Friday, June 13, 2008

Culinary Invention

A few weeks ago, I went out with some American girlfriends for an English-speaking happy hour...and we ended up ordering these fantastic drinks. I had to explain to the waiter that I only wanted the teeniest, tiniest, maybe 7 droppers full of alcohol in mine. Just enough to pull the flavors out of the ingredients. He was kind and acquiesed to my request but still charged me the full price. I was momentarily annoyed...but then realized I was just being American, trying to get a discount!

I really enjoyed the "bebida," which was basically a lemon/lime soda with mint leaves, slices of ginger and !surprise! rosemary. It was like a sophisticated take on lemonade, with the tiniest bit of a kick at the end. And my first thought was, "Wow! I have to learn to make this at home!"

But I keep on forgetting to buy ginger and mint when I go to the nicer areas of town. Up here in the sticks, it is rare for the local grocery store to carry such exotic items, and I'm too lazy to walk the 15 minutes to the bustling produce market in a nearby favela where they sell pretty much everything under the sun...

But today, after a particularly odd day (see next posting), I took my shopping bag to the supermarket at the mall. I passed on the fancy cheeses and looked unsuccessfully for all-fruit jam (I guess that's only found in the South Zone), but picked up a great selection of fruits and vegetables, plus all the fixings for homemade granola. My gingerroot was so light that I had to put my wallet on the scale so it would read; there's a minimum weight of 100 grams. That says something about my wallet as well, but whatever. The ginger was 40 centavos.

Home at last and ready to experiment, I took a lime (juice), the ginger, dried rosemary and a small handful of washed mint leaves and threw it into the blender with water and sugar. Ice would have been a nice touch too, had I remembered...Once it was all whirled up, some straining occurred. Neither the rosemary nor the ginger is particularly appetizing when not accompanied by actual food, so this step is necessary. If rum or vodka is used, I'm guessing the blender step can be nixed, because the alcohol will "pull" the flavors out. In the absence of alcohol, you've got to juice the ingredients to get the same effect. A sprig of whole rosemary would have been excellent, visually and flavor-wise, but I didn't have any on hand...

The result was fantastic, a light juice-like concoction with none of the evils of either soda or alcohol, and really refreshing. The bright flavors of lime and ginger were balanced out with the woody rosemary and a subtle hit of mint; nothing was too overpowering or understated. This is the best case scenario of what would happen if you threw a sushi bar and a Mexican restaurant into a fusion machine. It's my new afternoon liquid. Goodbye chocolate milk, hello AsianFauxjito!

(Though that name simply WILL NOT work. Anyone want to test out the recipe and then get back to me with a creative, non-potentially-offensive name?)

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