A Fresh Start Cocktail

Happy New Year!

I’m not big on new years resolutions. I see no reason to hold off on doing something you truly want to do, so waiting till January 1st doesn’t work for me.  I’m sure the reason most resolutions are not kept past January 3rd is that they tend to be things people don’t want to do.

That’s not to say I don’t see an advantage to the new year. It’s a time to reflect, look back on what was and move forward. If your year was good, you can build on it. If your year was crappy, well then you get begin all over again. A new year gives us a chance to clean the slate and start fresh.

Personally I found 2011 to be kind of meh. It was  year I spent waiting, and because of that I feel almost that it was a lost year. It had ups and downs along the way, but  looking back the downs outweighed the ups. So I’m looking forward to 2012 and all of the opportunities it has to offer.

I’m starting the year off with this fresh start drink, a rosemary scented grapefruit cocktail. The fresh squeezed grapefruit is a nod to the healthy living many have promised to adhere to this month. And the rosemary sugar syrup and booze are there to throw resolutions out the window. Feel free to use store bought grapefruit juice, but keep in mind that they are often sweetened so you may have to cut back on the sugar in the syrup. Also, if you are on medication that doesn’t play well with grapefruit .. drink something else please.

Rosemary Scented Grapefruit Cocktail

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2-3 long sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 cups fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 3 oz vodka
  • 2 oz Triple Sec
  1. Make the rosemary syrup: In a small saucepan heat the sugar and water until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the rosemary and simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a pitcher, mix the rosemary syrup with the grapefruit juice, vodka and Triple Sec.
  3. Serve over ice with a rosemary “stirrer”.



Panko Crusted Rack of Lamb

What makes you happy? I’ve been thinking a lot about this question lately, mostly in a work context. Turmoil at the office has me thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. Yes, I know that by all reasonable measures I am a grown up, but I’ve always gone with the flow and let circumstances lead me rather than making real choices. Not really grown up behaviour. Circumstances have now led me to a place that makes me very uncomfortable, and I’ve realized need to take control.

When I think about what I want to do I draw a complete blank. The question seems so huge I can’t manage it. So I’m trying to frame the question differently; what makes me happy? The answer to that question tends to be little things.  A Tuesday night with friends and wine.. my yellow rubber boots.. singing at the top of my lungs in the car. And a great meal with family. The kind where everyone is there, my cousins telling the most ridiculous stories, and all of us feeling stuffed beyond belief. A staple at these meals has always been lamb, one of my favourite things to eat. This doesn’t really solve my career issues, but having lamb for dinner Sunday night did make me feel a little better. The little things will always be there, no matter what goes on in the office.

My dad usually handles the lamb, but since I planned on blogging the recipe I decided to make it myself. I did go to him for guidance though, like should it be roasted with the fatty side up or down and how will I know when it’s done? The fatty side should be up, and there’s a pretty neat trick to figuring out if it’s done if you don’t have a meat thermometer. Press the thumb and index finger of your left hand together, now with your right hand poke the fleshy part of your thumb. That amount a give is what you would feel if you poked a piece of lamb that’s cooked rare. Press your thumb to your middle finger, and that amount of give is what you would feel from medium. The next finger over is well done. Or you could just use a thermometer.

Panko Crusted Rack of Lamb

(serves 4)

(Adapted from Laura Calder and Gourmet)

  •  1/2 cups panko
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1  tsp salt
  • 1  tsp pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 frenched rack of lamb (8 cutlets) at room temperature
  • 4 tbsp Dijon mustard
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F
  2. Mix the panko, garlic, parsley, rosemary, onion powder,  and half the salt and pepper together. Stir in 2 tbsp olive oil to hold the mixture together. Set aside.
  3. Season the lamb with with the remaining salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil till it just starts to smoke. Add the meat to the pan, browning on each side for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the skillet. Cover the lamb with the Dijon, then press the panko mixture onto the mustard. Place the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes for medium rare (130 F on an instant read thermometer). Cover with foil and let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Grape and Rosemary Cake

Another of summer treasures has arrived in Quebec over the last couple of weeks: Concord Grapes. Concord Grapes are a little smaller than the standard varieties, and I find them to be much sweeter. Their season only lasts a couple of weeks and they’re really easy to miss. I bought a small box and started munching on them right away.

As I was stuffing my face with grapes I wondered how else I could use them. Then I remembered this month’s Bake Together. Abby Dodge has asked us to bake a simple fruit cake our way. Concord Grapes were clearly how I wanted to go. I struggled with how to flavour the cake for awhile. I considered following Abby’s original instructions, or maybe some cardamom. Then Janice suggested rosemary, which sounded perfect. I didn’t want an overwhelming rosemary flavour so I used Janice’s infused honey method from her Lavender Honey Cakelettes.

Grape and Rosemary Cake

  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 tablespoons clarified butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp rosemary infused honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 pint Concord Grapes
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9 in round pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang to pull the cake out of the pan once done.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Mix in the honey. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
  4. Mix in the dry ingredients alternating with the sour cream.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes. During this time prepare the fruit, toss the grapes with 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp flour. Once the 15 minutes are done pour the fruit on top of the cake (you’ll have to work quickly). Bake for and additional 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of rosemary honey.