Soda three ways

Blackberry Mint Soda, Strawberry, Basil and Lemon Soda and Spicy Ginger Soda

I read about the trend of restaurants making their own sodas in the latest bon appetit and was intrigued. I decided I’d give it a shot soon. Moments after that, I thought, “Oh boy — I can add lots of vodka when I make mine!” Moments after that, I was at the grocery store. Moments after that, I was making this video for you so you can make your own, too. All told, these were some pretty productive moments.

I decided to try bon appetit’s Strawberry, Lemon and Basil Soda and Spicy Ginger Soda recipes. Then I created my own — a Blackberry Mint Soda.  The idea here is simple enough: take fresh fruits, herbs and spices and bring soda water to life with their flavors. I used a different technique for each — muddling the ingredients, making a puree and making a simple syrup. This is easy stuff, and definitely worth doing. Mashing strawberries and basil in a glass with some lemon juice, sugar and salt takes but a few moments.

There’s nothing special about the soda water here, either. It may be called seltzer water or sparkling water. Club soda works, too, if you can’t find those, but it may have a slight flavoring to it, whereas soda water is just carbonated water.

I shot a taste test with a very special guest for these three sodas; I’ll have that video ready for you soon. But suffice to say, my Blackberry Mint Soda was an experiment and an attempt to compare the muddling method with the pureeing method. Truth be told, next time around, I’m just going to muddle everything in the glass or make a simple syrup. The puree took a few extra steps that didn’t add much to the flavor or texture.

Blackberry Mint Soda (in the video)
Puree 2 pints of fresh blackberries. Pour two tablespoons of the puree into a glass, rip up six mint leaves, fill the glass with ice, fill with soda water and top with a shot of vodka.

Blackberry Mint Soda (just do it this way)
Muddle eight blackberries, a tablespoon of sugar and six mint leaves in a glass. Fill the glass with ice, fill with soda water and stir to chill. Strain into another glass filled with ice (unless you’re fine with a chunky soda … . (I am.)). Top with a shot of vodka.

Before shooting this video, I asked on Facebook and Twitter what flavors I should make. Two flavors that piqued my interest: pear cardamom and lavender lemonade. What flavors of soda would you make?


Ful for you


Ful Madames

Ful Madames, an Egyptian dish starring fava beans.

Nothing solves a rut in the kitchen like bringing a new ingredient into the mix. The end of a long and terrible winter finally yielding to sunshine and the ability to leave the house without wishing death upon yourself also helps. When I find myself repeating tried-and-true dishes instead of taking on something new, I like to buy something I don’t know much about and run with it.

That’s how I became reacquainted with fava beans. I’ve used fava beans before, but they’ve been MIA from the grocery store for quite a while. So I was pleased to find some at a local market recently. Shortly after I just happened to read about an Egyptian dish called ful madames served at Safari Restaurant and Banquet Center in Minneapolis and I decided to give it a go myself.

I’ve found several recipes, spellings and some controversy over the history of the dish. But it’s easy to make and delicious. What more can there be to know?

Here’s how I did it, based on this recipe.

Ful Madames
or Foul Mudammas or Ful Medammis or Ful — I don’t know, I’m not a scientist.

1 15 oz. can of fava beans
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 onion, diced
juice of 1 lemon
olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 serranno chili, chopped
pita bread

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Toss in garlic, chili onion and cumin. Sauté for two minutes. Ponder how you pronounce “ful madames.”

Add the fava beans, lemon juice and two more tablespoons of olive oil.

Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Aboutt half the beans should be mashed beyond recognition, so be rough about it. Really. Go on. Mash.

When Ful Madames has been mashed to her liking, add a touch more olive oil and the parsley.

Eat it. With pita bread.


Say, are you a fan on Facebook? Then you’ll know even earlier about what I’m cooking, before the recipes hit the blog. Also: It makes me feel special. Come on. Make me feel special.



Casualties in the kitchen

I’ve had a few deaths in the kitchen lately, which, as a vegetarian, really takes a lot of work.

First the toaster became an overachiever. It would toast, but it wouldn’t stop toasting. And, as it turns out, that step is just as important. Toasting required a vigilant guard who would rip the cord from the wall when the desired level of browning was achieved. (Fun Fact: You can make Slice of Toast just like I taught you to make Nacho. You can even combine the two techniques to make Slice of Cheese Toast. True story.)

Being the cheapest man alive, I was fine with this toast-guarding situation for quite a while. But then the coffee maker shot itself in the face. It’s a grind-and-brew model, and the grinder no longer pushed its contents into the basket to brew. Again, I stood guard, opening the coffeemaker every morning and transferring the coffee grounds for it. This went on for two weeks. Then, this week, I awoke to find a coffee explosion in the kitchen. I think the carafe pissed off the rest of the coffeemaker, as its intended contents now just spill freely onto the floor and cabinets. The white floor and cabinets. But I find showing up to the office sleepy and covered in brown liquid lends a sense of professionalism and mystique.

Pea and Paneer Curry

Pea and Paneer Curry

Then, to complete this vicious cycle, I have been making dishes that are absolutely delicious but, well, not photogenic. First, a pea and paneer career. It tasted like heaven. But no photos could do it justice. While I admit I could not grab a good photo, if you judge Indian food by its appearance … well, good — there’s more for me that way.

Smoky Kale Chips

Smoky Kale Chips

Then we made Smoky Kale Chips. Absolutely delicious. But it looks like we baked leaves and ate them.

I’ll make you something pretty soon. After I bury my appliances.

By the way, thanks for the wonderful comfort food confessions. Cheez-Its with apple sauce. Hash browns. Whiskey. You people get me. Did you not share yours? Do it.