Get Your Summer Picnic On!

Jamaica Cocktail

1/2 cup white sugar
3 1/2 cups filtered water
1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers
1/4 cup lime juice (from 3 limes)
1 cinnamon stick
3 ounces, fluid cup vodka 

1. To a medium saucepan, add the sugar and filtered water; bring the mixture to a slight boil. Remove from heat. Stir in the hibiscus flowers, lime juice and cinnamon stick. Cover the pan and allow the tea to steep for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture is fragrant and a deep red color. 

2. Run the tea through a strainer, discarding the tea leaf mixture and transferring the tea to a pitcher. Add the vodka and adjust according to your taste. To serve, add a few ice cubes to each glass and divide between glasses. 

Curried Cauliflower Cakes

1 head cauliflower (1 pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric 
1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Vegetable oil, for the skillet

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the cauliflower on a lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season the cauliflower with 1 teaspoon of salt and transfer to the oven for 20 minutes, turning once to ensure roasting. 

2. Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor and pulse until the mixture is coarsely ground. 

3. Place the cauliflower in a large bowl and add bread crumbs, eggs, flour, yogurt, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix until thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for 3 hours. 

4. Scoop 2 tablespoons of the cauliflower mixture into the palm of your hand. Form into a patty 3 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. Continue to make patties with the remaining mixture. 

5. Place the skillet over medium heat, and pour vegetable oil until it reaches about 1/2 inch up the sides. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the fritters, being sure to not overcrowd the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown. Gently flip and cook on opposite sides for a minute or two. Transfer to paper towels to drain and then place them in a preheated 200 degree F oven to keep warm. Repeat the process to cook the remaining fritters. Serve immediately. 

Grilled Potato and Beet Salad

1 red beet, ends trimmed
4-5 golden potatoes, sliced
2 ounces feta cheese, cubed
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
2 teaspoons good-quality olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt
Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a few teaspoons of water in a small baking dish. Add the beet and cover the dish with foil; transfer to the oven to roast for 30-40 minutes, until the beet is tender when poked with a fork. Remove, allowing the beet to cool slightly before handling; peel the outer later off, discarding it. Cut the beet into 1/4-inch slices and set aside. 

2. Fire up your grill, or alternatively you could use a grill pan set over high heat. Brush the grill or pan with olive oil and add the slices of potato. Cook on each side for about 7-10 minutes. The time may vary depending on the thickness of your potato slices. Add the beet slices, along with the warm potato slices, feta cheese and dill to a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the potato/beet mixture, tossing lightly. Transfer the salad to a bowl or large to-go container. 

Vanilla Pudding with Cherry and Bay Leaf Compote

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, caviar 
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
2 egg yolks

1. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and vanilla bean caviar. If the vanilla bean caviar clumps up, use your fingers to break up the clumps, being sure to distribute the vanilla evenly throughout the sugar. To a small saucepan, add the sugar/vanilla mixture, corn starch and salt; and mix. Add the milk and whisk thoroughly. Heat the milk mixture until it feels hot to the touch. 

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Next temper the egg yolks by adding about 1/4 cup of warm milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking the entire time. Add the milk/egg yolk mixture back to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stirring constantly, cook the mixture for about 2-3 minutes, until it reaches a light simmer, is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Place a strainer on top of a bowl and run the pudding through the strainer, eliminating any lumps or cooked egg bits. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the pudding's surface and transfer to the refrigerator until cooled, about 2 hours. To serve, transfer to small jars or containers and top with the cherry compote. 

Cherry Compote: 
20 cherries (6 ounces), pitted and quartered
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 small bay leaves
Pinch of salt

1. In a small saucepan, add all of the ingredients and mix. Place the pot over medium-low and cook for 10 minutes with the lid on. Turn off the heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl until you're ready to use. 

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