Summertime is slurpee season, and while I’m not against the occasional stroll to the corner store, I could do without the plethora of kool-aid, pop and other sugary drinks that get chugged throughout the summer months. Here are a few new drink ideas if you need to ditch your iced tea mix.
I recently discovered that cold, blended, sometimes slushy drinks are the perfect vehicle for disappointing or wrinkly fruit - pulpy watermelons and woody peaches, or any that are starting to go limp or lose their luster in the fruit bowl. Rhubarb makes a tart, brilliant pink tea; a good thing because one can only bake so many pies, and freezer real estate is at its prime.
Rhubarb Tea - In a large pot, chop as much rhubarb as you want to use and add water - about 1 litre per two stalks. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add a berry tea bag (or two, if it’s a large pot) and let stand until cool. Strain and add sugar or honey to taste.
Flavored Simple Syrup - Combine equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves, which should take under a minute. To flavor the syrup, add ingredients such as sliced fresh ginger, grated lemon, orange or lime zest, a split vanilla bean, fresh herbs such as basil or mint, whole cinnamon sticks or star anise. Let the syrup cool, strain through a fine-mesh sieve if there are any solids to get rid of, and store in the fridge for up to six months; add to sparkling water for a refreshing summer sipper.
Real Lemonade - To make your own lemonade concentrate, bring equal parts lemon juice and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan. (I usually do a cup of each.) Stir to dissolve the sugar, then cool and refrigerate. (If you want to flavor your lemonade, add fresh ginger, mint or thyme, then strain it out.) To make lemonade, add water or sparkling water to taste, and a handful of ice - you can make it by the glass or by the pitcher. (This concentrate also works well with lime juice, and makes a fine mojito or addition to a gin & tonic.)
Watermelon Lemonade Slurpees - Cube a watermelon, not even bothering to remove the white pits, just the big dark ones. Pulse the cubes in a blender with about ¼ cup sugar per blenderful, if that. (This will depend on your taste and the sweetness of the melon.) Add some frozen lemonade concentrate or lemon syrup (see recipe) to taste, and puree until smooth and sippable.
Julie is a food editor for ParentsCanada, a best-selling cookbook author, food writer, cooking instructor, and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio. For more information, visit www.dinnerwithjulie.com. And be sure to check out her and Elizabeth Chorney-Booth’s website, www.rollingspoon.com, or on Twitter, @RollingSpoon, exploring their mutual love of music and food.
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