Homemade Lemonade

Summertime is beverage season, and while I’m not against the occasional slurpee, there’s too much in the way of Kool-Aid, pop and other sugary drinks that are so heavily consumed throughout the hot summer months. My standby is homemade lemonade, jazzed up with fresh herbs, ginger or sliced cucumber. Lemons are classic, of course – but limes and even grapefruit can be added to the mix to shake things up a bit, so to speak.

To make your own lemonade concentrate, bring equal parts freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan. (I usually do a cup of each.) Stir to dissolve the sugar, and if you want to add flavour, grate in some fresh ginger, toss in a few stalks of chopped rhubarb, or a handful of mint, rosemary or thyme, and strain before serving.

Your lemonade concentrate will keep up to a couple weeks in the fridge; to make a pitcher or glass of lemonade, add water or sparkling water to taste, and a handful of ice. (This concentrate also works well with lime juice, and makes a fine mojito or addition to a gin & tonic.)

Watermelon + Feta Salad with Mint

There are few summer salads I enjoy as much as one made with chunks of cool, crunchy, sweet watermelon and salty, briny feta, punctuated with leaves of fresh mint from the garden. It’s as easy as salads get, and looks amazing on a shallow platter on the table. Because watermelon has such a high water content, the salad is refreshing – and easy to get on your fork, unlike spring greens on a hot day.

I like to drizzle mine with a balsamic reduction, which you can make yourself by simply reducing balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan until it reduces by about a half, or buy by the bottle at most grocery stores. It holds onto the watermelon and feta better, without getting runny like straight up vinegar can.

Watermelon + Feta Salad with Mint
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
  2. 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  3. a small handful of mint leaves (or baby basil)
  4. balsamic reduction
  5. freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Arrange the cubed watermelon on a shallow platter and scatter with feta and mint or basil leaves. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and sprinkle with pepper, and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.
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Quick Carrot Apple Salad

The extended family came over for an impromptu dinner tonight – my nephew made burgers, and I scoured the house for something to make a salad out of. We had no greens, or kale, or anything green, really – but we had tons of carrots, and I remembered a grated carrot salad we ate at various events when I was a kid, and so I tried to recreate it. It was easy to grate two large carrots, dice an apple, add a handful of raisins and dress the whole thing with rice vinegar, salt and pepper, a pinch of salt and a spoonful of mayo. And it turned out to be delicious on burgers, too.

Quick Carrot Apple Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 2 large carrots, coarsely grated
  2. 1 apple, chopped
  3. 1/4 cup raisins or currants
  4. 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  5. 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  6. 1 tsp. sugar
  7. salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Coarsely grate the carrots into a shallow bowl. Add the apples and raisins, rice vinegar, mayonnaise, sugar, salt and pepper and toss to coat the carrots and apples well. Serve immediately or refrigerate until you're ready for it. Serves 6.
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Olie Bollen

This seems like a classic Best of Bridge recipe – homemade doughnuts made from a recipe handed down over generations. After all, you only make doughnuts when you have friends and family around to eat them. Olie Bollen are traditional Dutch apple and raisin fritters – the easiest kind of doughnut to make.

There’s no need to roll and cut them, you can simply drop spoonfuls of dough into the hot oil and fry until golden and crisp. Experiment with other fruit in season, too – ripe peaches are delicious, just pat them dry if they’re overly juicy. This recipe comes from a friend of a friend of a friend, who says it was her grandmother’s specialty. Serve them as an after school snack if you have extra hungry kids in the house, or for brunch when you’ll have more people around the table. They’re best warm, doused in powdered sugar.

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Maple Walnut Granola

Homemade granola is a virtuous thing. A handful of it will ward off hunger (I keep a ziplock baggie of it in the car at all times) and layering it with some homemade or local Bles Wold vanilla yogurt and frozen berries will give you the healthiest breakfast imaginable. It also makes great muesli, if you stir it into some yogurt along with a grated apple, and pop it in the fridge overnight. Homemade granola also makes a great gift, encased in a big glass mason jar. And it’s far more expensive than most granolas you find on store shelves.

Best of all, you can customize it with dried fruit and chopped nuts, and flavours like vanilla or maple extract, cinnamon or ginger, according to your taste.

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Asparagus Soup

Spring has sprung, buds are starting to appear and green things are poking out of the ground. Which means in Alberta, it’s almost asparagus season. While asparagus from California or Mexico is generally available year-round, it doesn’t compare to that which is grown right here – it’s not exactly a common back yard crop, but our soil conditions, lack of pests and cool climate produce tender, sweet stalks. (So long as it doesn’t snow immediately before the May-June harvest.) Some of the best asparagus is grown out in the Innisfail area, so as soon as you see it hit the market, it’s best to eat as much as possible while we can get it.

Here’s a way to preserve asparagus for a time when we won’t be able to get our hands on the local stuff – asparagus soup is simple, delicious hot or cold, and perfect to make if you happen to get a wrinkly bunch.

Asparagus Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 1 Tbsp. each butter and canola or olive oil
  2. 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  3. 2 leeks, chopped (white and pale green part only) and then washed in a bowl of cool water
  4. 3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  5. 1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
  6. 4 cups (1 L) chicken or vegetable stock
  7. salt and pepper
  8. 1/2 cup half & half or heavy (whipping) cream
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan or smallish pot, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the onion and leeks and cook for a few minutes, until they start to soften. Add the potatoes, asparagus and stock and cook for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cream.
  2. Purée the soup in the pot using a hand-held immersion blender, or do it in batches in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Add a little extra stock or water if it seems too thick. Serve hot, or chill and serve cold.
  3. Serves 6.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/