Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer just keep on rolling on here in Ohio where it has been hot, hot, hot. So much for summer’s open windows with the sounds of locust, chirping birds and children playing. We’ve reluctantly spent most of our summer nights sealed in our sterile airconditioned homes instead of sitting on the porch breathing in summer’s heady aroma of freshly watered plants, our neighbors fire pit and the few hosta lilies that the deer left for us to enjoy. I can’t help noticing, though, that it hasn’t been so hot in Paris. Every morning I check the weather there (because that is where I’d really like to be) and see that the Parisian summer of 2010 has been cool and dry…in the 70’s and 80’s most days. Zut alors! What I wouldn’t give for a few weeks to ramble those city streets in relative seasonal comfort. This was definitely the summer for a trip to Paris.
So, for the time being I will not peruse the cool wonders of the Musée d’Orsay or the not so sizzling Rive Gauche and must make the best of being stuck in hot and humid Northeast Ohio. And though we don’t have lemon trees here from which to make lemonade, the heat here has resulted in a bumper crop of very fine berries. Last week I figured why not tame some of that heat with a delicious fruit ice?
As luck would have it, my grocer recently featured an abundance of locally grown, juicy blackberries. I grabbed two quarts and moved on to pick up a few other items when a basket of orangey yellow Meyer lemons came into view. We don’t usually see them here in Cleveland, so I dropped five or six into my bag, the better to make a deliciously contrasting Meyer lemon ice as well. The colors would be dramatic with the purply berry and pale lemon ices nestled in a glass and the flavors would offset each other with the lighter, breezier, not so sharp lemon and the dense, dark sweet berry.
One of the most attractive features of a summer ice is that you don’t need an ice cream freezer to make them. Just blend the ingredients together, pour the mixture into a 9x 13-inch metal pan and pop it in the freezer for 1 hour. After an hour’s freeze, just give it a scrape with the tines of a fork, freeze for another hour, repeat the process and let it firm up for another hour or overnight. The mix is sweet enough that it usually doesn’t harden into an unscoopable mass, but if it is too hard to scoop, just scrape it again with the fork to loosen it up. I usually make fruit ice a day ahead just to be sure it’s firm, but even slushy, these fruit ices are heaven.
With a beautiful, cool dessert in the freezer I have the feeling that a shady evening on the patio might be in order. To set the mood, I’ll put on my Francophile’s music mix of Edith Piaf, Rendevous à Paris and Pink Martini. To keep things cool we’ll open a bottle of chilled Sancerre, toss together a pizza on the grill, maybe add a tomato salad and follow it up with this fruity, iced duo. It won’t be Paris, but it will be cool and delicious and we can all pretend.
Kitchen Counter Point: Charming Meyer lemons aren’t as puckery as a regular lemon. They are thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange and taste as if that might be true. If you can’t find them go ahead and use regular lemons, but up the sugar to 1 cup. Blueberries can stand in for the blackberries with no changes to the recipe. Another nice way to serve these ices is to pour a shot of vodka or tequila over them and serve as a cocktail of sorts. Or a boozy dessert. Both work for me.
Meyer Lemon Ice
2 cups water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
Bring water, sugar and salt to a simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from heat and add the lemon juice. Pour the mixture into a 9x 13-inch pan and let it cool to room temperature. Place it in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the pan from the freezer and scrape the frozen edges into the center of the pan with a fork. Return it to the freezer for another hour. Scrape the ice crystals again to the center and return to the freezer for at least another hour or overnight. Scoop the ice into small chilled bowls and serve immediately. Can be made a day ahead. If the mixture becomes too firm to scoop, just scrape it again with the tines of a fork to loosen the crystals.
5 cups blackberries
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Add the blackberries and water to a blender or bowl of a food processor. Process the berries for about 30 seconds or until well blended. Strain the berry mixture through a medium mesh strainer, pressing the liquid through with a rubber spatula in 3 or 4 batches. Stir the honey, lemon juice and pinch of salt into the strained berry puree and transfer it to a 9x 13-inch pan. Place it in the freezer for 1 hour, Remove the pan from the freezer and scrape the frozen edges into the center of the pan with a fork. Return the pan to the freezer for another hour. Scrape the ice crystals again to the center and return to the freezer for at least another hour or overnight. Scoop the ice into small chilled bowls and serve immediately. Can be made a day ahead. If the mixture becomes too firm to scoop, just scrape it again with the tines of a fork to loosen the crystals.