Whether you're picnicking in the sun at the beach or relaxing
on your patio on a hot summer night, cold fruity beverages are a most welcome
treat. Such a refresher - a delicious mint-lime cooler - was served by my friend
Susan Holtz at a recent Friday night dinner. It made me reflect on how
delightful a homemade drink can be.
Susan's cooler was a lime juice and fresh mint variation of
lemonade. When I'm making low-calorie lemonade, I substitute calorie-free
sweetener for most of the sugar and I add a few strips of peeled lemon zest to
my pitcher for extra flavor. Some chefs flavor lemonade with rosewater or even
with cooked dried figs. A related Moroccan citrus beverage presented by Fortunee
Hazan-Arma in her book on Moroccan- Jewish cooking, Saveurs
de Mon Enfance - La Cuisine Juive du Maroc, makes maximum use of the peel's
flavor; it calls for grinding whole oranges and lemons, including their skin and
pulp, adding water, straining the mixture an hour later and stirring in sugar.
Susan, who is a cooking teacher at a Los Angeles
chef-training program, finished her lime cooler with sparkling water. She
pointed out that her drink can be turned into a Cuban cocktail called a mojito
with the addition of rum.
The mojito is one of many spirited fruit-juice refreshers.
Another favorite of mine is the Spanish sangria, made with sweetened red wine
and sliced fruit, which Greg Dempsey, author of The Perfect
Cocktail, characterizes as a kind of punch. He flavors his version of this
party-perfect beverage with rum, orange juice and pineapple juice, and finishes
it with ginger ale.
Some serve sangria for brunch, but I prefer to start the day
with a smoothie, which many consider the summertime breakfast beverage of
choice. Satisfying and often rich enough to be a dessert drink, smoothies are
made by blending fruit with fruit juice and often a creamy addition such as
milk, yogurt, coconut milk, soy milk or rice milk. In the Stonyfield Farm Yogurt Cookbook, Meg Cadoux Hirshberg calls
her smoothies "creamy yogurt versions of traditional blender milkshakes" that
are filling and hearty, but light.
Hirshberg notes that just about any combination of yogurt and
fruit makes a delectable treat that "can lure your children away from less
healthful sweets." She advises freezing peeled overripe bananas "to throw into
smoothies for an instant chilldown." Her peach smoothie is flavored with fresh
mint, vanilla yogurt and fresh orange juice, and her blueberry-banana smoothie
is made with lemon yogurt, grape juice and cinnamon. Sometimes she sneaks in
wheat germ to add its healthful properties to the drink. Others add ground nuts
or peanut or almond butter for their flavor and nutrients.
Yamuna Devi, author of The Art of Indian
Vegetarian Cooking, notes that the popular drink called lassi is the Indian
equivalent of a smoothie. In addition to the familiar mango lassi made with
yogurt and sugar, she uses more exotic flavors. Her papaya lassi has fresh
ginger, apple juice and yogurt, her banana lassi is spiced with cardamom and
nutmeg, and her lemon lassi is sweetened with white grape juice and garnished
with ground pistachios. She makes pineapple punch with orange and apple juices,
coconut milk and ground cardamom; and banana punch with yogurt, minced dates and
lime and orange juices.
At the juice stand in my favorite Mexican market I enjoy
licuados, which are similar to Indian lassis but are made with milk rather than
yogurt. Guava, papaya and banana are popular flavors, but any fruit can be used.
The beauty of these coolers and smoothies is that they are
virtually foolproof. You simply flavor them to your taste. If your drink comes
out too concentrated, add water; if the balance of sweet and tart flavors needs
adjusting, add sugar or another sweetener or lemon juice.
FRUIT AND RED WINE PUNCH
For this punch, which resembles sangria,
the fruit is macerated in the wine so they flavor each other. This makes a
refreshing dessert beverage after a rich dinner. You can add tangerines or diced
mango if you like. Be sure to use a colorful combination of fruit.
Makes 4 servings
Juice of 4 oranges
4 11/2 cups dry red
4 1/4 cup water or apple juice
Tbsp. sugar, or more to taste
4 2 Tbsp. honey or additional
4 2 or 3 ripe peaches, peeled, or nectarines
4 1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced,
other berries, or finely diced melon
4 A few
Mix orange juice with wine, water, sugar and honey until
Slice peaches and add to wine mixture. Add strawberries or
melon. Taste, and add more sugar if needed.
Chill for 1 to 2 hours.
Serve cold in glasses, with long-handled spoons for the
fruit. Garnish with mint sprigs. Serve cold.
Even when made with skim milk and fat-free yogurt, this drink
is luscious, thanks to the pureed banana.
You can make it with frozen berries if you don't have fresh
ones. If you have a mango, you can substitute mango slices for the peaches. I
have also made variations with diced melon and very ripe pears.
Makes 4 servings
1 medium-size ripe banana, sliced
(about 1 cup)
4 1 cup sliced peeled peaches or
or 1/2 cup sliced peaches and
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
4 1 cup plain, vanilla or lemon yogurt
cup milk or additional yogurt
4 2 Tbsp. honey, or more to
4 3/4 cup crushed ice, cold water or orange
In a blender, combine banana, peaches, yogurt and milk. Blend
until smooth. Add honey and crushed ice.
Blend briefly until frothy. Pour into glasses and serve.
LIME OR LEMON COOLER WITH MINT
This is the cooler made by my friend
Susan, based on a recipe from California chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan
Feniger. The original calls for sparkling water but you can use still water.
Make it with the juice of fresh-squeezed limes during their short season; during
the rest of the year, you can make it with lemon juice.
Makes 4 servings
1 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon
4 1 cup mint leaves
4 2/3 cup sugar, or to
4 About 11/2 cups cold water, or enough to
4 Lime or lemon slices (for
4 Mint sprigs (for garnish)
In a blender process lime juice with mint leaves and sugar
until mint is chopped. Put ice cubes in 4 tall glasses and divide the lime juice
mixture among them. Fill glasses with cold water. Serve the cooler garnished
with lime slices and mint sprigs.
Faye Levy is the author of Healthy
Cooking for the Jewish Home.