few blocks, so we don’t have to get rid of all of our perishables or even put chilled and frozen items in the freezer in order to transfer them to our new place.

The Martinez Cocktail. A predecessor to the martini featuring Old Tom gin. Delicious! #thirstythursdays From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious

But, probably like most people who cook frequently, we’ve acquired odd jars and bottles that have made their way to the back of the refrigerator shelf and been forgotten. Things have dripped and tipped over and left sticky residue in places. I tossed some almond oil I think I bought 3 years ago, a shriveled piece of ginger root that had migrated to the back of the cheese drawer, some moldy tamarind paste, and some mystery leftovers that I had forgotten months ago.

DSC_3558

It’s an ugly business. A task that requires tenacity and alacrity with dispatching the garbage.

And so, predictably, I find myself wanting to take a break from all of that unpleasantness and pour myself a drink.

The Martinez Cocktail. A predecessor to the martini featuring Old Tom gin. Delicious! #thirstythursdays From Blossom to Stem | Because DeliciousThe Martinez Cocktail. A predecessor to the martini featuring Old Tom gin. Delicious! #thirstythursdays From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious

This particular cocktail is one of my standbys. The Martinez is an old drink, a predecessor to the familiar Martini, made with Old Tom gin, a style of gin popular in the 19th century that predates the London dry style of gin that we find most commonly now. Old Tom gin has been experiencing a revival with many differing interpretations. I’m partial to Ransom Old Tom, which is sweeter and fuller bodied than London dry varieties and it’s brown in color because it’s aged in wine barrels. I think of it as a bridge between gin and whiskey.

The Martinez Cocktail. A predecessor to the martini featuring Old Tom gin. Delicious! #thirstythursdays From Blossom to Stem | Because DeliciousThe Martinez Cocktail. A predecessor to the martini featuring Old Tom gin. Delicious! #thirstythursdays From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious

I think of the Martinez as something more akin to a Manhattan than a Martini. Its base spirit is the Old Tom gin, which gets rounded out with sweet vermouth and a splash of maraschino liqueur, which is a clear dry liqueur made from tart cherries (that has nothing in common with the sweet neon cherries that top ice cream sundaes) and a few dashes of Angostura and orange bitters, which bring a hint of warm spices and fruitiness to the drink.

The Martinez Cocktail. A predecessor to the martini featuring Old Tom gin. Delicious! #thirstythursdays From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious

It all gets stirred with a barspoon, strained into a chilled coupe or old style martini glass, and garnished with a piece of lemon zest.

It is a drink I find remarkably equanimous. It’s not too sweet, not too tart, not too bitter, not too light, not too dark. It’s perfectly in balance. The Martinez is the default cocktail in our house. It’s a drink that Dan and I are never not in the mood for.

The Martinez Cocktail. A predecessor to the martini featuring Old Tom gin. Delicious! #thirstythursdays From Blossom to Stem | Because DeliciousThe Martinez Cocktail. A predecessor to the martini featuring Old Tom gin. Delicious! #thirstythursdays From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious

The Martinez Cocktail

Proportions from Cody Modeer of Ward Eight in Evanston

This cocktail is a regular one around these parts. It is a spirit-forward drink that’s perfectly balanced. Old Tom gin is making a comeback for a good reason. It’s sweeter and more full-bodied than the popular London dry style gins like Beefeater. This isn’t a place for Plymouth or Bombay Sapphire. I recommend Ransom Old Tom gin, an Oregon gin that is aged in pinot noir barrels, but I’ve had the drink made with Hayman’s Old Tom gin and enjoyed it that way as well. (Michigan’s Journeyman Distillery’s Bilberry Black Hearts Barrel Aged gin is not technically an Old Tom style, but the barrel-aging makes it work well in a drink like this.) Use any sweet vermouth you like. A big-flavored vermouth like Carpano Antica or Vya is especially lovely in this drink.

2 ounces Old Tom gin (preferably Ransom)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
3 dashes orange bitters (preferably Regan’s)
3 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
Garnish: lemon peel
Glass: coupe or martini

Add the Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino and both kinds of bitters to an ice-filled mixing glass (or mixing tin) and stir with a barspoon until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel. Serve immediately.

Yield: One cocktail

Sweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower

Sweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For much of my life, I was largely indifferent to cauliflower. It was something I might pick from a veggie tray if the carrots and cucumbers were gone. Raw, it was Bunnicula’s broccoli, sort of crunchy and faintly bitter. It was, I guess, okay.
Sweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I felt similarly about steamed cauliflower. It was milder and softer. It was fine. I’d eat it if it was put in front of me, but it wasn’t the sort of thing I felt compelled to make for myself.

And then I discovered roasted cauliflower, and my relationship with the palest of brassicas was no longer indifferent.
Sweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

When roasted, cauliflower, like Brussels sprouts or kale, transforms into something caramelized and nutty with deeply browned crispy edges. It’s so much better than okay or fine. It’s wonderful.

Since that discovery, cauliflower started making its way into my grocery basket on a regular basis. It’s lovely roasted with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, but roasted cauliflower plays so well with so many other flavors, that it seems a shame to limit it.

Sweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It’s lovely with Mediterranean flavors, like garlic and lemon and red pepper flakes, or Indian curry powders, or Middle Eastern notes like cumin and coriander.

Here, roasted cauliflower gets tossed in a sweet and spicy Korean barbecue sauce that’s usually used for Korean fried chicken. And this way it is, I think, utterly beguiling.

Sweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The sauce comes from Saveur and it involves gochujang and soy sauce and sesame oil and rice vinegar and generous amounts of garlic and ginger. It’s salty and sweet and spicy with loads of umami.

Sweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I could, perhaps, eat the sauce on its own. It’s the sort of sauce that I might, if no one is looking, swipe from the bottom of the bowl with my finger so I can have one more taste after I’ve eaten everything it was clinging to.

Sweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But, as good as it is on its own, somehow it tastes even better paired with the silky soft center and burnished edges of the roasted cauliflower.

Sweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It makes a fantastic side dish to something like Korean fried chicken, but it can also be bulked into a full vegetarian meal when topped with a crispy fried egg or served with cubes of yellow tofu with or without rice.

It’s the sort of preparation that doesn’t just make me want to eat my vegetables. It makes me want to devour them.

Sweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower. This addictive dish will convert the cauliflower skeptics. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Sweet and Spicy Korean Cauliflower

Korean barbecue sauce adapted from Saveur

This is one of my all time favorite ways to eat cauliflower. The sweet, spicy, salty, garlicky, gingery Korean sauce is so good with the nutty roasted cauliflower. Gochujang, a Korean red chili paste, can be found at most Asian grocery stores or online. If you wish to make this gluten free, use tamari instead of soy sauce and check the label on your gochujang (some contain wheat, some don’t). It is vegan if you use brown sugar or agave nectar instead of honey. You might want to double the sauce. It keeps well, and it’s delicious on chicken, eggs, tofu, and probably lots of other things as well.

1 medium head of cauliflower, thick core and outer leaves removed, sliced into bite-sized pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 tablespoons gochujang
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons honey or brown sugar
2 scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
neutral oil (such as canola or grapeseed) for roasting the cauliflower

Preheat oven to 425°F. Add the garlic, ginger, gochujang, soy sauce or tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and honey or brown sugar to the bowl of a food processor (or blender or stick blender) and puree until smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the cauliflower with neutral oil to coat it. Spread it out in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt (use restraint here, you want to season the vegetable, but there’s plenty of saltiness in the sauce).

Roast for 25-30 minutes or until deeply browned. Toss with the sauce in a large bowl. Top with scallions.

Yield: 2 servings as a main, 4 as a side

The Perfect Pear (Pear Brandy Cocktail) #thirstythursdays

The Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For the month of October, it’s #thirstythursdays on the blog. I’ll be featuring a drink recipe every Thursday. Last week I started things off with the Bitter Giuseppe, a cocktail with Cynar and sweet vermouth. Next up: the Perfect Pear, a fruity sweet-tart cocktail using pear brandy.

It’s less than two weeks until we become homeowners. It’s exciting, but it’s the sort of thing I can’t really wrap my mind around. We’ve found people to take over our lease, we’re changing our address with utilities and service providers and magazine subscriptions, and we’ve hired movers. Our apartment has entered the phase of packing where it’s looking less and less like a home. The art has come down from the walls. The sprawl of packed and taped and labeled cardboard boxes has spread beyond the office where we could shut the door and ignore it into the common living spaces where we can’t. And still, I look around this apartment, which I have loved despite its creaking floors and skittering bits of masonry and too-small closets, and think, incredulously, we’re really not going to live here anymore?

The Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I’ve been resisting packing up the cocktail gear. The shakers, the hawthorne strainer, the jiggers, and the barspoon are all in their familiar spots in the cabinet, ready to be used.

Which, it turns out, makes the stress of this whole moving thing a little easier to manage.

The Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netThe Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This cocktail is one of my favorites for fall. If you aren’t into the whole bitter thing and you love the flavor of pears, this is a drink for you.

The Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netThe Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It comes from my favorite collection of drink recipes, Jim Meehan’s The PDT Cocktail Book. (If you’re looking to add a cocktail book to your library, it’s the first one I recommend. And it might be the best birthday gift I’ve ever given Dan.)

The Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netThe Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This cocktail is a great one for people new to the world of mixology who don’t have extensive liquor collections because it only requires one spirit, pear brandy, so it won’t break the bank.

The Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The pear brandy gets shaken with some simple syrup and some freshly squeezed lemon and orange juices and then get’s strained into a chilled, half sugar-rimmed coupe glass.
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The Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Sugaring half the rim looks fancy, but it’s actually incredibly easy. Just stick the glass in the freezer until it’s chilled down (it’ll collect a bit of condensation from the moisture in the freezer). Put some sugar in a shallow bowl and dip half the rim into the sugar. A thin layer of sugar will adhere to the glass, sweetening each sip you drink from that side of the rim.

The Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Despite containing no fresh pears, the cocktail doesn’t taste artificial at all. It’s bright and spirit-forward and slightly sweet and tart from the citrus, and the pure pear flavor from the brandy comes shining through.

I feel an autumnal zen coming on just thinking about it.

The Perfect Pear Cocktail. A lovely sipper for your autumn happy hours. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The Perfect Pear

Adapted from Jim Meehan’s The PDT Cocktail Book

This is a fruity, spirit-forward, sweet-tart cocktail that tastes like fresh pears. It’s a lovely and elegant drink for fall happy hours and gatherings. Meehan calls for Clear Creek Pear Brandy, which is excellent and is what I used here, but I’ve made it with other pear brandies and have been equally pleased with the results.

