basil

the high noon: golden watermelon, ginger, basil + tequila

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I just got home from 5 days spent camping on Orcas Island with my mom.

I briefly thought about just posting the outdoorsy, pacific-northwest-perfect highlight reel of our trip: sleeping under a twinkling night sky, hiking along crystalline mountain lakes and watching baby harbor seals frolic in the bay. (True story.)

But in the spirit of realness I try to bring to this blog each week, I figured I should also tell you how I arrived on the island so tired and tense that I promptly got in a mega-argument with my mom, during which I behaved like a total ass. And how for the first two days, I felt an overpowering urge to check my phone despite the complete lack of signal at our campsite. I kept reaching for my back pocket and my useless phone--a digital phantom limb that refused to stop itching. 

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I should also probably disclose how at the soaking tubs perched above a peaceful, wooded cove, I listened to a group of twenty-somethings drone on about the hipness of their lives and how “tight” Copenhagen is until I wanted to rip my own ears off. When their conversation turned to spontaneous human combustion, I decided I couldn’t take it any longer and proceeded to lecture them on the finer points of spa etiquette like a deranged schoolmarm. (I fully expect to look back on that day as the line demarcating the beginning of my old age.)

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

But the good news, and the point of this post, is that I eventually I stopped checking my phone and wanting to argue with my mom over nothing and lecturing millennials for not properly appreciating the glory of the Pacific Northwest landscape. And when I did, I found myself able to slip into the easy, camp-side spirit I’d been craving.

I was thrilled to be dressed in my coziest clothing. I skipped wearing makeup and didn’t attempt to corral my curls into any sort of order. I swam and picnicked and played cards. Mom and I explored the villages on the island. We bought tomatoes and tiny, sweet peaches at the farmers market. We watched the full moon rise and set over the bay. 

At the 11th hour, one week before I pack my bags and head back to Europe to lead another culinary tour, I found my way to that carefree, summer state of mind. 

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I’ve created this cocktail to help you reach the same state of summertime nirvana. It’s called The High Noon, both for it’s sunny color and to evoke the pleasure of basking in the August sunshine. It’s origins are accidental: I was trying to buy a regular old red watermelon to make cocktails for my pop-up dinner earlier this month and discovered I’d brought home a golden watermelon instead. When I saw that Sherrie from With Food + Love was organizing another #drinkthesummer event this year, I knew my contribution would involve that gorgeous yellow melon!

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I know I posted a salted watermelon cocktail last year. But I can’t help it--salty watermelon is one of my favorite summer flavors! So I’m back with a cocktail featuring watermelon, a ginger-basil simple syrup, a splash of tequila and a chile-salt rim to keep things interesting. It’s sweet, sour, tangy and a little spicy. Just like summer.


golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

I’m thrilled to be part of the #drinkthesummer event! I loved tinkering in the kitchen to create this cocktail recipe. But I’m even more excited to try out some of the other recipes created by the bloggers participating this year! 

Here is a list of all the summer party people. Check out their seasonal cocktails and mocktails--hopefully you’ll find a new favorite blogger or two to follow! 

Boozy
With Food + Love | Basil Fig Smash
A Little Saffron | Beach Bum's Rum
A Thought For Food | Tarragon Tequlia Swizzle
Downshiftology | Limoncello Prosecco with Blueberries and Thyme
Heart of a Baker | Green Tea Mint Cooler

Hungry Girl por Vida | Whisky Peach Alexander
The Green Life | Spiced Plum, Fig & Kombucha Cocktail
Hummingbird High | Watermelon and Mint Agua Fresca
Floating Kitchen | Peach Sun Tea and Bourbon Cocktail
Beard and Bonnet | Melon Mojito

EGD | Backyard Peach Sweet Tea
Appeasing a Food Geek | Basil and Black Pepper Gin Sour
Vegetarian Ventures | Garden Tonic Punch
Nosh and Nourish | Mango Margaritas with Chile Lime Salted Rims
Domesticate ME! | Watermelon-Basil Mezcal Margarita

The Foodie Nurse | Husk Cherry Margarita
my name is yeh | Choose Your Own Adventure Bloody Marys
Sevengrams | Cucumber, Gin and Chartreuse Cocktail
Wicked Spatula | Coconut Gin and Tonic
Eat Boutique | Sbagliatos and Homemade Sweet Vermouth

