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White Grapefruit & Epazote Sorbet

Thu Aug 21, 2008


White Grapefruit & Epazote Sorbet

Last month, while I was researching a story on the Best Ice Cream in Los Angeles for Serious Eats I had the pleasure of hanging out at Tara Kolla’s Silver Lake Farms for the afternoon. It was there, with the bees buzzing around four different varieties of mint and picture-perfect roses that I first tried epazote, plucked fresh from a tall mint-like plant. I rolled the spiky green leaves between my fingers to extract some of the Mexican herb’s perfume, which was quite pungent, almost petrol-like, and spicy. I took a bite and was intrigued by its zesty, fennel and coriander-like flavor. I couldn’t get it out of my head. All I kept thinking was, this would be good with citrus.

I didn’t think about the epazote again until a couple of weeks later when, at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, I discovered the sweetangiest white grapefruits. Then, like an old diesel backfiring, I was struck by the notion to pair the grapefruit with some epazote in an earthy-tangy-sweet sorbet. The herb lady looked at me like a poor, lost child when I told her my plan. Epazote sorbet? Oh, there, there. Drink some water; the heat must have gone to your head.

Was there something I was missing?

Epazote, I learned, is common in Central and South American cultures, where it’s as ubiquitous as cilantro. And it’s used in dishes like black beans and mole, where it serves the additional purpose of being a natural anti-flatulent. Nowhere in my research did I find any instances of epazote being used for anything that wasn’t savory. But the advantage, I deduced, to not having a cultural bias toward pairing epazote’s dominant flavor meant that I could imagine it in all sorts of incarnations that someone familiar with its taste might not.

Undeterred, I continued, albeit cautiously. Inspired by the Hungry Cat’s Greyhound Proper, a delicious pairing of gin and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, I proceeded to concoct a sorbet recipe that incorporated the epazote, though I used it sparingly. The resulting dessert is delicious, refreshing with just a hint of licorice-like earthiness. The epazote is remarkably tame, so much so that I might add a little more next time, but it was tasty just the same. It’s ideal as a palate cleanser between courses, though it makes for a light, tangy dessert after a heavy meal. I can’t wait to go the farmers’ market next week to let the herb lady have a taste.

So the next time you’re exposed to an unfamiliar ingredient, trust your instincts and play! You may just find an entirely new culinary use for something others consider mundane.

White Grapefruit & Epazote Sorbet

1 cup fresh-squeezed white grapefruit juice
2 cups water, separated
1/3 cup gin (Tanquerey or Plymouth)
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp fresh epazote, chopped
pinch of salt

In a saucepan, heat sugar, pinch of salt and one cup of water to create a simple syrup. Once the sugar is dissolved, add half the grapefruit juice, the gin and the epazote to the pot; cover and allow to cool. When the mixture has cooled add the remaining grapefruit juice and water and transfer to a medium mixing bowl or large measuring cup, cover and refrigerate overnight. Strain epazote leaves and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

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11 Responses to “White Grapefruit & Epazote Sorbet”

  1. [eatingclub] vancouver || js Says:

    Very intriguing! I’m very curious what this would taste like.

  2. Brooke Says:

    damn. I shoulda taken you up on that taste of sorbet!

    Save me some for Saturday!

  3. PaniniKathy Says:

    That sounds so incredibly refreshing! Glad to finally know what epazote actually is…there’s a restaurant near me by that name.

  4. coco Says:

    This looks delicious. Gosh I so want to try that now, learned a new thing today :epazote! 😀 nice post.

  5. My Sweet & Saucy Says:

    I had never event heard of epazote before but the combo does sounds nice!

  6. Zoë François Says:

    What a fantastic idea, it sounds so refreshing and unique. Can’t wait to try this recipe.

  7. Toni Says:

    I’ve only had epazote in savory dishes. This sounds terrific!

    Great to meet you this evening!

  8. Sue Says:

    Yum! I’ll pass this on to Jeffrey, maybe he’ll use it at the restaurant. He’s been making lots of Yuzu sorbets lately, yum!

  9. Julie Says:

    I just love this combination of epazote and grapefruit (a little gin never hurt anyone either). Genius! Can’t wait to hear about the herb lady’s reaction.

  10. Experimenting with Epazote « Southside CSA Says:

    […] And don’t forget dessert! Talk about experimentation…White Grapefruit & Epazote Sorbet […]

  11. Epazote & Papalo « Southside CSA Says:

    […] White Grapefruit & Epazote Sorbet MtnGrl20@flickr.com […]

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