Nothing spells summertime like sangria, the chilled and refreshing wine-based fruit punch from Spain that landed on our shores to stay via the 1964 World's Fair. In its classic form — a mix of red wine and chopped fruit that's sometimes further glorified with orange juice and brandy — sangria is just about perfect. Except that it can be rather difficult to sip the punch given all the fruit floating around in it ... and likewise tricky to eat the fruit without spilling the punch on your shirt.
Here's my solution: pureed fruit ice cubes. They start to melt as soon as you drop them into the glass with your punch, releasing all the fruit's flavor while freeing you from having to stick a fork into a chunk of fruit as you drink. Meanwhile, you can appreciate the increase in the drink's fruitiness as it deepens from the first sip to the last. Fun.
The fruit cubes in this recipe are made of raspberries and peaches, but any fresh berry or summer fruit will do — nectarines, apricots, plums — and the riper the better. (Frozen unsweetened fruit will also do the job. Just let it defrost before pureeing it.) How to puree it? Use a blender. A food processor just won't produce a smooth enough texture. And, sangria aside, these fruit cubes are a lovely addition to all sorts of summer drinks, including iced tea and lemonade.
As noted, sangria is usually made with red wine. Here I've replaced it with some dry rose because I think the fruits' flavor shines more brightly in a lighter wine. For that matter, you could use a white wine, too. But you'll need to sweeten whichever wine you choose, which means you'll be reaching for some superfine sugar because it melts so easily. (It's the ingredient bartenders use to sweeten a cold drink.) If you don't want to buy superfine sugar, it's easy to make your own — just pour some granulated sugar into a blender and grind it until it's fine. You're also welcome to make your own sugar syrup, but that takes more time.
My sangria is delicious straight up or topped off with a little bubbly water to dilute the alcohol a bit and add some fizz. I'm pretty sure it'll add some fizz to your life even without the bubbly water.
Start to finish: 4 hours, 30 minutes (30 active)
2 cups peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped very ripe peaches or nectarines
2 cups fresh raspberries
1 bottle (750 ml) chilled dry rose wine
1/2 cup Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec, or the orange liqueur of your choice
1/3 cup superfine sugar
Chilled sparkling water (optional)
1 orange, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise into half-moons, about 1/4-inch thick, and then cut into triangles (you will only need about 1/2 of the orange, save the rest for another use)
Mint sprigs for garnish
In a blender puree the peaches until smooth and pour into an ice cube tray. Rinse out the blender, add the raspberries and puree until smooth; pour into another ice cube tray. Freeze until solid.
In a large pitcher combine the wine, Grand Marnier and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Unmold the iced fruit cubes and fill rock glasses with them. Pour the punch over the fruit cubes, topping off each drink with a splash of sparkling water, if desired. Garnish each glass with a few orange triangles and a sprig of mint and serve right away.
To make your own superfine sugar: pulse granulated sugar in a blender until it is finely ground.
Nutrition information: 258 calories; 4 calories from fat; 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 7 mg sodium; 30 g carbohydrates; 4 g fiber; 24 g sugar; 1 g protein.
Editor's Note: Sara Moulton is host of public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals." She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows including "Cooking Live." Her latest cookbook is "HomeCooking 101."