Cookbook # 34: Dona Tomas

Adapted from Cookbook #34:  Dona Tomas:  Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking

Recipe: Sangría Sandía (Fresh Watermelon Sangria)

Okay, August, do you want to slow down?  I am just not quite ready to close the books on Summer Napfest 2010.  But if we do have to mark the end of summer, let's do it with a summery drink in hand!

I am well aware that we have a full month to go before the official end of summer arrives.  But I head back to work on Monday, and to mark the end of quite possibly one of the best summers of my entire life, we made dinner for the husband's parents.

First, let's talk about why this summer has been so wonderful.  One word:  Naps.  My entire summer, post Illinois wedding, has revolved around my nap schedule.  Oh, you want to get together in the afternoon?  Sorry, can't.  I have a nap scheduled at 2 p.m. Soon such luxuries will no longer be mine.

After today's nap, the husband and I went over to the husband's parents' house and made them two Page 210 recipes (the main course will be in the next entry).  To open, we made watermelon sangria.  And sweet business, this recipe is a superstar, even when we substituted wine for the honey mead that is called for in the recipe.

This cookbook (more about Dona Tomas in a minute) says that you can get your agave mead from Mountain Meadows Mead in Westwood, California.  I looked around for it in town (not too hard, I admit) and decided to just use a fruity white wine instead.  We added a little honey and pulled back on the simple syrup (see recipe alterations below). 

Um.  Wow.  I was surprised by how the addition of the citrus to the watermelon and the wine made this drink sweet, sour, and fresh.  The amount of booze per drink is relatively low, so you can easily have two and not feel lightheaded.  You will get full, however.  Pureed watermelon is remarkably filling.

Let's talk for a moment about where this recipe comes from.  Dona Tomas is another favorite restaurant in town.  Opened almost exactly 11 years ago in Temescal, Dona Tomas boasts an authentic take on Mexican food.  The purveyors of Dona Tomas--Thomas Schnetz and Dona Savitsky--say, "No burritos or nachos in sight."   They have a transcendent budin that they serve in the summer; it's basically a corn and zucchini quiche/pudding made with cups of heavy cream.  We limit ourselves to having it once a year.  The Sopa de Lima is phenomenal both in the restaurant and when we make it at home from the cookbook (and easy to make on a weeknight).  They also make remarkably strong margaritas that I surprisingly pass up for their Pepe Pepino (Hendricks gin, Cointreau, lime and fresh cucumber) because the Pepino is fresh and cool.  However, the husband stands by the margarita.  He also stands by the carnitas, and orders nothing else from the menu.  I, on the other hand, have made it my personal mission to try everything.  Which is difficult as the menu changes with the season.

While the rest of the country has endured hot temperatures (seriously, DC, 53 consecutive days of 90-plus-degree weather?), we in the Bay Area have had a foggy, glorious summer.  Regardless of your weather pattern, mix up a batch of these, and toast the end of summer and the end of nap-season.  And if you're a teetotaler, these are pretty amazing without any hootch.  Cheers!

3 cups (enough for about 4-6 drinks)

4 cups seedless watermelon chunks
1 cup simple syrup* (we did this to taste and then added a little honey. So maybe 1/2 a cup of simple syrup and 2 tablespoons honey)

For each drink
Juice of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon simple syrup  (we cut this out entirely)
4 tablespoons agave mead or white wine
lime slices  (also removed, but the contrast of the bright green next to the pink drink would have been beautiful)

1. Combine the melon and simple syrup in a blender and puree until smooth.  Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour, until chilled.  The fresca will hold fresh for one day.  Any leftovers make a great nonalcoholic drink, but should be reblended before serving.

2.  Fill a pint glass with ice.  Add the lime juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, mead/wine, and 1/2 cup of the fresca.  Shake well and strain into a chilled glass with ice.  Garnish with the lime and drink at once. [We also just made all of this in one pitcher instead of making these individual servings.  And it was damn fine.]

*to make simple syrup, simply place 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook until sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.


By Popular Demand

Ottolenghi's Semolina, Coconut and Marmalade Cake

Ottolenghi's Lamb Shawarma

Classic Frisée Salad (Salade Lyonnaise)

Ottolenghi's Lemon and Eggplant Risotto

Ottolenghi's Salmon Steaks in Chraimeh Sauce