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Category Archives: food+drink

Basil and Barbecue

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There’s this paper/craft shop in town that I like browsing around in and they have a lot of cute journals for people who don’t have the patience or the time to really journal. Most of them ask you to write in a sentence or two each day. There’s one that asks what you’re grateful for each day, and that was the inspiration for this post.

Things I’m thankful for today, or, 10 Reasons my Sunday was awesome:

basil

Basil!

1. My husband got the basil at right for $2.50 at the local farmer’s market. It’s practically a tree! The roots are still intact at the bottom. We already had a small basil plant on the patio, but this is triple the size of that one! And besides, you can never have too much fresh basil. I love fresh basil. It’s my favorite herb. Yep, I have a favorite herb – doesn’t everybody? And yeah, that’s him holding the basil, and yes, I blurred his face. Just because I’m cool with posting all this stuff for everyone doesn’t mean he wants to be famous.

2. I went to the park to hit the tennis ball against the wall, and I didn’t suck quite as spectacularly as usual.

3. Freshly made tortilla chips with salsa verde & hot sauce from our local burrito place.

4. Trader Joe’s Green iced tea. Something so summer about really cold iced tea, and TJ’s is the only commercial one I like – not sweet.

bbq

pesto chicken

5. BBQ! In particular, the pesto barbecue chicken we made (okay, my husband made) using the above basil. Yummy.

6. Jersey tomatoes, from my in-laws’ garden. So. Good.

7. I painted my toenails mint green.

8. Real liquorice from TJ’s – although I have to confess I ate the entire container in two days. oops.

9. Big thunderstorm at night in which I literally saw lightning streaks, not just a vague lighting up of the sky.

dark clouds

Dark clouds rolling in

10. Olympics: Got to watch Misty May and Kerri Walsh crush yet another opponent in beach volleyball (sorry Italy!) – I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by them, or by beach volleyball (and only beach volleyball – the indoor version doesn’t do it for me) but I love watching them play. Even though you have to be careful not to blink or you might miss an entire set.

What are you thankful for? I want to hear what makes your weekends awesome.

Summer in a Glass

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Summer in a Glass

No fruit says summer like watermelon.  It’s refreshing, has a crisp bite, and isn’t so sweet that it leaves you feeling thirsty. It’s the perfect dessert/snack/fruit/end of meal on hot & humid summer days. I love it when it’s been chilled in the fridge.

Recently, I was eating some really spicy tacos. I love spicy food, but even I’ll admit I went a tiny bit overboard on the hot sauce that day.  I needed to cool off my tongue a bit, and I knew water wasn’t going to work, so I decided to finish them off with a few slices of watermelon we had in the fridge. The flavors went together amazingly well, and I wondered: why we don’t we drink watermelon juice?

In fact, something called watermelon “agua fresca” is sold at stands all over Mexico. I like to imagine that somewhere along the course of Mexican history, the inventor of agua fresca was also over-enthusiastic with the hot stuff on his or her taco and found watermelon to be a great counterbalance.

When life hands you overripe watermelons, make melonade

watermelon agua fresca

Even more refreshing when you chill the glass

This week we bought a huge watermelon from the supermarket (hey, it was $4 on sale, I wasn’t going to pass that up). Unfortunately, it turned out to be just slightly past its prime. It hadn’t gone bad, but it didn’t have that nice crisp mouthfeel to it. And we had a ton of it. Perfect for attempting my very own version of agua fresca.

Guess what? It’s super easy! And tastes great. Perfect for a Fourth of July barbecue or summer get-together.

Here’s what I did.

What you need:

  • Watermelon, cut into cubes (I used about 3/4 of a very large watermelon)
  • Lime juice (I used a least a 1/4 cup, might have been more)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you want it; I don’t like it too sweet)

Throw the cubes into a blender, food processor or juicer. Don’t worry about the seeds, we’ll take care of those later. Add lime juice, sugar and salt. Blend well. The ‘juice’ will be pretty pulpy/thick at this point. For some reason all the recipes I found online stopped here, but I wanted more of a real liquid juice.

Get a large bowl ready, and position a fine mesh strainer over it. Ladle the juice a little bit at a time into the strainer and use the back of the ladle or a wooden spoon (whatever works) to mash the pulp further through the strainer. Really push down on it to get as much liquid as you can out.

Keep doing this, occasionally clearing out the mash that’s collecting on the strain and dumping it someplace (I just kept a small bowl nearby so I didn’t have to move around so much). Once you get through it all, you should have a pretty large am0unt of liquid and not so much mash/pulp. If you have a juicer you might not even need this step.

Taste and add more lime juice/sugar until it’s the flavor you want it. You can drink it this way, but at this point it’s still pretty concentrated, so if you want a more traditional style agua fresca add a cup or two of cold water to dilute it. I finished it off with just a few leaves from our basil plant and it gave the drink a nice, subtle something extra.

I’d imagine this would make a pretty tasty vodka or rum drink too. Watermelon-tini, anyone?

Agua frescas come in many different fruit flavors, and I know I’m going to be experimenting with some other versions this summer. What’s your favorite summer fruit?

  • Agua Fresca: Two Ways (abeautifulmess.com) – this blog has a watermelon/mint version and a cantaloupe/thyme, not to mention gorgeous photos.