Hatch Pepper Hummus: Hatch Fever Continues

Hatch Chile HummusI always associate Hatch chile season with our move to Austin. The week we were here looking for a place to live before the big move coincided with the Hatch chile festival at Central Market, and thus my obsession began. I’ve rarely bought anything besides the chiles themselves, but this year I tried the roasted Hatch chile hummus and fell in love. I bought three tubs to prolong the festival feeling, but those were gone in short order. With my freezer stocked with 20 pounds of roasted chiles (hot, if you must know) I decided to give it a try and make my own. I adapted my recipe from this great base on Confections of a Foodie Bride. To make a super smooth hummus I use Alton Brown’s slow cooker chickpeas recipe. The trick is 1/2 tsp baking soda added to the cooking water–it dissolves the chickpea skins for smoother blending.

 

 

 

Hatch Pepper Hummus: Hatch Fever Continues
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: Approx. 2 cups of hummus
Ingredients
  • 3 cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed (roughly 1.5 cans)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 Hatch chiles, roasted, seeded, and chopped
  • Juice of 1.5 limes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 3 Tbsp tahini
Instructions
  1. Place the chickpeas and garlic in the food processor and process until smooth, occasionally scraping down the bowl.
  2. Add the hatch chiles, lime juice, salt, and cumin and process again, scraping the bowl as needed.
  3. Add tahini and process until completely smooth.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve, topped with additional chopped chiles as desired.

 

Venison at Wink

Foodie Find: Wink Restaurant

Wink, tucked into the corner of a small strip center just off Lamar Boulevard, is a favorite for those who have something to celebrate or who just love perfectly prepared local foods served by warm and friendly staff. The team of Stewart Scruggs and Mark Paul opened the restaurant in 2001, and from the start were committed to serving the best ingredients, beautifully prepared. As a result, the menu at Wink changes daily.

A pioneer in sourcing locally, Wink relies on more than 30 Texas farms, foragers, gardens, dairies and ranches for their seasonal menu. Many of the purveyors are truly local, operating within the city limits of Austin, while others may be a bit farther afield. And part of the wonder of dining at Wink is seeing all the bounty of Texas producers in one place, carefully and creatively prepared. Each night Wink crafts a new menu, featuring the fresh produce, meats, and fish the chefs bring in. From season to season each visit to Wink will bring something new and unexpected.

Hamachi at Wink

Diners have two options for ordering at Wink– a la carte, or the chef’s five- or seven-course tasting menu. Each night’s menu has more than fifteen items starting with soups, salads, and sashimi (each visit we’ve had the hamachi, but it’s never the same dish). Fish and seafood are well-represented, with options ranging from scallops and mussels to fin fish from San Miguel Seafood. Hanger steak, duck breast, and sweetbreads are regular features, as well a local game, including quail, elk, venison, and rabbit.

A first glance at Wink’s menu might leave those with special diets feeling a bit lost, but the fresh preparation of all the dishes means the chefs can accommodate a variety of dietary requirements. We found Wink when I was on a gluten-free diet, and a brief conversation with our server at the start of the meal indicated that nearly everything we considered ordering, from the regular menu and the tasting menu, could easily be prepared without gluten. A vegetarian tasting menu is also on offer, and many dishes can also be made vegan. As the menu boldly pronounces, Wink can handle “any dietary issues as our larder allows.” More importantly, they do it with aplomb and without sacrificing flavor.

Wink Five Course Menu.jpg

It’s difficult to recommend specific dishes at Wink, since the menu changes so frequently. However, on each visit my husband Paul and I have both found the seafood and fish dishes to be outstanding. As mentioned, we have enjoyed the hamachi, and most recently we both loved the scallops, which that night were served with maitake mushrooms, blood oranges, pea shoots and yuzu. The tart-sweet citrus was a fitting complement to the richness of the scallops. And on a birthday visit the arctic char was a standout. In the game department, Paul recently had a venison dish served with sweet potatoes and chard. I rarely eat meat, but his noises of delightful satisfaction forced me to have a bite. As with so many dishes we’ve tried, it was a rich blend of flavors, yet delicately balanced with a tart reduction as a counterpoint.

