Summer Fizzy Drinks: Non-Alcoholic Version

There’s almost nothing I like better on a hot summer day than a refreshing fizzy beverage. With only a little bit of work, you can make a variety of syrups to add to club soda for refreshing drinks all summer long!

 

Syrups

Ever tried making your own soda/pop/flavored fizzy water at home? Instead of buying syrups at the store, you can make them from just about any fruit you choose! Then, just add to club soda or water or iced tea, or the beverage of your choice. The post linked above uses a ratio of roughly 1 part fruit, 1 part water, 1 part sugar. There are variations of this, depending on the tartness or sweetness desired, but keep in mind that traditional simple syrup is 1 part sugar to 1 part water. You can simply squeeze & strain fruit and add to a simple syrup, or boil fruit down (strain if you want to remove seeds). With berries like blackberries, you’ll notice a change in flavor as the juice cooks down, but it’s worth trying it both ways to see what you like best.

The sky is the limit here, in terms of fruit:

Use what you love! It’s an excellent thing to do with fruit that you’re afraid will spoil before you have a chance to eat it all. Berries, peaches, plums, take your pick.

You don’t even have to use fruit! You can make your own flavored syrups for adding to coffee and other drinks, too. I’ve been making an almond rich simple for my iced coffee this summer, and it’s delicious. Saveur has ideas for everything from rose to thai spice. And as they note, you can use these syrups in club soda, in coffee or cocktails, or on ice cream, pancakes, and other dishes.

Shrubs

Shrubs are a drink that’s making a comeback! They’re a vinegar-based drink, making them the perfect thirst-quenching refreshment for hot midwestern summer days (not that we get any of those here). Historically, it’s been a non-alcoholic drink, thriving during the temperance movement in the U.S., but leave it to the college students to add liquor. Today, shrubs are making a comeback both as bar novelty and alternative to alcoholic drinks. But you can make your own, so easily! And by incorporating some of the bounty of the summer’s berry bushes into your shrub syrups, you can preserve local fruit and enjoy them, too!

Basic Proportions:

2 c. Fruit
2 c. Vinegar (anything with a 5% acidity content or more)
2 c. Sugar

Feel free to play around with the types of fruit, vinegar and sugars you choose; I’ve loved peach and honey with apple cider vinegar and a touch of vanilla;  strawberries with balsamic and white vinegar; blackberries with turbinado and red wine vinegar.

The best part, perhaps, is that you can use “seconds” from the market or field. Local farms will often sell #2 or seconds for preserving, where the fruit doesn’t have to look perfect. You don’t have to fuss over the trimming of your fruit when making shrub syrups; just clean and trim anything that doesn’t taste good. The only downside is that you have to wait about a month for them to hit peak deliciousness. The fruit stays in the vinegar during this time, infusing it with flavor.

The Ball Blue Book is full of vinegars — blueberry-basil, cranberry-orange, lemon-mint, loganberry, blackberry, and sweet cherry. They’re all canning recipes, so they’re shelf-stable!

 

Kombucha

If patience is a virtue you cherish, and you’re still with me on the sour drinks, then perhaps you’d like to move on to kombucha? As a fermented drink, kombucha takes some time to, well, ferment! Like when making sourdough bread, you’ll keep a starter (called a SCOBY, in kombucha-making) going from batch to batch.

For your first batch, you can get start from a friend who has been making kombucha long enough that their SCOBY has babies (they tend to separate into two over time), or you can actually purchase a dehydrated starter. Common Ground in downtown Bloomington carries dehydrated starter, shown at left, as well as starter for kefir (for another day!).

 

The kombucha-making process is relatively simple — very simple, if you’re used to making sourdough bread.

Each time you make kombucha, you’ll be keeping a small amount of your previous batch, along with the SCOBY, and you’ll feed it so that it continues growing.

Brew some tea, let it cool to room temperature, add sugar, vinegar, and the scoby. Wait 1-4 weeks, and bottle or otherwise transfer into a container for drinking — retaining a small amount of the finished kombucha and the SCOBY for the next batch.

