Drinks

Rhubarb Sodas and Rhubarb Juleps

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I got the inspiration for this from the blog Coconut & Lime.  There was a post with a recipe for a Rhubarb Soda which sounded so simple and so good.  It was one of those “How-can-this-fail?” kind of things.  Now most likely, I will be trying this later today.  #1 — it sounds delicioso.  #2 — there is fresh rhubarb in the house (hopefully there will be some leftover from a rhubarb upside-down cake which will also be happening later today).  Plus it’s a perfect accompaniment to a nice outdoor BBQ (after all, it is National BBQ Month).

But since we just had the Kentucky Derby. . . was it the Kentucky Derby?. . . it was the one with the hats and the Mint Juleps.  Anyhoo, I thought to myself, “Hey, what about a Rhubarb Julep?”  Now aside from the rhubarb part, my recipe strays from the traditional julep in that I add a splash of club soda to give the drink some fizz and to help balance it out.  Too often I’ve had mint juleps that have been either too sweet or too boozy (which is weird cuz I do drink bourbon straight).  The club soda helps round everything out without just watering the drink down.  So you really could think of this as a Rhubarb Soda with some bourbon in it.

So what can I tell you about rhubarb?  I actually don’t know a lot, but one website (The Rhubarb Compendium) has a whole gaggle of info.  Its roots can be traced back to ancient China with records dating back to almost 5000 years ago, give or take a couple of centuries.  It was used for its medicinal purposes, primarily as a, um, cleanser.  Today we pretty much consider it a pie plant.  But here is a nice way of using rhubarb without having to make a pie.

Here’s what you need for the soda:

  • 4 stalks rhubarb (chopped)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • club soda
  • ice

1.  Combine rhubarb, sugar, and water into a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low until the sugar dissolves.  Cook for about 10 minutes to reduce.  Run through a strainer, pressing the rhubarb through to get all the syrup.

2.  In a glass of ice, pour about 1 T. of the syrup (or however much you want).  Top off with club soda and stir.

Here’s what you need for the julep:

  • 1 part prepared rhubarb syrup
  • 2 parts bourbon
  • crushed ice
  • tonic water or club soda

Place ice in a glass.  Pour about 1 oz. of the syrup over the ice.  Add the bourbon.  Top off with tonic water and stir.

Cinco de Mayo Menu — Guacamole, Ceviche, and Margaritas

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Happy Cinco de Mayo!  You know what that means — time to get your drink on!  But what it really commemorates is the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (the Mexican Day of Independence is September 16, 1810).  Napoleon was looking to get some money back that Mexico owed France and this invasion was a way of doing that.  But things on this day didn’t turn out the way he had planned and Mexico defeated the superior (yet uncoordinated) French force.  It’s like the Alamo. . . if Texas had won.

So this isn’t really a menu per se.  More of a collection of recipes that are easy to make and that you can have for your holiday celebration.  So let’s start off with the Guacamole.  It’s simple and easy to make.  Plus it’s easy for you to put your simple twist on it.  Por exemplo, you could keep everything in a rough dice and make an avocado salad, or add some jalapeno or serrano chiles, or add cilantro (yuk — I am one of those folks who cannot stand cilantro).  Here’s what you need:

  • 3 or 4 Hass avocados, about 1 1/2 lbs.
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or chopped
  • 1/2 of a small white onion, diced
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

1.  Prepare the avocados by cutting them in half lengthwise and twisting them to open up the halves.  Remove the seed.  Scoop out the flesh and place in a bowl.  Now mash it with a fork (depending on how chunky you want it).

2.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir.  Serve with some tortilla chips or use as a topping for tacos, burritos, eggs. . .  anything really. . . except like blueberry pie and the ilk.  Press down a cover a plastic wrap onto the surface of the guacamole if you’re not using it immediately.  I have heard that in order to keep this from turning brown, you can place the avocado pit on top of the mixture.  Not sure how or even if this works.  But if it does, in theory, you won’t need to cover this dish and can even cut back on the lime.

Ceviche.  There are all different kinds of ceviche, but they all involve “cooking” or marinating fresh seafood in some citrus juice, usually lime.  “Cooking” doesn’t necessarily happen in this dish, but the citrus does denature the proteins in the seafood, which is what the heat from cooking does.  It probably originated in Peru and made its way up the coastline to Mexico, although some place origins of the dish closer to Central America.  There are some cultures in Asia who may also have a claim on “inventing” the dish (I luv Hawaiian Poke).  Again, a variety of seafoods are used — different fishes, scallops, squid, octopus, crab, I even saw one with smoked fish for those who have concerns about eating raw fish.  Since this is Cinco de Mayo, I will “de-Asian” my recipe to put it closer to the Mexican version (I like to put a little ginger, green onion, and soy sauce in mine).  I will be making some later today.  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb. ocean fish like halibut, mackerel, or snapper (go to your fish monger and see what’s fresh and use that.  you could also tell them that you’re planning on making ceviche and ask them for suggestions.  any good fish monger should be able to help you out.  if they can’t offer any good advice buy your fish somewhere else!).
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
  • 1 c. fresh lime juice
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley
  • hot chiles, to taste
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • sugar

1.  Cut the fish into about 1/2 in. cubes.  Place in a non-reactive bowl (like glass or stainless) with the onion, garlic, and lime juice.  The fish should be covered with the lime juice, if not just add some more, or top it off with some water.  Let marinate in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours, to get the fish well done.  If you want it more raw, just marinate it for about an hour or two.

2.  Strain out the lime juice and discard it.  Add your tomatoes, chile, cilantro (or parsley), and olive oil.  Stir to combine.  Season with the salt and pepper.   Balance out the flavors with just a scant amount of sugar, maybe 1/2 teaspoon.

Margaritas.  What would today be without a good margarita?  Origins of this drink are highly debatable, with several stories about where and why this drink was created.  But it is definitely Mexican in origin and can be made in lots of variations, which I’m sure y’all know.  Just go to a local restaurant and see what different kinds they have.  This recipe is simple, requires only three ingredients (not including ice and salt or sugar on the rim of the glass) — Silver Tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau.

1.  Prep the glass by running a lime around the rim and dipping it into a shallow plate of salt or sugar, depending on your taste.

2.  Pour your tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau into a pitcher.  If you use a cup of each, you’d probably get 5 margaritas, depending on how much of a booze hound you are.  Fill a cocktail shaker about half full of ice.  Add enough of your Margarita mixture for a couple of drinks and shake vigorously for about 15-30 seconds to chill and dilute it.  Strain into the prepared glass.

Now these are just a couple of things that you can make today to help celebrate the holiday.  We typically think of this day as an excuse to drink, but take some time to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage.  One e-magazine that can offer some information on a wide variety of topics ranging from culture to cuisine to travel is MexConnect.  On the Culinary side of things, one great resource is Chef Rick Bayless.  He has a series on PBS called Mexico – One Plate at a Time where he explores the culture and food traditions  of Mexico, as well as the variations across the different regions of the country.  He has won various awards including a couple of James Beards.  You can learn about his books, restaurants, products, and his bio at the hyperlink above (I did not know that he did some doctoral work in Anthropological Linguistics at the University of Michigan).

Sorry for the long post, but hope it was helpful.  I’ll try to post some other things throughout the day that are Mexican themed.  Depends on how many margaritas I have 🙂