Venison at Wink

Wink is lovely for a special occasion, though the dining room can be a bit loud. The chef’s tasting menu and the well-regarded wine list are the place to start. Drawing from the full menu, the chef’s tasting is offered in five or seven courses, with a wine pairing option. Full table participation is requested when choosing the tasting menu option. Each tasting selection offers a robust sampling of the full range of Wink’s menu, from the artfully composed salads to the hearty duck, steak, or game dishes, ending with either local cheeses or a house made dessert. On our visit the staff were quite amenable to making a substitution for one dish that didn’t meet our dietary needs.

Save room for dessert, even if you’ve decided to indulge in the tasting menu. While all of the desserts sound like perfection, a memorable ending to the meal is the dessert trio, featuring three from the evening’s selection, and it’s the perfect size for sharing. A must for chocolate lovers is the El Rey chocolate cake, dark and rich and fragrant.

desserts.jpg

Special occasion tip: Let the reservation staff know you’re celebrating a special occasion. They will prepare a personalized menu, and the kitchen staff will all autograph it at the end of the meal. It’s just an extra special touch that complements the already excellent service.

Parking tip: The lot just in front of the restaurant appears to be quite small, but Wink shares two lots with Whole Earth Provision Co., Tip Top Cleaners, and Wiggy’s Liquors. There is also an elevated lot across the street on the north side of 11th. Plenty of free parking is available.

Details:

1014 North Lamar Blvd., Suite E
Austin, Texas 78703
(map)

512-482-8868
wink@winkrestaurant.com
www.winkrestaurant.com

Hours of Operation: Monday-Wednesday; 6 PM – Midnight, Thursday-Saturday 5:30pm – Midnight; Sun Closed

Reservations: Yes, groups four or smaller can reserve via OpenTable

WiFi: No

cityguide_afba_badge

 

 

 

This review is part of the 2014 Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide. A complete list of restaurants included in the guide can be accessed via Citygram or on the AFBA website.

Guest Blogging Over at Full and Content

Kale Salad collage

Today I have a guest post over at Lisa Rawlinson’ fabulous blog Full and Content. Lisa is a fellow Austin Food Blogger Alliance blogger, and since her blog has been around for a while she has so many incredible recipes and reviews that you should check out.

Lisa is a big proponent of Meatless Mondays, a world-wide movement to reduce meat consumption for personal health reasons and for the health of the planet. You can find more info here. This week I contributed a favorite recipe, Lisa G’s Mac & Cheese, and new “recipe” that’s more of a technique than anything–Kale Salad. I thought these made up a perfect Sunday night dinner for this break of autumnal weather we’re having this weekend. I love seasonal cooking, and I really broke into my CSA veggie box for this week’s meal.

Head over to Full and Content for my recipes and many others to start planning your Meatless Monday!

So Maybe Don’t Eat This

Pei Wei Spicy ShrimpBetween appointments, I decided to go to Pei Wei Asian Diner for lunch, having read good reviews of their gluten-free menu. I’m not the biggest fan of chain-style Asian food, but I am trying to check out the specifically gluten-free menus around town to see what’s on offer.

At Pei Wei the list turned out to be very brief: apart from edamame and summer rolls, there were a couple of salads and two entrees (Pei Wei Spicy or Sweet and Sour). I went for the Pei Wei Spicy with shrimp, which included carrots and sugar snap peas. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t awful, either, but it was strangely sweet and tangy at the same time. Whatever, I ate my lunch.

Now three hours later I’m still reliving that meal. It’s a don’t. I took a picture, and I really don’t want to share it with you. The unappetizing-ness is evident.

Sadly, Pei Wei’s big brother P.F. Chang’s didn’t offer the greatest gluten-free meal, either. Am I destined to give up Chinese food altogether? And why oh why can’t all soy sauce just be gluten-free?