Nutritionist in the Kitch | Healthy Muddled Blackberry Pina Coladas
Chocolate + Marrow | Pequito Verdecito
The Solstice Table | Jalapeño Watermelon Cooler
HonestlyYUM | Watermelon, Fresh Herbs, & Sotol Cocktail
Seasonal Cravings | Strawberry Lime Gin Rickey

Salted Plains | Frozen Honeydew Daiquiris
The Broken Bread | Honeydew-Ginger Apricot Mojitos
Fix Feast Flair | Ginger-Berry Splash Cocktail
Turntable Kitchen | Summer Cooler Cocktails, Two Ways
Foolproof Living | Blueberry, Dark Cherry and Calvados Cocktail
Dessert for Two | Salty Melon Slush

 

Non-Boozy
Heartbeet Kitchen | Salty Watermelon Shrub Elixir
TENDING the TABLE | Raspberry and Fig Hibiscus Cooler
Snixy Kitchen | Lavender Earl Gray Blackberry Ice Cream Floats (vegan)
The Bojon Gourmet | Vanilla Rooibos Peach Ice Cream Floats (vegan)
Gratitude and Greens | Hong Kong Style Crushed Watermelon Ice 

My Heart Beets | Spiced Pistachio Shake
rooting the sun | Strawberry Fennel Soda
The Modern Proper | Vanilla Bean, Plum Shrub
Feed Me Phoebe | Watermelon-Cucumber Kombucha Coolers
Gourmande in the Kitchen | Stone Fruit Thyme Shrub Soda

dolly and oatmeal | Cold-Brewed Shiso & Hibiscus Tea Iced Latte
happy hearted kitchen | Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Fennel, Orange + Cardamom
I am a Food Blog | Cherry Vanilla Sodas
Tasty Yummies | Fig Vanilla Bean Almond Milk
Let's talk evergreen | Iced Earl Grey Yuanyang With a Hint of Rose

Kale & Caramel | Emerald Beaut Green Spritzer
Earthy Feast | Watermelon Hibiscus Agua Fresca
Now, Forager | Sparkling Plumcot and Purple Basil Shrubs
The Pig & Quill | Brown Sugar Blueberry Pie Shakes
Well and Full | Peach Bubble Tea

Sweetish Co | The Best Frozen Hot Chocolate
holly & flora | Spiced Pineapple Shrub Sparklers with Black Tea + Coconut
Pure Ella | Fresh Mint Tea

A huge thanks to Sherrie from With Food + Love for organizing. Now jump on into this virtual cocktail party and shake up some seasonal, boozy (and non-boozy!) goodness. Drink responsibly and #drinkthesummer!


golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com
Golden Watermelon Cocktails with Ginger, Basil + Tequila

Golden Watermelon Cocktails with Ginger, Basil + Tequila

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-inch knob fresh ginger, thinly sliced (no need to peel)
  • ½ cup loosely-packed basil leaves
  • ¼ to ½ small seedless golden watermelon (or red watermelon)
  • 2 tablespoons flaky sea salt or kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon chile flakes (I used Portuguese piri piri)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup silver tequila
  • 4 small stems fresh basil, to garnish

*Notes: Unless you plan to make a lot of these cocktails, you’ll have some simple syrup left over. It will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for about a month. Use leftover syrup to flavor lemonade, in sorbet and popsicles, or stir a little bit into a fruit salad to kick it up a notch.

- Straining the watermelon is optional. It makes for a clearer cocktail, but you can skip this step if you like.

- The watermelon juice will keep, covered, in the fridge for 4-5 days.

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

First, make the ginger-basil simple syrup: Combine the sugar, water, ginger and basil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Set aside to steep for at least 30 minutes. Pour the simple syrup through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to get out as much liquid as possible. Discard basil and ginger and set syrup aside to cool completely. 

While the syrup is cooling, make the watermelon juice. Cut the rind from the watermelon and cut it into chunks. Puree in a food processor or blender then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Do not press on the solids with a spoon or you’ll force them through the sieve. Repeat until you have 1 ¼ cups strained watermelon juice.

Next, stir the salt and chile together in a small bowl and set aside.

To assemble the cocktail: Pour some of the honey simple syrup into a small, shallow bowl or a small plate with a lip. Transfer the salt to a similar plate. Dip the rim of 4 8-oz cocktail glasses into the simple syrup then place the rims the glasses in the chile salt and turn to coat evenly. Set aside

Shake the golden watermelon juice, ¼ cup of the simple syrup, the lime juice and the tequila over ice for 30 seconds (you will need to do this in 2 batches unless you have a large shaker). Strain into the prepared glasses. Top with ice to fill the glasses. Garnish with the basil and serve.

