A locavore can be defined as a person whose diet consists primarily of locally grown food. Colorado (and Longmont) is packed with farms and local producers of all varieties. In my career as a chef and bartender, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of them and hope to highlight the amazing bounty that our local purveyors have to offer.
I like a good cocktail in the sunshine, in my backyard. Maybe with some friends, or with my wife. The common recommendation from most service industry professionals is to eat something while you drink, and I’m sure there’s a good reason for that. Beyond tasting delicious, that is.
With restrictions in place on dining out, it’s the perfect time for testing your skills in the kitchen and behind the bar. Pairing food and drink doesn’t need to be complicated, left only in the hands of chefs and mixologists.
For this pairing, a winning combo for date night, the goal is to keep it light, fresh and bright. For the cocktail, a Blackberry Bramble, tart blackberries and fresh basil compliment the botanical qualities of gin and the play of lemon. We’re going to make a nice salad to go with it, to keep it light and healthy. All the ingredients are easy and familiar, we’re just going to challenge some conventional flavor pairings.
Some kitchen equipment is required for this, like a cutting board, one good knife, and a food processor or blender. If you don’t have a food processor, a good old bowl and whisk will suffice to make the vinaigrette.
Strawberry-Pistachio Salad with Orange-Cardamom Vinaigrette
16 oz baby mixed greens (one small package from the grocery store)
8 large strawberries, washed and quartered
¼ cup crushed pistachios
1 shallot, sliced thin
2 - 4 tbsp Haystack Mountain Applewood Smoked Goat Cheese, crumbled
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup Prosecco Vinegar
1 large garlic clove, minced fine
Zest of one orange
4 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cardamom
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in the dressing vessel (your food processor), and run it until they are smooth. Taste it for salt, and also to appreciate the brilliant thing you just accomplished. Combine all your salad ingredients (except the goat cheese and dressing) in a large mixing bowl (or salad bowl, if you’re feeling fancy).
The vinaigrette is sweet, tangy and just a little floral from the cardamom. I prefer to use dressing sparingly to preserve the crunch of the greens, but use as much as makes you happy. Gently toss the greens with a pair of tongs, making sure they are evenly coated. Beware that all your goodies will have settled on the bottom. Serve on a plate, or in a bowl, and garnish with your goat cheese crumbles.
Now that your delicious salad is ready, you need something to sip on. Let’s get right to that Bramble. You’ll need something to mix the cocktail in, as well as a strainer and a muddler. If you don’t have a muddler, the back of a large spoon will suffice. Ice and a highball or rocks glass might help too.
A good dry gin, with some potent botanicals, will help it stand out amidst the other components. For this iteration, I’m using Longmont’s own Longtucky Alpine Dry Gin.
3 or 4 large blackberries, washed
3 or 4 fresh basil leaves, torn
4 ¼ inch slices of lemon (discs)
1 tsp sugar
2 ounces Longtucky Alpine Dry Gin
3 ounces soda or seltzer water
In your cocktail tin, combine blackberries, basil, lemon discs and sugar. Pour your gin over, then use the muddler to completely pulp the blackberries and macerate the lemons. The concoction should turn a lovely, deep purple. Strain into your ice-filled glass and top with soda water. A blackberry, basil leaf and lemon disc make for a great garnish.
Don’t forget to make one for your dining companion, or they might get jealous and steal yours.