Summer Dragon Spritzer

watermelon summer dragonSummer snuck in quietly, carrying a battering ram. Within moments we were slammed by sudden warring heat. Then in all its capriciousness, Summer ebbed out and let the lingering clouds grant us reprieve. I’m no stranger to California weather though. I know the blanket will descend and try to smother us with heat once more. All too normal this cycle is, up and down, though it really shouldn’t be. Nevertheless, in those dried out sweltering days, nothing soothes me more than a cool room (or a great fan), a book (or 5 million), and a slushy delicious drink.

Okay scratch that, a pool is welcome too – currently thanking my lucky stars that I’ve become well acquainted with our complex’s pool.

But that swirly refreshing drink! Something that throbs the beat of summer: cool, relaxed, with a zing factor. We all need one I think, but I wouldn’t have discovered what is now my token drink of the summer without the enlightenment of my old roommate who visited me a few weeks ago. So thank you, LD, for opening my eyes to the Summer Dragon Spritzer. Not so many thanks though for introducing me to a most egregious song of the summer (in my opinion). I won’t name it, but let it be said that all my lines are in full focus. Especially with my new glasses! Hah.

trifecta of dragonssummer dragon spritzer

Anyway… It being summer, one would think I’d have more time to myself to read, and… well read. There are a thousand books and articles on my To-Do list—some for fun, some for research, and more for fun research. I also have plans to redesign this website, to actually contribute to it once more, to redefine who I am as a writing human being. Yet, it took all my mental power to drag myself out of the oblivion of “Unjournaling” just to work on this. More than a month of so-called “summer time” has flown by and all I have to show for it is a new children’s literature journal that has been the most rewarding headache of the year and a few books under my belt. Not to mention that Ramadan is less than a week away—a soul-refreshing, revitalizing, but (GAH!) oh so challenging time of the year. If I can establish a strong working routine I won’t lose too much concentration during the month, but still, it will be a struggle to get through all the tasks I set forth. As it must be for everyone. I welcome advice and encouraging thoughts on how to stay focused on so much reading while fasting…

So, it’s a feat that I have managed some free reading for myself. A lot has been MG and YA literature, which I find both a reprieve from the heaviness of life and a much more rewarding experience many times around. There’s a sense of inventiveness and challenge to status quo that opens up so authentically in some texts that I cherish and appreciate. So, at the behest of the lit agent I was interning for, I delved into Newbery Award winning The Higher Power of Lucky and its sequel, Lucky Breaks, by Susan Patron. I immediately felt a kinship with the young girl protagonist for her inquisitive, reflective, adventure-happy character, and felt a new awareness of life in California, because this is probably the first book I’ve read set in the CA desert (in Hard Pan, population 43). If not the first, then certainly the first through the lens of an impulsive and brave, kind and vulnerable child. The love of her terrain, its existence outside of Los Angeles but within its touch and grasp, is a great reminder that the spaces we inhabit are not static and merely historical, but an intertwining of stories that affect and shape our society as much as we choose to believe we shape the land.

Photo Jun 16, 11 05 54 AMRight. The point is not to share with you my ruminations of the desert qualities on Lucky Trimble and her tiny eclectic town (suddenly “heterotopia” comes to mind—thank you, Foucault), but instead tie it to my new summer drink. In the second book, Lucky’s adoptive mother, Brigitte, has started a weekend cafe in the “courtyard” of their three-trailer home. Brigitte, a connoisseur of French cuisine and other tastes that sit loftily above the desert-preference of chili and a simple burger, could very easily serve my fruity drink. At least symbolically, it melds into these novels with sultry ease. Despite the simplicity of the ingredients, it is textured and layered, sweet and spicy in a way that reflects Lucky’s character. Whether deciding to run away rather than face the consequence of her guardian leaving her for France, or tampering with her best friend’s knot tying project to keep him from winning an award to travel to England for two months, Lucky’s caring and thoughtful nature is constantly battling with her impulsive fiery, and shortsighted mind. Sounds simple enough but Patron’s writing makes you ache like she does, makes you angry with Lucky but feel so compassionately for her too. Because we have all been there. And we have all needed a watermelon to wash away our summer doldrums.

