Vanilla Frozen Yogurt topped with Sweetened Cucumbers
in Ginger-Lime & Mint Syrup
I get by with a little from my friends,Gonna try with a little help from my friends.The Beatles, "With a Little Help from My Friends"
By definition, a 'social' is about coming together in companionship as a community or group through commonalities such as, say, a love for ice cream! But while similar experiences and interests may bring us together, we're also exposed to new and unique perspectives that help expand our horizons a bit beyond what they were before. This is what Scott of ScottySnacks, Jennifer of Savor The Thyme, and yours truly hope to achieve with our Ice Cream Social - an opportunity to meet new friends with a shared love of food (particularly ice cream et al.) and a different way of approaching it. So far, the response has been gratifyingly enthusiastic and the entries are remarkable for their originality, sense of fun and downright temptation!
Knowing that there would be such incredible creativity on display, I set out to post one new frozen concoction for every week of our event and challenged myself to truly think outside the icebox. So, although I'm quite proud of my Candied Brazil Nut Ice Cream and Calamansi-Basil Sorbet, they were simple twists on classic favorites; now, I wanted to make something . . . different. Not knowing exactly what that was, I went in search of it.
Invoking the spirit of the social, I turned to our online food community for inspiration and found a double-dose of it from Lisa at Lisa Is Cooking. With the perfect combination of vivid photography and smart, concise writing, this Austin-based site is a master course in culinary blogging. Over the Fourth of July holiday, Lisa was motivated to create a Mediterranean menu by the variety of cucumbers she received from her CSA (community supported agriculture) basket. One look at the creamy tzatziki she had prepared - a lusciously thick Greek yogurt sauce, studded with crisp cukes - and her vegetable muse sparked a similar epiphany: I'll make cucumber frozen yogurt!
While it may not seem to be a typical flavor for dessert, cucumbers are closely related to watermelons and muskmelons - they are, in fact, fruits (Answers.com). As an ingredient for a creamy treat, Cucumis sativus is quite the popular gourd, with a profusion of recipes, news stories and blog posts readily available online. Yet, the unhappy realization dawned that by making a cucumber fro-yo, I would just be repeating an oft-repeated dish. Even if it meant some miniscule, negligible change, I wanted to do something . . . different. And wouldn't you know it: Lisa came through once again. As I mulled over what could be done, she posted her Tin Roof Sundae. This time, the spark wasn't the chocolate sauce or the salted peanuts or any particular ingredient. It was, instead, the entire crowning glory - the topping!
Whether it's chocolate-covered bacon, unctuous olive oil or herb-y matcha, the most unusual ingredients paired with ice cream are usually blended into the mixture. But if you've ever been to a real world ice cream social, you'll notice that the tubs of goodness often contain just your run-of-the-mill chocolate and vanilla flavors while various toppings of candies, nuts, fruits, syrups and sauces are arrayed on a table, waiting for individual creativity and preferences to assert themselves. This is the spirit that I would like to capture for this week's Social-ice frozen treat - a topping that you could have as much or as little as you want, or none at all. Whatever you prefer, it's your journey.
'Beets Are So Sweet!'
So off to market I went, in search of the cucumbers that were my first choice; but as I perused the produce, my eyes were inexorably drawn to some darn ugly roots. Golden beets, the sign above read, and I felt yet another spark. Just the day before, over coffee with my dear friend Mimi, the subject had turned to summer produce and now, her words came back like a clarion call as I stood in the grocery aisle: "Beets are so sweet!" I picked up one bulbous form and nearly put it right back down; after all, I had never cooked with beets before, much less made a dessert sauce out of one. But wasn't this precisely what I was searching for? Wasn't this . . . different?
I'll leave that up to you to decide as I present the fruits of my over-analyzed efforts: not one, but two, Summer Garden toppings - Sweet Cucumber and Golden Beet Sauce - representing the season's bounty and inspired by friends near and far whose fresh approach to food and cooking continues to broaden my scope of knowledge every day.
