Guacamole

If you could eat guacamole for breakfast, lunch and dinner, raise your hand. Personally, I think guacamole is pretty hard to mess up as long as you use fresh ingredients, and you aren’t afraid to use a little salt. I also think a knife, a potato masher and a bowl is as high-tech as you should get. No food processing, no micro-plane, no pressing. Just add crispy chips, tacos, or … you name it. And no double-dipping.

Guacamole

recipe (in this case, ratio of ingredients and method) by Stephanie Kunstle

Note: If you’ve ever used fresh chiles, you’ll know that the heat in each chile varies, so start conservatively and you’ll need to taste as you go… throw in more jalapeños later on if you need to! You want a nice heat, but too much will just mask all the great fresh flavors. Also, choose tomatoes that aren’t watery. I’ve listed a few suggestions below. The fresh tomato flavor is what you are going for, so get the best you can find.

Makes around 3-4 cups of guacamole.

Ingredients:

  • 8 perfectly ripe avocados (small-ish to medium in size)
  • juice of 3 limes, plus one slice into quarters for garnish
  • 2 to 4 jalapeños, deveined and seeded, minced
  • 1/4 of a large red onion, minced
  • 5-6 “strawberry” tomatoes, 1-2 Romas, or 1 medium vine ripened tomato, chopped very, very fine
  • two large handfuls of cilantro leaves (most of the stems stripped away), chopped fine
  • good sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Halve the avocados, remove seeds, and scoop into a large bowl.
  2. Juice the limes and immediately pour over the avocados (besides being delicious, this will also keep them from turning an ugly brown), and mash together.
  3. Slice the tops/stems off of the jalapeños, slice lengthwise in half, then cut out the veins (white/light green internal part of the chile that holds the seeds) and seeds and discard. Slice the halves lengthwise into thin strips, then mince those strips. Add to avocados.
  4. Mince red onion, chop the tomatoes and cilantro very fine, and add to the avocados and mix all together.
  5. Season with salt, starting with a couple of hefty pinches, mixing well, and adding more as needed until it tastes absolutely delicious.
  6. Serve immediately or cover surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

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The Best Sidecar Cocktail

In honor of Dave’s 40th birthday (ahem…several years ago…), I threw a 1940s-themed party. We have both always been fascinated by the history of that time so this was a fun way to focus on the romance of those days. I found an old Better Homes & Gardens cookbook from the ’40s on eBay and began to research popular party food, and Dave started researching cocktails to select what would be the “signature” drink of the evening. It was a festive evening in mid-April, complete with about 2 feet of new snow that we’ll never forget. Last minute, we hired a couple of my brother’s friends (who were in high school) to be our valets so that when our guests arrived all done up on 1940s couture, they didn’t have to tramp down the street through heavy snow to our door. It was a great scene with ladies in their hats and furs, vintage lace dresses, velvet, and brown silk, feathers and beads, “sailors” just off the boat from the war, to dandies in their fedoras looking for the single ladies in the room, and even a star appearance by “Indiana Jones” (a.k.a. my dad; complete with bull whip). Dave wore a Bogart-esque white dinner jacket and was well-celebrated that night.

It was also the beginning of a Sidecar fascination, as Dave had selected a Champagne Sidecar as the signature cocktail of the evening. Through the years, though I must admit we are mostly wine-focused, Dave would fiddle with Sidecar recipes. Yet he never found one that stuck… Until a few months ago when we had occasion to revisit food and drink history again with friends (this time, Christmas of 1926 in North Yorkshire), over a Downton Abbey dinner. Leading up to the big night, I was “made” to sip Sidecars for final research purposes. Dave had been doing his own research online and found that he wasn’t the only one with the quest for the best Sidecar recipe. See this link for a fun read and background. Don’t you love when someone does full research for you and has all the resources (bars) of New York City? The proof was in the pudding, so to speak. Our guests came, they drank, and they said, “please sir, I want some more.” And since then, it has been a drink for weekend nights at home and has stirred in us (haha, did ya catch that?) a desire to bring back more classics to our cocktail glasses.

 The Best Sidecar Cocktail

recipe adapted by David Kunstle from Pouring Ribbons in NYC

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts Pierre Ferrand Cognac for the brandy
  • 1 part Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao (though Cointreau works well too) for the orange liqueur
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice, Meyer lemons create the most delicious version of this cocktail
  • 1-2 tsp. simple syrup made with Demerara or Turbinado sugar; recipe here
  • 1 twist (how to here) and any fresh garnish you desire (go for something seasonal)

Preparation:

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine brandy, orange liqueur, and lemon juice. If you use the juice from Meyer lemons, consider going a bit lighter on the simple syrup to keep this from being too sweet. Shake over ice, and strain into cocktail glass. No sugar rim wanted or needed here — the touch of simple syrup does the job seamlessly.
  2. Garnish with a twist from the lemon and something lovely…fresh rosemary sprig, just-picked lavender, thyme sprig, an edible flower…whatever makes you happy! Cheers!

 

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Oatmeal & Dark Chocolate Chip Scones

This is a riff on the Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Scones recipe I shared a couple of years ago, with a  couple of adjustments like less butter and the addition of dark chocolate. Win-win! We’re technically on the brink of spring time, although we’ve had such warm weather lately, if you weren’t a CO native, you could almost forget that we’ll still have plenty of cooler weather before we’re begging for mercy in May and into June. So I’m sharing this recipe for those rainy (snowy?) days that are still in our future. I refuse to let weather ruin a day, it’s more fun to embrace it and so I bake when it’s too cold and wet to venture out. More accurately, when I have ventured out into the cold for a hike with friends or errands, it’s so nice to come home and stir together a few ingredients and enjoy the delicious aroma as these scones bake and the oven warms the kitchen. Finally, the gift is to sit down to a cup of tea and freshly baked scone. Welcome, Spring!

Oatmeal & Dark Chocolate Chip Scones

adapted by Stephanie Kunstle from the “Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Scones” recipe in Bread for Breakfast by Beth Hensperger

Note: All you need is a large mixing bowl, and a light hand. Scone dough should be handled gently, so don’t muscle this together. You want light and airy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 and 1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup mounded dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in the butter and olive oil until the mixture has the texture of soft crumbs with pea sized or smaller lumps. Add the oatmeal and dark chocolate, and toss to combine.
  3. Stir in the buttermilk until dough forms a soft, shaggy ball, adding more buttermilk a tablespoon at a time if you need a bit more moisture.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a clean and floured work surface, knead gently about 10 times, or just until dough holds together. Pat out the dough into a rectangle (9 inches wide, 12 inches long) no less than 1 inch thick. Cut with a sharp knife or pastry wheel to form 12 squares (3 cuts across and 4 cuts down).
  5. Place the scones 1/2 inch apart on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Give each scone a  sprinkle of turbinado sugar for a little sparkle and touch of sweetness. Bake on center rack of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the pan from the oven and cool to the desired temperature on the baking sheet (for me that means I wait, oh, maybe 2 minutes). Serve hot, warm or room temperature!

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