Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Agua fresca again

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 Agua fresca again It's too darn hot. How about a cooling glass of this refreshing Latino drink?
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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.

The Spanish name means "fresh water," but this refreshing non-alcoholic brew adds fresh fruit and just a taste of sugar to the clear stuff that comes out of the kitchen faucet. Long a Latino tradition, it has emerged from Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. in recent years to become a popular tradition.

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 cup ice cubes or crushed ice
2 cups cubed watermelon or other fruit
2 tablespoons (30g) sugar
Juice of 1/2 lime, no more than 1 tablespoon

PROCEDURE:

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.

MATCHING WINE:
If you want an alcoholic version of agua fresca, you can add a shot of Tequila. Harden advises against it, though: "Uh-uh! Messes up both drinks. If the tequila is good enough to drink, don't mix it, drink it separately, then enjoy the agua fresca afterwards."

PRINT OUT A COPY OF THIS RECIPE:
Want a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of this recipe, suitable for printing, online at
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/print050714.html

DISCUSS COOKING IN OUR ONLINE FORUM:
If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this recipe or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our Food Lovers' Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "Agua fresca again,"
http://www.myspeakerscorner.com/forum/index.phtml?fn=2&tid=63571&mid=547316

Click the REPLY button on the forum page to post a comment or response. (If your E-mail software broke this long link in half, take care to paste it all back into one line before you enter it in your Web browser.)

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at wine@wineloverspage.com.


Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Seviche (July 7, 2005)
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/tsfl050707.phtml

Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/foodlist.phtml

30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/thelist.shtml


Let us hear from you!

If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note at wine@wineloverspage.com. I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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