I’m rambling. But I do think this is the perfect thirst quencher for Brigitte’s Hard Pan Cafe, and I hope that if ever there were a 4th or 5th book, Patron would consider including the Summer Dragon Spritzer. It’s that awesome.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of jalapeño-&-orange infused simple syrup:
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 jalapeño diced
    • zest of one orange Boil, cover, simmer, let cool.
  • 5-6 cups chopped watermelon
  • 1 cup peach lemonade (or any lemonade, I like Santa Cruz Farm’s Peach version)
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, sliced in circles (seeded or not)
  • Sparkling water
  • 1 lime (or leave out if you use lime-infused sparkling water)
  • “Orange” ice for a touch of pizzazz (details below)

To make a simple syrup, you just need equal parts of water and sugar, brought to a boil and then simmered until ever-so-slightly thickened and silky smooth. In this case, once the sugar/water begins to boil, add the diced jalapeño        and orange zest. Once it looks smooth and delicious, remove from heat. You can then either strain it or, if you’re me, leave the tidbit-goodies in for a bit of soft crunch and texture in your drink. Either way is cool.orange and jalapeñoorange ice

In a large blender, add the chopped watermelon. You might have to add it in parts, depending on your blender’s capacity, but eventually you’ll have a frothy watermelon puree. You could just stop here and it would be delicious cold, but where’s the fun in that?

Add the peach lemonade and about 1/3 cup of the syrup. You can add more for taste, but best to start off slowly. Blend and adjust the syrup as desired. It should be adding a touch of spice to the otherwise sweet drink. I felt that it wasn’t noticeable enough, but I didn’t want to add even more sugar, so that’s where the sliced jalapeño comes in. I added the slices and let it rest for a while. The longer Photo Jun 15, 5 37 24 PMyou let the jalapeños soak, the stronger that zing will be. It’s just fabulous!

When ready to serve, fill about 2/3 of the glass with the watermelon mix, then top off with sparkling water and a fresh squeeze of lime. Garnish with a sprig of mint and drop in a cube or two of frozen orange ice. We’ve been in a fruity-ice fix lately, and have been adding tiny wedges of lime, orange, strawberries, pineapple, etc to ice cube trays to freeze. It is soooo much better to drink a cold glass of water with this hint of fruit than to buy those flavored water drinks (which I’ve never done, but I can’t imagine they are good, or good for you in the long run).

Anyway, if you want an extra touch of subtle orange, go for it. Either way, get ready for a slushy, textured, sweet and spicy summer Dragon spritzer, ready to send flames through your tastebuds, softened with the delicate flavor of watermelon.Photo Jun 15, 9 37 34 PM

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Plum Vinaigrette and Summer Salad in tow

Between the husband and I, salads have become a much more frequent main dish of the dinner (and/or lunch) time. I have to give the boy some props for being open to trying new flavors and realizing the salad is so much more than just some lettuce tomato and cucumber tossed in lemon and olive oil. There aint nothin’ wrong with that, but… it’s boring. Thankfully he married a culinarily curious food lover who likes to try and learn new techniques, resulting in such beauties as the orange vinaigrette and soy ginger and chili lime dressings. We have discovered that he prefers the tangy and spicy versions more than the fruity but as I am the predominant cook I get to decide. And lately what I wanted was something that spoke of summer, of sun, of the fruits of the season.

As it happens, I have seen plums everywhere and naturally surmised the most obvious and pleasant route would be to endeavor a taste of the plum vinaigrette. I’d never tried anything like this, and while it wasn’t heard, it certainly took more labor than my dressings usually require, but I daresay for the eyes alone it was worth it. The colors I was left with took my breath away. I’m only disheartened I had to leave this beautiful concoction in Maryland when I moved this week. Did that come as a surprise? Yes I am currently in CA now, temporarily with la familia before I settle down in San Diego. It is with a heavy heart that I must bid adieu to all the great food and great people I encountered, along with the lush majesty of trees galore, but new adventures await! One cannot sit idly by and moan about the past whilst the present offers a smorgasbord of delights.

Anyway, here I am now reminiscing about the bright, sweet, and rich homemade vinaigrette which really was worth the effort! I am ready to explore with other fruits soon, now that the basic technique has revealed itself to me with delightful clarity. I implore you to do the same, lest the fruits of summer pass you by with nary a glance from your direction. What better than an ideal summer salad to live through this horridly hot days? Continue reading