Also, somebody get on the gluten-free fortune cookie, okay?

Foodie Find: Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli rabe v baby broccoli

Left: my photo of the produce section, right: the recipe photo at Food 52

I am really into autumn greens this year, and despite the surfeit of kale and collards in my fridge at the moment, I volunteered to test a recipe in a Food52 recipe contest for Your Most Impressive Dinner Party Side featuring broccoli rabe. In the process of shopping for ingredients I learned a few things about broccoli, broccolini, and broccoli rabe. I thought I’d share, since I can’t really post my thoughts on the recipe until after I send them off to the Food52 editors.

As I’ve already established, Central Market is my favorite grocery store on the planet. I love shopping there and discovering new things, and to be honest I tend to ignore the whole broccoli/cauliflower/cabbage part of the produce section. Largely this is because they aren’t my favorite vegetables, and I find myself stonewalling when faced with the whole procedure of chopping a large head down to useable pieces.

Today I went looking for broccoli rabe and found myself totally confused, looking at the leafy greens that I thought were broccoli rabe which were displayed under a sign for organic sweet baby broccoli. Then I went to verify the ingredients on the recipe’s site, and that photo added to my confusion, since it seems to be baby broccoli, not broccoli rabe!

I did a quick spot of research and learned the following:

  • Broccoli rabe is part of the same genus as broccoli, but it’s more closely related to the turnip family
  • Baby broccoli, also known by the trademarked name broccolini, is not young broccoli, but is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale
  • The “sweet baby broccoli” sign above refers to a different hybrid of baby broccoli, so it’s just another version of broccolini, but it’s definitely not young broccoli

I went ahead and made the recipe as written, using broccoli rabe rather than the baby broccoli pictured in the photo. I’ve had broccoli rabe at restaurants before, but this was my first time making it at home. I learned a few things, might not repeat some of them, and ended up with an overall pleasing dish.

If you’re looking to try broccoli rabe, look for the leaves and not the little florets. Notably, broccoli rabe doesn’t give off the cabbage-y aroma that so many cruciferous vegetables have. It’s fairly mild, slightly bitter, and not as toothsome as collards or kale can be. I recommend removing the tough stems as they are quite stringy, but using the soft stems along with the leaves. All the reputable recipes I’ve found have recommended blanching the broccoli rabe before sauteeing. I would substitute it in any favorite autumn greens dish.

Do you have a well-loved preparation that might be amazing with broccoli rabe?

Austin Eats at #ACL

Austin Eats header text

Hey, sorry for falling behind for a couple of days! We had some houseguests and related excitement, and since I’m trying to blog for #31days by the seat of my pants, I got a bit behind. The comeback starts now.

On Saturday we went the Austin City Limits music festival and overall we had a great day. One of the fun things about ACL is always the food. There’s an Austin Eats food court where all the vendors are locals–some are brick-and-mortar sites and some are food trucks. This year is the first time I’ve had to be super-careful about which foods to eat, and fortunately the festival organizers did a great job of noting which menu items were gluten-free. I’m not sure how the GF designation was made, but it turned out that there were other dishes not marked GF that were just fine and super delicious. My only complaint, and I know it’s a festival, is that the prices were so high relative to either the quality or the portion size. The best thing I put in my mouth all day was a sample of the Salt Potatoes from The Best Wurst. We only got one and devoured it, but when I tried to get some for dinner the line was so long I just didn’t have the patience. Which was the wurst decision I made all day. The small Yukon Gold potatoes are boiled in a salt brine and then slathered with butter and a sprinkling of green onions. It’s a veritable mouth party.

Austin Eats Highlights:

Daily Juice
Daily Juice had three different beverages on offer, including my favorite: watermelon. I love watermelon juice more than just about any other beverage and it took restraint to get only two servings throughout the day.