2 ounces pear brandy
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
sugar for the glass
Glass: coupe

Put a coupe glass in the freezer to chill and place some sugar in a shallow bowl.

Add the pear brandy, lemon juice, orange juice, and simple syrup into an ice-filled shaker and shake until chilled.

Remove the coupe glass from the freezer and dip half the rim into the sugar.

Strain the cocktail into the half sugar-rimmed coupe glass. Serve immediately.

Yield: one cocktail

Roasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro

Roasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Now that it’s fall, can we talk about butternut squash for a minute? I love its flavor, but I have to confess that I find it to be kind of a pain to break down. It’s such an awkward shape to cut, and I’m short enough that it’s difficult for me to get good leverage on it. It’s often more squash than I need for just me and Dan. And then there’s that gluey sap that comes out of it and gets all over my hands.

I’m tensing up just thinking about it.Roasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netRoasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It’s a vegetable that can make me curse.

Which is why I tend to opt for other varieties of winter squash that are easier to work with. One of my favorites is delicata squash.

Delicatas are a petite, manageable size. Their skin is tender enough that they don’t need to be peeled. They are every bit as flavorful as their butternut brethren with hardly any of the curse-inducing work.

Roasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I know lots of people like to pair winter squash with maple syrup or brown sugar, but I prefer to balance squash’s natural sweetness with savory elements.

In this dish it gets tossed in a spicy, garlicky, rosemary olive oil mixture and sprinkled with a generous pinch of salt before going into the oven where it gets deeply browned in spots.

Roasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netRoasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netRoasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It gets roasted alongside kale that takes on that wonderful caramelized brassica flavor with delightfully crispy bits.

In a separate pan, leeks get roasted too. (Did you know that you can roast leeks? I have Melissa Clark to thank for that discovery.)  They get sweet and tender and dark at the edges, and I love the flavor they add here.Roasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netRoasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netRoasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

While everything is in the oven, the farro simmers on the stove until it is cooked through. And then the nubbly farro and the roasted vegetables get tossed together and hit with a splash of sherry vinegar for some acidic balance and sprinkled with marcona almonds for some nutty crunch.

Roasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netRoasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The result is a light yet hearty autumnal grain salad with a variety of colors and textures and a balance of sweet and savory flavors that I could eat almost every day until spring.Roasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netRoasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro. A lovely autumnal grain salad. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Roasted Delicata Squash, Kale, and Leeks with Farro

This grain salad hits my favorite sweet, salty and spicy buttons. It would be right at home on a Thanksgiving table as a side dish that can also work as a vegetarian or vegan main dish. I could imagine a gluten free version of this with a wild rice blend in place of the farro. I love this with delicata squash and lacinato kale, but you could use any varieties of winter squash or kale you like. If you have trouble finding marcona almonds try substituting toasted pine nuts. I like roasting the squash and kale together on opposite ends of a half sheet pan and the leeks in a separate quarter sheet pan, which allows everything the space to roast without steaming and makes it easy to pull them out if one of the vegetables is done before the others. The pans also manage to fit side-by-side on the same rack in a standard oven, which is especially nice if you’re making this for Thanksgiving when oven space tends to be scarce. This is lovely warm or at room temperature.

3/4 cup farro
1 delicata squash, sliced (approx. 1/2-inch thick) and seeded
1 bunch lacinato kale, de-ribbed and sliced into approx 1-inch wided strips
2 large or 4 small leeks, washed well, sliced lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (use the smaller amount if you like things on the mild side, the larger if you like extra heat)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup marcona almonds
salt

Preheat oven to 425°F. Fill a medium saucepan about 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil.

In a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes and generous pinch of salt. Add the delicata squash slices and toss to coat. Lay out in a single layer on one side of a half sheet pan leaving the excess oil and seasonings in the mixing bowl. Add the kale to the mixing bowl along with a pinch of salt and toss to coat. Lay the kale out on the other side of the sheet pan–it doesn’t have to be a single layer, but it should be evenly spread out.

In a small mixing bowl, add the leeks, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and pinch of salt and toss to coat. Spread in an single layer on a quarter sheet pan or other small pan.

Roast until the vegetables are deeply caramelized in spots and tender. The kale takes about 10-12 minutes. If you have smaller leeks they’ll be ready around 15 minutes, if you have large leeks (most supermarket leeks fall into this category) they take 20-25 minutes. The squash should be take about 20-25 minutes. As each vegetable is ready, remove it from the oven and place in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, cook the farro in the boiling water until tender, about 20-24 minutes. Drain in a fine mesh strainer and add to the bowl with the vegetables. Add the sherry vinegar. Toss everything together to coat. Sprinkle with marcona almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 Yield: 4 modest or 3 generous servings.

Bitter Giuseppe (Cynar and Sweet Vermouth Cocktail) #thirstythursdays

The Bitter Giuseppe a cocktail with cynar and sweet vermouth. A good introduction to Italian amari and a delicious aperitivo. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For the month of October, it’s #thirstythursdays on the blog. I’ll be featuring a drink recipe every Thursday. First up: a visit to the world of amaro with the Bitter Giuseppe, a cocktail with Cynar and sweet vermouth.

Lately, my life has been filled with packing and showing the apartment and cleaning and sorting through all my possessions and organizing documents so that we can spend a small fortune on a new place. It gives me headaches.

