Time to Social-ice! Summer Garden Toppings

Thursday, July 16, 2009 54 comments

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.

Vegetable Muse
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.

Sweet Cucumber
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!


  • kat said...

    I had beet ice cream for the first time this year at the Chef Shack at Kingfield Market. It was bright pink & really tasty. You have me very intrigued with the sweet cucumber...I might have to try messing around with it too, looks like I'll have a bumper crop in the garden.

  • Jennifer said...

    Wonderufl -as usual!! I was going to work on ice cream sandwiches with the kids--do you think frozen yogurt would work well? melt to quickly?
    I am also a big fan of lisa's cooking!

    Now go tweet about this fzn yogurt

  • lisaiscooking said...

    Thanks for the mention! Cucumbers are amazingly versatile fruits. And, they seem to lower the surrounding temperature by several degrees. Your frozen yogurt looks incredible, and the beet sauce is genius! Beets and orange juice make a great match. Sounds delicious.

  • Phyllis said...

    Super cool and creative that you made toppings with such unconventional ingredients! And I just bookmarked that easy frozen yogurt recipe! While I am a fan of pinkberry, I'm not a fan of the designer prices, and you can't get any simpler than 3 ingredients! Now I just have to get an ice cream maker (and replace my antique fridge so I can actually chill the canister)

  • OysterCulture said...

    Love the creativity here and it looks delicious. I think perhaps because you never cooked with beets before that you were prepared to interpret them outside the norm. It reminds me of Asian deserts, and standing next to someone who commented "who puts beans in deserts" and I pitied the person who never gave it a try, because I thought they were missing out and then I got their serving and was quit happy. =)

  • Maria Verivaki said...

    ok, this is a difficult one to swallow (!) but i liked your well thought out plan - souonds a little risque, but i have been doing wacky things myself lately: every day this week, my family has been eating zucchini in various forms - pretty soon, i could probably invent an ice cream using it!

  • Jenn said...

    Hmmm...veggies and ice cream. Interesting. I like the idea of cucumbers. Never would have imagined beets being a topping. I love the way you think!!!!

  • The Diva on a Diet said...

    Very, very inventive, Noodle! Oh how I love golden beets - any beets really, but especially golden. Aren't they gorgeous? Your sauce is a thing of beauty ... and I feel refreshed just looking at the cukes. :)

  • Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

    How many delights I’m seeing here.. excellent sweet idea to make a yogurt with cucumbers and mint ..summery refreshing!!

    Twitterworld will enjoy it soon, sending to twitter :)



  • Lori said...

    I am loving all your ice cream creations! You are definitely broadening my horizons when it comes to frozen treats! Sweet cucumbers with ice cream?! It sounds delicious and refreshing.

  • Carolyn Jung said...

    Your fro-yo with sweetened cucumbers, ginger, lime and mint should be enshrined in the dictionary under the definition of "refreshing.'' It is the epitome of that.

  • Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

    What an advernturesome post with all of the different ice creams. I'm in love with the cucumber one. I always, and I mean always, have the English cucumber in my frig. But I would have never thought to spoon it on top of ice cream. I've got to give this a try.

    As always, your photos are spectacular and jump off of the page.

  • Reeni said...

    What delicious and creative treats you've made! I once tried to use beets in a sweet smoothie - the end result wasn't good. These are winners!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Happy Weekend, everyone!

    Kat - I've seen ChefShack's tweets about making beet and goat's milk ice cream! I want to try it out. Of these two, the cucumbers turned out best, I think. And next time, I will try blending it right into the froyo or ice cream.

    Jennifer - Sorry to reply so late! I think this may be too soft for the sandwiches: it started to melt/soften rather quickly, even after I'd had it in the the freezer overnight. I'm going to make a 'real' custard based IC next!

    Lisa - It was my pleasure! The moment I saw your tzatziki, the cuke froyo idea just popped up. The cuke topping turned out really well but I was most surprised on the upside about the taste of beets. The taste was indeed sweet but I think it needs just a little bit of something else - what spice do you think would go well?

    Phyllis - Thank you! I have never tasted Pinkberry although I've heard all about it from my sisters, who tell me that the current big thing in LA are froyo 'bars' where you have a huge selection of toppings! As for that ice cream maker, my sister said she just bought a Cuisinart IC maker on Amazon for about $40! Go and get yourself one right away. So much fun! 8-)

    OysterCulture - Definitely, I had no preconceived ideas about beets and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the sauce turned out. Still, as I noted to Lisa above, I think it needs some additional flavor as it still tasted 'earthy' - don't know how else to describe that!

