Monday, July 14, 2008

Lena's Wine Cooler

Our Swedish friends were visiting last month. We organized a picnic lunch at a beautiful spot for a warm sunny day. Lena and I made a special trip to the Farmer's Market in Santa Monica for the ingredients and then we couldn't carry all we wanted to buy. We ended up making loads of food - Grilled Asparagus with Blood Orange Sauce, Marinated Cucumbers with Dill, Mustardy Potato and Green Bean Salad, Tarragon Chicken Salad, Fresh Peach Cake and there may have been a few other items I have forgotten.

The hit of the day was the wine cooler I devised based on Lena's suggestion of Cucumbers and Green Apples as substitutes for the citrus I usually use. I happened to have a few sprigs of Lemon Verbena in my produce drawer, left over from the previous week's farmer's market outing. I can't resist the smell and taste of Lemon Verbena it's just about the best one leaf breath freshener there is and the beautiful bush is easy to grow in our Southern Californian climate. Usually I don't find a good use for what I buy, but simply eat it leaf by leaf for the experience. But this time it made the perfect infused sugar syrup to go with the cucumbers and apples.

I choose to use a wine called Colombelle. It has a purply lavender label and a screw off top. It's under $10/bottle and comes from the Southwest of France made from Colombard and Ugni blanc grapes. If I didn't use the Colombelle I would have used a Sauvignon Blanc as you want a light citrusy wine with no oaky overtones.

Here's the recipe:

Lena's Cucumber and Apple Wine Coolers

Makes 2 - 1/2 gal batches

1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
3 sprigs Lemon Verbena

2 750ml bottle Colombelle
2 liter bottles of seltzer water

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, thinly sliced
2 granny smith apples, sliced thinly off the core

In a small saucepan combine the sugar, water and lemon verbena. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the syrup with the lemon verbena. Take it off the heat and let cool for several hours or overnight.

In a one gallon pitcher place the apple slices, cucumber slices and a few cups of ice. Pour in 1/2 of the sugar syrup, one bottle of wine and one bottle of seltzer. Stir gently. Serve over more ice with a thin slice of apple or cucumber as garnish.


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