Blast, Punch, Zing: Smoothies Whir Up for Summer

The frosty fruit drink is becoming this country's quencher of choice

Hoping for slush this summer? Make it in a tall glass. The "smoothie" - frozen fruit whirred in a blender - is being slurped up by countless Americans from coast to coast this season.

Once just West Coast phenomenons, smoothie shops and their parents, juice bars, have made their way across the nation, popping up faster than you can say Starbucks. In fact, some market analysts predict that these fruit-pulverizing places will surpass the coffee-bar concept.

Beyond trendy eateries and spas, smoothies are sold wherever someone plugs in a blender, from summer fairs and ice cream parlors to mainstream markets, gyms, and restaurants.

"Pulp" is a juice-bar-cum-supplements store in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston. Inside, industrial juicers are grinding, making a furious sound (they could probably make wood chips out of a chair leg), and powerful blenders whir frozen-fresh fruit, such as bananas, pineapple, and strawberries. The process is almost theatrical.

Pulp employees serve a dozen different smoothies. On this sweltering summer day, customers glance at the blackboard offerings, looking for a delicious cool concoction that is also fast, all-natural, nutritious, and easy to transport.

Whereas juices quench thirst, smoothies are more filling, explains co-manager Pamela Streetz, who adds that the word "smoothie" refers to the drinks' consistency as shake-like. "Some people consider them meal replacement." One of the most universally popular smoothies, especially among children, is the strawberry-banana-orange juice combo; here it's called "The Breakaway."

The creative names of smoothies add to the fun aspect of these blender drinks. In "mocktail" fashion, the virgin daiquiri has given way to the likes of Strawberry Blast, Banana Punch-Out, Raspberry Razzle Dazzle, and more.

At Pulp, "Brazil 66" is a bestseller, a tasty concoction of mango, pineapple, strawberries, and orange juice. "Dunes of the Cape" (as in Cape Cod), another favorite, blends pineapple, banana, soy milk, and coconut nectar.

"Customers can custom make their own drinks," says Evonne Wetzner, a longtime juicer. Some smoothie fans, for example, will ask her to go heavy on the ginger, or throw in some "add-ins" such as yogurt or protein powder. When asked about recipe proportions, she suggests that people experiment and find what they like best (more strawberry than banana, for example).

Another reason for the smoothie explosion may have to do with the fact that the colorful drinks' appeal extends to all ages and nearly all tastebuds. Supermarkets are selling bottled versions.

"Americans are finally coming to their senses - that fresh juice tastes better," says Doug Levin, one of the founders of Fresh Samantha, a Scarborough, Maine, company that bottles freshly squeezed juices. ("Samantha" is Mr. Levin's daughter.) Sales of their juices and smoothies (22 products and counting) have doubled every year since 1992. Fresh Samantha's smoothie line includes "Mango Mama," "Strawberry Banana," and "The Big Bang" a blueberry-colored smoothie with curious add-ins such as spirulina and bee pollen. This autumn they will introduce a pumpkin smoothie, Levin says.

For the at-home smoothie aficionados, books such as Gabriel Constans's "Great American Smoothies" (Avery Publishing, $9.95) are guides to whir by. Mr. Constans started making smoothies for his children in hopes of finding a nourishing drink that they all would enjoy.

His advice to home cooks and parents in particular is to "have fun. You can be creative and come up with your own inventions." The majority of smoothies have bananas, he notes, because they add a thick consistency. "And it's a fun activity to do with children."

Another resource is "Smoothies: 50 recipes for High-Energy Refreshment" (Chronicle Books, $15.95), by Mary Corpening Barber, Sara Corpening, and Lori Lyn Narlock. Most smoothies take 12 minutes or less to prepare, they note. While frozen fresh fruit is preferred, they point out that packaged frozen fruit from the supermarket is the next best thing; and sometimes it's even more economical. Just be sure to buy unsweetened fruit, not frozen fruit in sugar syrup. And please pass the straws.

Breakaway

1 cup fresh orange juice

1 cup sliced strawberries, frozen

2 bananas, cut in half, frozen

Blend until smooth. Serve in tall glass with straw. Serves 1 to 2.

Mango Slide

1 mango, peeled, pitted, diced, frozen

1 cup lemon yogurt (sweetened)

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

2 teaspoons sugar

Place ingredients in a blender. Whir until smooth.

Serves 2.

Charleston Cherry

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 frozen banana

20 pitted cherries

1 ripe banana

2 cups water

Place ingredients in a blender, and blend on high speed for 30 seconds.

- From "Great American Smoothies" (Avery Publishing)

Starburst

3/4 cup apple juice

1 cup diced fresh kiwi

1 cup hulled and quartered fresh strawberries, frozen

2 bananas, frozen and sliced

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth.

Serves 2.

Cranzania

1-1/4 cups cranberry juice

1/2 cup raspberry sorbet

1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate

1-1/2 cups fresh orange segments, frozen

1/2 cup fresh cranberries, frozen

Combine the cranberry juice, sorbet, and orange juice concentrate in a blender. Add the orange segments and cranberries.

Blend until smooth.

Serves 2.

Peachy keen

1 cup low-fat peach yogurt

3/4 cup peach nectar

1/2 cup fresh raspberries, frozen

1-1/2 cups diced peaches, frozen

Combine the yogurt and nectar in a blender. Add the raspberries and peaches. Blend until smooth.

Serves 2.

Polynesian

Power Punch

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1/2 cup guava nectar

1/2 cup strawberry sorbet

1-1/2 cups hulled and quartered fresh strawberries, frozen

1 cup diced fresh pineapple, frozen

Combine coconut milk, guava nectar, and sorbet in a blender Add the strawberries and pineapple. Blend until smooth.

Serves 2.

- Final four recipes from "Smoothies: 50 Recipes for High-Energy Refreshment" (Chronicle)

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