Rosé Sangria

Some of my favorite summer foods are fruits – and the sweet and juicy berries and peaches that I’ve been finding in Virginia are almost enough to make me not miss Indian mangoes. But a few weeks ago, I finally gave in and decided to buy some mangoes, knowing full well that it would not measure up to the mangoes I was used to. And while that was true, it did help me fulfill my craving, and I barely missed their usual lack of juiciness when mixed in with some sangria. And speaking of favorites, sangria is one of my favorite summer drinks – it’s not only delicious, but also incredibly easy to throw together. When making sangria, do not bother using fancy wine – any mediocre bottle of wine will do. The only trick is to let the fruits rest in the wine for at least a few hours so that the wine can acquire some of the sweetness and acidity from the fruits. I use a combination of blackberries, raspberries and mangoes in this recipe, but feel free to substitute peaches, blueberries and nectarines.

For this sangria, I decided to go with some rosé wine. I am usually not a huge fan of rosé – they can sometimes be a little too dry for me and I usually prefer sweeter and floral whites. But lately, in tasting several wines for our wedding, I’m hooked to the 2014 Norton Rosé from Keswick Vineyards and so I feel underwhelmed by most other rosés. And fortunately, we always have the option to make sangria with underwhelming wines!

Rosé Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) dry rosé wine
  • 1/3 cup triple sec
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (if desired)
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 large mango, diced into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 and 1/2 cups seltzer water (I used peach-flavored seltzer water)

Directions

  1. Pour the Rosé into a pitcher. Stir in the triple sec and lemon juice.  Add the fruits.
  2. Chill for a few hours (preferably at least 3-4 hours). Taste, and add sugar if desired.
  3. Right before serving, add the seltzer water to the pitcher, then pour the sangria into glasses.

Strawberry Basil Margarita

Having just moved to Virginia a while back, I’m lucky enough to still be experiencing some lovely summer weather instead of getting ready for a chilly fall and winter like in the north-east. The farmer’s markets are still selling the last of the summer produce with some plump, bright, juicy berries, yellow peaches, and some large and sweet tomatoes. So for my housewarming party, I decided to use some of my favorite summer ingredients in our drinks – strawberry and basil. This is a lovely make-ahead drink (it definitely needs to be made-ahead to let the drink soak up the flavors), and is really quick to throw together as well. The sweetness of the strawberries really complements the citric notes in triple sec and the limeade, and the basil adds a lovely aroma. You can throw in a little less or more water depending on your taste.

Strawberry Basil Margarita

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 3/4 can (12 ounces) frozen limeade concentrate
  • 10 – 12 strawberries
  • 8 basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups tequila
  • 1/2 cup triple sec

Directions

  1. Empty the limeade concentrate into a pitcher. Add 3 and 1/2 cups of water along with the tequila and triple sec in the pitcher.
  2. Hull the strawberries, slice lengthwise, and add to the pitcher. Crumple the basil a little in your hands (this will help the basil flavor release into the drink) and add it to the pitcher, too. Place the pitcher in the and refrigerate it for at least four hours.
  3. When you remove the pitcher from the fridge, your margaritas will be a lovely pale pink color.

Enjoy!

Mai Tai

The Kitchn, which is among my favorite food blogs has an excellent feature each week by Dana Velde known as Weekend Meditation. This week she explains why she’s been writing this feature for 5 years now:

“Cooking for ourselves and our loved ones is a very practical matter. It simply must be done…But when I sit down to write the Weekend Meditation post, I’m thinking about something a little different than the mechanical side of cooking….   I think about the internal aspects that we engage when we cook and prep and clean up, and what are their emotional, psychological, and spiritual expressions. What sustains us to return to the kitchen, over and over again? My hope is to encourage us to see cooking not just as a daily chore but also as a place to discover more about ourselves, to open our senses, to express our love and connection…. The kitchen is a place that we can open up and let in the beauty and lushness that is present in life. There’s so much there to smell and taste and feel.”

