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Cantaloupe Martini

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This sweet drink will delight melon lovers and it pairs very well with salty foods. I think it would also be a great companion for brunch in lieu of a mimosa.

from: 101 Martinis
makes: 1 martini

3 ounces fresh cantaloupe juice (from a juicer-1 cantaloupe makes enough for 4 to 5 martinis)
1 1/2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce Midori
1/2 ounce simple syrup
splash of lemon juice
melon balls, for garnish

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Combine the cantaloupe juice, vodka, Midori, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a skewer of melon balls.

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Lemon Lime Bars

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I have to agree with Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, “Curd is an ugly word for a delicious dessert”. As I’ve said in my lemon curd post, it is very versatile and can be used for a variety of things. This curd is smooth and tangy and is absolutely divine on top of the golden brown graham cracker-coconut crust. This dessert is perfect for summer, and is one of my favorite desserts I’ve made this season.

from: Baked: New Frontiers In Baking
makes: 24 bars

for the graham-coconut crust
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 15-17 crackers)
2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

for the lemon lime filling
11 large egg yollks
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup heavy cream

make the graham-coconut crust

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13- inch baking pan or spray it with nonstick cooking spray.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread out the coconut. Put the baking sheet in the oven and toast the coconut until it starts to turn golden brown, 7  to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, toss the coconut, and return it to the oven for 3 more minutes.

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Put the graham cracker crumbs in a large bowl, add the toasted coconut and the brown sugar, and toss with your hands until combined.

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Add the melted butter. Use your hands to combine the mixture, then turn it out into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the crust into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to create a perfectly even crust.

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Put the crust in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the crust cool before adding the filling.

Make the lemon lime filling

Increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Fit a candy thermometer onto a large, clean metal pot. Put the egg yolks, eggs, sugar, lemon and lime juices, and lemon and lime zests into the pot.

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Whisk until combined. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture registers 180 F, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and cream. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve directly into the cooled crust. Use a rubber spatula to press the curd through the sieve.

Make sure the curd is evenly distributed. Tap the pan gently against the counter to make a level layer.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the filling is just set. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Wrap the pan in plastic (do not let the plastic touch the filling) and put it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.

The bars will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for 2 days.

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Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar)

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I have always loved food, and loved to bake from a young age, but I didn’t fall in love with cooking until my early 20’s. I have been having fun in the kitchen for about a decade now. Swedish meatballs are one of the meals I have made from the beginning. In our early marriage David and I would frequent Ikea to shop for things to furnish our apartment, and I have to say I love those little Swedish meatballs they serve in the Ikea café. Not to sound boastful or anything, but these freshly homemade meatballs are better than anything you can find at Swedish furniture stores. They come from another cookbook I’ve had from the beginning, and one of the best International cookbooks in my opinion, The Best International Recipe. Make sure to serve with lingonberries. It’s a staple! You can find jars of them at Ikea in the marketplace or at well stocked groceries. (The flavor combo is somewhat similar to turkey and cranberries.)

slightly adapted from: The Best International Recipe
serves: 4 to 6

meatballs

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2 slices high-quality white sandwich bread
¼ cup heavy cream
8 ounces (85 percent lean) ground beef
8 ounces ground pork
1 large egg yolk
1 small onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
salt and ground black pepper
vegetable oil

sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 bay leaves
½ cup heavy cream
8 ounces of mushrooms sliced and browned in butter (optional)
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon (sometimes I do just a squeeze, if it needs it)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
salt and ground black pepper

For the meatballs: In a large bowl, mash the bread and cream together to form a smooth paste. Add the ground meats, egg yolk, onion, nutmeg, allspice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and mix until uniform.

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Shape the mixture into 1-inch round meatballs (1 generous tablespoon per meatball; you should have about 30 meatballs).

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Measure ¼ inch of oil into a 10-12 inch saute pan and heat over medium-high heat; test the temperature of the oil with the edge of a meatball. When the oil sizzles, add the meatballs in a single layer and fry, turning as needed, until lightly browned on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the oil sizzling but not smoking. Transfer the browned meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

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for the sauce: Discard the oil in the pan but leave behind any brown bits. Add the butter and melt over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, sugar, and bay leaves and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the cream, mushrooms (if using), and meatballs and simmer, turning them occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

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Off the heat, discard the bay leaves, stir in the lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve atop a bed of steamed white rice or mashed potatoes and a dollop of lingonberries.

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Bourbon-Peach Julep

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This is about as sweet, summery, and Southern as they come. In addition to this Southern inspired cocktail, I will be making Fried Chicken, Homeroom’s Classic Mac, and lime bars with graham cracker-coconut crust. That is how David and I are celebrating the 4th (along with some sparklers to wave around in the back yard) and I can hardly wait. Recipes for the crispy fried chicken, mac & cheese, and lime bars coming soon! Have a fun 4th of July!!

from: 101 Mojitos
serves: 1

4 or 5 mint leaves, plus sprig for garnish
1/4 cup fresh peach chunks, plus slice for garnish (1/4 cup = about half of a small peach)
1 ounce simple syrup
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce peach liqueur

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In a rocks glass or julep cup, muddle the mint leaves with the peach chunks and simple syrup. Add the bourbon and peach liqueur. Top with crushed iced and stir for a good minute (add more crushed ice, as needed). Garnish with a mint sprig.

