Sherry-Roasted Strawberries with Vanilla Date Pistachio Muesli

by Maja Lukic


It's a rare thing for me to eat a substantial breakfast. I'm a coffee & smoothie devotee -- it's the one constant in my day, sort of like the one perfume I've been wearing for years without thinking.

But a few weeks ago, I crashed and became sick -- for culprits, look to stress, spring germs, erratic sleep, inconsistent weather, too many projects. On the first morning that I woke up feeling better, I was starving. I wanted to eat something relatively healthy but nourishing, settling. I wanted it to have fruit, too--vitamins, hydration. And if beautiful edible flowers were somehow involved in the situation, I wasn't about to object.  

Then I remembered that I used to eat a ton of muesli in college. Muesli is basically a high-energy combination of oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit soaked in a liquid, which might be anything from water or fruit juice to cream or milk. The basic formula allows for infinite variations and unbounded creativity. Any ingredient in your cupboard will work, as will any liquids you have in the fridge. And in the summer, it's a wonderful, no-cook option. 

If you've seen recipes for "overnight oats," it's basically the same concept except that there's something about the term "overnight oats" that grosses me out. 

As delicious as the muesli is on its own, it's incomplete without the sherry vinegar-roasted strawberries. A traditional muesli recipe would also include a fresh grated apple, added before serving.  I replaced the apple with roasted strawberries for color and a brighter flavor. I could eat the strawberries alone -- they're complex, tangy, sweet but not cloying. Ever since I worked on this romesco recipe, I've been obsessed with sherry vinegar--an infatuation that has led me into far too many specialty shops in search for the perfect sherry flavor. It's less sweet than balsamic but just as, if not more, complex. And it syncs beautifully with fruit. 

This recipe requires a few minutes of preparation the night before and about a half an hour of hands-off roasting in the morning, which makes it the easiest recipe I've ever posted, I think. It's perfect for a spring brunch or a special weekend breakfast. And it's the sort of recipe that encourages rest and relaxation. With that goal in mind, I wish you a relaxing and healthy week. 

Vanilla Date Pistachio Muesli

Serves 1

1/2 cup rolled oats (gluten-free)

2 tbsp hemp seeds

2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes

2 tbsp pistachios, roughly chopped

1-2 dates, Medjool pitted and chopped 

3/4 cup almond milk (or other milk)

1/2 vanilla bean

sea salt

toppings: Sherry Roasted Strawberries (recipe below), pistachios, edible flowers (entirely optional), milk or yoghurt, maple syrup or honey

In a small bowl, combine the oats, hemp seeds, coconut flakes, pistachios, dates (either one or two, to taste). To use half a vanilla bean, cut a bean in half crosswise. Reserve one half for future use. Split the remaining half lengthwise with a sharp paring knife and scrape the seeds into the oat mixture. Add a pinch of sea salt and almond milk. Stir.

Cover and leave in the fridge overnight. In the morning, add more almond milk or some yoghurt if the muesli looks too dry. Top with roasted strawberries, more pistachios, edible flowers (if using), and maple syrup or honey, to taste. Serve.  

Sherry Roasted Strawberries

Serves 4

Adapted from Joy The Baker

1 lb. strawberries, hulled

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

1 tsp coconut oil

sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 

Hull and slice the strawberries in half or quarters, if the strawberries are large. Whisk together the maple syrup, sherry vinegar, coconut oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Toss the mixture with the strawberries until the strawberries are evenly coated. Spread the strawberries out on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.

Roast for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the strawberries are cooked and a syrup forms. Keep an eye on the berries and remove from the oven before the syrup begins to burn. Transfer the strawberries and syrup to a dish and allow to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 

Note: Use the strawberries immediately for best texture but they can be stored in the fridge overnight; reheat before serving. 


Gin Gimlet w/ Homemade Raw Lime Cordial

by Maja Lukic


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Perfectly ripe strawberries and blackberries from farmers market, bright homemade raw lime syrup (no Rose's, please), and my old standby, Hendrick's, form a perfect fusion of summer flavors. For anyone who has ever wondered about the lack of gin on the blog to date, this post is for you.

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The idea for this post came about a few weeks ago when I saw a gin gimlet on a cocktail menu. For a long time, I was convinced that the gimlet was my favorite cocktail. In the last few years, I've discovered other cocktails and my tastes have changed (gin & Yellow Chartreuse is a current obsession).

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A gimlet has two components: gin and lime cordial. There are vodka gimlets out there but I do not drink them. For such a simple little cocktail, a gimlet can be a difficult thing to order. Allegedly, the classic recipe calls for equal parts Rose's lime juice and gin. Rose's lime juice essentially consists of water, high fructose corn syrup, sodium metabisulfite, lime juice concentrate, and Blue No. 1. Accordingly, it makes cocktails taste like sour lime candy dissolved in rubbing alcohol.

For this reason, some mixologists prepare gimlets with fresh lime juice and simple syrup instead of Rose's. (Always insist on lime juice and sugar/simple.). But this provokes criticism from purists who argue that without Rose's, it's technically not a true gimlet. It's some other beast.

I'll let the mixology geeks work that out. In the meantime, we can respect our ingredients and come up with something a little bit more flavorful. Enter: homemade lime cordial. Using a recipe from The New York Times as a base, I set about making my own purer version of a classic gin gimlet.

What I love about the Times recipe is that the cordial is raw. There is no need to cook the syrup for 20 minutes as most recipes suggest. As a result, the end product is bright and bursting with fresh lime flavor.

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A gimlet recipe is and always will be a mere suggestion. The cordial is truly the only part that requires some precision but you have some freedom to experiment there as well (note that the Times recipe suggests the addition of ginger - delicious). To make your gimlet, you can stick to the classic  proportions (equal parts gin and lime) but I recommend adjusting the sweetness to suit your tastes. In fact, I generally prefer a 2:1 ratio of gin to lime.

Gin Gimlet w/ Homemade Raw Lime Cordial

Adapted from The New York Times 

Makes 1 cocktail

Gimlet:

2 to 3 oz. gin

1 to 1 3/4 oz. Raw Lime Cordial (see below) lemon wedge

lime twist

Raw Lime Cordial:

6 limes

3/4 cup organic brown sugar (or other sugar)

To prepare the lime cordial: Zest and juice all six limes. In the end, depending on how juicy your limes are, you should have approximately 3/4 cups of juice or roughly equal parts lime juice and sugar. Add the sugar to the juice and stir until fully dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the zest. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Strain the cordial and return to the fridge for another 24 hours, after which it will be ready to use. You can store the cordial in the fridge.

To prepare the gimlet: There are two methods. You can either stir the gin and lime cordial together with ice and strain into a martini glass or you can simply stir them together over plenty of ice in an old-fashioned glass. Either way is fine. Adjust the sweetness to your liking. Squeeze a lemon wedge into the cocktail and serve with a fancy lime twist. 

Once I mastered the basic gin gimlet, I decided to elevate the whole thing and depart from tradition with some ripe summer berries. The sweetness of the fresh berries mellows out the tart taste of the cordial in a lovely, pleasing way, and the colors are stunning. You can use any berries here. I happened to have blackberries and strawberries on hand but blueberries and raspberries would work well, too.

To prepare a berry-flavored gimlet, simply muddle 1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh berries in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, gin, and lime cordial, as described above, stir well, and strain into a martini glass. If using blackberries, you may want to shake and then strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

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I definitely prefer the strawberry.

Drinking gin always makes me feel like listening to either something old and jazzy or The National. Or both: