Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chill Out! Cool Drinks With A Garden Twist

Here are some cool drinks to beat the heat — with a garden twist. My story in today's Standard-Examiner features some of my favorite sippers, with a few sprigs of herbs snipped into them.  
Berry & Basil Melon Spritzer, Cucumber Limeade, Watermelon Gazpacho. Valerie Phillips photo

Cucumber is known for its cooling qualities. We served this Cucumber Limeade recipe at my daughter Amy's wedding reception. I got the recipe several years ago from Londa Davis, of Bite-Size Catering & Cafe in Farmington. I think the cucumber makes limeade even more refreshing.  We usually serve it with diet Sprite to cut down on the sugar.  

I made Watermelon Gazpacho on Good Things Utah a few weeks ago, and also served it at a Parade of Homes house in Layton. It's one of several cold soups included in my cookbook, "Soup On!" The cucumber, onion and basil give the sweet watermelon a savory touch. Also, it's a good way to use watermelon when it's only so-so in flavor or texture. Or you can do the Berry & Basil Melon Spritzer, using either frozen or fresh berries.

Herbal infused lemonades: lavender, rosemary, and basil.

I got the idea for infusing herbs with lemonade a couple of years ago, while at Deer Valley Resort's Savor the Summit Dinner. The cocktail served was called Rosemary Radler — lemonade infused with rosemary, then mixed with High West vodka and Squatters Provo Girl Pilsner. Since I don't drink alcohol, I asked for the rosemary lemonade by itself, and I was pleasantly surprised. The pine-y essence of rosemary gave a compelling edge to the usual lemonade, in the same way that adding a squeeze of lemon or lime to a soft drink does. Since I like a lot of Southwestern dishes with a lime/cilantro combo, I tried them together in Cilantro Limeade.   
Since herbs are known for antioxidant properties, you're give it a health boost too. 
I'll admit, drinks with herbs or cucumbers in them aren't for everyone.  When I served the Watermelon Gazpacho at the Parade of Homes, the builder of the home told everyone he hated it; he preferred the Zucchini & Bacon Soup that I also served.  But, a lot of the people coming through to see the house raved about the gazpacho.  So I think it can be an acquired taste.  
- When adding herbs to drinks, less can be more. Too much of an herb makes a drink bitter or soapy-tasting. 
- If you really don’t like the flavor of a certain herb in savory dishes such as soup or spaghetti sauce, you probably won’t like it in a drink, either. Experiment by trying a teaspoon of the herb in a one-cup serving before adding it to a whole pitcher full of juice or limeade.
- Most of the time, it’s best to chop up an herb and let it steep in the liquid for an hour or so to infuse the flavor. Then strain out the old, spent leaves before serving. If desired, add a fresh sprig for garnish.
Cucumber Limeade
2 quarts crushed ice
12-ounce can frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
2-liter bottle lemon-lime soda (can be sugar-free)
1 large cucumber, thinly sliced
Place the ice in a large pitcher or a glass drink dispenser. Add the limeade concentrate. Add cucumber slices, then soda. Stir a few times to mix ingredients before serving. Serves 10-20, depending on the size of the glasses.
— Valerie Phillips
Berry & Basil Melon Spritzer
5 cups diced watermelon, seeds removed
1 tablespoon fresh basil
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries, or a combination of mixed berries
12-ounce can diet lemon-lime soda, chilled (or 12 ounces club soda or seltzer water)
Puree the melon and 1 cup of the berries in the blender (or with a handheld blender) until smooth. Place several ice cubes or about 1/2 cup crushed ice in each glass. Pour some of the watermelon mixture into each glass. Add a few of the whole berries. Top off the drinks with some of the soda. Garnish with a watermelon wedge, a sprig of mint, or berries on a toothpick, if desired. Serves 2-4, depending on the size of the glasses used.
— Valerie Phillips
Watermelon Gazpacho
1 medium cucumber, peeled and coarsely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
6-8 cups diced seedless watermelon (about half a medium-size seedless watermelon)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
Place the ingredients in a blender. Puree in a blender until chunky-smooth. Refrigerate until just before serving. Makes about 5 cups.
— “Soup’s On!” by Valerie Phillips (Covenant, 2012)
Apple Mint Julep
1 can frozen apple juice concentrate
3 cans water
2-3 sprigs of mint leaves (about 1/4 cup), coarsely chopped
Club soda, if desired
Mix the apple juice in a large pitcher. Add the mint leaves. Refrigerate 1-2 hours. Pour the juice through a strainer and discard the spent leaves.
Serve over crushed ice, garnished with a few more sprigs of mint. Add club soda if you want some fizz. Makes 4-6 servings.
— Valerie Phillips
Rosemary Grape Chiller, Valerie Phillips photo
Rosemary Grape Chiller
1 can frozen white grape juice concentrate, prepared according to package directions
3-4 sprigs rosemary, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
Mix the grape juice and rosemary. Chill in the refrigerator 1-2 hours. Strain into a pitcher. Serve over crushed ice, garnished with rosemary sprigs. Makes 4-6 servings.
— Valerie Phillips
Herbal Essence Lemonade
Option: Instead of making fresh lemonade, you may use 1 can of frozen lemonade concentrate or a diet lemonade mix, prepared according to package directions.
6 large lemons ( or about 1 to 1 1/2 cups lemon juice)
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
4 cups water
Roll each lemon on the counter, pressing into them with your palm. Cut lemons in half and squeeze out the juice. Add sugar and water and stir vigorously until sugar dissolves. Taste, and add more sugar, lemon juice or water if desired.
Lavender Lemonade: Stir 10-12 lavender stems, or about 1/4 cup dried lavender, into the pitcher of lemonade. Allow to steep at least 1 hour. Strain the lemonade, discarding the lavender blossoms. Serve over crushed ice. You may also top it off with lemon-lime soda or club soda.
Basil Lemonade: Add about 1/4 cup torn basil leaves to the pitcher of lemonade. Allow to steep at least one hour. Strain the lemonade, discarding the spent basil leaves. Serve over crushed ice, adding a few basil leaves for garnish. You may also top it off with lemon-lime soda or club soda.
Rosemary Lemonade: Add 3-4 large sprigs of rosemary (about 1/4 cup), snipped into pieces. Allow mixture to steep at least one hour. Strain the lemonade, discarding the rosemary leaves. Serve over crushed ice, adding a few rosemary leaves for garnish. You may also top it off with lemon-lime soda or club soda.
— Valerie Phillips
Cilantro Limeade
Option: You may use a 12-ounce can of frozen limeade concentrate, mixed according to the package directions, in place of the juice, sugar and water.
6-8 limes (or about 1 cup lime juice)
1/2 to 1 cup sugar (to taste)
1 quart (4 cups) water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 to 2 liters lemon-lime soda, or club soda (optional)
Roll each lime on the counter while pressing it with the palm on your hand, to break down the membranes for easier juicing. Cut each lime in half and squeeze out as much juice as possible. Add the juice to a 2-quart pitcher. Add sugar and water, and stir vigorously until sugar dissolves. Taste, and add more sugar, juice or water if desired.
Stir in cilantro leaves. Refrigerate drink for one hour. Strain to remove spent leaves (or use a handheld blender to puree the leaves). Pour into ice-filled glasses. Top off each glass with lemon-lime soda (such as Sprite or 7-up) or club soda, if desired. Serves 6-8, depending on the size of the glasses.

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