Fizzy Lifting Drink

Among my mother’s many kitchen talents, right up there with her potato salad, is her knack for choosing a good melon. I have not inherited this skill, which means things are often hit or miss in the melon department. If it’s a hit, or good piece of fruit in general, I’ll call Sylvie, and vice versa. Our phones pretty much ring non-stop during stone fruit season, and yes, we have had actual conversations about: 1. Mom’s potato salad, and 2. The way she just knows when it’s a good melon.

Cantaloupe agua fresca

Last week I bought a cantaloupe. It, like the one from the week before, was pretty meh. I nibble on bits of melon while I clean it, chop it, and stash it in cleaned out yogurt containers. (Fact: Half a cantaloupe always seems to fits in a large-sized yogurt container.) This week’s melon was sweet in parts but completely dull in other bites. A decent enough snack, but certainly not call-Sylvie amazing.

Not wanting to eat the cantaloupe on its own but not wanting to toss it either, I started searching my cookbooks for a recipe. For the past few days Boston’s been in a bit of a heat wave, and heat waves just call for a refreshing beverage, at least in our house. So I opened the artisanal soda cookbook I received last year and found this recipe for fizzy cantaloupe agua fresca, which was easy, delicious and extremely refreshing.

So delicious!

Lilli was very helpful in looking for a recipe to use up the cantaloupe.

Some background on the whole “artisanal soda” thing. This year, I some used my birthday money to renew my membership to the Museum of Fine Arts and to purchase a Soda Stream. (As Rich quipped, “Who said nothing good has come out of the settlements?”) Syl has had a Soda Stream for a few years now, so when I was sent the artisanal soda cookbook last year, I passed it to her. When I joined club Soda Stream last month, she kindly sent the book back to me.

So far I have tried a couple of the recipes, with mixed results. The brown sugar banana soda needed more oomph, and although I liked the taste of the lemon thyme syrup itself, I thought it lost its zest and tasted a little musty once the carbonated water was added to it. Fortunately, this particular recipe was easy, delicious, refreshing, and make excellent use of my not-so-excellent melon.

The recipe calls for agave nectar, but feel free to substitute – a simple syrup or even a ginger syrup would also be great. Also, you don’t need a Soda Stream to use this recipe. You can use store-bought seltzer, or even still water for a more traditional agua fresca. Or you can do what Rich did with the leftover syrup when he came back from his run tonight: make a slushy with some ice and orange juice in the blender.

Fizzy Cantaloupe Agua Fresca from The Artisan Soda Workshop by Andrea Lynn

Ingredients for Cantaloupe Juice

2 ½ cups cubed cantaloupe

1 Tablespoon agave syrup

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice (The recipe book says lemon juice up top but lime in the directions. I went with lime and was pleased with the results.)

Directions

In a food processor or blender, combine the cantaloupe, agave (sweetener), and lime juice. Blend until all the cantaloupe is puréed, 1 to 2 minutes. Then, fit a bowl with a fine-mesh sieve, and pour the juice through the strainer to catch the pulp. Make sure to press the puréed fruit against the strainer to extract as much liquid as possible, and discard the pulp. (Note: If by discard you mean eat; it was light and refreshing.) Refrigerate the cantaloupe juice in a covered container (used mustard or jelly jar) for up to 3 days.

To make Fizzy Cantaloupe Aqua Fresca: Add 3 to 4 Tablespoons of cantaloupe liquid to a glass, then add 8 ounces of cold seltzer. Stir and enjoy.

Dinner for Two Becomes Dinner for Five

Shabbos dinner somehow grew from just me and Rich to three guests at our table Friday night. In my fridge I had three beets, a head of cabbage, five mushrooms, and a block of feta. We feasted.

I was very silly and didn’t take photos of our food before we supped, so what I have here are leftovers — hooray for leftovers! I have no shots of the cabbage and mushrooms, which turned out to be the hit of the night. I didn’t do anything special to them — just sauteed up an onion for  a good long time until it began to caramelize, tossed in some garlic, then the mushrooms, then the cabbage.  Right before I took it off the flame I added two sage leaves. All I did was cook the cabbage down until it was too exhausted to put up a fight anymore. Limp, molted green and muddy brown, it probably wouldn’t have made very pretty picture, but it tasted great.

The beets took 25 minutes in the pressure cooker.A very simple dish: I cubed the beets, and half a block of feta, then drizzled balsamic vinegar and sprinkled fresh mint (from my container plants outside) on top.

I used the other half of feta for the quinoa, chickpea, and farmers’ market tomato salad. I cooked the chickpeas in the pressure cooker for 11 minutes with some bay leaves, a teaspoon or so of whole black peppercorns and two cloves of garlic, unpeeled. While that was going on, I cooked the quinoa in my rice cooker — no muss, no fuss. Quinoa is a great pantry staple: protein, carbs, fat, calcium, you can get a pound of it for less than $4 in bulk at Harvest Co-op.

As for feta, here’s a tip: If you go the Market Basket in Somerville — which, by the way, has FANTASTIC produce at the some of the best prices in town — head over to the deli counter. On the right hand side up against the wall is a counter fridge. Inside you’ll likely find huge blocks of really decent feta for about $4.

To dress the quinoa salad, I combined:

6 TBS olive oil

3 TBS red wine vinegar (I like my lips to pucker, so I always go 2 to1 with my dressings, while I think most recipes will say 3 to 1)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon mustard (I’m actually pretty anti-mustard, but it can’t be beat for emulsifying salad dressings)

a pinch of salt

a few grinds of fresh black pepper

2 teaspoons agave nectar (you can do honey, too, but I like the sweetness of agave, and it’s good to have on hand for vegan salad dressings)

2 TBS chopped fresh mint

I put all these together in a glass jar, and shook. That’s all. This is basically the blue print for all my dressings.

Make sure to let the quinoa cool down before you dress it. Otherwise it will soak up everything and you’ll be wondering where all your flavor went. I speak from experience!

Quinoa salad on one of my new plates... thanks Freecycle!