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Archive for Beverages

TIP OF THE DAY: Frozen Fruit “Ice Cubes”

We love to flavor water with fresh fruit, and to add fruit to ice cubes.

Here’s a twist on conventional ice cubes: Use frozen fruit instead of ice cubes.

We have long made “party ice cubes” with a strawberry or other fruit (plus herbs, or savory ice cubes like cherry tomatoes and basil) embedded in an ice cube, but with frozen fruit only, there’s no surrounding ice to dilute the drink.

The only advisory:

  • Plain frozen fruit alone works better for drinks that are already chilled.
  • Fruits embedded in ice cubes will keep frozen longer, and are better for room temperature drinks.
  • However, watermelon, with its higher water content, can be cut into ice cube shape. The flavor doesn’t work with every beverage, but when it does, it’s terrific!
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    THE “RECIPE”

  • Wash and pat dry fresh strawberries or other fruit. If the leaves on strawberries are perky-looking, you can leave them on.
  • Place the fruit in the freezer in a pan, spaced so they don’t freeze together. When the fruit is frozen, you can remove it to a storage bag.
  • The easy way: Purchase bags of frozen fruit and use two or more varieties in each glass—strawberries and sliced peaches, for example.
  • Match the fruits to the flavors and colors of the drinks: cherry ice cubes, citrus (we love blood orange or grapefruit), cucumbers, grapes (use mixed colors), melon (try melon balls), other berries and sliced stone fruits.
  • Don’t stockpile the frozen fruit or fruit ice cubes: Make only what you’ll use within a week.
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    MORE ICE CUBE IDEAS

  • Coconut Water Ice Cubes
  • Flower Ice Cubes
  • July 4th Ice Cubes
  • Strawberry-Thyme Ice Cubes
  • Tea, Coffee Or Lemonade Ice Cubes
  • Wine Ice Cubes
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    frozen-strawberry-calpizzakitchen-230sq

    Fruit Ice Cubes

    Top: Freeze fruit to substitute for ice cubes (photo courtesy California Pizza Kitchen). Bottom: The more conventional way: Add fruit or herbs to the water before freezing the ice (photo courtesy Zespri| Facebook).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Flavor Your Water With Fresh Fruits (Spa Water)

    You can buy a bottle of water flavored with extracts, or you can extract the flavor of fresh fruit by yourself.

    Whether we’re home alone or expecting guests, we usually flavor a pitcher of water with fresh fruits (or add your own mint or lemon extract into tap water). The subtle infusion from the fresh fruit, in our humble opinion, is more delicious than any bottled water flavored with fruit extracts.

    Plus, there’s lots of eye appeal.

    FOOD 101

    There are natural extracts, artificial extracts and essential oils.

    • A natural extract (a.k.a. natural flavor) is derived from a fruit or vegetable, their juices, and other sources most home cooks don’t address (barks, herbs, flowers, roots, etc.). The plant may be cold pressed, macerated or soaked in alcohol
    • An artificial flavor (a.k.a. artificial extract or favoring, as in imitation maple extract and imitation vanilla extract), does not come from a plant or animal source, and instead is generated in a lab by combining different food-safe components into a variation of the natural flavor. They are less expensive than natural extracts, and also used by people who avoid any type of alcohol (e.g., in halal cuisine).
    • An essential oil is intensely flavored compared to a natural extract, and the production is more complex: it is obtained through distillation, to yield what is known as the plant essence—a very small amount of volatile liquid (the essential oil), which is why they are typically more expensive than regular liquid extracts. But you need to use less of them.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE FLAVORED WATER INFUSED WITH FRUIT

    At a minimum, use two items from the fruits and herbs lists, i.e., two fruits or one fruit and one herb. You can combine as many as you like: The basic recipe in our home includes cucumber, citrus, strawberries and an herb.

    Ingredients Per Pitcher (64 Ounces)

    • 50 ounces of water, tap or bottled spring water
    • 1 cup seasonal fruits (see list below)
    • Handful of herb sprigs, to taste (basil, lavender, lemon verbena, mint, rose geranium, rosemary, thyme—use only one of these)
    • Optional: 1 large cucumber, unpeeled, sliced
    • Optional spices: cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, sliced ginger root, vanilla beans

    Preparation

    1. SLICE the fruits into wheels, retaining the peels (berries don’t need to be sliced).

    2. PLACE all ingredients in a 64-ounce jug or pitcher. Chill for at least one hour or overnight (much longer and the fruit will begin to break down).

    3. SERVE. If guests are pouring their own, i.e. when grilling outdoors,

    Vegetable Water Pitcher

    Orange Mint Water

    Apple Juice & Fresh Fruit

    Top: Cucumber, peaches and basil leaves, served at Olio | NYC. Center: Oranges and mint, at Bonnie Plants. Bottom: As a treat for kids, you can add use carbonated water and apple juice with fresh fruit (photo Pisco Porton).

