Lemon-Lime Cordial for Gimlets (and more)

We’re keeping it short and sweet this week, folks, which is coincidentally also the way I like this drink.

A few weeks ago, Joe Wicks was the guest on Off Menu, a podcast I listen to where two comedians ask their guests what their dream meal would be, course by course. Joe was delightful because he’s known in the UK as the pandemic fitness instructor guy and all he chose to eat was burgers, fries, cheese, and alcohol, which I deeply respect and which is super realistic.

Also, he and his daughter like to make what’s known in their household as an “early gin-ton” (gin and tonic at or before 5pm). His daughter’s a toddler, so she’s just getting ton and lime, but I love the idea of an early gin-ton for starting your evening off right. Earlier the better, in the summertime.

Cheers! You have no idea how much I wanted to make this the featured image for this post.
Pictured: Joe Lycett (comedian) in a speedboat on the Thames on his way to host the Great British Sewing Bee, the reality show of the week in my household. Important: this is not Joe Wicks, fitness instructor, nor is it a gimlet. Whatever. It’s about the vibe.
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Iced Coffee

It’s ten thousand degrees outside, every part of you is drenched in sweat, and, like a dog or a performing seal, you need a treat in order to perform whatever new task is expected of you.

You need a good treat.

Not a low-fat smoothie or a Diet Tab or God forbid a protein shake. You need something delicious with enough pow and zap to launch your dilapidated meat corpse into whatever the next activity of the day is.

Hopefully there’s air conditioning. But even if there’s not? There’s iced coffee.

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Dave’s Sweet Tea

I’ve been dreaming about outdoor patio lunches, about fancy white tablecloths and club sandwiches that come wrapped in paper napkins, about standing outside a taco truck shoveling carnitas drenched in hot green salsa and crisp white onions and fresh lime juice into my face at 2AM.

I’ve been fantasizing about giant fuck-off Cobb salads served with a haystack of herby, cheesy skinny fries for the table, and barbecue stands handing out waxed-paper cartons filled with towering piles of smoky, sticky brisket. And a pickle on the side.

I’ve been thinking about sitting on the hood of the car outside the Dairy Queen at dusk, eating a chocolate dipped cone and talking about nothing and watching the thunderclouds roll in. I’ve been meditating on hot dogs.

I’m deep in Summer Outdoor Food Nostalgia, is what it is. We’ll be diving deep into this fantasy-based cooking in the coming weeks. Get ready for cherry pie, and pulled pork, and breakfast burritos and maybe donuts? And limeade and chicken shawarma and really good cold sandwiches for when it’s too hot to even think about turning on a burner on the stove, much less the oven.

A summertime eatin’-stuff moodboard: drive-thrus, puddin pie, Ferris Bueller, Brad Pitt eating in every scene of Ocean’s 11, fresh cherries, Corny the Sweetcorn at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival, who is a known associate of this blog.

But you’re not getting through any of the above without a drink. Good, cold drinks are the cornerstone of summer eating: horchata, iced coffee, lemonade, milkshakes. The ever-wonderful movie theater Coke, which is essentially syrup poured over a mountain of crushed ice. Ideal.

Sweet Tea is movie theater Coke’s mellower cousin – you can control the sweetness at the beginning, with how much honey you put in, and at the end, with how much ice you serve it with.

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Essential Mac and Cheese

I’m going to level with you guys – last week was all fun and games with the elaborate frosting techniques, but, much like Icarus, I have flown too close to the sun, and by “flown” I mean “walked” and by “the sun” I mean “the ground”. Did you guys know I walked OUTSIDE? To get VACCINATED? That was a mistake on my part (the walking, not the vaccination).  I’m ready for the peg leg. I could switch it out for a wheel when I need to go fast, or a ski in the wintertime. If you have working feet and ankles, give them a little smooch. Moving around is a privilege, not a right.

Long story short, it’s getting very Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine in here. (Grandma Josephine is what I call the pile of sixteen pillows I use to keep this foot elevated.) It’s like for the home stretch (hopefully?) of pandemic quarantine existence I get to do it on Turbo Mode.

So, as I write you this from my 1930’s baby cage, we’re gonna talk about something I don’t have to get up and go make, because I’ve made it a billion times before. We’re making it in the glorious kitchen wing of my mind-palace, which looks exactly like Ina Garten’s kitchen in the Hamptons. We’re making mac and cheese.

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Raspberry Ripple Cake

Did you ever want a cake to be both a parade float and a fluffy cloud? Hi. Welcome. Fantasy awaits.

This is the Platonic ideal of a white cake – this is the kind of cake you dream of every wedding cake being, but wedding cake universally sucks (except for the people whose weddings I’ve been to – yours was great obviously.)

This cake is everything – soft and tender, sweet but not too sweet, rich but light, heady and flavorful without being overpowering, with just a HINT of tartness to take it into the stratosphere. I love this cake.

