Drinks

Coffee With Chicory


I confess that I am a coffee addict, and I hold family genes responsible for my chicory-flavored coffee cravings. Chicory is a root that adds the noticeable tang to medium roasted South Indian coffee. A member of the dandelion-family, the root was once used to stretch coffee rations in Asia and Europe. South Indians continue to mix chicory with coffee beans for the distinctive peppery flavor that it provides, but I’ve also ordered a cup of the blend in cafes in New Orleans. When coffee and milk are frothed together, the foam brings to the forefront both the aroma and flavor of chicory.

Long before machines gurgled and hissed out steaming milk, a frothy cup of coffee was achieved simply. All that is required are two separate tumblers, one with fresh filtered coffee and another with hot milk (often mixed with sugar). The hot milk is directly poured into the brewed coffee, starting with the vessels two inches apart and deftly raising one of the tumblers up to and approximately an arms’ length height. This introduces aeration and forms the distinctive top layer of bubbles. This method of producing a foamy cup is still practiced in everyday tea and coffee houses all over India.

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Trending Now: Aquafaba (Liquid From Cooked Chickpeas)

My first attempt at making a chickpea curry was a disaster. At the end of the evening, my aunt gently reminded me to pre-soak the beans before cooking them. Ever since that rock-hard-chickpea incident, I’ve resorted to using canned cooked chickpeas, and generating a lot of discarded liquid in the process. Until now. Aquafaba, the residual liquor from cooking chickpeas, works perfectly as an egg substitute – a boon to those with an egg allergy or a vegan with a sweet tooth.

Aquafaba, from the Latin aqua (water) and faba (bean), is a more attractive name to give the liquid from a legume. This viscous amber-colored liquid is rich in starch and protein plant material that is drawn out from the legume during cooking. Aquafaba whisks into a binding agent for use in cakes or froths up as foam in drinks. Its neutral flavor doesn’t compete with other ingredients when substituted for eggs in mayonnaise or meringue. Goose Wohlt, an American software engineer, is widely recognized as the person responsible for both the name and making the first stable vegan meringue in 2015.

Aquafaba can be made from canned chickpeas. However, using dried chickpeas eliminates the added salt and preservatives found in the canned version.

Aquafaba

Dried chickpeas – 2 cups

Salt – 1 tsp

  • Wash the dried chickpeas with several changes of fresh water.
  • Drain in a colander.
  • In a fresh bowl, add the chickpeas, 6 cups of water, and salt. Leave it to soak overnight or for about 13-15 hours.
  • Pour the contents of the bowl into a cooking pan.
  • Boil the chickpeas for 1¼ – 1½ hours. Check the chickpeas halfway into cooking time for the frothy scum that rises to the top. Using a spoon and in one continuous motion, scoop out as much of the froth as possible.
  • Chickpeas are ready when they have no crunch but are firm to the touch.
  • Strain the chickpeas, reserving both the chickpeas and golden-colored liquid or aquafaba.

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One of my new favorite drinks is the Peruvian Pisco Sour – but the cocktail was hard to make for a large holiday party. It would have been a challenge to separate so many eggs and keep the egg whites at an optimal temperature. Substituting aquafaba for egg whites addresses these concerns, and is suitable to serve both vegans and worriers (regarding raw eggs) alike. Cheers!

Pisco Sour

Pisco – 3 oz

Aquafaba – 2 tbsp

Simple syrup – 2 ½ -3 tbsp (depending on taste)

Lime juice – 4 tbsp

Crushed ice – ¾ – 1 tbsp

Angostura Bitters – 2-3 drops (optional)

  • Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
  • Add the crushed ice. Shake vigorously.
  • Pour in thirds (to create as much foam as possible) into a short glass. Serve immediately.

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Note: Use the cooked chickpeas to make a simple Italian appetizer with garlic and chili powder, chickpea curry, or process into a smooth hummus.

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Decadent Bubbles: Champagne And Caviar

After printing a successful issue, my first editor in London brought caviar to the office. The team was excited to enjoy this expensive gesture. The black bubbles of cured sturgeon roe glistened from a small glass container, sitting on top of a mound of crushed ice. A delicate mother-of-pearl spoon rested nearby. While everyone savored the refined treat, I seemed to be the only one who didn’t appreciate the caviar’s long aftertaste. However, I changed my mind about caviar this New Year’s Eve.

