You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays with ideas on preparing fruits and vegetables. —The Mgmt.
Can liking water make you a poseur? I might have said yes during those plastic-bottle-toting years in the 1990s when it mattered whether you were an Evian girl or a Poland Spring guy. I myself was more of a Volvic chick, but only because I was trying to woo my future husband, who had spent a college gap year in the Auvergne region of France, where Volvic is sourced. Not that there's anything the slightest bit pretentious about any of that. Ahem.
Of course, those days have long since passed, and we've now stopped to realize that whether our plastic water bottles hail from France or from Maine, they all end up next to each other for eternity in the same landfill in New Jersey. I would have thought that once we returned to a life of drinking water from the tap, the poseur factor would have gone the way of...the way of...well, the opposite way of those plastic water bottles.
But when I started to think about how to introduce this agua fresca recipe, I realized that I may have become a different kind of water poseur in the years since then. Any decent story of this refreshing, barely sweet fruit drink ought to start with a sun-drenched trip to Mexico or a stint living amongst the taquerias of southern California. It's only fair to the water, really.
My story derives from a lesser place. It's more of an "I was thirsty" vibe than anything, maybe with a pinch of "it's a little early for strawberries yet, but hey, I was thirsty" thrown in for good measure. It's along the lines of Mark Bittman's introduction to his agua fresca recipe in this video. Bittman, the story goes, wanted to invent a refreshing summer drink. His mind kept saying "ice" and "water," but he thought ice water was a little too minimalist even for The Minimalist and went with agua fresca instead. So to get back to the poseur theme for a minute, it looks like Bittman and I were thinking right along the same lines. But hey, he's Bittman. And I'm--thirsty.
The lemon, sugar and vanilla in this recipe exist more to show off the flavor of the strawberries than to make their own mark on your palate. That said, this is not the place to be a poseur. Adjust the proportions according to your taste.
Strawberry Vanilla Agua Fresca
- 1 pound strawberries, hulled
- 4 cups ice-cold water, divided
- Enough vanilla seeds to fill the point of a sharp knife, or a scant 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Ice, for serving
In a blender, combine the strawberries with 2 cups of the water and the vanilla seeds or extract. Puree until completely liquid. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve or through cheesecloth into a pitcher.
Stir in the remaining 2 cups water, lemon juice and sugar. Taste and adjust sugar to suit your preference. Pour into ice-filled glasses and serve.