I cut diet soda out of my life a few years ago. Even though my single can a day could hardly be considered a habit, I knew I needed to be drinking water. I went cold turkey doing my best to never look back. When I occassionally find myself missing a bubbly beverage, I satisfy my craving with sparkling water.
Instead of using a pound of tart cherries for a pie, I made cherry syrup perfect for an ice cream topping or a flavoring for fizzy water when strained. Only a couple spoonfuls and my plain drink took on a lovely ruby red hue. This homemade sour cherry soda was sweet and refreshing on a sticky summer afternoon.
Sour Cherry Soda
Makes about 1/2-2/3 cup syrup
1 pound sour cherries
Juice 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
Sparkling water for serving
Pit the cherries and place them in a large saucepan along with the lemon juice, sugar and water. Bring the mixture a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes until it thickens into a syrupy consistency. Cool to room temperature before chilling in the refrigerator.
Strain the mixture and save the cherries for another use. Depending on your flavor preference, add the syrup to sparkling water.
When I have people over, I want to make all the food that will be served from scratch. No ready-made shortcuts. I know I put far too much pressure on myself when the point of seeing friends and family is to catch up and enjoy each other’s company not to have haute cuisine at home. Perhaps it’s because I have a food blog that I feel the need to aspire to domestic perfection. As my husband has to remind me on a regular basis, no one is expecting me to be Martha Stewart.
This was certainly the case with W’s first birthday party. For weeks I had the crazy ambition to cook everything including baking the cake. One night awake at 2:00am, I came to my senses. I decided to have the party catered by our favorite taquieria and add a few select homemade elements. I tripled this recipe for pomegranate margaritas for a fun seasonal cocktail. The dark pink hue looked quite festive served in a big glass beverage dispenser allowing guests to help themselves.
Adapted from Food & Wine November 2005
1-3/4 cups chilled pomegranate juice
1-1/2 cups silver tequila
1 cup triple sec
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
8 lime slices for garnish
Pour 1/4 cup pomegranate juice into a bowl wide enough for a margarita glass. Spread the kosher salt on a small plate. Dip the rims of the margarita glasses into the juice and then into the salt.
In a large pitcher, combine the remaining pomegranate juice, tequila, triple sec and lime juice. In batches, shake in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into the glasses. Garnish with a lime slice before serving.
With Memorial Day marking the unofficial start of summer, my palate has shifted. Despite the slim choices at last weekend’s farmers market, I am craving refreshing fruit-filled dishes. Here in Chicago, it is still too early for a bountiful harvest, but a couple hotter than average May days were just the excuse to whip up a pitcher of lemonade.
Instead of a classic version, I made a couple changes that toned down the tartness. Meyer lemons, a cross between a lemon and a Mandarin orange, combined with pureed strawberries, gave the bright pink beverage a sweet rather than sour flavor. I served the strawberry lemonade in appropriately summery botanical print tumblers.
Makes about 1/2 gallon
1 cup granulated sugar
4-1/2 cups water
1 cup Meyer lemon juice, about 10 lemons and zest of 2 lemons in strips
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
Combine the sugar, 1 cup water and lemon zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the sugar has fully dissolved. Remove the lemon zest and transfer the syrup to a container to cool to room temperature.
Puree the strawberries in a blender with 1/2 cup water. Strain the puree and transfer to a pitcher. Add the sugar syrup, lemon juice and remaining water.
Chill the lemonade in the refrigerator and serve over ice
As a born and raised Midwesterner, I should be accustomed to Chicago summer heat with the steamroller of humidity. Every year I try to get myself in gear for the thick air that greets me when I step outside the front door of our building, but it smacks me straight in the face. It is as if my body has a selective memory forgetting countless Julys and Augusts spent suffering through the oppressive heat and savoring the much-needed relief of occasional mild days.
Since my childhood days spent at summer camp, I can think of no better way for refreshment than a cold glass of lemonade. On a hot Saturday afternoon I made a slightly more sophisticated version of this summer cooler. Sparkling limeade had a distinct citrus persona from that of its more popular lemon sibling. Adding carbonated water gave the limeade a subtle effervescent quality that when combined with the pleasantly sour flavor of lime made for the ultimate refresher.
Makes about 1 liter
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup lime juice, about 8 limes and zest of 1 lime in strips
2 cups sparkling water
Combine the sugar, water and lime zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the sugar has fully dissolved. Remove the lime zest and transfer the syrup to a container to cool to room temperature.
Combine the syrup with the lime juice and sparking water. Chill in the refrigerator before serving over ice.