I love to listen to Lynne Rossetto Kasper host The Splendid Table on the weekends, because she speaks so emphatically about cooking and eating, and she also seems to know everything! For example, a few weeks ago a listener called into the show and asked about how she could use rosewater in her everyday cooking. Lynne rambled off a list of ideas, and the idea that stood out to me was her rose lemonade with fresh flowers. She suggested adding a dollop of rose water to a pitcher of ice cold lemonade, topped with fresh edible buds. Viola, a stunning centerpiece and refreshing beverage all in one.
I had to give it a try, and this weekend's Jazz at the Witte was a good occasion. Combine the lemonade with a Caprese sandwich made with fresh basil and a basalmic reduction, then plop everything on a picnic blanket with your honey next to you, some jazzy music in the background, and the shade of a huge oak tree shielding you from the hot summer sun, and you have yourself a delightful summer afternoon.
as adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper on The Splendid Table
Rosewater essence is very affordable and can be purchased at Middle Eastern food markets and online. A small bottle goes a long way. I think I may use too heavy a hand in when pouring my rosewater, as I tend to ascribe to the philosophy that if a little is good, a lot is better. However, when it comes to rosewater, abundance is not the best course of action. You really can overdo it with just a few extra drops. The goal is to add a light essence of rose, more of a second thought or an auroma than an actual flavor. Too much starts to taste like perfume. Please proceed lightly, drop by drop by drop, until you find your desired essence.
1 1/3 cups fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
5 1/3 cups water
Mix the lemon juice and sugar in a large container or pitcher until the sugar has dissolved. Add the water and stir thoroughly. Taste and add more sugar if desired. For a truly Middle Eastern taste use a portion of honey in addition to sugar to sweeten the tart. Add the rosewater essence to your desired strength. I start with half a tablespoon and add more if needed. Be careful, as too much essence will cause the rose flavor to overwhelm the other flavors in the lemonade. Chill well before serving. Serve over ice.
You can also mix up a pitcher of frozen concentrated lemonade instead of using fresh lemons. Start with a half tablespoon of essence and add more as desired. Additionally, you can combine about half a teaspoon of rosewater essence with a tall glass of lemonade for a single serving.
For an incredible presentation, sprink eddible flowers (preferably rosepetals) on the surface of the lemonade. Serve with straws in old mason jars for a summer picnic!