Daily Juice edited

The Peached Tortilla
The PT has several food trucks and they do a lot of catering, too. Their food is a bit of fusion with an Asian twist. Chinese, Japanese, and Thai flavors inform many of the dishes. Their GF offering at ACL was a Thai Summer Salad. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting in terms of flavors, but for $7 I was expecting a larger portion. The salad base was shredded cabbage and other vegetables topped with what seemed to be a peanut sauce dressing, with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and maybe a few bits of peanut. I’m not a huge fan of peanut anything, so I probably should have asked when I ordered. Overall it was pretty tasty, but the size : price ratio was disappointing.

Hat Creek Burger Co.
Hat Creek is a local chain with a location just down the street from me. I’ve never eaten there because they serve burgers and I don’t really eat beef. So I was pleased to see that they had non-beef gluten-free options on the ACL menu. I had the Chicken Flashers (which sound kind of dirty–is it just me?) and the sweet potato fries. Great portion size, and though the fries were pretty standard, the chicken nuggets were quite good. I almost got over the fact that I couldn’t have a Mighty Cone.

Coolhaus
The ice cream sandwiches from Coolhaus melted too quickly to get a photo, but the gluten-free coconut-almond cookie was a perfect base for the salted chocolate ice cream. The cookie was similar to a macaroon (a real one, not those weird Manischewitz rocks) and I’m insanely grateful that Coolhaus had such a fantastic gluten-free option.

My dinner choice was incredibly disappointing, so much so I’m not even going to share it here. I wouldn’t patronize the vendor again, either at a festival or in the real world. But I did very happily snarf down another watermelon juice.

In case you were wondering how the omnivore husband did at ACL, he happily inhaled a bratwurst with all the fixings from The Best Wurst and some of my Hat Creek fries followed by a chocolate chip/salted chocolate Coolhaus ice cream sandwich. And for dinner he had a Chopped Beef Sandwich from The Salt Lick.

I know I should be writing about the music. We liked Haim, enjoyed Lissie and The Joy Formidable, had a nice hangout while jamming to Wilco, enjoyed our dinner to the sounds of The Mavericks, and relived our high school romantic angst to The Cure.

Sadly, our tickets were for the rained out weekend, which is having a terrible impact on the food vendors. There may be some pop-up events, but a full day’s prep for 75,000 expected attendees is potentially going to waste. If you’re in Austin and any of these food mentions tickle your fancy, consider visiting these vendors at their trucks or restaurants as they try to make up the losses from this weekend.

Where to Eat–Early October Edition

Where to Eat Austin 102013This last week has been super busy and as a result we’ve eaten out a bit more often than usual. While I normally love trying new places, this gluten-free thing means I have to do a fair bit of research before heading out for a meal. I’m starting to learn (and remember) which restaurants have gluten-free menus and a heightened awareness of the needs of diners with gluten intolerance or celiac.

Maudie’s Tex-Mex

ATX Gluten-Free has been a good resource for GF friendly restaurants, and that’s where I learned that Maudie’s has a special gluten-free menu. Maudie’s has long been a favorite of mine–we used to go there about once a week, either after my Jazzercise (don’t laugh!) class on Thursdays or before Paul’s D&D game (okay, laugh!) on Fridays.

While my usual favorite isn’t on this menu because a flour tortilla is involved, pretty much everything else I like in on it. By which I mean chips and queso. Okay, I do like more than that, but chips and queso is a requirement. I think nearly all of their sauces are GF, including the chili con carne, which I’ve noticed is not GF at all restaurants. The staff are clearly educated about the menu and the needs of diners. My tortillas even came to me marked “gluten-free” on the foil. Good stuff, and glad a favorite can still be standby.

Tärka Indian Kitchen

Tärka is one of the newer places near our neighborhood, and it’s affiliated with one of our favorite “grown-up” restaurants, Clay Pit. They also have a special gluten-free menu that offers a huge number of their usual dishes.

Our go-to dishes are almost always channa masala and saag paneer. And let’s talk about pakoras, because I’ve been missing fried stuff a lot and pakoras dipped in chutney are so crispy and salty and spicy and delicious. Again, the staff are knowledgeable about the gluten-free menu and make sure that gluten things are packed separately from the GF dishes.