Makes 4 cocktails.

golden watermelon cocktail on millys-kitchen.com

broccoli-leek soup

broccoli leek soup on millys-kitchen.com

Fake it til you make it.

Something about that glib little nugget of advice calls to mind the worst sort of self-improvement columns. Yet scores of scientific studies indicate there’s real value in acting as-if. 

Headinginto another grey and rainy Seattle spring, I’m finding myself in need of a huge dose of as-if. 

broccoli leek soup on millys-kitchen.com

There’s something about spring in the Pacific Northwest that’s particularly maddening. Seattle erupts into bloom almost overnight. The city’s sidewalks are a symphony of tulips, hyacinths, magnolias and cherry blossoms. And of course there are stretches of sunshine. But for the most part, it’s rain. Hours and hours of grey and drizzle. Naturally, Seattleites are used to wet weather. But in March and April, when spring is so patently in the air, there’s something unbearable about more rain. 

Having just returned from ten sun-soaked days in Palm Springs, I’m finding the grey skies especially frustrating. I’m having a hard time hauling myself out of bed in the mornings. I’ve been moping around, uninterested in activities I normally find fun. I down a ridiculous (possibly unhealthy) quantity of coffee every day in an attempt to jolt my brain into action. 

broccoli leek soup on millys-kitchen.com

In the kitchen, too, we’re in that odd in-between season. I am no longer excited about winter squash, parsnips and kale. I’m craving tiny, sweet strawberries. Bright rhubarb. Asparagus and tender spring peas. None of which will be making an appearance at the farmers market for weeks.

So in an effort to lift my spirits, I’ve been forcing myself to get out of the house. Taking walks as soon as the sun makes even the briefest of appearances. Trying out different coffee shops in my new neighborhood in order to fit some human contact into my workday. Trying to dwell on the beauty of all these spring flowers, rather than complaining about the rain. 

And making batches of this soup. 

broccoli leek soup on millys-kitchen.com

There’s nothing especially spring-y about broccoli soup, I know. But the bright green color and the delicate flavor of leeks sautéed in butter make me feel like sunny days are right around the corner. A dollop of basil pesto adds a layer of summertime flavor. And this soup comes together in 30 minutes flat. Which means I can manage to cook myself a homemade meal even on low-energy days.

So until sunnier days roll around, you’ll find me faking it til I make it and whipping up pot after pot of this bright, mood-lifting soup.


broccoli leek soup on millys-kitchen.com

Broccoli-Leek Soup with Basil Pesto

  • 1 lb broccoli
  • 4 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
  • 1 large leek, halved lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch half moons
  • Coarse sea salt, to taste
  • 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup basil pesto (high quality store-bought or homemade--I’ve included a recipe below in case you need one)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 oz (2 tablespoons) cream cheese
  • Good quality olive oil, to garnish
  • Pinch ground chile flakes or cayenne, to garnish
  • 4 fried or poached eggs, to serve (optional)

*Notes: For most pureed soups, I like a super-smooth texture so I puree them in a blender and sometimes even strain them. For this soup, I prefer a more rustic texture so I opt for my hand blender and don’t process it for very long. 

- If you don’t have a hand blender, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender. If you go this route, take care not to fill your blender jar more than ⅔ full, otherwise the steam from the hot soup can blow the lid off your blender. Getting burned by hot soup is no fun--trust me on this one. 

- If you need a little guidance on poached eggs, this is how I do it.

broccoli leek soup on millys-kitchen.com

Cut the florets off the broccoli stalks and set aside. Trim any brown spots off the stalks, halve lengthwise if thick and slice ¼-inch thick.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sliced leeks, broccoli stems and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the broccoli stems are just starting to become tender, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and 3 cups of the stock. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup is hot and the florets are just tender, about 5 minutes more. The goal is to keep the soup bright green and for the broccoli to keep some of its texture, so take care not to overcook it. 

Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the pesto, cream and cream cheese.  Puree with a hand blender until there are no large chunks of broccoli or leek. Add a little more stock if you’d like your soup a bit thinner. Taste and adjust seasonings. 

Spoon hot soup into serving bowls and top with a fried or poached egg (if using). Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chile. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.


broccoli leek soup on millys-kitchen.com

Basil Pesto

  • 2 ounces (1 packed cup) basil leaves
  • 1 ounce (¼ cup) grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons or more good olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Pinch sea salt

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until the pesto reaches desired consistency. Thin with a little olive oil if desired. Taste and adjust salt and lemon to taste.