As a rule, I avoid sugar. My life is more than sweet enough without it, and I’ve come to understand that sugar is not for people who want to enjoy the best health (cancer thrives on sugar, and that’s just one example). But every rule should have an exception, and just to keep from becoming rigid and boring, every now and then a nice dessert is in order. I usually take this delectable detour when I entertain guests. Even then, I try to keep the sugar to a minimum. A few nights ago some friends came for dinner, and I created a new dessert just for them: “Blood Orange Sorbet in Strawberry-Apricot Fruit Soup with Goldenberries.”
Blood oranges are a longstanding favorite of mine, going back to early childhood in Mexico. I remember seeing them in the market and wondering aloud what was wrong with them. When my mother said they were “blood oranges,” it freaked me out (there were a lot of gross things in the market, like boiled pigs’ heads, tripe, and “trotters”). Not long afterwards, we were visiting friends in Cuernavaca, and I was offered some blood orange juice. Assured that it was just a special kind of orange juice, no real blood involved, I tried it. The explosion in my mouth of that rich flavor won me over instantly, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
The soup was quick and easy. I just blended frozen organic strawberries with some Italian organic apricot nectar, a little freshly squeezed lemon juice, a splash of dark cherry juice (for color), and a wee dram of Grand Marnier. I had to soak the goldenberries for 24 hours to get them soft enough for this presentation, because they’re quite dense and firm. I use Navitas Naturals brand, because the quality is excellent (I first tasted their products at Expo West in Anaheim several years ago, and I have yet to come across any that beat them). You can tell açaí and goji berries are superfoods as soon as you bite into them, and goldenberries have exactly the same effect. They just taste like something unusually potent.
The sorbet is also pretty easy. The recipe is in Extraordinary Vegan (and below—you’re welcome!).
Once I had all the components ready, assembling the dessert was effortless. All I had to do was pour the soup into each of the bowls, to a depth of about 1 inch (2.5 cm), set an oval scoop of the sorbet in the center, and then surround it with the pre-soaked goldenberries. As a final touch, I grated lime zest over the top with a microplane. The light green flecks provided a glimmer of color variation as well as an extra layer of flavor. Click on the image below to enlarge it and see catch all the subtle details.
Since I began by making a point about sugar (not that anyone at the table was adding it up, or even cared, for that matter), it’s only fair to mention that each serving packed about 2 tablespoons of evaporated cane juice crystals–not a trifling amount, of course, but nothing like the gratuitous amount of that hyper-refined “white death” sugar present in normal desserts. Okay, yes, that is a rationalization, but you have to admit it’s a good one, right?
Blood Orange Sorbet
Makes 1 quart
When blood oranges are in season, it’s time to celebrate them—juiced, of course, but also segmented, in salads, in salad dressings, and sauces, in cocktails, and (hello!) in sorbet. Can you make this dessert with another kind of orange? Of course! Will it be equally amazing? Of course not! My view is, if you’re going to eat something with this much sugar in it, for heaven’s sake make it count!
8 blood oranges
1 cup evaporated cane juice crystals
1 cup water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Grate the zest from the oranges and set aside. Squeeze the juice into a bowl and remove any seeds. It’s not necessary to strain the juice; a little texture is preferable.
Put the evaporated cane juice crystals and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the mixture turns clear, remove from the heat and stir in the grated zest. Let cool completely, and then strain into a medium bowl. Add the blood orange juice and lemon juice and whisk until well combined. Taste and add more lemon juice or evaporated cane juice crystals, if desired. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for until cold, about two hours.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Scrape the sorbet into a chilled container and serve at once, or freeze until firm.
Go for Extraordinary! Look for “moro” blood oranges to make the sorbet, as they have the deepest red flesh and a more robust flavor than the more subtle (and sweeter) “tarocco” or “sanguinello” varieties.