Agua Fresca

Agua Fresca

One good thing about working in kitchens is the amount of diversity you come across with your co-workers. It is typical that in most kitchens there is someone of mexican discent working. since working at the Greenbrier, I have worked with many passionate and food driven chefs and I have never worked anywhere else where I have seen so much creativity. One of the chefs in our kitchen is crazy about making this fruit drink just about every day for our family meal. I finally went up to Armando and asked him what the deal is with him making these delicious and refreshing drinks. He told me that this melon water or Agua Fresca is a very popular drink in Mexico. Traditionally when they drink water they add any fruit of choice preferably watermelon  for a delicious flavor. I did some research on this tradition and according to the Hawaiidiner.com, this beverage literally translated as “fresh water” is a drink made from what ever fruit is in season and usually has a sweetener such as sugar added to it. You will find these drinks all over Mexico on the street or in restaurants and the distinct fruitiness balances very well amongst Mexican cuisine. This beverage can also be see in the Philippines.
I watched Armando prepared this tasty beverage one day and asked if it was okay to copy the recipe and add it to my blog.  You can use any fruit you like, we prefer to use compressed melons such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew. We compressed them due to the fruit we received this year not being as sweet as it should be therefore compressing it in simple syrup added great sweetness to it.

To make you:
-Add into a blender or vita prep any kind of fruit cut into small chunks up to the top. For this recipe we used all three melons as mentioned above.
-Add in 1 cup lemon juice
-Add 4 oz simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, cooked down)
-Add in small handful mint leaves (optional)
-Blend together
-Strain though a fine mesh strainer or chinoise
-Serve over ice and enjoy.

You can also add in berries if preferred for additional flavors. This is a very delicious and light refreshing beverage. Goes wonderful with hot/spicy foods, and great to enjoy on a hot summer day.

Pictured above is an example of how to start the beverage with adding everything into the blender prior to blending.

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Drunken Cheese

The fun part of working in an Italian restaurant is the use of as much authentic Italian food as possible. One of the garde manager menu items, that is common on most menus is a cheese plate. There are many varieties of cheese in the world as I’m sure most of us know, and it seems every time I’m around a cheese cooler in the store I’m finding another cheese I’ve never seen or eaten before. I was introduced to a wonderful Italian cheese the other day called Ubriacone cheese. It is translated in Italian to “drunken”. When I first picked up the cheese I was curious because the color was a pale yellowish gold and it almost looked like Parmesan Reggiano by the texture. I was confused by a cause of a dark purple rind that smelled like wine. I took a bite and sure enough the first thing that came to my mind was this would go excellent with a glass of Pinot Noir. Ubriacone (Ubriaco) is from the province of Treviso in Italy and made from raw cows milk. This young cheese is soaked in local wine, both red and white then covered with crushed grape skins, seeds or stems left after from the wine making process (wine must) and then allowed to mature for six to ten months. The cheese is then pierced with tiny holes to let the flavor and aroma of the wine permeate the cheese. As mentioned above it is covered with grape leaves to keep mold from entering the holes of the cheese. Ubriacone has a hint of pineapple and a slight nutty taste. The texture is firm and slightly crumbly similar to Parmesan. If you are a wine lover like myself, this cheese would pair well with medium bodied wines and sweet or sparkling wines such as Prosecco. You can buy this cheese online at http://www.dibruno.com for $12.99 / 8oz.

Peppermint Meringues

It’s that time of the year with Thanksgiving being a few days away and Christmas to follow shortly after that. Everyone is back into the swing of things with pulling out their favorite holiday recipes from entrees to desserts.

As most people do most of the same cooking every year I decided to try something different. I spend most of my day cooking and when I’m not cooking on my days off I like to try baking instead. I’m no pastry Chef but I do love the challenge of trying something new with recommended recipes or something I’ve come across in a magazine. This year I decided to try meringue cookies. A college room mate of mine loves the vanilla meringue cookies from Trader Joes and back in college we would always have a box waiting in the kitchen as an after class snack. I always thought about making my own except I never got around to doing it. I figured given the winter season it would be good to try making a cookie with a peppermint flavor that would pair well with another seasonal treat like hot chocolate.

Making a meringue is not hard by any means. It’s all about whipping egg whites to the right peak, but for whatever reason it took me 3 times to make before the meringue came out perfect. From my experience some recipes that you find in a magazine don’t always work out at all because you don’t know how well tested or proven they are. using my knowledge of food I was able to figure out what I was doing wrong to finally accomplish the proper texture I was looking for. If you’re a fan of mint and meringue, I encourage you to try this recipe for yourself. They are a wonderful after dinner treat and something to snack on while drinking hot chocolate. You can use a different flavor of extract if you don’t like peppermint.I added red food coloring into the meriunge before piping to give a candy cane effect.

 

Ingredients:

-3 Large egg whites

-3/4 Cup sugar

-1/8 teaspoon peppermint (or other flavor) extract

-1/8 teaspoon salt

 

Method of Prep:

-Set oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit

-On medium-high speed whisk egg whites and salt together until a foamy white color appears, approximately 1 minute.

-Add in sugar at 3 different times, within 2 minutes of each other until soft peaks form

-Add in extract and combine for 1 more minute.

-Grab a piping bag and insert round piping tip

-Fill piping back with meringue and pipe onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper.

-Set in oven until dry, roughly 1.5 hours

Enjoy!

The final result