I’m really not a fan of sorbet. It’s among the ranks of spaghetti and marinara, steamed vegetables, the infamous hummus plate, and every half-baked idea of a meal dreamed up by omnivores as desirable vegan fare. Oh, ice crystal-encrusted frozen strawberry pulp that melts into soup within thirty seconds? Mmm, delicious. That sounds way better than ice cream or chocolate cake. The problem is, most sorbets are too sugary, artificial tasting, and unsatisfying compared to other desserts. However, I’ve had a few sorbets in the past year or so that I’ve been slowly warming up to the idea of sorbet. One is the selection of sorbets at Cold Spoons Gelato in Milwaukee. They have exciting flavors like blood orange, honeydew, grapefruit, blueberry, and mango, and texture is incredibly creamy. No pesky ice crystals! That’s a sorbet I can get behind. I’ve also really been into the idea of basil sorbet since eating it in Seattle last year. I think the key to making a sorbet alluring is the right texture, fresh natural flavors, and dressing it up a bit so it’s its own thing, not a sad comparison to ice cream or gelato. I decided to give basil sorbet a whirl by making my own version using cucumber as the base.
This sorbet combines fresh cucumber, basil leaves, and zesty lemon, and salt, pepper, and olive oil bring depth to this frozen treat. Nothing is worse than a shallow, flavorless dessert. Admittedly, it wasn’t really appropriate sorbet weather when I made this, but since we’re nearing the month of May, I’m hoping that thinking about summer treats will reign in the warm weather!
The first part of this recipe is the basil syrup. Making the basil syrup is something that will need to be done ahead of time, and it’s probably the most time consuming part of making the sorbet, apart from the freezing time. Any leftover syrup is lovely in lemonade or with fresh fruit. Now, I completely understand not wanting to turn on the stove and make a syrup in the middle of the summer when you want a refreshing treat, so if you really would like to substitute the syrup, using 5-6 tablespoons agave nectar and adding extra basil leaves to the food processor could be an acceptable substitution.
½ cup basil leaves
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
Stack the basil leaves atop each other, roll the stack up tightly, then slice the roll of basil finely to produce thin ribbons. This is called chiffonade and will allow the basil to infuse the syrup with the most flavor.
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to stir and boil until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is clear. Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Completely submerge the leaves and coat thoroughly with the syrup. Basil loses its flavor at high temperatures, so don’t be tempted to put the saucepan back on the heat. Let the basil sit in the syrup for 45 minutes to an hour.
Basil syrup, not pee:
Cucumber Basil Sorbet
Makes 4 servings
6-7 tablespoons basil syrup (recipe below)
4-5 large fresh basil leaves
¼ cup lemon juice
Pinch of lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel your cucumbers, then scoop out the seeds.
Combine the cucumbers, basil syrup, basil leaves, and lemon juice and zest in a food processor. Add the salt and pepper, then adjust flavors as desired.
Either freeze the sorbet in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, or plan to freeze it the manual way. Pour the mixture in a shallow bowl, stick it in the freezer, and then stir every 30 minutes for 3-4 hours until frozen to a scoopable consistency.
To serve, scoop onto individual plates, then garnish with basil leaves, a sprinkle of lemon zest, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Now, eat sitting in bed huddled in blankets while wishing for warm weather!