My husband and I don’t usually go out to eat on Valentine’s Day. We’ve decided over the years that restaurant food is just *meh* on V-day, mostly because restaurants here get so slammed with both tourists and New Yorkers alike. We’ve developed a tradition of cooking a nice meal together and enjoying a good bottle of wine at our favorite place – our apartment! So when I asked my husband what he wanted for Valentine’s Day dessert, he lamented the fact that berries aren’t currently in season, because one of his favorite desserts is a simple Summer berry “salad” that I make with mint, vanilla sugar, and lemon zest. Something clicked in my head: earlier in the week I was super happy to find some delicious organic blood oranges (not the hybrid orange-blood oranges that you most commonly see in the supermarket, but real blood oranges with deep red flesh) at our local food co-op. Blood oranges always remind me of strawberries and citrus mixed together: a perfect solution to our berry-less problem.
You can simplify this a bit by omitting the candied fennel and kumquats, but I think that the sugar syrup that results from the candying makes the sorbet so much more deliciously complex. I usually add just a bit of liquor to sorbets because it helps keep ice crystals from forming, resulting in a super-smooth texture. Plus liquor tastes good. For this sorbet, any number of liquors would be delicious – you could use anisette (or even ouzo) if you wanted to kick up the anise flavor a bit, or dark rum to give it a tiniest hint of caramel, or grand mariner or triple sec to play up the orange flavor. I used the latter. When you make sorbet, you must taste before you freeze – some fruit has more sugar than others, so taste the mixture before you freeze it, correcting with more sugar syrup as necessary. Keep in mind that cold food tends to taste less intense than hot food, so err on the side of more sugar if you are in doubt.
This recipe only makes about a half a pint – enough for 3-4 scoops for two. You will have leftover syrup and candied kumquats and fennel – also delicious on vanilla ice cream!
1/2 cup kumquats, seeds removed and sliced very thinly
1/2 cup fennel, quartered and sliced very thinly on a Japanese mandoline or by hand
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice
1 teaspoon grand marnier, triple sec, anisette, ouzo, or dark rum
Special Equipment: Ice cream maker
- Combine the kumquat slices, fennel slices, sugar, and water in a medium heavy saucepan. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, swirling the pan occasionally to help distribute and dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for 30 minutes, or until both the kumquats and fennel are tender and translucent.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the kumquats and fennel and place in a bowl. Set aside. Cool the syrup to room temperature.
- Measure out 1/2 cup of the resulting syrup (or alternately, use 1/2 cup plain simple syrup, cooled to room temperature). Combine the blood orange juice, syrup, and liquor of your choice. Taste the mixture and add more syrup, if necessary.
- Refrigerate the mixture until cold. Taste the mixture again while cold, adding more syrup, if necessary. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
- Serve with the candied kumquats and fennel on top of the sorbet.