Homemade Cucumber Sorbet
I invented the root beer float when I was five or six years old. I was at a birthday party at the Ground Round, staring into my glass of soda, contemplating how to make my plain vanilla ice cream taste better. And then it dawned on me. And I dumped the ice cream in the cup, watched the fizz build and then started to suck down the creamy soda through my straw. My friends watched on in awe.At least that’s how I remember it. Of course, I wasn’t the one who invented the root beer float. And I was eating vanilla ice cream because I was allergic to chocolate and drinking root beer because I was allergic to cola. These were the stories I told myself to make my food interesting, particularly when my food was different than everybody else’s. And apparently it worked. I love root beer floats like I invented them.
Ice cream, and I use the term loosely to include sherbet, sorbet and gelato, winds through our memories like ribbons of chocolate fudge. Chasing the ice cream truck. Sitting at a soda fountain. Or at the Bubbling Brook on a hot summer night. It reminds you of your first summer or after school job, of birthday parties and parents and grandparents and friends. Ice cream is a conjurer. Memories of discovery, like the root beer float, are echoed in the sound of a straw slurping at the bottom of a glass.
For something so cold, so fleeting, it’s amazing how ice cream can create feelings that are so warm and so long-lived. And while I love going out for ice cream (check out my post on the best ice cream shops in L.A. on Serious Eats) there’s something sublime about making it at home, too. That’s why once the weather turned warm I ran out and bought the ice cream maker attachment to my Kitchen Aid mixer.
The attachment—just a work bowl you stick in the freezer and a dasher—helps keep making homemade ice cream simple. Want to make vanilla ice cream? For a rich, custard-based vanilla all you need is milk, cream, sugar, eggs and a vanilla bean. Prefer chocolate chip, or, as the Italians call it, stracciatella? Melt some bittersweet chocolate and pour it into your ice cream just before it’s done mixing. And once you get a hang of it, everything from the farmers’ market to the liquor cabinet can become inspiration for your ice cream maker.
My most recent experiment is based on the refreshing Gordon’s Cup, a gin-based cocktail I had last week at Osteria Mozza. Made using gin, lime juice, vanilla-infused simple syrup and crisp summer cucumbers, the drink was like sipping garden sunshine. So I stocked up on Persian cucumbers at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market on Sunday and created this elegant sorbet. Perfect after a long day’s work, on a lazy Saturday afternoon or as a palate cleanser during a long Sunday supper, this fresh cucumber sorbet is a must-try while these snappy gourds are in season.
2 lbs Persian cucumbers, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice
2/3 c sugar
2/3 c water
½ vanilla bean
Puree cucumbers and lime juice in a blender or food processor and set aside.
Heat water and sugar in a saucepan on the stove, stirring until the sugar completely dissolves. Steep the vanilla bean in the simple syrup for 10 minutes (you can use a bean you’ve already split and used to impart flavor, or clean and dry this bean when you’re done to reuse).
Mix cucumber puree and simple syrup together. Push the mixture through a sieve, to get out any seeds; the batter will be slightly pulpy, but mostly liquid. Put vanilla bean back in mixture to steep. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.