Fresh Strawberry Sorbet with Dark Chocolate Chunks

Hey, summer!

I'm loving life these days. Few things make me happier than sun and heat and being near water, and I'm just soaking it all in as much as I can with a delicious balance of work and play.

Last week I was up in Vermont cooking for a fabulous yoga retreat, and came back with a mile-high stack of new recipes and photos to share with you. Among them was this gloriously easy Fresh Strawberry Sorbet with Dark Chocolate Chunks.

It has just 5 ingredients (!!) and is the easiest thing ever to make--basically, just puree and churn! 

Make it now, when the strawberries are extra glorious. I swear it's like eating chocolate-covered strawberries by the spoonful.

This sorbet is based on an easy method from the River Cafe in London. The trick is to puree a whole lemon (rind and all!) with the strawberries and sugar. It adds gorgeous brightness and a hint of floral to the final sorbet. I often think sorbets are just way too sweet, but this one is absolute perfection.

You do need an ice cream maker for it, but if you don't have one, you can also freeze the puree in popsicle molds to make delicious ice pops!

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates

And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me

Thanks for reading!     

Fresh Strawberry Sorbet with Dark Chocolate Chunks
Makes about 1 3/4 quarts

2 large whole lemons, washed
2 cups granulated sugar
2 pounds strawberries, hulled and washed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dark chocolate chunks

Take one whole lemon and chop it up, removing the seeds, but keeping everything else (the peel, pulp, and juice). Add all that to the food processor along with the sugar, and puree until very smooth.

Juice and zest the second lemon and add to the food processor (discard the pulp, seeds, and pith from this one).

Add the hulled strawberries and salt, and puree with the lemons and sugar. Pour puree into your ice cream maker, and churn according to directions. Add the chocolate chunks during the last 5 minutes of the churning process.

The sorbet will be soft-serve texture at this point. Transfer to an air-tight container, and freeze at least 4 hours or until firm.

Vegan Roasted Tomato Crema

This simple creamy dip or sauce is one I make when cooking for vegan friends. It's wonderful served over tacos or roasted vegetables, as a dip for chips, or even as a spread in wrap sandwiches.

To make this extra creamy, make sure to use silken tofu, which is more delicate and will give the crema a light texture. Note that if you don't eat soy, you can also use coconut yogurt in place of the tofu.

Love Always Order Dessert?
Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Vegan Roasted Tomato Crema
Makes about 3 cups

6 roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
2 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound silken tofu (half a typical package)
1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with minced garlic, pepper, and salt. Roast 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool.

Combine tomatoes, along with any juices from the pan, silken tofu, coconut milk, and spices in the blender and puree until very smooth. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Then transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill until serving.

Variations: feel free to add fresh herbs, additional garlic cloves, or other spices to personalize the flavor.

How to Make Cold Brew

This past weekend I posted a few photos of my DIY cold brew concentrate on Instagram and Facebook, and got so many questions about it, that I decided to write up a quick post on it.

Here's what you do. This recipe makes just slightly less than 1/2 gallon of cold brew concentrate, which is enough for about 12 or so large iced coffees, depending on how strong you like them. You can easily double the recipe if you want more (the concentrate keeps well in the fridge for a couple weeks, or it can be frozen).

Start off with 1/4 lb of espresso ground coffee. Choose whatever kind you like (I've even done this with flavored coffee). Note that some will taste better than others, so play around until you find your favorite.

I'm a big fan of Bustelo, but I suspect that's a nostalgia thing for me.

Combine the coffee and 1/2 gallon of cool filtered water (that's 8 cups) in a large container or pitcher.

Give it a good stir and then cover with a cap or plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature for 8-10 hours.

You don't want to go much more than that as it will get too strong and a bit bitter. I like 8 hours exactly.

Strain the coffee through a cheesecloth set over a fine mesh sieve. This part takes a while, but it's key to avoid grainy coffee. You can also use a French press to strain out the coffee grinds.

Note that I don't have photos of this step because it's messy, and I needed both hands.

[UNRELATED TIP: I save the grinds, mix them with coconut oil, and use them as a body scrub!]

Once strained, transfer to a large seal-able container, and store in the refrigerator. I store mine in a large beverage dispenser with a spigot, for easy pouring.

