"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Aguas Frescas

A request from my friend, Ashley. I really like requests.

Aguas frescas are a real delight on a hot summer afternoon. They are great for using up over-ripe fruit or watermelon that has an off texture. The past few weeks have been getting hotter and hotter and, somehow, a cup of hot tea at four o'clock isn't too appealing. So with cheap fruit around, a cup of agua fresca sounds a lot better.

Of course, it's another case of recipes so embarrassingly simple that you don't need a tutorial to figure them out. But hey, I'm a visual person and I like taking pictures.

The aguas my husband's family drink are melon and horchata. Melon includes both cantalope and watermelon; horchata is a rice drink requiring soaking beforehand. Strawberry is also traditional and other fruits work just as well.

We picked strawberries at a friend's recently:
Thanks, Patti!

So this agua fresca is fresa. Ed accidentally bought this stevia:
which is happily super-delicious.

So in the blender we tossed just over a pound of frozen strawberries (partly thawed), not bothering to hull them or even remove the leaves, a big dropper of vanilla/ stevia extract, and, because I just couldn't leave well enough alone, a big handful of frozen cranberries. (I buy many bags of cranberries when they are in season and freeze them. Then I just scoop out what I need from the bags through the rest of the year.) Added enough water to get it all to blend.

The usual recipe for a fresh fruit agua fresca will call for large amounts of white sugar. It seems awfully silly to mask the flavors of super-sweet summer fruit with lots of white sugar! If you are using store-bought frozen fruit, you may need just a bit more sweetener, though. (Please not white sugar!)

Voila- agua fresca de fresa.

It was a keeper. See how concentrated they were? Wouldn't even look up at the camera.

You can use cantalope or water melon like this- a whole cantalope or the equivalent amount of watewrmelon, partially frozen (or add ice), enough water to blend, and just a touch of stevia, honey, agave or what have you to sweeten. Blend. Slurp. Mmmmmmm.

The other agua fresca is horchata. Horchata is basically glorified rice milk. It is delicious as well. You start with 2 cups rice and soak overnight in 3 cups water. Of COURSE, I'm using brown rice here. Editing to add that 1 cup of rice is plenty. 2 is overkill.
In the morning you blend the heck out of it, add another 2-3 cups water plus 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, vanilla if you wish, and just a bit of honey, maple sugar or syrup, or stevia. Strain if you want a smoother texture. Serve over ice.

This is the same process for making rice milk, minus the spice and decreasing the sweetener. Great over granola! In American restaurants, a batch of horchata often gets a whole cup of sugar or a whole can of sweetened condensed milk which makes for a cloyingly sweet, heavy drink. My version is much lighter and very refreshing.

Edititng to add that Ed and I just made a pepino y limon agua after lunch and it, too, was excellent. 1 cucumber, the juice of three limes, enough water to thin it out- Ed likes his shakes and aguas very thin-, ice, and just a tiny bit of stevia. It seems you can't go wrong.

Let me know if you make these tasty Latin American treats and what you think about them- especially what your kids think about them.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
-Leonardo DaVinci

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