You have your marinade ready to go. You've got your quality olive
mixed with some brown mustard, herbs, garlic, and vinegar, in perfect
for that 24- to 36-hour sitting time that recipe you pulled from the
As you take that nice hunk of meat for which you just coughed up
pretty penny and carefully lay it in, it dawns on you: "What the
am I going to serve with this?"
Wine? No. Chances are, unless you have a bona fide sommelier coming over,
one will be able to tell the difference between a ten- or hundred dollar
of the stuff. Plus, there are actually some people (yes, even your
that are so "wine snobby" they will be let down if the label
California and not Argentina or Italy.
And you can forget beer. No sense in serving a cheap domestic with your
of chateaubriand, so you have other things to consider, like microbrews
imports. Microbrews are great, but offer spotty consistency, and there are
imports you can neither decipher nor pronounce. Really, what do you care
it was brewed by Trappist Monks?
LOOK TO YOUR PLANTS
Just as the whole point of your marinade is to impart its flavor into
meat, those herbs you use can convey their flavors and oils into something
your drinks. From your favorite teas and lemonades to that thirst quencher
crave after a hard day of work, adding herbs to your beverages can both
your meal and save it from catastrophe (overcooking that meat to, you
Below are three readily available herbs that will make any dinner more
For the Family:
Add sprigs of mint to freshly-brewed tea and let it cool. The amount you
will depend on both the amount of tea and the resting time, so best advice
to add more just when you think you have enough. You can cut it with more
or tea later if it is too overpowering.
For Friends Coming Over:
You would be hard-pressed to find a better adder to rum drinks than mint,
any mint works well. The most famous rum-mint concoction is by far the
and making it is a cinch. All you need is a shaker, your favorite rum,
soda, fresh mint, and lots of lime.
Drop the leaves into the shaker, squeeze the limes, add the rum and some
cubes, cover, and shake. Shake it like it's paint. Not only does
mix the ingredients well, it helps the ice crush the leaves to release
volatile oils, and that is what you are after.
Uncover the shaker, and pour all the contents into a glass. Top with the
soda, garnish with a lime wedge and mint leaf, and call yourself a
For the Family:
Milk is wonderful, especially when it is served warm. In India and
warm milk is served with meals to help cope with strongly spiced foods.
even though you may not add too much spice to your foods at the house,
milk infused with a little lemon basil is a definite, and easy,
winner. Just warm your milk either over the stove or in the microwave.
it is ready, add a leaf or two of lemon basil, and let it steep, just as
would a tea. Go light at first: one leaf per cup is a good starting point
you get used to the flavors. After that, you can add all you want.
For Friends Coming Over:
When mixing drinks, vodka is the ubiquitous libation of choice because of
near neutrality. Yes, it still has some bite, but as it takes on the
of the other ingredients, it becomes a lot like water (just water that
you more social and fun at parties).
Lemon basil is citrusy and sharp, and when introduced to vodka, lime
and simple syrup (or agave nectar), it can make a martini your friends
brag about for years.
Add a shot or two of vodka into a shaker with some ice and the rest of
ingredients and shake vigorously, like you are jamming a crowbar into
for a room renovation. Just like mint in the mojito, you want to crush the
basil to extract its oils.
Pour everything through a fine-mesh strainer (not that lame one that
with the shakers) and into some chilled martini glasses, and serve.
To help round out your entertaining adventure, try serving some
such as an easy Italian antipasto salad, or end with a dessert of ricotta
topped with an apricot jam. You can serve on a small plate, but even small
bowls will do just as well.
And above all else, don't forget to have fun!
Article contributed by SimpleItalianCooking, a website resource for
cookware reviews for the best Italian espresso maker or Delonghi ice cream makers.
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