I was driving back home on Sunday afternoon and got to the point east of Boiceville where the road starts down a long hill, one where the trees fall away faster than the road. So for a couple of hundred feet, you have “The View.” There are three ridgelines on the left and four more on the right. The closest one is just over a mile away but the distant one is nearly twelve.
On a hot, humid day, each of those ridgelines is a single flat color. Dark green close up then fading blues and a final gray on the last, distant ridge. A gray just a shade or two darker than the scary sky. A storm was approaching and I hustled home with my bounty: fresh cucumbers from the farmers market.
Cucumbers originated in India and they remain an Asian staple. The United States grows about 900,000 tons of them a year. In China, they grow 41 million tons. And the weird thing is I have never had cucumber in a Chinese restaurant. Not one that I recognized. I am a fried-fantail-shrimp-and-pork-fried-rice kind of guy. I don’t think you should fry cucumbers, although at some state fair in the Midwest there is probably a fried cucumber stand next to the fried ice cream place.
You can eat cucumbers, drink them, put them on your eyelids. Lately, I have been drinking them. Suzen and I spent a Sunday at a Brooklyn flea market, Smorgasburg, featuring 100 food vendors. That Sunday, too, was hazy, hot and humid and one vendor offered cucumber lemonade. It was cucumber with a slight lemon smack that only fresh lemons can offer. In a word, it was perfect. We shared that cup of pale green liquid, commented on its wonder, and wondered about its construction.
I have a theory about perfect foods. Perfect can get better.
So, I’ve been searching for how to make a respectable [or better] version of cucumber lemonade myself. Some recipes were instantly discarded: “add cucumber juice to frozen lemonade concentrate” sorts of things. Some were mystifying: one lemon and three cucumbers.
I found this recipe at Food.com, but have modified it, using slightly more sugar and only half the water. I wanted a beverage with mouth feel, with body, not a “thinish” agua fresca. So I cut the water in half and found this drink to be “heavy enough” on the tongue.
The other issue at hand is balancing the competing flavors here: soft, gentle cucumber and potentially harsh, acidic lemon juice. This recipe achieves that balance. It is, first and foremost, a cucumber drink with a forward cucumber taste. The lemon comes later and is just a frosting, you never get a pure lemon hit.
Ego aside, I think this recipe is more satisfying than the Brooklyn version. Richer, deeper, and thicker. To get the maximum in refreshment, do chill this very thoroughly. Out of the blender, it’s fine. Out of the refrigerator, it is divine.
Brian’s Cucumber Lemonade #1
Yield: ~4 cups
- 2 English cucumbers, each about 12 ounces
- 2 cups water, divided
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup sugar
Peel, slice and seed the cucumbers. Cut them into chunks and put them in a blender [a Vitamix is better for this, much better]. Add one cup of water. Process until completely pulverized: a minute or more. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl.
Rinse the blender and return the cucumber water to it. Add the sugar and second cup of water. Blend until thoroughly mixed.
Chill before serving and then serve with ice.
If you desire, you can thin the mixture with additional water, up to two cups.
Or, if you desire, you can thin with vodka or gin, flavored or pure.
Source: Brian O’Rourke, inspired from food.com
Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4 for 1/40th second at ISO‑2500
Do you remember your first Pina Colada? Your second? The third?
If they were consumed all on the same night, then somewhere between two and three you may have become a tad fuzzy. The standard pina colada recipe has two problems. First, it’s booze heavy. The ratio of pineapple juice to rum to cream of coconut is 1:1:1.
Second, besides the high rum level, the amount of coconut cream can lend a “just too much” flavor to the drink. If you want to drink coconut, buy a coconut. In a pina colada, the coconut should complement the pineapple juice, not overpower it.
Which is why in my Faux Colada, the ratio is 2:1:1. Double the pineapple juice. The result is a lighter drink, easier to drink and less impacting on your mental capacities.
With a lower alcohol level, you’ll also find this beverage works more comfortably with food. It can be a starting cocktail of course or be used to carry you through an entire meal. Based on personal experience, this is a drink to mate with a grilled steak.
What did you eat with that first pina colada of yours? Don’t remember? I’m not surprised.
Brian’s Faux Colada
Yield: 2 cocktails
6 ounces pineapple juice [or one of those mini cans]
3 ounces rum [ideally mango flavored]
3 ounces cream of coconut
Place all the ingredients in the blender. Add 2-4 cups of ice, depending on how thick you like your frozen beverage. Process until smooth. Drink. Relax. Make more.
Source: Brian O’Rourke
Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5 for 1/40th second at ISO‑3200