heating up and cooling down

thirsty thursday
notes from maggie's farm

Today we complement our Five Dollar Feast with two beloved latin american specialties, one to heat things up, and one to cool things down.

Horchata, is one of Mexican cuisine's antidote to the spicy salsas and fiery chiles in many of their dishes.  For the lactose intolerant (which amounts to as much as 30% of Latin Americans) it is a way to indulge your thirst for milk, without milk.  I like to add it to my coffee like a creamer.  In a pinch, a carton of rice milk, some almond extract, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, over ice, is a quick way to approximate this treat.  But do yourself a favor.  Tackle the real deal.  It's head and shoulders above the shortcut, and not very difficult, actually.  Note:  For the correct pronunciation, I present to you Juan and Calixto .


1/2 C uncooked long-grain white rice
1 C raw almonds, skinless, or cashews
1 cinnamon stick
4 C water
1/2 C sugar
crushed ice, to serve

In a small spice or coffee grinder, grind rice, and almonds or cashews, separately into a meal. Add to 2 cups of cold water with cinnamon stick. (Note: Optionally, toasting the cinnamon releases the oils in the stick and will enhance your finished horchata.)  Soak for at least 6 hours, or preferably, overnight.
Transfer the water, rice, cashews to a blender and blend until it is very smooth (as long as a few minutes). Add the sugar and an additional 2 cups of water and continue to blend for another few minutes.
Pour the mixture through a mesh sieve into a bowl or pitcher, stirring the solids to help the liquid pass through. Optionally, drain a second time through four layers of cheesecloth to achieve an even smoother beverage.
To serve, pour over a glass full of crushed ice.  Refrigerate to store up to 3 days.

To heat things up, pico de gallo, literally interpreted as beak of the rooster, (emblematic of the motion of finger to thumb before utensils were used in latin cultures) is fast, easy, economical, and a staple of the Mexican table.  I prefer it to salsa, if I must choose, and I will happily toss together a salad of cabbage, avocado and pico de gallo for lunch, anytime.  It's also the trick to making a good quickie guacamole.  Just add a tablespoon or so (okay, less if your wimpy) to one or two mashed avocados, add a little salt, and you've made yourself a great guac.  But before we get ahead of ourselves.......

Our simple pico de gallo-- two small tomatoes, diced, one jalapeno, finely diced (remove the seeds and white ribs if the heat is too much for you--but you know we didn't), 1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro leaves and stems, and 1-2 tablespoons onion, minced, and rinsed.  Rinsing takes the strong sting out of onions-- I learned this from a favorite Mexican restaurant years ago and serve raw onions chopped, rinsed, and drained, anytime we want a little crunch, without the raw bite.  Combine in a bowl, and salt to taste.  (If you're going to serve this with salted chips, you'll want to use a light hand).  Allow to sit, refrigerated, for 30 minutes.  If more liquid, or 'tang' is desired, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice, to taste, but only after chilling.  (Tomatoes will release liquid when salted, so you don't want to get it too watery.)  And then, what you have......

is just lovely.
Yes, pico de gallo, I am talking to you.  You are beautiful, no matter what you do.....words can't bring (oh, I'm sorry, got carried away.)

and when your beauty overwhelms me,


Tomorrow, on freestyle friday, we're wrapping up this Five Dollar Feast with the jewel of the crown...

You're not going to want to miss this...it's the best part of the feast!

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