AGUA FRESCA: Agua de fresa y mango

Although May is National Strawberry Month, the grocery stores seem to suddenly be overflowing with ripe strawberries in the last week or so. We love strawberries in our house, but when you buy a few pounds of them at once because they’re inexpensive, what can you do with them other than eat them? Turn them into an agua fresca, of course! You want to be sure that your strawberries are red, ripe and fragrant to use them for this recipe. If they’re super sweet, you may want to decrease the amount of sugar in the simple syrup in the recipe; it’s a matter of personal taste how sweet you like the agua to be. Mango adds a sweet and summery twist to this classic agua de fresa recipe. If you don’t like mango, you can leave it out and increase the amount of strawberries by about one-third of a pound.

recipe_agua_de_fresa_y_mango_TOSOTT

A few notes about this recipe: This particular agua fresca is a little bit thicker consistency than others due to the mango flesh. You can dilute it with additional water if you like, but the consistency of the recipe written here makes it more Colima-style. You should use yellow mangoes rather than the green and magenta-colored ones (a variety called Tommy Atkins, mostly grown in Florida, and known in Spanish as petacón because of the big-bottomed shape) usually available in most grocery stores.

The yellow mangoes you’ll find in the U.S. are mostly Ataulfo mangoes and are very similar to Manila mangoes in taste and look, and both have very thin seeds, meaning you’ll get more mango flesh. (Manila are the yellow variety most commonly available in Mexico City that we’re used to eating when we’re there.) Both Ataulfo and Manila mangoes have sweet, creamy flesh that practically melts in your mouth and are not fibrous like the Tommy Atkins variety, which can be tough if not ripe or stringy due to the fibers. Ataulfo mangoes are in season from March to July; they should be yellow to yellow-orange in color with no black spots, and they’re perfectly ripe when the flesh gives a little (just like with a peach) and the skin starts to wrinkle just a bit…. 

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Wordless Wednesday: Store-bought Tepache

As I’ve been checking out as many Mexican grocers in Los Angeles as possible, I’ve noticed one product (made by a few different brands) that was not common to find in the Mexican supermarkets in Chicago: bottled tepache. I haven’t tried any yet, but I think I will soon just because I’m seeing it everywhere and I’m getting more and more curious how it tastes compared to the homemade tepache I’ve had in Mexico and Chicago from taquerías and street stands.

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The fermented pineapple drink has a hard cider quality and is originally from the state of Jalisco.

For a home-brewed recipe, check out this step-by-step tepache recipe and tutorial from my friend Pati Jinich from Pati’s Mexican Table.

I used to frequently find tepache at an aguas frecas stand at the Maxwell Street Market (every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; free admission and most vendors only accept cash). For more places to find tepache in Chicago, check out this August 2012 article from the Chicago Tribune.

  • Have you had store-bought or bottled tepache? Is it any good and do you have a preferred brand I should try?

Charred Orange Colada

If there’s one drink I’m guaranteed to order by the pool when I’m on vacation, it’s a classic piña colada. When I talked about this charred orange colada recipe with McCormick Spices Chef Kevan Vetter, it had me salivating for vacation and this interesting twist on the classic frozen cocktail.

It’s a simple recipe to follow, and the charred orange and black rum give this colada a decadent depth that makes it a sophisticated version of the classic.

You can also substitute 2-3 ounces of piloncillo for the brown sugar if you want to give it even more of a Mexican flavor.

In Spanish, allspice is called pimienta dulce, and you should be able to find it in both mainstream and Latino markets.

Charred Orange Colada (Recipe from McCormick Spices)

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Charred Orange Colada (Recipe from McCormick Spices)

This interesting twist on the classic piña colada cocktail has smoky charred oranges, rich black rum and warm allspice in every sip.

Ingredients

  • 4 oranges
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick Whole Allspice
  • 1 can (13.66 oz) Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk
  • 12 cup black rum
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1-2 cups crushed ice
  • 4 maraschino cherries (optional for garnish)

Instructions

  1. Cut three of the oranges in half, crosswise. Cut ends off the remaining orange and then cut into 4 crosswise slices. Dip the cut sides of the orange halves in the brown sugar. Reserve the remaining brown sugar.
  2. Grill oranges over medium heat for about 12 minutes or until charred. Turn slices occasionally. Reserve the slices for garnish.
  3. Place orange halves, orange juice, allspice and reserved brown sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and cool completely. Remove orange halves from the pan and squeeze the juice from them back into the saucepan. Mix well and strain juice. Refrigerate until chilled.
  5. Place juice mixture, coconut milk, rum, vanilla and 1 cup of ice in the blender and blend on high until smooth. Add more ice if desired.
  6. Serve garnished with charred orange slices and maraschino cherries.
http://theothersideofthetortilla.com/2012/12/charred-orange-colada/

Want to know more? You can read the full 2013 McCormick Flavor Forecast report on the future of global flavor trends and how they develop the forecast at flavorforecast.com.