So what are you waiting for?! Go get your fizzy drinks made before the next heat wave!

p.s. As always, be sure to follow a recipe if you plan to preserve these for shelf-stability. Or, freeze them (be sure to leave enough head space for expansion), and avoid the boiling water baths.

p.p.s. For the fizzy part, I highly recommend the SodaStream. It’s not cheap, but it’s more than paid for itself in savings on soda pop alone. Plus, I find that I drink more water when I have a fizzy option.I have the $99 base model, but I’m starting to see them on sale as people trade up for larger quantities, so keep your eyes open!

Week 1 Market Menu: Greens!

Every week in this section, we’ll bring you a preview of what’s expected at the market (depending on availability), and a set of links to recipes that feature seasonal produce, with ingredients to help guide your market and other shopping.
This week marks the start of outdoor market season, as well as the opening of our brand new co-op, Green Top Grocery! I hope you’re as excited as we are about this new opportunity to shop for locally-grown produce, in addition to Common Ground grocery in downtown Bloomington.
lettuce-farm

Expected Offerings at Market Week 1:

Seasonal:  Greens, greens, greens!  Arugula and Spinach and Kale, Carrots, Chives, Mint, Potatoes, Radishes, Rhubarb, Turnips, and more. And maybe, just maybe, some asparagus.
All summer: Eggs, chicken, beef, oats, wheat, cornmeal, pork, cheese, honey, baked goods, and much more. See the complete list of vendors at this year’s market for more information.
A note about the recipes that follow: they were selected to make use of seasonal local products, with room to alter them to fit your family’s needs. This week features vegetarian recipes, but suggestions for meat additions will be included as well. In the shopping lists that appear below each recipe, we’ll assume that you have the following in your pantry:  Garlic, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper. Click over to the recipe at its source for complete lists with amounts (and instructions).

Breakfast Ideas:

Steel-Cut Oats or Whole Oats

 
No matter the weather, I can always eat steel-cut oats for breakfast. You can cook them the night before and then reheat in the morning, set up in the crock pot overnight, or just cook them in the morning (if you have an hour or so). Alton Brown’s recipe is deliciously rich (containing butter, milk, and buttermilk!). Bob’s Red Mill version is simply oats and water. I like a ratio of 1:3 or 1:4,  1/2 c. oats, 1 1/2 c. water, and 1/2 c. milk (added at the end, so that it doesn’t boil for too long). Very recently, I’ve started adding peanut butter — the fresh-ground kind, which you can grind yourself at Green Top. Optional additions include maple syrup or honey, nuts and/or dried fruit, or preserves. (If you have any fruit left in your freezer from last season, this is a good time to get it out and make some quick refrigerator preserves!).  Note: if your oats are whole, rather than cut, you can cook them in that form, too. To release a bit of the starch and make the finished oatmeal more creamy, just pulse them in the food processor a few times.
1/2 c. dry oats will serve 2, with each serving containing 152 calories, 6.6g protein, 26g carbs, 2.7g fat (oats-only).
Pantry Check / Shopping List: steel-cut or whole oats, milk (optional), optional additions.

Lunch Ideas:

How do you like your lunch routine? It’s easy to get stuck in a lunch rut during the long midwestern winter, but spring greens give you dozens of options. This week, I plan to make four different “salads” (to use the term loosely). There’s no reason you can’t make these for dinners, of course, but the one thing they all have in common is that they can be prepped and stored for a few days, and taste just as good.

Kale Salad with Wheat Berries and Tofu

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Curly Kale

I really like this Mighty Grain Salad recipe from The First Mess (via Happyolks) as a base for grain salads. It’s flexible enough to make with what you have on hand, but delicious made exactly as written, too.

 

wheatberries
wheat berries

This week, I’m planning to use winter wheat berries for the grain in the recipe.  If you haven’t eaten wheat berries before, you’re in for a treat! They’re nutty and chewy and a little sweet, and available straight from local farmers at the market. Wheat berries can take up to an hour to cook, but they can be cooked in advance and frozen; just make sure to drain them well before freezing.  I’ll use carrots and broccoli for the veg, plus chickpeas, curly kale, parsley, sunflower seeds, and cubed firm tofu, with lemon juice for the acid and just a touch of olive oil. If you wanted to add more protein to your meal, add your favorite meat on the side; roasted or baked chicken breast would be delicious with this.


