Sunday, July 22, 2007

Balsamic Fig Sorbet - or Fig Chai Sorbet - or Chai Fig Sorbet with a hint of Balsamic

Calimyrna Figs. Not very good looking, are they?

I do wonder sometimes, how a recipe name evolves? If we look at this from the ethical side, the FDA side, then a food, a dish, should be named for its weight or volume substances, like the nutrition labels must show all the ingredients in descending order. But that doesn't always tell the right story, does it? Even though Balsamic Vinegar is a very, very small part of this recipe, as you know, it has a very strong flavor. I would guess that's how this sorbet came to have its name as BALSAMIC Fig Sorbet. But, really, chai tea is a more major ingredient by volume. But, well, is it really? If you just measure the dry chai tea in its bags, it would comprise the next to the last ingredient (balsamic brings up the rear). But when you brew chai tea with WATER, then the chai component becomes hefty. So, maybe this should be called CHAI Fig Balsamic Sorbet. Somehow, that doesn't have the right ring to it, does it? Or, WATER Chai Balsamic Fig Sorbet. Oh my, much too big a dilemma for my brain this morning.

What I do know for sure, is that this sorbet is something other worldly. It's sensational. And I really don't like figs most of the time. My parents had a fig tree in the backyard when I was growing up, and mostly we ate the figs fresh off the tree. My mother made fig jam sometimes from it, and that I didn't like one bit. I would eat them fresh, though. But my Dad loved Fig Newtons, and I can almost barf thinking of sinking my teeth into those millions of little seeds in a Newton. Yuck. Maybe it was really the jammy, stick goo that's mixed with the seeds that turned me off of Newtons. So for any number of years I really thought I didn't like figs. Certainly I didn't like dried figs from whence Newtons were made. Fresh ones are a bit hard to find these days, although I've seen them at our very upscale markets at a very upscale price.

So, I went to a cooking class a few years ago and bingo, Andrew Schloss served this sorbet.
Never would I have prepared this by looking at the recipe or the title. I do drink tea, if you've read my post about making a "proper tea," awhile back, you already know this about me. I like chai tea also. Occasionally I order a chai tea latte at Starbucks. Except they're too sweet for me. Chai tea all by itself has just a hint of sweetness, a sweet underlayer all by itself provided by all those spieces. It almost doesn't need any sugar. But I probably wouldn't have ever purchased the Bengal Spice tea (by Celestial Seasonings) without having it served to me in this sorbet. It is a necessary ingredient, so don't be tempted to substitute black tea. The sorbet needs this spicy tea component. There may be some other chai teas that would work equally well, however; it's just that this is what the chef used and I was absolutely delighted with it. You'll notice this sorbet has a kind of brown tinge. It's the tea and figs that do it. Well, and the balsamic too. Don't be turned off by the color. Serve it on a pretty plate or bowl and try a cookie beside it.
I don't know anything about Andrew Schloss other than the fact that he wrote this cookbook called "Almost From Scratch." He was an engaging instructor, and I've referred to his cookbook several times (of course I bought the cookbook, right?). But this is the recipe that will maintain his name in my brain cells. The book is already out of print. Amazon's raters gave it 5 stars. Hmm. Maybe I need to go look at that cookbook again for some other ideas.

So unless you just hate the actual taste of figs, or cannot abide chai tea I highly encourage you to try this. I've served it several times to family and friends. My suggestion is: don't tell them what it is. Just tell them it's a sorbet. Or a chai sorbet. That should be sufficient. The chai tea gives the sorbet this heavenly fragrance. It just roams around amongst your taste buds, then you begin to get the fig (maybe) and then the hint of balsamic. The sorbet doesn't require an ice cream machine - it's all done in your freezer and with a food processor. Several times I've thought about making this with milk, just to see what it would taste like. Hmm. Then it would be an ice milk, or an ice cream. Or a gelato. Let's see: Chai Milk Fig Balsamic Gelato. Maybe I need to go back to the drawing boards for recipe names on this one. But either way, the recipe is easy, really. And whatever you name it, make it.

Balsamic Fig Sorbet
Recipe from "Almost From Scratch" by Andrew Schloss
Servings: 6
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
3 bags Celestial Seasoning's Bengal Spice tea bags
6 whole dried figs -- Calimyrna type
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the tea bags, remove from the heat and steep for 2 minutes. Remove tea bags.
2. Remove stems from dried figs and add to the hot tea water. Allow to steep for about 20-30 minutes, until figs are soft. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. If using the food processor, place figs in the workbowl, add about 1/4 cup of tea liquid and pulse until figs are completely pureed. Add remaining tea liquid and balsamic vinegar and blend thoroughly.
3. Pour mixture into a shallow pan and freeze until solid, about 4 hours or longer. Cut into cubes and puree in food processor until creamy. Store in a tightly sealed container in the freezer for up to one week. If the mixture should become solid, puree it again before serving.
Serving Ideas : Serve a small portion, and add a cookie or biscotti to the plate.
NOTES : This sounds like a kind of a ho-hum dessert, but it definitely is NOT! The chai tea mixture adds an incredible richness and elegance to the sorbet. The spices in the tea definitely come through. The figs add a viscosity to the sorbet that is unusual (thicker). The color, a kind of beige to brown color, is a little off-putting, but one taste and you'll be hooked.
Per Serving: 178 Calories; trace Fat (1.1% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 46g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 6mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Fruit; 2 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

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