Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sparkling Peach Sangria with Strawberry Simple Syrup

Everything is better sparkling, right?  That's what I think, especially when it comes to sangria.  The other day I was thinking about how much fun this summer has been.  We've actually done a lot and I think hit all the "must-do" summer activities.  Go to the beach - check, go to the pool - check, relax and read a book - check, do something a little crazy - check, BBQ - big check :) But after mentally going through the past few months, I realized that something was missing.  Sangria!  I realized that I had not made this delicious and casual afternoon drink for at least a year! Time to change that.

Sangria takes your favorite wine (red, white, or sparkling in my case) to a new level with the addition of fresh summer fruit.  Amazing.  I tend to prefer white sangria over red...   I think it stems from my first date with Chris a lonnnnng time ago at Jaleo in Bethesda, MD.  Jaleo is an incredible tapas restaurant by the famed Chef José Andrés.  It was over a pitcher of Jaleo's famous white wine sangria that I really got to know my future husband.  So not only do I just generally like booze with fruit in it, it also has a special meaning :)

This sangria is something I put together after a trip home from the farmers market.  (Most recipes start out that way, right?) These beautiful white peaches were calling my name, so the peaches, strawberries, oranges and a few lemon slices were combined with my favorite - a bubbly Cava.  The secret ingredient to this sangria is a quick homemade strawberry simple syrup.  Sounds difficult, right?  It's not, I promise - all you need is strawberry, sugar and corn starch.  Throw all of those ingredients together in a small pot on the stove, and 10 minutes later you have your own simple syrup. It's so easy!  And the level of flavor and sweetness it adds to the sangria is a wow-factor.  Give this recipe a shot!

serves 4, to serve a larger group definitely double the recipe

1 bottle sparkling wine, Cava works best
2 large ripe white peaches, de-pitted and sliced
1 pint of strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 orange, peeled and segments sliced in half
2-3 slices of lemon
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup water


To make simple syrup - combine about 10 sliced strawberries in a saucepan with water, sugar and corn starch.  Heat on medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes until the syrup starts to thicken.  You might have to make some adjustments - add more corn starch if it is not thickening, too thick add more water.  Once thickened, let cool to room temperature.  Use a strainer and strain strawberries from the rest of the syrup.

In a glass pitcher add the peaches, the rest of the strawberries, orange segments and lemon slices.  Next uncork the champagne (a "whooooo" is mandatory) and slowly add it to the pitcher.  If you add too much at once, you will overflow.  Lastly, add the strawberry simple syrup and ice.  Give it a good stir and serve to your lucky guests!   Enjoy the summer!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summertime Rolls with a Peanut Dipping Sauce

Are you in the mood for something fresh, exciting and flavorful?  If so, you are in luck :)  I made these summertime {historically spring} rolls last night and they turned out excellent!  Perfect dinner for the summer - you don't need the oven and you get to use all the fresh produce from the farmers market or garden! 

I majorly heart spring rolls.  They are definitely my favorite thing to order at any type of Asian restaurant.  When Chris and I were traveling all through SE Asia, I think I hit a world record number of spring rolls consumed by one person. It was relieving to bite into fresh, crunchy spring rolls after being out in the excessive heat of SE Asia.  I believe I had spring rolls with every meal!

Me being cheesy w/ my spring roll addiction.  Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

These summertime rolls are stuffed with a plethora of summer produce: crunchy iceberg lettuce, green onion, grated carrots, crisp cucumbers and sweet red peppers.  Then they are topped off with fragrant fresh basil and cilantro... which is a terrific combination of herbs for this type of dish.

Did I mention they also have shrimp?  This time I sauteed the shrimp in a thai chili sauce, which really ties all of the ingredients together.  The best part of the spring rolls, other than the explosion of freshness in your mouth, is a delicious peanut dipping sauce.  (The peanut sauce is so good that I actually used it to dip cucumbers and baby carrots in the next day, and I think it can be easily turned into a salad dressing).  This peanut sauce is sooo good and tastes great with these spring rolls.  My advice - double dip :)

makes 12 rolls

For the Summertime Rolls -

12 spring roll wrappers (plan on having a few extra in case a couple break)
1/2 of a head of iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
1/2 of a sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 of a cucumber, sliced thinly, larger slices cut in half
3 or 4 stalks of green onion
1/2 lb of small uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp peanut oil
2 tbsp of thai chili sauce

For the Peanut Dipping Sauce -

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp minced garlic


First make the peanut sauce.  I found the easiest way to do this is in a food processor.  (I will say this a hundred times, it is the most useful tool in the kitchen!) Process the peanut butter, coconut milk, lime juice, brown sugar, soy sauce and minced garlic for about 10 seconds.  Put peanut sauce in a container and refrigerate while making the rest of the rolls - it tastes great cold. 

In a skillet, heat the peanut oil until hot.  Add shrimp and then add the thai chili sauce.  Saute for 2-3 minutes until shrimp are pink.  Set aside.

To assemble the spring rolls I laid out all the prepared vegetables on a large cutting board.  I used a second cutting board for assembling the rolls.  The tricky part is the spring roll wrappers.  To get them soft, fill a round, medium-sized saute pan with 1/2" of water.  Place wrapper in water for only 10 seconds, not any longer.  The wrapper will seem stiff, but will soften as you work with it.

To finish the spring rolls, I topped the ingredients in this order, but feel free to do it your own way: Lettuce, basil, cilantro, green onion, shredded carrots, cucumber, red pepper and lastly shrimp.  Then simply fold them up like a burrito.  The secret is to not fill them too much and wrap them as tighly as possible.  It's okay if it takes you a few times to get the hang of it, my first few tries were pretty interesting :)  Serve with chilled peanut sauce and enjoy!

This recipe is inspired by The Food Matters Project which focuses on whole food recipes by Mark Bittman.  This week the Food Matters Project was hosted by Alyssa at Everyday Maven.  Check out what other inspiring bloggers did here.