Cooling Off: Aguas Frescas

It was one of those weeks all too typical of the food writer’s life. Too many lunch-eclipsing afternoons at the computer. Too many evening spent eating out. Too much of Sunday’s Headhouse booty in the fridge, wasting away like so many Project Runway models. Specifically, a big-ass bowl of sliced yellow watermelon we could never hope to finish before it turned to seed-speckled Highlighter-colored mush. We considered granita, but the freezer was too Tetris-ed with vestiges of June (strawberries, black raspberries), July (garlic scape pesto), August (sliced doughnut peaches) to accommodate the sizeable pan making granita requires. Instead, we turned to aguas frescas, those peerlessly refreshing fruit-flavored waters indigenous to Mexico and Latin America. Not only are these elixirs easy to blend up, they’re also endlessly customizable to whatever you’ve got in the fridge.

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Our basic recipe: H2O + fruit + citrus + accent flavor (herb or spice) + sweetener. Cucumber + lime + mint + brown sugar… Peach + tangerine + basil + honey… The possibilities are, quite literally, endless. In general, we prefer agave nectar as the sweetener for our aguas; it lacks the dimension of flavor that honey or maple syrup will lend, but it dissolves better than anything else in cold liquid and precludes having to make simple syrup. Aguas frescas were the ideal way to use up the extra yellow watermelon staring us down every time we opened the fridge. Here’s the formula:

4 cups watermelon, chopped and seeded unless you have a choking fetish
4 cups cold water
1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp. agave nectar

Zip everything together in a blender and strain through a fine sieve into a pitcher. Straining removes any rogue seeds, as well as the fibrous pieces of lemongrass. (Don’t worry, the exotic, floral citrus flavor will still be there; the blending releases all the stalk’s essential oils.) Taste, adjust flavor (more water, more citrus, more sweeneter, etc.) and chill well. Serve over ice and consume, preferably outside.

Photo: blogalicious

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