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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LiterEature 101: Beka Cooper Series (Terrier, Bloodhound, Mastiff)

Cover credit: Random House (US)

Well, this is a slight departure. An entire series? A full trilogy? Would that not make my post even more verbose, bordering on the edge of interminable? On another day, another life, another fork of time’s limitless pathways, yes there could be a danger of reviewing an entire series, but not so today! The reason is a bit pathetic really: I read all three books about two to three months ago, while still residing a lifetime away in Maryland. My memory of them individually lacks monumental detail.  So then why bother? Why keep these books hanging on tenterhooks instead of moving on to more recently consumed literatura? If you must know (and naturally you must, else this blog would be quite meaningless to you as a reader), I just loved the food descriptions. I also thoroughly enjoyed the novels, but I marveled at Tamora Pierce’s use of food in these books. So read on, folks, read on. Continue reading

Pumpkin Ginger Cakelets

yumWinter chills have seeped into town. Bright sun bears down false sustenance, leaving barren trees to tremble in the icy air. Absent of snow though the days may be (for now), the frosty turn of foggy breath and arctic shivers leave no room for doubt that warmth is the number-one desired commodity now. Warmth and comfort. Warmth and comfort and languid bliss. In my short triple-decade stint of existence, I’ve learned that this is best achieved through that most dangerously seductive of avenues: the tummy. And nothing sings joyful choruses like a soft ‘n sweet treat, bite sized to match your tiny indulgences (we shall forget the ease with which infinite bites can be had in one sitting for now). Continue reading

Crisp Cranberry Orange Marriage

Salad all mixed upNewsflash!  One unexpected Saturday afternoon recently, my husband came home from the gym, headed directly to the kitchen and served himself lunch.  Not a shock of course, food is his first second and third love (along with music and, I guess, me). And naturally he went straight for the chicken biryani I had made, but when I looked up to check on him, there was something green and leafy on his plate as well.  Could it be? The husband willingly chose, on his own volition, at no one’s request but his own hankering, to eat salad???

You must understand that this is a man who claims to be vegetarian at heart but only eats maybe five veggies at all with any gusto.  A man who cringes whenever I mention the S-word at a restaurant.  This same man sat there munching, happily proclaiming for all to hear (and by all, I mean me) that this was his favorite salad ever.  He not merely endured it, but relished the crisp sweet pleasure that I had concocted with fruitful flare!  Oh perhaps I exaggerate slightly but his proclamation was completely true.

I originally made this salad for Thanksgiving dinner, whereby all my friendly guests fell enamored with the simply powerful dressing that brought an exhilaration that greenery had never held in their lives.  Hyperbole?  I concede it.  But then I’ve also never seen my friend Tehniat drool over salad either, so you be the judge.  During that evening, the husband was prompted to give a name to this salad, and so that is what I present to thee: the Crisp Cranberry Orange Marriage. Continue reading

Basil and Orange-kissed Fig Crepes

Basil Mascarpone and fig in harmonyAs I sit to write this, my mouth bites into the sweet velvety richness of a dried fig.  I came home with an unseemly desire to feast upon the fabulous figs, inevitably pulling out Fig Heaven, a recipe cornucopia featuring the luscious fruit.  Recently I have been treating myself to these newfound edible delights.  Yup, figs.  Ever since I was young I actually was always drawn to Fig Newtons if you recall (fruit and cake! Fruit. And. Cake!), and last year the aunty responsible for dressing me so exquisitely on my wedding introduced my mom and I to the succulence of fresh figs.  So now, having found them in the grocery store, I couldn’t help but indulge… and truly, I feel nothing but pity for my former self that never dabbled in the fine art of fig feasting. Continue reading

Roasted Pepper Omelet

The days fly by faster, harnessed to the backs of eagles, whipping through time and soaring out of sight between the briefest snap of my fingers. It breaks my heart to see the sun set faster and faster even when the days grow longer and longer. What illogical conundrum is this?? Perhaps that’s just the inevitable fate of working shared by all, especially when you feel the weight of a thousand challenges, goals, and passions swinging expectantly around you.

The point of all this? To wallow in the sadness of not exploring my culinary side due to many lacking ingredients – sometimes time, sometimes energy. I actually have been working on a challenging and sweet LiterEature lesson, but need a generous amount of time to execute it. I can probably deliver on that by next weekend. I also need to start thoughtful preparation for the coming weeks, when my friend and my family will be visiting us in the span of a week. There are looming expectations to feed them all heartily after all, not to mention making sure the basic amenities are in order. A guestroom bed, for example. Might be helpful, no??

So yes, a bit pressed for time, but time’s like this remind us the truth of finding supreme pleasure in the simplest things. And a day is worth nothing without a sumptuous start; thus I’m sharing with you a super friendly nudge to start your mornings off – my Roasted Pepper Omelet. Continue reading

V-Day Delights Part 2: Wrapping Up with Dinner

You can’t have a part 1 without its follow-up, so now that dessert and all its scintillating joy is out of the way, we can make our way through the dinner portion of Valentine’s Day evening.  Oy, just thinking about that dinner makes me hungry now; everything was immaculately executed for once—no hiccups, no over or under seasoning, just resplendent and fairly light dinner with an Asian flair.

Now, I have to give props to Guy Fieri (yeah that burly bleached blond chef who eats like an ogre on his Triple-D show).  Surprisingly (or not), he makes some really good food himself, and personally I enjoy watching him simply because he is not as pretentious as some of the Food network folks, and has good tips.  So When I saw a show all about wraps, I felt inspired to follow suit.

And so, I endeavored to make Asian Orange Turkey Lettuce Wraps, and Shrimp Rolls with a Pineapple Pickle Salsa (the pineapple recipe is all Guy’s).

I think the most amazing thing about the evening was that I was able to do accomplish all this at once in the span of two hours or so, along with the tiramis-who.

First up: Asian Orange Lettuce Wraps! Continue reading