This week, Maxwell and I are doing our annual (well, second annual) end-of-summer community project: we're hosting nine actors who are creating a play of Shakespeare's songs and sonnets for the community. It's a beautiful, free event under the end-of-summer night sky.
My role? Cast chef. At the last minute, I learned one actor doesn't eat meat, one doesn't do gluten, and one avoids dairy. While cooking for dietary restrictions isn't exactly my area of specialty, I'm taking the challenge as an opportunity to make some things not usually in my repertoire.
So for last night's dessert, I needed a dairy-free alternative to the peanut oil gelato I'd made before the dietary news hit. And there, calling out to me, was a pile of overripe nectarines. Fragrant, and hideously ugly, the only thing to do would be to skin them in a hot bath and shred them into sorbet submission.
The only tricks to sorbet are that you need to make a simple syrup to sweeten it (straight sugar won't have a good texture) and the mixture needs a dash of alcohol to inhibit the freezing process, otherwise your sorbet will be a brick. I like a little brightness, hence the lemon juice. This is a really easy formula, so experiment. It will work with any fruit — just be sure to taste the mixture for sweetness. Some fruit needs less sugar, and less acid. In some cases (melon, for example) I prefer the acid to come from lime.
makes one quart
2 pounds (about 4 large) nectarines, skinned, pitted
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons rum
Prepare an ice bath. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and 1 cup water; bring to a boil then lower heat to medium and cook until the sugar has completely dissolved, 8-10 minutes. Transfer the syrup to a small metal mixing bowl set over an ice bath. Stir occasionally until cooled to room temperature.
Slice the nectarines into chunks and place in a food processor with the syrup, lemon juice and rum. Process until smooth.
Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
• Related: How to Make Creamy Ice Cream with Just One Ingredient (also dairy-free!)
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)