The Bitter Giuseppe a cocktail with cynar and sweet vermouth. A good introduction to Italian amari and a delicious aperitivo. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I love cooking, but cleaning, ugh. Let’s just say my domestic talents and interests don’t lie in that direction. I like things to be clean, but I hate the process of getting there. I’ve been trying to do a deep clean–really get the cooked-on stains off the stovetop, the dust off the fan blades and out from behind the furniture, the weird faint smudges off from on and around the handles of all the cabinets and appliances. I’ve been spending lots of time with Jolie Kerr’s columns at Jezebel and the hairpin. It’s amazing what she knows about laundry stains and the mysterious powers of white vinegar, ammonia, OxyClean, and denture tablets. Did you know that the best way to get those stray hairs out of the corners of the bathroom is with a handheld vacuum cleaner? All you clean people probably did, but I didn’t.

The Bitter Giuseppe a cocktail with cynar and sweet vermouth. A good introduction to Italian amari and a delicious aperitivo. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

After I’ve made myself do all of these things that I really don’t want to do, I like to give myself a reward and pour myself a drink. These days, my tolerance isn’t so high, and my willingness to endure hangovers is low. Which means that moderation is essential. Especially because I have to get up the next day and do it all again.

The Bitter Giuseppe a cocktail with cynar and sweet vermouth. A good introduction to Italian amari and a delicious aperitivo. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netThe Bitter Giuseppe a cocktail with cynar and sweet vermouth. A good introduction to Italian amari and a delicious aperitivo. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Which is why I’ve been loving Dinah Sanders’ cleverly titled book The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level. The book’s motto is “more drink, less drunk,” and as a fan of serious cocktails, I’m all for being able to enjoy a well-balanced drink that I won’t regret in the morning.

One of my favorite shims in the book is the Bitter Giuseppe, a cocktail that gets its bitterness from the Italian amaro Cynar (pronounced chee-nar). Cynar is a complex, herbaceous artichoke-based liqueur, and, I won’t lie, it’s not for everyone. If you shy away from bitter flavors, it might not be for you. But if you like coffee and grapefruit and other things with bitter notes, it might turn out to be something you crave.

The Bitter Giuseppe a cocktail with cynar and sweet vermouth. A good introduction to Italian amari and a delicious aperitivo. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netThe Bitter Giuseppe a cocktail with cynar and sweet vermouth. A good introduction to Italian amari and a delicious aperitivo. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

In the Bitter Giuseppe, the Cynar’s bitterness is tempered by sweet vermouth, a little bit of lemon juice and a few dashes of orange bitters (which, despite their name, are not actually bitter at all).

It’s a drink that originated at one of my favorite Chicago cocktail bars, The Violet Hour, and like most of what they concoct, it’s the sort of cocktail I like to sip and linger over.

The Bitter Giuseppe a cocktail with cynar and sweet vermouth. A good introduction to Italian amari and a delicious aperitivo. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This is a drink that I think makes a lovely aperitif, and it’s become a regular part of my cocktail rotation. If you like complex bitter flavors, you should give it a try. It might become a regular one for you.

The Bitter Giuseppe a cocktail with cynar and sweet vermouth. A good introduction to Italian amari and a delicious aperitivo. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netThe Bitter Giuseppe a cocktail with cynar and sweet vermouth. A good introduction to Italian amari and a delicious aperitivo. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Bitter Giuseppe

Adapted from Dinah Sanders’ The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level

This low-alcohol cocktail was originally developed by Stephen Cole at Chicago’s Violet Hour. It is on the bitter side of the spectrum, but it’s not an exceptionally bitter drink. It’s herbaceous and complex. The bitter Cynar gets held in check by the sweetness from the vermouth and the sour from the lemon juice. Sanders calls for Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, but lately I’ve been making it with Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. I think Vya sweet vermouth would also be lovely here. For the orange bitters, I recommend Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 or Angostura Orange Bitters over Fee Brothers (if you have some other less common orange bitters you like, feel free to use those).

2 ounces Cynar
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 dashes orange bitters
Garnish: lemon peel
Glass: Old Fashioned

 Chill an Old Fashioned glass in the freezer.

In an ice-filled mixing glass or mixing tin add the Cynar, sweet vermouth, lemon juice, and orange bitters. Stir until cold.

Remove the glass from the freezer and fill with ice. Strain the cocktail into the glass. Garnish with a piece of lemon peel.

Yield: one cocktail

Dill Parsley Walnut Pesto

Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

As we get closer to our closing date on our condo and our subsequent move, I find myself returning again and again to my reliable quick meal repertoire.

I have begun to pack up the kitchen. Some of it is easy to set aside for a while. The waffle maker, the cookie cutters, the cake rings, the chinois, the Bundt pans, the brioche molds, the rectangular tart pan, the coffee urn, the ramekins, the pots de creme jars, and about two-thirds of the barware have all gone into boxes. And despite my affection for those things, I have yet to find myself reaching for them in my ordinary day-to-day routine.

DSC_3560Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But those are special occasion kinds of equipment. They are not the skillets and saucepans and spatulas and mixing bowls and knives and cutting boards that I seem to dirty and wash for nearly every meal.

DSC_3577Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDSC_3583

I’ve had to prioritize as I’ve tried to pack a box or two each day while keeping them liftable and the apartment livable (and showable…anyone in Chicago looking for a two bedroom apartment in Andersonville available November 1?). I debated over the pressure cooker and decided to pack it. When it came to the food processor, I decided to keep it out a while longer.

Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

A big reason for needing access to the food processor was this pesto. When most people think of pesto, they usually think basil. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I have made and eaten plenty of basil pesto and will undoubtedly continue to do so. But plenty of other herbs can shine when crushed and mixed with nuts and cheese and olive oil. Lately, I’ve been enamored with a pesto made with dill and flat leaf parsley.

DSC_3591DSC_3596

It tastes incredibly bright and green. All that herbaceousness is tempered with toasted walnuts, a smattering of pecorino romano, and a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I’ve been slathering this stuff on usual suspects like pasta, but I’ve also been tossing roasted potatoes in it, topping frittatas with it, and spreading it on toast.

Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It would be a great sauce for fish or seafood or spread for a tomato sandwich. I’m also convinced it would, with the addition of some tomatoes and perhaps some cucumbers, make a great topping for quinoa cakes.

Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It comes together in minutes and keeps for a couple of weeks. I’ve been keeping a jar of this around in the refrigerator so that I have an easy solution to the question of how to get some kind of fresh and delicious meal together when I’m more concerned keeping the kitchen easy to clean before a potential tenant comes over than I am in spending a leisurely hour puttering around the stove.

Maybe now that I have another batch of it, I can pack that food processor tomorrow.

Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Dill, Parsley and Walnut Pesto

Rather than relying on the usual basil, this pesto uses dill and flat leaf parsley for its bright green color and herby flavor. It uses toasted walnuts and pecorino romano instead of the traditional pine nuts and parmigiano reggiano. It comes together in the food processor in a few minutes. I find the dill and parsley are less prone to oxidation than basil pesto, which tends to turn funny dark colors in a few days of storage. This keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least two weeks. I love this as a sauce for pasta, but it’s also great on roasted potatoes, fish or seafood, eggs, toast and plenty of other vegetables, starches or proteins. I like it best when the final dish includes an acidic note from tomatoes or a squeeze of lemon juice. I find that grinding the walnuts first and then adding them back in the end improves the final texture of the pesto. If you’re feeling especially lazy (and there’s no shame in that), you can throw them in with garlic and herbs and still have a respectable pesto.

5 ounces (140 grams, 1 1/2 cups) walnuts, toasted
1 large bunch dill (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups packed)
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley (about 2 to 2 1/2 cups packed)
1 clove garlic
3/4 ounce (21 grams, 3/4 cup) finely grated pecorino romano
1/2 cup (118 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a food processor, add the walnuts and pulse until they are ground into fine crumbs. Transfer them to a bowl.

Wash the dill and parsley in cold water and shake dry (or pat dry on paper towels). Trim off the thick stems below the leafy part of the herbs. Don’t worry about the thinner stems–they’ll be fine after a whirl in the food processor.

Add the garlic to the food processor, pulse until it’s in small bits. Add the dill and parsley and pulse until the leaves are minced. Add the ground walnuts, the pecorino romano, and salt, and pulse a few times to mix. Add the extra virgin olive oil and pulse until blended.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 2 cups.

Tomato, Roquefort and Red Onion Salad

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

We’ve been getting ready for a move. I have yet to meet anyone who actually enjoys the process of moving. I can’t wait to have more space, another bathroom, a walk-in closet, a big deck, a washer and dryer, and a bigger nicer kitchen, but, oof, getting from here to there involves so much tiring, tedious packing and sorting, so much interruption from routine, so much evaluating of the stuff we carry with us from place to place.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

Our office is piled high with boxes. Our bookshelves are nearly bare. I’ve carried more than a dozen bags of donations to The Brown Elephant. We’ve thrown out and recycled stacks of magazines, shoes with holes worn clear through the soles, old towels, permanently unmatched socks, bits and bobs of ephemera and detritus. We’ve discovered that we have two crates filled with CDs that we haven’t touched in the entire time we’ve lived here.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

Dismantling a home is work. We still have a month until the movers come, and we’re only moving a few blocks away, and still, I find myself exhausted when I think about how much we have left to do before we leave this apartment behind.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

We’ve had to maintain the illusion of a well-ordered home while we’ve shown the apartment to prospective renters who can take over our lease. It’s been lots of vacuuming and dusting and wiping away the toothpaste stains and vigilance about making sure the dirty dishes are out of sight in the dishwasher or cleaned and dried and put away. It’s been making sure the counters are clear and the kitchen sink is gleaming and the stove top is scrubbed free of stains.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

We only showed it for about a week (fingers-crossed that the renters who applied for the apartment are approved) and it makes me wonder how people whose homes are on the market for months put up with it.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

It makes it hard to do much cooking, especially anything complicated or time consuming. We’ve done more ordering takeout than usual. But I hate to miss out on the late summer produce that’s so plentiful this time of year. Which is why I’ve increasingly relied on simple meals like this tomato salad.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

It comes from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, which is one of my favorite cookbooks for seasonal cooking with an easy elegance.

It’s a salad without lettuce or field greens, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Goin says it is based on a classic steakhouse salad, but I’ll admit I’ve spent little time in steakhouses and had never seen this on a menu that I can recall. I think of it as caprese salad’s brash cousin. The tomatoes and the basil are the same, but instead of mozzarella there’s bold blue Roquefort cheese and slices of red onions that have been soaked in ice water to amplify their crunch and remove their sting. It’s all tossed in a vinaigrette made from bashed up garlic and oregano with both red wine and balsamic vinegar and some high quality olive oil.

