Tiki Time: Zac Overman's Angostura Colada

Break out the lawn torches and rattan, and don a Hawaiian-print shirt: here's an original tiki drink recipe from bartender Zac Overman. You can ask Zac to make you one on Thursdays at Fort Defiance during Sunken Harbor Club, a weekly tiki night. American restaurateurs created this Polynesian-inspired class of cocktails––defined by rum and tropical juices, flowers and cocktail umbrellas––in the 1930s. While many of us have enjoyed an over-sweetened boat of (flaming) booze in a "Chinese" restaurant at some point, bartenders like Zac are reviving and reinventing the genre, and making some really good drinks. 

Photo: Vicky Wasik

Photo: Vicky Wasik

While playing around with different spice notes in 8- or 10-ingredient tropical drinks, I decided to simplify things and make bitters the star in a Piña Colada-esque cocktail. Angostura bitters have all the complexity and warm spice of a great tiki drink on their own! They needed a little rum to round them out––I'm using Smith and Cross, but any good aged Jamaican rum will do (think Appleton or Myers). After that, it's simply a matter of a little freshly squeezed pineapple and lime juice and cream of coconut. The result is a silky smooth, juicy, bittersweet drink that tastes like way more work than it is. 

ANGOSTURA COLADA

  • 1 1/2 oz Angostura Bitters
  • 1 1/2 oz Coco Lopez (or Goya) Cream of Coconut
  • 2 oz fresh Pineapple Juice
  • 1 oz fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz Smith & Cross Navy Strength Jamaican Rum

1. Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.

2. Shake hard for 10 seconds and pour without straining into a snifter or tall glass––not a tiki mug––you'll want people to see the shocking red color. If needed, fill the rest of the glass with more ice.

3. Take a whole nutmeg and grate a little on top. Garnish with a pineapple chunk, a cocktail cherry, an umbrella, whatever you feel like jamming into it. It is a tiki drink, after all. 

 

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Terri Lee's Soy Sauce Pickled Jalapeños

Terri Lee is a product and event designer who sometimes collaborates with Sweets & Bitters. 

Photo: Megan Swann for Sweets & Bitters

Photo: Megan Swann for Sweets & Bitters

My mom has a series of recipes she created out of ingredients common in the US when Korean produce was nearly impossible to find.  She wanted to create something that resembled the flavors she remembered from her native country. While this isn’t a traditional recipe, it’s one of my favorites. The flavors blend so perfectly and the pickled jalapeños work as an accent on many different dishes. I always have a jar in the refrigerator just waiting to add a little kick to my cooking.

 

Soy Sauce Pickled Jalapeños

Makes 1 pint

  • 15 jalapeños
  • 1-2 limes
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 shallots
  • ½ c. soy sauce or tamari 
  • ½ c. rice vinegar
  • ½ c superfine sugar

 

1. This can be prepared right in a standard pint sized mason jar. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar. Stir with a spoon to dissolve the sugar (or just cap the lid and swirl).

2. Cut the limes into thin slices, reserving the ends. Set aside the slices. Squeeze the juice from the ends of the limes into the jar. Peel and slice the shallots into thin rounds. Set aside. Cut the cilantro into short 2-3” stems with leaves intact. Set aside.

3. Now prepare the jalapeños. I wear a pair of cooking gloves to keep the spice from soaking into my hands. (If I don’t, I inevitably end up rubbing my eyes and highly regret it). Seed jalapenos and slice into thin rings. A few renegade seeds are okay if you like a little extra kick. Set aside.

4. Give the brine mix another quick swirl and then start layering your ingredients. Start with one layer of limes, then add cilantro, shallots, jalapeños, shallots, cilantro and back to lime. (Think palindrome). You want to end on limes. Once you have it packed and limes are on top keeping all the ingredients in the brine, cap and refrigerate.

5. It’s best if you can let these sit in your refrigerator for 2-3 days. The tighter the ingredients are packed—the spicier it will become and will take a few more days to pickle (approx 5 days). You can add more brine if you want a less spicy version.

 

Notes: After the flavors have blended, use the pickle brine in place of vinegar for a salad dressing. Or add peeled hard-boiled eggs to the brine once there’s enough room (usually when the jalapeños are nearly gone). Let it sit for 2-3 days. It soaks in the flavors of the brine and makes a delicious pickled egg. Slice the egg thin and add it to a salad or on an open faced sandwich.

