Monday, September 3, 2012

Shaken or Stirred, Enjoying The Martini

Before James Bond ever asked for his Martini to be shaken and not stirred, people from all over were enjoying the gin based drink after work, at dinner, on vacation and wherever else they happened to be. When preparing to write my handful or so Martini recipes, I wanted to see just where this now popular drink actually came from.

The base for a classic Martini is Gin, which was invented back in the 17th century from a mix of grain alcohol and juniper berry oil. Gin was used to treat kidney disorders and to purify blood. Patients were particularly happy as it caused a relaxed buzzed feeling when given. The partner to Gin inside of a Martini is Vermouth, another medical breakthrough which was used as a remedy for intestinal worms and rheumatism. It was also a sweet red dessert drink and made of several ingredients including cinnamon, clove, brandy, white wine, and tree bark along with other flavor enhancers. These days both Gin and Vermouth have evolved and are much more refined then their early counterparts.

Today the Martini is different and has changed to include various flavors, juices and now uses Vodka as a base almost as much as Gin. Check out these 7 tasty drinks for some fun times. A note of caution though, I always tell people to drink in moderation and to not drive after drinking. When it comes to a Martini, a potent drink which can catch people by surprise, please use a little bit more of the caution I just mentioned. I want everyone to be around when I write the next article!!

A martini is prepared inside of a cocktail shaker along with ice and either stirred or shaken. Once the alcohol has been poured over the ice , it is typical to allow it a chance to chill before being served. Once prepared, the Martini is served 'neat' which means no ice, strained from the shaker directly to the glass. Traditional garnish includes olives and lemon twists. Another trick you might want to try is rimming the martini glass with sugar for some of the fruity drinks. In order to do this though, make sure to use a fine sugar and try to use a flavor of fruit that is part of the drink itself. As an example, use a strawberry slice for the Strawberry Martini or a lime to match up with the Cosmopolitan.

~ Strawberry Martini ~
Made correctly, this Martini recipe can make any occasion pure magic. It uses real strawberries and not a strawberry syrup
1 tsp Dry Vermouth
1 tsp Grenadine
1 tsp Sugar
5 Strawberries, sliced
Take the sliced strawberries and sugar, crush them using a spoon inside of the cocktail shaker, add 5 or 6 ice cubes over the top. Pour vodka, vermouth, and grenadine into the shaker. Allow the alcohol to sit with the ice for a few seconds to chill. Cover and shake vigorously, strain into a martini glass, garnish with a sliced strawberry.


~ Cosmopolitan ~

1 1/2 oz Vodka
1 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Cranberry Juice
1 tsp Lime Juice

Add ingredients to a iced cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

~ Sour Apple Martini ~
1 1/2 oz Sour Apple Pucker
1 1/2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Cointreau 

  Add ingredients to shaker. Stir gently. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist, apple slice or a cherry.

~ Raspberry Martini ~
2 oz Vodka
1 oz Chambord
Splash of Sweet & Sour Mix
Add all ingredients into an iced cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

~ Tiramisu Martini ~
1/4 oz Almond Liqueur, Amaretto
1/4 oz Hazelnut Liqueur, Frangelico
1 oz Espresso Vodka, Van Gogh
1 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Kahlua
1/2 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
1 oz Cream
Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and allow to chill. Shake vigorously and strain into chilled martini glass. Top with ground nutmeg, cinnamon or even cocoa powder.

~ Orange Creamsicle Martini ~

1 1/2 oz Orange Vodka
1 1/2 oz Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Orange Juice
splash of Cream

Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and allow to chill. Shake vigorously and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange slice.

