Mastering the Mojito

IMG_20140907_165942 (1)Ahh, the mint plant. How you make everything else in my garden look paltry.  And your versatility!  You play nice with Thai food and play a key role in one of my favorite libations:  the Mojito.

To make mojitos at home at a moment’s notice (because why not), I’ve been growing Kentucky Colonel, a spearmint variety, since spring.  With medium sun, daily watering, and trimming its flowers, it’s grown from a seedling to a full-grown shrub.  (Lest I get too proud, take a gander at the sad, underachieving lime bush to its left, above).

Preparation

Mint syrup prep

While bartenders dread making mojitos because of the muddling required, I’ve been using a gratifying shortcut to reduce the labor when serving a crowd:  creating a mint-infused syrup.  I developed the below recipe after many tweaks to others found online; I think this one does the trick.

The Mojito
This recipe serves one, but since you’ll be whipping up a batch of mint syrup, this is great for a crowd. Just adjust the recipe up. Also, limes should be room temperature; roll them under your palm a few times on the counter to get them to yield their max amount of juice.

Ingredients
– 1 1/2 oz. white rum
– juice of 1 lime
– 1 oz. mint simple syrup
– 3 oz . seltzer
– mint sprig for garnish

Fill a glass with crushed ice. Add rum, lime juice and mint syrup; stir. Top with seltzer and add mint spring and/or lime wedge to garnish. Sip, repeat.

Mint Simple Syrup
I suggest making the mint syrup ahead of time to allow it to cool. You can also use any leftover syrup to kick up your iced tea or lemonade.

Ingredients:
– 1 c. water
– 1 c. sugar
– 1 bunch of mint (stems included)

Combine sugar, water and mint in a saucepan. Heat and bring to a boil; simmer for one minute. Turn off heat and remove pan from burner. Let steep 30 minutes. When cool, strain into jar and discard wilted mint parts. You can even squeeze the mint stems out if you’d like to get all of that minty goodness out of them.

A nice variation: add fresh peeled ginger root to the syrup as it’s simmering for a Ginger Mojito.  Or of course add more seltzer to lighten up your cocktail.  Or of course more rum to…taste.

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Mint simple syrup

Shisito Pepper Redux

For those of you following along on my gardening escapades (all two of you), you know I’ve tried my hand at an assortment of veggies on the deck.  While I ventured into jalapenos last year – and they did well – there are only so many jalapenos one can eat solo.  Peppers, however, seem to grow well here.

Enter: shisito peppers.  I first ate them in the spring of 2011 while traveling around Spain with my dear friend Alexis.  In Barcelona, we prioritized taking in the architecture, but (naturally) also excelled at taking in some great meals, deciding against the more over-the-top foodie destinations (no foam-infusions, thanks), and opting for places where dishes were prepared simply, using fresh ingredients at the peak of their season, with minimal fanfare.

I’m pretty sure we ate shisito peppers at just about every one of these meals:  they were served charred, doused in a perfect sheen of olive oil and sprinkled with crunchy sea salt.  And as someone who loves surprises, a game of shisito roulette emerged (turns out, 1 in 10 is incredibly spicy).

Here in the city, I’ve only found these peppers in August at the Union Square Greenmarket, so I’m growing them myself, which means a much wider window of pepper-ific enjoyment.   My three plants finally produced enough to toss on the grill last night.  I went rogue and did it sans recipe and let my memory of how they tasted dictate how I cooked them.IMG_2133 (1)IMG_2141Cooking them required a quick toss in olive oil, and about 8 minutes (4 per side) on the grill.  They turned out smoky, juicy, and some Maldon Sea Salt lent a nice amount of crunch.  And yes, I got a major hot one, however I ate them so fast I never identified the little bugger.  #sabroso!IMG_2147

Fun with Seedlings

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I had a full summer in my place last year, so I had some time to try my hand at gardening.  I learned a few things, including the benefits of watering plants at night (do it) and that I’m terrible at growing roma tomatoes (I have no idea why).  Most exciting though was learning what I could grow and benefit from on a daily basis, like summer salad add-ons, like mint, basil and cherry tomatoes.

All well and good.  But this time I’m venturing a bit further into veggies, in addition to planting some classic potato vines and impatiens.  I picked today of all days to do so…not ideal given I leave for a 2 weeks in exactly 3 hours.  (I’ve have always done my best work under pressure).  Here’s what I opted for (UPDATED to reflect 2 weeks of growth).  Note the handy watering “picks” I found on Amazon; you just screw them to the top of a used soda bottle.  Or in my case…sacrificial tonic:

Before:

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Radish plantings from seed

After:

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Radish plantings from seed

Before:

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Mixed impatiens

After:

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Mixed impatiens

Before:

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Cherry tomato seedlings

After:

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Cherry tomato seedlings

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First tomato of the season