To ring in the New Year, my neighbor served a delicious appetizer of caviar, crumbled hardboiled egg, and onion on lightly buttered toast. The two additions provided a delicate balance to the texture and salty flavor of caviar, and for the first time, I enjoyed this extravagant food.

A few days later, I saw the holiday episode of The Great American Baking Show that featured champagne “caviar” as a dessert garnish. The “caviar” was easy to make; the golden champagne droplets were teased out from stock items in my pantry such as gelatin, sugar, and oil. I was inspired to create a whimsical twist on the champagne and caviar pairing. I topped the black sturgeon beads and orange salmon roe with the captured champagne “caviar” bubbles, which added a hint of sweetness to this festive and decadent treat.

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Champagne And Caviar Bubbles

Caviar – 1 container

Boiled eggs – 2-3

Champagne Caviar

To assemble:

  • Scoop out some of the yolk from the hard-boiled egg, and replace with caviar.
  • Sprinkle the champagne “caviar” on top of the caviar.

Another option: Combine the hard-boiled egg with caviar and serve on toasted bread. Top off with champagne caviar.

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Note: This luxurious treat can be made a little more affordable by replacing champagne with sparkling wine and /or using locally-farmed roe. Here’s to a year of celebratory meals that don’t break the bank!

Mint Julep: Off To The Races

This has been a week of celebrations, from Cinco de Mayo and ending this weekend on what is known as two-minute sporting spectacle, the Kentucky Derby. Both celebrations feature great food as well as a signature cocktail. Margarita’s tequila and triple sec and mint julep’s bourbon base combine with simple syrup to make easy-to-down cocktails. Most people are familiar with making (and drinking!) margaritas, but the bourbon-based mint julep is just as easy.

The mint julep is associated with the American South, where a whiskey/bourbon and mint combination that is savored during the long hot months makes this cocktail a perennial favorite. At the Kentucky Derby, the drink is served in a special silver Julep cup. Using a metal container in the heat is practical as the frosted cup insulates the cocktail. A mint julep is easy to make: Use the best bourbon that you have available, fresh mint leaves for both aroma and aromatics, and simple syrup.

Mint Julep

Bourbon Whiskey – 2 oz

Simple Syrup (see below) – ½ –1 oz

Mint Sprigs – 5-6

Crushed ice – enough to fill the serving Julep glass

 

  • Mix 4 tsp of sugar and 4 tsp of water. Bring to a boil.
  • Remove from heat. Add 3-4 mint leaves. Keep aside until the simple syrup is cool.
  • When ready to serve, add the remaining mint leaves to the serving cup. Crush the leaves lightly (muddle) with a wooden spoon.
  • Fill the cup with crushed ice. Pour in the whiskey and simple syrup.
  • Garnish with a sprig of mint.

 

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Cheers to the winner!

Note: If you don’t own a metal cup or silver julep, chill a standard highball glass.

 

 

 

 

Persimmon Syrup For A Modified Mojito: A Persimmoto, Perhaps?

Persimmon is a mellow fall fruit, which looks like a cross between an apricot and tomato. The fruit’s color also reflects autumn shades, falling somewhere in between a pale orange and drifting maple red leaves. The two varieties of persimmon, categorized as astringent and non-astringent fruits, are available through December. Their edible skin bruises easily, and once the fruit has ripened, their shelf life hastens.

The rapidly deteriorating condition of the persimmons inspired me to preserve their essence. I remembered my mother’s stewed pineapples and jackfruit, which I savored long after their season. Stewing the persimmons conserve their subtle sweetness. Stewed fruits can be flavored with cinnamon or ginger and they can be used immediately as a spread or frozen and used later. Fresh persimmons can be added to a salad or baked in an open tart. I used the stewed paste to flavor simple syrup. The persimmon syrup became my fall version of a mojito – a persimmoto!

