Recipe: Local Salty Dog

April 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

Passover starts this evening at sundown, Lent is coming to an end, and Easter is on Sunday. There will be Seders and Second Seders and brunches (oh my!). In short, it’s a weekend to hang with your nearest and dearest, enjoy their company and indulge a bit — or a lot. Whether you want a cocktail for one or for a crowd, for Seder or Easter brunch, the Salty Dog is the way to go. (And, how can you not love a cocktail called Salty Dog? Yes, I am smirking.)

Trying to please everyone? Give 'em a Salty Dog!

Trying to please everyone? Give ’em a Salty Dog!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Salty Dog, it’s the saltier brother of the Greyhound. Yup, just two simple ingredients: vodka and fresh grapefruit juice, served in a glass with a salted rim. Fresh ruby grapefruit, in season for a short time here in the Bay Area, is the key ingredient that makes this cocktail a standout.

I’ve never really been a grapefruit fan — it was too tart for me — until I tried the ruby grapefruit. I fell in love with this citrus delight last year when I was working on My-my-my-my Paloma! Something about the sweet, slightly tart flavor is craveable and refreshing, and lends itself nicely to easy-drinkin’ warm-weather cocktails.

The Salty Dog is a perfect spring cocktail: light, refreshing, and pretty, without being too girly. Not only is it easy to make, it’s easily adjusted for anyone’s taste — more booze, more juice, whatever you like. Another big win? It’s a good cocktail choice for most diets. Whether you’re keeping kosher or following a gluten-free diet, you can tweak the Salty Dog your way, just by choosing the right vodka. And, if you’re looking for an organic cocktail, then the Salty Dog is a no-brainer. With just two ingredients — grapefruit juice and vodka — it’s easy to choose organic, pesticide-free options for both.

Recipe: Local Salty Dog
Yield: 1 cocktail
When you’ve got only two ingredients, make ’em good. Choose fresh, local or California-grown grapefruit and the best vodka for your budget. There are good, organic vodkas for just about every dietary restriction. I’ve given some suggestions in the ingredients list below. Note that this recipe scales for one, two, or a crowd. To scale up, just multiply the ingredient amounts by the number of cocktails you want to make.

You’ll need a double old-fashioned or highball glass, shot glass with measurement markings or measuring spoons, a long-handled spoon, and ice.


4 oz freshly squeezed organic ruby grapefruit juice
2 – 2½ oz Tru Organic Vodka (Kosher: Square One Organic Vodka, Gluten-Free: Pairie or Rain Organic Vodka)

With only two ingredients, you'd better make 'em good. Choose fresh, organic, and flavorful.

With only two ingredients, choose fresh, organic, and flavorful.

For the glass:

Wedge of grapefruit
3-4  Tbs Kosher salt

Note that I’ve given the ingredients in ounces. If you’re using measuring spoons,
2 oz = 4 tablespoons, ½ oz = 1 tablespoon

How to:

  1. Salt the rim of the glass. Pour salt on to a saucer. Run a wedge of grapefruit around the rim of the glass, then turn the glass upside down and dip into the salt. (You’re trying to get the salt to adhere to the outer rim of the glass). Set aside.
  2. Optional Waste-less tip: Peel or zest the grapefruit before juicing.
    You can refrigerate the peel for a few days or freeze. Use later for garnishes, zest added to savory dishes, or adding flavor to jams and marmalades. Feeling motivated? You can also save the pith for making citrus pectin. peeled-grapefruit
  3. Juice the grapefruit.
    Recommendation: juice citrus into a small, fine-mesh sieve placed over a measuring cup. Doing so catches any pulp and seeds, while letting you juice exactly the amount you need.
  4. Pour the juice into the cocktail glass and add vodka.
  5. Add 2-3 cubes of ice and, using the long-handled spoon, stir until the glass feels chilled.
  6. Add several more cubes of ice to bring the liquid level near the top of the glass.
  7. Optional: Garnish with a twist of grapefruit peel.salty-dog-no-back

Waste-Less Weekend: Lemonpalooza

February 6, 2015 § 7 Comments

Due to technical difficulties, this week’s Waste-Less Wednesday post is appearing today. Hey, now you have some waste-less projects for the weekend. Carry on.