It packs a wallop. I can see how it would stand up to steak or any big flavored protein, but we had it for a meal all by itself.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

Tomato, Roquefort and Red Onion Salad

Adapted from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques

This is a bold flavored salad for people who love both tomatoes and blue cheese. I’ve simplified the method here so that the salad is tossed rather than carefully arranged on a plate. Goin uses Early Girl tomatoes, but I’ve opted for a mix of cherry tomatoes, which only need to be halved and can stand up to tossing better than big tomato slices can. The red onion here provides a wonderful crunch, and after soaking in ice water and getting squeezed with lemon, it gets noticeably mellower than a typical raw onion. The vinaigrette gets its flavor from both red wine and balsamic vinegars, garlic and fresh oregano, and olive oil. It’s worth it to spring for a good quality olive oil here. If you have another favorite blue cheese, you can use that instead of Roquefort.

 1 tablespoon oregano leaves
1/2 clove garlic
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion or 1/2 a medium red onion (I used a sweet tropea onion)
1 1/4 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
1/2 lemon
2 1/2 ounces Roquefort blue cheese
small handful fresh basil
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Peel the onion and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rings. Soak the rings in a bowl of ice water for about 10 minutes. This will keep the crisp while mellowing the harsh raw onion flavor.

In a mortar, pound the oregano, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until they form a paste. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and stir in the red wine and balsamic vinegars and whisk in the olive oil.

Drain the onions, add them to a large mixing bowl and squeeze the lemon over them and sprinkle them with salt and teaspoon of vinaigrette. Sprinkle the halved cherry tomatoes with sea salt and black pepper and add them to the bowl. Cut the cheese into rough 1/4- to 1/2-inch chunks. Add the vinaigrette and toss until the salad is coated. Tear the basil into pieces and sprinkle it over the salad. Serve immediately.

Yield: Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

When our friend Traci commissioned a surprise birthday cake for her significant other, Dan, she requested something chocolate.

So I started flipping through my cookbook collection looking for inspiration for chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This was no time for restraint.

Special occasions call for special cakes. And this would be a special cake.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I knew I wanted to take an expansive, maximalist approach. This was going to have many layers and textures and chocolate varieties. So I turned to some of my favorite baking books in search of components to build the cake that was forming in my head.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I started with a cake called the Dame Chocolat from Karen Krasne’s book Extraordinary Cakes which involved chocolate cake and semisweet ganache and a bittersweet chocolate mousse. But as it appeared in the book, it wasn’t quite big enough of tall enough or complex enough for what I was going for.

So I started to reimagine it. I swapped out Krasne’s genoise for a flourless chocolate souffle cake I’ve made before from Joanne Chang’s Flour, Too.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I had read about caramelized white chocolate on Food 52 and on David Lebovitz’s blog a while back. It had been rolling around my head for months, and I knew I wanted to incorporate it in some way. At first I thought I’d go with a mousse, but the more I thought about it, I decided I didn’t want to mask the flavor of the caramelized white chocolate with eggs. I recalled one of Alice Medrich’s cake components from her book Bittersweet (since updated and reprinted as Seriously Bitter Sweet), a whipped ganache that I had previously used in a chocolate roulade.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Like most classic ganaches, it is made of chocolate and cream. I thought the cream would carry the caramelized white chocolate flavor nicely without overpowering it. But I was afraid that it might be too sweet.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Caramelized white chocolate has a much deeper flavor than the white chocolate we all know. It’s more like dulce de leche or caramel than white sugar, but still, this was a party for grown ups and I wanted to keep the flavor profile in balance, so I stole an idea from another one of Krasne’s cakes, one she calls the Bonaparte, which has a layer of mousse with salted bittersweet chocolate bits in it.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I thought the salt and the bittersweet chocolate would cut the sweetness of the caramelized white chocolate nicely. So I melted some bittersweet chocolate, spread it out thinly, and sprinkled it with big flakes of Maldon sea salt, which I rolled into the soft chocolate, and then chilled until it was firm enough to break into shards. I kept those shards chilled until the ganache was whipped and they could be folded in to create little dark salty flecks in the caramelized white chocolate.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I then had a cake that consisted of four layers of flourless chocolate souffle cake, a chocolate soak for the cake layers, a light and airy whipped caramelized white chocolate ganache with salty chocolate shards, four layers of bittersweet chocolate ganache, two layers plus and outer coating of bittersweet chocolate mousse, all topped with a shiny chocolate mirror glaze.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It no longer felt like the Dame Chocolat, or even the first working title I had for it, the Nouveau Grande Dame Chocolat, it had evolved and expanded to thirteen layers. As an inveterate book nerd, I am unable to think of the number thirteen without thinking of Wallace Stevens’ blackbird. And so this became, perhaps predictably, my Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This is, if you’re counting, a takes-3-or-4-days-to-make cake, depending on how much time you’re willing to spend each day. Caramelizing the white chocolate is a simple but slow process. It needs to spend time in a low oven and get stirred frequently. It can be made several days in advance and should be incorporated into the whipped ganache base at least a day before assembling the cake.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net 13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The chocolate soufflé cake requires melting chocolate and separating eggs and whipping them and combining everything together with a delicate hand.