To make the coffee:

This is all up to taste, but here is what  I like to do:

Fill a glass to the top with ice. Pour in cold brew concentrate until it reaches halfway up the ice-filled glass. If you're adding sweetener, add it now. Note that simple syrup works best here since it will dissolve easily.

Now, add water until it almost hits the top, saving room for milk or cream. Add milk or cream. Give it a little stir, and drink!

Some other ideas:
  • I like to add a little vanilla extract and ground cinnamon to my coffee before I add the water. It's delicious! 
  • I hear that condensed milk is also awesome in this, although I've never tried it myself. 
  • Note that depending on how strong or weak you like your coffee, you should add more or less water or coffee concentrate. Play around until you find what works best for you!

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

DIY Cold Brew Concentrate Recipe
Makes 1/2 gallon 

1/4 lb espresso ground coffee
8 cups water

Combine coffee and water in a large container and let steep at room temperature for 8 hours. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined mesh sieve, and chill.

Follow directions above to prepare iced coffee. 

Hummus Cucumber Cup Appetizers

Meet your new favorite healthy summer appetizer idea!

Actually, I admit that this is less of a recipe than it is a method, but it's genius all the same, and once you have it down, you can really make it your own.

First you take a cucumber (I like the long English kind as they're generally pretty uniform all the length down), and remove a few strips of peel. This is totally for decorative reasons, and can ostensibly be skipped, but then you don't get the fancy peeled effect.

Now slice that cucumber into thick 1 1/2" pieces.

Next, you take a melon baller or round measuring spoon, and you scoop out a little well from each slice of cucumber that you can then fill with something delicious.

For this version, I used hummus (store-bought, although you can also easily make your own) and garnished them with some toasted pine nuts and chopped cilantro.

So simple, but these were a huge hit the first time I served them, and disappeared in seconds. It's great when you want to be able to offer a lighter alternative to the typical bread/potato/chip-based apps.

You can really have fun with these, too. Instead of hummus, fill them cucumbers with a fresh yogurt dip like tzatziki, smoked salmon cream cheese, egg salad, or tabbouleh.

Or instead of cucumber, use zucchini that's been cooked until al dente, and fill it with a pesto cream or chopped tomatoes (similar to bruschetta topping).

I always thought melon ballers were kind of a useless tool, but now I just want to scoop the hell out of everything.

Go forth and scoop!

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Hummus Cucumber Cups
Makes 24 appetizers

2 English Cucumbers, cut into 1 1/2" thick rounds
Kosher salt
1 10oz container hummus (or about 1 1/2 cups of your favorite homemade hummus)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Finely minced parsley, for garnish

Use a melon baller or round measuring spoon, scoop out the center of each cucumber to form a hollow. Season with kosher salt, and then fill each cucumber with a teaspoon or two of hummus.

Garnish with pine nuts and parsley, and an additional sprinkle of salt.

Arrange on a platter and serve immediately.

(For advance preparation, peel, cut and scoop the cucumber cups, but do not season. Store up 12 hours in an air-tight plastic bag or container then fill just before serving.)

Caipirinha Punch

I was up insanely early yesterday morning--I'm talking 3AM here, people!--in order to host a live cooking segment on the Telemundo morning show, Primera Edicion, here in NYC. The segment was all about summer entertaining, and I shared a couple easy recipes and one cocktail--a refreshing Caipirinha Punch.

I still need to photograph the other two recipes, but figured that I would quickly share the punch since it's pretty perfect for any World Cup (or other summer) parties you may have coming up! 

Now about that punch...this is a bit of a twist on the classic caipirinha, which is known as the national cocktail of Brazil. Made with cachaça, which is a type of rum, caipirinhas are tart and pack a powerful punch.

Seriously...these babies are STRONG!

I love them, but there are times when I want something a little bit lighter.

Hence, this punch!

All the flavors of a caipirinha, toned down with some semi-sweet wine. You stir all the ingredients together in a big pitcher and then chill until party time, at which point you add ice and sliced limes, then serve over more ice. It's cold. It's refreshing.

And it'll keep your guests happy without knocking them out--definitely the mark of a good party.

