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Exotic frozen purees make summer drinks glamorous

We are approaching that time of year when we will wish we could sit out the summer season soaking our feet in a bucket of ice water and hoping we don't get a direct hurricane hit. Preferably with a cold drink in hand.

We can't check out of our daily responsibilities or control the weather. So let's talk about cold drinks.

The best possible thing you can put in your body when you're hot is good old H2O. Human creativity being what it is, though, we have elaborated on that simple formula with thousands of alternatives. Some require only popping the tab of a can. Others involve blenders and frozen drink machines. The best always seem to include fruit.

Pureed fruit, after water, is a fantastic rapid-injection coolant, the equivalent of Freon. Most of the time, you can use fresh or frozen fruits from your local supermarket for a puree. I routinely throw a bag of frozen raspberries into a blender, for example, and we always look to the ubiquitous banana for all manner of beverages, alcoholic and non.

For me, though, there are exceptions to locally available products and produce for cold beverages, and here are three purees I gladly order, for practical reasons, from the Perfect Puree of Napa Valley (perfectpuree.com): Prickly Pear, Pink Guava and Caramelized Pineapple.

Prickly Pear

It's called a prickly pear for good reason. Have you ever worked with one? I feel the need for Kevlar gloves and antibiotic cream to protect myself from the needlelike spikes protruding from these fruits, which perch on top of the green cactus paddles (the fruit is also called cactus pear). In fairness, they are only trying to protect themselves from predators like me. Nevertheless.

Pink Guava

If I can even find fresh guavas, I'm not about to violate their loveliness by using them for anything but eating them as they are, as simply as possible. No way am I going to scoop dozens into a blender, pulverize the fruit, strain it and freeze it. I'm overjoyed that someone out in California will do that for me. And these have a gorgeous, pink-tinged pulp.

Caramelized Pineapple

This is a different story. Fresh pineapple is easy to come by and puree yourself. But if you want to make something like ice cream, fresh pineapple can be tricky because it has enzymes that don't mix well with cream or milk when incorporated into a cooked custard.

In the past, I have used canned pineapple, which has always been fine, but the caramelized pineapple puree sounded just yummy, and is, with a subtle brown-sugar flavor. The Perfect Puree folks label it a concentrate rather than a puree but I can't tell the difference in texture or application.

The recipes here demonstrate some of the easy ways to use the purees. There are a gazillion others I could have suggested. These products are expensive, but they're much more concentrated than pureed fresh fruit, so a little goes a long way, and they keep for months in the freezer.

There are a lot of other available flavors that I would also love to try; white peach, tamarind and blood orange are in my sights at the moment.

Maybe cherry, too.

Because even in hot, hurricane-ready weather, life should be a bowl of cherry sorbet.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at lennie@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8293.

Shopping Information

The Perfect Puree
of Napa Valley

The company began as a wholesale supplier to chefs and bartenders but now offers purees and concentrates
for retail consumers in 15- and 30-ounce sizes priced from $17.50 to $25. They come frozen and can be stored in the freezer for months. During warm months, it's best to order several so they stay cool during travel. For information, call toll-free 1-866-787-5233 or visit
perfectpuree.com.

>>easy

Prickly Pear
Agua Fresca

For each 8-ounce glass:

3 tablespoons prickly pear puree

1 tablespoon simple syrup (see recipe) or granulated sugar or to taste

Ice water and ice

1 lime wedge

Combine puree and sweetener in glass. If using sugar, stir to dissolve. Fill glass half-full with ice and fill with ice water. Stir and add lime.

Source: Lennie Bennett

About the drink

Agua frescas — fresh waters — are popular throughout Central and South America. Almost all versions are combinations of fruit puree or juice, water and ice. Maybe sugar, depending on the fruit. The main component is water; they aren't meant to taste like or have the texture of smoothies and slushies. Nor are they meant to have the sweetness of lemonade; the fruit and sugar (if used) should be accents only. The prickly pear is so tart that a little sugar is needed. I make a simple syrup so I don't have to dissolve the sugar, and I gave it some subtle intrigue by adding herbs and citrus as it cooked. Again, accents only. The gorgeous color, though, is anything but subtle.