 

Tip: if you have a food processor, try shredding the carrots with the grater attachment, then switching to the chopping blade. Pulse a few times, until crumbly.  Dump the carrots into a large bowl, and add rough-chopped broccoli into the processor bowl.  Pulse a few times, until the texture is similar. The image at the right is a simplified version of this food-processor salad, using only carrots and broccoli with lemon juice (hemp hearts optional). It’s super tasty, and keeps incredibly well through the week. 

Pantry Check / Shopping List: winter wheat berries, carrots, broccoli, chickpeas, kale, parsley, sunflower seeds, firm tofu.


Carrot salad w/ harissa & feta & mint

carrots
Carrots with tops — which you can use to make a very interesting pesto!

This dish is one of my favorites from Smitten Kitchen, and a great alternative to green salads when you have vegetarians to feed. It’s absolutely amazing when made with locally-grown carrots!! And it’s good with or without the harissa — a spicy, garlic-y paste/spice mix. You can make your own, substitute it with another garlic-y chili paste, or just leave it out altogether — the salad will still be delicious!
Pantry Check / Shopping list: carrots, caraway seeds (optional), cumin seeds, paprika, harissa (optional), sugar, lemon, flat leaf parsley, fresh mint, feta cheese. 


HB Eggs / Egg Salad Sandwiches with Radish Salad

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radishes w/ tops

I’ve been eyeing this Radish and Herb Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing for a while, and it’s the first thing I want to make now that we’ve finally arrived at radish season! I love the combination of rich egg salad with the dry bite of a good radish. You could add some sliced radishes to your sandwich and not bother with the salad at all, if you want to keep it simple. The meyer lemon is lovely, but I think regular lemons are just fine in this recipe. You could also use orange juice.
Pantry Check / Shopping list: fresh crusty bread, white wine vinegar, celery, eggs, whole-grain dijon, mayonnaise, shallots, lemon, parsley, radishes, fennel, capers.


Kale Salad with Sweet Potato and Black Beans

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Lacinato (aka dinosaur) Kale

This hearty “salad” comes from Cookie and Kate. I say “salad” because it’s nothing like a traditional green salad with dressing; it’s greens and grains, roots and beans, and the dressing is tailor-made for it (and easy to make!) All the ingredients are things I tend to have in my pantry, or can easily substitute or omit. It’s great when made with kale, but you can use spinach or another green if you prefer. The quinoa is quick to cook, but you could use rice or another grain here, too. I’ve often made this with homemade hummus instead of the avocado sauce (since buying avocados in the midwest is a bit like playing roulette). The cumin-paprika-coriander and cilantro-lime are deliciously compatible flavors, so I don’t usually mess around with those too much, but otherwise feel free to experiment!!
Pantry Check / Shopping List: quinoa, kale, lime, sweet potatoes, cumin, paprika, avocado, jalapeno, cilantro, coriander, black beans, feta cheese, pepitas (green pumpkin seeds).

 


Dinner Ideas:

Green Rice

spinach

This recipe is the result of a mistake that I decided to run with. It’s super tasty if you love spinach, and might even be tasty if you don’t love spinach (yet!).  The spinach is blended into a sort of sauce, which is added to rice as it cooks. So if your dislike of spinach is based on the texture, rather than flavor, this may be the perfect recipe for you (and perhaps your kids). The original recipe was the green rice portion of these sweet potato bowls. My mistake is that I used about 3x as much spinach I was supposed to, but I loved the results. I now make it as the base of a buddha bowl, or to serve alongside grilled meat or fish or baked tofu. I’ve also tried it topped with feta and sunflower seeds for a sort of one-pot / stovetop version of Mollie Katzen’s Spinach Rice Casserole.