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Caipirinha Punch
Makes 10-12 drinks (1 pitcher)

1 750ml bottle cachaça (about 3 1/4 cups)
1 750ml bottle semisweet white wine (such as moscato, Riesling, etc.)
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup triple sec or cointreau
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
3 limes, thinly sliced

Combine cachaça, wine, lime juice, triple sec, and sugar in a pitcher and stir well to combine. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Just before serving, add ice and sliced lime to the pitchers. Serve in glasses filled with ice.

Salmorejo (Spanish Chilled Tomato Soup)

Back in September, Eugene and I spent a couple weeks traveling around Portugal and Spain. I wrote a few posts about our Portugal trip, but I...uh...never quite got around to writing about Spain.


I have, however, kept a long list of dishes I tried while there, that I've been meaning to recreate. Chief among these was Salmorejo, a chilled, creamy raw tomato soup from the south of Spain that was one of Eugene's favorite things he ate during the entire trip.

Now that we're getting closer to tomato season (yay!), I figured it was time to finally share it. 

Salmorejo is similar in flavor to the better known gazpacho, but the texture is totally different. It's thick, creamy and absolutely luscious. The thickness comes from the addition of toasted bread, which absorbs excess liquid and thickens the puree.

The ingredients are otherwise super simple: ripe tomatoes, raw garlic, toasted almonds, fruity olive oil and a dash of sherry vinegar, then is served topped with chopped egg and jamon.

(I subbed a little fried cured chorizo, which I always have in my fridge. Bacon or prosciutto would also work well here!)

One thing I should note is about the preparation. The soup is made from totally raw ingredients, which means you don't have to turn on the stove, but there is still a trick to prepping the tomatoes. In order to get a really smooth and creamy soup, you have to first squeeze out the seeds and watery pulp.

It may be really tempting to skip this step, but DO NOT. It really makes a huge difference...and it's easy. And it's fun!

I explain how to best do this below--just trust me on this...

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Salmorejo (Spanish Chilled Tomato Soup)
Serves 4-6

3 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted sandwich bread (about 3-4 slices)
1/2 cup whole almonds
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1/2 cup chopped serrano ham, chorizo, or crisped bacon


Place a sieve over a bowl. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze over sieve in order to remove the seeds. Set the squeezed tomatoes aside and repeat with rest of batch. Use a spoon to press the seeds in the sieve to strain as much liquid as possible. Discard seeds, but reserve the liquid in the bowl.

Combine toasted bread, almonds, and garlic in blender and process until coarsely chopped. Add tomatoes, reserved tomato liquid, vinegar, paprika, and puree until very smooth. (Do in batches if you don't have a very powerful blender.) Add a teaspoon of salt, and the olive oil, then puree again. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt, if desired.

Transfer to a covered bowl and chill at least 2 hours, or until very cold. Serve topped with chopped egg and jamon, bacon or chorizo.

NOTE: The texture should be thick and creamy, but smooth--similar to a butternut squash soup texture.  If yours is too thick, add a bit of water. If too thin, add a bit more toasted bread.

Boat Drink (Fizzy Lime Coladas)

I was just out of college the first time I tasted Boat Drink.

I had been working my first "real" job as a web editor for a political nonprofit, and dating a handful of clever, beautiful boys. My favorite of these was a Capitol Hill staffer who knew how to live deliciously. In DC, where dates were generally just after-work drinks and dinner spent talking about politics, it was refreshing to spend my weekends with someone who was always organizing some kind of exciting plan--whole pig roasts in his backyard, boozy polo matches, black-tie charity galas, chili cooking contests...

One morning in early Fall, he called me and asked if I wanted to go sailing.

Always game for anything having to do with water, I quickly agreed, then asked, "When?"

"We're for Maryland leaving in an hour," he replied.

I was still in bed, likely hungover from the previous evening, but I shot out like an arrow and started getting ready. I put on my bikini, a pair of jeans and a navy cardigan, and stuffed my hair into a Fidel Castro-style military cap I was particularly fond of those days.

Used to me generally showing up late, he was surprised when I let myself into his place 30 minutes later, triumphantly shouted "I'M HERE!"

"Impressive," he said as I handed him a bag of ripe peaches to add to the cooler he was packing.

