Archives for posts with tag: Del Ray

As we begin the 90-90 season in Washington (90 degrees, 90 percent humidity), it’s an appropriate time to introduce a refreshing drink from the Middle East.

When I visited Sam in UAE, we toured an ancient neighborhood of Dubai. After several hours we were hot and sweaty and parched. He suggested a local drink, mint lemonade, as a sure pick-me-up. I wasn’t so sure, but readily agreed. Getting out of the sun was my priority.

We sat silently in the late afternoon shade while the waitress slowly made her rounds and eventually produced our drinks. The mint lemonades in tall icy-cold glasses were curiously green. Herbaceously green.

Mint Lemonade

Mint Lemonade

I took a sip. Mmm. It was so refreshing. The mint, the lemon, the ice all combined to create a drink that washed away the heat. After a few sips, we were alive again, talking, enthusiastic about our evening plans.

Since we have an abundance of mint (ie, the worst winter in half a century didn’t make a dent in it), I decided to figure out why this drink was so restorative.

A quick Google search brought these qualities to the fore:

Mint: astringent, antiseptic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, decongestant, expectorant, antiviral.

Lemon: antibacterial, antiviral, immune-boosting, digestive aid, liver cleanser.

I decided to give a home version of mint lemonade a try. I chose a warm Sunday when Chris and Jeff were visiting, after a walking tour of the super-cool Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria.

A purist would make the lemonade from scratch. I took a shortcut and bought a no-bad-stuff lemonade, Newman’s Own Virgin Lemonade, which is made of filtered water, organic sugar and lemon juice/pulp. I harvested a bunch of mint, plucked the leaves and chucked the rest. Here’s the basic recipe:

Mint Lemonade

Pack a blender container with a handful or two of mint leaves. Add enough lemonade to cover. Whirl for a minute or two until the mint is pulverized. (This is no muddled julep!). Spoon a teaspoon or two of the mint pulp into the bottom of a tall glass, add ice, fill with lemonade. Top with a twist of lemon. Serve with a straw, which you use to stir and sip.

Ratio is the tricky part. CRR likes less mint puree; I like more. It’s a personal thing. You’ll have to find your bliss.

The four of us sat on the patio, slowly sipped and felt the antibodies (see above) take effect. Jeffrey declared himself relaxed. You had to be there to believe it.

If you troll Mideast foodie websites, some make the lemonade from scratch, others add a teaspoon of orange blossom water (which has a heavenly smell) or perhaps top it off with sparkling soda. Others whirl it into a frozen drink, and the racy ones suggest a splash of rum or vodka.

After experimenting for several weeks, I think I’ll freeze some mint puree in ice cube trays. Then I’ll plop a mint cube into a glass of lemonade at the end of the languid summer nights to come. And dream of Arabian nights.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.

 

At the corner of Ocean and Arizona streets, as waves from the Pacific crashed to the shore below us, my sister Sara and I turned to our left. We stopped dead in our tracks and fell uncharacteristically silent. Behold, the magnificence of the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

We slowly walked its length, our heads swiveling left, then right, agog at the rainbow-colored bounty. Neither of us had ever seen a farmers market of such breadth and depth. And she’s seen a lot of farm-fresh food, having adopted California as her home two decades ago. My own neighborhood farmers market, in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Va., suddenly seemed … inadequate.

A bit of history. The Santa Monica Farmers Market was established in 1981 and now boasts 700 vendors, all certified as California growers. Their booths sprawl across a dozen city blocks. The market draws local chefs as well as hungry visitors like us, sampling a little of this, a little of that.

Avocados grown in nearby Morro Bay. Pistachios from just up the road, flavored with lemon chives or habaneros. Almonds with a hint of orange rind or rosemary. A cornucopia of peppers, from serranos to pablanos and hatch.

Santa Monica Farmers Market

Asian pears, bosc pears, seckel pears. Dates still on the stem – I didn’t even know they grow in clusters, like brussel sprouts (also available, of course). A dozen types of peaches. Apples too. Mounds of squash blossoms. Fresh-picked pomegranates, $1 each.  Three kinds of juicy clementines, each with a distinctive flavor. Melons, dragon fruit (!), giant grapefruit, oh my.

We bought bags full of food, and feasted for lunch. You leave this market inspired, whether you’re a restaurant chef or an amateur.

We had briefly cruised the small Sunday market for some fruit to nosh during our visit, and our son told us then: Wait, the Wednesday market is world-renowned, for good reason. He’s a smart kid, that one.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.