Pantry Check / Shopping List: brown rice, vegetable broth, spinach, cilantro, jalapeno or serrano pepper (optional), shallot, plus whatever you’re serving the rice with.


Vegetable Frittata with Greens and Potato

eggsUsing a base recipe for the frittata (we’re a fan of base recipes here!), I’m going to use fresh kale, chives and potatoes, and some fresh goat cheese if I can find it this week! Add some meat, if you like; fresh pork sausage would be delicious. If you’ve never made a frittata before, never fear! The Epicurious recipe linked above is easy to follow and gives you a blank slate for all sorts of add-ins.

Pantry Check / Shopping List: chives, spinach or kale, eggs, potatoes, milk, sausage (optional), goat cheese (chevre).


Polenta with Greens

Polenta is cornmeal which has been boiled, giving it the creamy texture of hot cereal. It may be served hot as a porridge, or cooled and sliced and then fried.  This recipe from Food.com uses it in its porridge form, adds swiss chard and a topping with dried fruits and nuts, as well as cheese. I plan to make it exactly as written, as it’s simple and quick! Note that you can use the same type of greens as in the salad above, if you want to get double-duty out of them.
Pantry Check / Shopping List: Swiss chard, crushed red pepper flakes, golden raisins, yellow cornmeal, milk, grated parmesan cheese, pine nuts.


Bow Tie Pasta w/ Arugula Gremolata

I love this recipe from Mollie Katzen of the Moosewood restaurant and cookbooks. A gremolata is a chopped-herb topping usually consisting of lemon, garlic, and parsley. This version uses arugula instead, and it’s a delicious way to get the peppery flavor of young arugula. I’ve come to think of this recipe as soon as I see arugula in the spring, it’s so simple and tasty. Best of all, it works as a hot dish or as a cold salad making for excellent leftovers!
Pantry Check / Shopping List: bow-tie pasta, gorgonzola cheese, golden raisins (regular raisins are fine), cherry tomatoes (I omit until we get local tomatoes!), walnuts, arugula, lemon zest.


Bonus:

Creamy Asparagus Soup

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Asparagus season is nearly behind us, but I wanted to include this recipe in case you come across any more. It’s my attempt at a very light curry flavor, without losing the delicious asparagus flavor. It’s a simple, quick soup to make, and can easily be made vegan: just substitute coconut oil for the butter.
Ingredients:
3 Tbs. butter
1 shallot, sliced
2 1/2 # asparagus, chopped into 1/2″ – 1″ lengths (remove tough ends first)
pinch of salt
1 14oz can coconut milk
1/2 c. water
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Instructions:
Heat butter in a large skillet or heavy-bottomed pot until it starts to bubble a bit. Saute the shallots for 1-2 minutes, until they soften. Add the asparagus and a pinch of salt, and cook about 5 minutes, until they turn bright green and are tender. Turn off the heat and put the asparagus and shallots into your blender. Add the coconut milk — be sure to use the canned stuff, not the cartons sold for drinking. They’re two very different things! You can use the low- or full-fat versions depending on your preferences.  Blend until smooth, taking care to “burp” between pulses if it’s still quite hot.

Return to the pot, turn the heat to medium, and add the sour cream and water, the spices, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir periodically to incorporate, and make sure it doesn’t burn. I like mine with a dollop of sour cream on top, but feel free to leave it out.


Dessert:

Rhubarb crisp! This NY Times recipe is quick to assemble, and might be nice to bake this weekend while it’s still so chilly!  1) Chop rhubarb, toss with sugar and lemon and put it in your casserole dish; 2) mix up the crumble ingredients (butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, rolled oats, pecans) and spread on top of rhubarb; 3) bake at 375F for 45 minutes.  The recipe calls for a food processor, but honestly you can mix the crumble part by hand or with a fork. Gluten-free flours such as rice or oat will also work well here, if you need to substitute for the (wheat) AP flour.
Pantry Check / Shopping List: butter, rhubarb, lemon juice, brown sugar, AP flour, cinnamon, rolled oats, pecans. 
Stay tuned for next week’s Market Menu, to see what’s new!
 -steph