Dinner, Because Why Not?


By Elizabeth Speth

Once upon a time, there was a woman.  She toiled a little bit at an office every day.  She was also in the manure management business.  Dogs, cats, horses… lots of manure to manage every day.  She watered a garden, and washed dishes.  She drove a car, and selected things at the grocery store.  She fed the animals, and the people, swept the occasional floor.  She listened some, talked a lot, gave advice and sought it.

She was busy.  Sometimes she was tired.  And there was always the problem of dinner.

Dinner clamored to be made.  Every day.  And it always wanted to be delicious, or why bother?  And it always had to be accompanied by wine, or a cocktail, because why not?  What was the point otherwise, if dinner was not marvelous?

One day the woman brought home pizza dough from the deli.  She stretched and pushed and pulled it flat, brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled it with salt and pepper.  She baked it in a high-heat oven until it bubbled and browned.  She spread it with creme fraiche and mascarpone cheese when it came out of the oven (although one or the other would have been just fine, but she was prone to excess), and then she grated lemon zest over that.

She arranged salty prosciutto and smoked salmon in beautiful, mounded shapes over the creamy sauce.  And then thinly-sliced (paper thin) shallots, although red onion would have been good too.  Then herbs.  Chopped.  Chives.  Tarragon.   Dill.  Those seemed to be the herbs that would play nicely with the salty ham and the smoky fish.  And then dinner was done.

Cocktails, she thought.  Cocktails… cocktails…  Her mind and her eyes wandered and came to rest on the fruit bowl.  Which was empty but for some lemons and oranges.  So she went to the freezer, and withdrew frozen cherries, and a bag of mixed frozen fruit — peaches and strawberries and berries.  She listened to the icy plop of them as she piled them into a pitcher.  In went a bottle of fruit juice.  In went a bottle of sparkling wine.  In went most of a bottle of tequila.  She stirred it with the handle of a wooden spoon, mashing the fruit a bit.  She threw in sliced oranges and lemons for good measure, and poured some over ice.

Then she served others in her family glasses of sangria.  And crisp slices of pizza with lemony, creamy, herb-y, onion-y, smokey goodness on top.

And dinner was done.  And she announced that someone else would do the dishes.

And she lived happily ever after.

Shopping List:

Deli — Pizza dough or pizza crust, prosciutto or other smoked meat, smoked salmon, mascarpone or creme fraiche or both.  (If you can’t find those cheeses, mix sour cream with a bit of ricotta or cream cheese.)

Produce — Lemons, herbs (tarragon, parsley, basil, dill, chives — whatever you like, many or few).  Fresh fruit if you don’t want to use frozen in sangria.  Although frozen fruit makes nice ice cubes.

Liquor aisle —  Tequila.  Or gin.  Or vodka.  What’s your favorite hard liquor?  Sparkling wine.  Or rose.  Or white.  (Sangria is one hard alcohol, one soft alcohol, fruit juice and fruit.  That’s it.)

Other:  Frozen Fruit.  Fruit Juice

Do Yourself A Favor — Read This Before Cocktail Hour


By Elizabeth Speth

This won’t take long.

I was at the grocery store today, wandering listlessly through the produce aisle.  I saw masses of dusky purple winter grapes.  On sale.


My first thought:  Make jewelry out of them.  They are that beautiful.

My second, more practical thought:  Cocktails.

I adopted a bunch — the sweetest, darkest, most mysterious and sexy cluster in the whole store — and brought it home. I chilled it within an inch of its life, and I coaxed every gorgeous, ripe, ruby orb off the stem (they did not require much convincing) and plopped them into the blender.

I added a thick, amber rope of local honey.  Made by rosemary- and lavender-obsessed bees in my neighborhood.  Pouring, it flirted shamelessly with the afternoon sun coming through the French doors in the kitchen.  Fair enough, I thought, dazzled by the slow-flowing chemistry between sweet and light.  It’s cocktail hour.  There can be some flirting.

grapes 4

I poured in enough vodka to cover the grapes and the honey.  I am protective that way.


