*right, so i typed this at 4am and lost half of it. will finish editing and recreating as the time allows. please forgive our verbolicious dust.*
The other night Madame Claudia kindly invited me to dinner. Now before you get all too titillated 'Madame' does NOT connote a lady of the night but rather a slightly older wiser friend from French class back in the day (where 'day' = 'when I still actually went'). When I arrived at the Madame's abode I was greeted by a vision in floral print and a large glass pitcher with the beginnings of a sublime summer beverage. (I apologize for the photo quality, I blame my shaking on hunger pangs.)
Cruel cruel woman that she is she put me straight to work to earn my supper (I jest, I would have come earlier to help with the dinner part but was running late, are you surprised?) While the Madame continued to cut, squeeze, and slice lemons with a rather frighteningly large knife I was in charge of drawing and quartering the helpless strawberries. All of this was to be added to the marinating alchemical concoction of ice, sugar, and vanilla beans.
After adding some H2o to taste everything was blended to perfection by stirring with the same ridiculously oversized slicing and dicing implements (really, we just needed Edward Scissorhands to lend a hand). Why? Cause that's how her Momma did it. And her Momma's Momma. And...
Accompanying our succulent dinner, like feathered mule stilettoes on a 1950's starlet, was a very fresh and refreshing pleasantly pinkish beverage. Not too sweet nor sour, complex, heady and rather intoxicating.
Like any good recipe that has been handed down, there is no recipe (how zen). But rather a list of ingredients that is eyeballed amounts, tradition, and frequently tasted. Above all though, there is the 'rightness' and alignment to the memory of the original flavor. A hard thing to master (just read Vogue magazine food editor Jeffery Steingarten's article in The Man Who Ate Everything regarding his mother in law's fruitcakes or the time he tried to pin cup and tablespoon measurements to a recipe that has always been made off the cuff.) Here goes my best, I've recreated this at home sans exact measurements and it worked very well. In fact, according to the Madame, there is no one who doesn't LOVE this recipe. Humble, no? :) Luckily, she's been well justified in my experience. Without further ado....
Madame Claudia's Strawberry Vanilla lemonade
4-6 well washed lemons (depending on the size of your glass pitcher )
1/2 a vanilla bean
several cups of sugar
a handful of strawberries, hulled and quartered
water filled to the top of said glass pitcher
Generously fill a glass pitcher with ice, dust ice with granulated sugar until fairy like. Oh, who are we kidding? Dump in a whole lot, a restrained whole lot though. You will probably need to add more later. Take the vanilla bean and after a quick rinse cut in half the short way, holding on to the remainder for another special dish at a later time, and then the half of a bean in half down the middle the long way. Scrape the insides on to the ice and sugar and toss the pod in as well. Proceed to cut off the ends of the lemon and then cut in large round slices into the pitcher (I didn't squeeze my lemons into it before cutting them up, Claudia did. Both ways work equally well) Next add your strawberries, fill 'er up with the water of your choice and stir with ridiculously large knife. I am serious, don't even think about using your Granny's wooden spoon. This lemonade needs tough love. Stir/slice at until well blended and pink-ish. I would recommend drinking it the same day as the berries get a bit battered around. But no worries you'll finish it in one sitting. Cheers
Aside - For those of you getting sick of off-the-cuff NotRecipes (patent pending) and miscellaneous food and restaurant reviews, I will hopefully be doing some serious baking again soon. Real baking with actual measured amounts and mostly fixed ingredients. I've been dying to make some pretty pink champaign cupcakes (wow, did that ever sound girly! I feel like I ought to be 'hearting' the dots of my i's) for some time now but am waiting for a special occasion to do so. I have a whole birthday gift magnum of Veuve Clicquot in a fabulous orange carrying case and a box of really really cute cupcake toppers waiting for me. I am aiming for real recipes around the fall. When I am feeling more inclined to fire up Bessy the ol' oven again. But one never knows. :)