SUMMER FRUITS, ANGELES CITYAngeles City, May 23, 2003 (STAR) By Claude Tayag -  Summertime… and the livin’ is easy. – From George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess

An integral element in the art of cooking is learning how to work with the natural cycle of living things. Globalization and modern technology may have brought about the year-round availability of some produce, but nothing can really beat having some things at their natural best. It’s not only for the practicality of it, but it also makes economic sense especially during these days of the shrinking peso. Besides, the thought of having comestibles flown in from thousands of miles away, having been bombarded with radiation to give it a longer shelf life (and ridding it of nutrients as well), seems less palatable.

At the peak of summer, the sight of roadside stalls laden with the season’s bounty is always a welcome treat. The prospect of having a cold slice of luscious red watermelon, or a piece of a ripe mango held between the hands while savoring the last bit of flesh from its pit, is refreshing enough. And never mind if the sticky juice oozes all over one’s face.

Taken au naturel, fresh fruits make wonderful desserts or refreshments, bringing the greatest pleasure with minimum effort. But sometimes, it takes more than just choosing the ripe and perfect fruit, rinsing and peeling it, then serving it without frills. It pays to put a little extra touch for a delightful surprise from the usual. After all, if the presentation is done well, the battle is half won. Look at the Thais, they’ve mastered the art of fruit carving and presentation.

To please the eye, tease the palate, and go easy on the wallet – this ought to be the order of the day. Try as many kinds of fruits in season. And it doesn’t hurt if you get a little overdose of fructose and vitamin C. After all, it’s only natural!

Cool Picks

Homemade ices, better known as sorbets (a.k.a. sherbets, gelati or the granular granita) are the least complicated of frozen desserts. They are a startling improvement on what most commercial manufacturers call ice cream, with all those horrific emulsifiers, nameless fats, artificial flavorings and number-coded colors. All it requires is natural fruit juices or purees mixed with sugar.

As a general rule, what could be had as a drink can be made into a sherbet. However, bear in mind that the low temperature of the sherbet mutes its taste. Therefore, the mixture should be more strongly flavored or sweeter than a regular drink.

In the absence of an ice cream maker or churn (whether electric-powered or hand-cranked), a rectangular stainless tray will do.

Here’s the trick: This process is called still-freezing. As the name suggests, it means freezing without simultaneously stirring.

1) Pour the fruit juice mixture into the tray and set in freezer. It is best if the tray is in direct contact with the freezing element.

2) Large flakes or crystals of ice will form. The best possible time to beat the mixture is when the sides and bottom start to become firm and the center is fairly liquid. Transfer the mixture into a large chilled bowl and beat vigorously with a whisker.

3) Pour mixture back into tray and return to freezer.

4) About 30 minutes before serving, put in the refrigerator the rock-hard sherbet (this is called ripening or softening). The objective is to soften it enough to scrape with a large spoon and serve.

Still and all, if you find this whole process too tedious, why not just put the fruit mix in those tiny plastic bags (2’ x 10’) and freeze – a la iced candy!

Our sherbet recipes follow no set proportions or measurements. Do it according to your personal preference or taste. As a sweetener, use refined or brown sugar, muscovado or honey. For that added tang, a dollop of kalamansi or dayap juice could be used (Why not kamias!), and for a little spike, add a spoonful of instant salabat (ginger tea).

Flexibility is the name of the game – make use of whatever is in abundance and available. Watermelons, melons, green or ripe mangoes, guapples, santol, buko, pineapple, sampalok, kaimito, dalandan, and, of course, when available, the king of fruits, durian! The sherbet can be served as is, with champagne, or as a topping with any combination of the above fruits, diced and flavored with liqueur or rum.

Champagne Sorbet

Like champagne cocktails, champagne ices call for nothing too grand in the way of wine and rely on other ingredients for much of their flavor. Alcohol inhibits the formation of ice crystals, so this ice never freezes really hard at domestic freezer temperatures and needs no ripening before serving.

2 cups dalandan juice

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2-1/2 cups sparkling wine

4 Tbsps. brandy

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Fruits courtesy of Ely’s Farm in Angeles City. Call (045)888-4224 for inquiries.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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