 

 

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Hannah's Hot Pink Sauerkraut

Pickled Jalapeños (Mexican style)

Hannah's Hot Pink Sauerkraut

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How can just cabbage and salt taste so good?!? Even the simplest fermentation creates miraculous transformation, so it's no wonder people become obsessed with the process. If you're thinking of dabbling, sauerkraut is a great place to start. It's so easy you don't even need a proper recipe, just follow these basic steps:

  1. Cut up cabbage, saving a few of the outer leaves.
  2. Massage salt into it the chopped cabbage, about 1 teaspoon per pound.* This will release water from the chopped leaves.
  3. Press the chopped cabbage into a jar, food-grade bucket, or fermenting crock until enough water comes out to cover the cabbage. 
  4. Put the reserved leaves on top of the chopped cabbage.
  5. Weight this with something clean and nonreactive (I use a jar of water or small plate) to keep the cabbage submerged in it's own liquid.
  6. Put a cloth or loose lid over the top to keep dust and bugs out.
  7. Let this ferment at room temperature for 3-10 days, until it tastes sour enough for your taste. 

*If you don't have a kitchen scale, weigh the cabbages in the supermarket (or check your receipt). An average head is about 3-4 pounds.

To get a nice rosy hue, mix red and green cabbages. The batch pictured came from one red cabbage and three green ones (which yielded about four quarts). If you want to learn more about fermenting foods, I recommend reading Sandor Katz's The Art of Fermentation, the best and most thorough book on the subject. 

Simple Science: The salt you add, and lactic acid produced by the fermentation process create an environment hospitable to the "good" bacteria that are doing the fermenting and inhospitabale to "bad" bacteria. That's how you end up with something delicious and safe to eat!

 

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Coconut (water) Almond Milk

 

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Only in Los Angeles can you have freshly made nut milk delivered to your door twice a week. I was visiting a friend near Venice Beach who poured my a glass of this elixir––almond milk made with coconut water––oh my god! If only I could get this stuff in Brooklyn! Maybe I should move to the West Coast, where there's local produce year round, and I can get coconut almond milk delivered (by bicycle) in a Mason jar.

Well, I can stay in New York for now, because I've figured out how to make it myself, and it's not that hard. Wherever you are, you can too. It's as simple as steeping ground almonds in coconut water, then straining the milky liquid. Sure, if you could crack a coconut yourself, that would be ideal, but thankfully cartons of coconut water are available just about everywhere now (Harvest Bay and Trader Joe's brands taste freshest to me). If you don't have a food processor for grinding nuts (or you just don't want to get it out) you can cheat: Bob's Red Mill sells bags of almond meal, and they work just fine.

I'm generally not a fan of kitchen tools that serve only one purpose, but after making a dozen batches of this, I bought a nut milk bag. It makes this process even easier. They cost only a few dollars, and you can find one at a health food store or online. Before that, I used a small cotton produce bag. Doubled up cheescloth knotted with a piece of kitchen twine will also work––improvise with what you have on hand.

Describing something as ambrosial is overdone and sounds cliché, but this really is! You won't even want to use it for cereal, it's so preciously delicious. 

 

Coconut (water) Almond Milk

makes 1 quart

  • 1/2 pound (about 2 cups) finely ground almonds
  • 1 quart (4 cups) coconut water

1. Bundle the ground almonds in a nut milk bag, small cotton bag, or doubled up cheescloth, and tie it tightly.

2. Put the bundle in a large nonreactive bowl, and pour the coconut water over it.

3. Leave this for 6-8 hours, or overnight, occasionally squeezing the bag to incorporate the coconut water and nut meal. It will realease a milky liquid.

4. Squeeze and knead the bag to mix the nuts and water one last time, then lift it out and squeeze it over the bowl to wring out all the milk. (Save the spent almonds to use in muffins, bread, or pancakes) .

5. Funnel the milk into a jar or bottle. Keep refrigerated, and shake before using. Don't worry if it separates! This keeps well for three to four days. It will ferment if you keep it much longer, so drink up!

 

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Lemon Shortcake

Photo: Lauren Colchamiro for Sweets & BItters

This is one of those desserts that will make your cooking seem fabulously effortless! Make the lemon curd ahead (pretty little jars of it also make a wonderful gift). While you’re at it, cut a lemon into thin slices and leave it to soak in rich simple syrup: 1/2 cup sugar dissolved, with the help of heat and stirring, in ¼ cup water. When your guests are on their way, a batch of fresh biscuits can be mixed and baked in 20 minutes. Whisk up a bowl of lightly sweetened whipped cream. Just before serving, split the biscuits, fill them with lemon curd and whipped cream, and put another little dollop of cream on top with a sweetened lemon-slice pressed into it (save the syrup for cocktails). Edible flowers add a lovely flourish if you can find some.

