Cool stuff for hot weather

pickling and Amira cucumbers side by side

This hot weather has me looking for cool things–ways to beat the heat. Cucumber is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of cool, refreshing things–with tomatoes in salad, or with mangos. But thinking really cold, I started  skulking through my old recipes for a dimly remembered recipe for cucumber sorbet with eucalyptus honey.

Eucalyptus honey is fairly dark, with an assertive earthy, spicy flavor with a slightly cool overtone like mild menthol. For some it might be called medicinal, but I found it an interesting combination, with the cool cucumber plus the extra little kick of coolness from the eucalyptus honey. (If you don’t have eucalyptus honey, this sorbet will still be tasty.)

Problem–someone (no names here) didn’t write down the quantities or the source of this recipe–or maybe it was an off-the-cuff invention with whatever was around at the time that obviously included eucalyptus honey.

So, some research. Going to The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz (one of my two favorite sources on frozen dessert stuff), and Jenis Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer (my other ice cream favorite) I found what I needed to fill in the missing quantities for the sorbet.

Cucumber and Eucalyptus Honey Sorbet


  • 2 English or Japanese cucumbers–about 2 pounds–coarsely chopped
  • 5 ounces eucalyptus* honey
  •  1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of salt

Preparation and notes

  • I prefer the English or Japanese cucumbers because you don’t need to remove seeds. This would take about 2 cucumbers. Peeling is not necessary. If you have slicing cucumbers, remove seeds.
  • Combine honey and water; heating is not necessary.
  • Combine ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
  • Pour into prepared ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions
  • To make without an ice cream maker, use the method for granitas: pour into a shallow baking dish and place in the freezer. Stir with a fork about every 30 minutes until firm. (This breaks up ice crystals although the texture will not be as fine as with an ice cream maker–but still tasty.)

*A note on honey: Eucalyptus honey is a varietal honey; made from the nectar that bees collect from flowering eucalyptus trees. It is not an “infused” or “flavored” honey–those are made by adding flavoring to wildflower honey. I found the eucalyptus honey in my local Harris Teeter grocery store, next to the orange blossom and wildflower honey.


Some other interesting recipes that I found whilst trolling the internet:



Fresh Fig Ice Cream (Gelato di Fichi)

I just have to pass along this post from Stefan’s Gourmet Blog. I love figs, love ice cream, and this is easy. I’ll be anticipating the fig season next year, though we have brown Turkey figs here, rather than the deep purple ones.

Stefan's Gourmet Blog


Fresh figs have to be imported and because they are quite perishable they are not often of a great quality, but sometimes some nice figs are available in the Netherlands. A nice way to use them is to make ice cream. I’ve used a recipe from SeriousEats that uses lemon zest and lemon juice to enhance the flavor, and it was very nice indeed. The recipe is quite easy as nog eggs are involved. Here’s what I did…



Makes about 750 ml (3 cups)

900 grams (2 lbs) fresh figs, plus additional figs for garnish (optional)

1 untreated lemon

150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar

250 ml (1 cup) heavy cream



Wash and dry the figs and remove the tough stem.


Chop the figs.


Put the figs in a saucepan with 125 ml (1/2 cup) of water.


Add the grated zest of a lemon.


Bring to a boil, stirring…

View original post 133 more words

Ice cream….

Even though it’s colder than some parts of a witches anatomy (for here, at least), I have to pass on the link to Ice Cream Magazine. Although I doubt I’m going to be digging out the ice cream maker for a while this looks like a fun website to explore this summer–since ice cream is one of my favorite sweet things. There are some savory tarts and things like that, too.

Choicest summer fruit–figs!

figs on tree

ripe and unripe figs on tree

One of the high points of summer for me is when figs are ripe–eat them fresh, ripe from the tree early in the morning while they are still cool from nighttime, or in the heat of the afternoon when they are fragrant and warm from the afternoon sunshine.  Absolutely luscious!  They never even make it into the house.  Should the crop be so plentiful that they do make it into the house, then get out the prosciutto–fresh figs are even better than melon with that lovely ham! Or, some good cheese–goat cheese, or Gorgonzola, or other  blue, or a sheep’s milk cheese like Etorki or aged Manchego They are never better than when you can pick them truly tree-ripened.

Too many times, figs are sold unripe, mostly because they are very perishable and delicate when at peak ripeness.  Another reason figs are frequently picked before peak ripeness is the competition: birds, squirrels, bees, wasps, and ants–all those critters have an eye for the perfectly ripe fig!  If you want to eat them ripe from the tree you have to be willing to share because unfortunately, figs do not ripen after they are picked–pick a green fig and you’ll always have a tasteless fruit that will leave you wondering why anyone would want to eat them, much less get excited about them.

It’s really hard to describe the taste of a fresh, ripe fig–it’s certainly much different  from dried ones, and a world away from Fig Newtons.  I think that a ripe, fresh fig has some peach and berry flavors–it will vary somewhat with the variety of fig, but still—it’s not likely to be what you’d expect from eating dried ones.

