Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Night Drinks: Cucumber Gin with Salt and Pepper

Friday nights should be about clearing off tables, putting away study material, closing Qbank (a test question bank thing second year medical students use for our impending board exams), and enjoying a drink. Having a drink is what I do Mon-Thursday...I like it, it tastes good, it makes the last few lectures I'm watching on double speed from the comfort of my home go down's nice.
But enjoying a drink, that's what I do on Fridays. The drink-making process is more than just the finished product: it's discovering something exciting, getting the ingredients, prepping it, finally adding the last accoutrements to make it pretty...and taking that first sip--it hales the end of another week and the beginning of the weekend. Forget the fact that I will study on Saturday and Sunday, forget the fact that I could be doing work now. Nope, with that drink in my hand and the dinner that'll follow, I'm taking care of myself...the typical, "me time" situation. That's right, I said it, me-time. Time for me, my drink, and the beautiful silence of my brain.

Anyways, try this drink, it'll make you look forward to spring days. The idea of cucumber juice might seem a little daunting, but trust me, it's not difficult or really time consuming.
Gin Cucumber Salt and Pepper Cocktails
Makes 4 drinks, from

8 1oz shots of gin (1 cup)
6-8 1oz. shots of cucumber juice (0.75 - 1 cup)
4 1 oz. shots of lime juice (0.5 cups)
0.33 cups of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled together)
Sparkling water (to top off the drinks)
Sea Salt
Crushed black pepper

Cucumber juice -- I don't have a juicer, but if you have one, use it! I used my hand blender. Blend up one english cucumber, and then put the pulp into a strainer over a bowl, and let it drain out of about 10 minutes.

Then mix the juice in with the simple syrup, gin, and lime juice into a mason jar or shaker with a few cubes of ice, and shake it up to mix well. Pour it into glasses filled with ice, top with sparkling water, a cucumber slice, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Modified Chile Rellenos

It's still winter. Spring break is around the corner, and it's still winter. My fingers, nose, and toes are well aware of that, but my brain and taste buds...not so much. I want tomatoes, I want avocados, I want iced coffee, iced tea, ICE. I want arugula salads with orange ginger vinaigrette, watermelon slices, frozen grapes, delicate asparagus, and cold noodle salad. I want spring, I want summer. I want sun, and flowers. Flats and shorts. Dresses and grass stains. I want it.

So to instead of doing a come-hither dance for the sun, I'm going to settle for spicy chile rellenos to light up my life, and belly. Chile rellenos are a Mexican dish that takes roasted chiles, stuffed with cheese, breaded in a delicious egg-based batter, pan fried, topped with a red sauce. It's amazing, wonderful, and immediately makes me think back to Arizona. Unfortunately, when I had a hankering for this dish, I didn't have the time or patience to make the batter, pan fry, etc.

So I modified it, and it was surprising easy, awesomely delicious, and as an added (unplanned) side benefit, healthier. This is definitely getting added into my weekly meal rotation.

Modified Chile Rellenos 
Serves 2-3

6 Poblano peppers (you can use any pepper, spicer or milder, poblanos aren't that spicy, but give a nice chile flavor)

Enchilada sauce (I used the Trader Joes brand, it's pretty good)
Mild Cheddar Cheese

Extra stuffing/topping options: black olives, tomatoes, green onions, red onions, jalepenos, corn.

Wash the chiles, and put them on a cutting board. Lay the chile so it lays flat without rolling, and use a paring knife to make 2 cuts forming a T, one cut parallel to the stem, and one perpendicular, down the middle of from the stem to the tip. Expose the inside of the chile and scrape out the seeds. Be careful not to cut through the chile entirely, or not to cut off the stem).

Coat the chiles in a layer of olive oil, and broil them for about 5 minutes, turn them over, and broil for another five minutes. You want the skin to be blackened/charred, and the chile itself to be soft. When it's done, put in a heat proof bowl, and cover it for about 10 minutes. The steam from the chiles will make the skin easy to pull off.

Meanwhile put your stuff mixture together into a separate bowl. I mixed spinach and cheese together.

When the chiles are cool enough to handle, pull them out, and gentle peel off the skin, making sure not to pull apart the chiles. Then you want to lay the chiles onto a flat cutting board and place some of your cheese mixture in the middle, roll the chile around it, and put it into a baking dish. Do this with the remaining chiles. Cover with enchilada sauce and little more cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, and you're done!