This past weekend, there’s nowhere else I would have rather been than in New York. Not the beach, not the country, not a foreign city, not nowhere. It was that perfect weather kind of weekend when you can enjoy stumbling around the city without any set plans. You can spend the afternoon in your friends’ backyard/garden in Park Slope, playing with your other friends’ insanely cute dachshunds, Jim and Pam, then traipse around with a solid wine buzz looking for a good Thai restaurant until you settle on gourmet pizza instead – because when are you not happy with pizza? (Especially at Franny’s. Ava and my pizza barely even had any CHEESE – but it did have something called garlic scrapes – and dayummm it was good.) Finally, you can round off the weekend by taking a jog down the West Side highway dressed like the Flight Crew (Jets fans, you know what I’m talkin bout).
I’m trying to be a grownup and do grownup things like NOT eat ice cream every day, even though there are plenty of good excuses to eat ice cream every day. It’s hot out! I have an ice cream maker and a new jar of peanut butter and a bag of chocolate nubs! Davey’s has new summer flavors! Dominique Ansel has a BURRATA ICE CREAM flavor… but I digress. Instead of ice cream all of the days, horchata is a totally refreshing, sweet treat, perfect for those days when you are weaning yourself off ice cream.
One sip of horchata brings me back to those days of working as a camp counselor in Valencia, España. I was 22 and teaching English to middle schoolers on a remote compound somewhere in the region of Valencia. It was hot as sh*t, the sun scorched the earth and big ugly black flies buzzed around relentlessly. The only trees around were patches of olive trees and even they looked parched. Luckily, there was a salt-water pool where I would spend the better part of each afternoon after class. For two weeks I lived there, teaching those babies to say their names in English and ask important questions like “Can I go to the toilet please,” and every day we had two snack times. I never looked forward to the morning snack. Half a baguette smothered with paté that looked and smelled like cat food. Gross. But in the afternoons, we had ice-cold horchata, and teacher always made sure there was enough for her too.
I’ve been wanting to post about a traditional Spanish horchata for a while now. The Spanish horchata is made with chufas, or in English, tiger nuts. And turns out they’re not all that easy to find. I scoured specialty nut stores until Google led me to the paleo section of good old Whole Foods, which sells tiger nuts as a snack food. They’re tough alien-looking little orbs, and it’s no surprise you have to soak them for at least 24 hours before trying to blend them with water. And even then, unless you have a pimp food processor that doesn’t let liquids escape, you can expect a sticky mess of horchata all over your kitchen after you attempt to blend the chufas with water. But don’t be discouraged – it’s nothing a few dish towels can’t solve.
You should only serve horchata super cold. And if you freeze it just until there are ice shards floating around, even better. I’d also recommend a dash of cinnamon. Happy summer weekends, amigos! Cocinamos!
- 1.5 cups dry tiger nuts
- 4 cups cold water plus more for soaking tiger nuts
- 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
- dash of cinnamon
- cutesy mason jars and dumb straws that you would never actually drink out of
- pour tiger nuts into a medium-sized bowl, cover with cold water completely and soak for at least 24 hours
- drain water and add tiger nuts to food processor; pour in two cups of water and pulse; initially it will be a rough, but keep pulsing until tiger nuts are breaking down; add another cup of water and continue pulsing; add final cup of water and process until the tiger nuts are broken down and mixture is coarse but consistent
- over a large bowl, pass horchata through a fine sieve; discard chunks trapped in the sieve
- add sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until dissolved
- freeze horchata until ice shards start forming, stir and serve immediately with a dash of cinnamon