Friday, February 28, 2014

Apéritif Friday - Baked Brie and The Basil Fling

Today I'm highlighting a really simple appetizer in order to focus on the apéritif side of the Friday equation. I'm telling you, in addition to The Bardstown Sling during Christmastime, this joins the ranks of cocktails you MUST try, unless you have a strong aversion to fresh basil, in which case I don't think we can be friends any longer.

So first things first. When dinner is hours off and your minions are dying a slow, painful death from starvation, whip this sucker up and tell them to join the theater with their dramatics. Gather some brie cheese, some high quality crackers (I used mushroom and truffle flatbreads. Delicious.), about 1/4 cup of slivered almonds and some fancy marmalade or fruit spread. Look for something that is all natural and doesn't contain a bunch of preservatives or added sugar.
Lop off the mold on one side of Le Brie. Be not afraid. Cheesy mold is delightful. Plop it into an oven safe crock or bowl.
Spoon some marmalade on it. You'll see that the ginger in the appetizer is mirrored in the upcoming apéritif. One of my finer thinking moments.
Sprinkle the almonds on top and bake the brie in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is soft and oozy.
Feed to the animals with crackers so they don't perish.
 But you may want to caution that it's hot.
I love this stuff. It takes the edge off your hungry people but isn't overly heavy. It strikes a good balance between salty and sweet - a combination that I love in an appetizer. If you want to make it even more paleo friendly, serve it with apples or celery or carrot sticks. But I personally don't sweat a good cracker every once in awhile.

On to the star today - the most delicious Apéritif I've had in quite some time. It is stellar.

In mid-February a friend of mine had a craptastic day. And an equally stinky night before the crummy day. Which I find nearly impossible, because she lives in FLORIDA for crying out loud. Even still, I guess bad juju doesn't pardon people who get to bask in sunshine during the worst winter in decades. But I digress.

I paused at this picture on her Facebook page, her caption stating that this drink ROCKS and lifted her spirits. You could say that it had me at basil.
However, I truly am trying to adjust my life, especially what I consume. So I lamented for a pregnant second (bizzaro northwoods term) that I wouldn't/shouldn't/couldn't imbibe on this based on the simple syrup. But...BUT! I remembered seeing in the Against All Grain cookbook by Danielle Walker that she somehow made simple syrup with all natural ingredients. So I pulled it out and got to work.

Seriously stupid simple. Equal parts honey and hot water. Mix. Add some slices of fresh ginger. Or some mint leaves, if that's your thing. These little plastic containers are completely useless, but I finally found a purpose for them. They now hold a couple of variations of simple syrup in our refrigerator. Ideally, you should make this in advance so the ginger has a chance to snuggle up with the honey and water.
Why is my child wiping her eyes in the background? Because she's crying at her father's question.  "Are those Miller's missing testicles in there?!?"
Poor Mill Mill. He misses his manhood.

The other problem I had with The Tower Smash is that I am just not a tequila fan. At all. Perhaps it has something to do with the "LICK IT, SLAM IT, SUCK IT!" days of my youth, or the incredibly offensive aftertaste I seem to be unable to shake when drinking it. So needless to say, when I began gathering the ingredients to make my version of this cocktail, there was no tequila in the house to help me out. So instead, I decided that Jimmy's Russian vodka needed some basil love.
Take 5 -6 basil leaves and muddle them with the juice of a lemon in a marble mortal and pestle, if you have one. If not, don't sweat it. Just muddle them in a bowl with the back of a spoon. The idea is to break down the basil and juice into an intensely green liquid. And don't worry about seeds. They won't hurt a thing, because we're gonna strain the heck out of this sucker.
Obviously a cocktail with a mere 2 oz of liquor will never do in my kitchen, so I amped up the volume, adding about 3-4 oz of vodka to the shaker with the basil-lemon juice concoction and a dash of bitters. I don't like things overly sweet, so I used only one tablespoon of the ginger syrup, and one of the simple syrup. Really though, I think you could just use 2T of ginger syrup and call it a day.

Cut the other lemon in half and put one piece in a cocktail glass. This is optional, but it enhances the color and the taste. I didn't squeeze mine - I just plopped the whole thing in there, cut side down. I added a few ice cubes and after shaking the mixture up with ice in a shaker, I strained it over the glass. You really need to strain the drink with a fine meshed sieve, otherwise little bits of basil will be floating in your drink.
Friends, meet The Basil Fling. It most definitely will be making an appearance at next weekend's winter edition of girls weekend. It's such a peaceful drink. I imagined myself floating on a boat with the sun warming my skin as gentle breezes waft over my body while I slowly sip summer in a glass. Seriously - this cocktail tastes like summer. Or a caprese salad. Or bruschetta. But better. Light, refreshing, herbal citrus goodness in a glass. Such a tranquil, lovely, bright-tasting Apéritif.
Until my family jolts me back to reality. Worst winter ever.
Enjoy this! I promise your senses will LOVE IT!

XOXO,
Jen

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