Pomegranate Mandarin Basil Champagne Spritzer

Nothing says holiday hospitality like being greeted with a champagne cocktail. Even better for all you discerning hosts and hostesses out there, its easy to put artisanal homemade love into such a concoction *ahead of time* (read: less hassle on the day-of). So you can feel like this is something special you’ve done for your guests (which it is), without having to add it to the juggling act on the day of a get together. This is not a sugary headache in the making. It is naturally mildly sweet with a balance of tartness and herbaceousness. If you try it, please let me know!

Basil plant + pomegranate fruit
Basil plant + pomegranate fruit
fresh pomegranates, I picked from the Central Valley orchards
fresh pomegranates, I picked from the Central Valley orchards
Patron orange liqueur
Patron orange liqueur
Mostly pomegranate arils, with some pith, membrane, and peel
Mostly pomegranate arils, with some pith, membrane, and peel
Pomegranates and mandarins and simmering
Pomegranates and mandarins and simmering
Syrup consistency
Syrup consistency
Add basil
Add basil
Stir basil in for about a minute
Stir basil in for about a minute
Strain
Strain
Resulting in about half a cup of syrup
Resulting in about half a cup of syrup

Pomegranate Mandarin Basil Champagne Spritzer
Author: 
Recipe type: Cocktail
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Excellent fresh ingredients are at the heart of this - fresh pomegranates (from my mom's tree), mandarin oranges, and basil. I can imagine trying to sub in rosemary for the basil, for an earthier fall flavor, but my basil plant is still going strong and smells amazing (perks of living in California), so that's what I used. No good cocktail is overly sweet, so if that's what you're looking for, you've come to the wrong place. This cocktail is mildly sweet, sufficiently tart, and has a touch of herbaceousness. These are real flavors, no added sugar to mask or enhance poor ingredients.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 medium pomegranate, yields a cup pomegranate arils, plus extra arils to use as garnish - keep this reserved to the side; keep some membrane, pith and peel reserved,
  • 1 seedless mandarin orange, quartered and then each quarter halved
  • 1 cup fresh loosely packed basil leaves, rinsed, dried and roughly chopped or torn
  • optional: 1 oz orange liqueur (I used Patron Citronge orange liqueur premium reserve 80 proof)
  • optional: 1 mandarin for peels of zest as garnish
  • optional: basil leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat water over medium heat until simmering.
  2. Add pomegranate arils, membrane, pith and peel.
  3. Stir with wide wooden spoon, carefully crushing arils to release juice without splattering, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add mandarin pieces and continue to simmer and crushing with back of wooden spoon to release juices, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Continue to stir occasionally, smashing arils and mandarin pieces as needed, until reduced to a syrup consistency, about 3-5 minutes more.
  6. Add basil and stir for about a minute to infuse flavors.
  7. Strain to produce about a half-cup of liquid.
  8. If using, add orange liqueur to strained liquid and stir.
  9. Cool until use.
  10. To serve, add a tablespoon of syrup to champagne flute, top with champagne, garnish with fresh pomegranate arils, basil leaf, mandarin zest. Enjoy.

 

What Makes a Meal MIND-Worthy?

MIND Diet book author is a registered dietitian, and culinary school trained, so recipes are healthy and delicious
MIND Diet book author in her chef whites

There are 75 recipes in The MIND Diet book to get you started, but when you’re ready to make your own meals, rest assured that the guidelines for creating healthy MIND diet meals are simple. The beauty of the MIND diet is its simplicity. The complicated part is done (the research). Based on natural whole foods, the MIND diet includes plenty of plant foods, complemented by a healthy helping of seafood and poultry. And don’t forget the wine!

How do you know if your meal is worthy to be tagged #minddietmeals? Simple, it will contain any of the 10 basic brain-healthy food groups, and none of the five brain-harming ones. With these basic guidelines, you’ll be creating your own MIND diet meals in no time.

The MIND diet’s brain-healthy food groups (and how often to eat them):

  1. Whole grains – 3x per day (i.e. daily)
  2. Vegetables – 1x per day (i.e. daily)
  3. Leafy green vegetables – 6x per week
  4. Nuts – 5x per week (e.g. a daily snack during the workweek)
  5. Beans – 3-4x per week (i.e. about every other day)
  6. Berries – 2x per week (e.g. fresh berries over 2 to 3 days, or frozen berries anytime)
  7. Poultry – 2x per week
  8. Fish – 1x per week
  9. Olive oil – use daily (I like CA Olive Ranch because it has a seal of authenticity from California Olive Oil Commission)
  10. Wine – 1x per day (i.e. one 5 oz glass daily)

 

The MIND diet’s brain-harming food groups (You’ll see there’s room for moderation, but reducing these foods as much as possible has many benefits for overall health):

  1. Butter/solid fats – less than a tablespoon per day
  2. Pastries/sweets – less than 5x per week
  3. Red meat – less than 4x per week
  4. Fried/fast foods – less than 1x per week (e.g. one or two times a month)
  5. Cheese – less than 1x per week (e.g. one or two times a month)

 

What are some simple meal ideas you can think of that include some of the 10 brain-healthy food groups?

Nectarine Gazpacho with California Avocado and Lime

I love summer for the bounty of stone fruit. In my excitement, sometimes I buy too much, and it gets overripe for my taste as a snack on its own. If this happens to you too, don’t throw it out, do what chefs have done throughout time with still-ok-but-overripe produce: make soup. Don’t forget to taste along the way to get the flavor you want.

 

MIND foods: Wine, Olive Oil

Yield: 6-8 servings

Time: 10 minutes plus chilling time (at least 30 minutes)

Difficulty: Easy

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium ripe yellow nectarines, cored and large chopped
  • 1/2 ripe California avocado
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp sweet vermouth
  • 1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or salt to taste
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-4 cups cold water
  • 4 ice cubes, blended (optional)

Optional garnishes:

  • 1 clove shallot, thinly sliced, soaked for 5+ minutes in rice wine vinegar and a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 avocado, thinly sliced

 

Directions: 

Wash and dry all fresh produce before beginning. Prep and measure all ingredients. In a large blender, combine nectarines, avocado, garlic, lime juice, sweet vermouth, vinegars, and salt, and blend until smooth. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and continue to blend. Optional: to speed up cooling, crush ice cubes in a food processor then add to main mixture. Add cold water a little at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let flavors meld. Garnish just before serving.

Nutrition: 125 calories, 9 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber

Nutrition information based on addition of 2 cups of cold water, and 6 servings yield; ice and garnishes not accounted for.