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Persimmon Syrup

Persimmon – 5-6

Light cane syrup – 2-3 tbsp

Water – ½ cup

  • Wash the persimmons. Remove the brown calyx, and extract the seeds from the mashed fruit. Place the fruit into a pan.
  • Add the cane syrup and water. Bring to a boil.
  • Simmer for 5-7 minutes, until the fruit has softened.
  • When ready to use in the cocktail, crush the pulp with the back of a spoon to extract as much of their flavors.
  • Strain the pulp through a tea strainer, keeping both the syrup and pulp separate.
  • Add syrup (1oz) and mint leaves (5-6) and muddle them in a glass. Add light rum (1½ oz) and pulp (½ tsp). Top with ice, a lime wedge, and a sprig of mint. Cheers!

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Bubble Tea

Sipping what was then a novelty in New York City’s Chinatown, my first impression of bubble tea was its resemblance to an ingredient from my childhood. The jelly-like bubbles, resembling frog eggs, came up through the straw along with the perfect amount of sweetened tea. In the Indian drink, falooda, the taste of the black pearl-shaped bubbles is camouflaged by ice cream and rose syrup, but in bubble tea, the texture and taste of larger tapioca pearls are up-front and center.

Tapioca pearls are made from cassava root, and swell up when boiled in water. The swollen pearl has a firm core, and they look very similar to bubbles of eggs in ponds, tucked under leaves and algae. Used in both sweet and savory dishes, tapioca pearls have a teeny bite to the otherwise smooth jelly-like consistency.

Bubble tea, often called pearl tea or Boba tea, started out as a simple concoction of black tea, sweetened milk, and small tapioca pearls. However, it is now available with flavorings of honey, fruit juice, and bigger “boba’ pearls. As A. and N. are more familiar with the modern version of bubble tea, I wanted them to experience the less sweet version.

Bubble Tea

Boba (dried tapioca pearls) – ¼ cup

Tea bags –1-2 (depending on strength)

Sugar – ¼ cup

Condensed Milk – ¼ cup

Regular Milk – ¼ cup

Fruit juice or honey – optional

  • Boil 2 cups of water
  • Add the dried tapioca pearls. Cook until soft (from 5-15 minutes depending on their size).
  • Drain using a fine colander, so that the pearls don’t drain through. Let the softened tapioca pearls cool.
  • Boil ¼ cup water. Add sugar and mix until you have a simple syrup or sugar solution.
  • Pour the syrup over the cooked pearls. Refrigerate.
  • Bring 1 cup of water to boil. Add the tea bag (s) to make a strong tea. Let the bags steep for 5 minutes. Discard the tea bags. Refrigerate the tea.
  • When ready to serve, add boba pearls to the cold tea.
  • Add milk, condensed milk, and simple syrup. Adjust according to your sweet tooth.
  • Shake the entire mixture so that the bubbles distribute uniformly through the tea.

Note: I used Indian tapioca pearls that are smaller, but the larger dried tapioca pearls are readily available at Chinese supermarkets.

The next few weeks will be busy, but I look forward to catching up with you in June! If you have any suggestions on what you would like to see covered, please let me know

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In A Soup and In A Pickle – Pearl Onions

When the weather report called for blizzard conditions and snow began to amass on patio tables like coconut icing, I decided that it was a good time to make soup. I’ve learned from past snow shoveling seasons to always keep good stock ready at hand and/ ready to thaw. In previous years as A. and N. would layer up in preparation to begin shoveling, I would start cooking a soup before joining them outside.

A soup recipe for a snowstorm should be as easy as combining and simmering roughly chopped vegetables and herbs with stock. The reward upon returning from shoveling is twofold, a cleared path and the warmth of rejuvenating aromatic soup. Before I head out to shovel, I combine chicken stock and red pearl onions to make onion soup.

Pearl (cocktail) onions are walnut-sized purple or white onions that are innately sweet. Pearl onions cook quickly and retain their shape, making them a good substitute for regular onions in soup. One of my pet peeves with onion soup is that if the onion slices aren’t cooked down and caramelized, they retain a slimy texture – one that you can taste in every bite. Caramelizing onions take time and constant attention. The miniature pearl onions sweat (lose moisture) and brown rapidly. A resultant soup has both a pleasing textural crunch as well as the desired caramelized flavor.

