Homemade Nocino: Green walnuts & boozy infusions

Nocchino

Usually when I think about infusing booze with something, it’s fruit. Take last year’s rumtopf experiment for example. But this year my husband convinced me to try something different – a green walnut infusion, known by Italians as nocino.

I’ve had nocino before (from a batch my husband made) and wasn’t too impressed. The flavor was interesting, full of spices and citrus notes, but it was served straight up it and burned like firewater. I like things boozy but I can’t handle things that are that strong. I found out later it was made from Everclear — no wonder!

This time around my husband wanted to make it with vodka instead which was much more appealing to me. He also said he wanted to play around with the finished liqueur, so instead of serving it up we could mix it into ice cream bases or cocktails. Mentioning boozy ice cream is pretty much the way to my heart so it was an easy sell.

A hundred and one green walnuts later, we got to work:

Continue reading

Flowers in your bubbly: A little something different

Wild Hibiscus in Champagne

Wild hibiscus flowers liven up a glass of bubbly!

One of my favorite things to do is host parties, and over the years, I’ve learned it’s usually the small things that make a get-together memorable. Whether it’s creative party invitations, fun party snacks or curiously carbonated cocktails, it seems like it’s often the little details that will stick in someone’s mind for days afterward. Therefore I’m constantly on the hunt for the strange and unusual, little things — generally of the culinary persuasion — to bring out at my next party to surprise guests with.

So when I heard about these Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup a few years ago, I was immediately obsessed with them. Unable to find them in town, I went online and ordered six or seven jars at once. A few I gifted to friends who also share a love for interesting treasures and the rest I hoarded in my pantry to break out whenever the mood hit.

While they aren’t a new trend by any stretch, these hibiscus flowers are certainly still fun to experiment with. They add a festive detail to any party, and are particularly perfect as an ice breaker during aperitifs. (That sentence made me feel like I just channeled Martha Stewart!) But honestly, even if you’ve grown accustomed to these flowers like I have, they never lose their luster.

And the best part is that they require no more effort than this:

Start with a hibiscus flower from the jar. They feel like a gummy candy crossed with a fruit leather, and they kind of remind me of these piranha plants from Super Mario Bros.

Wild Hibiscus Flowers

Wild Hibiscus Flowers

Continue reading

(Homemade) Cheese Please!

Homemade Lavender Rubbed Goat Cheese

Homemade Lavender Rubbed Goat Cheese

A year or so ago, my husband bought my mom one of those DIY kits to make goat cheese. While things like cheese molds and citric acid were included, she wasn’t sure where to buy the goat milk necessary for the project. Since Portland has ample co-ops and natural food stores, it seemed like the perfect adventure for her most recent trip down to visit me.

I’ve actually made cheese before….a single batch of paneer cheese in culinary school more than 10 years ago. So, yeah we are far from professionals!

And yet, our very first attempt turned out much better than I could have ever hoped. The kit has directions for two different types of goat cheese, one firm and one creamy. It’s good to keep in mind though that the goat milk used as well as other variables can affect the texture of the cheese. And so the guide tells you “if your creamy cheese is firm, and your firm cheese is creamy, just rename them” — advice I can get behind!

We tried to make more of a creamy cheese but it turned out fairly firm, more of the consistency of feta though less tangy. My husband said this most because our goat milk was raw, instead of pasteurized. But the salt content was right on the mark so we were successful with that aspect at least!

Our batch actually produced two small wheels. We cut one into cubes which were then marinated in EVO, chili flakes and lemon zest. After sitting overnight, we tossed them in a simple green salad for lunch the next day. So good!

The other wheel was cut down the center. One half I rolled in lavender and the other in fennel pollen. I’m not sure which I liked better — they were both pretty fabulous.

Anyways here’s some pictures from our adventure:

Raw Goat Milk for Cheese Making

Raw Goat Milk for Cheese Making

Continue reading

If the Easter Bunny goes missing… blame me!

Rabbit Pot Pie at Local 360, Seattle, WA

Rabbit Pot Pie at Local 360, Seattle, WA

It’s hard to believe that Easter is looming in the very near future. But considering my work days have been filled with inquiries for lamb, ham and rabbits, it must be true. By the way, if the Easter Bunny doesn’t make an appearance on Sunday, he’s most likely being dished up at a restaurant in Portland or Seattle — and he’s probably delicious!

Anyways, in true procrastinator fashion, I made these adorable candy-filled nests last year…but by the time I got around to downloading and editing the photos, Easter had long since gone. The nests turned out so cute that I still wanted to share them, even if they had to wait almost 12 months for their time to shine.

Chocolate Easter Nests

Chocolate Easter Nests: Melted dark chocolate, crunchy chow mein noodles and, of course, mini Cadbury eggs!

Continue reading

Parmesan Biscotti: The antidote for your candy overdose

Champagne and Biscotti

Two old friends hanging out — Champagne and Biscotti

When I first attempted making savory biscotti about a month ago, I used cheddar cheese and cayenne pepper. The end result was so delicious that I wanted to try the initial recipe that had piqued my curiosity. The recipe, from a 2006 issue of Gourmet magazine, is for Parmesan and Black Pepper Biscotti and has stellar reviews online.

Even Deb from Smitten Kitchen gave it a try years ago in mid-December and called the biscotti the perfect antidote to sugary holiday treats. (And yes, I am stealing her name for it because it’s totally true.)

So if you’re like me and the thought of one more chocolate truffle makes you cringe, consider whipping up a batch of these. They are not at all sweet — but they are rich with a hefty kick of spice and full of cheesy flavor. While you could eat them with coffee, these biscotti are better suited for Champagne and lush red wines. They’d be perfect as an hors d’oeuvre at a fancy soiree or paired with an aperitif at a dinner party.

Or, let’s be honest, eaten while standing alone in your kitchen at midnight. No shame here, people.

Continue reading

Homemade Marshmallows & the Making of a Mug Topper

Mega MarshmallowI love marshmallows. Not so much on their own but I grew up eating a lot of s’mores and drinking a ton of hot cocoa, so every winter I start to crave their sticky, sugary sweetness. As an adult, I really appreciate a toasty mug of hot chocolate, spiked generously with Rumple Minze, topped with melty marshmallows. Last year, when this blog was just a baby, I decided to try making my own marshmallows with (shockingly) great success.

I was so impressed with myself that this year I thought I’d take it one step further.

Inspiration hit when I discovered these giant two-pound marshmallows online. (As an aside: I love Plush Puffs, their flavors are fun and — big bonus! — they actually taste good too. Not at all rubbery, just soft squishy marshmallow goodness.) Then, on the same site, I saw another item the company offers — mug toppers. They are slices of marshmallow that perfectly fit a cup of cocoa. Seriously brilliant!

I became a bit obsessed…

Continue reading