Hint: Buy potted pansies, violas, or johnny jump-up plants to use for your edible flower garnish. It can be hard to find just the flowers, and this way you will have a nice little

 

Lemon Shortcake

make about 12 shortcakes

 

for the lemon curd

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold

 

for simple biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons cold butter
  • 3/4  cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

 

for assembling shortcakes

  • whipped cream
  • syrup-soaked lemon slices (see headnote)
  • edible flowers, such as violas (optional)

 

cooking the lemon curd

1. In a double boiler or a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the eggs and yolks. Whisk in the sugar and salt, then the lemon zest and juice. Cut the butter into several small pieces, and add it. Set the saucepan or double boiler over medium heat.

2. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter is incorporated and the mixture thickens. Never allow it to boil, or it will separate and curdle. When the curd is nearly thick enough that you can imagine spreading it on toast, but still a little too runny for that, remove it from the heat; it will continue to thicken as it cools.

3. Transfer the curd to a bowl or jar. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd, and pierce a small hole in it. This will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool. This will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to two weeks.

 

baking the biscuits

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl; stir with a fork or whisk to combine. Cut the butter into small pieces and work it into the dry ingredients: pinch the butter and flour together until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs or coarse cornmeal. 

2. Stir in the buttermilk or yogurt. When the mixture becomes too stiff to stir, mix and knead with your hands, just until it holds together in a ball. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick, then fold it in half, and in half again. Roll out again to about 3/4 inch thick. Cut 2-inch circles out of the dough, using a cookie cutter or a sturdy glass. Place them on the baking sheet. (Scraps can be pressed together, rolled out again, and cut out).

3. Bake the biscuits for 7-9 minutes. Serve warm, if possible. These are best within a few hours of baking.

 

assembling the shortcakes

1. Break the biscuits in half. Fill each with a spoonful of lemon curd and a spoonful of whipped cream. Put the top back on the biscuit.

2. Dollop more whipped cream on top, and garnish it with one of the syrup-soaked lemon slices and an edible flower. Serve right away.

 

 

Rise and Dine: Sweet Herb Scones

Picnic season is nearly upon us, so I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes from the first volume of Sweets & Bitters, which was all about eating outdoors.

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Once you get the hang of thes you’ll be able bake them in your sleep. Scones were the first thing I made each morning when I worked in a bakery. At 3 a.m., squinty-eyed and groggy, I put tray after tray of them in the oven. By the time they came out, golden-brown and oozing butter, coffee was brewed and I was waking up. The dough can be prepped the night before or pulled together in the morning in a matter of minutes. I season mine with a mix of fragrant herbs and flowers from my window garden. You can use the same basic recipe to make scones with nuts, dried fruit, candied ginger, or even cheese and scallions.

 

Sweet Herb Scones

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped herbs, such as scented geranium, rosemary and/or lavender leaf
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, or 1/2 cup yogurt plus 1/2 cup milk
  •  

Notes: Substitute a pinch of dried Herbes de Provence if fresh ones aren’t available.

For most pastry, softening butter in the microwave isn’t a good idea; it can change the chemistry of the butter and negatively affect the outcome of the recipe. But in this case you can get away with it, so go for it!

 

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with baking

parchment. Use a whisk or fork to mix together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.

2. Use your (meticulously clean) hands to work the softened butter into the flour mixture. You want most of the mixture to look like bread crumbs, with some larger coin-sized chunks of butter.

3. Toss the herbs and zest with the flour and butter to distribute evenly. Then add the buttermilk (or milk and yogurt) and quickly mix it in with your hands, just until most of the flour is moistened. Don’t over-mix, or the scones will be tough! At this point, you can rest the dough overnight or proceed to rolling out the scones. They will hold their shape better if you chill them for at least a 1/2 hour.

4. Place a piece of parchment on the surface where you’ll roll out the scones––it makes cleanup easier. Generously sprinkle flour over the parchment, plop the dough down, and sprinkle more flour on top. Roll the dough into a square about an inch-and-a-half thick.

Don’t have a rolling pin? Use a wine bottle.

