Sour Cherries in Syrup

Sabrina brought in all-natural VaVa sour cherries in syrup (sour cherries, sugar, water) in an attempt to break us of one of our guilty pleasures – maraschino cherries. Yes, maraschino cherries are awful. Yes, they are bleached and artificially flavored and colored. But they are de rigueur for Manhattan cocktails.

When Eric Felten’s WSJ cocktail column this past weekend featured a “Caruso Cocktail” including directions that the drink be “served with a smile and 1 cherry,” we saw the perfect opportunity to try the VaVa sour cherries in place of our normal neon ones. While we sipped, we researched sour cherries and found they are rich with anthocyanin, an antioxidant that can help with inflammatory ailments like gout and arthritis. So the tasty treat at the bottom of our glass is also healthy. We’re converts now, at least until sour cherries are in season this summer and we try to brandy our own. Oh, and the Caruso Cocktail was delightful as well – if you like Manhattans, this is a nice twist on that type of drink.

Our conversion also has two side benefits. First, the syrup from the sour cherries makes a great refreshing summer drink when you add soda water. We’d never do that with the leftover maraschino syrup. Second, we’ve now got an opening for a new guilty pleasure. Suggestions?

The Caruso Cocktail

1½ oz cognac
½ oz sweet (red) vermouth
¼ oz Bénédictine
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir, stir, stir with ice and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass. Add cherry and serve.

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Rhubarb Reverb

Our first attempt at strawberry-rhubarb pie having ended in a round of rhubarbaritas and rhubarb sodas, we made a second go at it. This one ended in pie.

If you’re looking for a strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe, this is the easiest we’ve found. And it’s unique because it doesn’t use a top crust like most other recipes, which was important because we were kitchen-testing Sherrie’s gluten-free pie crusts to see if they worked for summer pie season. So if you’re going topless this summer . . . wait, no, if your pie is going topless . . . wait, no . . .

Sabrina used Sherrie’s crust to bake a quiche and thought they worked well for savory dishes. We were pleased with the results of our sweet pie. Though the crust is not an approximation of a flaky pie crust, as an edible container for the fruit it worked. Instead of wheat flour, Sherrie’s uses tapioca, which is an ingredient in some pies, so maybe that helps. Note we pre-baked the crust at 350F for 10 minutes before filling and baking, though Sherrie’s doesn’t include that in the directions.

Single Crust Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

2 pints strawberries, hulled and halved
1 pound rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
single crust

Set oven to 350F. Mix strawberries, rhubarb, sugar and flour in bowl. Spoon into pie shell. Place on baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour or until the center of the pie is bubbly. Let cool on rack.

Recipe adapted from The Rhubarb Compendium

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It’s a cruel, cruel summer without rhubarb, that sour stalk that adds zip to tarts, jams and pies. Yesterday, we picked up the last 4 stalks in the store (more in today) anticipating that we’d have just enough to make a strawberry rhubarb pie. But it was not to be.

Rhubarb is easy to work with. Take off the leaves if any are attached (they’re poison), then chop. Some people peel them but we found our stalks to be fresh enough that the outer portion was just as tender as the inside. Because they’re crisp and chop easy, we had the kids help. That’s where the trouble started.

Kids tend to have a taste for the sour stuff and at some point one of our little mincing minions must have realized that if they were in the kitchen, what they were working with was likely edible. Due to shrinkage caused by sampling, we ended up with only a cup and a half of chopped rhubarb, not the 3 required for a pie. Rhubarb is technically a veggie, not a fruit. And we couldn’t really yell at them for eating their vegetables, could we?

So we did the next best thing with the remnants of our rhubarb – we boiled them with water and sugar and made a rhubarb simple syrup. With soda and fresh squeezed lime juice added for the kids (and a dash of lemon vodka added for us) and strawberry garnishes for all, we had the essence of a pie, if not the real thing.

Rhubarb Simple Syrup
Adapted from a recipe by Carrie Floyd, from the Culinate Kitchen collection

1½ cups rhubarb, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
1½ cups water

Place rhubarb, sugar, and 1½ cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the syrup is bright pink. Remove from heat and cool. Strain syrup into a large jar. Reserve cooked and strained rhubarb for use as a compote over ice cream.