It can be made a day before assembling the cake.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The salted chocolate shards can be made several days in advance as long as they are kept chilled. The chocolate soaking syrup can be made in advance as well.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But the bittersweet chocolate mousse and the dark chocolate ganache (it can be bitter- or semisweet) should be made on the day you assemble the cake. Which should be a day before you want to serve the cake, because after it is assembled, the whole thing needs to go into the freezer overnight and then get topped with a final layer of ganache and mirror glaze and thaw for a few hours so it isn’t a frozen rock.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Did I mention that this probably isn’t a cake for beginning bakers?

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It’s also a cake that requires some essential equipment: two half sheet pans, an 8-inch cake ring, a 9-inch cake ring, parchment paper, acetate sheets, large and small offset spatulas, a kitchen scale, a whisk, at least one silicone spatula, and a stand mixer. And having a chinois would be nice too. These are all baking workhorses.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

And you need to make sure there’s a good flat landing spot cleared in your freezer and one in your fridge so that you don’t smush everything you spent that last several days working on.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Can it all be worth it?

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It can.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Karen Krasne’s Extraordinary Cakes, Joanne Chang’s Flour, Too, Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet, with inspiration from David Lebovitz and Food52

This cake is a big project and not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth it. It’s a rich, dark chocolatey stunner of a cake with layers of flourless chocolate soufflé cake, whipped caramelized white chocolate ganache with salty chocolate shards, and sturdy dark chocolate ganache, all covered in bittersweet chocolate mousse and topped with a shiny mirror glaze. It involves chocolate components rendered in different hues and textures and levels of sweetness which make it perhaps the most complex chocolate dessert I’ve ever made. When you take on a project like this, it helps to have a game plan. I’d suggest making the caramelized white chocolate three days before you want to serve the cake, making the flourless chocolate soufflé cake, the caramelized white chocolate ganache base and salted chocolate shards two days before you want to serve the cake, and making the soaking syrup, bittersweet chocolate mousse and dark chocolate ganache and assembling the cake the day before you want to serve it. The assembly day places the biggest demands on your time. The day of, all you need to do is top the cake with the final layer of dark chocolate ganache and make the mirror glaze and spread it over the cake. Finally, you can unmold it and garnish with fresh flowers.

For the whipped caramelized white chocolate ganache:

170 grams (6 ounces) white chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream

For the salty chocolate shards:

57 grams (2 ounces) 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt

For the flourless chocolate souffle cake:

10 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup (60 ml)
280 grams (10 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon salt
250 grams (1 1/4 cups) sugar

For the cocoa soaking syrup:

100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1/2 cup (118 ml) water
4 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted (either natural or Dutch-processed is fine)

For the bittersweet chocolate mousse:

3 1/2 cups (828 ml) heavy cream
255 grams (9 ounces) 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped
128 grams (4 1/2 ounces) 64% bittersweet chocolate, chopped
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
3 large eggs
9 large egg yolks

For the dark chocolate ganache:

510 grams (18 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (preferably no higher than 64%), chopped
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark rum

For the mirror glaze:

50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted (either natural or Dutch-processed is fine)
1 gelatin sheet
1 tablespoon glucose or light corn syrup

At least 3 days before you plan to serve the cake:

Caramelize the white chocolate. Heat oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat mat and scatter the chopped white chocolate in a single layer over it. Bake, stirring and spreading the chocolate around every 10 minutes, for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the white chocolate has turned a deep golden brown. Don’t worry if the chocolate looks grainy, lumpy, or even chalky at times during the process, eventually it will smooth out (and the last lumpy bits will be smoothed out when making the ganache). If not using right away, transfer to a jar or other airtight container and store at room temperature (will keep for at least a week).

At least 2 days before you plan to serve the cake:

Make the caramelized white chocolate ganache. Transfer the caramelized white chocolate to a medium heat safe bowl. Heat the cream in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until it comes just to a simmer. Immediately pour the cream over the caramelized white chocolate. Let stand for about 10 minutes to let the hot cream melt the chocolate, then stir until smooth. Cover and refrigerate overnight (or for at least 8 hours) until very cold.

At least 1 day before you plan to serve the cake:

Make the salty chocolate shards. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium heat safe bowl set over a pan of simmering water and stir occasionally until melted. Place a 12×16-inch piece of parchment paper on a flat work surface. Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate in a thin even layer over the parchment paper. Sprinkle the sea salt over the chocolate and lay another sheet of parchment paper over the top. Roll a rolling pin over the top of the parchment paper to press the salt into the chocolate. Transfer to the refrigerator or freezer and let it chill until it has hardened, at least a half hour. When the chocolate has hardened, chop into very small irregular pieces and store (immediately) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. These will melt immediately on contact with your warm hands, so use the back of a chef’s knife or a bench scraper to transfer the chocolate from the parchment to the container to keep your hands and the rest of the kitchen from being covered in melted chocolate.

Make the cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place one rack in the center and one in the top third of the oven. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick baking spray (if you’re making this gluten free, don’t use the baking spray that has flour mixed into it).

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, coffee, melted chocolate and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the egg whites and beat on medium speed for about 2-3 minutes until soft peaks form. The tines of the whisk should leave a trail in the whites and when you lift the head of the mixer the whites should should peak and droop. With the mixer on medium, add the sugar slooowly, about a tablespoon at a time, until it’s all added. This process should take about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the whites are glossy and smooth and hold their peaks.

Using a rubber spatula, fold about one-third of the whites into the chocolate-yolk mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in the rest of the whites until no white streaks remain. Do this carefully. Egg whites are easy to deflate.

