Seattle turns out to be border town. No, not the Canadian border. The Mexican.
Seattle is one of these “Northern” cities that have a distinctly “Southern” flavor. The influx of Mexicans, and others from Central and South America, has been steady and permeates the society. From restaurants and food carts and trucks to congregations of day labors outside every Home Depot and Lowes, there is a Latin aspect to every neighborhood in the city.
Many of the restaurants are, thankfully, not Tex Mex establishments. People have come from every region of Mexico and you can find excellent regional establishments. For example, the northern neighborhood of Ballard was created a hundred years ago by Scandinavian fishermen and lumbermen. Today, most of those families are gone. And on Ballard Avenue, just at the top of the hill, you will find La Carta de Oxaca.
There is a rumor, I am sure started by tequila makers, that it is tequila — and only tequila — that can erase the fire of the hottest Mexican food. Oxaca is the culinary soul of Mexico and, yes, that particular food can be oh so hot. And, no, that tequila rumor is total nonsense. I was guzzling a margarita two weeks ago in La Carta de Oxaca and I am sure I saw the waitress giggle at me. It was gasoline on an open fire.
Wisely, cleverly, I had ordered the agua fresca of the day, along with my margarita. The margarita, ineffective at fire control, how powerful taste. My cantaloupe agua fresca was sweetly, coolly delicious and cured the heat.
This recipe is mine, an amalgam of several pulled from the web. At La Carta, my agua fresca was very sweet. Suzen had tasted it and grimaced. She always does with something that is very sweet. She grimaces when I kiss her. I understand. I do.
Well, this recipe calls for ¼ cup of sugar. It’s a bit tart, but adjustments can be made. You can never be sure how sweet the cantaloupe itself is, you can always add a little more sugar [I did, a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar for my cocktail glass pictured above], and you have this immense power to play with actual sweeteners you employ: white sugar, brown, agave syrup, simple syrup, or honey in any of its many flavors.
I’m confident you will enjoy this beverage. And every time you make it, the taste will have shifted, a bit or a lot.
You may have made strawberry agua fresca, which can have a very strong flavor. Here, the cantaloupe is softer, subtler, but every bit as refreshing.
Make a pitcher of this agua fresca. Then go forth in confidence that the jalapeno‑serrano‑poblano‑chipotle wonder you are making will not be the downfall of your tongue.
Brian’s Cantaloupe Agua Fesca
Yield: serves 4 to 6
- 1 cantaloupe, about 4 cups net
- 2 cups of water
- 4 Mexican limes
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 more cups of water
Clean the outside of the cantaloupe, the cut in half. Remove the seeds, vertically slice, and remove the meat in long moon-shaped crescents.
Put the cantaloupe meat and 2 cups of water in your blender. You may need to divide this step in two, depending on the size of your blender. We have a Vitamix and can do this in one step.
Blend well, strain, and pour the strained liquid into a 1-quart pitcher. Add the juice of the 4 limes and the sugar. Stir to mix. Taste test — this first test is just for a rough check.
Chill for at least an hour. Redo your taste test. Quite possibly, you’ll want a little more sugar.
Serve over ice.
Source: Brian O’Rourke
Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/50th second at ISO-1250
Mexican food maven, Rick Bayless, has a wonderful new book. Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks offers sensational ideas from his famed Frontera Grill restaurant.
Here’s a beverage idea, a duo idea, that is not a margarita but does employ the ever-versatile tequila. It’s a sweet agua fresca that can be converted into a delightful cocktail.
The agua fresca is watermelon with lime juice and sugar. By itself, it’s very satisfying on a warm day. [Oh, come on, spring will come. Summer will follow. Have some faith. Wait a moment here, I have to close my window. So damn cold …]
And for the cocktail, some tequila and that wonderful liquor Aperol transform agua fresca into something with deeper meaning. Well, deeper flavor.
Watermelon Lime Agua Fresca
Yield: 4 cups
- A 3-pound chunk of ripe, seedless watermelon
- ½ cup fresh lime juice
- ½ cup sugar
Cut the rind off the watermelon, then cut the fruit into rough 1-inch chunks. You need about a generous 4 cups [1 ½ pounds] cleaned cubes.
Put the cubes into a blender — or better a Vitamix — then add the lime juice and the sugar. Blend until smooth.
Now, look at the measure scale on the side of your blender and add enough water to make 4 cups. Blend to mix. Strain to remove any seeds [that’s the good part about using a Vitamix: typically no seeds survive and you get all the nutrients].
Pour into a storage container, cover and refrigerate. This agua fresca is best used the day it is made.
Watermelon Lime Cocktail
Yield: 8 cocktails
- One batch of watermelon lime agua fresca [recipe above]
- 1 ½ cups blue agave blanco tequila
- ¾ cup Aperol
- 8 cups ice cubes
In a large pitcher, combine the tequila, Aperol and watermelon lime agua fresca. Stir to combine, then cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
When ready to serve, pour about ¾ cup of the cocktail mixture into each of eight 12-ounce highball glasses. Add about a cup of ice to each one and serve immediately.
Source: Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks by Rick Bayless