I made vanilla extract for the first time a few years ago and now keep a jar going at home. It's super simple and just takes a bit of resting time — about six weeks. If you start now, your vanilla will be ready to gift this holiday season. A little jar also makes a great host gift.
The process is simple: take good quality vanilla beans, split them and soak them in a base spirit. Vodka is the most neutral but brandy and rum also make incredible extracts with different flavor profiles.
makes about 4 cups
4 cups of vodka
12 or more vanilla beans, split lengthwise
1 32 ounce jar with a lid
Place the beans in the jar and pour the vodka over them to cover. Cover with the lid and store in a dark place for about six weeks, shaking from time to time to encourage the extraction.
For gifting, check the Container Store for small bottles. The hang tag above is from Austin Press. I stock similar Austin Press tags at Salt & Sundry.
photos courtesy of Weekly Greens
Washington, DC is experiencing a renaissance of small-batch food producers, and one of my favorite products to launch recently is Growl Iced Coffee Concentrate, created by Matthew Snyder. We stock it at Salt & Sundry, and you can now order it from our online shop (which finally launched!).
Thanks to the cold brew method, Growl is never heated, resulting in less acidity and a smooth, nutty flavor. It makes the most delicious iced coffee — simply pour over ice and add equal parts water or milk.
But that's not all you can do with it.
My always-inspiring friend Alicia Sokol (I mean, really, I would be happy if she fed me daily) has come up with an incredible smoothie recipe using Growl. You get your caffeine kick with a whole lot of other healthy goodness like bananas and almond butter. Now that's a way to start the day.
Check out Alicia's Iced Coffee Smoothie on Weekly Greens.
Clinging to the last bits of summer, I've been regularly mixing up this cocktail, a spin on a classic drink from the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. This recipe, from Small Hand Foods creator Jennifer Colliau, mixes her pineapple gum syrup with rum, apricot brandy and lime for a well-balanced tropical tribute. We started stocking Small Hands' incredible bar syrups at Salt & Sundry after a customer recommended them. (Don't miss the orgeat, either.)
I'll probably turn to this cocktail again come January, when Caribbean climes are right where I want my mind to be ... if not my body.
Hotel Nacional Speciale
Adapted by Small Hand Foods' Jennifer Colliau from the Hotel Nacional, Havana, Cuba
1.5 oz rum (white or aged)
.75 oz fresh lime juice
.75 oz Small Hand Foods Pineapple Gum Syrup
.5 oz apricot brandy
Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a lime twist.
An odd little snack by way of Southern roadside stands, the boiled peanut has become a regular resident in my refrigerator.
Credit goes to my adventurous husband who first declared a few summers ago that he was going to make boiled peanuts. My response was, you don't make boiled peanuts. You buy them from a guy on the side of the road. I assumed it was an arduous process to render the peanuts soft and swollen with salt water. Turns out, it's not so complicated.
To make boiled peanuts, you start with green or raw peanuts in the shell. Almaala Farms' stall inside Union Market has been supplying us with a regular stock of green peanuts, which cook quicker than the raw peanuts you can buy online (which have dried out some but are not roasted).
Like so many Southern recipes, opinions vary widely on technique — in this case how long to boil and in how much salt. Bill Neal, the late chef and author of one of my go-to cookbooks, "Bill Neal's Southern Cooking," suggests a mere 25 minutes and a teaspoon of salt for a small batch. The Lee Bros. recommend an 8-hour pre-soak and 5-8 hours of boiling.
My husband fills a large pot with enough water to cover the peanuts and adds about 1/4 cup of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and maintain a low simmer for 3-5 hours. Add more water if needed. Test the peanuts from time to time for desired texture. Keep boiling if they're not soft enough for you.
Optional additions to the water: Old Bay, hunks of ginger, red pepper flakes, jalapeno slices, or garlic.
They're best enjoyed cold on a beach.
This weekend at Salt & Sundry, we're hosting two fantastic book signings.
First up, Washington Post Food and Travel editor Joe Yonan joins us Saturday, August 10 at 1 p.m. to sign copies of his brand new cookbook "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." With stunning photographs and 80 recipes, the book promises to expand your vegetable cooking repertoire. Sign me up.
On Sunday at 2 p.m., Wine Enthusiast spirits editor Kara Newman will sign copies of "Cocktails for a Crowd." The book offers 42 recipes for making great cocktails in batches, "proving that no host need ever spend the evening trapped behind the bar." And bonus ... The Red Hen will provide complimentary bites and sips, using recipes from the book. See you there!