When I moved to California, I learned 3 things very quickly:

1)   A whole, steamed artichoke is a complete dinner.  Be sure to dip each leaf in mustard butter between sips of white wine for the full the experience.  My best friend Esther taught me this on day 5 of living in California.  Someday, I’ll share the story about our instant friendship that began on day 1.

2)   During most months of the year, people will try to pawn off extra produce from their garden on you.  At first, I had a hard time saying no because the variety of local produce was so new and exciting to me. Eventually, though, I learned to say no to 8-pound zucchinis.  But, for the record, I will never say no to citrus (even though I have 3 orange trees in my own yard).

3)  It’s not a party without wine and cheese.  But don’t be snobby about wine—Californians aren’t.  I’ve always said that the only snobby people in Napa are the tourists.  I’ve enjoyed $8 bottles at parties just as much as single-estate vintages.  Drink what you like; it’s supposed to be fun.

Well, I don’t have to tell you that it didn’t take long for me to get used to the wine and cheese lifestyle.  I really, really adore red wines.  Even though it’s not very ladylike, I enjoy thick red wines like Cabs, Barberas, and Carignans.  In an effort to make red wine lighter for the summer, I created this hibiscus sangria.

Hibiscus flowers are common in Texas grocery stores due to the Tex-Mex fusion.  Look for them in the ethnic foods section of your market next to the dried chiles in plastic bags.  They may be labeled with their Spanish name flor de Jamaica.  They are very tart and bursting with vitamin C.  I love their floral accent in sangria.  Think of them as you would tea leaves:  steep them in boiling water until a rich red liquid forms.

Hibiscus Sangria

Hibiscus Sangria
Makes ~ 3 cups, or a half-pitcher.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup grapes, washed and de-stemmed
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups cheap red wine
  • 1 large ripe peach, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Place the grapes on a parchment-lined plate in the freezer.
  2. Pour the boiling water over the hibiscus flowers, cover and allow to steep 15-20 minutes. Whisk in the sugar until it dissolves.
  3. Pour the red wine and sliced peaches into a small pitcher. Strain the hibiscus tea over the top, discarding the flowers.
  4. Chill this mixture until ready to serve.
  5. Stir in the frozen grapes, and enjoy while watching the sunset.