Due to the petite size of pearl onions, you need a large quantity for making the onion soup. Peeling 25 onions comes with the perennial problem – tears. I was happy to come across a clever trick to cope with this arduous task. Place the pearl onions in a bowl and heat them in the microwave for 20-25 seconds. Remove them immediately (or sooner if they start to pop), as you don’t want the onions to cook. Cut off the ends of the onions and pull away the outer skin, which should come off very easily. The pearl onions are now ready to be substituted in the classic French Onion soup, which combines onions and garlic in wine and stock. A deliciously simple soup with lots of flavor!

 

Pearl Onion Soup

Pearl onions – 25, peeled

Butter – 2 tbsp

Olive oil – 3 tbsp

Garlic cloves – 4, peeled and sliced

Stock – 4 cups

White wine – 5 tbsp

Salt and pepper – to taste

Bread/cheese

 

  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a pot.
  • Add the whole peeled onions. Lower the heat, and sauté the onions for about 10 minutes. The onions will sweat and brown.
  • Add the garlic. Sauté for a minute
  • Add the stock and wine. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until the onions are soft but yet hold their shape.
  • Just before serving, pour the soup into four ramekins. Place a slice of bread with grated cheese (I used goat cheese) on top of the soup. Broil for less than a minute, just until the cheese has melted.

 

 

Pearl onions are sharply vinegary in taste, and served in North Indian restaurants as cocktail onions and (when spiced) in South Indian homes as ulli thiyal, a relish. Alternatively called button onions and Silverskin onions, they are usually pickled and used throughout Europe with spring peas, as part of a smorgasbord of pickled herrings and beets, or as a garnish in the gin and vermouth cocktail, Gibson.

Pickled Pearl Onions

Pearl onions –10-12, peeled

Distilled (or any pale-colored) vinegar – ¼ cup

Sugar – 8 tbsp

Water – 2/3 cup

  • Peel the onions as above.
  • Fill a mason jar with the distilled vinegar, sugar and water. Mix until sugar has dissolved.
  • Add the pearl onions.
  • Cover and keep for 12 hours or overnight. The pickled onions keep fresh for 3-4 days.

 

Gibson Cocktail

Pickled onions are used as garnish in a Gibson cocktail. One or three pickled onions (always in odd numbers) replace olives in a Gibson cocktail, which is a Gin Martini served shaken or stirred. The onions add a vinegary twist instead of briny hint to the traditional mix of gin (6 parts) and vermouth (1 part).

 

Infusions: So Simple, Yet So Complex

A. had a sore throat during my last visit, so I made her my mother’s remedy – a ginger and cinnamon infusion made with grated ginger shavings, a cinnamon stick, and sweetened with a dash of honey. Infusions have long ago come out of medicinal closets and are now staple cooking embellishments. They are turning up with ultra-hip allure as hibiscus-infused teas in gin cocktails or Serrano infused vodka in spicy cocktails. An infusion is simply a “tea” made by pouring boiling water, alcohol, or oil over herbs, spices, or other plant parts. The resulting “tea” when added to a drink or dish add yet another subtle layer – a fragrant flourish to the final dish. Aromatic lemon rinds and cinnamon inspired my two infusions below – one with seafood and the other in a soup.

Infusions are made with unfussy ingredients such as lemon peels, slivers of fresh ginger, cinnamon, or rose petals (pesticide-free petals from your garden are best). I had previously used lemon zests (many!) to make Limoncello, and the fragrance on my fingertips remained with me for a long time. As I am partial to lemon’s lingering aroma and flavor, I use the fruit often in savory dishes. A lemon zest and herb infused oil adds summery hints to a seafood salad, instantly enlivening plain cooked shrimp and steamed mussels. The infused oil adds an understated flavor without overwhelming the delicate taste of seafood.

Cinnamon showcases its aromatics best in an infusion. In Indian cooking, cinnamon is stir-fried to release its warm tones. However, if cinnamon is added to a simmering soup or stock, the fragrance overpowers the dish and masks the finer flavors of the vegetables. Butternut squash, a fall feature in farm stands and supermarkets, has many nutritive qualities and makes for a good soup. The squash, being somewhat bland, benefits from a cinnamon-infused cream which gives the soup a  smoky warmth and flavor. Infusions are easy to make — just as simple as brewing a cup of tea with fresh tea leaves. An infused cream is made by pouring gently-heated cream over some whole cinnamon sticks and allowing the mixtureto steep for couple of hours. Easy, but the new ingredient adds a quiet complexity to the soup.