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored series to promote McCormick Spices 2013 Flavor Forecast global flavor trend report. We received promotional materials and an exclusive interview with McCormick’s executive chef to assist in writing this post, but all opinions in this series are our own.

CLASSIC MEXICAN COCKTAIL: La Paloma

How to make a paloma cocktail, a classy Mexican grapefrult margarita. Recipe via @MauraHernandez on The Other Side of The Tortilla.

A paloma is a refreshing, classic Mexican cocktail. Some people call it a margarita, some don’t; I think it depends where you’re from. I’ve also heard it called a paloma tequila,”  Traditionally, it has tequila in it, but if you’re not a drinker, you can leave the tequila out for a homemade grapefruit soda—or I suppose you could call it a toronjada.”

The drink is often made with grapefruit-flavored soda such as Jarritos de toronja or Peñafiel toronja or even Squirt or Fresca, but I also like to make the classic recipe with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and agua mineral (sparkling water) for a little fizz.

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Shelling out for agua de coco

I love fresh agua de coco and it’s relatively easy to find in many parts of Mexico. In Chicago, though, it’s less accessible (read: almost impossible to find).

So, I have a love-hate relationship with buying agua de coco in the store when I’m really craving it. On one hand, I’m grateful I can get it at all. But on the other hand, the dilemma for me is twofold: the mass-produced version lacks the same taste as the fresh kind—obviously—but also has a much, much higher price tag.

I’ve even gone so far as to throw away the receipt after buying it because I felt bad about how much I spent (…and maybe because I didn’t want the Mr. to know how much it actually cost).

But on several occasions, I’ve caved and bought a single serve juice box (like the one pictured here) to take with me to the office. Or if I see it on sale, I’ll sometimes buy two regular-sized tetra packs and treat myself.

I can’t help but wonder if I’m the only one who is subconsciously chastising myself for buying it, though. When we traveled through the Carribbean, South and Central America and Mexico on a family vacation in 2009 and we saw stands along the road offering fresh agua de coco all over the place—often for less than the equivalent of a single U.S. dollar—those images stuck in my head. I remember thinking, “if they only knew what we paid for this back home.” And those images stuck with me; they flash in my mind each time I pick up a tetra pack off the shelf at the grocery store and most of the time, I end up putting it back.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal from earlier this year, some industry estimates say U.S. retail sales for coconut water reached around $400 million in 2011. Furthermore, the industry has roughly doubled its revenue every year since 2005, largely due to endorsements and consumption by celebrities and athletes. Something about it seems exploitative to me.

Mexicans (and others throughout Latin America) have been drinking coconut water since long before it was deemed cool by the U.S., but it’s considered a luxury product here and comes with a luxury product price tag. When I have kids, I’m sure I’ll much prefer giving them natural juices and things like coconut water over sugary drinks, but I feel guilty about the cost. I know even if I make the personal choice not to buy it, that many others still will.

  • Do you struggle with this too, or am I crazy?

 

AGUA FRESCA: Agua de mandarina

As the weather starts to get warmer, I’ve gotten an itch for making aguas frescas. This happens to me just about every year. Toward the end of the winter, I always seem to fall into a rut in the kitchen as I wait for spring to arrive. And like clockwork, as soon as we get our first day of warm weather, I head to the store looking for fresh fruits to make aguas frescas. This year was no exception, and the first fruit I spotted was a large bag of mandarinas, mandarin oranges.

I love mandarin oranges both because of the refreshing, sweet juice they produce and their portability as a vitamin-packed snack. In fact, I’ve been carrying two mandarin oranges my purse at all times for the last few weeks so that I always have a healthy snack at the ready.

But I’ve also got some cherished memories of the early days of hanging out with my cuñada, when she used to take me out for aguas frescas and where we almost always ended up with agua de mandarina, one of her favorites—and consequently, now, one of my favorites too.

This is an incredibly simple recipe, but one I’ve been asked for time and again by friends. It’s perfect for serving with any meal, and any gathering—large or small.

A few notes: my husband likes his agua de mandarina to be a little sweeter, but I prefer mine to be more natural and without sugar. My advice: try it without sugar first and perhaps leave out the lime juice. If you feel like it’s not sweet enough for your liking, you can mix about 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1/4 cup of warm water to get it to dissolve, and then mix it with the remaining 1-1/2 cups of cold water.

I also like to use a handheld citrus press for this recipe because I found that my electric juicer doesn’t always extract all the juice due to the small size of the mandarin oranges.

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