Thursday, September 18, 2014

cucumber lemonade

cucumber lemonade on the deck!

I began this summer by expressing, in no uncertain terms, just how terrible New York City summers really are — sticky airlessness occasionally broken up by eerily refreshing droplets of cool water on your head that turn out to be filthy window a/c run-off, and you know, given that NYC lets people with absolutely no relevant skills install their own window a/c units, you might not want to walk underneath them at all, is all I’m saying. Right, I’ve digressed again. I think I hoped that if I aired my grievances about summer early and unflinchingly, I could get through the season without my least favorite of my writing tics, whining about the weather.

english cucumber from the grocery peeled the second batch
cucumber juice with skin cucumber juice without skin
fine mesh strainer for the cucumber puree another way to strain the cucumber juice

And I did, just not because of that. Despite dire warnings from the Farmer’s Almanac that we were going to have one of the more “humid and thundery” summers on record, to my delight, we experienced the opposite. Before Labor Day, there wasn’t a single day where temperatures crept above 91 degrees. In 2013, a year when I broke my don’t-complain-about-the-weather rule basically every time I opened my mouth, there were 16. [I promise, I’m getting somewhere with this.] Of course, NYC still has to have the last word and in the first week of September was back to its muggy air/scorched sidewalk ways. And it was in that week that when getting my weekly fix at this new dumpling place my neighborhood was graced with over the summer, I picked up some of their housemade cucumber lemonade and have not been able to talk about anything else since.

many lemons

getting ready to juice lemons
cucumber juice, meet lemon juice

I am obsessed. It’s not that I didn’t know you could put cucumber in a drink (he-llo!), it’s just that I didn’t think it would be so insanely good, especially against the brightening powers of lemonade. This might even rival that frozen coconut limeade in the cool and refreshing department. I don’t care if it’s suddenly cool enough that I had to close the windows a couple nights ago and maybe that means to some that it’s not lemonade weather anymore. It is still summer, which means that this is remains a Pumpkin-Spice Free Zone for five more days — don’t miss a chance to make this.

forget the simple syrup -- just add sugar
cucumber lemonade

Events: I’ve got a few events coming up. If you’re around, come say hi. I promise not to talk about the weather.

  • This Sunday, 9/21 In Toronto, I’ll be demo-ing three recipes from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook at the Word on the Street Festival. I’ll be in an Onstage Conversation with CBC host Gill Deacon at 3:30 p.m., but the event goes from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event is free. It’s in Queens Park Circle; much more information on their website.
  • Saturday, 10/18 I will be participating in the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival on a panel about blogging and social media with Faith Durand (The Kitchn) and Joy Wilson (Joy the Baker) at 5:15 p.m. in The Grand Tasting Room. This is a ticketed event. More details over here.
  • Wednesday, 10/22 At 7 p.m., Melissa Clark (New York Times) and I will be talking to Leonard Lopate (WNYC) about how to write a cookbook as part of his Locavores series. It will be at The Greene Space, 44 Charlton Street, and it’s a ticketed event. More details over here.

One year ago: Frico Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Two years ago: Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto
Three years ago: Apple and Honey Challah
Four years ago: Monkey Cake
Five years ago: Cheesecake-Marbled Brownies
Six years ago: Eggs in Tomato Sauce, Spinach Quiche and Bread Without a Timetable
Seven years ago: Grandmothers of Sils’ Apple Yogurt Cake and Chocolate Babka
EIGHT years ago: (New! And a month overdue.) 44 Clove Garlic Soup, Silky Cauliflower Soup, Key Lime Tart, Romaine Pesto and Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes and Summer Squash Soup

Cucumber Lemonade
Inspired by Mimi Cheng’s

A few notes: I made this the first time with the cucumber skin on. As only surprised me, this makes for a very green juice, as in your guest will ask “You made me green juice?” Of course, no harm in that. The second time, which yielded the finished lemonade you see here, I peeled the cucumbers, which led to pale pastel green tinge to the lemonade. You can use any variety of cucumber; in the first batch, I used one of those large English cucumbers. In the second, I used 4 kirby cucumbers from a Greenmarket (each weighed 4 ounces). Flavor and concentration-wise I prefer a tart lemonade that’s a little bit on the concentrated side because we almost always finish ours off with a small glug of seltzer. For a sweeter, but not excessively sweet lemonade, use 1/2 cup sugar. If you’re not going to finish yours with sparkling or mineral water, use it for a cocktail or pour it over a glass of ice, you might find that you’d prefer this with 1/2 to 3/4 cup extra cold water. Finally, I find making simple syrup a pain (it’s a whole extra step!) and upon reading this over the summer, was reminded that you can totally skip this step and just add the sugar directly. Shaken a few times, within 15 minutes it will be fully dissolved, far more quickly than it would take to cool simple syrup. My lemonade feels so free!

Makes just over 1 quart (4 cups). Serves 4 to 6 and up to 8 if you like a lot of fizzy water in yours.

1 pound cucumber(s), peeled or unpeeled, cut into large chunks, plus a few extra thin cucumber slices for garnish
1 cup lemon juice (from about 7 to 8 lemons, although juiciness will vary)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cold water

Run cucumber through a blender or food processor until pureed, then run it for a full extra minute to ensure that it’s as processed as possible. Set a fine-mesh strainer or a regular strainer lined with a couple layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter over a pitcher and pour cucumber puree through it, stirring to help it move along faster. Discard solids. In the pitcher, you should have about 1 cup cucumber juice.* Add lemon juice and sugar to it, then water. Give it a good stir or shake, and let it sit in the fridge (to get it started chilling) for 15 minutes, after which a couple more stirs or shakes should leave the sugar fully dissolved. Taste lemonade, adding more sugar or water if desired. (See Notes up top about concentration and sweetness.) Serve chilled over ice, with or without a splash of seltzer on top. You can fancy up the glass with a garnish of cucumber slice, if desired.

Can we put gin in this? Of course you can.

* Of course, if you have a juicer, you can use it here to the same effect.


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