>>easy

Simple Syrup

Combine equal parts water and granulated sugar in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. If you want, add flavorings; you can use anything you want. (For this simple syrup made with 1 cup each sugar and water, I added a small bunch of cilantro and the rind of a lime. You could also add a bit of mint.) Let it cook a few more minutes. Cool the mixture to room temperature. Remove flavorings. Can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Source: Lennie Bennett

About the drink

The caramelized pineapple is used in the ice cream and in the liquid base, along with coconut cream, which is a sweet, thick syrup, not unsweetened coconut milk. Traditionally, an ice cream soda is made with club soda or seltzer water, which is fine here, too. But I love the kick from Jamaican ginger ale, also called ginger beer (all nonalcoholic). It's spicier than American-style ginger ale and has a spike of the tropics that goes well with the pineapple and coconut. Some of you will say, correctly, that ice cream mixed with a soft drink rather than seltzer is called a float so maybe this concoction is better named an ice cream floda. Or soflo. Or . . . never mind.

About the drink

This chic little drink makes a light dessert after a dinner party. If you don't have or don't want to mess with an ice cream machine, this sorbet's for you, requiring only a little babysitting as you stir it from time to time to break up the ice crystals. It's a slightly sweet, slightly tart flavor. I used the Spanish sparkling wine called cava because guavas are common in Hispanic and Spanish cuisine, but you can substitute a French champagne or sparklers from the United States or Italy. Stay on the brut or dry side with any of them.

>>EASY

Cava With Pink Guava Sorbet

8 small scoops of pink guava sorbet (see recipe)

1 bottle Spanish cava or other sparkling wine

Put two or three small scoops of sorbet into each of four champagne flutes and top with wine.

Serves 4.

Source: Lennie Bennett

>>EASY

Pink Guava Sorbet

½ cup sugar

½ cup cava, another sparkling wine or water

2 cups thawed pink guava puree

Make a simple syrup: Combine the sugar and liquid of choice in a small saucepan and heat over medium until sugar is dissolved. Add puree, pour mixture into a square glass baking pan and chill in freezer. Every 30 minutes or so, stir it vigorously to break up ice crystals, until it is a solid, scoopable mass, maybe 2 hours. And if you forget to stir the guava mixture and it becomes icy, no problem. You now have a granita. Use as sorbet. Makes about 2 cups.

Source: Lennie Bennett

>>EASY

Pineapple, Coconut and Ginger Ice Cream Soda

4 tablespoons cream of coconut

4 tablespoons caramelized pineapple concentrate

4 bottles Jamaican ginger ale (I like Reed's Ginger Brew, available at specialty food or beverage stores) or club soda

8 or more scoops of caramelized pineapple ice cream (see recipe)

Optional garnishes: toasted coconut and pineapple wedges

In the bottom of four tall glasses, mix a tablespoon each of cream of coconut and pineapple puree. Pour a bit of the ginger ale or club soda into the glasses and stir. Put two or three scoops of ice cream into each glass and fill with more ginger ale or club soda. If you want, sprinkle the top with toasted coconut and stick a pineapple wedge on the side.

(The pineapple garnish in the photograph on the cover has been caramelized. It's easy: Buy wedges of pineapple — if they're thick, cut in half — sprinkle with sugar and run under broiler. Even easier: Use one of those small creme brulee torches to caramelize the sugar.)

Serves 4.

Source: Lennie Bennett

>>EASY

Caramelized Pineapple Ice Cream

¼ cup sugar

1 cup half-and-half

6 egg yolks

Pinch of salt

1?½ cups heavy cream

1 cup caramelized pineapple concentrate, thawed

Whisk first four ingredients together in a small saucepan and simmer over lowest possible heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until sugar has melted and mixture is warm and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly, another 10 minutes, then add cream and puree. Chill very well, then add to an ice cream maker and follow its instructions. Makes about 4 cups.


Source: Lennie Bennett

Exotic frozen purees make summer drinks glamorous 06/14/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 1:11pm]

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