Pitcher Perfect

Fresh-squeezed lemonade and cookies laced with powdered sugar are the perfect summer treat.

There's no question that lemonade is the ultimate refreshment when temperatures rise above 90 degrees. The lemonade stand has become a classic icon of summer, as has the ice-cold pitcher brimming with round slices of lemon. Ann Marino still remembers the best glass of lemonade she ever tasted, even though it was 20 years ago.

"My sister's mother-in-law served it at a pool party," she says. "I've asked for the recipe over the years time and time again." Last year the recipe was finally transferred from Marino's scrap of paper to the Junior League of Lafayette's latest cookbook, Something to Talk About, and was titled "Pitcher Perfect Lemonade."

Despite its unique taste, the recipe is quite simple: lemons, water, sugar and ice. Vodka can be added if desired. The hardest part is squeezing the juice from the lemons. "That's where the electric juicer comes in," says Marino. "You can strain it if you like less pulp."

Marino usually accompanies her lemonade with Wedding Cookies, rolled in plenty of powdered sugar. "They're like a pecan sandie," she says. "They're very tender. They don't have an egg in them." The first time Marino made the cookies for a party, she ate so many of them before leaving the house that she showed up at the event empty-handed.

"They're always well-received," she says. "They only bake for 10 minutes. It's a two-bite cookie. With powdered sugar, it's a good summertime nibble, a good complement to the lemonade."

Every summer, Marino relies on her Wedding Cookies and Pitcher Perfect Lemonade, whether it's for a back yard barbecue or bridal shower. In making the lemonade, she first fills a tall pitcher with ice, then adds lots of lemon slices. "If you're entertaining, it's nice to have cracked ice like a julep and put some mint," she says. Her sister's version of the lemonade is dressed up even more. "My sister's served it in a punch bowl with an ice ring made out of the lemonade or ice cubes with mint in them," she says. "I haven't gone that far yet."

Marino isn't sure what makes Pitcher Perfect Lemonade so perfect. "It's just lemonade," she says, "but people always ask for the recipe."

Pitcher Perfect Lemonade
1 dozen lemons, juiced (small, thin-skinned lemons have more juice)
3/4 gallon water, at room temperature
4 cups sugar
Vodka (optional)

Pour the lemon juice into a 1-gallon jar. Stir in the water. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Fill the jar to the top with ice. Add vodka as desired to make an adult beverage. Serves 10-15.

Wedding Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cream the butter, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the flour, stirring until the mixture holds together. Add the nuts. Shape into small balls. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. (Do not brown.) Roll the hot cookies in 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Cool completely. Roll again in the remaining confectioners' sugar. Makes 4 dozen.

For more information on the Junior League of Lafayette's cookbooks, call 988-2739.