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 puréed fruit cubes. Almost any fruit will work. Just purée it, pour the purée into ice cube trays and freeze them. The right tool for this job is a blender, which purées the fruit more completely than a food processor or an immersion blender. Of course, you can still use those other tools if they're the only ones you have at hand.
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.
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.
Red, white and blue lemonade
Start to finish: 25 minutes, plus freezing
3 cups cubed seeded watermelon (the redder the better)
3 cups cleaned and rinsed fresh blueberries
3/4 cup well-stirred lite coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup fresh lemon juice
Fresh mint leaves, to garnish
In a blender, purée the watermelon until it becomes liquefied. Pour the watermelon liquid into ice cube trays (you should have enough liquid for twelve 2-tablespoon cubes). Rinse the blender, add the blueberries and purée until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the blueberry purée to another ice cube tray. In a third tray, divide the coconut milk among 6 cubes.
Transfer all of the trays to the freezer and freeze until solid, preferably overnight.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.
In a pitcher combine 1/2 cup of the sugar syrup with the lemon juice. Add 3 cups of cold water, then taste and add additional sugar syrup if desired. Chill until ready to serve.
To serve, place 2 watermelon cubes, 2 blueberry cubes and 1 coconut cube in each of 6 glasses. Top the glasses with lemonade, then garnish with mint. Let sit for 10 or so minutes to allow the cubes to melt slightly and flavor the lemonade.
Per serving: 150 calories; 20 calories from fat (13 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 33 g sugar; 1 g protein; 10 mg sodium.