The Gentleman Caller’s Patented Salsa

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

I’ve said it once and I will say it again: before I go to the electric chair I am going to have chips and salsa. There are mornings when I wake up and have that craving and literally plan my day around getting good chips and salsa. And you know what? In New York City it takes some planning. That whole Pace picante sauce ad campaign had tremendous validity to it.

Several years ago I devised a homemade salsa recipe out of necessity and it’s damn good. I have tinkered with it, and I modify it from time to time, but right now I am presenting to you the basics.

I present to you The Gentleman Caller’s Patented Salsa!

Note: this recipe makes your hands stink and if you are careless about touching your eyes or your junk after handling jalapeños, wear some gloves.

Assemble your ingredients.

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  • One 32 oz can of plum tomatoes
  • scant half of a large red onion
  • large jalapeño pepper
  • bunch of cilantro
  • juice of 1 1/2 limes
  • whisper of lime zest
  • capful of cider vinegar
  • capful of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • a teaspoon of salt (that you will likely adjust)
  • 1/3 teaspoon of sugar

Get out your blender. Rough chop your onion, jalapeño, cilantro tops and add to blender carafe. Add the lime juice and microplane a touch of zest. While the microplane is out grate the garlic into the carafe. Add the vinegar, oil, salt and sugar. If you’d prefer, you can use a teaspoon of honey instead of the sugar.  Pour the tomatoes on last.

Put the lid on your blender. Pulse on low patiently to desired consistency. I like it pretty chunky but it’s delicious smooth as well.

When you reach the desired consistency, stick a spoon pretty deep in there and taste it. You will probably need to add some more salt and possibly some more sweetness, but you really can’t know till you taste. Tomatoes vary tremendously in sweetness, and sometimes the acidity of the limes and things differ. Just be patient and go a little at time.

This salsa is pretty piquant, but if you don’t like super hot food, remove the ribs and seeds from the pepper. Also, cilantro is very polarizing. If you don’t like cilantro, google another recipe. I’m kidding. You can leave it out. It won’t taste as good, but you can totally leave it out.

Careful if you take this to a party. Once your friends taste it, you will be asked to bring it constantly.

This is The Gentleman Caller signing out!

xoxo

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Tubin’ in the Creek

Printable PDF at the bottom of the page!

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Summers in Texas were spent, in my family at least, at our family ranch in the sleepy one-stoplight town of Johnson City, Texas at our family ranch. ranch

One of the best things about the ranch was a spring fed creek, Miller Creek, which ran behind one of the more rustic dwellings on the property. It was heaven for a kid: vast acreage, wild animals, phenomenal food; and, if you were good, Poppa would take you to the Dairy Queen after naps. Mind you one time I didn’t have shoes on and the girl behind the counter asked us to leave the Dairy Queen.

My dad and Poppa would collect assorted inner tubes off of big trucks and such. They’d fill those big black tubes with air and down to the creek we’d start. We’d drop our tubes in the frigid spring water on one end of the fence line and let the current carry us to the other. Me and my little sisters, who are all little shits, would try to flip people off their tubes or drag my Granny into the “snake bank” – areas with high grass that no doubt (in Granny’s mind) were maternity wards for water moccasin.

Johnson City, Texas is famous for Freestone Peaches and we’d always get bushels of succulent peaches in the heat of summer. That memory inspired me to concoct this sweet summery cocktail topped with a brightly colored “tube” – a delicious peach ring candy. Yeah, it ain’t classy, but it’s delicious.

I present to you the Tubin’ in the Creek.

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What you need:

Put your shaker and a pint mason jar in the freezer. When the shaker is cold, put some ice in it.

Add to the ice:

  • 2 oz. peach whiskey (I am using Bird Dog)
  • 1 oz. peach nectar (this is easy to find in ethnic food sections – I am using a Greek variety)
  • 1/2 oz. Aperol
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 2 oz. San Pellegrino lemonata
  • 2 oz. club soda

Shake it shake it shake it!

Fill your mason jar with ice cubes. I like square ice. Square ice is the most visually appealing. They make silicon molds to get perfectly square ice.

Strain the shaken liquid into the jar. Top with a candy peach ring. If you can keep from eating more than one peach ring, I’ll send you a prize.

You’re going to love this. It’s summer in a glass.

This is The Gentleman Caller signing off!

xoxo

TUBIN’ IN THE CREEK

Kampei! The Lychee-tini

Printable PDF at the bottom of the page!

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Ahhh, the delicious lychee fruit. So many Americans have probably never encountered it. It’s like a sweet eyeball that you just can’t help but roll around your mouth.

