Oh, yes, it’s hot. Hot all over the country. There are so many culinary tricks for staying cool and comfortable that have made their way to our Borough from the tropical cultures of the world, some of which seem completely illogical. Consuming punishingly spicy dishes. Drinking tea as hot as you can stand it. Our neighbor Mexico gives us an effectively soothing treat we can quickly get behind, a cold, fruity, icy beverage that never fails to cool off the body, agua fresca.
Squeezing fruit into flat or carbonated water, especially citrus – lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit – is so refreshing. Why is that? Is it the hint of sour, the thought of those abundant juices? Agua fresca literally means “fresh water,” and it follows that same, basic principle, mixing fruit with water. I tend to use melons, either watermelon or canteloupe, but there are a million varieties out there. This is a recipe you can do after a long, warm day in the sun or after a long (unfair!) day at the desk.
4 cups watermelon, seeded and cubed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar (the traditional Mexican recipes ask for 1/2 cup of sugar; I don’t like any at all; use to taste)
Serves 8 in highball size glasses with ice.
Purée the watermelon, water and sugar (if desired) in a blender.
Put lime slice and 3 leaves of mint in glass and muddle.
Add ice to the glass, pour in the agua fresca, and stir. Garnish with sprigs of mint and slices of lime.
Since we’re dealing with ice on hot days I like to prepare these one glass at a time, but you can also prepare the agua fresca all in one pitcher if you need to.