Friday, October 22, 2010

Hibiscus Martini

This month I am hosting my book club and wanted to serve martinis.  I will be serving a pear, cardamom, clove, and orange peel martini as well as this red beauty.  This hibiscus martini is perfectly balanced with alcohol, sweet, and sour (fresh lime juice).  The hardest part of this drink is making the hibiscus syrup but once it's made you'll have syrupy goodness for a while.

Hibiscus Martini (a Casa Clark original recipe)

2 oz hibiscus syrup (recipe follows)
2 oz vodka
1 oz fresh lime juice ( read this article and it'll illustrate what I mean by fresh juice; thanks E for sharing this)
hibiscus flower in syrup for garnish (optional)

Place all your ingredients except for garnish into a shaker and shake until the outside of shaker is cold.  Place your garnish at the bottom of the martini glass and pour cold drink over the garnish.  Enjoy.

Hibiscus Syrup
I actually found this recipe online.  It calls for fresh hibiscus flowers but I used dried Jamaican flowers that I purchased at the Latin market (RN) for about $3.  If you have seen this syrup at Amazon be prepared to pay $11 for a bottle of 8.8 oz.  You not only save money but have enough ingredients to make it over and over again.  The flowers are super pretty  in flutes topped with champagne (I'll post a pic once the girls come over on Saturday).

20 dried whole hibiscus flowers
1/2 c fresh lemon juice
2 c water
2 c sugar

Place your flowers and lemon juice in a microwave proof bowl and nuke for 2 min. on high.

Add the water, sugar, and hibiscus flowers in lemon juice to a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture has reduced by 1/3.  Allow the syrup to come to room temperature.  Use a slotted wooden spoon to retrieve the flowers or strain flowers from syrup into a clean bowl.

Gently place the flowers into a clean mason jar and top with the syrup so that they are completely covered ( I prefer to use a wide mouth version because it's easier to get the flowers out when you want to use them).  Add the surplus syrup into a clean mason jar and cover both jars.  Place in refrigerator and store for up to one year.  You can also make hibiscus vodka with it. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Let them eat vegan Pho

Casa Clark has gone vegan.  It's been coming for a while and it's been a good thing especially for me.  R and C aren't too convinced yet  and occasionally ask for eggs, cheese, and milk (although C has been drinking lots of my almond milk lately).  It's been a challenging culinary adventure but I'm not one to shy away from a fight.

One of my most favorite things in the world is the wonderful Vietnamese rice noodle soup Pho.  The only problem is that as a recent vegan I know there is fish sauce lurking in the savory depths and was bummed that I couldn't have it especially since it's gotten a bit chilly out there.  I was looking at my p.v. (pre- vegan) cookbooks and found a Pho recipe in my Cook's Illustrated The Best International Recipe cookbook and liked some and changed some.  You'll die at the depth of flavor in the broth and have a healthy dinner to boot.  The secret to this broth is time, so start it the night before or before you head out to work.  Trust me, it's worth the wait.

Vegan Pho Broth (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
You'll need a dutch oven and crock pot for this one.

4 tsp vege oil ( I didn't actually measure the oil and just added enough to cover the bottom of my dutch oven)
4 medium onions sliced
8 medium garlic cloves, pressed
2 lemon stalk with tough outer edges removed and sliced thin; only use the bottom 5" of it
20 c water
4 Tbsp tamari
4 Tbsp sugar
8 star anise pods
8 whole cloves
a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms
a piece of Kombu for dashi cut in half
mushroom soy sauce or tamari to taste
1 piece of lemon grass with outer skin removed and mashed a bit with the back of a knife ( to add to crock pot)

Add the oil to your dutch oven and warm up; add the onions and cook until caramelized.  This is a very important step because it will add color and flavor to the broth.

Add the garlic and lemon grass and cook until fragrant.  Add the water, tamari, sugar, dried mushrooms, and kombu.  Now you can add the star anise and cloves but I place 4 star anise and 4 cloves into a tea pouch ( so you'll make 2 pouches) and then add.  It makes it easier to get them out later.  It'll make sense.

Place the lid on your dutch oven and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat a bit and allow to simmer for 10 min.  Now here is where the magic happens.

Before you strain your broth into the crock pot be sure to dig out one of your spice pouches and the kombu; set aside.  Strain the rest of your broth into the crock pot and add the reserved spice pouch, kombu, and the macerated lemon grass.   Cook it on low for at least 8 hours.  Season to taste with more tamari or mushroom soy sauce as needed.

As far as the garnishes go, the sky's the limit.  I personally like to use bean sprouts, chopped tofu, carrots, green onions, sliced bok choy, sliced jalapenos, sliced cabbage, cilantro leaves, rice noodles, and Thai basil of course.  You place your garnishes into your bowl and then top with the hot broth.  Add some Sriracha and you're in business.  This is super healthy and delicious comfort food that you'll crave throughout the winter.