Lassi: Refreshing Indian Summer Drink

As our days become sweltering, summer recipes may help us beat the heat.

In India, temperatures can reach as high as 122°F in the summer. Traditionally, Indians did not avail themselves of air conditioning to stay cool. One of their summer survival strategies is to sip on a refreshing lassi: a cold drink whose base is a blend of yogurt and chilled water. Lassis may be savory or sweet.

The process of making savory lassi begins with dry roasting spices. Cumin is toasted whole, and then ground with a mortar and pestle. Mint leaves, ginger root, or chili peppers are selected. Black salt, or Kala Namak, a mild type of salt which is naturally mined in India, is used for garnish. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, a liquid derivative of cannabis is added. This is called Bhang Lassi. Indians prefer to use the thick milk curd from full fat cow’s milk that they make at home. The yogurt is placed in a bowl. Cold water is poured into the yogurt. The salt and ground roasted cumin are added. These ingredients are mixed with a hand held wooden whisk called a madani. I use a blender. The lassi is poured into clay vessels, and garnished with fresh mint leaves, ground ginger root, or sliced chili peppers. If you like, you may add ice cubes to make it colder. Lassi should be served with a spoon.

Salted Lassi

Photo by Benjamin Vander Steen

Photo by Benjamin Vander Steen

Adapted from Veg Recipes of India

  • 2 1/2 cups yogurt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kala NamakĀ 
  • Fresh mint leaves
  1. Place all the ingredients except the mint leaves in a blender.
  2. Blend well.
  3. Pour into tall glasses over ice cubes.
  4. Garnish with mint leaves.

Sweet lassis may be flavored with fruit pulp. The most popular is mango lassi. Other fruits that are typically included are strawberry, papaya, and banana. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is another widely used addition. Rosewater, sugar, raw honey, cardamom powder, and saffron are also added. Toasted sliced nuts are sometimes used as a crunchy garnish.

Mango Lassi

Adapted from Raks Kitchen

  • 2 cups mango pulp (you may purchase it frozen)
  • 3/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Saffron strands
  1. Dry roast the cardamom pod.
  2. Grind the cardamom pod with a mortar and pestle. You may just use 1/6th teaspoon (or less) of store bought cardamom powder.
  3. Place all the ingredients except the saffron strands in a blender and mix well.
  4. Pour into a tall glass over ice cubes.
  5. Garnish with saffron.



The New Home-Made Gazoz

— by Ronit Treatman

In primeval times, the earliest humans enjoyed effervescent water from springs in which sodium carbonate from underground rocks dissolved into the water. This created the first natural soda.  

In the 18th century, Joseph Priestly discovered that holding a bowl of water over a vat of beer would infuse the water with carbon dioxide. This was the first homemade seltzer water.

Soda syphons were invented in the 1800s. These were special bottles that could dispense soda without releasing all of the trapped gases, and kept the soda from going flat. Syphons were very popular in the 1920s and 1930s.  

During World War II, the syphon factories in Europe were bombed. Carbonated water began to be commercially bottled and marketed, and soda syphons fell out of favor.

Recipe after the jump.

Soda syphons fell out of favor in Europe after World War II.

In Israel, however, soda syphons remained popular well into the 1960s. The soda they produced was called gazoz. As a special treat, children were allowed to mix the plain seltzer water with a sweetened fruit syrup concentrate.  

Now the pendulum is swinging back: Due to concern for the environmental impact of disposable soda containers, many people are returning to the tradition of making their own seltzer water at home. Instead of adding the sugar-laden syrups of the past, they are flavoring their sodas with fresh fruit.

I initiated the switch in my house by purchasing a soda-making machine from Sodastream. I chose the SodaStream Penguin Sparkling Water Maker. It comes with dishwasher-safe glass bottles. Once it arrived, it was time to get creative and make some delicious sodas.

Some of the most refreshing drinks I know are called aguas frescas, “fresh waters” in Spanish. They are made with natural tropical fruit juices, mixed with cold water. I saw no reason why this would not taste even better with carbonated water.  

Where would I get all the fresh tropical fruits that I craved in February in Philadelphia? I decided to reach straight to the source: Goya Foods sells unsweetened tropical fruit pulp. The fruits are picked at the peak of ripeness, and processed on the spot. The pulp is frozen to lock in the flavor, and then shipped to the U.S.

Here is an easy recipe for aguas frescas. I like my drinks tart, but you may sweeten yours with natural grape or apple juice. Goya Foods sells the pulp of passion fruit, papaya, mango, tamarind, guava, and coconut, among others.  

Passion Fruit Gazoz

  • 1 tablespoon passion fruit pulp
  • 1 cup of sparkling water
  • 1 tablespoon grape or apple juice (or other juice to taste)
  • ice cubes
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a glass.  
  2. Stir well and enjoy!

Mix it Up: Cereal and Fruits

— by Dakota Marine

As I opened the cereal cupboard in the kitchen of my Sorority house, my eyes scanned the top shelf, as I looked for my Rice Chex cereal. I wanted to make something different, a fun food invention. After seeing a couple of my Sorority sisters create these crazy colored, deliciously filled bags of homemade trail mix, I decided it was my turn.

More after the jump.
I pulled out the box of cereal, measured a cup of Chex and dumped it into a small zip-loc baggy. Then I added in a handful of dark red sticky Craisins and shook the bag, shuffling the food up and down. Even with just two ingredients, this snack looked salty and sweet and ready to eat, but I could not stop there. I waterfall-dropped some Almonds in the bag and again shook it up and down. I returned to my room to finish off my creation, I rummaged in my food drawer until I found my last bag of freeze-dried fruit. I tore the bag open and dumped in the freeze-dried strawberries and bananas.

The mix looked complete. The colorful array of the burgundy Craisins, the bright redish-pink strawberries and the soft earth tones of the Chex cereal, the bananas and almonds. My first bite was full of crunch of the Chex, mixed with a soft, squishy after bite from the Craisins. The strawberries and bananas melted in my mouth, as I went back for a second bite. There’s something to be said about playing with your food when you’re over the age of a toddler… but I’m not embarrassed to say, I play with my food and I have fun.

Dakota Marine is the creator of Eat My Tailgate, where she takes us into her sorority’s kitchen.