East Side Pies

Pizza is another thing I’ve been missing, and I’ve woken in a cold sweat having nightmares about the loss of pizza from my life. Maybe not really, but it’s been close. I’m writing about East Side Pies this time for two reasons: I literally just discovered them this week, and their GF pizza is affordable. There’s another nice GF pizza I’ve tried, Via 313, but it’s cost-prohibitive on a regular basis.

You may think I’ve been living under a rock. I haven’t, but I was living in Uzbekistan, so I deserve a bit of a pass for not being on the East Side bandwagon until now. East Side is known for their large thin-crust slices and creative toppings, including special sauces such as spinach curry and hummus. They use tons of produce from local farms, including our CSA Johnson’s Backyard Garden. But back to the gluten-freeness of it all. East Side gets its crusts from a local company called Smart Flour Foods and I was happily surprised by the texture, flavor, and quality. It’s a thin crust and it bakes up very crispy. As GF bread products go, this one uses mostly whole-grain flours, so it’s a more nutritious alternative than many GF products. The crusts are available in a few local markets, so I’ll be looking for them. Can’t wait to try some grilled pizzas on these!

Do you like this feature? Let me know if I should keep it up periodically!

Mad Fauxtoshop Skillz

Last weekend I was lucky enough to win free admission to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance‘s Photocamp thanks to Mad Betty, who ran a drawing on her site. I learned a few new skills that I’ve been trying to put into practice over the last several days, skills I now call fauxtoshopping. I think that term usually means spotting or making obvious fakes. In my case it means using easy-to-understand apps to edit photos and create collages for this here blog.

Cupcake Snapseed Collage

What, pray tell, does this have to do with anything gluten-free? The workshop organizers were pretty thoughtful when it came to the special diets crowd, and during the morning break we were treated to tea from Zhi and these amazing vegan and gluten-free cupcakes from Better Bites Bakery. I had a good chat with them about their flour blends and look forward to getting more information to help me hack my favorite recipes over the next month.

I have to say that Melissa Skorpil‘s sessions were amazing. She is a fabulous teacher and I learned so much from her about how to set up a photo shoot. My kitchen is somewhat dark and my over-cabinet lighting is fluorescent, so all my photos turn out green. Now I know how to fix that!

Jane Ko‘s session focused largely on iPhone-ography, but as an Android user I still found some good tools and apps. My photos above of Better Bites’ delicious chocolate-mocha cupcakes started with my phone’s regular cam set for HDR. This “one weird tip” for phone photography is a great one. The photo starts out in richer tones than a regular pic on Auto or similar. I then used the Snapseed app (on iPhone and Android) to crop and edit just about everything from color correction to contrast to brightness.

So after fauxtoshopping it’s time to collage. I have never used Photoshop, and try as I did to follow along in Mary Helen‘s session, I found myself gravitating back to my old favorite, Picmonkey. Smartly, she showed the analogues in Lightroom and Picmonkey for just about every feature she showed in Photoshop. I had NO idea how much Picmonkey could do, and I’ve since sprung for the full version, which costs about $36 a year.

So back to those gluten-free cupcakes. They were divine. They weren’t divine for gluten-free. They were just straight up damn good chocolate cupcakes. I am pretty picky about frosting, so I had to try the grasshopper ones, too, and they were even better. This is what gets me excited about this new foodstyle–finding truly delicious foods that fill a niche in my new diet.

Because everyone needs cupcakes.

Sunday Brunch at The Steeping Room

Sunday brunch at The Steeping Room

Sunday we met up with with our longtime friends Mitch and Donna and their darling two-year old Zella. It was great fun to hang out and catch up after a few busy months of not seeing each other. Zella brought her giraffe mask and we played a bit of peekaboo. Only later did I realize I’d been holding the mask upside-down so the giraffe horns were more like fangs. Oops.

