When I was last in Israel a few years ago, I remember being struck by the scores of fresh juice and smoothie kiosks around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Some were small and humble — little more than an old-fashioned citrus press and a blender. Others were more elaborate. But they were everywhere, dotting open-air markets and streets, often adorned with a perfectly glistening pomegranate or pomelo sliced in half sitting a top a pile of fruit, beckoning like a mirage.
Lured in one sunny afternoon, I ordered a fresh strawberry juice. I am certain there were other fruits and perhaps vegetables in the drink too. But all I can remember is how vividly and utterly strawberry-like it tasted. This elixir both captured and elevated the fruit’s essence. It was the inside of a strawberry pie, a bite into a fresh strawberry, still warm and straight from the field.
I came back to Brooklyn swearing that I would buy a juicer so I could recreate the experience at home. I did. But after one look at the hulking piece of machinery sitting on my tiny Brooklyn countertop, I ran directly back to the store for an exchange. (I also came home swearing I would start eating chopped tomatoes and cucumbers with labnheh for breakfast on the regular, but that dream fizzled too.)
I may not have become an avid juicer, but I have been thinking of ways to take advantage of the bounty of berries currently available at the market and turn them into a beverage. In a boozy homage to that amazing strawberry juice, I came up with a breakfast-friendly strawberry bellini. I swapped out a bellini’s typical peach puree for a ruby mash of fresh in-season strawberries, and added in an ample drizzle of rosemary and thyme-infused simple syrup. Topped with a bubbly splash of Prosecco (or seltzer if you’re serving kids or a non-drinking crowd), it tastes like summer in a glass.
Herb-Infused Strawberry Bellini
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 thick strip lemon zest
2 cups quartered strawberries, plus more sliced strawberries for garnish
Chilled Prosecco or seltzer, for topping
1) Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan. Lightly crush/bruise the rosemary and thyme with your fingers and add to the saucepan along with the lemon zest. Over medium-high heat, let the mixture come to a boil; boil for 1 minute then remove from stove and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Strain syrup through a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl, discarding the herbs and zest. Set aside.
2) Place the strawberries in a deep bowl and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth (or keep a few chunks, if desired).
3) Divide the strawberry puree between 6 champagne flutes. Add 1 ounce of the simple syrup to each flute and stir to combine. Top each glass with Prosecco and garnish with a rosemary sprig and sliced strawberries.
Leah Koenig is a contributing editor at the Forward and author of “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen,” Chronicle Books (2015).