If you’ve never tasted fresh lemonade, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s just so much more vivid than the supermarket stuff, much more about the lemon and less about the sugar.
True, juicing the lemons can be a pain, but the process becomes very near painless if you start by softening the lemons in the microwave for 30 seconds. Then all you have to do is add sugar syrup — a mixture of sugar and water, heated until the sugar is dissolved — and some cold water. Done.
In short, it’s hard to top fresh lemonade all by itself. Still, for those so inclined, there are plenty of ways to gild this lily. You can infuse the sugar syrup with fresh herbs. You can add seltzer. You can combine it with other fruit juices, including cranberry, apple and pomegranate. Or — and here is the heart of today’s recipe — you can glorify it with flavor-packed ice cubes.
My favorite ice cubes for lemonade (or iced tea) are pureed fruit cubes. Almost any fruit will work. Just puree it, pour the puree into ice cube trays and freeze them. The right tool for this job is a blender, which purees the fruit more completely than a food processor or an immersion blender. Of course, you can use those other tools if they’re the only ones you have at hand.
By the way, if you want to get all fancy, you’re welcome to strain the puree before you freeze it, though the gain in smoothness will also mean a loss in fiber.
In celebration of the Fourth of July, we'll dress up our lemonade with three different kinds of cubes — watermelon, coconut and blueberry for red, white and blue. Holiday aesthetics and electrifying flavor aside, this drink is almost absurdly healthy. Every glass contains a half-cup each of blueberries and watermelon.
By the way, I used to think watermelon was a loser, nutritionally — all sugar and no substance. I was wrong. Watermelon happens to be an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of A, as well as lycopene, potassium and magnesium. And calorie-wise, it’s very modest. A full cup of diced watermelon clocks in at 46 calories.
There’s no confusion about the virtue of blueberries, which are packed with antioxidants. They’re also a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Finally, they team up beautifully with lemon juice.
Thinking of a bright white fruit with which to fill out my tri-color team of ice cubes wasn’t easy. Happily, during a rummage through the cupboard I stumbled upon a can of lite coconut milk. As everyone knows, fruit and coconut go together like fireworks and the Fourth of July.
One of the most appealing aspects of this libation is that its flavor mutates and deepens as the cubes melt slowly in the glass. I suggest giving the process a head start by letting the drink stand for a bit before serving, then encouraging your guests to take their time drinking. Tell them the effect will be like a kaleidoscope for the mouth.
Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.”