Friday, June 20, 2014

I'll Drink to That!

this week i had the good fortune to raise my glass in celebration many times.  it started on monday with my birthday in the form of a spritzer made from passionfruit juice, gerolsteiner naturally sparkling mineral water and a slice of lime.  super refreshing! tuesday i toasted a paper cup full of my home-brew of choice, vanilla-cardamom kombucha, at greenlight bookstore in fort green, brooklyn. i was there to do a cooking demo for the recent release of Nina Planck's Real Food Cookbook. i am very proud to have contributed an essay and the drinks section to this beautiful book.  wednesday i sipped fermented beet kvass the color of blood, sweet and silky and infused with fresh tarragon as i made the announcement that my band, the emily duff band, had officially released our first single, now available for sale online at and then ran out to gig at arlene's grocery on stanton street.  thursday found me and my entire family with ball jars full of gingerade at murray's cheese, once again excited and cheering for the official release of Nina's book.  finally friday, i will churn up a frothy glass tumbler full of a vanilla balsamic raw milk egg cream and thank my lucky stars that i have the night to relax and enjoy my family!  

i don't know about you but i am a child of the 60s and was raised drinking hoffman's and dr. brown's sodas, seltzer brought by irving the seltzer man in beautiful blue glass bottles, egg creams from seymour's luncheonette and chocolate milk made with u-bet chocolate syrup and pasteurized milk.  in the 70's we took the nestea plunge, went to the moon with tang and got our country time on with "convenient' powdered drinks.  who knew?

these days my life does not include soda, powdered drinks and not much from a bottle you buy at the store. we stay away from vegetable and fruit juices unless we juice them ourselves. as a chef, i have found that creating your own drinks can be as creative as putting together a three course meal and more economical too!  kombucha has become a popular trend these days and i am very happy to see that.  a fermented sweet tea, kombucha is a restorative cold drink that supplies, enzymes, probiotics and helps to detoxify the liver.  not to mention that it tastes great!  in the store you will pay anywhere from $3.50 up to $5 for a 16 oz. bottle.  by brewing your own at home, that same 16oz. bottle costs just .50!  not to mention the fact that you get to make up your own flavors and have a bit of microbiology going on in your own home.  our favorite flavors are lemon-mint, watermelon-basil, lemon-ginger-raspberry, straight-up strawberry, pink grapefruit, concord grape in the fall, vanilla-cardamom and cinnamon-spice. my children love to see the process of fermentation going on in our home kitchen.  sometimes they will have an idea for a new flavor and want to take me to the market to find all of the ingredients to make that flavor happen.  at the end of the brewing process they can't wait to taste the final product and share it with friends and family.  talk about a community building project! the brewing process takes roughly 2 weeks, give or take a few extra days for the secondary fermentation to flavor and build up "fizz."  for a really special treat, add a few generous shakes of angostura bitters and a generous squeeze of lemon to your kombucha for a cocktail that quenches the thirst and helps with digestion!  if i am going to spend money on a store bought kombucha these days, sometimes we drink faster than we can produce,  i tend to gravitate toward high country kombucha.  their wild root and ginger flavored kombucha is top notch! while i am here....kombucha in all it's flavors and forms is also great to cook with.  remember my post on ginger kombucha battered fish and chips?  check it out!  

other fermented beverages we like to make at home are beet kvass which calls for freshly peeled and cut up beets, liquid whey, sea salt and filtered water.  this rich, silky drink is a great tonic to start the day and is a great blood builder - not to mention a great base for a salad dressing!  my son loves to make fermented ginger ale.  it is different from bottled ginger ale in that is has no C02 added. it gets it fizz from liquid whey, rapadura sugar and natural fermentation.  fresh ginger, fresh lemon and lime juice and some chopped dried apricots lend a beautiful sweetness to the brew.  we often add fresh mint or thai basil to create a freshness when we serve it.  it goes so well with spicy thai dishes and home made sushi.

the egg cream is something that i hold near and dear to my heart.  it is a soda fountain experience that brings back memories of my old neighborhood in queens, my grandma sylvia and my uncle mitch. in the old days it was a combo of pasteurized milk, u-bet chocolate syrup and fountain seltzer.  these days i make it with a vanilla balsamic syrup i make by reducing balsamic vinegar with a split vanilla bean till it's a thick syrup.  you can store this in the fridge for ages and it will be good to go, no worries.  in an 8 oz. glass i use 3 TBS. syrup, then fill the glass half way with raw milk or raw milk kefir, then slowly add naturally sparkling mineral water while vigorously stirring to create a head of foam on the top.  this drink takes me right back to my childhood and begs me to eat a good kosher beef hot dog and knish.

another summer favorite, and a recipe i contributed to Nina's book is a cucumber lemonade with ginger, mint and stevia.  fill up a pitcher with good filtered water and add a generous handful of thinly sliced cucumbers, a TBS. of freshly grated ginger and 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice.  feel free to use lime, orange, grapefruit, etc....find your favorite.  add stevia to taste in very small amounts (it can go wrong quickly) and then mottled fresh mint leaves - basil is beautiful too.  you can let this sit out in the sun to infuse if you like and then refrigerate or just serve over ice.  a major refresher.....for the adults, add chilled vodka or gin. makes a nice summer martini!  garnish with pickled cucumbers or preserved lemons.

