tinto de verano

Tinto de Verano: The Ultimate Summer Sipper

Spain has gotten a lot of things right. Siestas, incorporating cheese and ham into most foods, eating fresh olives, spending long days at the beach, and of course…. wine.

tinto de verano

Tinto means “red” in Spanish when referring to red wine in particular, and verano is summer, so… red wine of the summer. What makes it so summery? It’s mixed with lemon soda! Stay with me, here–I know that sounds weird to a lot of people here in America, but I assure you it’s a refreshing treat.

I first had tinto de verano when I was traveling in Spain a couple summers ago. It was everywhere in the Costa del Sol—every bar and café had it on special for just a euro or two. In the area I was staying, they would just take a big wine glass, fill it up with ice, then pour equal parts red table wine and sweet-tart Fanta limon into it. The idea was slightly odd to me at first, too, but with one taste I knew I had found my signature drink for the trip.

For days when it’s just too hot for red wine, check this out, seriously. Lemon-flavored Fanta isn’t readily available in the US (a travesty!) but you can use fresh lemonade and soda water, or find a similar alternative. You don’t want to use syrupy lemonade from concentrate or Sprite or 7up. You need something more sour, otherwise your drink will be too heavy and sweet. I recommend seeking out San Pellegrino Limonata, or if you just so happen to live in Central Texas like I do, I had great success with Central Market’s Organic Sicilian Lemon soda.

I’m really into portable libations in the summer (you just never know when you’re going to need a drink!) and this is the perfect on-the-go cocktail, since all you need is a bottle of soda and a bottle of wine. For ultimate portability, I like using CalNaturale, which I reviewed here on ES a good while back and I’m still loyal to; it’s boxed, so no worries about dropping a heavy glass bottle, but it doesn’t taste like your old-school cardboard-y, sweet boxed wine. Its cabernet is a great tinto to use in this cocktail—it’s light and pleasant. If you want to be extra authentic, though, feel free to pick up a bottle of affordable Spanish red.

Anyway, here’s the recipe, but you don’t even really need one:

Tinto de Verano

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Lemon Green Tea Cookie Sandwiches

Matcha is one of those things that most people either love or barf up. It’s strong, pungent, and unmistakeable. I love it on its own, I extra-love it paired with sweet lemon.  I had the opportunity to try a couple matcha samples from Rare Tea Republic, and I couldn’t help but make frosting out of it. The tea lends the most spectacular green color to the buttercream. And this is a flavor combo you won’t soon forget (whether you’re loving it or barfing it up).

Lemon Green Tea Cookie Sandwiches

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A Little Moderation: Lemon-Leek Linguine

I lost 122 pounds at Weight Watchers. How? My girlfriend left because she caught me asking out one of the coaches at a meeting. Who knew these ex-fatties could be so hot! Anyway…The reason that I popped my head into a meeting was that I recently had a blood test for my medical insurance and the results weren’t quite what I expected. My cholesterol was a little high (225) and my Body Mass Index was 25.3 (the normal range for men is 18.5 to 24.9). I do get plenty of exercise because I’m kind of a gym rat, and I run pretty hard 4 days a week. I don’t need to change what I work out, just what I put in. So I’ve decide to cut back on the decadence and lighten up my meals during the week.

I learned two things at that meeting. One: my ex has a heck of a right cross, and two: I need to eat better. Even though I usually go for the gusto, a little moderation might not be such a bad thing. I just need to make better choices. Like they say, making the right choice comes from experience. And experience comes from making bad choices. (Believe me; I know a thing or two about making bad choices!)

Don’t freak. It’s gotta taste good. Oh, I’m still going to eat fried foods and butter sauces, just not every day. I’ve gotta concentrate on portion control. Nothing on my plate should be bigger than my fist and no more refilling multiple times. One plate per meal and (here comes the hard part), ONE drink per day. Of alcohol. Any alcohol. That means no more Nyquil shots before bed.

So here’s a dinner recipe for a lighter version of my pan-fried chicken and linguine dish. Yeah, it’s still fried but there’s no flour coating for the chicken; it’s only seared, and then finished in the oven. This actually tastes so good that the hard part is the portion control. And I don’t just mean for the alcohol.

Katt’s Lemon-Leek Linguine with Chicken

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Endless Road Trip Germany: Capri-Sonne, Anyone?