~ Classic Martini ~

3 oz Gin
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
Lemon Peel
1-3 Green Olives

Ice the glass. Pour the Gin and Vermouth into a shaker along with ice, allow to sit for about 20 seconds and stir. Remove ice from the glass and strain in the alcohol. Take the lemon peel and twist or squeeze over the glass, allowing the 'spray' to fall into and on the glass. Skewer the olives and lay against the side of the glass.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and do some reading. The weekly drink page has really caught on and is quickly becoming a Kitchen Time favorite! Later this week I was going to be writing a piece on Mediterranean Cooking, however that is going to be put on hold as I tackle a new topic that just popped up this afternoon. Look for some healthy and eye opening stuff later this week!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Candy Apples, Fudge, Cotton Candy...OH MY!!

My very own personal favorite food from the fair. I used to get
these as a kid growing up in NH
Summer is nearing a close, kids are returning to school and the night air is getting cooler as the days become shorter. Every year here in New England, seasons change and with the passing of summer we look forward to the tradition of many Town Fairs. Some are grand events while others are small. It doesn't matter which you attend, nostalgia is around in abundance along with a midway full of rides and games. Vendors sell trinkets or inflatable toys for children, fireworks are always on a Saturday night, farm animals are covered with blue ribbons and someone is always selling the latest incarnation of Ginsu Knifes.

Fair time also gives us some of the most flavorful foods found anywhere!! You can get deep fried dough, pizza, popcorn, cotton candy, sausages smothered with peppers and onions, snowcones, burgers, hotdogs, turkey legs as big as your arm, 101 different varieties of fudge and apples covered in candy shells or gooey caramel. The best that list only begins to scratch at the surface of the foods you can find at the fair!

My inspiration for writing this piece came from the unlikeliest of all places, the local supermarket. While shopping the other day I came across a display of Candy Apples. Without really knowing why I stopped my cart and said kind of loudly, "You can't get good Candy Apples at a supermarket" and then continued to shake my head and say "You can only get the good ones at the fair or at an orchard." My small moment on top of the soapbox however, was heard by a few people who then proceeded to stare at me. Blushing, I just kept on going and headed over to get some peppers and onions around the corner. Funny thing was, I kept thinking about those apples as the next few days went by and that got me to think about some really great and happy times from my childhood. Every Labor Day weekend while young meant going to the fair, not just for a day because that wouldn't be right. I would go for multiple days and each day was all about the food. I would get to the fair grounds right as things opened up and was lucky enough to spend the whole day and night running around seeing friends and quite naturally eating! My grandmother and I had a special relationship when it came to the fair. While I was having my fun, she had strict instructions to bring home fudge. So each day I went, fudge would come home with me. After the fair was over, she would come to my house and we would sit out on the porch eating fudge. We would talk and laugh like we were the only people in the world. These days when I see a vendor selling fudge I smile and think of those days. One of the simple truths about good memories that I have preached for years is that somewhere in those memories, you can always find food.

So as I was strolling down memory lane and thinking about fair food, I made a very interesting discovery. One that had me kind of shocked. You see fair food has changed since the days of the fried dough and snowcones. You can still find those perennial favorites without any difficulty, but now you have something new to choose from as well. It appears that fair food, like many things right now has gone by the way of gourmet eats. You now have access to foods that wouldn't have even been thought of a few years ago, let alone back in 1897 when William Morrison and John C. Wharton invented Cotton Candy or as they called it 'Fairy Floss'. They later sold the warm spun sugary goodness at the 1904 Worlds Fair in St. Louis for 25 cents which back then was considered a fortune!. It came in a box and they reportably sold over 65,000 units which made them a nice little profit and started a craze that continues today with different flavors.

According to the 2011-2012 report on the hottest new trends in fair foods, the current run of favorites share a stage with the likes of El Bananarito, Buffalo Chicken Flapjack on a Stick, Breakfast Lollipop, Deep fried Kool-Aid Balls and what could be the next big hit...THE FRIED ICE CREAM BURGER, yup a burger with all the trimmings including bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, cheese and a scoop of cornflake battered, deep fried ice cream.

