Watermelon agua fresca (Agua de sandia)

Here’s why you won’t want to go to a 4th of July party without watermelon agua frescas:

  1. Watermelon agua frescas let you eat loads of watermelon without leaving your hands sticky and probably without dripping pink juice on your shirt
  2. The kids and teetotalers more responsible people will love that there’s a special drink for them (that is…until you spike it, which we will do tomorrow)
  3. A big ole batch takes 10 minutes of prep (but still feels special!)

What’s an agua fresca?  It’s a mixture of of blended and chopped fruit that’s macerated in water and sugar.  Before we moved to California a couple years ago I had never heard of them, but thankfully I quickly learned that agua frescas can be found at just about every taqueria and burrito joint in the area.  Now, whenever it’s hot, I try to keep one constantly at hand (that is, when I’m not eating sorbet).  I think the last time I was in LA I drank about 40 gallons of the stuff.

There’s a lot of recipes out there, but many of them are a bit too sweet for me.  Agua frescas need sugar (for the fruit maceration part), but I think it’s best if it’s kept to a minimum.  If that’s not your taste, though, you may want to bump up the sugar.  You can sample as you go along and see what seems right to you.  Bear in mind, though, that the drink will taste sweeter after the fruit has some time to macerate than it does immediately after you make it (during the maceration process the watermelon leaks out its yummy goodness).

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Barbecue tempeh burgers topped with jalapeno slaw

When I first became vegetarian, it seemed like there were only two food options out in the restaurant world: variants of marinated and grilled zucchini/eggplant/peppers and veggie burgers (both of which were especially present at barbecues).  About 10 years ago I finally reached my absolute fill — no more!  So, I started to look around for other grilling options.  I mean, grilling is fun!  And chowing down on a burger off the grill (whatever that burger is made of) is such a part of American culture.  I like joining in.

Recently I’ve really been on the tempeh wagon.  Not only do I like the way it tastes, it’s a great mechanism for eating barbecue sauce, which I definitely don’t get enough of.  This recipe can be made the night before your barbecue (in fact, it’s best if it is) and then slapped on the grill when you’re ready. Continue reading

Pluot sorbet

I’ll be spending most of the rest of the summer reading.  I’m taking my qualifying exams for my PhD in the fall and there’s lots of prep work to do.  Conveniently, we have a little patch of grass in our backyard, so I can sit out in the sun and surround myself with library books, post-its and notepads (things could definitely be worse).  The only downside is that once I’m out in the sun I quickly forget about my books and start thinking about sorbet.

There’s few things I like better on a summer day than sorbet.  Particularly one that’s not too sweet.  I think this pluot sorbet is just perfect.  So perfect, in fact, that I pretty much ate the whole batch as I hunched over a book yesterday. Continue reading

Drinking John Dalys

This week we’re kicking off a weekly summer cocktail post.  From now until Labor Day, Alex and I are going to share a cocktail recipe every Friday.  Here’s a super easy summer favorite to get things started.  This one’s particularly apropos on the heels of last week’s US Open (golf, that is).

While, I’ll have to admit, I don’t really watch golf, I do like golf-related drinks.  Take the Arnold Palmer, a mix of ice tea and lemonade, which can be found on the menu of pretty much every restaurant and poolside club house across the US.  Why Arnold had this drink named after him is not well known, but what is well known is that Arnold was both a very talented player and an upstanding golfer — a real class act.

John Daly, on the other hand, could swing a club with the best of them, but was a hard-hitting, partying kind of guy.  He used to show up to the golf course wearing outrageously bright outfits, drinking beers and smoking cigarettes.  So, while it’s unclear why the Arnold Palmer is called an Arnold Palmer, it’s only fitting that if you take an Arnold Palmer and add vodka, it should be called a John Daly.

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Squash blossoms stuffed with fava beans, quinoa and chevre

While my body’s been back in the US for two weeks now, I think my head was still in Thailand until a couple days ago.  A trip to the farmer’s market finally transported me back home.  I was so excited about all the produce, I just wanted to go rush home and cook in our California kitchen!  No more longing for scooters and noodles.  At least, for now.

So, here’s a recipe that, to me, is quintessential California: light, fresh and healthy.  Maybe it’s a  little heretical to eat squash blossoms raw (the Italians wouldn’t approve), but they’re good, so why not? Continue reading

Drinking civet coffee

A little over a year ago, I stumbled across this article from the New York Times and forwarded it to a couple people (check it out to see the picture of the coffee-packed civet dung…awesome).  A little email chain ensued, where one person wrote “Gross! Poop coffee!” and another wanted to give it a try.  I was interested, but I wasn’t going to order any.  It sells from $100-500/lb.

Then we found ourselves in Chiang Rai, in a coffee shop called Doi Chaang @ Art.  As I mentioned, several of the hill tribes in northern Thailand grow coffee, including the Akha farmers living in Doi Chaang village.  They have a partnership with a company called Doi Chaang Coffee, which distributes their coffee globally and runs a couple really nice shops.  While Alex lounged in a big arm chair, geeking out on his iPad and charting our scooter route for the day, I poked around the coffee beans in a display case.  I was looking through the different blends when I spied some bags of Wild Civet Coffee.  Whaat??!

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Scooters and agriculture in northern Thailand

This is a post that comes a bit more from the PhD side of me than the cook. I’m excited to write about the food and drink we encountered during the last leg of our trip, but first I thought it was best to bring up a couple of the issues surrounding agriculture in northern Thailand. Before we get going, here’s some shots of our really cool Thai motorcycle helmets.

After I last wrote, Alex and I rented a couple scooters and headed out from Chiang Mai, the biggest city in northern Thailand, up to a smaller town called Chiang Dao.

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