There are many kinds of frozen concoctions to help you navigate the summer heat.
There is the Mexican paleta, sold from a cart on the street. It is a bar of frozen juice on a stick, in tropical flavors such as mango, lime and watermelon, as well as tamarind and coconut.
Aside from their justly famed gelato, Italians also make the slushy sgroppino, a semiliquid dessert made with prosecco, a splash of vodka and a scoop of lemon sorbet. And of course there is granité, essentially chopped ice made from sweetened espresso or any number of fruit juices, sometimes spiked with grappa.
In North America, everyone wants ice cream, and most folks think two scoops are better than one. Some prefer soft-serve ice cream, twirled up tall in the cone, heralded by tinkling bells. Or root-beer floats or milkshakes or ice-cream sandwiches.
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But let’s not forget sorbet and sherbet. Sorbets are made from only fruit and sugar (a delicious exception is chocolate sorbet), while sherbets usually contain a small amount of dairy. Both are light tasting and refreshing, and it can be lovely sometimes to have a frozen dessert without the richness of cream or eggs.
Homemade sorbet is easy to make, though it’s best made with the help of a machine, the kind with the cylinder that you keep in the freezer.
For hot summer days, I like to make raspberry and plum and even a savory sorbet from ripe tomatoes, a sort of frozen gazpacho.
I use a box grater to make a raw tomato purée, discarding skins and seeds, and season it with salt and pepper, garlic, olive oil and a splash of vinegar. (It’s hard to resist drinking it right away, but follow through and get it frozen.) This well-seasoned sorbet makes a spectacular first course with a salad of cherry tomatoes spooned right over it, along with a few basil leaves.
The very first frozen desserts were made from flavored and sweetened ice or snow. Lo, these many centuries later, shave ice and snow cones are still popular, especially with children, mainly for the sugar rush.
But I came up with something better than those strange-colored commercially made syrups. It turns out that quickly simmered blackberries make a remarkably good alternative — good enough for grown-ups, and visually stunning. Crushed ice never looked so good.
SHAVED ICE WITH FRESH BERRY SAUCE
Makes 1 cup sauce, enough for 6 servings
8 ounces raspberries or blackberries
½ cup sugar
4 to 6 cups shaved ice (see note)
1. Put berries and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer for about five minutes, until sauce has thickened slightly. Cool thoroughly.
2. For each serving, pile about 1 cup shaved ice into an ice cream glass. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons sauce with berries over the top.
Note: To make the shaved ice, put ice cubes in a heavy-duty blender or food processor and pulse until ice is crushed and flaky, but not too slushy, about one minute. Alternatively, use a manual ice crusher. Six large ice cubes will make about 1 cup. Store shaved ice in freezer for up to an hour.
SAVORY TOMATO SORBET
Makes about 1 quart, enough for 6 servings
FOR THE SORBET:
4 pounds large, ripe red tomatoes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 to 2 garlic cloves, grated
Black pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
FOR THE GARNISH:
1 small shallot, diced
1 small garlic clove, smashed to a paste with a little salt
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fruity olive oil
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved, about 2 cups
Salt and pepper
Handful of basil leaves
1. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise and remove seeds with a teaspoon. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate tomato flesh into a bowl to make a rough purée. (Discard seeds and skins.) Push purée through a strainer to remove any extraneous bits. You should have 4 cups purée; if you come up short, add a little water or grate another tomato.
2. Stir together tomato purée, salt, garlic, black pepper, cayenne, vinegar and olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning.
3. Use an ice-cream machine to freeze tomato mixture, then transfer to an airtight container and store in freezer compartment of refrigerator until sorbet is firm, about one hour. Remove and hold at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
4. Make the cherry tomato garnish: Put shallot, garlic and vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil to make a vinaigrette.
5. Put cherry tomatoes in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Pour vinaigrette over cherry tomatoes and toss well.
6. For each serving, put two scoops of tomato sorbet in an ice cream glass or bowl. Spoon a few cherry tomatoes and some of the vinaigrette over the top. Garnish with basil leaves.