apples

bittersedited

Two months ago if you would have asked me about my experience with cocktail bitters my answer would have been zero, zilch. My main game has always been wine, but recently I’ve been setting foot in the cocktail corner. I’ve discovered that amazing great drinks are similar to a fine wine. They have several layers of flavors, complexity and depth, different textures, and can compliment food beautifully. It’s true that some of these characteristics come from the spirits used, but the addition of a homemade infused syrup, seasonal fruit puree, or artisan bitters can be a game changer.

Through the bustling food and drink community we have here in the Twin Cities, I’d heard a lot of buzz about Easy & Oskey, two local guys who founded their small batch bitters company just a year ago. What really got me interested was that they put you in the drivers seat with their “Make Your Own” Bitters set. It comes with simple instructions and everything you need including the dropper bottles, filters, spice mixtures, and funnels. All it really comes down to is toasting, mashing, mixing, and waiting.

Easy & Oskey Bitters

{photo courtesy of James Eastman}

As someone who loves to experiment in the kitchen, I was intrigued to start learning. After tasting their Autumn Spice bitters in a cozy drink called “The Bamboo” and the Habanero bitters in a zippy “Cobra Kai” during one of their tastings at Solo Vino, I was sold.

I purchased a kit of my own that night and was fortunate enough to arrange dinner with Erik, also known as “Easy”, and his girlfriend Angela. We decided to embark on a night of cooking and cocktails, as I had started thinking about what a great addition bitters could be to things like dressings, sauces, & garnishes. My sights were set on developing a recipe for a Roasted Squash & Bacon Risotto with Autumn Spice bitters (to appear in the cookbook) for the main dish and then incorporating the Habanero bitters into a light salad with apples and this ugly duckling, celery root (also known as celeriac).

Celeriac Root

 

Definitely not easy on the eyes, but once its warty covering is removed, you’re left with an earthy winter vegetable that has a mild celery flavor and the texture of jicama. You can find it at farmer’s markets this time of the year, as well as Whole Foods or your local co-op. Its fresh, clean flavor is a wonderful compliment to the crunch and sweet Fuji apples. I loved the idea of julienning them both to make a light salad with a little avocado for some creaminess, and then a simple vinaigrette to round things out.

Celery Root & Apple Salad

A blend of olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and the Habanero bitters turned out to be just the right combination. I was a little hesitant that the heat was going to be too much, but when Erik had me taste the bitters on their own, I was amazed at how the spice hits the front of the tongue and then disappears. It didn’t linger or overpower, which is exactly why it’s the perfect addition to cocktails. It’s also something that’s difficult to achieve if you were to use actual peppers to get the same effect, hence the reason bitters are definitely a new weapon in my kitchen. Tomorrow I’m making a Southwestern Chicken Pasta and guess what’s going to make it’s way into the cilantro sauce? Yep, a couple dashes of habanero love.

If you’re thinking about holiday gifts, an Easy & Oskey Bitters Kit would be an excellent choice for a wide range of people, like maybe your hard to buy for father in law who loves his Manhattans. Give him one of these to make his own orange bitters and you won’t hear the end of it. :) They’re available at several local shops including South Lyndale Liquors, Solo Vino, Kitchen in the Market, Surdyk’s, and France 44 just to name a few. Click here for the full list and more info!

Celery Root & Apple Salad with Habanero Bitters Vinaigrette

serves 4-5

Salad
2 c julienned apples, pink lady or honeycrisp
2 c julienned celeriac root (first cut the skin off with a sharp knife)
juice of a half a lemon
1/4 c walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 T minced fresh parsley
Sliced avocado

Habanero Bitters Vinaigrette
2 1/2 T olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 t honey
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t Haberno bitters

For salad, put walnuts and parsley in a bowl. Julienne the apples and celery root and add to bowl, tossing everything in lemon juice as you go to prevent browning. Whisk together the vinaigrette and stir into the salad to coat. Arrange on plates with avocado on the side and a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Best served shortly after it is made.

 

*I was not compensated for this post – these thoughts and views are my own that I am very happy to share with you! I stand behind their product and their collaboration with other local tastemakers and businesses. 

Rainbow Veggie Salad

by Amanda Paa on December 19, 2011

The holiday season is a time when hearty meals and sweet treats find their way into our daily routines. With all that richness I find myself craving vegetables and salads to freshen things up and nourish my body with lots of vitamins and minerals. I especially like creating recipes that are visually appealing because I think color can do so much for our minds.