did you know that drinking your breakfast is an awesome way to start your day?  here is our favorite smoothie recipe:

1 cup of either (raw) milk, kefir, yogurt, colostrum, etc.
1 cup raw coconut water
2 crazy brown ripe cold bananas
1 tsp. camu camu powder
1 tsp. barleans greens powder
1/2 tsp. macca powder
3 capsules dr. ron's organ delight emptied in the jug
2 raw pastured egg yolks
1 cup frozen berries of your choice

whip it all up with a hand blender, vitamix or counter top blender and enjoy!

before i sign off and head to the kitchen to create something beautiful and delicious for lunch i want to remind y'all that what i mostly put into my glass these days is pure, clean water.  i don't go overboard and swill it all day long but i do get what i consider to be my fill and what's more important it is clean and pure.  we have a three stage counter top filter that we purchased at that removes flouride, chlorine, bacteria, sediment, etc.  there are many types and brands on the market but i do recommend that you have a look and see what works best for you and your budget.  some of the popular, excellent filters come from radiant life, berkey and pure earth.  our bodies depend on water, please make pure and clean water a priority for you and your loved ones.

kombucha and water kefir are a great alternative to store bought sodas that are full of chemicals, refined sugars and unwanted additives. herbal teas, tonics, smoothies and ades are health restoring, thirst quenching and delicious!  what we can do with drinks in the creative kitchen is a super satisfying, loving and innovative way to save money and introduce new, fresh flavors when bringing your friends and Family2Table and i will always drink to that!  cheers & enjoy!!


equipment/ingredient wise you need very little.
- 1 gallon glass pyrex bowl or 1 gallon glass anchor jar (an old fashioned candy jar)
- 2 air tight glass bottles to store the kombucha in the fridge (i use the Ikea bottles. they are tight and cheap)
- a box of 365 brand organic black tea from whole foods
- a bag of 365 brand organic evaporated can sugar from whole foods
- masking tape
- a tea towel
- a stainless steel pot to boil and brew
- pure filtered water
- a starter culture (from a bottle or a friend)

1. place 3 quarts of filtered water in a pot and bring to a boil
2. add 1 cup organic evaporated cane juice (i use whole foods organic 365 brand) to the pot and stir till dissolved (about 5 minutes)
3. add 4 tea bags (i use whole foods organic 365 brand) to the pot and turn off flame and cover
4. when tea has cooled to room temp (at least 5 hours - i put mine up at night and let it brew and cool till morning)
5. remove tea bags and put tea into 1 gallon capacity glass bowl
6. add 1/2 cup kombucha (starter to inoculate)
7. place scoby on top - it will float - sometimes it sinks. that's okay
8. using masking tape, make a criss-cross over the bowl and date with marker
9. put tea towel over the bowl and put in a warm place (i put mine on top of the fridge)
10. check after 5 days (the sweetness and the tea flavor should be gone) depending on the temp. in your house,
warmer cultures faster, it could take up to 10 days.

to harvest
remove scoby and baby - which will be attached to each other - and place liquid in bottles with air tight stoppers.
refrigerate and drink.  save 1/2 cup for next batch and now you have a scoby to share or put in a glass jar and refrigerate
with some kombucha until someone asks you for it.
(you can do a secondary fermentation in these bottles if you want it extra fizzy.
instead of putting it in the fridge, put an extra teaspoon of sugar in each bottle
and let stand for another 3 days before refrigerating).

as always, if you have any questions about the drinks please contact me at




  1. Hi Emily: Love your new post! Could you post a link to the Ikea bottles and I'd love to experiment w/the flavored kombuchas that you mention. Basil/watermelon is such a beautiful combo! When/how in the process do we add those ingredients. When I make a watermelon-basil "juice" I strain the melon through a sieve and then combine the juice w/basil infused simple syrup.

    best -- Cristina

    1. hi cristina, the flavoring happens in the secondary fermentation after you have harvested the plain kombucha and put it into the air tight bottles ( - by the way you can also use Grolsch beer bottles after the beer is gone and the bottles rinsed out. When you have the kombucha in the bottles, simply add your flavoring and then lock tight and put in a warm place for about.three days. feel free to taste after 48 hours and see if the flavor is where you want it to be. I find that sweet summer melon is sweet enough for me without the added sugar of an infused juice with simple syrup . with that said, everyone's taste is very different so what i would do is use that watermelon basil juice as you already make it. add 1/4 cup of the juice to the kombucha in the bottle and that's it! just so you know, what I do is add pieces of watermelon (seeded) and torn basil directly into the bottle with the kombucha and let it do it's thing just like that - easy as can be! find the right method for you but don't be afraid to make it rough and ready peasant style. the less fuss the better. the sugar from the fruit will impart flavor & fizz and that is so beautiful when chilled on a hot summer day. enjoy!

  2. So good to have you writing a post again! We've missed you!

  3. Thank you for sharing this amazing drinks with us.
    compare best parking deals

  4. Would love to know more about these amazing and delicate drinks.
    luton airport parking