May 3, 2009

New Twist on Lemonade

Today is "lemonade day" -- a community-sponsored event to teach kids how to run their own lemonade stands. I'm probably not going to set up my own lemonade stand today, but I did try this new lemonade recipe this weekend and wanted to share it.

This recipe comes from Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita. Stitt is known for his two Birmingham, Alabama restaurants, Highland Bar & Grill, which applies French techniques to Southern flavors, and Bottega, which focuses on Italian and Mediterranean flavors. His book, Bottega Favorita, is one of my recent library finds and it's loaded with full, warm flavors.

Most people know how to make lemonade, right? But this new twist intrigued me because I'm a big vanilla-lover. You make a traditional sugar syrup but with a bit of a vanilla bean to flavor it. Then add your fresh lemon juice and you're there. It's very simple, but has a softer, rounder, more floral and addictive flavor. I'll be making lemonade this way from now on.

You'll want a fresh, fat vanilla bean for this. Go the extra mile and track down a real vanilla bean instead of extract. It makes a difference.

Vanilla Lemonade

4 cups filtered water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
10 ounces lemon juice, from about 4 large lemons

In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar and vanilla bean. Simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Pour the cooled syrup into a pitcher and add lemon juice. Stir to combine and then chill in the fridge. You can leave the vanilla bean in the pitcher, just remove it before serving.

This is pretty concentrated so serve it over lots of ice.

Serves 4-6.

Adapted from Bottega Favorita by Frank Stitt.

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