September has arrived, and with it a seesaw of produce in transition. Markets still abound with berries and nectarines, plums and figs begin their second act, and early, hardy pomes appear as gala apples and Japanese pears. Melons are fragrant and spicy, juicy and bright. So are the grapes, spilling from their bins at Chico's farmer's market- Concord and Muscat and Champagne for now, a promise of more to follow.
Musky, refreshing, and loaded with flavor, grape and melon sorbets are a perfect dessert for the late summer harvest; this is the taste of pure fruit, lightly sweetened. Top with peach slices, honeyed figs, or toasted walnuts. Sprinkle with something candied, like ginger or orange peel. Enjoy alone or with a crispy cookie and a glass something fortified and sweet.
If you don't have an ice cream maker, these sorbet bases make wonderful granitas. Place juice in a shallow container (preferably metal) and freeze for several hours, stirring with a fork every half hour or so to break up the ice crystals. You'll end up with a flavored ice much like a sno-cone (omit alcohol for a "crunchier" ice).
*A chilled glass (or bowl) of granita makes a wonderful nest for a scoop of sorbet in a complementary flavor.
Cantaloupe Ginger Sorbet
(you can omit the ginger, of course, but I like the heat that it adds to the cold)
Puree seeded, peeled, 2 lb. cantaloupe with a few coins of peeled ginger and a pinch of salt. Strain.
In a small pan combine 1/4 of melon mixture with 2/3 c sugar. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add back to reserved puree. Chill and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions on ice cream maker.
Add a splash of alcohol to your sorbet base to prevent it from becoming ice-solid in your freezer. Kirsch or brandy is nice, as is champagne, or a sweet dessert wine. Vodka works well as it is flavorless. Or, forgo the booze and remove sorbet to your refrigerator 30 minutes before you plan to eat it.
Concord Grape Sorbet
(the color of this sorbet will astound you...like frozen velvet! Kevin says that this tastes like a grape popsicle, but I think it's better!)
In a pan, combine grapes with a splash of water, a pinch of salt, and a small handful of sugar to taste (1 lb. grapes= approx. 1 cup of juice). Stir over medium heat until the grapes are soft and the sugar dissolves. Pass grapes through a fine strainer and add (optional) alcohol as directed above. Chill and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions on ice cream maker.
Muscat Grape Sorbet
(this is a wonderful grape...rich and alluring, and very sweet. If you see 'em- they're small, golden-greeny-yellow with tinges of rose - grab 'em!)
Use the same recipe as the Concord grape sorbet, only reduce the sugar by half.