As I mentioned earlier, my first idea was to create a sweetened frosty version of tzatziki by making a frozen yogurt mixed with shredded cucumbers. But I started to fret that all of my chilled concoctions thus far are quite, er, pale in color. So, when I saw Lisa's Tin Roof Sundae post, the idea of a topping seemed the perfect solution - a way for the bright green of the vegetable to stand out. I marinated the cucumbers in a white wine and sugar mixture then tossed it with a ginger-lime-mint simple syrup. Use it to top your favorite frozen dessert or feel free to fully blend it into your ice cream or fro-yo. Either way, I think you'll enjoy its refreshing flavor.
Ingredients and instructions
1 English cucumber, sliced to 1/8" thickness then diced into smaller pieces (about 2 cups)
3 Tbsps dry white wine
2 Tbsps superfine or caster sugar (not confectioner's or powdered!)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/2" piece of ginger
1/2 tsp of lime zest
2-3 fresh mint leaves, torn
1. In a small bowl, combine cucumbers, wine and superfine sugar and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour;
2. In a small saucepan, combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved;
3. Remove from heat, strain out ginger, zest and mint pieces, and allow to cool completely;
4. Drain cucumbers completely then transfer to a small bowl or container. Add cooled simple syrup by tablespoons until desired consistency is reached*. Refrigerate remainder of simple syrup to use in cocktails or other desserts.
5. Spoon on top of your favorite ice cream or check out the frozen yogurt recipe below.
*Note: I used enough to coat the cucumbers but not enough to have them swimming in it!
Golden Beet Sauce
It was meant to be: these root veggies were nearly obscured by the adjacent bunches of lettuce, but somehow, they managed to catch my eye in all their dirt-covered, misshapen glory. Despite having no clue about how to prepare them, the idea of a dessert sauce was stuck in my head. I did not follow any one recipe, although I took note of methods, especially about roasting, that were repeated throughout various sources. The end result was a gorgeous, vibrant yellow-orange color and a pleasant, if still somewhat 'earthy', flavor. Next time, I will add some sort of spice - nutmeg or cinnamon, perhaps?
Ingredients and instructions
3 small golden beets, approximately 6 oz
2 Tbsps orange juice
3 Tbsps simple syrup (use recipe above or make plain syrup, omitting flavorings)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F;
2. Wash beets thoroughly, then slice off tops. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake in pre-heated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until beets are tender;
3. Remove from oven to cool and peel when cool enough to handle;
4. Cut into quarters and place in a food processor or blender. Add orange juice and purée well;
5. Transfer to a small bowl or container, then stir in simple syrup;
6. Spoon on top of your favorite ice cream or check out the frozen yogurt recipe below.
David Lebovitz's Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
I love this recipe! Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks calls it nothing less than "a frozen yogurt recipe to rival Pinkberry's recipe." Having never tasted the product in comparison, I can't validate her assessment but I will say that this is an incredibly easy-to-make and deliriously delicious fro-yo. Just three ingredients - Greek-style yogurt, such as Stonyfield Farms' Oikos, sugar and vanilla extract - are combined, chilled in the fridge and then prepared in your ice cream maker. Originally found in that compendium of frosty concoctions, The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, the complete recipe is available at 101 Cookbooks.
Join Us for an Ice Cream Social!
It's mid-July and our Ice Cream Social is in full swing! Please join me, Scott and Jennifer in celebrating July as National Ice Cream Month by sending us your favorite frozen recipe, a photo of that scrumptious sundae or a video of your visit to a local dairy/creamery or favorite ice cream venue. Any kind of frozen dessert - from ice cream and frozen yogurts, to halo-halo and ais kacang - is welcome for entry and you don't need to actually make it yourself.
Enter to win some great prizes:
Winners will receive coupons for free pints of ice cream or frozen yogurt, courtesy of Stonyfield Farms, the world's leading organic yogurt producer.
One lucky winner will get a hand-screened organic cotton T-shirt featuring a design created especially for our Ice Cream Social by Penelope of neenacreates, an eco-boutique featuring organic and upcycled clothing for women, men and babies, as well as accessories and original illustrations. For the month of July, Penelope is also offering 10% off any item in her Etsy shop - just add the promo code #icsocial to your order message!