Contemporary Aguas Frescas from Food52
It’s been a busy summer here in nyc! Selling flowers, having bbqs, marching in parades and hanging out with family and friends! I’ve been happy and havin’ fun running around the city for the past two months with my adorable little brother, who’d been sleeping on our couch! Now that he’s back fishin’ and writing poetry in Olympia, WA I can get back to cooking. ( I don’t know what I’ll miss more his ukelele sing-alongs or his blue atole pancakes).
I got back in the kitchen without heating up my tiny brick-insulated abode by testing two Mexican-inspired drink recipes featured on Food52. Do you have any other ideas for a tasty agua fresca? Email me the recipe, I’d love to test and feature your original drink! gabrielaskitchen(at)gmail.com
In their native Mexico, as well as in taquerías and street vendor carts across the U.S. from Spanish Harlem to East L.A., aguas frescas are flavored with fruit, flowers, spices and grains. My favorite traditional flavors are the tart and refreshing Agua de Jamaica (roselle/hibiscus) and the milky Horchata (rice and almond milk spiked with vanilla and cinnamon). The recipes featured below are contemporary interpretations of the thin, watery and refreshing Mexican agua.
strawberry and rosemary agua fresca by Fury and the Feast
My notes: In Fury and the Feast’s interpretation a twist of lime compliments the sweetness of the berries and a dash of rosemary imparts a floral-like essence. Like all aguas frescas, the drink is strained of pulp, and then thinned with water and ice, making it considerably more thirst-quenching than juice. Fury and the Feast’s agua fresca is a dazzling summer cooler perfect for a picnic or backyard barbeque.
I reduced the rosemary to 1 Tablespoon since the fresh sprigs I used were highly aromatic and extremely piney, you may need the full 2 tablespoons if your rosemary is less assertive. I would also suggest adding ½ cup sugar at first and adjust according to taste.
1 pound strawberries, rinsed and hulled
6 cups water, divided
1 – 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1/2 – 3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Splash of prosecco or sparkling wine (optional)
- Combine strawberries, 2 cups of water and chopped rosemary in a blender. Blend until completely liquid, and let blender sit for 5 minutes to allow rosemary to steep.
- Strain puree into a 2 quart pitcher. Add remaining 4 cups of water, sugar, lime juice and ice. Stir to combine and taste, adding more sugar if needed.
- Portion agua fresca and ice into four glasses and garnish with rosemary sprigs and strawberries, add a splash of prosecco or sparkling wine, if desired. Serve immediately.
cucumber agua fresca by SippitySup
My notes: SippitySup’s agua fresca is refreshing and soothing all at once! The cucumber infused ice keeps the drink chilly without watering it down. Touches of thinly sliced citrus, cucumber and verbena add the uplifting flavors of summer, and layering the slices result in a very pretty pitcher drink.
I suggest adding the verbena according to taste, as it has a concentrated zest. If the Verbena is difficult to find you can add thick slices lemon zest. Don’t have a mandolin? Don’t sweat! I used a sharp knife to slice my cucumbers thin. It’s also great with fizzy mineral water and I second SippitySup’s idea of adding teensiest dash of vodka (or gin!).
2 seedless English cucumbers
1 gallon still mineral water
2 lemons, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 orange cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 bunch whole lemon verbena, leaves only
- Peel and roughly chop one of the cucumbers. Add the pieces to a large pitcher and fill the pitcher with 1/2 gallon of the water. Set it aside to steep about 20 minutes. Then strain the mixture and pour it into ice cube trays. Move them to the freezer to completely freeze.
- When ready to serve, use a mandoline to thinly slice the remaining cucumber discarding both ends.
- Add the cucumber infused ice cubes to a very large jar, pitcher or punch bowl, along with the thinly sliced cucumber, lemon and orange slices.
- Add the lemon verbena leaves a few at a time, rolling them between your fingers as you go to slightly bruise them. Add the remaining mineral water.
- Serve in tall glasses, scooping in plenty of the cucumber ice cubes and 1 or 2 slices of the steeped cucumber or citrus as garnish.
This weekend Alex and I are off to L.A.. to assist with the DOLE 2010 California Cook-Off. I promise to be back with some great stories and recipes of the event as well as of and of course photos of our weekend in Los Angeles, linda y querida.