Agua fresca again
Generally I don't like to recycle previously published recipes until several years have passed. But a spell of hot-and-sticky summer weather, interrupted only very briefly in these parts by the rainy passage of the remnants of Hurricane Dennis, makes a cooling glass of agua fresca seem just right.
As I mentioned in celebrating this summer drink around this time last summer, my California "foodie" pal Hoke Harden introduced me to the concept, declaring agua fresca "so simple it's perfect ... so amazingly simple it's hard to believe it's as good as it is."
In summary, Harden posted on the Food Lovers' Discussion Group, agua fresca is simply "a bit of fresh crushed fruit in a big pitcher of ice and water. The trick is not to make a smoothie or an ice, but to put just a bit of fruit essence in the water. ... At the burrito and tortilla joints, you're apt to find several flavors of the day: strawberry, mango, papaya, watermelon, etc. The icy brace of water with just the hint of fresh fruit is amazingly refreshing, and it is so light and clear you can gulp down gallons of it on a hot day without ever tiring of it."
Just about any juicy fruit such as melons or berries will make a good agua fresca. Popular bases include watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, mango, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, papaya and, in more exotic realms, tamarind or nopalitos (cactus fruit). This simple recipe uses watermelon, my favorite. If you mix, match or create your own, please let us know how it goes!
INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
2 cups (500 ml) cold water
1. Cut the watermelon into roughly 1-inch cubes (precision is not important) and remove the seeds. If you're using other fruits, prepare them accordingly, removing seeds or skins and cutting into small pieces if necessary.
2. Combine all ingredients and blend in blender or food processor until smooth.
3. Pour through a strainer into a pitcher, forcing through most of the pulp. (The pulp is tasty and adds texture to the drink, but if you must have a clear drink, use a fine strainer and don't force the solids through.) Chill and serve.
CONCENTRATION: If you like agua fresca enough that you decide to keep a pitcher in the fridge, you'll soon notice that a big pitcher takes up a lot of room. Fortunately, it's easy to make it in a concentrated form that you can mix with water when you're in the mood for a glass. Put about 4 cups of fruit in a tall, narrow pitcher, add the sugar and lime juice, and then pour in just a little water, only enough to fill the spaces around the fruit (maybe 1 cup). Buzz it with the blender and put the result in the refrigerator to chill. When you want a tall glass, pour in a little of this thick slurry, then stir in three parts water to one of fruit, and add ice cubes.
Plan to drink it soon - it seems likely that the fruit would oxidize, ferment, or otherwise deterioriate after a few days in the fridge. But I'm not sure ... I've never let it last that long.
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Thursday, July 14, 2005
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