    And seriously, sweets beans are so perfect for icy treats! Well, more for us. BTW, I'm going to try your honey citrus sorbet! Mr. OysterCulture looked quite happy with it. 8-)

    Doggybloggy - Thank you! A great way to eat your veggies . . . !

    KennyT - Über-thank you's! 8-D

    Bob - Thanks! I wonder if I can pair the froyo with your apple potstickers? Oooo, that sounds good . . .!

    Mediterranean Kiwi - [LOL] When you make your zuke ice cream, I'll be the first to try it! I love zucchini so I hope to see your recipes.

    Jenn - I can totally see your hesitation here! 8-D Believe me, I had my doubts, too, so I was so pleased that they turned out well. The cucumbers are really a good pairing - almost like honeydew melon pieces, really. The beets are also tasty although that's the one I'm sure gives lots of people pause. 8-)

    Diva - This was my first time cooking with any beets, much less golden ones! But I was quite pleased by how it turned out and the color was so vibrant. I'm going to experiment more with beets! The cukes, though, are a revelation - this was just what I'd imagined: a frozen, sweet tzatziki!

    Elra -Thank you but I was inspired by Lisa and what I've seen from what other bloggers have done with their ice creams! I'm really looking at beets with new eyes (and tastebuds!)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Replies, cont'd

    Gera - Thank you so much, especially for tweeting this! 8-)

    Lori - Thanks! I have to admit that it's the creativity of other bloggers like yourself that have inspired to just go for it, no matter how strange a combo sounds! 8-)

    Duo Dishes - Awww! Thank you but I think I have a way to go before I can even touch the creativity you show on your blog!

    Girlichef - Thank you! This was my first time using these - glad I picked them up!

    veggie belly - Thanks but I can't take too much credit; Lisa's tzatziki turned on the light bulb!

    Chow and Chatter - Thank you, and thanks for the update. Want to make sure I can find you!!

    Carolyn - Many thanks! I still have some of the cuke topping left so I'm mixing it with my non-frozen yogurt now! 8-)

    Daniel - Thank you! I would highly recommend an ice cream machine - I love mine!

    Sam - Please let me know if you do! Honestly, just the wine and sugar marinade might be enough; the cucumbers were never more melon-y than as a sweet topping! Thank you so much!

    Pigpigscorner - It does seem strange at first but the cucumbers are almost like honeydew when prepared this way!

    Nora - Thank you! I'm looking at vegetables with new eyes! 8-D

    Bergamot - Me, too! Next time, I'm going to fully mix in the cucumbers - they turned out so tasty!

    Reeni - Thank you so much! I was most nervous about the beets but they turned out well. I've mentioned it several times in these comments but I think that next time, I'm going to try adding some spices. Any suggestions?

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Greg - Your comment came in between my other replies so here's one all your own! For now, this is about as creative as I can get but it's a start. For my next ice cream attempt, I'm going back to more familiar flavors. 8-D

  • Manggy said...

    Very creative indeed! I'm afraid I'm not quite creative enough for the social, especially since my last sorbet was- you guessed it- kalamansi! :)
    I love the thought process that went into making these. Double-refreshing treat!

  • Marta said...

    sweetened cucumber?1 What an interesting concept, I had never heard of it!
    thanks for sharing these lovely, refreshing desserts :)

  • zerrin said...

    I always love the combination of cucumber and yogurt, but never thought it sweet. Great creavity! It made me remember mom add some sugar to yogurt to persuade us eat enough of it when we were children. Yours turned out to be a well created dessert.

    I bought beet roots from the market two weeks ago, but didn't know what to do with it. I waited for a week for a muse to give me an idea, but no it didn't come. I finally grated it on salad as usual. But your beet sauce sounds so unique. Now I can buy beets with this info. Thank you.

  • Poorni Pillai said...

    I love the fact that as soon as I read what went into this, I could almost perfectly imagine how it'd taste. It seems so 'right'- this combination. Refreshing :)

  • Forager said...

    Another delicious "ice-cream" combo. A refreshing chilled tzatziki - on a hot summer's day.. what's not to like? If only it weren't the depths of our winter here (nothing compared to your winters, but it's a cold 14 degrees C for us). Not quite ice cream conducive weather..