Austin is booming with restaurants, and our neighborhood scene exploded in the three years we were away. I’ve nearly had accidents rubbernecking all the new businesses on the main road in our ‘hood, and they just keep coming. We decided to meet at the new-to-us nearby location of The Steeping Room, a place that’s quickly becoming a go-to staple. When The Steeping Room first opened in another part of town it was a wonderful addition with its offerings of scores of tea blends, traditional tea service, and a varied menu with choices from healthy to decadent. Now that it’s closer to our house I suspect we’ll be there with even greater frequency.

One of the reasons I love this place is because the menu is easy to navigate for people with dietary restrictions. I wrote a bit yesterday about the mentality of living without, and what I enjoy about restaurants like The Steeping Room is how they use more than the average amount of kitchen creativity to create beautiful meals that are delicious whether they are meat, vegetarian, or dairy or gluten-free.

While we waited for our friends to arrive, Paul and I started with spiced apricot scones served with jam, fig and port compounded butter, and clotted cream. I’m just starting to learn my way around gluten-free baked goods, and while the flavor of the scones was excellent, they were very crumbly, making it tough to spread the delicious spreads. We made do and polished them off. Paired with a pot of strong Earl Grey, it was a perfect start to our Sunday morning.

On Donna’s recommendation I got the latkes and gravlax, served with sour cream and berry gastrique. Sounds very fancy, and it looks pretty fancy, but it was super comfort food on a drizzly and chilly (by Texas standards, anyway) late September morning. As I sit here I’m thinking about how easy it would be to make a similar dish at home, though I’m not quite sure I’ll replicate the jasmine tea-cured gravlax.

When we eat tempting and delightful foods like this I don’t feel like I’m living without. I feel happy and lucky to have so many fabulous options just down the street.

Figgy Fun with Confituras

Fig Collage Text final

Last month I met Stephanie McClenny, founder and creator of Confituras, at a class she taught on preserving peaches. Stephanie is the creative force behind the stunning array of jams, preserves, chutneys, and pickled fruits on offer at Austin’s farmers’ markets and specialty food stores. She uses only the freshest local fruits in her confitures, and the flavors are both traditional and unique.

As excited as I was to attend the peach class, I mentioned how sorry I was to have missed her earlier class on figs since I’ve always wanted to learn how to make fig jam or preserves similar to the ones my grandmother made from the figs that grew in her yard in Galveston. A few days later Stephanie turned me onto her upcoming class in concert with Jackie Letelier of Pâté Letelier, focusing on fig preserves and chicken liver pâté. I was sold in a minute. The results of our class were delectable–Paul and I ate them up in just a few days–and I reminisced about the homestyle versions of those foods made by my grandmother.

My Jewish grandmother, Gertrude Plantowsky, was a great cook, and her fridge was always stocked with schmaltz. Despite her kitchen aplomb, she wasn’t a patient teacher, so assisting her was a rare opportunity and I never really had a chance to learn some of her most special recipes. Despite being raised in a kosher home, one of her best dishes was crab and shrimp gumbo. At some point the Gulf seafood trumped her traditional upbringing.

Two others that were special and delicious were her chopped liver and her preserved figs. I did help out with the chopped liver once: my job was to grind the cooked livers and onion through her table-mounted meat grinder and it seemed like it took ages. But I never did get an insight into how she made her figs. I have trouble remembering exactly how they tasted, but my vague recollection is of figs preserved in syrup with lemon. I think they were sliced, or maybe halved. They were sort of jelly-like so you could spread them on toasted challah, but they weren’t chunky and seedy like preserves. One day I hope to figure them out.

Last weekend I tried, using the preserving experience from Stephanie’s peach class and the details I learned about figs from the pâté and preserves class, and set to work in the kitchen to preserve about two-and-a-half pounds of figs in syrup scented with lemon, cinnamon, and cardamom. The result was six half-pints of beautiful figs, and even though they aren’t quite like Gert’s, they are delicious.