The boat belonged to a friend of his, whose name I don't remember. He was a former Hill staffer who moved over to the (significantly more lucrative) lobbying side, and promptly bought a boat with his first big paycheck. There were 5 of us--three girls and the two guys--as we set sail on the Chesapeake Bay, the day warming up with each minute.

Once we were on our way, our host pulled a few bottles and a pitcher out of a bag and started preparing a concoction he called simply "Boat Drink." (I think he was inspired by the Jimmy Buffett song.)

Boat Drink was a mix of pulpy store-bought limeade, white rum, and Coco Lopez--a syrupy, sweetened coconut cream typically used to make Piña Coladas. He stirred it together over ice and then served us each generously-filled glasses, warning that it was significantly more lethal than it tasted.

One sip and I was in love. The day had warmed up, Van Morrison's Into the Mystic was playing on the stereo, and I had an icy glass of deliciousness in my hand. It was perfection, and I couldn't remember ever feeling any happier. At one point, as I sat next to my friend with our feet dangling over the side of the boat, I noticed that my cheeks actually hurt from smiling.

As the day wore on, it only got better. The hat and sweater came off, and my shoulders were warm from the sun. The salty air thickened and blew my curls into tangled mane that felt wild and lovely. And our gracious host made sure that our glasses were never, ever empty.

This is my version of that fine drink. I replaced the bottled limeade with fresh lime juice and club soda for a bit of fizz.  I like to puree the main ingredients in the blender so that they're smooth (the coco lopez can otherwise be a bit thick), but you can also whisk them briskly in a pitcher. When you add the ice and soda, the whole drink fizzes up with a puff of coconut foam that's a lot of fun to drink.

If you're wondering about the flavor, I'd say it's like a tart version of a piña colada made with lime instead of pineapple. If you like it sweeter, add more coconut cream. Stronger? Well, then, just add a bit more rum!

(Cocktail umbrellas and sailboats are totally optional, but definitely recommended.)

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Boat Drink (Fizzy Lime Coladas)
Makes about 4 large cocktails

1 cup sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 1/4 cups white rum
2 cups club soda
Limes for garnish

Combine cream of coconut, lime juice, and rum in a blender, and puree until smooth. (Can also be whisked vigorously in a pitcher.)

Divide evenly into 4 16oz glasses filled with ice, stir once, then top off with club soda.

Garnish with a lime and serve immediately.

Coconut Milk Mojitos

When it comes to summer cocktails, my go-to lately has been mojitos made with no sugar. I think they're refreshing and love that they don't leave me feeling gross after a few.

When I was in low-carb friendly Miami, this was a stunningly simple request, but back here in New York, I've found that this is not as easy as it sounds.

At a restaurant the other night, the waitress looked back at me completely horrified, "But it's going to be SO SOUR," she exclaimed.

She looked at me suspiciously, then went off to explain my request to the bartender. She stood watching me as I took my first sip, convinced that I would change my mind, but I just smiled and said that it was perfect. She totally walked away shaking her head.

Unfortunately, the second round came sweetened and when I sent it back, it returned slightly more sour, but still way too sweet. Like they just added more lime juice to it, instead of starting from scratch.

Annoyed, I gave up and just let the drink melt to death on the table.

Fortunately, when I'm home, I get to play bartender and I don't have to worry about people slipping carbs into my drink. As delicious as plain mojitos are, I also really love flavored ones.  

Coconut mojitos are a favorite and so simple. There are many different ways to make them, but I think the BEST ones are made with real coconut milk, instead of just coconut flavored rum. It makes them creamy and so very satisfying with a natural coconut flavor.

I think the natural sweetness of the coconut milk is enough in the coconut mojito, but if you like something a bit more traditional, I've also included directions for adding a little sugar. You can also easily multiply the drink and make it by the pitcher.

Just add ice, a few straws, and you have yourself a party!

Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!    

Coconut Milk Mojitos
Makes 1 drink

10 mint leaves
1 lime, cut into small wedges
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
2 ounces white rum
2 ounces coconut milk
Iceclub soda

Combine mint leaves, lime wedges, and sugar (if using) in bottom of a tall glass. Use a wooden spoon or muddler to the muddle the mint, lime and sugar together until the lime juices and natural oils are released. Add the rum and coconut milk, stir, then fill the glass with ice and top off with club soda.

Serve immediately.