A cool summer drink and a weekend in NY

IMG_4167Three years after making Limoncello as Christmas gifts I have decided to give infused liquors another try.  The family lemon verbena plants are growing out of control this summer and I was trying to figure out what I could make with the sweet and lemony smelling leaves.  If vodka infused with lemons makes a good drink vodka infused with lemon verbena should too right?  Only one way to find out!IMG_4135 After consulting with my friend at the restaurant about proportions, I set off last week to buy some vodka! The guy at the store was skeptical when I brought several liters of vodka to the counter but he wished me luck and I was on my way to making lemon verbena vodka! 

Lemon Verbena Vodka


4 cups of lemon verbena leaves (taken off their stems and washed)

2 liters of good vodka (I used grey goose but I’m sure anything not in a plastic handle would do just fine!)


Put the lemon verbena leaves in a 2-3 liter jar.  IMG_4139 Pour in vodka and stir!  Complicated right?  IMG_4141 Let “steep” for as long as you want.  I thought it would take a lot longer for the verbena leaves to infuse the vodka but after two days the vodka smelled like lemon and looked as green as grass -nothing like the limoncello I made that needed to sit for at least a month to fully infuse. I’m sure I could have let it steep for a few more days but the leaves were starting to turn light yellow which to me meant their had given all they could. IMG_4143  Time to take the leaves out!IMG_4166 I mixed the infusion with soda water and ice and it made the perfect summer drink.  Cool and refreshing and satisfyingly home made.


I took a last minute trip this past weekend and escaped to Brooklyn for a great weekend of family, food and cocktails!  We had a fantastic dinner at James and fun cocktails at the Clover Club.  I don’t have any recipe posts but I have a little photographic tour of the details I saw around Brooklyn instead.

Brooklyn Botanical GardensIMG_4153 IMG_4148 A little friend hanging out in the herb garden at the BBG IMG_4149 IMG_4150 IMG_4151 IMG_4152 IMG_4157 IMG_4155 IMG_4156 My aunt’s kitchenIMG_4161 IMG_4160

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A Peachy Summer Weekend

IMG_4077 Growing up, summer days meant going to camp.  We would bring our own brown bag lunches and toss them in a big rubber bin along with all the other lunches, hoping the bag on top of yours wouldn’t leak and rip your lunch bag.  I can still picture all of us sitting outside on the designated “lunch hill” eating our sandwiches and drinking the box of “fruit punch” provided by the camp.  While other kids ate their Twinkies and cupcakes, I usually sank my teeth into a sweet juicy summer peach.  I distinctly remember always having sticky fingers after lunch. Juice would dribble from the peach down my chin and onto my hands.   Ah, summer.

While I no longer have the luxury of going to summer camp, thankfully peaches are still part of my summer!  My eyes tend to be bigger than the number of recipes I have when I am at the farmers’ market.  I bought a LOT of peaches.  Thankfully they keep pretty well if you put them in the refrigerator.  I put some away and kept a few out and went on a peach recipe hunt.  After looking at recipes for cobblers, tarts, pies, and a cakes I figured peach ice cream would be the best way to honor the summer staple.

Ice cream recipes, as I learned when I made my favorite, mint chocolate chip, are VERY simple.  Häagen-Dazs isn’t kidding with it’s new ad campaign highlight how pure and simple the product it.  It’s not just Häagen-Dazs but all ice cream really.  All the recipes I looked at had the same cream/milk/egg combination.  The only thing that really changed was the sweet component.  I decided to go with honey.

In the spirit of intellectual honesty, I read the following blogs as inspiration and basic ratios. www.eatatblurp.com, www.peterandrewryan.com, www.dessertfirst.typepad.com.


Summer Peach Ice Cream


4 large ripe peaches for the puree and 1 for to put in the ice cream later

1/8 of a cup of honey (the recipes I read called for a 1/4 cup.  I thought this would make the ice cream too sweet.  Depending on the ripeness of the peaches you can decide for yourself.  I went for less.  I also don’t like my desserts to be too too sweet.  I get honey from a family friend and try and use my local honey as much as I can!)

1 cup of whole milk

1 cup of heavy cream

3 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla (I used the 2 tsps and I also split a vanilla bean in half, used the seeds and simmered the bean in the milk/cream pan for added flavor. )


Peach Puree:  Peel and cut up the 4 peaches and simmer them in a saucepan with the honey until the peaches become very soft and are cooked throIMG_4082ugh (about 15 minutes).  Let the mixture cool a bit and then puree it in a food processor until it looks smooth.  Easy! (Note: you could probably do this with just about any fruit.  You could make a berry puree, a plum puree…. experiment!)


Custard for the ice cream: Pour milk and cream into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, separate your eggs and mix the sugar with the egg yolks with a whisk until they are a light yellow color.  When the milk and cream are nice and hot, take about a 1/4 cup and pour it slowly into the yolks, whisking all the while, to temper the eggs.  Make sure not to curdle them!  Now that the eggs have warmed up a bit, slowly pour the rest of the milk mixture into the eggs in a slow trickle. 

Split your vanilla beans and scrape the seeds out.  Instead of throwing away the vanilla pod you can either put it in a sugar canister and make vanilla sugar, or do what I did and just add it to the custard to give it even more vanilla flavor.  I had been saving my vanilla beans for something special.  My brother in law got them for me during a trip to Madagascar.  Peach ice cream sounds special enough to me!

Pour the egg, milk and peach puree and cream mixture back into your saucepan and stir on medium heat until it thickens into a nice custard that covers your spoon. Add the vanilla extract, vanilla seeds and plop in the vanilla pod to infuse the mixture.

Refrigerate the custard for a few hours or over night to completely chill it.

The next day: (Don’t you hate it when you start making a recipe without reading the whole way though and you get to the part that says “the next day” and kick yourself?…. It happens to me… a lot.)

Take the chilled custard out of the refrigerator.  Dice the remaining peach into small cubes.  Pour the custard into the ice cream maker.  When it is about the consistency of frozen yogurt, add the peaches. 

Put it back in the freezer for a few hours for the whole thing to firm up and enjoy!

This ice cream has such an intense peach flavor.  I couldn’t have been more pleased with it.  Delicious.IMG_4123