Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade

I've been MIA lately, due to some serious (and unsuccessful) house hunting. It's been completely overtaking my brain, so I really need to force myself to focus on other things.

So today I wanted to share a great summery cocktail: the blackberry bourbon lemonade. It's a delicious mix of sparkling lemonade, blackberry and rosemary simple syrup, and of course, bourbon.

This makes a great drink for a summer party, due to it’s all American ingredients (bourbon, lemonade) and it’s festive red color (which you can make red, white, and blue with the addition of a blackberry garnish), and its big-batch recipe that makes 12 drinks.
Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade, originally from Better Homes and Gardens
Here I'm providing the 1 gallon big batch version, click the link above for a single serving size. 

3 cups bourbon
2/3 cups lemon juice
1 recipe blackberry rosemary simple syrup (below)
4 cups sparkling lemonade
Blackberries, for garnish

Combine bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup in a large pitcher or punch bowl. Stir. Add sparkling lemonade and garnish with blackberries.

Makes 12 5oz servings.

Blackberry Rosemary Simple Syrup
12 oz fresh blackberries
1 1/2 tbsp rosemary, roughly chopped
3/4 cup water
1/4 sugar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes, until blackberries are breaking down and the liquid is syrupy and reduced by half.  Mash the blackberries into the liquid with a wooden spoon towards the end of cooking.  Strain through a fine strainer, pressing on the berries to extract juice. Let cool, and store in fridge for up to one week.


Roasted Chicken Cacciatore

I hate chicken cacciatore. It seems like something I should enjoy, since I'm a fan of its principal ingredients: chicken, peppers, and tomatoes. And I love long, slow cooked Sunday dinners.

But I hate it. Something about the braising chicken over the stove, the thick sauce, the muted way the peppers taste when smothered and simmered- it disgusts me I’ve tried lots of recipes- Mario, Marcella, my own made up concoctions- and nothing’s appealed to me.

Until now. Last month’s Food and Wine featured recipes from Giada’s new Vegas restaurant, including her roasted version of chicken cacciatore. The photo looked perfect- caramelized, un-saucey chicken, surrounded by bursting cherry tomatoes, softened peppers, and wonderfully browned fennel.  Certainly not traditional, but worth a try.

This was the version I’ve been looking for. The chicken is rubbed with a red wine, butter, and herb blend, and roasted on a bed of the traditional cacciatore vegetables, with just a bit of broth, which creates a light sauce. The chicken was flavorful and delicious, and the apartment smelled like an Italian feast day from the peppers and onions (not usually a bonus, but welcome on a Sunday!). It was even better the next day cold in sandwiches, topped with leftover peppers.

This is definitely a keeper.

Chicken Cacciatore with Red Wine Butter, adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
Note: Giada’s recipe calls for a whole chicken, I adapted the version below for a chicken cut into 8 pieces, since that’s what I had in my freezer. Click the link above for her original version.\\
Serves 4

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 bell peppers, thickly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 small bulb fennel, sliced through the core
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large shallot, sliced
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp tomato paste
8 springs fresh thyme
1 tsp oregano
½ cup broth
½ cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and chopped
Fresh basil and parsley, for garnish
Salt, pepper, olive oil

Up to one day in advance, arrange chicken pieces in a baking dish and sprinkle with a good amount of salt and pepper. Remove thyme leaves from branches and stuff under the skin. Cover, and refrigerate.

In a saucepan, boil 1 cup of red wine until reduced to two tablespoons. Combine with tomato paste and butter, and let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 425.

While oven preheats, rub red wine/tomato/butter mixture on chicken and under skin. Let sit at room temp for a half hour.

Just before roasting, add peppers, fennel, garlic, shallot, oregano, and tomatoes to the pan. Pour in ½ cup broth and drizzle entire baking dish with some olive oil.

Roast for one hour, or until a meat thermometer inserted into thigh and thickest part of breast registers 165.

 Garnish with basil, parsley, and olives. Serve and enjoy!


Mother's Day Menu

I’m not sure why Mother’s Day is always associated with brunch. I’m thinking of doing dinner for my mom this year, and here’s the menu I’ve got in mind:
Antipasto Platter
I pretty much think anything in life is better when it starts with a cheese and salumi platter. I love combining taleggio, hunks of fresh parmesan, and crackers with olives and prosciutto. Yum.

This is a spectacular, and easy, recipe. The whole thing comes together in the time it takes to boil and cook the pasta. The clams make it a little special, the wine sauce is elegant, and the addition of arugula lends a fresh, peppery bite, perfect for springtime alfresco dining. This is a favorite.
Personal Pic (can't you tell?)
My mom doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, and she’s always on a diet. This cake, made with almond flour and olive oil, is a bit of a healthier alternative to a butter cake, and it provides the perfect elegant but not too sweet end to a meal.


Fashion Friday: Flat Sandals

I don’t think flat sandals are ever “out,” but I’m liking this year’s simple, earthy take on the style. 
Below, my favorite options for summer 2014:

J.Crew, $138 //  Shellys London, $70 // J.Crew, $98  // Sperry, $60  // Jack Rogers, $110  //  Paolo Bentini, $80  //  Ted Baker London, $150  //  Dolce Vita, $59


Southwest Salad

I like to always serve a salad with a meal. My favorite foods tend to be carb-heavy and laden with cheese, so I always need something fresh and crisp to counterbalance that.
For last year's Cinco de Mayo, I came up with this Southwest Salad. It's a pretty hearty one that could easily become a main dish with the addition of chicken or shrimp. A little bacon wouldn't hurt either. 

Southwest Salad
2 heads of romaine lettuce, cleaned and chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup frozen corn, defrosted
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Large handful tortilla chips, or bag of tortilla salad strips
Chipotle ranch dressing (you can buy, or add some chipotle powder and lime juice to your favorite ranch dressing)

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, black beans, corn and cherry tomatoes.  Line bowl with tortilla chips.  Serve with chipotle ranch dressing.