    In the winter, cucumber, mint and citrus slices (grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange/clementine (seed free?)/tangerine slices are good.You can also vary the herbs. Fresh herbs, grown in greenhouses, are available year-round.

    SEASONAL FRUITS

    • Spring and Summer Fruits: berries, cucumber, melon, pineapple, stone fruits (especially peaches).
    • Winter Fruits: apples, berries*, cherimoya, any citrus (red grapefruits and blood oranges are our favorites, but lemons, limes, mandarins† and oranges† are always welcome), cucumber, dried berries (cherries, cranberries) grapes, kiwifruit, lychee (another favorite of ours), mango, papaya, persimmon, pomegranate arils.

    Avoid fruits that will cloud the water, e.g. bananas and figs.

    WHAT IF YOU HAVE NO FRESH FRUITS AT HAND?

    While there’s no visual impact, you can use extracts to flavor water. Experiment with a dropper and juice glass of water to see what you like.

    • Use 1/2 teaspoon extract in a quart of water; taste and adjust as desired.
    • You can combine two flavors, e.g. banana and strawberry, lemon and anise, chocolate and cherry. You can be as basic (e.g., lime extract) or as creative (e.g., anise and hazelnut, brandy or rum and cherry, lavender) as you like.

    MORE INFUSED WATER IDEAS

     

     

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    *Raspberries and strawberries are available year-round.

    The difference between mandarins and oranges: http://blog.thenibble.com/2015/12/22/tip-of-the-day-seasonal-fruit/.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bitters In Your Coffee

    Many “cocktail households” have a bottle of Angostura bitters, to splash into a Manhattan or other recipe.

    In fact, you can add bitters to still or sparkling water, regular or diet soda, hot or iced tea and coffee.

    If you follow food and beverage trends, you’ve no doubt seen the Renaissance in artisan bitters. In America, bitters had traditionally meant the ginger-tasting Angostura* bitters (it’s actually made with gentian root, a different botanical family) and the sweeter and more aromatic Peychaud’s Bitters (also gentian) used in the Sazerac cocktail of New Orleans.

    In recent years, flavors of bitters have been introduced by specialty foods companies, ranging from Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Cocktail Bitters, Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Cocktail Bitters, Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters, Hella Bitters Smoked Chili Cocktail Bitters, Stirrings Blood Orange Cocktail Bitters and dozens more flavors producers. So…

    WHAT ARE BITTERS?

    Bitters, which date back to ancient Egypt, are liquids consisting of water, alcohol and botanical extracts.These botanicals—aromatic herbs, barks, flowers, fruits and roots—were known for their medicinal properties.

    Popular botanicals included cascarilla, cassia, gentian, orange peel, and cinchona bark.

    The word bitters derives from Old English biter, which evolved thousands of years earlier from the Gothic baitrs, “to bite,” describing the taste of numerous botanicals.

    The Middle Ages saw an increase in the development of medicines that combined botanicals with alcohol to create tonics, often used to aid digestion (hence the term, digestive bitters, as opposed to the modern “cocktail bitters”). Available “over the counter,” they came to be used as preventive medicines.

    By the turn of the 19th century, the British practice of adding herbal bitters to wine had become very popular in the U.S. as well.

    What happened next? By 1806, there are American references to a new preparation, the cocktail, described as a combination of “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”

     

    WHAT ABOUT BITTERS IN COFFEE?

    It is well known that the people of New Orleans (the actual name is New Orleanians) add chicory to create a bitter flavor in their coffee. Why not try some bitters?

    A drop of bitters perks up the brew whether you drink your coffee black or with milk and/or sugar. Try it and see!

    Start with just a few drops (we began with one drop). You can add more to taste. Here’s a recipe for iced coffee with bitters from Hella, using its standard aromatic bitters.

    Yes, start with the traditional before moving on to Aztec Chocolate or Smoked Chili bitters. Consider topping an iced coffee with bitters whipped cream!
     
    RECIPE: ICED COFFEE WITH BITTERS

    Ingredients Per Cup

  • 8 ounces chilled coffee
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 4 dashes aromatic bitters
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream, bitters whipped cream
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    Old Bottle Of Bitters

    Bitters

    Thai Iced Coffee

    Top: An old bottle of German bitters (photo Axarus | Wikipedia). Center: The classic, Angostura bitters (photo Restaurant Manifesto). Bottom: An iced coffee with Hella bitters.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a glass. Stir gently, taste, and adjust the sugar or bitters to your taste.

    2. GARNISH as desired and serve.
     
    MORE USES FOR BITTERS

    Check out this article from BonAppetit.com, which includes everything from baking and fruit salad, ice cream, floats and whipped cream.

