Ginger Lemonade (with Vodka!)

Ginger Lemonade (with Vodka!)

This lemonade is summer in a glass. It’s so refreshing, it makes me want to dip my toes into the nearest pool and feel sun on my shoulders. Sip a sip, ahh. I loaded this lemonade with vodka for a “welcome back spring” party, and the alcohol was mostly undetectable- making it even more drinkable. Even if you omit the vodka for a tamer treat, this lemonade should be on your warm weather shortlist.

Ginger Lemonade (with Vodka!)

To make it, start by heating up a simple syrup. Add 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water to a pot. Thinly slice up some fresh ginger, and add that to the pot as well. Bring the liquid to a simmer, and let all of the sugar dissolve until the liquid becomes clear. Remove the pot from the heat, and let the ginger continue to infuse the syrup as it cools. Meanwhile, squeeze some lemons. Making a balanced lemonade is all about the ratios, which can vary based on your affinity for sweetness vs. tartness. The golden ratios for this lemonade are: 1 part ginger syrup to 1.5 parts lemon juice to 4 parts water to 2 parts vodka.

Ginger Lemonade (with Vodka!)

I made about 10.5 cups of lemonade, and squeezed 12-15 lemons to get just shy of 2 cups of lemon juice. When the syrup cooled, I strained out the ginger and added all of the syrup, about 1.25 cups, to the lemon juice. I then added 5 cups of water and 2.5 cups of vodka. Once you’ve figured out your ratios, stir the lemonade, taste it, and adjust any of the ingredients. Serve it over lots of ice. This lemonade is so refreshing, that cute puppies and handsome dog walkers will come from near and far for it.

Shopping list:

  • Lemons
  • Sugar
  • Ginger
  • Vodka
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Muhammara: Red Pepper Dip

Muhammara: Red Pepper Dip

Remember when I told you about some of the foods I hate but wish I liked? Well, my tastes have evolved quite a bit since I shared that post a year and a half ago… who knew that was possible?! First, I shared my new love of mint in mint infused water and mojitos. Then I fell for salmon, baked in parchment paper or broiled with orange cream. And now, bell peppers. I really never saw this day coming. I sampled this roasted red pepper dip in my cooking class and was shocked by how much I liked it. I even wrote in my notes, “Doesn’t taste like peppers too much,” which is a nice way of saying, “Not disgusting!” David thinks this dip does taste peppery, so maybe I’m just coming around to the flavor. This dip is multi-dimensional with spicy and tangy undertones. It’s great party food. Or dinner food paired with crispy pita chips when you’re home alone and can do whatever you want.

Muhammara: Red Pepper Dip

To make this dip, begin by roasting 2 red bell peppers. Just put them directly on a gas burner to char, rotating the peppers until they are totally blackened. My mom roasts lots of peppers at once under her oven’s broiler.

Muhammara: Red Pepper Dip

Once charred, put the peppers in a plastic bag and let them cool at room temperature. The peppers will steam themselves in the bag.

Muhammara: Red Pepper Dip

Once cool, hold the peppers under running water, and brush off their skins. Split the peppers open and rinse out the seeds and membranes.

Muhammara: Red Pepper Dip

Put the roasted peppers into a blender. Add in about 1/2 cup of walnuts, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon of pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and 1.5 tablespoons of pomegranate syrup.

Muhammara: Red Pepper Dip

You can find pomegranate syrup in some supermarkets, but mine didn’t carry it. Fortunately, it’s easy to make your own! Just buy a bottle of pomegranate juice, and pour it into a pot. Simmer the pomegranate juice until it reduces into a syrup. As the water cooks off, it will stop bubbling even though it remains on the heat. Once it reaches that stage, the syrup should easily coat the back of a spoon. Remove the syrup from the heat, let it cool, and then store it in a jar in the fridge. It’s sweet and tangy.

Muhammara: Red Pepper Dip

Blend the red pepper dip until it is smooth. Taste the dip, and add more of any of the ingredients you think it needs. I adjusted pretty much everything but the peppers and walnuts. Blend again. If you want the dip to have a thicker consistency, you can blend in some breadcrumbs.

Muhammara: Red Pepper Dip

This dip is great served with crisped up pita. Just slice a pita into wedges, and bake it in the oven at 325 or 350º F until it browns and crisps. It’s also great spread on a sandwich. If you’re not a pepper lover like me, this dip just might help bring you around. Now if anyone could help me like goat cheese…(never going to happen).

