Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lemon Sorbet

One of summer’s greatest gifts is ice cream.  I rarely eat ice cream during the rest of the year, but in the summertime I consume it several times a week.  When I was young, my parents used to buy one gallon tubs or boxes of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or Neapolitan ice cream.  Grocery store ice cream choices have expanded significantly since my childhood, and the exotic flavors that were only available at ice cream parlors are now sold at grocery and convenience stores across the country.

I had not made ice cream until a few years ago when my friend Yvonne showed me her recipe for Thai tea ice cream.  Since then I’ve been dreaming of owning an ice cream maker; my wish recently came true through a gift from a friend.

We inaugurated our new ice cream maker with this refreshing lemon sorbet.  Sorbets are frozen sugar water flavored with fruit or alcohol.  Unlike ice cream, they do not contain milk, cream, or eggs.  Sorbets are sometimes served as a palette cleanser between multi-course meals; more often they are served as a dessert at the end of a meal.

The word ‘sorbet’ either comes from the Latin sorbetto meaning a mixture of solid and liquid food or the Arabic sharbat meaning drink or juice.  There are many stories about the origin of sorbet.  Some claim that it was invented by Roman Emperor Nero and others suggest that Marco Polo brought back a sorbet recipe from China.  Whatever its origin, sorbet is an increasingly popular summer treat.

Watch this space for other inventions enabled by our new ice cream maker!

1 cup fresh lemon juice (approximately 6 lemons)
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1.       Juice the lemons and set aside.
2.       In a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup water and all the sugar.  Grate the zest of two or three lemons directly into the mixture.
3.       Heat until the sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a glass dish.  Add remaining water and lemon juice.  Mix well.
4.       Cover and cool in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.  The colder the mixture, the more likely it will produce an even texture in the ice cream maker.  The mixture may be kept in this state for several weeks.
5.       Prepare sorbet in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
6.       Transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe container to ripen for several hours.  The mixture should still be soft when you do this; resist the desire to over-churn as it will produce a dry and fluffy texture.  Do not serve directly from the ice cream maker.

7.       Serve as a palette cleanser or dessert.  Best served with other sorbets or topped with a drizzle of limoncello.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rose-Flavored Wedding Drink (Sherbet)

We are well into the summer wedding season in North America.  In many cultures, weddings are associated with particular foods.  In Mexico, a spicy lamb stew called birria is the centerpiece of the traditional wedding meal.  The English serve fruitcake as their wedding dessert.  In Italy, five sugar-covered almonds known as Italian confetti or Jordan almonds are given to guests as favors.  The almonds symbolize happiness, longevity, health, prosperity, and fertility.

In my community, the traditional wedding dish is beef biryani.  The meal is finished with ladoos (sweet chickpea balls) and gathiya (savory deep fried chickpea dough).  In addition to food, sherbet (a rose-flavored milk drink) is traditionally served at weddings, engagements, and other celebratory events.  This sweet beverage is thought to augur a sweet marriage.  It is easy to make and keeps for several days (without the nut garnish).

6 cups whole milk
1/2 can (7oz) sweetened condensed milk
2-3 teaspoons rose water or a few drops of rose essence
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-6 drops red food color
finely chopped almonds and pistachio for garnish

1.       In a large pitcher combine the first five ingredients.  Use a long spoon to mix well.  Adjust rose, vanilla, and food color as desired.
2.       Pour into 6 to 10 glasses.  Garnish with nuts and serve.