Jamie Oliver's Lemon Sherbet

Jean-Baptiste and I have been frequenting local ice cream shops on a regular basis this summer. What better thing is there to do? In Montreal, ice cream shops are abundant, and good, home-made ice cream is not hard to come by. A couple months ago, early in our budding relationship, we went to a place close to my house call Chez Roberto. It's an Italian restaurant that sells gelato and sorbets. Jean-Baptiste ordered pear and lemon sorbet, one scoop of each in a little dish. I don't remember what I got as my choices paled in comparison, but I vaguely remember tasting cherry and chocolate and peach - and although it may sound good, it was not a winning combination. We ate our gelato (and sorbet) in a near-by park with children climbing on brightly coloured play equipment and splashing through fountains. It was a perfectly gorgeous, early summmer day. I finished my ice cream, which was good, but nothing compared to what was happening next to me. Jean-Baptiste was staring fixedly at his cup while vigorously spooning sorbet into his mouth, grunting and slurping with pleasure. He was generous enough to share, and, oh wow! The lemon flavour was so precise, so fresh, so lemon. The pear so sweet, so soft, so pear. When he finished, he immediately announced he wanted more, and we returned for another cup of lemon and pear to share.

This got me thinking of lemon sorbet. Then I remembered a recipe for lemon sherbet in Jamie Oliver's Italian cookbook that didn't require an ice cream maker. But what's the difference between sorbet and sherbet, you may be asking yourself? Sorbets are "smooth, creamless ice creams made from a sugar syrup base." Sherbets are "made by adding a little bit of cream to a sorbet base." This small amount of cream creates that slightly fizzy taste in your mouth when you eat it. The following recipe does require three to four hours - something I hardly seem to have these days - but it is easy easy easy. It just requires you to spend 6 bucks on mascarpone and about 2 bucks on lemons. (Don't worry, the mascarpone keeps for a LONG time, giving you plenty of time to make tiramisu, another item on my list.) The sugar and water you have on hand, I assume. Although it took me three weeks to organize myself and make the sherbet, I finally did it, and ooh boy, it was worth it!

Sorbetto di limone
special lemon sherbet

Adapted from Jamie's Italy

This recipe makes a tart, but sweet, very lemon-tasting sherbet. It's perfectly perfect for the summer. And doesn't require a fancy ice cream maker!

Serves 6

1 C sugar
1 C water
1 C lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 heaping tablespoon of mascarpone

- Pre-freeze a shallow dish, a sauce pan, or a pyrex baking dish.

- Put the sugar and water into a pan and bring to a boil, then let simmer for 5 minutes. The liquid will be clear and slightly syrupy.
- Take it off the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice and zest.
- Add the mascarpone and whisk until it's all incorporated. The mixture will be milky.
- Taste your syrup to see whether you need to adjust the lemon or sweetness. How much lemon juice and sugar you use will depend on your lemons.

- Pour the syrup into your pre-frozen dish and put it in the freezer. Let it sit for an hour.
- After an hour, stir the sherbet, forking up any frozen bits. The outside will freeze first so make sure you run your fork or spoon around the outside.
- Wait another hour and stir again.
- Wait another hour and stir again.
- Then let it be for another hour and it's ready to serve!

- The sherbet will keep in the freezer covered in plastic wrap or with a lid for 3 days before it starts to crystallize.

- Stirring is very important as that is what gives the sherbet a smooth texture.

Northwest Notes

1. I LOVE LOCAL STONE FRUIT. Lord, I'd forgotten. And berries. Sheesh. I bought local "apriums" (apricot plums) at a farmers' market and grinned like an idiot all the way home.

2. Wonderful, kind friends from high school have simply folded me in. I could not be more grateful. They are good eaters also (excellent). I see many fine eats and evenings in my future.

3. I found an apartment. I love it AND they have giant herbs going crazy in the yard AND a wild raspberry bush. I told mom I am going to love that rapsberry bush, take care of it, talk sweet nothings into its little ear, and soon, we will all have jam.

4. I am making pesto for my fam tonight. Here is our favorite recipe a la Marcella Hazaan (arguable the queen of all things Italian). Also, Judes, it is time for us to organize our recipe archive - because I am pretty sure I've posted this before but can't find it.

Blender Pesto

What you need:
2 cups fresh basil leaves (or two whopping handfuls)
2 tablespoons pine nuts (or if you are feeling poor - but remove the bitter skins by toasting breifly and then rubbbing around in a terry cloth towel)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Coarse Salt
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp Romano pecorino (again, if you are feeling poor just use whatever hard italian cheese you can get your hands on for both the parm & ramano)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp butter, room temperature

What you do:
In a blender, food processor or on a cutting board with incredible zeal, combine garlic, nuts, salt and basil until very fine and paste like. If using blender or food processor add oil and whiz up until consistent. If using a cutting board put paste into bowl and blend in olive oil until uniform. Then, regardless of previous methods, beat in cheese and butter until uniform. Serve over hot pasta, bake on top of some chicken breast, dip bread in it, bath in it - whatever you need.