For those of you not in the know, raspberry ripple is one of the basic UK ice cream flavors that you don’t really see in the US. In its finest form it’s just beautiful fresh cream with a light streak of raspberry jam running through it – not too sweet, but perfectly balanced between the creamy smoothness of dairy and bright, tart berries.

You can always make a cake and slap some jam between the layers and call it a day – it’s delicious and you should. But there’s something about this buttercream that makes everything Fancy and Deluxe.

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Midnight Pasta

Whenever my dad goes out of town, my mom makes something called Snaffles Mousse, which is the drag queen who gets kicked off Drag Race UK in week one a military-grade garlic dip pungent enough to kill a vampiric horse. Eat it on Ruffles, or use it to fumigate your house!

Many of us grew up with a healthy fear of Too Much Garlic, but I don’t live that life anymore. This spaghetti made me rethink my entire relationship to the garlic arts. Welcome to the Cult of the Midnight Pasta. We have fabulous robes, and we don’t care what our breath is like.

This recipe comes from Ina Garten, but you can find versions of it everywhere. It’s called midnight pasta, because apparently it’s the comfort food chefs make for themselves when they get home at 3am after a 15-hour shift. It’s middle-of-the-night-staring-into-the-fridge food. It’s macaroni and cheese if you’re fancy as hell. It’s butter noodles on steroids. And it uses an entire head of garlic.

Best of all, it takes literally 20 minutes, and it makes a sensational frittata for lunch the next day. Like nearly all good pasta sauces, it’s thrown together quickly with stuff you have around. It’s Italian stir-fry. All you need is parsley, red pepper flakes, garlic, and parmesan.

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Easy Mother’s Day Desserts You Can Make on the Fly

This week, we’re getting Mom something she actually wants: Some Goddamn Dessert. THREE Cook Instead recipes for the price of one, only at Shondaland. Go check it out!

Tea

Look, I don’t know if you’ve all got experience with ‘having ankles’, but I’m pretty sure I’m about to get my license revoked. Molly and I have been hiking around the park almost every day for a year now, but this weekend I finally got overconfident, tripped over my own feet, and then walked home on the same busted ankle I had previously busted in college. Hooray for me. Kids, don’t listen to the government. Working out is a trap.

Now that my right ankle consists of what I can only assume is a mixture of gravel and corned beef hash, I can no longer locomote under my own power – I have to get my hands on Molly’s shoulders in what we’re calling “Doubles Conga” so that I can hop around the house on one foot.

And until we can buy wigs and spangled costumes and a small alligator, we can’t take our act on the road.

So here I am. Hello. If you think I’m going to start doing my Elderly Flamingo Impression in the kitchen next to knives, flames etc., you are incorrect. Let’s talk about the only thing I can photograph from my current setup in bed: tea.

Americans make bad tea. Water is wet. Guess what, though, punks? British people make bad tea, too. Tea is easy to make bad for the following reasons:

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Molly’s Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

So listen – I have called these muffins, and that is a lie. But it’s a lie we all agree on, right? Most muffins are cake, and these are no different. You won’t find me complaining – I’d be very into it if more things that were cake pretended not to be so we could eat them more often. Muffins are a top-notch disguise. Long live muffins, and by that I mean long live cake that we all agree we can eat for breakfast.

Most banana stuff, while delicious, is pretty dense. My favorite banana-themed baked goods are tremendously good, but also pretty heavy and mostly flavored with chocolate and/or peanut butter. And listen, there’s nothing at all wrong with that. Like, at all. I love you, chocolate and peanut butter flavored stuff. Never change.

But these little cakes, invented by Molly in a desperate bid to save some near-zombie bananas, are like no other banana cake I have ever had. Light as a feather, almost bouncy, due to some weird baking powder math that ended up working out, (and then getting simplified to just using self-raising flour), with enough chocolate chips to feel special but not quite full-on DECADANZA. The kind of little muffin you can happily eat 3 of and not feel like you’ve ruined your next meal.

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Classic Carrot Soup

People always want to jazz up carrot soup with something – cilantro or red pepper or orange or parsnip or curry – to distract you from the fact that carrots are “boring”. I hate this.

There is a difference between boring and familiar! They’ve got depth, they’re sweet, they’re a fun color!! Justice for Carrots!

Carrot soup is one of my favorite party tricks because, like most of the things I am sharing with you, it is both tremendously good and extremely easy.

Chop some carrots, let them hang out, drunk on a little sherry, with a softened, buttery onion in a saucepan sauna for an hour, and they will mellow out into a deep, rich, almost jammy sweetness that is the base of honestly probably my favorite soup.

For those of you playing along at home, that’s a whopping 5 ingredients to make a tastier, more satisfying soup than I’ve ever been served at a restaurant.

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