Shopping list:

  • Red bell peppers- 2
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Walnuts- 1/2 cup
  • Lemon- 1
  • Pomegranate syrup- 1.5 tablespoons
  • Cumin- 1 teaspoon
  • Pepper flakes- 1 teaspoon
  • Salt
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Signs of Spring: Asparagus Soup

Signs of Spring: Asparagus Soup

Amid the winter that never ends, this asparagus soup is our first sign of spring! In Europe, asparagus truly ushers in the spring season. Once the asparagus sprouts, it is EVERYWHERE!

Signs of Spring: Asparagus Soup

Even growing inside of restaurants in Munich! And it is so delicious. When I was studying in Paris, my friends and I did some traveling at the start of spring, and we had the privilege of sampling asparagus in many countries. Germany and Switzerland definitely had the best offerings. Asparagus appeared on our plates in all different colors (green, white) and sizes (skinny, insanely fat). But the best asparagus I ate was in Geneva, in soup, and it was ridiculously expensive because of the exchange rate. I still think of that soup all these years later, and this iteration is pretty close. If I served it in one of those lion head bowls, it would be even closer.

Signs of Spring: Asparagus Soup

To make this soup, get 2 bunches (about 24 ounces) of the freshest, prettiest green asparagus you can find. Break the woody ends off of the bottom of the asparagus, and then cut the spears into large pieces. Also chop up 1 large shallot. Heat about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pot, add the asparagus and shallot, and sweat them until they soften somewhat. Season the asparagus with salt and pepper.

Signs of Spring: Asparagus Soup

Add enough chicken stock to the pot to just cover the asparagus. Fill cheesecloth or a fillable tea bag with dried thyme and a bay leaf, and add that to the pot as well. Simmer the asparagus until it is completely soft- when you stick a fork in the asparagus, the asparagus should fall right off.

Signs of Spring: Asparagus Soup

Once the asparagus is tender, REMOVE THE BAG OF SPICES FROM THE SOUP. Then, puree the soup. I wanted my asparagus soup to have a chunky texture, so I used an immersion blender to quickly chop the asparagus in each area of the pot. Season the soup to taste with salt.

Signs of Spring: Asparagus Soup

Next, pour about 1/3 cup of cream into the soup, and stir it to combine. Squeeze in about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for some very balancing acidity. Taste the soup and adjust any seasonings.

Signs of Spring: Asparagus Soup

Serve the soup with crusty bread. After David ate one spoonful of this soup, he asked if there was cheese in it. It really does have a kind of melted cheese texture- substantial, somewhat thick, and perfectly decadent. Crave-worthy all around!

Shopping list:

  • Asparagus- 2 bunches, about 24 ounces
  • Shallot- 1
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chicken stock- about 2 cups
  • Dried thyme
  • Bay leaf
  • Cream- 1/3 cup
  • Lemon- 1
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Sweet and Sour Balls

Sweet and Sour Balls

My mom’s sweet and sour meatballs have been around for a long time, but I never really liked them. Now that my aversion to ground meat has mostly subsided, I opened myself to the possibility of trying them again. And then David started expressing his desire for Swedish meatballs (which he last had at Ikea when we moved apartments a few years ago). And then I was talking to my mom and trying to come up with a slow-cooked, make-ahead meal that would reheat nicely during the week, and she suggested her sweet and sour meatball recipe. I bit, figuratively and then literally. The meatballs are fantastic and versatile, and you should be more open to trying them than I have been for the last 20 years.

Sweet and Sour Balls

To make these meatballs, begin with cranberry sauce. You can either get a 16 ounce can (my mom prefers the whole berry kind over the jelly kind) or you can make your own. Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell cranberry sauce, but I had a few bags of cranberries stockpiled in my freezer so I just made my own (it’s not burdensome at all!). To make your own, add 12 ounces of cranberries to a pot along with 6 ounces of sugar and a little bit of water to get things cooking. Simmer the cranberries until they pop and the liquid thickens up- about 10 minutes. If you’re using the canned sauce, put it in the pot and heat it until it melts.

Sweet and Sour Balls

To the pot, add a 24 ounce can of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes. Simmer the sauce and then taste it’s sweet and sour balance. Adjust the balance with sugar or lemon juice as needed.

Sweet and Sour Balls

While the sauce warms, make your meatballs. In a bowl, mix together 1 pound of ground beef (my mom uses ground turkey but I still really hate that), 1 egg, 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of minced onion, salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. It’s easiest to mix the meat with your hands. Yum.