5. I've frozen a jabilion local strawberries. Come visit. I'll make you a wicked cocktail in November and you will ask - what is that delightful sweet tang - I will answer - WA strawberries preserved in July for your enjoyment in the ongoing gray of Seattle Winter/Fall/Spring.

Coffee Cake Supreme

I remember an argument I had with a best friend when I was seven. We often fought about everything from religious differences to what we were going to wear, and in this case, to what one should eat for breakfast. At recess, I told my friend my mom had made coffee cake for breakfast, as she sometimes did for a special treat, even though it was a weekday. A simple cake, low in butter and sugar, but with the characteristic flour, butter, and sugar crumble for topping. My friend couldn't believe I had eaten cake for breakfast. I tried to explain that coffee cake was something made specifically for breakfast, and was very irritated that even after detailed explanation, she would accept that my mother had allowed me to eat cake for breakfast.

I still have to explain to people what coffee cake is. Most french-speaking people I know think it's a cake made out of coffee. Others think, much like Bethany did, that it's absurd to eat cake for breakfast. Perhaps it is? But coffee cakes range in richness and texture. Some are made with yeast, others, like the one below, are made with baking powder and soda. They can be light and airy like brioche or dense like cake. My parents always made coffee cake when I was growing up. For birthdays, we make a yeast coffee cake from the Joy of Cooking that has been a family tradition for years. On Christmas morning, we make another lemon-flavoured yeast coffee cake, also a long-standing family tradition. Cakes are for celebration, and what better thing is there to celebrate than the morning? So go! Eat cake for breakfast!

I've been wanting to make Tom Douglas' Sour Cream Blueberry Coffee Cake for ages. The breakfast section in his Seattle Kitchen cookbook is unreal. There is not one recipe I have made that has been unsatisfactory in terms of breakfast foods. It starts off with a long discourse on the importance of coffee and the hottest places to get breakfast in Seattle. This coffee cake has to be one of the best I've tasted. But save yourself: Tom D goes heavy on the butter and sugar. I reduced the amounts called for, and we still dug in with exclamations of: mmmm, so buttery! oh wow! unreal!

Tom Douglas' Sour Cream Blueberry Coffee Cake

Adapted from Tommy Douglas' Seattle Kitchen

I used whole spelt flour which lends a very tender crumb and a wholesome nutty flavour. And, as mentioned above, I reduced the amounts of butter and sugar, but mostly just in the cake. I didn't hold back on the streusel. Streusel's need the full amount of butter and sugar, in my opinion. The next time I make it, I might reduce the amounts even more. It's quite buttery as it is. You can easily double the amounts to make enough to fill a 9 X 11 baking pan.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Grease a 9-inch cake pan.

For the Streusel:

1/3 C whole spelt flour
1/3 C firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
4 TBS (3/4) stick cold butter

- Mix the dry ingredients together
- Cut in the butter using your fingers or a pastry blender. Using your fingers works best so you can achieve a fine cornmeal-like texture.
- Put into the fridge until the cake is ready to bake.

For the Coffee Cake:

1 1/4 C whole spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)
3/4 C butter
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1/2 C sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 C blueberries

- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (if using).
- In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar. Follow with the sour cream and vanilla. Mix until well blended.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture in three parts.
- Fold in the berries.
- The batter will be very thick.
- Pour into greased pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

If it's scorching hot and humid outside, like it is right now in Montreal, perhaps you'd like to make some iced coffee the night before? Coffee is the proper accompaniment for such a cake, you know.

Cold Brewed Iced Coffee

Brewing coffee cold over night produces a mellower drink with hints of caramel and chocolate. Here's how:

Use a French press if you have one, but if you don't, a jar will work fine.

- Mix 1/3 C coarsely-ground coffee and 1 1/2 C cold water in a French press or jar.
- Let stand on the counter over night or for 12 hours. This makes a sort of coffee extract.
- In the morning, press down the coffee in your French press or filter the brew through a coffee filter or cheese cloth TWICE.
- Pour equal amounts coffee extract and water into a glass with ice. Add milk if you wish.

Oh my lord! Everyone is rejoicing because now I'll stop talking about making iced coffee or finding iced coffee or drinking iced coffee; I simply just did it. But it's been a long time coming.

Happy breakfasting folks!