5. Dust a big sharp knife with flour. Cut the square into quarters, then again on the diagonals so you have eight triangles. Arrange them on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes (rotating the pan halfway through) until the tops blush golden brown and the edges show a hint of crunch.

6. Place the pan on a wire rack or upturned muffin tin to cool for about 15 minutes. Scones will keep best for a day or two, wrapped in something porous, such as a paper bag or clean dish towel.

 

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Bodega Blooms

Stacie usually spends her days arranging flowers in the homes of the stars, but she met me outside a bodega to show me what could be done with the most pedestrian blossoms. With skill and style, she transformed these unremarkable bunches into high-end designs. Here are her tips for selecting and arranging corner store flowers.

Click here to read them all.

From Sweets & Bitters Volume 2, Corner Store Entertaining:

For Valentine's Day, Keep it Simple

Transient

This year, keep Valentine's day simple with these heart shaped pancakes. (And if you're not in love, you can still make them for your mom, your best friend, or yourself).

Valentine's is the worst day of the year to go out to dinner (you're likely to pay a premium for uninspired food in a very crowded restaurant, and if you don't get into an argument, you'll probably have to overhear someone else's). The bombardment of chocolates and roses leading up to the 14th can seem more annoying than romantic. Still, if you have a sweetheart, its unkind not to observe the holiday. And isn't it nice, after all, to have a holiday dedicated to love?

Who doesn't adore having breakfast made for them? Even if you are totally unprepared (or you blew it on Valentines day and you need to get out of the doghouse the next morning), you can probably make pancakes for your sweetheart. You most likely have all the ingredients in your pantry, and you can dash to the corner store, or knock on a neighbor's door to borrow a cup of milk. If you don't have measuring cups and spoons, no sweat! You can use a mug and a tea spoon. This recipe is incredibly forgiving––just don't over-stir it.

Sometimes the simplest gestures are the most thoughtful. And this easy breakfast is a celebration of love that you might find yourself repeating throughout the year.

Basic Pancakes

To make these vegan, omit the egg, use nondairy milk, and add a teaspoon of lemon or cider vinegar. If you have buttermilk, use that instead of milk and substitute 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for the baking powder. Try replacing 1/3 of the flour with whole wheat, rye, or any other interesting flour for heartier pancakes.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • oil or butter, for greasing the pan

1. Put a skillet on the stove over medium heat — it needs to be thoroughly heated by the time you drop batter in. Whisk together the dry ingredients: the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat the egg and combine it with the milk.

2. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients. Mix them quickly and leave some lumps (they will disappear as the pancakes cook). Don’t mix too much or the pancakes’ texture will be tough and chewy.

3. Pour a bit of oil into the pan to grease it lightly, turn up the heat to medium-high, and wait for the oil to warm so it shimmers. Or use butter and wait for it to melt. (If you want even-toned pancakes, use oil; butter gives a better flavor but makes the pancakes' surface splotchy and burns more easily).

4. Using a ladle, or a measuring cup with a spout, pour the batter onto the pan in a heart shape. If you're finding it difficult to draw a heart with the batter, try making the letter V (it will end up looking like a heart). You can use a spoon to quickly adjust the shape after the batter is poured.

5. When lots of tiny bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake, it’s ready to flip. Flip it, and cook until evenly browned. You can check the center for gooeyness with a toothpick or the tip of a sharp knife if you’re uncertain of whether it’s done. Repeat until the batter is used up.

Pancakes can be kept warm on a heatproof plate in a 200 degree oven for about 15 minutes before serving.

 

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Mending Party

Transient

You know that nice coat that just needs a button sewn on? That special mug you were going to superglue back together last summer? That shirt you'd wear if you just fixed the ripped seam? Your favorite jeans that need to be patched? That gadget that you've been meaning to take apart and see if you can repair?

Try hosting a mending party! Call up some friends: surely they have things to mend too, and doing it together takes the tedium out of the task. Put out a plate of cookies, a bowl of popcorn and a pot of coffee. And spend an afternoon in good company fixing the stuff you’ve been hiding in the back of a drawer somewhere.

Suggested Supplies

  • Needles
  • Thread, various colors
  • Sewing pins
  • Super glue
  • Duct tape
  • Sandpaper
  • Scissors
  • Screwdrivers

This is a lovely way to pass the time on a dreary day. It feels good to mend something instead of discarding it!

 

If you host your own mending party, we’d love to hear in the comments what you fixed.

 

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