It's hot and humid. Summer is here. Everything iced looks good.
It's the season of frozen lattes and sorbet bars. Sno-cone kiosks are popping up on every curbside. But eventually you will tire of cold coffee- and berry-flavored confections. And when you do, there's a whole world waiting for you. It takes imagination to transform plain fruit or fruit juices into more exotic frozen pleasures. But for me, the more unusual, the better. After all, it's a long summer.
At any season, look to the shelves of specialty stores and supermarkets for the makings of frozen confections that are just waiting to be recognized. Recently, for example, I've discovered that Goya brand fruit nectars taste delicious transformed into ices, though they improve with a flavor boost from fresh fruit, fruit syrups or liqueurs. I've spiked tamarind nectar with tamarind syrup, mango nectar with pureed fresh mango, and papaya nectar with fresh papaya.
Mouth-watering ices also can be produced by freezing store-bought fruit juices; undiluted limeade, lemonade, orange juice and cranberry juice concentrates; frozen peaches, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, boysenberries, blueberries and cherries.
Also to be considered are canned tropical fruits such as lychees, mangosteens, jack fruit, kumquats and mandarin oranges and more mundane canned fruits such as peaches, pineapple, apricots, blackberries and purple plums. Just puree the fruit in their syrups and add a bit of complementary flavoring. Rosewater, orange flower water, almond and vanilla extract, mint and other herbs, fruit essences, lemon or lime juice and ginger all work.
Then, too, take a cue from fancy French and New American restaurants and don't limit ices to dessert. Made with vegetables and savory ingredients, they can be an intermezzo between courses as a palate cleanser. Basil is especially good, as are lemon balm and rosemary, and tomatoes, tomato juice, cucumbers and bell peppers taste great frozen.
To create a flashy presentation, serve ices in chilled clear-glass vessels decorated with fresh berries or other fruits that complement the flavor. Garnish with mint leaves or edible flowers such as rose petals (unsprayed , of course).
Or if you want to go the absolute simple and pure route, go back to basics. When summer fruits are dead ripe, puree them to make a base to which you add some light sugar syrup and a complementary fruit brandy. Freeze berries on trays then crush them in the food processor before serving. Or slice the top off a frozen orange and spoon a bit of orange-flavored liqueur into it to make the dessert special.
All these frozen goodies are a cinch to make in a home ice cream maker. It can produce satiny ices without gelatin, without egg whites, and without milk products. But a machine is not necessary. You can freeze any mixture for about three hours in an ice cube tray or 9-inch square baking pan, then break it into chunks and beat it with an electric mixer or in a food processor until it is smooth and slushy, and then freeze it again until just before serving. You may want to give it a last beating to smooth out the texture. Ices can also be still-frozen in a flat pan, though the texture will be a little coarser, like an Italian granita.
These desserts can be made ahead, spooned into plastic containers and frozen until needed. If they are too hard to scoop, a few minutes on a kitchen counter will bring them to scooping consistency.Jean-Louis Palladin's Tomato
Sorbet With Tomato Coulis
Considered Washington's top chef when he was cooking at the Watergate, Jean-Louis Palladin is now in charge at Palladin, his own restaurant in New York. In this eye-catching dessert, scoops of yellow tomato sorbet rest in pools of sweet green and red tomato coulis.
For the sorbet:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 pounds yellow tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
For the coulis:
1/2 pound green tomatoes, peeled and seeded 1/2 pound red tomatoes, peeled and seeded
Sugar to taste
For the sorbet: In a medium saucepan over low heat, stir together the sugar, water and tomatoes and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and add more sugar if desired.
Meanwhile, fill a large bowl about 3/4 full of cold water and ice. Remove the pan from the heat and place in the ice bath to cool.
Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree. Add the lemon juice and pulse to mix. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions.
For the coulis: Place the green tomatoes in a blender or food processor and puree. Add sugar to taste. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the red tomatoes and sugar. Cover each bowl with plastic wrap and chill.
To serve, mound the sorbet in the center of a serving dish and surround with 2 pools of coulis.
Per serving: 175 calories, 2 gm protein, 43 gm carbohydrates, 1 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 22 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber
Wondering what to do with that bottle of vermouth with the level that never seems to go down, in spite of all your martini-making? Try this aperitif idea from Martini & Rossi.
4 sprigs basil
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dry white vermouth
Juice from 1 lemon
Strip the leaves from 1 sprig of basil and set aside. Tear the remaining basil leaves into pieces and place in a saucepan. Add the water, sugar, vermouth, lemon juice and peppercorns to the saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside for 1 hour.
