Archive for July, 2013

Homemade Blueberry Vanilla Soda

July 28, 2013

blueberrysodaI love the Sodastream I got for my birthday.  Satisfying my cravings for sparkling water, I can magically turn still water from the tap into some bubbly goodness any time I want.  What I don’t like are the syrups that came with the product.  They’re overly sweet for my tastes and just don’t fit the bill as far as I’m concerned.

The good news is that nature allows for a world of fresh & tasty ingredients that make interesting soda concoctions.  My first attempt at one of these homemade sodas was this homemade blueberry vanilla soda, which I made for a recent barbecue with friends.  To be honest, I suspect you could use any combination of fruit combined with sugar & lemon juice for similar results.  In place of vanilla, you could add maple syrup, honey, or leave it out entirely.

Blueberry Vanilla Soda

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar
9 tablespoons lemon juice
Splash of vanilla paste (or extract)

1. Combine all ingredients into a small pot and mix.

2. Heat over medium heat for at least 20 minutes, or until the mixture foams and blueberries collapse.

3. Cool the mixture.  As soon as it’s at a good temperature to stick in the fridge, do it.

4. Once cool, add syrup to sparkling water.  If you don’t have a Sodastream, you could use Perrier, club soda or any other sparkling water you may happen to have on hand.  Add as little or as much as you’d like… I happen to like a lightly flavoured soda, but you may prefer yours on the sweeter side.

A note: Make sure you don’t overdo it on your cooking or sitting time.  I tried to make a variation of this recipe with black currants but made the mistake of leaving it on the stove for too long.  The result was more of a jam than a syrup.

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Mediterranean Pepper Salad, two ways

July 22, 2013

Mediterranean Pepper Salad

Well, it’s barbecue season and Cari and I are always looking for alternatives to the standard summer salads.  This refreshing take on a Greek Salad comes to us by way of the brilliant Smitten Kitchen.  It uses many of the ingredients common to your everyday Greek salad (feta, red onion, cucumbers, kalamata olives), but because it uses an assortment of bell peppers in place of tomatoes, it won’t get soggy!  The brilliance of this dish is not only it’s deliciousness, but also the fact that you can make a relatively large batch and keep it for several days.  We’ll often make it to have with barbecue and then use it as a side for future dinners, or even as a standalone lunch.

When planning out a barbecue menu for my father’s birthday, we found ourselves in a bit of a conundrum.  We really wanted to serve this, but my Dad keeps kosher.  That means no mixing of meat and dairy.  We felt we needed something to replace the feta, but weren’t sure what.  That’s when we remembered a trick we learned from our collection of Moosewood cookbooks.  A lemon-herb tofu actually pairs quite nicely with the flavours of Greek salad!  So, either make the Smitten Kitchen version or our dairy-free take on the recipe.  Both are delicious.

Mediterranean Pepper Salad (recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 a red onion, diced
3 bell peppers (the more colours you use, the nicer it looks – we once made a double batch and used green, red, orange, yellow and purple.  It looked glorious)
1 english cucumber
1/4-pound firm feta cheese (of lemon-herb tofu, see recipe below)
1/4 to 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives (save yourself the grief and buy them pre-pitted)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

First, marinate the red onion.  Mix the red wine vinegar, water, kosher salt and sugar in a small bowl until the salt and sugar are dissolved.  Add the red onion and set it aside.

Next, chop the vegetables.  Core and seed your bell peppers and chop them into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop the cucumber and feta (or tofu) into similarly-sized chunks. Put your peppers, cucumber, feta (or tofu) and olives in a large bowl.

By now, your onions will have lightly pickled, which makes for a unique and nice flavour. Drain them and add them to the other vegetables in the large bowl, but reserve the vinegar mixture. Pour a quarter cup of the vinegar mixture over the salad, then drizzle with olive oil. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper, or to taste. Toss evenly and serve at once, or let the flavors muddle together in the fridge for a few hours.  Like I said earlier, this salad can even keep for a few days.

Lemon-Herb Tofu (adapted from Moosewood Collective’s Simple Suppers)

1 cake firm tofu
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)

Preheat the oven 400.  Cube the tofu as you would have the feta, and spread them into a lightly oiled baking pan large enough to hold them in a single layer.

Whisk together the other ingredients and pour over the tofu.  Bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes, stirring often.  For best results, cool completely before adding to the salad.