At Trip of Love we have a trio of sisters who have seen our show a combined total of 85 times. The Gentleman Caller and company have affectionately monikered them “The Trip-lets of Love”. One of the sisters, Christine, apparently thinks we’re wasting away and brings us delicious snacks. A few weeks ago she handed me a can of lychee fruit. They are of Asian heritage, so it makes perfect sense.

I got home with that can and said to myself,”What can I do with this?” I popped open that can, and it was perfectly clear.

I present to you the PERFECT Lychee-tini, Gentleman Caller Style.

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What you need:

Put a martini glass in the freezer. Not one of those big boys. You want to be able to stand later. Also put your martini shaker in there.

After things are cooled off, into the shaker with some big ice cubes measure:

  • 1/2 oz lemon juice (from a lemon, not reconstituted.)
  • 1 oz lychee syrup (you should get the can that says lychees in heavy syrup.)
  • 1 oz “enhanced” triple sec (see below.)
  • 2 oz Hendricks gin
  • dash of bitters
  • lemon peel (use your carrot peeler on the lemon to cut a thin peel.)
  • Shake it shake it shake it!

Into your chilled glass put a single lychee fruit and the lemon peel. Pour. Live your life. xoxo

KAMPEI! THE LYCHEE-TINI

**Enhanced triple sec: get a reasonably priced bottle of triple sec and peel an orange like I instructed you to peel the lemon: with a vegetable peeler. Pour out at least an ounce of triple sec and use it in a margarita or something. Insert all the peels. Let stand for a few weeks. It will rock your world.

Window Sill Splendor from some guy’s trash

Knock Knock Knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Honestly I should have done this one earlier in the season, but sometimes life gets in the way of best laid plans, right? So here we are in a heat wave and I am deciding it’s time to PLANT.

Right now I am in New York City and let’s face it: no one has outdoor space here. A lot of people in regular America don’t either. This project is for you. Condo people, apartment dwellers, all of ya’ll whose soul is yearning for dirt to dig in but don’t know where to find it.

Thursday night is “Big Trash Night” in Manhattan, meaning that people put out big things. It’s astonishing what you see on the streets. Mannequins, sofas, baby cribs, washing machines, tv’s, and the most useful for today’s purposes: CHEST OF DRAWERS. (Below is an example, not the actual one I got…just proving my point!)

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I was on the way to do the show and someone had put out a vintage midcentury chest. It was beat up, but looked clean. I walked on to work and thought DRAWERS. I had the intent to build out some window boxes from scratch, but why not source those deep dove-tailed drawers for window boxes? I spent the entirety of the show focusing on whether or not the chest would be there when I got home. Eureka, it was! So I drug a few drawers up to my place and thoroughly disinfected them and myself. (Note: don’t EVER pick up something with soft surfaces or fabric off the street unless you want some bedbugs.)

Let’s get to the real work.

Put down a drop cloth. Make sure your drawers are clean. If you want to hit any varnished areas with sandpaper, knock yourself out. These aren’t going to last for the rest of your life so you don’t need to be that meticulous. The moisture of the dirt is going to rot them over time so be as meticulous as you want, but don’t get crazy. Unless you ARE crazy and that’s just how you do things.

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Remove the hardware. You can save this for another project if it’s pretty.

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Paint those suckers. Or don’t. If you like the wood tone and you want people to know it used to be a drawer, that’s a valid aesthetic choice. Don’t be afraid of color here. I can be timid about color; I wear a grey t-shirt every single day. But in honor of this project I have on purple Converse. Let your house/dwelling/domicile be your grey t-shirt and your window box be your purple Cons!

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While you’re letting the paint set up, go get you some hardware. Based on what kind of ledge you have or don’t have, you can use mending plates or L brackets. I am using mending plates and shimming the underside of the drawers with some 1×6. Shimming is the process of leveling something with smaller pieces of wood that you ideally do not want to see. If you are using L brackets you might be level without shims.

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Measure out where you want them. Symmetry is sublime.

Affix the hardware. Use a substantial wood screw so you have some structural integrity. No one wants to clean up a box full of dirt. Yes, I took my shirt off – I am f****** melting. You’ll read why in a sec.

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Screw those boxes in place.

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Drill some drain holes in the bottom of the box.

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Paint out the exposed hardware if you want. And if you have exposed hardware, you definitely should want. 🙂

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A standard drawer is going to hold about a cubic foot of dirt before being planted (this is assuming you’re using plants already started from a home improvement center or nursery). Please have more sense than me and don’t try to schlep 2 cubic feet of dirt home in sacks on your shoulders through midtown Manhattan in the midst of a heat wave. I wish I had a photo to insert here, but you’ll have to use your imagination.