It’s that time of year again: I’m up to my ass in lemons. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a wee bit, but between the Eurekas from my backyard and the Meyers from my neighbor’s, it’s definitely lemonpalooza around here. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Fresh backyard citrus (front yard and side yard, too!) is both a joy and a benefit of living in the 650.

What continues to surprise me is the resilience of citrus trees here — despite our crazy weather (forecast for today: earthquake with a side of rain). The lemon tree in my yard produces fist-sized fruit year after year, regardless of drought, bugs, frost, or heat waves. I typically don’t fertilize or water the tree, and it seems thrive simply by getting what it needs from the environment. This baby is hardy! Same story with the Meyer lemon bush that grows along the fence I share with my neighbor. (FYI, over-the-fence rules also apply to Meyer lemons. Lucky me!)

Over-the-fence Meyer lemons

Over-the-fence Meyer lemons

So right now I’ve got about 10 pounds of Eurekas and Meyers stashed in cold storage, with more coming. The Meyers don’t hold up as long and need to be used before they get too soft. The Eurekas will last longer in cold storage, but I have to get them off the tree before the skins get too thick, otherwise they’re only good for zest and not for juice. There have been years when I’ve slacked and ended up with huge lemons that are mostly pith. (Need a quick primer on the differences between Eurekas and Meyers? Check out this article.)

Eureka! Backyard lemons in the 650

Eureka! Backyard lemons in the 650

Recently 7×7 Magazine published a Meyer lemon limoncello recipe, which inspired me to try my hand at this lovely Italian liqueur again. (Limoncello, if you haven’t had the pleasure, is a lemon-infused neutral spirit, sweetened with simple syrup.) I say again, because the last recipe I attempted called for high-proof vodka and waaaay too much simple syrup. Let’s just say that it didn’t end well, despite my persistent attempts at taste testing.

This time around I’m tweaking the recipe to include my new favorite vodka and easing up on the simple syrup. Going into research-geek mode, I tracked down a dozen recipes from reputable sources, all of them the best limoncello recipe evah! Yup, that’s what they said…all of them. And all of them different. Some require high-proof grain alcohol (Everclear), while others say 100-proof vodka will do the trick. Some recommend peeling the lemons in strips, while others insist on zesting them. Gizmondo has a cool technique that involves suspending whole lemons over the alcohol for infusion.

My takeaway? There’s no right way to make limoncello — so why not choose the best ingredients and try the simplest technique first? I decided to go with zesting 10 Meyer lemons, dumping that zest into a 1 liter glass jar, then adding 750 ml of 80-proof vodka. Voila! Close up the jar and hide it away in the back of a lower kitchen cupboard. (Why lower? Eh, heat rises. I want to keep the infusion cool.)

Step 1: Meyer lemon-vodka infusion

Step 1: Meyer lemon-vodka infusion

Sometime around March 5 or so, I’ll strain out the zest, make up a batch of 1:1 simple syrup, and add that syrup to the infused vodka in half-cup increments until I get a sweet-tart, lemony, boozy drink that I’ll want to enjoy all summer. If all goes well, I’ll post the final recipe. Easy peasy, but what about the rest of the lemons?

Well, there is the small matter of 10 naked Meyer lemons to deal with. They’re back in cold storage in a ziplock bag until I can juice them this weekend. And then what? I still have a stash of Eurekas, too. Fortunately, lemons are versatile, and there are plenty of easy techniques and recipes for enjoying lemony goodness. On my to-do list:

And what about whole, preserved lemons? Yes, please! Perfect in pastas and on top of baked fish. Looks like I’ve got my rainy-day projects for this weekend. What do you do with a surplus of lemons?

