A Summer Refresher

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I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I am a terrible bartender. Even when I follow cocktail recipes, they turn out horrible. My husband says it’s only because I pick out terrible recipes, but I’m not completely sure that’s the problem. But I have given up on trying to make drinks containing herbaceous liqueurs, like Saint Germain, Pernod, Chartreuse, and Galliano. I guess I’m not hip enough to enjoy those flavors!

During the summer months, I make a lot of sangria, and I’m actually pretty good at sangria. Or, at least I think I am. When my older daughter is at my house, she always needs to “fix” it. And she always makes it better. Must be something about that summer she lived in Spain…


Because I don’t love strong alcohol flavor, I don’t ever use brandy in sangria, which is traditional. I like to use sweet wines instead.

I’ve mentioned Quady Vineyards in a post before, because they make fabulous moscatos. I am aware that sweet wines are not terribly popular. In fact, they’re probably drunk by white Zinfandel fans. But their moscatos are superb!

I used an orange moscato, called Electra, in my Strawberry Tiramisu recently, and for the sangria I made today, shown above, I used Quady’s Red Electra. (The sangria turned out fabulous!)

On the Quady Winery website, they write that Red Electra was “first released in 1993, is garnet red, tastes of succulent cherry, berry, and peach, and has a slight sparkle. Try it with all kinds of desserts and cheeses including chocolate bon-bons, truffles, spiced holiday cookies, vanilla, and fruit. Red Electra is made by combining Orange and Black Muscat grapes, and fermenting them very slowly at a low temperature so they keep their delicious flavors. That’s why Red Electra tastes like a bowl full of cherries.

Just to make sure it would work well in the sangria, my husband and I taste-tested the Red Electra. It was like nectar of the gods.
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Then I had an idea. I poured some Red Electra in a bigger glass and added some Fresca, which I had on hand because I always use it in sangria. Typically I don’t create cocktails, and it’s not surprising that my alcoholic “invention” consists of only two ingredients. But it got me thinking. Besides Fresca, what would Red Electra be like paired with Champagne, or Prosecco? I had some experimentation ahead of me!!!

So here’s my offering for a refreshing summer drink. I suggest three varieties depending if you like sweeter, less sweet, or unsweet. You could even add sparkling or soda water for two more varieties. I’m just so creative!!!

Red Electra Sparkler

3 ounces Quady Red Electra, chilled
4 ounces Prosecco, chilled, or
4 ounces Champagne, chilled, or
4 ounces Fresca, chilled

On the day this cocktail was “created” daughter happened to be visiting, and we did the taste test together. We began with 3 ounces of Red Electra, and added equal amounts of Prosecco, Fresca, and Champagne.


The drinks were on the sweet side with this ratio.

So that’s when we came up with the ratio of 3 ounces of Red Electra to 4 ounces of mixer. Plus, we added ice. Even though all of the above ingredients were fully chilled, the drinks needed ice for them to stay cold and refreshing.
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We both picked our favorite combination, and it was the Prosecco version. The Fresca version was good, but it was “sweet” and still tasted like Fresca. The Champagne variety was good, but the Champagne seemed to disappear in the drink.

The Prosecco and Red Electra was a perfect match!


It was also the most refreshing – even without ice!

We made this cocktail on the first day of summer, and it topped out at 99 degrees that day!
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I’m stocking up on Red Electra. It is quite versatile!

Strawberry Tiramisu

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Many years ago, my girlfriend Gabriella made a strawberry tiramisu, and I’ve never forgotten it. It was made in the same manner as a traditional tiramisu, but without the coffee element. Instead, it had layers of beautiful spring strawberries.

So I wanted to finally make this twist of the popular Italian dessert using traditional ingredients like Savoirdi biscuits and marscapone, plus strawberries. However, I pondered upon what liquid to use in which to dip the biscuits.

A million years ago, approximately, my husband and I went to a Food and Wine Tasting in Aspen, Colorado. It was the same week that O. J. Simpson “allegedly” killed two people. I remember the actual day that he was followed along highway 101 in the white Bronco because it was my younger daughter’s birthday – June 12th.

In any case, the festival itself was a bit crazy. I think they sold too many tickets! Being short, I was always being elbowed by tall men who’d obviously never tasted wine or food before. Even if I was in front of a vendor table, people were reaching past me, around me, and over me. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m not much of a crowd lover, so it was a bit stressful and painful for me. The good parts were having Stephen Pyles sign my cookbook, even though I was accused of stealing it (I had already purchased the cookbook in Denver before heading to Aspen), seeing a demonstration with Patricia Wells, and then attending a demonstration with Julia Child. Even my husband really appreciated that.

So why am I bringing this all up? There was a new winery at the festival – Quady Winery. The representatives were serving small scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with a drizzle of Essencia, made from orange muscat grapes. It was fabulous. I personally think there’s a proper place for sweet and dessert wines, and these have since become award-winning wines.


There’s Electra as well, which is made from a black muscat grape. If you ever see them, give one a try. I actually have used both in making sangria, to replace the brandy element that’s too strong for me.

So back to the tiramisu. I thought an orange element, from the Essencia and from oranges themselves, along with the strawberries would create a perfectly delicious spring dessert! Here’s what I did.


Strawberry Tiramisu

16 ounces Marscapone, at room temperature
16 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
3 oranges, juice and zest used
Strawberries, picked over, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
Essencia
1 – 7 ounce box Savoirdi biscuits (I only used half)
Pearl sugar, optional

Begin by placing the marcapone and yogurt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar.


Add the zest of three oranges, and beat again until well distributed.

Set aside the marscapone mixture, and begin with the berries. I had hoped to use my own garden strawberries in this dessert, but they’ve been attacked by some kind of creepy crawly.

Slice the strawberries into even slices; mine were approximately 1/4″ thick. Place in a medium bowl. Add the sugar, and the juice of 1/2 an orange.


Toss well and set aside.

Using a square baking dish 8″ in diameter, begin by placing a layer of half of the marscapone mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Using a spatula, spread smooth.
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Pour approximately 1 1/2 cups of Essencia into a flat baking dish. Add the juice of one orange and stir well. Taste the mixture. If you want it sweeter, add a little honey or agave syrup.

Place the biscuits in the wine mixture, then turn over. You don’t want them to fall apart, but you do want them softened. Work with only a few at a time.

Place them over the marscapone in the baking dish. Make them fit however you have to!
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Add half the strawberries, then cover with the remaining marscapone, and top it with the remaining strawberries. There is only one layer of the softened biscuits.
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Cover the dish tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Slice and serve. I had mine still chilled with an espresso for breakfast!

But of course it’s perfect for dessert, warmed to room temperature, and served with Essencia or another dessert wine.


I put a few sprinkles of pearl sugar on the top for fun! It adds a sweet crunch.


This recipe doesn’t touch the traditional version of tiramisu, see note below, but it’s still really fun and highlights the sweet spring strawberries!


note: Traditional Italian tiramisu is typically made with a sabayon. My version is simpler, but not better. The sabayon makes the marscapone layer much lighter. Also, lady fingers and savoirdi biscuits have a similar shape, but that’s all they have in common. Lady fingers are light and soft, while savoirdi biscuits are hard and crisp. They should not be confused.