Strain the mixture through a sieve into a metal bowl. Slice the reserved basil leaves into thin strips and stir into the liquid. Transfer the bowl to the freezer. Chill until half-frozen, about 3 hours. Whisk, breaking up the ice crystals, and return the bowl to the freezer; continue to chill, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is stiff, about 5 hours total.
Scoop into martini glasses and garnish with tiny sprigs of basil.
Per serving: 116 calories, trace protein, 25 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 1 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
Mint-Infused Citrus Ice
This ice makes a refreshing dessert alone or paired with strawberries, melon or shortbread cookies.
Zest and juice from 1 lime
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
Zest and juice from 1 orange
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
3 or 4 sprigs mint, leaves and sprigs torn into pieces and bruised slightly, plus additional for garnish
About 1 cup orange juice
In a medium saucepan, bring the zests, water, sugar and mint to a simmer, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, pour the lime, lemon and orange juices into a 2-cup measuring glass and add additional orange juice to measure 2 cups.
Strain the cooled mint syrup through a sieve into a metal bowl. Add the juices and transfer the bowl to the freezer. Chill until half-frozen, about 3 hours. Whisk, breaking up the ice crystals, and return the bowl to the freezer; continue to chill, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is stiff, about 5 hours total.
Scoop into dessert dishes and garnish with tiny mint sprigs.
Per serving: 119 calories, trace protein, 30 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 1 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
(6 to 8 servings)
Julie Sahni, author of "Moghul Microwave" (Morrow, 1990) suggests serving this tart sorbet as a palate cleanser between courses.
2 1/2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup tamarind nectar* (may substitute 6 tablespoons lime juice mixed with 2 tablespoons molasses or 3 tablespoons lime juice mixed with 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar)
12 mint leaves or 1 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups cold water
In a blender or food processor, puree 1 cup of the tomato juice and the tamarind nectar with the mint, ginger powder, pepper, sugar and salt until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Stir in the remaining tomato juice and water. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions. Alternatively, pour the mixture into ice cube trays or a 9-inch square pan and freeze.
*Note: Tamarind juice or nectar, popular in East Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, is available in specialty markets and the juice aisle of some supermarkets.
Per serving (based on 6): 60 calories, 1 gm protein, 15 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 387 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
Sweet Red Pepper Sorbet With Tequila
(6 to 8 servings)
This recipe, adapted from Linda Burum's "Frozen Delights" (Scribner, 1987), tastes like a frozen roasted red pepper--with a tiny kick lent by the tequila. Try serving it as a first course instead of a cold soup.
2 pounds (about 6) red bell peppers
6 tablespoons water
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste
1/4 cup tequila
Preheat the broiler.
Cut the peppers in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and remove the ribs. Place the peppers skin-sides up on a sheet of foil and broil until the skins are blistered. Wrap the peppers in foil and set aside to cool. When they have cooled, peel the peppers over a bowl, discarding the skins but saving any juice. Place the peppers and their juice in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
Put the water in a small saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over the top, soaking until the gelatin softens, about 3 minutes. Cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the gelatin dissolves completely. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper sauce. Blend the gelatin mixture into the pepper puree.
Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's directions. When it's nearly frozen, stir in the tequila. Continue processing until the sorbet reaches the desired consistency.
Per serving (based on 8): 77 calories, 1 gm protein, 15 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 33 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber
This cool and refreshing recipe was adapted from "Frozen Delights" by Linda Burum (Scribner, 1987).
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup mint leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup sugar
2 pounds cucumbers (about 5), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch slices
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
Pinch of salt
In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of the water, the mint and the sugar to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor, add the cucumbers and lemon juice and puree until smooth.
In a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining 1/4 cup water and soak until the softens, about 3 minutes. Cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the gelatin dissolves completely. Remove from the heat, stir in the salt and the cucumber puree. Place in the refrigerator until it has chilled slightly, then transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions.
Per serving: 38 calories, 1 gm protein, 9 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 27 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
The Cold, Hard Facts
Though ice is frozen, many of the terms for cold, fruity ices are fluid. But here are some general definitions:
Ices are frozen non-dairy confections--sorbets or granitas.
Granitas are a mixture of water, sugar and a flavoring (coffee and lemon are favorites in Italy). Their characteristic grainy texture is achieved by stirring frequently as they freeze. They should be served in a slushy or semi-frozen state.
Sherbets are a frozen mix of sweetened fruit juice (and other liquids, such as wine) and water. They can also contain milk, egg whites or gelatin for a more ice creamlike sherbet.
Sorbets--the French word for "sherbets"--are distinguished from sherbets in that they never contain milk, though they may have egg white or gelatin mixed with a fruit base for a soft, smooth consistency.
Gail Forman is an English professor at Montgomery College and a freelance writer.