  • Navita (Gupta) Hakim said...

    Hi there thanks for stopping by n those cucumbers look refreshing :)

    You can use yogurt instead of curd ...they are very similar in taste only curd is a tad bit more nutritious as its got more of the healthy bacteria etc
    You can wiki it . Hope this helps. :)

  • Deb in Hawaii said...

    Very unique toppings--you have me with the cucumbers for sure, beets are not my favorite thing ever so the beet sauce worries me a bit! Love the creativity!

  • Juliana said...

    Wow, these flavors are very unique...would love to try them since I am crazy about ice...ice cream. Yummie! Great pictures, they are so tempting.

  • The Diva on a Diet said...

    Congratulations, Noodle ... you've won my birthday give-away! Please email me at: divaonadiet@gmail.com and let me know your choice of book and your address, etc. Yippee, I'm glad its you! :)

  • Admin said...

    Whoa, sweetened tzatziki - what a delicious idea! As much fun as I am having on the road right now, I now can't wait to be reunited with my ice cream maker.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    To all who commented after 7/17 - thank you so much for your patience with my late replies!

    Jackie - Thank you! They are certainly beyond my usual safe flavors but I'm so happy they turned out well!

    Amanda - I always thought of cukes as a vegetable so sweet didn't occur to me at first. But when I learned that they're closer to melons, then it made more sense! Thanks so much!

    Manggy - "Not creative enough" are not words I would use to describe you! 8-) I wish I'd had fresh kalamansi to make my sorbet but I'll take what I can get.

    Marta - Thank you! The sweet cucumbers turned out well and did indeed make a refreshing dessert.

    Zerrin - I love tzatziki, raita and other yogurt-cucumber mixtures so I'm quite pleased to add this to that list! I also use honey on my plain yogurt when I want a little more sweetness. The beet roots were definitely a risk - thank goodness they turned out well, too! I was worried because I'd never cooked with them and rarely eat them. Now, I've learned to like them!

    Nutritiontokitchen - I hope you enjoy them!!

    Miakoda - I'm so happy you enjoyed it! Cucumber and yogurt go so well together, they are a natural match. It wasn't too hard to imagine it as a sweet flavor.

    Sophie - Thank you so much! I enjoyed making both toppings.

    Erica - Thank you! The frozen yogurt was quite creamy but the cucumbers did give it such a crisp, fresh flavor and texture.

    Forager - Thanks! I keep forgetting that it's winter on the other side of the globe. Soon enough, though, it'll be the other way around - you'll be enjoying frozen treats while I'll simply be frozen! 8-D

    Navita - Thank you for the information regarding curd! I wasn't quite sure what it referred to but we do have some markets here that may carry it. I'll be on the lookout!

    Debinhawaii - [LOL] I was a lot more confident about the cucumbers than the beets but the latter turned out pretty well (thank goodness!)

    Karen - The sweet cukes were quit tasty but the syrup was really delicious. I made a little bit extra for my husband so that he could use it for some summer cocktails! 8-D

    Juliana - Thank you very much! I've been so amazed at the variety of ice cream flavors there are right now. Some seem a little more strange than others but hey! Ice cream is ice cream! 8-)

    Diva - Yaaay! Thank you so much - I can't wait to try the cocktail recipes!

    Leela - I can't wait until you're reunited with your ice cream maker too! Your purple potato pops are still stuck in my head. 8-D Hope you're having a marvelous time!

  • Daily Spud said...

    Right. I need 2 things: an ice cream maker and a warmer climate. The trouble with the climate here is that it never stays warm enough for long enough to force me to act on that passing must-get-ice-cream-maker thought. If I ever do get that far, the first thing I will do is make that vanilla fro-yo. After that, well, you know that potato ice cream can't be far behind!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Spud - I understand: chilly temps are a norm in Minnesota for a good portion of the year but that ice cream maker will earn its cost even if it's used only a few times. The fro-yo is sooooo delicious. I can see it now: FRO-POTAT-YO!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Teanna - Thank you! These toppings were so outside what I normally love on ice cream (chocolate!) but why not go down a different road? I'm so happy it worked out!

  • lingga said...

    i love ice cream so much actually.
    but honestly i don't like the first picture but it looks disgusting.
    that's just my comment.
    keep posting!


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