Last Sunday I went on a 6.5 mile hike to the summit of Mount Rose and around the loop. It’s steep, and I was sweaty and thirsty, hoping that I would have the opportunity to dip in Lake Cushman once I got down. And since I had no one to talk with but the occasional bird, my mind turned, as it often does, to edibles. Wait! I think I mean potables.
I spent much of the nearly four hour excursion fantasizing about citrusy beverages. My thirsty longings took me back to my early twenties when I lived in Omaha, in a former convent that had weathered some unfortunate remodels (royal blue industrial carpet leftover from a church hallway, anyone?). I was in the Lutheran Service Corp, fresh from college, and it was my first year of cooking for myself.
The backyard of the convent featured an enormous, fecund swath of mint. It was tender, too, not the bitter, fibrous stuff that grows in my yard now. I always wondered if the nuns planted it. I was on a budget, so mint showed up in every fruit salad, graced every glass of water. Omaha summers can be sticky-hot, so that was the year I grew fond of making Green Velvets, a granita, (Italian for slushie) of my own invention, composed of lime juice, mint and honey.
When I moved back to Washington and made them for my family, my brother thought it was strange that they were nonalcoholic. But these are so thirst-quenching (they quench thirsts you didn’t even know you had) that alcohol would mar their purity.
They are simple to make, if you have a Cuisinart or a high quality blender. If you do not have either, then beware of overworking the blades of your cheap (like mine) blender. I once ordered a smoothie at a restaurant that had a half inch blender blade tip in it. As I fished it out of my mouth, the staff nervously explained that they had used their blender to crush ice and they genuinely regretted it and hoped I enjoyed the rest of my free lunch.
I always used to use five big juicy limes to make enough for several people but this time it took eight medium, stingy ones for three small drinks. I am sure key limes would be delicious here but you will be squeezing limes all day and at a certain point it will be more of a spiritual discipline than anything else. Though the lime juice doesn’t impart a green color, once you add the mint it becomes a fresh, vibrant hue. You can make these with sugar, but I like to melt and dissolve some honey in water ahead of time and let it cool. I whir it, with the lime juice and mint, in the processor with crushed ice.
The lake was waiting for me when I got down, as blue green and bracing as ever. I can’t believe that on a day so utterly gorgeous, I had the woods to myself. Though I truly didn’t mind having the lake to myself, since I forgot a swimsuit. Remember hikers, the eighth essential is a bikini. But if you forget, the only thing more refreshing than a GVG is a plunge clad only in what my youngest used to refer to as her “skin suit.”