Posted Under: dairy-free, dessert, fruit, gluten-free, summer, treats, vegetarian
It’s all strawberries, all the time, around here, I know. I’ll vary it up a little soon, but there are few things I hate more than to see good food go to waste, so when the last of the CSA berry bounty was still sitting on my counter on Sunday night, and I’d used up all my creative cooking energy on the tart, I decided on an old standby.
Let me tell you a secret about sorbet: It is one of the simplest things on earth to make, but people are always impressed by it. If you’re looking for the perfect, refreshing ending to a summer dinner party, this is it. No oven required. The only ingredients needed are fresh fruit and sugar (and sometimes water, though strawberries don’t even need that), but sorbet also lends itself to endless variations if inspiration strikes. And don’t worry if you don’t have an ice cream maker. I made this batch in the freezer using a pan and a fork, and it was no less delicious than the mechanically produced version, and much better than almost anything you can buy in a store.
Strawberry sorbet is as simple as it gets because the berries contain enough water that just slicing them and leaving them to macerate with some sugar for a short while is all the prep you really have to do. They do all of the work for you. Perfect for a lazy summer Sunday. I added balsamic vinegar with the intent of throwing in some chiffonaded basil leaves and recreating a favorite variation from last summer. But my window-garden basil had gone all droopy and pathetic from too much rain and not enough sun, so no green this time around, just the tang of balsamic, which it turns out is lovely on its own. If you’ve had more success with your basil than I’m having, just cut a handful into thin pieces and toss it in after you’ve pureed and chilled, just before you freeze. It may sound strange, but it’s delicious and surprising, and I’m going to make sure I have some on hand next time. If you’d rather stick to basic, unadorned strawberry, just sub in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice for the balsamic and omit the basil leaves.
Strawberry Balsamic (Basil) Sorbet
½ cup to ¾ cup sugar*
pinch of salt
1½ tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
a few basil leaves, cut into thin strips
*How much sugar you use depends on taste and on how sweet your strawberries are on their own; taste to see.
Mix sliced strawberries, sugar, salt and vinegar together in a bowl until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, until sugar is dissolved and strawberries have given up quite a bit of juice. Puree the mixture in a blender or using a hand blender, and then return to bowl, re-cover and refrigerate until well chilled–at least one hour, but I usually give it two.
When the mixture is cold, toss in the basil leaves if using, then pour it into an ice cream maker if you have one, following its instructions. To make without a machine, pour the puree into a frezer-safe pan–I used a large-ish rectangular plastic storage container–cover, and put in the freezer. Every half an hour or so, fluff/re-mix the sorbet thoroughly with a fork. This prevents ice crystals hardening and making your sorbet more icy in texture than you’ll want. I did this 4 times for a total of 2 hours freezing time before having some. When the mixture is pretty frozen, pack it as tightly as you can into a smaller container, press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface, and then cover. (All of this is to prevent freezer-burn.) For best results, eat within a few days of making.
Yields: About 6 half-cup servings
Time to make: 20 minutes active prep, about 5 hrs start to finish, including freezing time (much less if you have an ice cream maker)