Recipe: Adult drink easily can be a kid-friendly refresher, too
Too hot to bake, and the air's too yucky to be outside. Yet it's Labor Day weekend, the traditional end of summer. So celebrate with the ultimate summer fruit -- watermelon -- in an easy and very cool margarita cocktail.
Watermelon growers must have had a good year, because the stores and markets have been full of them. I snagged a big Vierra Farms black watermelon for a great price, but had to wait to break it down because my refrigerator was packed.
When I finally had some space available, I decided to turn one half of the melon into melon balls while collecting the juice for this drink, which I adapted from a recipe on the New York Times Cooking site. Watermelon is practically liquid, anyway, so that went pretty fast. I only had to watch for seeds, since this variety is a seeded one.
But alternatively you can cut the rind off a hunk of melon, chop it into chunks, toss the chunks into a blender, then strain out any seeds and the mushy solids. Do this ahead of time and the cocktail goes together quite easily.
Have plenty of limes on hand, since fresh lime juice balances the sweet melon perfectly.
A note on the liquor ingredients: The tequila plus Cointreau makes it taste like a traditional margarita. If you'd rather have more fruit flavor than alcohol, skip the Cointreau, but increase the tequila by 1/2 ounce and the watermelon juice by 1 ounce.
And if your kids want to join the party, a nonalcoholic variation follows the main recipe.
Adapted from the New York Times
Ice, as needed
3 ounces fresh watermelon juice
1 ounce tequila (clear or "silver" variety preferred)
1 ounce Cointreau (optional, see note above)
1 ounce fresh lime juice, rinds reserved
For glass and garnish:
Fine sea salt
Cross-wise slices of jalapeño
Prepare the glass by running a reserved lime juice rind along the rim of the glass, then dipping the rim into a flat saucer containing the sea salt. Put the watermelon balls and the jalapeño slice on a toothpick for the garnish.
Make the drink: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. If you don't have a shaker (I don't), try using a clean liter-size reusable hydration bottle; the drink opening makes a decent strainer.
To the shaker, add the watermelon juice, tequila, Cointreau (if using) and lime juice. (If you want a spicy bite to your drink, toss a jalapeño slice into the shaker, too.) Shake to combine.
Add ice to the prepared glass. Strain the drink into the glass. Add the prepared garnish, and raise the glass in a toast to the end of this long, hot summer.
Non-alcoholic version: In the shaker with ice, combine 4 ounces watermelon juice and 1 ounce lime juice. Shake and pour into a glass with ice. Add enough sparkling water, lemon-lime soda or ginger ale to fill the glass. Garnish with melon balls, if desired.
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For week of Dec. 10:
Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!
* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.
* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.
* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.
* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.
* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.
* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.
* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.
* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.
* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.
* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.
* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.
* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.
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