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Thousand Oaks

Now You’re Cooking: Watermelon Coolers and Mexican Corn Salad

Summer is almost here, and there’s no better way to celebrate than with a refreshing drink in hand! Made with watermelon, sweet strawberries, fresh lime juice and simple syrup, this frozen beverage will cool you down in no time, and it’s great for sipping poolside! A handful of strawberries are added since they pair so well with watermelon, but they can easily be left out. For an over-21 twist, add a little vodka, tequila or rum.

Simple syrup is super easy to make at home. It’s basically equal parts water and granulated sugar, a 1:1 ratio. Bartenders often use a thicker, heavier syrup at a 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio. Depending on the sweetness of your watermelon and strawberries, you may want to opt for the 2:1 ratio. To make simple syrup, heat water in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Cool and then store in a covered glass container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Frozen Watermelon-Strawberry Cooler

(Makes about 6 cups)

8 cups cubed or coarsely chopped seedless watermelon

½ cup fresh strawberries, hulled and then halved

2 tablespoons sparkling sugar for rims of glasses

Finely grated zest from one lime plus lime wedges for moistening rims of glasses

⅓ cup fresh lime juice (about 3-4 medium limes)

2 to 4 tablespoons simple syrup (start with 2, taste and add more as needed)

Place half of the watermelon in a covered container in the refrigerator. Place the remaining half of the watermelon and all of the strawberries in a large zip-top food storage bag; flatten to a single layer and then seal the bag. Freeze for several hours or until frozen solid.

Place sparkling sugar and lime zest on a flat plate; stir to combine. Run a lime wedge around the rims of the glasses to moisten them. Dip rims into the sugar-lime zest mixture to coat.

Place refrigerated watermelon in a blender container along with the lime juice and simple syrup. Cover and blend until smooth. Add the frozen watermelon and strawberries to the blender. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and enjoy!

When corn is in season, there’s no better way to use it than in a fresh salad. This summer side is reminiscent of our favorite grilled Mexican street corn known as elotes, only off-the-cob. Rather than slathering grilled ears of corn with the sauce, the kernels are removed and then tossed together with the sauce ingredients, making a spoon-ready salad version, also known as esquites.

This salad is meant to be served warm or at room temperature, making it the perfect accompaniment to your summer BBQ or picnic.

Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites)

(Makes about 4½ cups)

5 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed

Vegetable oil for brushing corn

Kosher salt

1 small jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Mexican crema or sour cream

Finely grated zest and juice from 1 lime 

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

½ to 1 teaspoon chili powder

Pinch cayenne pepper

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

3 tablespoons finely sliced green onions or chives

½ cup crumbled cotija cheese

Cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)

Preheat the grill to medium-high. Brush oil over corn; season with a little salt, and then grill for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally until lightly charred on all sides. Remove from the grill and cool slightly. Cut kernels from the cob (you should have a little over 4 cups) and place in a large serving bowl.

Add jalapeño, mayonnaise, Mexican crema, lime zest and juice, garlic, chili powder and cayenne pepper to the bowl with corn and stir to combine. Add cilantro, green onions and cotija cheese; toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more chili powder to taste. Garnish with tomatoes, if using. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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