I flicked on the blender and whirled it around.  It made a joyous pink froth with purple flecks of tannic confetti.

At this point, I was confronted with a choice.  I could strain the vodka grape juice and remove the pulverized skins.  It would have made my cocktail clear, pristine — prettier.

I didn’t.  I think those little bits of skin are the cocktail equivalent of caviar.  I poured it into a champagne glass until the glass was half full.   (I’m an optimist!)

I filled the glass the rest of the way with (very) cold champagne.

grapes 2

And then I shared it with you.  Immediately.  This is me, virtually pouring you a drink.  A lovely one.  You’ve likely had a tedious week.  You deserve it.

Happy Friday.


A Green(er) Margarita

 By Elizabeth Speth

avacado 2

Behold the Avocado Margarita

Last night I watched Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ exploration of the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX, a rerun of a great episode I had somehow missed.

SXSW (as in ‘South By Southwest’) is a film and music festival/conference that settles on the city like an electrified storm cloud each year in mid-March. It began in 1987, and it’s been growing ever since.

That is not what I mean to write about here, though. Because SXSW is a thing for another generation.  I’m sorry about this.  It looks like a lot of fun.  I would have no objection to giving it a once-over in person, but there doesn’t really seem to be a place for someone my age there.

Even Bourdain — the epitome of coolly cynical and dissolute living, the expert on naughty pleasure, all close-cropped gray hair and rangy frame, his blood-shot eyes inscrutable behind Ray Ban aviators — Bourdain himself noted that he felt like someone’s perverted uncle as he followed all that exuberant, writhing, partying youth around with his camera crew.

My point here is this:  Somewhere in the tangle of roasted pigs, tacos, blues, grunge, tattoos, etc., the subject of Avocado Margaritas came up.

A throaty-voiced, dark-haired, laughing siren named Sleigh Bells brought it up, actually.

I watched her mix half a blender’s worth of tequila, some other stuff, and the innards of about three avocados into a green, frothy, salt-rimmed glass of brilliance.

When Bourdain said: “This should not have worked, but it did”,  I admit I was hooked.

Now I must see this thing through to its conclusion.

There was no recipe offered on the show. Everyone was lurching around too much.

So I’ve done some research, some soul-searching, some recipe-searching, some blending on my own.

Here is what I have come up with so far. I don’t drink blended margaritas generally, but in this case, we must make an exception. Thank me or curse me, and proceed at your peril.



– 2 cups crushed ice
– 6 oz. tequila (white or brown, make it good)
– 1 avocado, peeled, sliced, and pitted (if a little firm, no worries — blender time ahead)
– 2 oz. triple sec
– 4 oz. lime juice
– pinch of cilantro
– salt on your glass (please see below for an important note)


Place ice, tequila, avocado, triple sec, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender, and blend until desirably smooth. Add agave syrup, a dash at a time, if additional sweetness is needed.  Salt your glasses if you wish. Close your eyes, take a sip, think of it as a healthy smoothie.

I am still trying to figure out how to incorporate jalapeno peppers.  Because that warmth in the mouth is the only thing missing.

Here are my thoughts:  If you have a week ahead of time, infuse your tequila with a jalapeno pepper.  Then proceed as above.

If you don’t have a week, rub the rim of the glass with a cut jalapeno, getting the oil from the seeds and the pepper.  Discard any seeds or membrane in or on the glass.  Dip rim quickly in lime juice, then salt with a little lime zest mixed in for color.  Proceed as above.

Below is a picuture of Bourdain after his Avocado Margarita, which was followed by a whole roasted pig and then this massive crawfish boil.


Apparently, this is how musicians eat now.

This is obviously an enlightened man, to whom good and bountiful things happen.  A man completely without regret.

Blame the margarita.