     
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    *Despite its name, Angostura brand bitters are not made from the bark of the angostura tree but from the gentian a root. The name comes from the town of Angostura, Venezuela (known today as Ciudad Bolívar). There, in 1824, a German physician, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert compounded a cure for sea sickness and stomach maladies. It worked, and Dr. Siegert subsequently formed the House of Angostura to sell his bitters to sailors.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Keep Home-Brewed Iced Tea Clear

    Iced Tea

    Cloudy Iced Tea

    Top: Iced tea should be clear (photo courtesy Mighty Leaf Tea. Bottom: Black tea can cloud when you add juice or other flavorings, like this peach iced tea. Herbal teas can also be cloudy. But we got cloudy tea from plain English Breakfast (photo courtesy Peet’s).

     

    Since the weather got warmer, we’ve been consuming four or five bottles of iced tea per day. Given our desire to keep plastic out of the landfill—not to mention the $2 a bottle (including tax), we began home-brewing our iced tea years ago. We pour it into re-purposed beverage bottles, or keep it in a pitcher.

    One thing we noticed this season is that our tea, which is clear when we put the bottles into the fridge, is cloudy when they’ve chilled down. It doesn’t taste as “clear,” either.

    This was top-quality English Breakfast from Rishi Tea. So we put on our science hat to discover why.

    We made hot tea, which was perfectly clear; thus, not a problem with the tea or our kettle. We used a glass pitcher instead of a plastic one to brew. We placed the pitcher in the fridge without pouring into serving-size bottles. We tried distilled water, from which the minerals are removed.

    The result: still cloudy.

    So we asked our wine editor, Kris Prasad—who happens to be a Ph.D chemist—how to solve our problem. Here’s his response:
     
    WHAT MAKES ICED TEA CLOUDY?

  • Generally, higher-quality tea leaves contain more tannins, which are the source of the cloudiness.
  • When tea steeps, the tannins dissolve into the boiling water.
  • When the brewed tea goes into the fridge, the cold can cause tannins to separate out. This causes the cloudiness and adds what we perceived as “nano-grit” to the mouthfeel.
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    So that’s the “why.” Now, what can you do about it?
     
    HOW TO AVOID CLOUDY ICED TEA

  • Do not add ice to hot tea or stick the pitcher in the fridge. Let the tea cool to room temperature—not “slightly warm”—first.
  • With a cloudy pitcher of iced tea, you can add boiling water to re-dissolve the tannins (1 cup of boiling water per quart of tea. This should clear up the cloudiness, but will also dilute the tea. If you anticipate the problem, make a stronger brew.
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  • If you’re new to the area, check to see if you have hard or soft water. Hard water can make iced tea cloudy. Get a water filter or buy distilled water.
  • If all else fails, add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda per quart of tea.
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    ICED TEA VS. ICE TEA

    Properly, the drink is iced tea—tea that has been chilled with ice. It is spelled this way in primers on editing and by the line editors* of quality publications.

    But, as more and more Americans care less and less about the rules of English, ice tea—tea with added ice—has been making inroads, even among some editors.

    There is precedent: Ice cream and ice water were originally “iced cream” and “iced water.” We presume that editors in that era were equally chagrinned.

     
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    *A line editor is responsible for reviewing each sentence for consistency, grammar, punctuation, spelling and word usage prior to publication. Here’s more.
     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pure Leaf Tea House Collection

    Pure Leaf Lemon Honeysuckle Tea

    Pure Leaf Fuji Apple Ginger

    The New Pure Leaf Teahouse Collection from Pepsico.

     

    Pepsico has made iced tea more elegant with its new line of Pure Leaf bottled teas, the Tea House Collection. Debuting in select markets nationwide, the teas are certified USDA Organic—and so delicious, we can’t get enough of them!

    A super-premium line of the finest organic tea leaves brewed with fruits and herbs, the debut collection has three elegantly layered flavors:

  • Fuji Apple & Ginger green tea
  • Sicilian Lemon & Honeysuckle black tea
  • Wild Blackberry & Sage black tea
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    In signature glass bottles, tall and squarish, both the glass and the metal cap are 100% recyclable. The sugar is restrained—almost 50% less than most sweetened bottled teas—allowing the sophisticated flavors to shine through. Each 14-ounce bottle from the Tea House Collection has just 90 calories.

    We “stretched” our bottles by drinking the teas from ice-filled rocks glasses. Some colleagues—we won’t name names—added shots of gin and vodka to create “Tea-tinis.”
     
    ABOUT PURE LEAF

    There are 8 flavors of sweetened Pure Leaf teas, 2 diet flavors and 3 unsweetened flavors with zero calories—all in 18.5-ounce plastic bottles (you can find the full collection here). The brand recently introduced Unsweetened Black Tea and Unsweetened Green Tea.
     
    The Unsweeted Green Tea is really special, with a delightful undertone of honeysuckle (there’s no honeysuckle in it; the flavor comes from the particular tea leaves). Who needs sweetener?

    Good job, Pure Leaf!

    Here’s a store locator.

     

     
      

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