Sweet and Sour Balls

Form the meat mixture into 2-inch balls. Both my mom and I were able to make 20- go consistency! Add the meatballs into the sauce, and cover the pot.

Sweet and Sour Balls

Simmer the meatballs for about 70 minutes, stirring them around a couple of times for even cooking. 

Sweet and Sour Balls

These meatballs are great to eat alone, on a roll for a meatball sandwich, or over noddles. We ate them all three ways, and I think the sandwich was my favorite. My mom says these meatballs are also good for Passover sliced in half and eaten on matzah if you make them with matzah meal instead of breadcrumbs. Best of all, these meatballs are just as good reheated, so they’re the perfect thing to make on a lazy Sunday and eat at the end of a busy weekday. Go balls!

Shopping list:

  • Cranberry sauce (14 ounces) or cranberries (12 ounces) and sugar (6 ounces)
  • Canned tomatoes, sauce or diced- 24 ounces
  • Ground beef- 1 pound
  • Onion- 1
  • Bread crumbs- 1/4 cup
  • Egg- 1
  • Garlic powder, salt, pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce- 1 teaspoon
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Thai Shrimp and Grapefruit Salad

Thai Shrimp and Grapefruit Salad

This salad is awesome. It is refreshing but filling and features complex Thai flavors that balance sweet, sour, savory, and spicy. Even better are the many different components that keep each bite of salad varied and interesting. This salad is more commonly made with pomelo and crab, but I prefer shrimp because it provides a more substantial texture. I ate this salad as a main course, but a smaller portion would also make a nice appetizer. It’s a really delicious way to shake up routines and feel a bit adventurous.

Thai Shrimp and Grapefruit Salad

To make 2 main course portions or 4 appetizer portions of salad, begin by frying shallots. Heat about 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a pan. Thinly slice about 1/3 cup of shallots. Drop a small piece of shallot into the oil. When the shallot sizzles rapidly, add in the rest of the shallots. Let them cook, stirring them around occasionally, until they are golden brown and crispy but not burned (about 5 minutes). When the shallots are done, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to paper towels to drain.

Thai Shrimp and Grapefruit Salad

While the shallots cook, preheat your oven to 350º F. Roughly chop about 1/2 cup of peanuts. Add the peanuts to a baking sheet along with 1/3 cup of coconut chips. Toast the nuts and chips in the oven until they are fragrant and golden brown.

Thai Shrimp and Grapefruit Salad

Cut 2 grapefruits into suprêmes. To do so, use a sharp, flexible knife and cut the top and bottom off of the grapefruit. Place the grapefruit on a flat surface, and run the knife down the curve of the grapefruit to cut off the skin. Once the skin is off, use the knife to slice into the grapefruit on either side of each membrane to pop the segments, membrane free, out of the grapefruit. Cut the segments into large chunks and add them to a bowl. Squeeze the juice out of the membranes, and then discard the membranes. My grapefruit was extremely juicy, so I had to pour some of the juice off (aka, drink it) so that my salad wouldn’t be a soup.

Thai Shrimp and Grapefruit Salad

Add an equal amount of cooked shrimp to the bowl, cut into chunks if they are large.

Thai Shrimp and Grapefruit Salad

Now it’s time to dress the salad and add tons of flavor. To the grapefruit juice that is already in the bowl, add in about 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, a few dashes of fish sauce, 1 teaspoon of pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of lime juice, 1 tablespoon of minced shallot, and 1.5 tablespoons of chopped cilantro. Mix everything together, and then taste the dressing/sauce. Adjust any components so that the sweet, savory, spicy, and sour flavors are equally present. If you have a ton of sauce, pour some off into a separate bowl.

Thai Shrimp and Grapefruit Salad

Mix the shallots, peanuts, and coconut chips into the salad, and then portion it out. I love the bright grapefruit and hearty shrimp paired with all of the other crunchy add-ins. And the sauce is so good. I can’t wait for the heat of summer so I can eat this salad chilled on a rooftop somewhere.

Shopping list:

  • Grapefruit- 2
  • Shrimp- about 1/2 pound
  • Shallots- 2-3
  • Vegetable oil- 1/2 cup
  • Peanuts- 1/2 cup
  • Coconut chips- 1/3 cup
  • Soy sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Brown sugar
  • Pepper flakes
  • Cilantro
  • Limes- 2-3
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