I meant to post this on Monday, but I just started an exciting new project that I promise to tell you all about in the next few weeks, and it's kept me pretty busy. However I think this is the perfect post as we head on into the weekend. I mean who couldn't use a cocktail on a Friday after work? I know I could.
This recipe comes from Food Network heartthrob Dave Lieberman and his newest cookbook, Dave's Dinners: A Fresh Approach to Home-Cooked Meals. Last weekend was the LA Times Festival of Books over on the beautiful and lush UCLA campus and Dave was scheduled to appear at the Culinary stage to do a little cooking demonstration. This was the third year I've gone. The first year Annie and I went to see Tyler Florence and were so taken with his enthusiasm that after the book signing we rushed home and attempted to make fresh pasta, one of the recipes Tyler had demonstrated. Sadly, ours turned out a little chewy, but the sauce we made to go with it, a robust puttanesca, was outstanding. The next year we went to see Suzanne Goin, and thus began my well documented love affair with Sunday Suppers at Lucques.
This year, Annie was unavailable to go with me, despite her fevered crush on the very, very, goofy-cute Mr. Lieberman, so I ended up flying solo. I arrived a little early and caught the tail end of Govind Armstrong's demonstration, promoting his new book Small Bites, Big Nights. He made an interesting little recipe of olives stuffed with minced lamb, which was then dredged in an egg wash and some very fine panko, and then fried crisp. To follow, he made a crostini layered with a white bean pure (LOVE), thin slices of tuna that had been dusted with a spice mixture that included I believe fennel and coriander, among others, and then seared. Then the whole thing got topped with a black olive tapenade. Holy cow, it sounded so amazing. I was this close to getting his book as well, but the concept seemed more geared towards party and entertaining food and I questioned how much use I'd really get out of it. Although I'm sure I'll probably eventually pick it up.
Compared to the pleasant surprise of Mr. Armstrong, Dave's demonstration was sort of unprepared and not entirely inspiring. He made a very simple salad of shaved raw beets, asparagus tips, and fava beans, the recipe for which wasn't even in the book. (Insert indifferent shrug here) But as I leafed through the book in the hot sun I came across this recipe. I have long loved combining vodka with lemon juice and I particularly like adding fresh herbs as well. Mint is great and tarragon is really nice and unexpected. I've not tried basil but I can only assume it too would be lovely. Usually I just add the fresh herb to the glass and sort of muddle it around with a few slices of lemon, but I've not made a infused simple syrup with anything other than ginger. It's a great idea. You get the herbaceous flavor, but no little specks in your teeth. After I had Mr. Lieberman sign my book, I swung by the grocery store to pick up the ingredients.
(For the rosemary simple syrup)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
4 to 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
(For the drink)
1/3 cup vodka
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons rosemary simple syrup
several thin slices or wedges of lemon
several sprigs of rosemary
First make the simple syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water and rosemary.
Bring to a boil over high heat, uncovered, stirring every so often. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the syrup steep for about 30 minutes, so the rosemary flavor really infuses the syrup. You do want the syrup to taste strong since it will become diluted in the drink.
To make the drinks, fill a small glass with ice. Pour in the vodka and lemon juice. Add the simple syrup and a nice big splash of club soda. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a couple slices or wedges of lemon. A side note: The amounts of vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup are approximate. This just happens to be what I like. You might want to add less vodka and more lemon juice and club soda. It's all a matter of taste.
I must say, this combination of lemon with rosemary, is really sophisticated. The rosemary works beautifully with the bright citrus and as strange as it sounds, it's woodsy flavor gives the cocktail a pleasantly pungent kick while the club soda lightens up the sweetness and somehow just makes it that much more refreshing. It's perfect for summer and the flavors would work nicely as a prelude to a warm weather, Mediterranean dinner of garlicky grilled lamb and orzo with feta, artichokes and tomatoes. Or something like that.
Of course you could just basically use the flavored syrup to make a non-alcoholic rosemary lemonade but that's not quite as fun, now is it?
Makes one drink, although if you are anything like me, you'll want several