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Here's the Absolutely Best Way to 'Muddle' Through Summer

August 2, 2012 By:
Ethel Hofman, Jewish Exponent Feature
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"Come for drinks, then we'll go out for dinner."
In summer, this type of "Happy Hour" calls for special cocktails. I like offering more exciting ones than during the rest of the year and then team them with appropriate canapes.

The bounteous array of herbs and fruits available during the warm weather months team up well with whatever you choose as a spirit. For example, start with vodka, muddle it with strawberries and mango, then top it off with sparkling soda. ("Muddling" means mashing whatever you're using with a fork to release the juices and flavors.)

For canapes, such as the Avocado Crostinis, toast the bread earlier, leaving it at room temperature (if put in the fridge, it will soften). Prepare the avocado topping and chill. Spoon on top of the toast just before serving.

Arugula Pancake Wedges, Tar­ragon Cream and Pastry Crisps may all be made a day ahead and garnished as needed.

Raspberry Shrub (Pareve)

This is an old Colonial drink just ripe for revival.

2 cups fresh raspberries or 1 (10 oz.) package frozen
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup brandy
1 can (6 oz.) frozen lemonade, thawed
2 Tbsps. raspberry vinegar
2 quarts sparkling water
In a large pitcher, muddle the raspberries and mint leaves with the brandy. Stir in the lemonade and raspberry vinegar. Chill. Just before serving, stir in the sparkling water. Pour over ice cubes in tall glasses.

Serves 12 to 15.

Ginger Shandy (Pareve)

A "shandy" is a traditional English bar drink, half beer and half fizzy lemon-flavored soda.

2 Tbsps. finely grated ginger root
4 cups ginger ale
4 cups pale lager beer or light beer
ice cubes

Half fill 8 tall glasses with ice. Divide the ginger root evenly between the glasses. Pour ginger ale over. Top with the beer. Stir gently. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8.

White Sangria (Pareve)

I like to use a semisweet wine for this crisp Spanish drink.

2 ripe plums, pits removed and sliced thinly
1 seedless orange, thinly sliced
2 Tbsps. fresh lime juice
2 cups seedless black or green grapes, quartered
2 ripe peaches, pits removed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup orange liqueur
1 bottle (750 ml) white wine
1/4 cup finely shredded mint leaves
In a large pitcher, with a wood­en spoon, "muddle" the plums, orange, lime juice, grapes and peaches. Stir in the orange liqueur. Add the wine and mint. Stir gently. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.

Pour over ice-filled glasses.

Serves 8.

Avocado Crostini (Pareve)

8-10 slices French bread, cut 1/2-inch thick
extra virgin olive oil
garlic powder
2 ripe medium avocados, pitted, peeled and diced
1-2 Tbsps. fresh lime juice
red pepper flakes
kosher salt
fresh cilantro or parsley sprigs
Brush the bread on both sides with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with garlic powder and toast to golden brown on both sides.

Dice the avocado, sprinkle with lime juice and toss with 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Divide between the toasted bread slices. Sprinkle very lightly with salt. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley. Serves 8 to 10.

Asparagus Spears with Fresh Tarragon Cream (Dairy)

This recipe is also nice when used with cucumber coins, baby carrots or other vegetables. The asparagus and cream may be prepared ahead and refrigerated.

1    bunch thin asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
1    cup sour half-and-half
1/4    cup plain nonfat yogurt
2    Tbsps. finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2    tsps. rice vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain well and run ice cold water over. Arrange on a platter.

For dipping cream: In a bowl, combine the sour half-and-half, yogurt, tarragon and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill to serve.

Makes 12 to 15 pieces.

Arugula Pancake Wedges (Dairy)

2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 and 1/2 cups yellow zucchini, coarsely grated
11/2 cups shredded arugula
1 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning
pinch kosher salt
2 Tbsps. oil
1/2 cup light sour cream
2 Tbsps. whitefish caviar
In a bowl, whisk the eggs lightly. Stir in the flour until combined. Fold in the zucchini, arugula, lemon pepper seasoning and salt.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Pour half the mixture into the skillet, spreading evenly.

Cook 6 to 8 minutes or until nicely browned and crisp on bottom. Flip over and cook 3 to 4 minutes longer until golden and crisp. Transfer to a plate and cut into wedges. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve at room temperature.

Just before serving, top with a dollop of sour cream and a tiny spot of caviar.

Serves 8.

Smoked Trout Pastry Crisps (Pareve)

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (half of a 17.3-oz. package)
1 container (8 oz.) low-fat soft cream cheese
3-4 oz. smoked trout, flaked
2 Tbsps. finely snipped dill
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
9  red cherry tomatoes, halved from stem end
9 yellow cherry tomatoes, halved from stem end
Heat the oven to 400°.

Unfold the pastry sheet. Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 12 x 12-inch square. Cut into 36 two-inch squares. Prick each two times with a fork. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes or until pastries are golden brown.

Press centers with a wooden spoon to make an indentation. Turn off the oven. Return crisps to oven and bake 3 to 4 minutes longer. Cool on a wire rack.

In a small bowl, blend the cream cheese, trout, dill and hot sauce. Spoon into the center of each cavity. Garnish half the crisps with a red tomato half and the other half with the yellow tomato halves.

Makes 36.

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