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A cool watermelon margarita to mark the end of summer

Recipe: Adult drink easily can be a kid-friendly refresher, too


Watermelon margarita
A refreshing way to mark summer's end.
(Photos: Kathy Morrison)

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.

Drink ingredients
Have everything ready before you start mixing.

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.

Watermelon margarita

Adapted from the New York Times

Serves 1

Ingredients:

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

Watermelon balls

Cross-wise slices of jalapeño

""
Cool, sweet and salty all at once. Put another
jalapeño slice in the drink for a spicy pop.


Instructions:

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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RECIPE

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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