So how do you tell if a fig is ripe? They should be soft–but please be gentle when you press on them. Really, you can tell if they are going to be soft by looking at the color (you do need to know the color of the variety when ripe). The Brown Turkey figs first turn yellowish-green–they will likely be just starting to soften then, but still do not have much flavor yet.  As they ripen more they begin to turn a lovely rosy brown–but wait!  They’re not ready to eat yet.

Figs hang in a drooping way from the tree (you can see how the stem ends are curved in the photograph above).  When ripe they should separate easily from the tree when you lift them up against that curve. If they don’t they are not ripe!

For best flavor, they should begin to show some tiny surface fissures in the skin (not deep cracks) almost like crazing on pottery glaze, and the small round area at the blossom end should have started to  open or to show a split. On some figs you may actually see a drop of clear liquid there.

To find ripe figs if you don’t have your own tree, you need to head to the farmers’ market. The common fig here is the Brown Turkey which is in season approximately from July to September. I’ve just harvested several pounds of figs–but the tree still has lots of small green figs that should ripen in a second flush in a few weeks.

Should you have an excess of fresh figs, you should use some with duck–the recipe is complicated, but the result is unforgettable–worth the effort.  What else can you do with fresh figs?  Fig ice cream, poach some and serve with pound cake or vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit tart….but best of all, just eat them unadorned.

If you find you have some that are not quite what you’d like to eat out-of-hand, then you can make a lovely dessert by poaching them in Campari.  This is a recipe that I found in Jacques Pepin’s The Shortcut Cook (page 248) for which I’ll give you the basics here:

Poached Fresh Figs with Campari


  • 1 cup fruity white wine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • about 20 small, ripe figs
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons Campari


  • Combine wine, sugar and lime juice and bring to a boil.
  • Add figs, cover, and simmer for about 4 to 5 minutes. Figs should be tender when tested with the tip of a knife, but should not burst open.
  • Transfer to a bowl with slotted spoon.
  • Reduce the liquid in the saucepan to 1 cup if there is more than this.
  • Add cornstarch slurry and bring to a boil to thicken.
  • Cool sauce to room temperature then stir in the Campari and pour over figs.

These are delightful served over pound cake with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche, or spooned over good vanilla ice cream.  (I like to add just a hint of cardamom to this poaching liquid.)

brown turkey figs picked ripe

ripe Brown Turkey figs

Blueberry ice cream recipe

Since  blueberries are in the market–as well as blackberries, I’m getting ready to try blackberry ice cream (an adaptation of the strawberry/sour cream ice cream that I made at the peak of strawberry season)–there will be a follow-up report on that.

Meanwhile, I thought that this recipe for blueberry sour cream ice cream might be appreciated.  It looks sumptuous–and seems close to the strawberry sour cream recipe that I used so it’s easy since there’s no custard to make.   In this hot weather, easy and cool are both much  appreciated!

Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

This was scheduled for a later post, but the HOT weather and the impending end of strawberry season dictates it should be shared now.  I hope you all enjoy this as much as I did–and will be for a bit yet.

I’ve just realized that strawberry season may be coming to an end and I’ve not yet make strawberry ice cream–so that has become the project of the day.  I brought a huge basked of strawberries home from the farmers’ market with me.  Ate a bunch, and now it’s ice cream time.  In the past I’ve not really make a lot of ice cream, but I received a wonderful book of recipes for my birthday:  The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz and I’m finding lots of things that I want to try out.  (This is a Philadelphia style ice cream–a particular favorite of my as it does not have me making custard, so it’s really fast and easy to put together).

Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream  (Adapted from “The Perfect Scoop”  p. 90)


  • 450 grams fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced.
  • 150 grams sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) vodka or kirsch
  • 240 grams sour cream
  • 250 mL heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Slice the strawberries and toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka.  Let stand at room temperature for one hour, stirring occasionally so that the sugar dissolves. 
  • Pulse the berries and liquid with the sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a food processor/blender until almost smooth, but still slightly chunky. 
  • Refrigerate for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. 

How simple is that.  The hard part is waiting until it’s frozen.  The strawberry aroma is intense if you start this with good ripe strawberries…I’d never really though about smelling ice cream before–but while I was peeking into the ice cream maker I realized that I WAS smelling strawberries–and that made the waiting even more difficult.

It took about 25 minutes for the ice cream to be really thick and showing indentations where the blades had gone through.  It expanded to reach the top of the canister, so I stopped at that point.

The recipe suggested having a dip while it was still at that creamy stage–for harder, put it into the freezer in air-tight plastic containers.  I did have an immediate sample but some did get put into the freezer for later–in single-serving portions.

This may be the most intense strawberry ice cream that I’ve ever eaten.  I’m sure that part of the credit goes to starting with really good, ripe strawberries–not supermarket berries.  These were from the farmers’ market.

Now that blueberries, blackberries and peaches are on the way, I’m sure that the canister for the ice cream maker will absolutely have to live in the freezer. (Makes me glad that I have a small chest-type freezer on the back porch).  I also have to say hearty thanks to the friend who gave me the Perfect Scoop for a birthday present!