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Popcorn with Mustard Butter & Fresh Herbs

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My love of popcorn is something I inherited from my dad. I have many memories of sharing bowls of microwaved and homemade stove-popped corn in the evening hours after dinner. That hasn’t changed much as the years have passed. I still attack a bowl of fresh (or even day old) popcorn like it’s going out of style. Sometimes, I want what I like to call “gourmet popcorn” which  I consider popcorn topped with any number of elevated toppings like truffle oil and parmesan, spicy chili powders, or crushed kale chips and sea salt. When I was flipping through Super Natural Every Day searching for dinner ideas (Harissa Tortellini coming soon!) I stumbled across this recipe for popcorn topped with mustard butter and fresh herbs. Yes Please. The mustard mixed with the melted butter is a fantastic idea I wish I’d thought of- the butter tones down the zing of the Dijon, but you still get a little of that mustardy bite. I think my favorite part was the little bits of thyme mixed in, and next time I think I’ll add more. Be warned, this recipe makes a lot- it almost overflowed onto the stove, (I was popping in my biggest pot) and it stopped just in time. If you are going to be munching all by yourself or want 2 smaller bowls of popcorn (the full recipe made 2 large bowls) I would halve the recipe. Even with David munching politely and me attacking the bowl per usual, there was still quite a bit leftover.

from: Super Natural Every Day
serves: 4-6

4 tablespoons clarified butter or extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup popcorn kernels
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 small bunch fresh chives, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

Heat the clarified butter or oil in a deep, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add a few popcorn kernels to the pan and cover. Once they pop, add the remaining kernels and shake the pot until they cover the bottom of the pan evenly. Place the lid on the pan, leaving just a sliver of a crack, and shake intermittently while the popcorn pops, until there is a 5-second pause between pops. Remove the popcorn from the heat and transfer all the popped corn to a very large bowl, leaving any un-popped kernels behind.

In the meantime, melt the unsalted butter over medium heat and let it sizzle away until it has browned a bit and is fragrant. Whisk in the mustard and salt.

Pour one-third of the mustard butter over the popped corn and toss well. (I find this step easier when I just shake the popcorn, butter, and herbs all together in a paper grocery bag) Add about half of the remaining butter and toss for another minute. Taste and decide if you want more butter, if so add more to taste. Sprinkle with the chives and thyme, toss once more and serve immediately.

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I realize now this was not a great close-up as you can’t see the chives or thyme, but they are there! Some of the herbs fell to the bottom half of the bowl-the best part!

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Provençal Butter

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I make this butter often, because it is amazing melted over hot roasted potatoes and/or steak. Leave a roll in the refrigerator and slice a few medallions for the occasions when you need a touch of decadence for those roasted potatoes, crispy russet fries, or steak.

from: Barefoot Contessa Back To Basics

1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
2 tablespoons minced chives
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon herbes de Provence

In a food processor, process the garlic, capers, chives, thyme, zest, and black pepper. Add the butter and pulse to combine. Scoop out onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper and form into a rough log shape. Roll up the parchment and twist the ends. Store in the refrigerator until firm.

When firm, slice the butter into rounds and serve on top of hot roasted potatoes, steak, crusty French bread, etc.

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Daiquiri

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In the barrage of new and updated craft cocktails lining cocktail menus and bar tables, it’s easy to forget the perfection and simplicity of one of the essential cocktails, the daiquiri. If the word daiquiri invokes images of slushy, saccharine-sweet concoctions in hurricane glasses topped with paper umbrellas and fruit, and that slightly horrifies you, you can be my friend. Just kidding, no judgement here! If you happen to like that style of daiquiri, then I encourage you to read on and try the classic version, a simply mixed cocktail with three ingredients, rum, lime juice, and sugar (or simple syrup) and no frilly decorations on top. The origins of the daiquiri hail from the sun drenched shores of Cuba. Daiquri is the name of a beach near Santiago, and it is also the name of an iron mine near there. The daiquiri was supposedly created by American mining engineer Jennings Cox who was in the area during the Spanish-American War. The popularity of the drink remained localized until it was introduced to the Army and Navy Club in Washington D.C. It was one of the favorite drinks of Ernest Hemingway and J.F.K. I find with anything whether it be food or drink, if it consists of only a few ingredients, make sure to use the best ingredients you can afford. For example, if you’re making simple bruschetta, get summer-ripe heirloom tomatoes, a quality baguette, fresh, bright green basil, fresh mozzarella, sea salt and a high quality extra-virgin olive oil. In this case, use good rum as it’s the main ingredient and the star of the show. Banks 5 Island Rum is the recommendation for this recipe from the PDT Cocktail Book. It is a dry, flavorful, complex rum that is blended in the style of classic rums from the ’20s making it ideal for this daiquiri.

from: The PDT Cocktail Book
makes: 1 drink

2 ounces Banks 5 Island Blended Rum
3/4 ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel or nothing at all.

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