Monday, October 5, 2015

Hanging Out with My People
What’s cooking? Two great cocktails and a Tropical Smoothie

I started writing this at 32,000 feet, on my way back from a conference for bloggers in Seattle. The International Food Bloggers Conference 2015. Yes, even the Kitchen Goddess can enjoy hanging out with a group of like-minded souls for a few days.

I’m never really sure what I’ll find as I head into such adventures. I arrive at the hotel, and the questions that burn in my mind are... “Who ARE these people? And are they MY people?”

Not surprisingly, it’s a fairly eclectic group, and yes, they are my people. I mean, who else could spend three days talking about food and photography and food styling? But, as always, I’m intrigued by the subculture phenomenon.

On just about any topic, you can find a large group of people who’ll happily spend days on end discussing aspects of related minutae that would cause a “normal” person to run screaming from the room. Back in my single days, for instance, I was introduced to the world of tournament bridge. (The card game, not the giant steel structures.) Three times a year, the American Contract Bridge Association holds a national tournament at which many of these aficionados spend 10 days straight doing nothing but playing bridge. Sure, sign me up. And when these people go to dinner, they mostly discuss bridge hands. And at the end of the day, having spent their waking hours playing anywhere from 26 to 78 hands, they retire to the bar where the talk shifts to... bridge hands.

You can find subcultures of flower arrangers, crossword puzzlers, antique car owners, bonsai tree artists (you know who you are), ...even writers. And the great thing is that, within these subcultures, the qualities that in the “normal” world would cause a person to stand out, don’t. The hierarchy of values that makes George Clooney or Mark Zuckerberg or Oprah Winfrey a star is turned on its head. In the bridge world, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates – who both play the game – are unremarkable participants, and many of the “star” players would strike a non-bridge player as odd or even unpleasant.

Among food bloggers, the stars are the photographers, food stylists, and cookbook writers. In Seattle, in a workshop on taste trends, one woman told us about a recipe of hers for dill pickle soup. Yes, I know, dill pickle soup. Apparently it went viral and she got like a million hits. And when she reported this episode to the crowd, you could almost hear the low murmur ripple through the room... Holy shit... a million hits. That’s the stuff of rock stars in the food blogging world.

Among the many treats of the weekend was a Culinary Fair [read: dinner] featuring goodies from various Seattle restaurants and conference sponsors. As I wandered the room, I noticed lots of people sipping really pretty cocktails. Turns out they were offerings of the Stonyfield Yogurt Company, and not a drop of yogurt in them. Who knew yogurt people could be such fun? In fact, the cocktails were creations of Rebecca Rice, of Highball Custom Bar Catering, inspired by Stonyfield yogurts. That’s all I know about Rebecca except that she had some very fine ideas.

So in honor of the Stonyfield Yogurt folks, here are two of those yogurt-free cocktails – tested and approved by the Kitchen Goddess and her hubby, who pronounced them “mighty tasty” – and a breakfast treat for the next day.

The Cooler takes a little work, but well worth it for the gorgeous layered look and the fresh and complex taste – like a salad that’s simultaneously fruity and herb-y and you can’t quite decide which. Make a batch of the pear-ginger juice and the cucumber juice and serve these to your guests with hors d’oeuvres. Only one per guest, unless, well,... you know.

In case you missed it, I’m going to repeat: this Gingered Pear and Cucumber Cooler, with the layer of green drifting into the layer of golden yellow like a rainbow, is beautiful, and would make a great start to a dinner party. Very sophisticated. The Kitchen Goddess doesn’t even like gin, but she finished hers. Yes, sirree.

Gingered-Pear & Cucumber Cooler

Inspired by Stonyfield Organic Gingered Pear Oh My Yog! Yogurt, and adapted from Rebecca Rice, Highball Custom Bar Catering

Makes 4 cocktails.

For the drink:
6 ounces pear juice (I used pear drink from concentrate; or make your own if you’re really crazy or have a juicer)
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1½ large cucumbers (not the seedless variety)
3 ounces lemon juice
7 ounces good quality gin
4 teaspoons sugar (superfine sugar dissolves best; use less sugar if you prefer less sweetness)

For the glasses (martini glasses work well):
lemon wedges (for wetting the rims)
pink flaky salt (if you can find it, or kosher salt if not)
cayenne pepper

Stir the ginger into the pear juice and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Strain out the ginger before serving.

Cut 12 thin slices of cucumber (3 slices per drink). Set aside on a plate, covered so they don’t dry out. Chunk the rest of the cucumber into a juicer (if you have one) or blender and process to get as finely pulverized as you can. Strain the pulp from the juice to get at least 3 ounces of juice. Refrigerate the juice until ready to serve.

Cucumber juice --isn’t it pretty?

Run the lemon wedges around the rims of the glasses to wet them, and roll the edges of the glasses in a saucer of salt (pink salt is nice but not necessary) mixed with a dash of cayenne.

In a glass jar or cocktail shaker of ice, combine 4 ounces of the gingered pear juice, 3 ounces lemon juice, 7 ounces gin, and the sugar, and shake until thoroughly chilled. Strain into the four salt-and-cayenne-rimmed glasses.

Float 3 cucumber slices in each drink to cover the surface. Pour ¾ ounce of chilled cucumber juice over the back of a spoon in a layer over the cucumber slices.

The spoon is essential, to keep the cuke juice from torpedoing the cuke slices.

* * *

The Blueberry Mojito is a lot simpler and adds a nice fruitiness to the classic mint drink.

Kitchen Goddess note: The following drink calls for Minted Simple Syrup. I have touted this syrup as a staple for your fridge on more than one occasion. And here it is again. But the KG is a patient woman, so in case you still don’t have any... In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar and 1½ cups mint leaves, and bring to a simmer, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Simmer 2 minutes and strain. Put the syrup into a jar and label it; it will keep indefinitely.

Blueberry Mojito

Inspired by Stonyfield Organic Quebec Blueberry Oh My Yog! Yogurt, and adapted from Rebecca Rice, Highball Custom Bar Catering

Makes 4 cocktails.

1 pint blueberries
1 small bunch fresh mint
7 ounces white rum
4 ounces fresh lime juice
3 ounces minted simple syrup [See KG note above.]

Put a small layer of crushed ice in the bottoms of 4 highball glasses.

Add a layer of blueberries (10-12).

Add a layer of mint leaves.

Repeat with layers of ice, berries, and mint.

In a glass jar or cocktail shaker with ice, combine the rum, lime juice, and minted simple syrup. Shake until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, and strain into the four glasses. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

* * *

Tropical Smoothie

Inspired by Deborah Harroun (check out her very attractive Taste and Tell blog)

Makes 4 servings.

12 ounces 100% pineapple juice
2 large ripe bananas, cut in ½-inch pieces and frozen
6 ounces Stonyfield Organic Plain Greek Yogurt
1 cup coconut water
1 cup crushed ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth. Serve immediately.


  1. Wow. What gorgeous photos. And I love coconut in any shape (!). Will try that smoothie and expect the pear drink thingey to be served next time I'm at YOUR house.

    1. Why thanks, G. I will be happy to serve you that Gingered Pear and Cucumber Cooler -- it felt very ooh-la-la. Cocktails are in now, you know!