Our cool, damp spring screeches to a sudden halt with a day so muggy it's like walking around in someone's mouth.
And of course the air conditioner's out at work. Can't think. Can't focus. So sweaty and gritty I want to peel my skin off. A cool, white, liquid beacon hovers in my mind like a shimmering promise of sweet refreshment. Horchata.
In Mexico, horchata is a creamy, lightly sweetened rice milk blended with flavors of cinnamon and almond. The drink was brought to Mexico from Spain, and was probably brought to Spain by the Moors, who made it with the chufa — a root pod also known as the “tigernut.”
I’m told that chufa horchata is liquid ambrosia, but since my corner market doesn’t sell a lot of chufa, I can’t corroborate that rumor. The sad fact of the matter is, I can’t even find a rice-based horchata ‘round my pierogi-rich ‘hood. What’s an overheated girl to do?
Luckily, horchata is extremely simple to make, and since there’s so many variations out there, it seems nearly impossible go wrong.
Some recipes use a little milk or coconut milk. Some add in a bit of lime zest or a squeeze of juice. Some use a little vanilla. Some instructions recommend grinding the dry rice to a powder before adding water. Others tell you to cook the rice nice and soft first, then blend it to a smooth consistency. (You could, of course, skip the rice preparation altogether and just use a commercial rice milk like Rice Dream.)
Mi Horchata (Makes enough for 4-6 folks)
White rice (1 cup per roughly 8-10 cups of water)
Whole raw almonds (maybe a cup)
Cinnamon (1-2 sticks)
Sugar (1/2 cup or more, to your taste)
1. In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, simmer the rice, almonds, cinnamon and water until very tender (about 30 minutes).
2. Remove the cinnamon stick.
3. If a thicker version is desired, blend the mixture smooth in batches in a blender or food processor.
4. Strain through layered cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Chill well. Pour in an ice-filled glass and revel in the cool, creamy (non-dairy!) goodness.
Some folks like theirs with chewy rice at the bottom, something like the tapioca pearls in bubble tea.
Personally, I find that it's lovely blended, strained and poured over crushed ice like a cocktail. Throw in a touch of rum or tequila if the mood strikes you. Oh, what's that? The heat index is up over 100? Bring it on.