Monday, January 28, 2013

Apple Brandy Hot Toddy

It's cold out there today.  It's cold out there every day.

In fact it has just begun to snow again.  So what better time to share my new favorite hot drink?  Have one tonight!

The name Hot Toddy always sounded so wonderful to me (I think I first saw it in a Dennis the Menace comic strip in the weekday funnies...), so I was pretty disappointed when a friend ordered one in a bar when we were 21 or so and it came back as whiskey, hot water, and a strip of lemon peel with a clove stuck in it (I think that particular bartender didn't even add any sugar or honey, which is a totally legitimate addition, making it maybe the world's most disappointing hot toddy ever).

Poking around the internet recently I figured out that things could be much much better.  You can use steeped tea, of course, instead of plain hot water!  Flavor options are limited only by your tea collection!  You can sweeten it!  You can use other kinds of liquor!

So here is my version, using the apple brandy I made a few weeks ago.  It is so warming.  The combination of spices from the tea with the apple brandy, and the lovely caramel flavor of amber grade agave nectar, it's just like the flavors of apple pie, but with the added benefit of soothing a sore throat, if you happen to have one... in fact, if you take out the alcohol and use lots of lemon and honey, and plain hot water, it's the cold remedy our dad always made us when we were sick (and which still make for myself whenever I'm sick... THE best soother for a cough or a sore throat).

Apple Brandy Hot Toddy
serves two

1 bag Bengal Spice tea (or similar - Good Earth would be great, or any non-caffeinated chai blend)
boiling water (about 3 cups)
one lemon
3-4 oz apple brandy (or plain brandy, bourbon, scotch, irish whisky, even rum, if you like)
2 generous tbsp. agave nectar (preferably amber, or use honey or grade B maple syrup)

In a tea pot, steep the one bag of tea in about 3 cups of boiling water, and let steep for a few minutes.

While your tea steeps, get two nice sized mugs (at least 12 oz capacity).  Depending on the size of your lemon, and your taste, squeeze the juice of anywhere from a quarter to a half a lemon into each of the two mugs.  Drop the lemon quarter (or half) into the mug after you squeeze out all the juice, if you like (and if not, rub the peel around the inside of the mug a bit before you discard it, or take a nice strip of peel off with a vegetable peeler and add it to the mug).  Add a tablespoon (or slightly more) agave nectar and 1.5 to 2 oz of apple brandy to each mug.

When the tea has steeped about 5 minutes, fill each mug to the top with the spiced tea, stir, taste to see if it's sweet enough, and serve.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Healthy, Hearty New Year - Salmon Steaks in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Well, all the eating and merriment sure was fun, wasn't it? But all good things must come to an end, at least for the good of our waistbands. So often I think of healthy eating as solely being salads and other things that just do not satisfy, especially in the winter. This meal, taken from Bon Appetit magazine, is the perfect example of how healthy eating can actually be hearty and satisfying. I'm not generally a huge fan of  salmon but this sauce mitigated a lot of the things I don't like about it. The sauce is more spiced than spicy with its heat coming from cayenne pepper and a serrano chile. Sugar and cinnamon add some sweetness and lemon juice gives it a nice bright flavor.

6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 serrano chile, roughtly chopped with seeds (remove for a less spicy sauce)
2 Tbs caraway seeds
2 tps paprika
1 1/2 tsp cayenne (recipe called for a 1/4 tsp, I somehow read 1 1/2 tsp; it was delicious)
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 8 oz salmon steaks (we shared one 8 oz. steak between the two of us, which was plenty)
3 Tbs flour
8 Tbs vegetable oil
salt and pepper
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs chopped cilantro

Toast caraway seeds in a small pan until you think, "mmmm, rye bread!" Let them cool and then grind, either in a spice mill or mortar and pestle.

In a food processor, combine garlic, serrano chile, paprika, cayenne, cumim, cinnamon and caraway. Add 2 Tbsp of oil and blend. You may need to add a little additional oil, a little at a time, until you have a paste.

Heat 2 Tbs oil in a large heavy skillet. Salt and pepper your salmon steaks on both sides and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Cook salmon until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and wipe out skillet.

Heat the last 4 Tbs of oil in the skillet over medium heat and add the garlic paste. Cook for about 30 seconds being very careful not to burn it.

Add your tomato paste and 1/2 cup of water. Stir to combine and allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Simmer for about 30 seconds, then stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Add your steaks back to the skillet and bring it all to a simmer. Cover and cook for an additional 7-11 minutes (7 was perfect for me) until the fish is cooked through.

We enjoyed these over some brown rice with the chopped cilantro on top. Don't skip the cilantro - it added a lovely bright flavor to the dish. I will be baking some eggs in the leftover sauce for breakfast soon.