What dresses this salad is my new obsession, and better yet it’s a local product. Recently, at a winter market I was “lucky” enough to try Lucky’s Honey Mustard in the Fire Roasted Garlic edition. Holy wow…I was blown away by how wonderfully the flavors melded together…the garlic flavor not overpowering, a delicate sweetness, and a creaminess that would work great on salads, meats, salmon, or as a spread. I immediately snatched up a bottle for myself and another bottle to be given as a gift. Produced in Mankato, MN, Lucky’s produces mustards, bbq sauces, and hot sauces. Their products are naturally flavored and use no artificial flavors or preservatives. They are also low in sugar and sodium.

I think you will love this simple and delicious salad. Pack it for lunch, have it as a side to dinner, or even as a mid-afternoon snack! And do yourself a favor – make sure Lucky’s is on your next shopping list (here is a list of local stores where it is available)!

Rainbow Veggie Salad

1 small head of cauliflower, stems removed
1 small head of broccoli, stems removed
3 carrots
1 apple, diced and tossed with 2 t lemon juice
1/2 onion
1/3-1/2 c Lucky’s Fire Roasted Garlic Honey Mustard
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
Salt and Pepper to taste

Chop onion, cauliflower and broccoli into medium sized chunks. Peel carrots and chop into 1 inch chunks. In batches, pulse all vegetables until shredded as you see in picture above. Add batches to large bowl, then mix in diced apples, sunflower seeds, and fresh parsley. Toss with honey mustard, using enough to thinly coat and depending on your preferences. Season with salt and pepper…then say ahhh and feel refreshed :)

Keeps up to 5 days in refrigerator.

For the past two weeks I had been anxiously awaiting Girl’s Weekend, hosted by fellow food blogger Kate in the Kitchen at her lovely cabin tucked away in the north central part of Wisconsin. What could be better than getting together seven other women who are as in love with food as I am? Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city, social media distractions, and the stress of daily life was exactly what I needed. Kate took us to the beautiful, Baker Apple Orchard where we were treated to rows and rows of plump apple trees. The Connell Reds below were the best apples I’ve had all season.

We talked cookbooks, dining trends, kitchen gadgets, kids, blogging, significant others, and jobs, just to name a few. While listening to one of the conversations I realized how in the moment I was, how calm and relaxed my entire body and mind could be. I reflected on how blessed I am to have met such wonderful women who share my passion and each bring a unique strength to the group.

And when food bloggers get together you are obviously going to have an amazing spread!  Kelli made two stunning loaves of bread along with her ridiculously good Bacon Jam. Kate made a hearty vegetable soup and a decadent Nutmeg Cake. Lynne added two kinds of spiced nuts that I could not stop eating! Angharad made her very first loaf of Pumpkin Bread since coming to the United States, and also added a light cumin spiced Couscous and Raisin salad. Ginger cookies from Amy and some seriously good home brewed beer from Laurie went together beautifully – forget the milk. :) Waking up to Jen’s scones and hot coffee were the perfect ending before we all made the journey home.

Balsamic Quinoa with Roasted Tomatoes, Mushrooms & Shallots

My contribution was an Apple Fennel Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and this Balsamic Quinoa dish. When I saw a vendor at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market selling an overflowing tray of red and yellow cherry tomatoes for a measly $2, I walked off with my loot and a smile. With the cooler weather the last few days I couldn’t wait to turn on my oven to roast them. The roasted tomatoes alongside the caramelized shallots and crimini mushrooms really make this dish come alive with an abundance of flavor.

I added in the last of my fresh rosemary and parsley from the garden and made a light balsamic vinaigrette to bring it all together. And as you can see, the variety of vegetable and herbs make for a colorful and healthy combination!

Balsamic Quinoa with Roasted Tomatoes, Mushrooms & Caramelized Shallots

-1 1/2 c dry quinoa, rinsed
-3 c water
-1 c cherry tomatoes
-1 1/2 c sliced cremini mushrooms
-1/2 c small shallots, halved
-1/4 c butter
-1/4 c olive oil
-3 T balsamic vinegar
-2 t sea salt
-1 t black pepper
-1 T stone ground mustard
-1/3 c chopped parsley
-3 T chopped rosemary
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-extra

For tomatoes, cut in half and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and one clove minced garlic. Spread onto cooking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 20 -25 minutes. In a skillet, melt butter, and add shallots/mushrooms when hot. Sprinkle a bit of salt on them to draw out juices. Cook slowly on medium heat for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally until they are brown. While this is happening you can make the quinoa. Bring quinoa and water to a boil, then turn down heat to a simmer cover. Cook for 12-15 minutes or until you see the little spiral ring has separated. Drain if needed and let sit for five minutes, then fluff with fork. Combine the quinoa, vegetables, and fresh herbs in large bowl. To make the dressing, combine the vinegar, salt, pepper, one clove garlic, and mustard. Whisk in olive oil to emulsify. Stir into quinoa mixture and top with a few fresh herbs for garnish.