Cooks Corner

Vodka whipped cream gives Eton Mess a kick

Michael Katz

We’re still looking for reader takes on “summer in a bowl” — email, write or tweet (@MiamiHeraldFood) with your recipes. Some inspirations:

Miami’s Le Basque catering is known for its exquisitely styled food served to the posh and pampered, a who’s-who list of clients that includes presidents, international fashion houses and global conglomerates. The Basque-inspired entrees are as beautiful as they are delicious. But this summer-in-a-bowl favorite has humbler roots, a traditional British treat know as Eton Mess.

It’s basically a jumble of meringue cookies with cream and berries and has been around since the early 19th century, served at Eton College’s annual cricket game against the pupils of Harrow School. It is credited to the school’s “tuck shop” — kind of a convenience store for students. The Le Basque version is kicked up a notch with a splash of vodka vanilla-infused whipped cream.

Berry Mojito

If you’re looking for hot-weather cocktails, Latin Twist by Vianney Rodriguez and Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack (Hippocrene Books, $22.50) has some great takes on traditional and modern drinks. The book celebrates the signature cocktails of 18 Latin American countries plus Spain, exploring the history and native ingredients. There are also wonderful modern takes on tradition, like this berry version of the classic Cuban mojito.

“Be gentle when you muddle the berries and mint. You want to release their fresh essence without crushing them so much that they become bitter. If you don’t have a muddler, just use a wooden spoon or firm silicone spatula. Fresh seasonal berries give these Mojitos a delightful flavor and beautiful color. Whether you make it with succulent strawberries, tart blackberries, and/or sweet raspberries, this drink is delightfully refreshing!”

Reader Feedback

“Thought I would contribute something about corn kernels for your summer-in-a-bowl recipes. My cousin’s wife, who spends summers in Highlands, always uses fresh uncooked corn kernels in her salads. Delicious! I had never eaten uncooked corn before, but I loved it.”

Peggy Hooper

When I was a child I’d visit my uncle’s farm in Pennsylvania Dutch country and loved running through the cornfields and picking fresh ears we’d eat raw, with the juices dripping down our arms. My uncle always told us to pick the corn that had worms at the top of the silk because the worms knew which corn was ripest. I don’t know if he was just getting us to eat the corn he couldn’t sell as easily, but I swear I’ve never tasted anything sweeter!

“You can transform any summer produce or lettuce with this quick salad dressing that is sweet, savory and has just a kick of heat. I got the recipe long ago from Southern Living but have changed it up over the years. If you loved your mom’s old party fare of pepper jelly dolloped on cream cheese and crackers, you’ll love this dressing. It’s especially good on a Cobb salad or anything with crumbled cheese.”

Lisa R.

How lovely to have a new way to enjoy the sweet-spicy kick of hot pepper jelly, a staple on many a Southern table long before Thai sweet chili sauce swept the trendy condiment category. I am as keen as you are on this vinaigrette, which I made with homemade jalapeño pepper jelly and rice wine vinegar and served on arugula and sliced heirloom tomatoes. You can buy hot pepper jelly in both red and green forms in supermarkets. I particularly like Tabasco’s version made with both red and green peppers; it comes in a 10-ounce jar and retails for about $3.75.

More kitchen tips

“A go-to tip for when I have leftover fresh dill is to freeze small bunches in a full-size cupcake pan, with each insert filled with water. When frozen solid with the dill inside, I pop them out, store in a plastic bag and keep for the next time my granddaughter and I make her specialty matzo balls. Just defrost in a sieve under running water, blot dry and snip. Just like fresh!”

Norma Orovitz

What an inspired way to keep those herbs that can be pricey to buy. I tried this with fresh mint as well, and it worked perfectly. Then I was hit with the grand idea of going ahead and making mini versions in an ice cube tray for iced tea, mojitos or simply a refreshing iced water. Wonderful!

“I have a tiny kitchen with no extra room for storing, so I don’t buy powdered sugar anymore since I rarely need much. You can make your own by putting regular sugar in a blender, and blend for about 30 seconds. It will grind the sugar into a super-fine, powdered-sugar consistency that works just as good in recipes or as a sprinkle.”


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Hot Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette

1/2 cup hot pepper jelly

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Melt the jelly by microwaving on high for about 30 seconds. Whisk in vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and let it sit until it is cool and pour over salad or sliced vegetables. .Makes a little less than a cup or about seven 2-tablespoon servings.

Variations: Add chopped onion, Dijon mustard or fresh basil.

Source: Adapted from reader recipe credited to Southern Living.

Per serving: 50 calories (43 percent from fat), 2.4 g fat (0.3 g saturated, 1.7 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g protein, 7.2 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 3 mg sodium.

Berry Mojito

12 mint leaves

3 blackberries

3 raspberries

1 strawberry

2 ounces fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 cup crushed ice

2 ounces white rum

2 to 3 ounces club soda, chilled 1 lime wedge, for garnish

Mint sprig, for garnish

Place the mint leaves in a highball glass and add the berries, lime juice, and sugars and gently muddle with a wooden spoon or muddler. After muddling add crushed ice and rum, and top off with club soda. Garnish with a lime wedge and a mint sprig.

Source: ‘Latin Twist: Traditional & Modern Cocktails’ by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack and Vianney Rodriguez reprinted courtesy of Hippocrene Books.

Per drink: 168 calories (0 percent from fat), 0 g fat (0 g saturated, 0 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g protein, 11.3 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 21 mg sodium.

Le Basque’s Eton Mess

12 baked meringue kisses (suspiritos)

For the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 teaspoons powdered sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

For the filling:

1 pint of strawberries, cleaned and cut in half

1 pint of blackberries

3 tablespoons vodka

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Pinch of kosher salt

1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar

Combine the cream and sugar in a large bowl. Use a knife to scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the bowl; discard the pod. Whip the cream to semi-stiff peaks. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the filling: Combine the berries, vodka, lemon zest, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and salt in a large bowl. Use a knife to scrape the seeds of vanilla bean into the bowl, then add 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Stir gently but thoroughly and check for sweetness; add more sugar if needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.

To assemble: Roughly crumble the meringues into a large mixing bowl, so you have big and small crumbles, medium pieces and large chunks. Add the whipped cream and stir gently, just until the meringue pieces are coated. Add about three-quarters of the berry mixture, including the liquid, and stir very gently just until the berries are well distributed but you still see streaks of red in the white cream.

Carefully scoop the mixture into a large serving bowl or individual serving glasses. Scatter the remaining berry mixture on top and drizzle on the rest of the strawberry liquid. Serve right away. Makes 6 servings.

Source: Le Basque Catering.

Per serving: 323 calories (41 percent from fat), 15.2 g fat (9.2 g saturated, 4.3 g monounsaturated), 55 mg cholesterol, 4.5 g protein, 40.6 g carbohydrate, 3.6 g fiber, 124 mg sodium.