Further to my last post on grilled vegetables and that weird wedding thing, I had the other crazy idea of making sure I made the drinks interesting (and myself), as well. We didn’t have endless amounts of money to spend on food and fancy vessels to serve that food, so my goal was to make everything was colourful and vibrant as possible and still serve about 40. In addition, I had no interest in really having cut flowers (or carrying any because what even is that?! I’m not an ornament; I’m a human being – even on the day I was a bride), but decoration was still important to me. The answer was obvious very quickly and clearly: fresh herbs! They’re beautiful, fragrant and delicious.
So herbs, it was. The season was perfect for large bundles to be available from the Farmer’s Market (The down-and-dirty Jean Talon, specifically) for more than reasonable prices. When I selected the dozens of bundles of herbs, the farmer was curious if it was for a restaurant. My trusty maid of honour and attendant were nice enough to run translation from English to French for me and explain it was a wedding. The man assured us we could exchange the herbs if they didn’t hold out until the day of the wedding and then began piling free herbs and vegetables into our hands. Ahh, the market was already my favourite place to go, but this was above and beyond anything I’d expected. I did go back last weekend (for basil to make pesto) and showed a picture or two of the presentation and was gifted with even more free produce, including the most super delicious tomatoes ever. I didn’t have my translators this time, so the conversation was, um, difficult. Damn it, my French is the worst still and I’ve been here a year and a half. I’m going to jot down their name next time because I want to add it to this post. Right, so back to the wedding (which is far duller than farmer’s market talk, let me tell you) and those herb infused drink recipes.
First, here, have a picture of my maid of honour and her love, our attendant (and photographers and driver and bodyguards and saviours) :
OK, right back on track, when one thinks of a picnic, one may think of iced tea and lemonade. I also thought they were complimentary to my menu and each other. I picked rosemary lemonade and a strawberry-basil iced tea. I needed drinks I could make a couple days beforehand and I wanted 6 litres of each. I bought a box of a dozen 1 litre mason jars and everything worked out dandy. Combined with a couple of cases of bottled water, and everyone was well hydrated. The thing about having your wedding in a park, is you don’t really know what your set-up is going to be until you arrive and you see what’s free. I was pleased as possible with what we were able to accomplish. It ended up being a drink station and the cupcakes on two separate barbecue stands and all of the food on a round-ish picnic table, including the seats.
Makes 1 litre
1 cup sugar
7 cups water
4 sprigs rosemary
4 – 5 lemons, the juice of
In a small saucepan, add 1 cup of water and the sugar to a boil. You’re making a simple syrup here; nothing fancy. Once the water is boiling and all the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and put 2 sprigs of rosemary in the syrup. You’re going to let the syrup cool with the rosemary in it. This will infuse the simple syrup with plenty of fresh herb flavour.
Juice the lemons into the container you plan on serving the lemonade in. Once the syrup has cooled, remove the rosemary and add it to the lemon juice. Top with water, mix well and garnish with more fresh rosemary. Also, please taste before serving because I like a nice tart lemonade, but I sweetened this more than I normally would because it was for guests whose palettes I was not familiar with.
Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea
Makes 1 litre
1 cup sugar
1 large fresh basil, plus more leaves for garnish
8 black tea bags (something strong; I used Red Rose, like a good Canadian)
4 cups (just under) boiling water
2 1/2 cups cold water
1/2 cup frozen whole strawberries (cut them in half if they’re large)
Again, simple syrup: bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil. Once all the sugar has dissolved, take off of the heat and add the fresh basil. Let it infuse and cool together. Brew double strong tea, 8 tea bags to 4 cups nearly boiling water. Let the tea steep for 5 minutes and then let it cool. In the container you are serving it in, add the steeped tea, strained simple syrup, cold water, frozen strawberries and 5 or 6 large fresh basil leaves.
From the leftovers I can tell you, this tea keeps getting better the longer it sits.
I leave you with another view of my much-loved herbs, taken sometime at the beginning of setting up.