Divide the batter between the two prepared sheet pans. Starting at the corners, spread the batter evenly over the pan with an offset spatula. It doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth, but you want the corners and edges filled in. The batter should be about a 1/2 inch (1 cm) deep.

Bake the cakes, rotating the pans from front to back and switching between the racks about halfway through, about 16-18 minutes. The cakes should look dry on top and when you touch it with a finger, the top should feel dry and delicate and almost shatter and the cake below should feel moist. Let the cakes cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. At this point you can assemble the cake or wrap the cakes (still in their pans) with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for one day.

Make the cocoa soaking syrup. Combine the sugar, water and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and let cool at room temperature. (Can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

Make the dark chocolate ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a large heat safe bowl. Heat the cream in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan until it comes just to a simmer. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for about 10-15 minutes to melt the chocolate. Whisk together until the the mixture is smooth.

Make the bittersweet chocolate mousse. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium-high speed until it holds soft peaks. This should take about 2 minutes. Transfer to another bowl and refrigerate. Wash out the bowl of the stand mixer and the whisk attachment and dry them thoroughly. You’ll need them again soon.

Place both kinds of chocolate in a large heat safe mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted.

Combine the sugar with a 1/4 cup of water in a small heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until it reaches 230-240°F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, combine the eggs and yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer, again, fitted with a whisk attachment and whip at medium-high speed for about 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture looks thick and pale.

With the mixer running, carefully pour the hot sugar syrup over the eggs, taking care to avoid pouring it directly on the whisk. Increase the speed to high and whip until the mixture has tripled in volume. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. (Again, wash and dry the stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment.)

Pour half of the melted chocolate into the egg and sugar mixture, and whisk together until well combined. Fold half of the whipped cream into the chocolate-egg-sugar mixture with a rubber spatula, taking care to avoid deflating it too much. Repeat with the remaining chocolate and whipped cream. It’s best to assemble the cake soon after making the mousse.

Whip the caramelized white chocolate ganache. Pour the chilled caramelized white chocolate ganache base into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip at medium-high speed until it holds soft peaks and is a spreadable consistency. With a rubber spatula, fold in the salty chocolate shards.

Assemble the cake. Line a 9-inch cake ring with acetate (and tape the sides) to extend the height so that you have a cylinder that’s at least 7 inches tall. Place a 9-inch cardboard cake board in the bottom of the cake ring and tape to secure.

Using an 8-inch cake ring, cut out 4 8-inch circles from the chocolate soufflé cake. The cake is fragile, so leave it in place after cutting it. Using kitchen shears, cut the parchment paper around the edge of each circle so you have a base to help transfer the cake. Very carefully, take one circle of cake and transfer it to the cake board at the bottom of the cylinder. Don’t worry if it breaks a little in the process, just patch it back together as well as you can. Center the circle of cake as best as you can on the cake board. There should be an even border around the edge of the cake. Using a pastry brush, moisten the cake with 1/4 of the cocoa soaking syrup.

Using a small offset spatula, spread half of the whipped caramelized white chocolate ganache over the cake, taking care not to push it beyond the edge of the cake.

Carefully transfer another circle of cake over the whipped ganache. Again, moisten with 1/4 of the soaking syrup. Spread about 1/4 of the dark chocolate ganache over this cake layer, taking care not to let it fall over the side. Spread about half of the bittersweet chocolate mousse over the cake layer and down the sides (the mousse on the sides becomes the outer layer on the sides). Use your small offset spatula to push and spread the mousse down the side between the cake and the pan.

Carefully transfer another circle of cake over the mousse. Again, moisten with 1/4 of the soaking syrup and spread with 1/4 of the dark chocolate ganache. Spread the remaining whipped caramelized white chocolate ganache in an even layer over the top, taking care not to let it extend beyond the edges of the cake.

Carefully transfer the final circle of cake over the whipped ganache. Moisten with the remaining soaking syrup. Spread with 1/4 of the dark chocolate ganache. Top with the remaining bittersweet chocolate mousse, again, pushing it down the sides of the cake. You want a smooth layer of mousse on the outside of the cake.

Make sure you have an even landing spot cleared in your freezer. Transfer the cake to the freezer and freeze overnight.

On the day you want to serve the cake, gently reheat the remaining dark chocolate ganache until soft and spreadable. Remove the cake from the freezer and spread the ganache over the top in an even layer. Return the freezer while you make the mirror glaze.

Make the mirror glaze. In a small heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring just to a simmer and remove from heat. Bloom the gelatin sheet and add to the the hot sugar mixture. Add the glucose (or corn syrup) and mix to combine.

Remove the cake from the freezer. Pour about half of the mirror glaze over the top of the cake and spread in an even layer with a long offset spatula. Return the cake to the freezer to set for ten minutes. Then remove the cake from the freezer and repeat with the rest of the mirror glaze. Return to the freezer to set for another 10 minutes.

Remove the cake from the freezer and carefully unmold the cake from the cake ring and remove the acetate. If there are any gaps in the bittersweet chocolate mousse coating on the sides of the cake, don’t panic, carefully warm a long metal spatula and spread the mousse over the gaps to cover.

Place on a larger cake board or serving plate and garnish with fresh flowers. Thaw in the refrigerator for 6 hours. Remove from the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving to soften.

Whew! You’re done!

Slice with a chef’s knife dipped in hot water.

Yield: Serves 16-18 people.