We’re now in that time of year in which we are flooded by the wave of morning show bits, magazine articles, and blog posts on how to get “back on track” after a period of over-indulgence–just as we were similarly overwhelmed by images and recipes of those temptations only a few weeks or months during that period, of course–and while I’m all for wanting to lighten up a bit, the turnabout often gives me whiplash. My friend D over at The Kitchen Witch provides her humorous and realistic take on the whole thing with her “Shrink-My-Ass-Month” series of posts celebrating lighter recipes that are still edible, and I wanted to join her this year in sharing some of the so-called “healthy” recipes that have made their way into our kitchen. That said, we don’t focus on shrinking our asses as much as we do on squatting: between the two of us, Michael and I do a disgusting amount of squats under a barbell during the week, and we need to fuel ourselves in order to continue doing so.
Hence, the genesis of My-Ass-Must-Squat-Month: while it’s really less a month and more a state of mind, it’s best to contain it to a month within the confines of this blog and go from there. The first recipe is one I love because it is equally delicious when paired with water as it is with a good gin or tequila.
(I never promised a completely virtuous series.)
This isn’t what I would call a drink as much as I would call it a mix; it’s drinkable on its own of course, but it’s pretty intense, and drinking it straight would defeat the purpose of calling it agua fresca. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, an agua fresca is a light, non-alcoholic beverage in which a fruit is pureed to get its essence (though discarding most of the pulp) and mixing it with water, a sweetener, and even sometimes another juice to provide a little flavor. The idea is that you get the flavor of the mixture without the intensity (or calories) of an actual juice. What I like about this recipe is that the mix has a fairly intense flavor that dilutes nicely in drink form, particularly from the serrano chile and a good quarter teaspoon of the cayenne pepper.
We made it regularly over the summer, having some in the afternoon with water, or using it as an easy cocktail base for a post-beach aperitivo in the summertime. Why I never blogged about it is beyond me, and I hope to remedy my mistake by finally sharing this recipe with you now.
There are a few keys to the recipe; namely, adding a splash of water to the blender prior to pureeing the cucumber and the chile to help things along, and allowing the time to let the cucumber/chile water to strain thoroughly prior to adding it to the final product. Use a liter-sized bottle to mix things as you go along as you may want to add a little more lime, or a little more agave nectar. But once you get the proportions to your liking, you can simply keep it in your fridge for those times you need a spicy kick to your water or you liquor, and you can justify it by saying that capsaicin stimulates metabolism or so I’ve been told.
Pineapple-Cucumber-Chile Agua Fresca
Makes about a liter of mix
- 1 small English cucumber, broken into large chunks
- 1 serrano chile, stemmed but seeds and veins in-tact
- 2 ½ cups pineapple juice
- Light agave nectar to taste (a good solid squeeze at first to start, more may be needed to taste)
- Juice of 3-4 limes
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
Add a splash of water to a blender carafe, and place the cucumber and serrano chile to the blender. Puree the cucumber and chile until smooth and strain it into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer. (This will take some time, so doing dishes or an another annoying-but-useful chore is ideal to help pass the time away.) Juice the limes into the strained cucumber-chile water, add in the cayenne pepper, and then add to a one-liter bottle. Pour in the pineapple juice and agave, close the bottle, and shake vigorously to combine. Adjust sweet and sour levels as necessary, and keep in a fridge.
To serve: pour with two ounces of filtered water, gin, or tequila over ice. Can also be finished with a dash of sparkling water.