Lemon Champagne Mint Cocktails turned into Granita!

A couple weeks ago I mentioned on my Twitter page that I was competing with my neighbor in a cocktail pour-off. I couldn’t share my recipe then, because spying eyes from across the lawn could not be trusted. Truth be told, I was in over my head on this one and needed any advantage I could get. In the end my neighbor Kathy won with her refreshing and seasonal “Dirty Ramp-tinis.”  She pickled the ramps, then poured ice cold gin over them and drizzled a bit of the pickling juice into the glass. They were simple perfection. I bowed my head to her after the first sip. My creations were dessert to her cocktail appetizers. I, of course, went for something with a bit of sweetness, but also tart and refreshing. I have been known to enjoy my sparkling beverages in the form of cava, prosecco and champagne; it was bound to be featured it in the glass. I had candied kumquats in my cupboard and lemongrass in my crisper drawer, so a citrus theme was born. I made a Meyer lemon and lemongrass sorbet to float in the champagne. I came in second (it was just the two of us competing), but I think I could have won against anything other than the “Dirty Ramp-tinis.” I did get extra points for presentation; I used my grandmother’s glasses and the drink really was lovely.

As I was enjoying my “Lemongrass Champagne Fizz Cocktail” I was already planning to make these same ingredients into a simple granita. Granita is like the rugged cousin of the sorbet. It has large crystals of flavored ice that require nothing but a basic freezer to make. It is perfect for those without an ice cream maker or those, like me, who just forgot to freeze the one I do own. It also doesn’t require a precise recipe to freeze smooth, since part of its charm is the icy texture.

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Sugar Plum Pie with a Folded Flaky Crust.

I know I promised a tour of the spice market in Istanbul, but I had to show you the plum pie I made for my stepmother’s birthday first. When I returned home after a month away my refrigerator was bare, nothing but a jar of capers and a bottle of sriracha sauce. After shopping in Europe the grocery stores here in MN seemed obscene with selection. The produce isle was filled with every fruit and vegie you could ever want, despite the fact that many of them wouldn’t be in season for months. It was both overwhelming and a bit thrilling to have all this at my fingertips. I’d been eating juicy plums and peaches in Italy and had decided to make my stepmother a pie with them for her birthday. They were perhaps a little firm, but they looked and smelled gorgeous. Because it was a special occasion I cooked the plums in champagne and vanilla. I made a tender crust and folded it a few times to add some flaky layers. This is my kind of birthday pie! (more…)

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