Case in point: Last night, I went to Pasadena Produce for fruits and veggies. The owner, Mike, suggested some Bosc pears. We chatted for a while, mostly about what the hell I’m doing now that I no longer work at the local weekly paper and also a bit about the kitchen remodel, and then I told him how I would cook the pears if I had an oven that wasn’t sitting in my sunroom, awaiting the arrival of the electrician. I told him I would slice the pears in half, mix a touch of amaretto with pomegranate seeds and drizzle it over the pear halves, and then broil them for just a few moments.
Something in my description must have, um, been intense, because he looked at me for a long moment and very quietly said, “You need your kitchen back soon, don’t you?”
I do. Until then, I’m lucky enough to get to speak at Westminster Palms every month, where I combine Florida history with a few basic recipes. This Monday night I talked about US 41, then hopped over to US 301 in Plant City. My topic? Strawberries. We offered attendees fresh strawberries over angel food cake and, because last month’s sour orange margaritas made such a splash, I made strawberry-basil mojitos.
Now, I have to tell you a secret: My fellow foodie, Tiffany, has a sign in her kitchen that reads “Bake with science. Cook with love” or something like that, and that’s my modus operandi. Anyone can bake: It’s essentially the world’s easiest math problem. I cook with my senses, not my brain: Taste. Texture. Scent. Appearance. Sound. (Yes, sound – you can hear certain things sizzling the right way and know they’re ready for the next step.) That’s how I made my strawberry basil mojitos.
I can’t give you a recipe, but I can give you a guideline.
Here’s what I did: Cover the bottom of a cocktail shaker two layers deep with sliced strawberries. Add torn up basil and mint (enough to cover the red but not so much that some red doesn’t show through, maybe two or three big leaves) and a two count of simple syrup.
Muddle togther. Add ice and a five count of rum. Shake vigorously, then add soda water or regular water to fill glass.
Serve over fresh ice.
It’s a case of trial and error, so if it’s too sweet (this will vary depending on how far your berries traveled), use less simple syrup. Fresh herbs only. Seriously. Also, remember, this is a sipping drink. It will do bad things to your blood sugar if you pound two or three of them.