 

Seafood Salad

Olive Oil – 2 tsp

Butter – 1 tbsp

Lemon – 1

Tarragon – 1-2 sprigs

Shrimp – 6 large, deveined

Mussels – 12

Scallops – 6

Salt and pepper – to taste

  • Zest and juice the lemon. Keep both separately.
  • In a frying pan, heat 1 tsp. each of oil and butter. Once it starts to smoke, turn off the heat.
  • Add the lemon zest and tarragon sprigs to the hot oil. Let it steep for half-hour.
  • Steam the mussels.
  • Cook the shrimp, either grill, broil, or quickly dip in boiling water and remove.
  • In another pan, heat the remaining oil.
  • Add the scallops. Cook each side for about 2 minutes.
  • Mix the shrimp, mussels and scallops together.
  • When ready to eat, toss them with the lemon-herb infused oil and lemon juice.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

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Butternut Squash Soup

Cinnamon sticks – 2

Cream – ½ cup

Butternut squash – 4 cups of cubed squash or half a squash

Olive oil – 2 tbsp

Onion – 1, chopped

Ginger –1-inch, peeled and chopped

Carrots – 2, cubed

Low sodium stock – 2 ½ cups

Salt and pepper –to taste

  • In a pan, heat the cream gently. When it starts to simmer, remove it from the stove.
  • Add the cinnamon stick to it. Keep aside for about two hours.
  • Peel the butternut squash. This is the hardest part of the recipe as the skin is tough. However, it is cheaper to buy the whole squash, and you can toast the seeds — which can be added for a crunch in the soup or eaten on its own.
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
  • Sauté the onion and ginger for a minute.
  • Add the cubed squash and carrots. Stir fry until mixed well with the onion and ginger.
  • Pour the stock and 1½ cups of water. Bring it to a boil.
  • Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the squash can be mashed easily.
  • Strain the vegetables from the stock and grind them in a food processor until you have a creamy mixture. Add it back to the stock.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Just before you serve, drizzle the cinnamon infused cream. Decorate with toasted seeds.

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Note: Infusions can be used right away (cream-based) or they can be stored for later use (herb-infused oils).

When Life Gives You Lemons…

The moment I heard the weather predictions were for another dismal snow season, I immediately began thinking of ways to prolong summer. Lemon is a quintessential summer association. As A. (visiting this weekend) and I read through my mother’s lemon snow pudding recipe, we were both struck by how efficiently the one lemon in the recipe was used. Inspired by this economical use, I decided to craft a whole menu to highlight lemon’s unmistakably tart flavor.

Riffing off the refreshingly sweet-sour nimbu pani (lemonade) of my youth, I made the digestif Limoncello. Inspired by my travel to Sorrento’s lemon groves, where the large, bright-yellow lemons are used in making this distinctive liqueur, I bought 12 fresh lemons. Scraping the zest was tedious, but I knew to be patient – the rind-soaked spirit would be ready in five weeks. The digestif would be a delicious reminder of summer warmth, and would see me through any harsh winter.

Since I was now left with 12 rind-less lemons, I decided to use the fruit to stuff a whole chicken that I planned to roast. The roasted chicken had only a mild hint of lemon, but the acidity from the juice helped to tenderize the chicken and make it moist. However, the same lemon added to the fresh stock, made with the giblets, was one of the tastiest I’ve had. The tartness of the lemon offset the fat, making the stock light and aromatic. The lemon brightened up a winter dish, and we used the moist meat the next day for a light summer salad.

That feeling of lightness carried through to the delicate lemon snow pudding. I was inspired by the clever use of separating both the eggs (yolk and white) and lemons (juice and zest), and how both separate parts came together harmoniously in the final dish. The egg white meringue and the lemon juice formed an airy base, while the yolk and lemon rind in the custard rounded off the silky flavors in this lemon meringue-like pudding.

