Chilling Out Cool treats are a refreshing way to lick the heat on a summer's day

August 26, 1998|By Kathy Casey | Kathy Casey,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Frozen treats have long been a favorite for all ages. The first sound of the musical jingle from the ice cream truck sends children running to the streets to buy their favorite frozen delight. From Popsicles to big bowls of creamy ice cream to refreshing fruity sorbets and gelatos to icy granitas, they are all refreshing on a hot summer day.

There are so many wonderful flavors and varieties of frozen treats to choose from. Chocolate ice cream is a perennial favorite, but vanilla is the one that has always topped the charts. Today you can find other delicacies such as exotic herb-infused lavender ice cream or strawberry vodka and basil sorbet in your gourmet grocer's freezer. So, why not make some of your own?

If you want to serve something from the frozen frontier at a summer dinner party but don't have much time, then Sangria Granita is the recipe for you. Red wine, citrus juices, triple sec, sugar, water and a little brandy are just whisked together and poured into a shallow, glass baking dish or casserole. Cover it with plastic wrap, then freeze. In a couple of hours when it's slushy, take a fork and scrape the mixture every so often. By the next day you will have an elegant, refreshing ice to serve in chilled glasses, either alone or topped with a few juicy orange segments and/or edible flowers.

The recipe for Ginger-Peach Sorbet makes a light and fat-free ending to a patio-grilled meal. The trick is to use super-ripe, juicy, flavorful peaches which should be attainable this time of year. Don't make this sorbet if you have only hard peaches that haven't seen the sunlight enough this season. Because it's basically a fruit puree and sugar syrup, your sorbet will be only as good as the fruit you use.

I used to love chocolate chip mint ice cream when I was younger, but its gaudy green color and fake mint flavor don't work for me anymore. With the fresh mint takeover going on in one of my flower beds, I decided to try preparing some fresh mint ice cream. I infused the cream with fresh mint leaves and added a sprinkling of finely chopped fresh mint, too, to make a delicious, naturally minty ice cream, updating a childhood favorite. It's great topped with a drizzle of homemade, bittersweet chocolate sauce.

It's really fun to concoct your own ice cream flavors. Reading through old cookbooks, I ran across a sour cream ice cream recipe that sounded appealing. Then I found a bunch of bananas getting too ripe too fast in the hot weather. Sour cream and bananas sounded good. Some toasted walnuts that were in the freezer, some currants plumped in dark rum I got in Barbados, and voila! Spiced Banana-Sour Cream Ice Cream With Walnuts and Rum Currants.

Now I could expand on texture and grain and the discernible differences and nuances among sorbet, sherbet, gelato and ice cream, but summer's too short for all that. So I suggest you use what you like best to make your ice cream, whether it be a new top-of-the-line, ice cream maker or an ever-so-charming hand-crank machine. Just remember that homemade ice creams, sorbets and granitas are best eaten soon after being made. Their fresh flavor starts to dissipate after a couple of days.

Sangria Granita

Makes about 6 cups

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 cups orange juice

2 cups dry but fruity red wine, chilled (preferably Spanish, such as Via Borgia)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons triple sec or Grand Marnier

1 tablespoon brandy

edible flowers or orange segments for garnish, optional

Place sugar, water and orange juice in small saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and chill.

When chilled, add chilled wine, lemon and lime juices, triple sec and brandy. Stir well. Pour mixture into large, shallow, glass casserole or noncorrosive baking dish. Cover and freeze until mixture starts to get slushy, about 2 hours. Then every hour or so, remove from freezer and stir with fork. When icy and completely raked into tiny pieces of ice crystals, stirring can stop.

Let freeze overnight. Break up ice crystals or fluff with fork before serving. Serve in chilled glasses. Garnish with edible flowers or few orange segments.

Ginger-Peach Sorbet

Makes about 4 cups

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon very finely minced fresh ginger

1/2 cup water

about 2 pounds fresh peaches (enough to make 3 cups puree)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Stir together sugar, ginger and water in small saucepan. Bring to boil and cook about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, peel and pit peaches. If peaches don't peel easily, plunge them into pan of rapidly boiling water about 30 seconds and then drop into cold water to loosen skins before peeling.

Place peaches and lime juice in blender and puree until smooth. Combine peach puree with cooled ginger mixture. Chill mixture at least 30 minutes. Transfer to ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Fresh Mint Ice Cream

Makes about 4 1/2 cups

4 cups whipping cream

3/4 cup sugar

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