Spring is in full-effect in Sacramento - you know, it's that blink-and-you'll-miss-it "season" where everything is green, the streets of mid-town are filled with beach cruisers, and delicious strawberries. The kind that ACTUALLY taste like a strawberry should, not like those enormous knock-offs they sell at the grocery store, which taste like, well, nothing really. I revisited my Sunday morning ritual of heading to the farmer's market under the W/X freeway and was greeted with a perfume-like breeze of sweet, fresh strawberries. Erdbeere if you're German. These delicate garnet-red jewels were grown in the dirt, not hydroponically like most commercial berries. A warning though - these are picked fresh when the berries are RIPE, so they degrade quickly. Don't keep them in your icebox, leave them out to preserve the amazing flavor and eat them fast!
I picked up a few pints after sampling one to ensure they are indeed the cat's meow. They did not disappoint. Bright red syrup danced on my tongue inviting me to eat more. The vendor a few spots down had huge bunches of fresh mint, 3-for-a-buck, and I picked up a pair of sunset-hued mangoes as well. The warmer weather had me thinking of a cool treat that is very simple to make: Strawberry-Mango-Mint Sorbet. Sorbet's are a great way to turn fresh fruit into a delicious and healthy treat. At the foundation is a simple syrup of equal parts water and sugar - this is where I chose to infuse the syrup with crushed mint leaves. While the syrup cools, puree the fruit, strain it if you are using fruit that has a lot of little seeds (strawberries, raspberries etc). Add the juice of a lime, this will help the flavors stay fresh. Also add about a teaspoon of vodka, since the alcohol doesn't freeze, this addition helps the frozen fruit stay smooth and "soft" on your tongue. You can omit the vodka if you wish. Mix the syrup and the fruit, then deliver this mix to your home ice cream maker, and in less than 30 minutes, you'll have a delectable dessert that you can feel good about eating anytime of the day!
Strawberry Mango Mint Sorbet
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 bunch fresh mint leaves, crushed
1 pint strawberries, hulled
1-2 medium mangoes, fruit and juice reserved
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp vodka
For the syrup, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the mint leaves and remove from the heat. Allow to steep 10 minutes, then strain and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, puree the fruit, lime juice, and vodka in a blender or food processor. Strain and place puree in ice cream maker. Add the syrup and turn on the machine - after about 20 minutes, you'll see the sorbet take shape. Once it begins to pull from the sides of the machine, move it to a freezer-safe storage container. You can enjoy it now or pop it in the freezer to setup a little more. When you're ready to serve, let the sorbet sit out of the freezer for about 10 minutes before scooping and serving. Garnish with a sprig of mint.