"Real magic can never be made by offering up someone else's liver." ~ The Last Unicorn.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Melon-Basil Sorbet (with a side of Thinky)

i.e. Not A Post About Books. But I recommend eating this stuff while reading, preferably outdoors or at least by a sunny window. Add a purring cat for total bliss.

It's summer here in Southern California, and that means the farmer's markets overfloweth with gorgeous local produce. On one recent trip, we stopped by a stand that had a variety of melons, including some tiny, pale ones we'd never seen before. About the size of an oblong grapefruit and the color of honeydew, only with yellow freckles, they looked interesting and new. The lady running the stand said they were Japanese Gala Melons. She helped us pick a few ripe ones (look for a lack of the freckles) and off we went to marry melon, simple syrup, and our newly-acquired ice cream maker.

Now, I've had some delicious melon in my life. But these took melon to new, ambrosial heights. We were scraping the sweet, juicy flesh off the rinds after we made the puree, desperate not to waste any.

The following recipe is flexible; any kind of sweet, ripe melon works, really, and we've added chopped mint as well as basil. Some recipes call for equal amounts of juice/pulp and simple syrup, but we've halved the syrup with no harmful effects. Allow your personal sweet tooth to direct you here.

Melon-Basil Sorbet

1 cup pureed Japanese Gala melon
1/2 cup simple syrup
1 basil stalk
1 tablespoon chopped sweet basil leaves
Juice of 1/2 a lime (or to taste)


1. For the simple syrup: Combine 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Let it come to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and you have a clear syrup. Remove from heat. While the syrup is still hot, place the basil stalk in the syrup and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes or until the syrup is well flavored. Cool.
2. Once the syrup has cooled, remove the basil stalk. Combine melon puree, simple syrup and basil leaves in a bowl. Add lime juice to taste.
3. Process in your ice-cream maker according to the instructions.

Since we have an admittedly cheapo ice-cream maker, we've found that freezing the sorbet after processing it gets a good, firm texture that it doesn't have right out of the maker. Play with it until it works. If it still melts fast, oh, well; drink up, me hearties.

If you've got any Saint Germain ( a French elderflower liqueur, and our latest addiction here in LA) lying around, it is DIVINE to pour half a shot over the sorbet right before serving. I imagine tequila or white rum work as well.

"But... but... what if I don't have an ice-cream maker, even a crappy cheapo one?" I hear you cry.

I give you: Granita. Basically, make the mixture for the sorbet, except cut back on the simple syrup, maybe to 1/4 cup. After you've mixed everything together, pour it into a shallow freezer-safe pan or container, about 1-2 inches deep. Freeze for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes to break up the ice crystals. If you get big icebergs at the end, stick it in a blender and pulse gently until smoother. The granita will be rougher and crunchier than sorbet, but it will still be lovely and refreshing.

Okay, so maybe a teeny thinky bit about books...

I picked up Charles de Lint's Spirits in the Wires last night, since Gatsby wasn't what I was in the mood for at that moment. I'm seeing really interesting connections drawn between modern technology, myth, and magic, as well as de Lint's usual love of the arts and stories. How are modern writers of urban fantasy (by which I mean proper urban fantasy, not just chicks and vampires) using technology to replace/enhance/alter traditional ideas of magic? This book was written around 2002, before the Internet had quite become what it is today, and seeing that earlier relationship to something we take for granted now is fascinating. De Lint creates a new space for magic, blending the cyberspace of sci-fi cyberpunk with his own earthy urban mythology.

How has the space for magic in fantasy changed since the computer revolution of the '00s? If anyone's read something that touches on this, I'd love any recommendations. I can think of Pratchett's Hex, and I'm damn sure that Gaiman has done something along these lines, only I can't think of what.

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