Plant those suckers. Be creative; flowering plants and herbs coexist peacefully. Be sure to drop some vine-type plants over the sides. Sweet potato vines are a little banal, but damn if they don’t always look nice. Vinca vine is always nice. If your box is going in a spot that gets blasted with sun, a patio tomato plant is not out of the question.

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Find out about planting combinations in the next article! Wishing you and your green thumb much success.

This is The Gentleman Caller signing out.

xoxo

Pickled. Not me. Cucumbers.

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Knock Knock Knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Hey, friends. It’s me, The Gentleman Caller. Welcome to my first outing. Happy Independence Day!

It’s summer. It’s July. It’s hot. It’s my favorite time of year. You can wear a tank top anywhere except church. Amen to that.

So I was sauntering through Manhattan’s Upper West Side last Sunday before my matinee at Trip of Love, and wandered among the farm stalls. Now believe it or not, Jersey makes beautiful summer produce despite its reputation for murder and Snooki. I found some astonishingly beautiful Kirby cukes and decided it was time to go Granny-style with some canning.

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My Granny, Mrs. Mary Leah Stanton Miller, has an unrivaled pickle recipe. Sweet, salty, spicy… we waited eagerly for a jar of Granny’s crispy cukes every year. One time my sister, Katie, ate a whole quart jar in one sitting. Oy — that makes my guts churn.

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So it’s just me here, and I don’t have bushels of cucumbers coming out of a garden (not this summer at least), so I modified Granny’s recipe to serve my needs. Smaller recipe. I also added some more exotic spices for fun and sliced the cukes for easier use later. Granny always does them whole, but then you end up cutting them once they’ve brined. Saving a step…

Go wash your hands and let’s do this.

What you’ll need:

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  • 2 pint jars with rings and lids, clean
  • 1 pint of water (Granny likes well water, as in water from a well. If you are in Manhattan and have access to that, you send me a text right now.)
  • ½ pint of vinegar (Granny likes 7% acidity, but really that’s for cleaning toilets; 5% is fine.)
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon brining spice (You can find this or assemble your own. If making your own, assemble things you like: a whisper of cinnamon bark, peppercorns, coriander, fennel seed, dill seed, bay leaf – all whole.)
  • 5 decent size Kirby cucumbers
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1/8 of a red onion
  • Dill sprigs
  • Serrano pepper
  1. Put a pot on the stove full of water – it should be at least 7 inches deep. 8 is better. Put your jars, lids and rings in the pot (disassembled, of course). Let her rip. Bring to a boil and let it boil as you do some prep work.IMG_1216
  2. Do you have a mandolin? Good. Put it on the curvy blade. Set the depth to a quarter of an inch. Slice up your cucumbers carefully. Every time I use a mandolin in front of someone, they’re like, “Don’t cut your fingers!” No shit? Be careful though. You can also just use a knife. The world won’t end; they just won’t have that fun wavy texture.IMG_1258IMG_1268
  3. Slice your garlic cloves in half. You will want to see them in the sides of the jar. Presentation is important.
  4. Sliver pieces of onion, but don’t separate them. Again, presentation.
  5. Slice the Serrano into thin pieces. You will want to distribute these well so you don’t end up with a mouth scorcher in one pickle bite.IMG_1277
  6. Grab some tongs. Pull the jars out of the boiling cauldron. Put 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and ½ tablespoon of brining season into the bottom of the jar.IMG_1299IMG_1321
  7. In a saucepan, assemble the water, vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil.
  8. Begin assembling vegetables in the jars. Layer them so the garlic, onions and dill are clearly visible through the sides. Leave about a ½ inch space from the top of the jar.
  9. Without burning yourself (good luck), add the water/vinegar/sugar liquid to the vegetable jars leaving at least a ¼ inch space at the top. With tongs, put the lid with the rubber ring facing down on the jars. Put the ring on top and screw that sucker down. DON’T touch anything on the inside of the lid or ring with your dirty paws.IMG_1352IMG_1373 IMG_1382.jpfg
  10. Time to process. No, this is not a psychological step. Put a cooling or other wire rack, or even just some spare rings from other jars on the bottom of the pot that you sterilized the jars in. Put your vegetable jars on top. Add water to sufficiently cover the jars and bring back to boil (water should still be very hot so this should be quick. Unless you’re super slow.) Once a nice little simmer is achieved, let process for 8 minutes.
  11. Take the jars out after processing and just set them somewhere in earshot. You’ll want to hear a little <pop> from them as they cool. If you don’t hear the pop, put that jar in the fridge. Let it sit for a week and then consume. You should hear the pop. Let these stand for a few weeks. The longer the better.

Now go enjoy! This is The Gentleman Caller signing off for now.

xoxo

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