Sparkling wine is my aperitif of choice. It’s light and refreshing, it pairs well with just about any starter, and those bubbles always put me in a good mood. Occasionally, I will spring for a glass of French champagne, but I find Italian prosecco, Spanish cava or an American sparkling wine does the trick just as well for, typically, a much lower price, making it possible to enjoy that effervescence in an everyday way.
It turns out sparkling wine also makes for a wonderful end to a meal, as a star ingredient in this easy, elegant, four-ingredient dessert. First you sweeten prosecco (or whatever sparkling wine you prefer) with a little sugar - just enough so it is lightly sweetened but not at all syrupy. Superfine sugar is preferred because it dissolves quickly and easily, but if you don’t have any on hand you can make your own by putting regular granulated sugar in the food processor to grind it more finely.
Then add balls of sweet, juicy honeydew melon, and let the mixture steep in the refrigerator for at least two hours, so the flavors can meld and everything is well chilled. Spoon into cocktail glasses, shower with a fragrant, floral confetti of basil, and you have a grown-up dessert that is fresh, fun and glamorous.
It is one that is well suited to cap off a special-occasion meal but, like those tiny bubbles themselves, can make a regular day feel like a celebration.
If you can’t find superfine sugar, give your granulated sugar a good turn in the food processor.
MAKE AHEAD: The melon balls need to macerate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
Prosecco-spiked melon with basil
1 cup prosecco (not extra-dry)
3 tablespoons superfine sugar (may substitute granulated sugar; see headnote)
4 cups (1 pound 7 ounces) honeydew melon balls, from one 4-to-4 1/2-pound melon
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, for garnish
Pour the prosecco into a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir gently until it is dissolved. Add the melon balls and stir to coat evenly. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
Just before serving, stack the basil leaves, roll them tightly and cut them crosswise into thin ribbons (chiffonade).
To serve, divide the melon balls and their liquid among 4 cocktail (martini) or dessert glasses; garnish each with about 1 tablespoon of the basil ribbons.
Nutrition per serving: 140 calories, 0 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 30 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 22 g sugar