Lemony Fresh Herb Coolers

by Jim Marshall

Using these fresh herbs in a variety of ways is a pleasure, and I like to serve this cooler instead of lemonade when people drop by. Try it with your fresh basil and mint and more!

Lemony Fresh Herb Coolers

Makes about 8 drinks
The combination of fresh basil, cilantro, mint and tarragon makes an unusually refreshing drink.

2 cups water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups [packed] basil leaves and small sprigs
1 cup [packed] cilantro leaves and small sprigs
1 cup [packed] mint leaves and small sprigs
2 Tablespoons tarragon sprigs
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Cold club soda
lemon twists and mint sprigs for garnish

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes; let the sugar syrup cool.

In a blender or food processor, combine the sugar syrup with the basil, cilantro, mint, tarragon, lemon zest and lemon juice. Puree this mixture.  Let stand for 1 hour, then strain through a coarse sieve, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.

For each drink, pour 1/4 cup of the fresh herb syrup over cracked ice and fill with club soda. Garnish the drinks with a lemon twist and mint sprigs and serve.  Refreshing!
Recipe courtesy of Chef Bev Shaffer

Bev Shaffer is a chef, food and travel writer (she authored the popular “Ask Bev” column that appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer), author of five cookbooks (her latest, CAKES to die for!), and culinary instructor. Chef Bev is a frequent and popular television and radio guest, cooking on all Cleveland network stations and public television. Links to her blogs, “Gadget Freak” and “Eat Plants” can be reached through her website, www.bevshaffer.com

Minted Fruit

by Jim Marshall

I love to mix and match room temperature, drop-dead-ripe stone fruits and melons with fresh mint. Try this recipe for your next picnic or a too-hot-to-bake-one-of-my-cakes dessert.

Minted Fruit

3 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced

6 small ripe plums, pitted and sliced

½ ripe melon (honeydew, cantaloupe) seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes (about 2 cups)

¼ cup chopped fresh mint (spearmint, chocolate mint or pineapple mint are favorites)

Place the peaches, plums, melon and mint in a large bowl and toss together. Refrigerate for about 2 hours.

Note that the flavor of mint intensifies over time. If you prefer a less minty flavor, add the mint to the salad about an hour before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Chef Bev Shaffer