Roast Chicken with Lemon

Whole chicken – 1, (4 lb)

Lemon – 1

Fresh herbs (oregano, sage) – 1-2 sprigs

Butter – 1 tbsp

Salt and pepper – 1 tbsp. each

Oven temperature 375°F

  • Remove the chicken giblets (in a plastic bag) from the cavity of the chicken and wash the chicken well.
  • Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
  • Slice the lemon into half and squeeze out the juice. Reserve.
  • Mix the butter, herbs, salt, and pepper together. Spread the mixture over the chicken.
  • Put the squeezed lemon half into the cavity of the chicken.
  • Bake for 80 minutes, (20 minutes per pound) in total, with the final 20 minutes at 425°F for a golden skin. Check with a meat thermometer to see it has reached an internal temperature of 170°F.

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Lemon Snow Pudding with Custard

Egg white – 1

Sugar – 1 tbsp

Lime – ½

Gelatin (unflavored) – 1 tsp

Lemon yellow food color – optional

  • Fill a large pan with water.
  • Mix the lime, sugar, and gelatin with one tablespoon of water in a saucepan that will fit in the large pan. Place it in the large pan.
  • Bring the water to a rolling boil, while continuously stirring the mixture in the smaller pan.
  • Once all the sugar and gelatin have dissolved, remove from heat. Cool.
  • Whisk the egg white in a bowl, either with a fork or an electric whisk. Continue until it becomes firm. Tip: when you tilt the bowl, the egg white should not slip out.
  • Add the cooled lemon mixture, whisking it carefully, into the egg white mixture.
  • Add a drop of the yellow coloring.
  • Refrigerate until ready to be served with custard.

For the Custard

Egg yolk – 1

Milk – 1 cup, warmed

Sugar – 1 tbsp.

  • Boil water in a larger pan.
  • Whisk the egg yolk in another pan.
  • Add sugar and warmed milk to the yolk. Mix.
  • Place the egg mixture pan in the larger pan. Stir continuously. This method, where the heat is not in direct contact with the ingredients, is called double boiling and prevents the egg mixture from curdling. In about 5-6 minutes, the mixture thickens. Tip: dip a metal spoon into the mixture. Run a finger on the back of the spoon.  If it leaves a mark, then the custard is ready.
  • Cool the custard.
  • Scrape zests into the custard.

 

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Aperol Spritz in August

Strolling through cobbled streets in Rome and Naples this summer, I spotted bright red glasses on café tables. The color wasn’t a deep Chianti red, but more like the orange hue of a nine-o-clock sunset. I soon learned this refreshing aperitif, Aperol Spritz, is made with Prosecco, soda, and Aperol bitters. Recently at a restaurant near home, I was reminded of both my vacation and the popularity of aperitifs, as patrons at the table next to me ordered several rounds of Aperol Spritz.

An aperitif is drunk before a meal to stimulate the appetite (just as the digestif is had after a meal to aid digestion). Aperitifs are made either from fortified wine or from bitters (alcohol steeped with bitter orange peels, anise herb and spices). The intense flavor of bitters is tempered with Prosecco and soda. Aperitifs are usually served with mixed nuts, olives, chips, or tapas.

Alcoholic and nonalcoholic aperitifs exist in many cultures: In my travels, I have enjoyed English Pimm’s and Greek ouzo, and I also grew up with two non-alcoholic Indian versions made with cumin, jaljeera and jeera vellum. Jeera vellum is served before the spiced cardamom-scented meat biryani; like the early aperitifs, its original role is medicinal. (Some earlier aperitifs, such as vermouth, started out as a way to disguise the taste of quinine.) With clever marketing, they started popping up in local bars and high-end restaurants.

My two Aperol bottles, brought back from vacation, lasted for several parties this summer. I served the Spritz with a caramelized onion cream cheese dip and vegetables as well as an eggplant pate with toasted bread – creamy foods that absorb the alcohol! I made the watermelon spritz for those who wanted a non-alcoholic aperitif.

Cheers!

Aperol Spritz
Prosecco (4 parts): Soda (1 part): Aperol (1 part).
Mix and serve.

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Jeera Vellum
Boiling water (5 cups) : Cumin seeds (2 ½ tbsp).
Steep for 7 minutes. Serve warm.

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Watermelon Spritz
Strained juice of half a watermelon: Soda (½ cup) : Fresh lime juice (2 tbsp) : Sugar (1 tbsp) : Ice (1 cup). Mix and serve.

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