Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
When the weather gets hot, I have some pretty strong, nostalgic cravings. July in particular, with its attendant Independence Day pool parties and barbecues, really gets my taste buds set for something cold and sweet. In my mind, there’s nothing better than homemade ice cream in a cone, drippy and soft, to cap off a night of fireworks and fun.
Adulthood has put a damper on all this happy nostalgia, however. First, while I’m not opposed to the occasional indulgence, eating ice cream during bathing suit season can be problematic. Second, while making homemade ice cream isn’t terribly complicated, it is a little messy and time consuming. So, I went on the hunt for a treat I could whip up fast, with a minimum of fuss.
Sorbet, in its traditional form, is probably slightly healthier than regular ice cream, but it contains massive amounts of sugar and requires a spin in the ice cream maker. It’s creamy and delicious, but not exactly what I was looking for. In my search for alternatives, I stumbled across several websites (most of them dedicated to healthy eating) that suggested making a mock sorbet using frozen fruit. Still, most of them called for additional sugar or sweeteners (like agave or honey). I decided to see what I could come up with on my own.
I was lucky enough to stumble upon some beautiful strawberries for a rock-bottom price, so I rinsed them, hulled them and tossed them in the freezer. Once they were firm, I started experimenting. My first batch was essentially just strawberry puree, made from frozen berries. The texture was icy, and the mixture was much too tart to be considered a treat. I made another mixture with more sugar, which was certainly more palatable, but fairly high in calories. Finally, I settled on a mixture containing frozen berries, a tiny bit of sugar and a banana for added sweetness and a creamier texture.
This dessert would work with nearly any fruit, though melons will produce an icier finished product because they are so high in water content. As summer progresses, peaches would be delicious, as would pears. Pineapple would be especially refreshing on a hot day. Adding spices like cinnamon or cardamom or even cocoa powder would also add a flavorful dimension.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that this treat isn’t nearly as decadent as a scoop of ice cream. The mixture is extremely low in fat, so the “mouth feel” is much the same as if you ate the fruit in its natural state. On the other hand, after a hot day of eating brats and potato salad, this dessert is a great balance and a nice, light way to end a meal.
If you have leftovers, they’re great the next morning with a dollop or two of plain, low-fat Greek yogurt. Eating dessert for breakfast seems a bit decadent, but a bowl of this is a cool, healthy way to start – or end – any day of summertime celebration.
12 ounces (about three cups) fruit, cut into small pieces and frozen until solid
1 very ripe, medium-sized banana, peeled and broken into chunks
1-4 tablespoons of sugar (based on your preference and the sweetness of your fruit)
Place water and desired amount of sugar in a microwave-safe container and cook on high for about one minute to dissolve sugar. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Meanwhile, place fruit in a food processor and pulse several times to produce a mixture with pea-sized chunks. Allow the processor to run while slowly pouring in the sugar-water mixture. Process until smooth. (Frozen fruit has a tendency to clump in the food processor, so you may need to remove the lid to scrape down the bowl and then run the processor again a few times.)
This “sorbet” can be served immediately for a soft serve texture or poured into a loaf pan or cake pan and allowed to firm in the freezer for an hour or so. If the mixture is frozen longer, simply allow it to soften at room temperature for about 10 minutes before scooping. Enjoy within three days.