The simple syrup can be used in any number of cocktails. Easy non-alcoholic rhubarb soda:

cup of ice
1 oz rhubarb simple syrup
1 oz lime juice
3 oz soda water

Pour syrup, lime juice and soda water over ice. Garnish with slice of lime or strawberry.

For the adults we used the classic proportions of a margarita with lemon vodka instead of tequila to make a rhubarbarita:

1 1/4 oz Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Citron Vodka
1 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 oz rhubarb simple syrup

Combine in shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Serve up in a cocktail glass or over ice in a collins glass with a splash of soda water.

Some other cocktail ideas we found inspiring:

Rhubarb Cosmopolitan from Culinate Kitchen

Rhubarb Mojito from Brooklyn Farmhouse

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Slinging Singapore Slings

Cocktails can be served or cocktails can be prescribed. This past weekend we had the opportunity to do the latter when we hosted a friend who in the past week lost her cable, her babysitter and her job. She has strong antibodies to adversity, having been through worse before, so we figured all she needed was a dose of optimism and sunshine. The perfect medicine? A Singapore Sling, a drink that uses two of our favorite classic liqueurs, Cherry Heering, an all-natural sour cherry liqueur whose recipe dates from 1818, and Be?ne?dictine.

In researching the Singapore Sling, we found general agreement that it was invented at the Raffles hotel in Singapore, but different recipes. Out of the many we tried, we found they fell into 2 categories: fruity/sweet and refreshing/bitter. So we present one of each. Which version you like will depend on your mood, palate, the temperature outside, the day of the week, the level of the Dow and your company. If you’ve got your M.D. (mixology doctorate), you can use your professional judgment. And remember how economical home remedies can be – one $30 bottle of Cherry Heering can make 33 Singapore Slings!

Our suggested sweet combo:

1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1 oz Gin (we used DH Krahn)
4 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Be?ne?dictine
1/4 oz Triple Sec
1 teaspoon grenadine
dash Angostura bitters

Historic recipe from Dr. Cocktail (Ted Haigh)’s research (much less sweet but refreshing with the bitters taking a front seat):

2 dashes of Orange Bitters
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz Be?ne?dictine
1/4 oz Cherry Heering
1 oz Gin (we used DH Krahn)

Pour into a tumbler (including the ice from the shaker) and fill up with cold soda water.

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Sweet Crepe Recipe

This recipe couldn’t be easier. Our 4 year old used a whisk to mix the batter himself and dropped chocolate chips on top of his crepe while it was cooking. Our 7 year old prefers her crepes with a squeeze of lemon (reminder: meyer lemons are still in season) and a sprinkle of sugar. You can also fill with nutella or slice up fresh strawberries and top with a dollop of whipped cream or drizzle with honey.


1 cup milk
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter

Mix the milk, flour, eggs, sugar and vanilla with a wire whisk or electric mixer. Add the butter and continue mixing until the batter is thin and smooth. Heat a frying pan until droplets of water “dance” on it. Pour 1/3 cup of batter into the pan (or enough so that when you swirl the pan around, the entire bottom is coated). Tilt the pan until the batter coats the entire bottom – you have to do this part quickly or you’ll be left with a thicker pancake and not a thin crepe. When the crepe bubbles and the edges look dry, peel it up and flip it over. If you’re using chocolate chips for the filling, now is the time to add them. Cook for another few minutes until the other side is done then fold over and serve. Unused batter can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of days.

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Rye Banana Bread

Warning! This is not rye bread as in ham on rye. Finding ourselves with a banner crop of brown bananas, we whipped up a loaf of banana bread made with Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey. We served it as a dessert with a dollop of homemade whipped cream.

½ cup raisins or other dried fruit (dried apples, currants, etc.)
6 tablespoons or 3 ounces Rittenhouse Rye (you can also use bourbon or dark rum)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 small, very ripe bananas, mashed (approx 2 cups mashed bananas total)
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Put the dried fruit and Rittenhouse Rye (or your chosen liquor) in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and leave for an hour or until the fruit has absorbed most of the liquid. Drain fruit and set aside. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl and combine well. In a separate large bowl, blend the melted butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas. Then stir in the walnuts, drained raisins, and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each addition. Scrape into the loaf pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 1-1¼ hours. Use the “toothpick test” (insert a toothpick into the center and when it comes out clean, the bread is done). Leave on a rack to cool then run a knife around the inside perimeter of the pan, invert the pan and your banana bread should come out ready to slice and serve.

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