Dinner at Eden East

eden East 2 edited

 

A few weeks ago Paul and I went to dinner at Eden East at Springdale Farm. Springdale is one of the urban farms on Austin’s eastside, and it’s well-known for the fantastic produce that comes from its tiny plot of less than five acres. We were enchanted by the picnic tables set under the huge tree, the creative menu that changes weekly, and the ducks wandering around the vegetable beds in the gathering dusk. I rather failed at getting beautiful photos of our food, but I hope I captured the ambience of this lovely place.

When I first saw the menu I was a bit concerned we’d be rolling out of the clearing, stuffed from so many courses of good food. A wonderful aspect of dining at Eden East is that your meal is self-paced. If you want to get up and walk around the farm for bit, feel free. If you want to spend a while enjoying the wines or beers you and your friends brought (there is no liquor license, but bring your own is welcome), indulge and sip away. The kitchen is accommodating of special diets, as noted by the special preparations for a vegan diner in the party next to us.

As we proceeded through the courses we kept saying, oh this is my favorite! In the end the Prickle Duck was our joint favorite, and while Paul loved the Smoky Wild Pig, I have to put the Weed Salad in second place. It seems that Deep Eddy is often on hand, creating a special a cocktail to go with the meal. The night was so warm, and their refreshing creation was most welcome. The peach crostata for dessert was a perfect seasonal way to end the meal, made extra special with a prickly pear popsicle served in a shot of vodka. I look forward to visiting Eden East again in the fall, when cooler temperatures and autumn produce will offer a completely different experience.

Agua Fresca Obsessed

Watermelon obsessed

Sweet agua fresca from Zócalo in Austin, Texas

Real talk: aguas frescas are amazing and I’m admitting to a mild obsession. My love of the agua fresca really took off in Thailand of all places, where you can find tropical fruit “shakes” nearly anywhere for the high price of about 30 baht or $1. When I first saw “shake” on the menu I ordered with trepidation, the image of a creamy watermelon smoothie giving me pause. To my delight the shake that arrived was simply watermelon blended with ice and a bit of simple syrup, and with one sip I was hooked. Watermelon shakes followed, at least one per day for the next two weeks, interspersed with young coconuts because Thailand, people!

Having spent 80% of my life within 3 hours of the border with Mexico, I can’t help but think of a fresh, slightly sweet fruit water as anything other than an agua fresca no matter which continent serves it up. In Mexico we found the most common aguas frescas to be watermelon (sandía), pineapple (piña), hibiscus (jamaica), and a creamy rice-milk sort of beverage called horchata. And no, that’s not just a Vampire Weekend song, friends. These cold beverages with mystical live-giving properties may not be quite as inexpensive in Texas as they are in Thailand, but they are ubiquitous and refreshing in the sweltering 95+ degree heat of May.

So guys, what I’m trying to say is that when you’re drained from 2 hours of roller derby drills and you stop for a breakfast taco or two at El Chilito you also have to get an agua fresca de sandía. And then you have to realize that you can make some at home with all the leftover watermelon in the fridge from your blastalicious July 4th spectacular. Do it.

This recipe is from Whole Foods and it’s close to perfect. I cut the amount of water in half and doubled the lime juice since my delightful pink drink is sticking around in the ‘fridge for a day or two.

Watermelon Agua Fresca

Ingredients:
  • 8 cups watermelon, cut into 2-inch pieces (approximately 6 lbs.)
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Ice cubes
  • Lime slices and mint leaves for garnish (optional)
Method:

Cut the watermelon flesh from the rind. In a blender or food processor, process half the watermelon pieces with 1/2 cup of water until smooth. Pour through a strainer into a pitcher. Repeat the process with the remaining melon and water. You should end up with about 8 cups of juice. Stir in the lime juice and honey. Pour into ice-filled glasses and garnish with lime slices and mint.

Someday I’ll work out how to make horchata. Until then, enjoy Vampire Weekend and find a sidewalk to walk on.

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