This perfectly captures my feelings when I came back to the States from India this month. Though I’m going to miss the smells and taste of different varieties of mangoes and savory street food, I feel equally excited to be cooking again with basil, berries, avocados and meyer lemons. To celebrate these tastes and smells of summer that I missed out in the first half of my summer in India, I decided that mai tai was a perfect drink to go with some evening relaxation. Though there are wide disagreements about the kind of sweeteners and/or juices that should go in this drink, I decided to go with the following recipe and did not regret it at all. Perfect summer cooler.

Mai Tai

Ingredients

Recipe courtesy AllRecipes

  • 1.5 fluid ounce rum
  • 1.5 fluid ounce coconut-flavored rum
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine syrup
  • 3 fluid ounces pineapple juice
  • 2 fluid ounces orange juice
  • 1 cup ice cubes

Directions
In a cocktail mixer full of ice, combine the spiced rum, coconut rum, grenadine, pineapple juice and orange juice. Shake vigorously and strain into glass full of ice.

What are you favorite summer coolers ?

Healthy Summer Smoothies

Given that I spent a chunk of my summer in India and was too busy eating just mangoes (let alone transforming them), being back in the States has at least shifted my attention to other fruits. Even though summer is officially gone, the last of the summer produce is still around (especially for those who had the sense to preserve their berries!). These two are super-healthy smoothies and are perfect for a nutritious breakfast that can successfully tide me over until lunch

Strawberry Basil Smoothie – Serves 1

  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, frozen and sliced
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain or strawberry flavored (I used Chobani Strawberry Flavored Greek Yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • Pinch of ground black pepper (optional)

Mix all the ingredients in a blender. Add some honey or sugar if you like your smoothie to be sweet. I personally enjoy the lack of sugar and I like the tart kick that the basil provides. For those who are looking for more of a kick, try adding some black pepper! I know it sounds weird, but it turns out great, especially if you’re not looking for something particularly sweet.

Strawberry Basil Smoothie

Pineapple Banana Smoothie – Serves 2

  • 1 1/4 cup pineapple, cored and sliced
  • 1 1/2 bananas, chopped
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • ice cubes
  • 5-6 almonds

Mix all the ingredients in a blender. I used the almonds because they have a lot of nutritional value, but I imagine oats would also work great in a smoothie like this.

So what kind of smoothies do you like?

Making Turkish Tea

Most tourists who have been to Turkey must have sampled Turkish coffee and Turkish Tea or çay. I’m personally a bigger fan of the latter, the former being too bitter for me. Most of Turkey’s tea comes from the Black Sea region, especially from the Rize province in North-East Turkey. The tea that we’re talking about here is black tea, and is normally had without milk. It is said that tea became popular in Turkey only over the last century – when the Ottoman Empire collapsed, importing coffee apparently became quite an expensive venture, forcing people to turn towards other options produced domestically. Now, Turkey is the second largest consumer of tea in the world (with India being the first), but it is the highest per capita consumer of tea at 2.5 kg per person per year.

Directions

1. Turkish tea is commonly made with 2 kettles stacked on top of each other.

Turkish teapots

2. While water boils in the kettle at the bottom, the tea leaves are left to be smoked in the upper pot. The amount of tea to be put in the upper kettle equals to one teaspoon per person. Note that the upper kettle only has the tea leaves, no water. (To make stronger tea, feel free to put in more than one teaspoon per person)

 

3. After the water has started boiling, pour half of the water into the upper kettle to brew the tea. Reduce the heat to low and let the tea in the upper kettle get brewed over the steam coming from the kettle at the bottom.

 

4. Let the tea brew for about 15 minutes

 

5.  Fill in half of the tea glasses with the brewed tea and the rest with the hot water.

Mixing in the hot water with the half full glass of brewed tea

6. Serve the tea with some sugar cubes

Ready! 

 

In case you’re dying to test out Turkish tea without having been to Turkey, here’s a link for buying some of it, including the teapots. Yes, it might seem like an expensive venture, but I didn’t even like tea until I started living in Turkey, so maybe it is worth the investment!