Not soon after I made a joke about not being able to funnel vodka into a Capri Sun, I found myself in Cologne, Germany at BackWerk (which I was disappointed to find out  means “bake and take”)  looking at all the drink options to accompany my sandwich. I spotted a Capri-Sonne with the words “cola mix” and a photo of a a sea of soda with a lemon raft. LEMON SODA CAPRI SUN? Sign me the fuck up.

As I sat on our American flag blanket and consumed what I thought would be a delicious treat, I realized that, unfortunately, the words I neglected were “koffeinfrei” and “ohne kohlensäure.” Caffeine free. Without carbonation. We can probably all agree that Germans are strange, but why why WHY would anyone want to drink COMPLETELY flat lemony soda, out of a foil packet, that won’t even increase alertness? This wouldn’t fly in America (how many times have you heard someone at a restaurant/bar complain about the level of carbonation in their drink?) but as I thought about it more, I realized the Germans are on to something.

Cola Mix Capri Sonne and Rum? A portable, low sugar cocktail with no artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners or preservatives that won’t fill you up or keep you up at night but WILL get you drunk? Like I needed another way to consume alcohol in Germany.

Endless Ice Cream: Lemongrass, Coconut and Ginger

Ahh, lemongrass. One of my favorite flavors. Every once in a while they have stacks of fresh lemongrass stalks at the grocery store. I happily buy several stalks of it and use it in soups, sauces, and stir-frys. I recently read that you can turn supermarket stalks of lemongrass into your very own plant, giving a bounty of lemongrass whenever you want it. After tasting this ice cream I think I’ll have to start growing my own- I anticipate making this happening many, many times.

Note: If you’ve never worked with fresh lemongrass before, here’s a quick run-down of what you’ll need to do: Trim the root end from the bottom and the papery end from the top of the stalk. You should be left with a 2″ to 4″ piece. Remove the outer leaves one at a time until the leaves are no longer brownish or papery. The remainder should be about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Grab a rolling pin, hammer, or anything heavy and sturdy. Beat the crap out of the pieces of lemongrass. This releases the flavorful oils. Finally, cut the bruised pieces into 1/4″ slices. You’re good to go.

Lemongrass, Coconut & Ginger Ice Cream

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This Week at the Farmers Market: June Strawberry Salad

I spent Father’s Day weekend with dad at my parent’s country house near the Adirondacks, mowing, weeding, trimming overly eager tree branches, sweeping out the cobwebs, vacuuming the pool, and generally sprucing the place up in anticipation of summer. After our hard work we treated ourselves to a some fresh produce from the neighboring farms… not sure if you’ve heard but strawberry season is in full swing and THANK GOD, because strawberries are one of those fruits, like melons and blueberries (coming soon!!), that are basically bland and tough in the off-season. But holy mother, in June there’s nothing better.

Of course, juicy strawberries are superb on their own, topping off ice cream, boiled down for homemade jam, or baked into a pie. This weekend it was effing hot and I didn’t feel like turning on the oven, plus I wanted to try something a bit more savory to go with our dinner of grilled salmon. The farm stand down the road also sells local cheeses, meats and greens, so we picked up a bag of big, leafy spinach, and a small wheel of goat cheese, wonderfully named “Purple Haze,” and this salad was born.

June Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese, Fresh Spinach, and Lemon Vinaigrette

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Endless Poptails: Limoncello and Raspberry Whiskey Sour

Sometimes I’m so over myself, not in the teenage angst or a depressive sort of way. Just over the madness and procrastination I create from going from frenetically over-committing to complete laziness. This poptail was slated for Wednesday, then Thursday, now it’s Friday — apologies BS. But here’s the thing: when it comes time to deliver I give it my best. I never half-ass shit. This doesn’t always work out so well, since if it flops — well, I’m dead against the wall. But sometimes, like this time, it works out well in the most awesome way.

I know bragging is not en vogue, but I’m not bragging. I threw together some flavors and booze and the ingredients did the rest by blending and playing well with one another. The whiskey evens out the bite of the limoncello, especially if you buy storebought limoncello that can sometimes taste like cough syrup.  The raspberries provide a tart balance to the sour lemons and it makes for one cool floating layer. That’s right, you can make this with the raspberry layer floating since its lighter in volume than the limoncello layer.

Oh, and no sticks required, for this poptail. It’s Have Your Way Friday – yeah, for real. No bullshit, okay, kinda  – excuse the snypatic misfire of my brain. I lamed out and forgot them. Sticks or not – these are still totally edible! Cheers!

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