Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cucumber Cocktails and the Best Almond Cake EVER

Who have thunk that cucumbers would ever make a good beverage? Sure a few slices in a jug of ice cold water can infuse a wonderfully refreshing hint of cool cucumber, but cucumber juice? Then last week I took Sherri Brooks Vinton's course at the Astor Center and the first thing I did when I found my spot and had a seat was sip the cool green liquid on the rocks that was sitting in front of me. When I got home after the course the first thing I did was open up Sherri's book Put Em Up and look for the cucumber aqua fresca recipe.
The glasses I put the cucumber cocktails I got at Fishes Eddy for the bargain basement price of 99 cents! Amazing how some cool green liquid garnished with a thin cucumber slice can make it look like a million bucks ;-) The recipe is so simple. Peel and seed 4 large cucumbers (which are now in season and abundant at the market) roughly chop and throw into (you may need to do batches) your food processor (conversely you can use a box grater) with some water to help get things going (as much as a cup). Once processed thoroughly, strain through a fine sieve. My fine sieve I found out isn't so fine, I strained it twice and finally put it through a damp cheese cloth on round three, which finally gave me the clear pure liquid I was looking for. The recipe calls for the juice of a lime (I used a 1/2 a lemon) and 2 T sugar. I'd start out with a 1 T of sugar and taste it to see how sweet you want it. I also added a pinch of salt then pour it into a nice jug filled with ice.

To make the cocktails she recommends 1 1/2 ounces vodka (I used chilled) and 3 ounce cucumber agua fresca, I can't say that I measured my cocktails very carefully, what I can say is that they were a hit. These are the perect wary to start a summer meal and will leave you all feeling cool as a cucumbers under the influence (thank you Jane).

We actually had a meal in between the cocktails and dessert, but it was a meal of simple Summer fare like smashed new potatoes with butter and cream, corn on the cob, green beans with butter and some pan fired almond crusted Perch. The stars of the show were the opening number and the closing.

David Lebovitz published a recipe on his site a few weeks ago for this Almond Cake that he used to make at Chez Panisse when he worked there with co-owner and pastry chef Lindsey Remolif Shere whose recipe it is. In the recipe posted on his site he talks about having the cake at Gramercy Tavern and meeting Claudia Fleming who was the pastry chef there at the time (it's now Nancy Olson) and who was serving Lindsey's Almond Cake at the Tavern. So with a provenance like this I thought to myself: So make the fucking cake already!

I had actually gone out and bought the almond paste (the key ingredient to this cake) when I first read the recipe and was annoyed that the recipe calls for 3/4 cup or 8 ounces of almond paste, the Almond Paste at Whole Foods is sold in 7 ounce tubes, grrrrrrr. The bottom line is the cake is easy to make and is amazing, it's so moist and sweet and perfect it's no wonder all these fancy ass pastry chefs make it.

My thoughts on the recipe is that using a kitchen aid mixer to break down the almond paste with the sugar was a very messy and not terribly successful endeavor, I'd think a food processor or your hands might work better.

Sour cherries are my favorite fruit and I try to make the most of them when they are in season as they are now, so even though they are not one of the fruits suggested in the recipe as an accompaniment I think the parring of candied sour cherries and this cake is pretty brilliant, add a dollop of whip cream and you've got yourself one of the best desserts I think I've ever made.

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