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Is it really summer?

After nearly three months of pandemic uncertainty and collective national pain, it's almost hard to believe. When I step outside and see my garden unfurling and smell that unmistakable summer smell of lilacs and sunshine and cut grass, it feels familiar and strange at the same time.

For me, the nice weather is a reminder that we must take in small pleasures no matter what is going on in the world. We need to renew and regenerate, laugh and be silly, and connect with what is important and exciting to us. We need to nourish ourselves and our hearts, or else we will be too exhausted to move forward.

So here is one small pleasure to enjoy: Aguas frescas, a fruit beverage with origins in Mexico and Central America, that is incredibly easy to throw together. During last week's amazing hot spell, I made aguas frescas on my lunch breaks using store-bought strawberries, and picking mint leaves from the garden, plus using whatever citrus we had on hand.

This is going to be my summer go-to beverage — it's low in sugar since you're diluting fruit with lots of water, it is a great way to get a lot out of a small amount of fruit, it's another way to use mint, which is prolific everywhere it grows, it will be an amazing way to enjoy locally picked fruit (soon!), and it's incredibly refreshing, a natural way to get some electrolytes on a hot day.

AGUAS FRESCAS

Makes 2-4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups fruit (melon, strawberry, watermelon, etc. — you can use fruit like blueberries, but the tougher-skinned fruit is often more toothsome when pureed)

1 tablespoon honey or other sweetener (optional)

Citrus juice (lemon, lime)

Fresh mint or other herbs if you're adventurous

Pinch salt

4 cups water

DIRECTIONS:

Puree fruit, sweetener, citrus, and most of your herbs in a food processor or blender until no fruit chunks remain. Add water and puree 1 to 2 minutes more, until mixture is frothy.

Food processor tip: Take a clean kitchen towel and hold it around the seam of your food processor, where the lid meets the canister, while you blend fruit with water. You'll catch all potential splashback and keep your kitchen clean.

Serve, and garnish with mint or other herb leaves. I won't tell anyone if you add a splash of rum or vodka if it's after 5 p.m.


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