Don't despair though if you plan on going to the fair and want to keep the calories down. The ever popular fair ground is also going healthy, because le'ts face it, something needs to combat the Fried Ice Cream Burger. Here in MA, you have access to the Big E which draws people by the thousands and is also home to an award winning Tomato & Basil Salad. Made by Mary Beth Draghi and the folks at Little Acres Farm Stand in the Connecticut building, the salad uses fresh ingredients that include a Balsamic & Spice Dressing, Fresh Mozzarella Balls, and Late-Crop Tomatoes along with Fresh Basil. Some of the other healthy goodies you can find across the country include Peach Yogurt Sundaes or Grilled Portabello Mushroom Sandwiches, which are found over at The Mushroom Bar at the Minnesota State Fair. Heading back into MA at the Big E, stop by the Maine building and grab Salmon on a Stick as you stroll around the rides and games.

Let's get back over to the apples for a little bit. A real fair apple covered in that hard candy shell or the aforementioned caramel, has been and always will be one of my personal favorites. So after a little digging I was able to track down some ideas and recipes to make these at home in your kitchen. They make an excellent treat around this time of year and with apple orchards opening the gates in a couple of weeks, this gives you more then just apple pie to work on. When choosing apples to use, it is my recommendation to use firm apples with a bite of tartness to them. The firm flesh of the apple stands up well to the candy coating and the sweet and tart combination works nicely together. I found this list online at a website called and it should work well when choosing what apples to work with. These guys are also responsible for the actual recipe I typed out below. You will also want to get your hands on a candy thermometer. Working with sugar is never an easy task and making sure you have the right temperature is crucial to achieving the best results.

* Fuji Apples, firm and sweet apples
* Granny Smith Apples, green skinned apples with tart flavor
* Braeburn Apples, firm with a slightly sweet and tart flavor
*  Jonathan Apples, firm with similar flavors to the Braeburn

Try and use smaller apples when working on the candy process.

6 Candy Apples
(sticks for candy making can be found at most party supply stores)
1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup
2 Cup White Sugar
3/4 Cup Water
Food Coloring, traditional coloring is red, but have some fun and experiment with blues, green and orange
Toppings, use any type of candy or nuts

In a small/medium sauce pot combine the syrup, sugar, food coloring and water. Bring to a boil over medium/high heat. As soon as the mixture boil,s reduce heat and allow to simmer until the temperature reaches 300 degrees. It will take some time so be very patient. While stirring gently, brush the sides of the pot occasionally with a pastry brush and warm water. The temperature will create a good crunchy shell on the apples. Dip the apples into the mixture, tilt the pot to completely coat the apple if needed. Remember to just dip the apples and coat them. You don't want to just place them into the candy mixture. If you are using candy toppings, roll the apple into the mix before the shell can harden. Place the apples on a baking sheet covered in foil and sprayed lightly with pan coating. Finished apples on the tray can go into the refrigerator to cool.
Oreo Cookie Fudge
3/4 Cup Butter
2/3 Cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 Cup Marshmallow Fluff
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Cups White Chocolate Chips
3 Cups Crushed Oreos
 Take a 9x9 pan and line it with aluminum foil, coat with pan spray. In a sauce pot melt the butter combined with the condensed milk over low/medium heat. When the mixture comes to a boil reduce heat to a simmer. Use a candy thermometer to reach a temperature of 230-235. Stir in the chocolate chips. Remove from the heat and continue to stir. Add the Fluff, vanilla, and 2 cups of the crushed Oreos. When the mixture begins to stiffen and become smooth pour it into the prepared pan. Use the remainder of the crushed Oreos to sprinkle over the top. Keep in the refrigerator over night to allow it to settle.
Thanks for taking a stroll with me down memory lane. It was lots of fun and just one of the reasons that I truly love what I do. It was my Grandmother who truly taught me how to love food and all that goes with it and I know if she could see me today that she would be proud of where Kitchen Time is going. Later this week I will be doing a piece on Martinis and finishing up with that piece on Mediterranean Cooking. Feel free to share with friends or family. Send me an email over at and make sure to visit us over on Facebook at and online at the main Kitchen Time page