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Bring On the Soft Stuff

December 15, 1991|JOAN DRAKE | TIMES FOOD MANAGING EDITOR

When thinking about a holiday party, don't forget to include nonalcoholic beverages for the guests who aren't drinking. Bottled waters and soft drinks usually fill this niche, but a bowl of punch is a nice alternative--and an attractive addition to a buffet table.

The punch base can be prepared early in the day and refrigerated in the bowl or a large pitcher. Don't add the carbonated liquid until the bowl is placed on the table. To dress up the punch and keep it chilled, add a block of ice or a decorative ice ring, which can be made well ahead and stored in the freezer.

Choose a ring mold which fits inside the bowl being used for the punch. Select ingredients for the ring that mirror or complement those in the punch, such as citrus fruit, berries, grapes and herb sprigs.

Water that has been brought to a boil, then chilled, makes clearer ice than water straight from the tap. Boil enough to fill the mold, cool, then chill. Place the mold in the freezer until it is well chilled.

Remove the mold and pour about one-quarter inch of the prepared water into the bottom. Return the mold to the freezer until the water is partially set.

Using three raspberries per grouping, arrange five clusters evenly around the bottom of the mold (Step 1). Place a mint sprig on each side of the berries to resemble holly leaves. Carefully return the mold to the freezer without disturbing the fruit and herbs and freeze until firm.

Fill the mold with the remaining prepared water (Step 2) and freeze solid. When needed, remove the mold from the freezer and dip it briefly in cold water, just enough to loosen the contents. Unmold and float the ring in the punch (Step 3).

RASPBERRY PUNCH

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen raspberries

2/3 cup sugar

1 (6-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate

1 (6-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate

5 1/2 cups water

1 (28-ounce) bottle club soda, chilled

Ice Ring

Thaw raspberries just enough to separate. Press berries through sieve and discard seeds.

Combine raspberry puree, sugar, orange juice and lemonade concentrates and water in large punch bowl. Stir to dissolve concentrates. Chill.

Just before serving, stir in club soda. Float Ice Ring in punch. Makes about 24 servings.

Ice Ring

15 fresh or frozen raspberries

Mint sprigs

Choose ring mold that fits inside bowl used for punch. Bring enough water to fill mold to boil, cool, then chill. Freeze mold until well chilled.

Pour about 1/4 inch prepared water into mold and freeze until partially set. Evenly space 5 groups of 3 raspberries around bottom of mold. Place mint sprig on each side of berries to resemble holly leaves. Return mold to freezer until water is frozen firm.

Fill mold with remaining prepared water. Freeze solid.

Remove mold from freezer and dip briefly in cold water to loosen. Unmold and float in punch bowl.

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