Ridin’ the Storm Out

December 11, 2014 § 1 Comment

It’s here! It’s here! Stormpocalypse has blown in to the Bay Area! I don’t know about you, but I’m hunkered down at home today. The first message on my phone this morning was a flash flood warning from the National Weather Service. Yikes! Well, so far that hasn’t happened, but the warning sealed the deal for staying put today (well, unless I need to get to higher ground, natch). We have been dumped on pretty hard, though. (Drought? Over.) And points north of the 650 have had school closings, flooding, and power outages. It’s ugly out there, folks.

Even with all the buzz, I wasn’t totally buying into the “Storm of the Century” drama (um, didn’t we have one of those a year or two ago?), but I did spend some quality time last night prepping the premises — just in case the tv weather folks weren’t being overly dramatic. Patio furniture was covered, small objects likely to go airborne in high winds were moved to safer locations, and sandbags were filled (booyah!) Despite my best efforts to batten the hatches and strategically place sandbags, the deluge of rain has turned part of my yard into a wading pool. Sigh. So, there I was this morning in the windy rain, clearing (more) leaves out of drains and setting up the backup sump pump before breakfast. Good times.

Once my work here is done, and I’ve made another tour of the backyard waterworks, I’m calling it quits for the day and curling up with a good book and a cocktail. Inspired by the cool rain, I’ll be shaking up my new favorite: vodka martini. Sure, a warm drink might seem like the go-to today, given the weather (and if that’s your thing, enjoy!), but somehow a clear, crisp cocktail is calling me.

What I’m I loving about the vodka martini is its simple elegance: three ingredients, a stylish garnish, a chilled martini glass. The version I’m drinking now steps up the amount of dry vermouth, so the cocktail is more of an aperitif than a chilled vodka shot. It’s a bit of fancy while you’re ridin’ the storm out. Cue REO Speedwagon…

Cocktail hour during Stormpocalypse

Cocktail hour during Stormpocalypse

Recipe: Ridin’ the Storm Out Vodka Martini
Yield: 1 Cocktail
Inspired by Imbibe Magazine
As with any cocktail, quality ingredients make the difference — especially when the ingredient list is short. Choose the best-tasting vodka, dry vermouth, and bitters for your palate and budget. My home bar is geared toward incorporating organic and local ingredients whenever possible. You might be hard-pressed to find an organic dry vermouth (I was), but the vodka choices are plentiful. TRU vodka, which I’ve used for this recipe is all-organic and made in Southern California. Square One organic vodka, produced in the Bay Area, is good local option as well.

You’ll need a paring knife or channel knife, martini glass, shaker, shot glass with measurement markings or measuring spoons, and ice.

Note that I’ve given the ingredients in ounces. If you’re using measuring spoons,
2 ounces = 4 tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons, ½ ounce = 1 tablespoon

2 ounces TRU Oganic Vodka
1 ounce Dolin Vermouth (Note: vermouth is wine-based and should be kept refrigerated once opened.)
2 drops Urban Moonshine organic citrus bitters (although lemon, grapefruit, or celery bitters would work too!)
Organic lemon (Eureka)

Ridin' the Storm Out Martini, shaken not stirred: Dolin Dry Vermouth, TRU Organic Vodka, citrus bitters, lemon

Ridin’ the Storm Out Martini, shaken not stirred: Dolin Dry Vermouth, TRU Organic Vodka, citrus bitters, lemon

How To:

  1. Chill the martini glass in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
    Retrieve it just as you’re ready to shake the cocktail.
  2. Prepare the lemon twist: using a paring knife or channel knife, cut a 3-inch piece of lemon peel for the garnish.  Set aside.
  3. Combine vodka, vermouth, and bitters in a shaker with a handful of ice.
  4. Shake briefly (I give it three shakes) and strain into the prepared glass.
  5. Twist the lemon peel over the cocktail and drop it into the glass.cocktail-in-kitchen

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