Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pop on In


Keeping cool in the summer is not just about air-conditioning and swimming pools. It is as much about sitting back in the lawn chair with a cherry popsicle dripping down your hand faster than you can eat it, and frosty drinks in tall glasses sipped slowly through straws. For my kids it's about running through the sprinkler with the promise of a freeze-pop afterward. For me it's about getting a tall iced coffee after I drop my kids off at camp.

Besides being a classic summer treat, popsicles are the new "in" dessert, according to some. As the popsicle usurps cupcakes and macarons, an all-popsicle restaurant opened up in Manhattan called Popbar. And (dramatic pause), it is even gluten-free and kosher, according to their website!

There is even a machine called the Zoku Quick Pop Maker, which can freeze popsicles in about 10 minutes. My preferred method is using the plastic molds from the dollar store. I'm ok with planning ahead for my popsicles, and waiting the few hours for them to freeze. As for what flavors to make, today popsicles have been "upgraded" and recipes often include fresh herbs and exotic juice combinations. A book called Paletas by Fany Gerson, gives recipes for pops ranging from the exotic, like mango-chile to the more traditional berry-yogurt. She also includes recipes for aquas frescas, or refreshing drinks in Spanish. Speaking of which, I recently discovered a cold Mexican milk-based beverage called the Horchata. This ain't yo' mama's milkshake. The Horchata is rice-thickened milk seasoned with spices and sugar. I took from my garden's bounty and paired the Horchata with basil for a surprisingly interesting flavor treat.

Whether you like your summer refreshement in solid or liquid form, enjoy the following recipes in the waning days of the season!

Instead of the tradiitonal way of making the horchata with ground rice, I used rice flour, something gluten-free bakers always have on hand!

Basil-Lemon Horchata

1 cup whole milk

2 cups water

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil (if you have lemon-basil even better)

zest of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons sweet rice flour

lemon peel curl for garnish, if desired

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium simmer for 10 minutes. Add the water, basil and lemon zest. Continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes.

In a medium sized lidded-contianer, whisk together the sugar and rice flour. Place a small strainer over the container, slowly pour the hot milk mixture through the strainer. Stir to combine. Allow to cool for 10-20 minutes, cover and refrigerate until chilled, 2 hours to overnight.

To serve: Fill a glass with ice. Pour horchata over ice. Garnish with lemon curl, if desired. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2-3 servings

If you don't have pop molds, you can place aluminum foil tightly over a plastic cup filled 3/4 full with popsicle mixture, and pierce center with wooden popsicle sticks, also known as craft sticks. Freeze as directed.

Strawberry-Watermelon Popsicles

from Sweet & Skinny by Marisa Churchill, p. 124

2 cups strawberries, hulled

2 cups cubed watermelon

1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon agave nectar

Blend the strawberries, watermelon, and agave nectar in a blender or food processor until the mixture is completely smooth.

Pour the mixture into eight popsicle molds, snap on the tops, and freeze until the popsicles are frozen sold, about 6 hours.

Unmold and serve. If the popsicle will not release from mold, briefly submerge mold in warm water.

Yield: 8 popsicles

Lassis (not Timmy's pet) are cooling yogurt drinks that are popular in India.

Mango Lassi

1-8-ounce container plain or vanilla flavored yogurt

1 ripe mango, cubed

honey to taste

milk or water to thin

ice cubes, as desired

Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth. Serve chilled.

Yield: 2 servings

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