My house has been officially hit by the popsicle craze. I kid you not. As I type, there are five different flavors/types of popsicles sitting snugly in my freezer. I just don't know how to stop. Even though we've had one of the mildest (read: not hot) summers on record here whilst the rest of the country is broiling in summer heat, I've been addicted to popsicles. Then, when I remembered how ridiculously easy and simple they are to make, I've basically wanted to put all of my foods into frozen-on-a-stick form. Thankfully, I haven't yet gotten to the savory foods, but I think my trusty roommate may put her foot down before I reach that level of pop-driven insanity.
Today I have for you two types of those five flavors of popsicles currently inhabiting my freezer: ambrosia mojito popsicles and pomegranate hibiscus strawberry popsicles. Both of these are basically the purest incarnation of the popsicle form: fruit or fruit juice blended with a tiny bit of sugar and water. So simple and yet so refreshingly good. And none of that ice cream-making, egg yolk churning fuss--just freeze and forget! (My kind of dessert/meal when I'm terribly busy with non-food stuff, as has been the case for the past few weeks.)
You know that it's melon season when you can't escape a grocery store or farmers' market without catching a strong whiff of the sickly sweet juices from all the melons that are piling up. More so than in past years, I've been noticing this season an upswing in all of the different types of melons in the markets--it's as if the heirloom craze in tomatoes has caught on in melons! For instance, as I was stumbling about the local farmers' market searching for cantaloupes for this popsicle, I came across ambrosia, which the seller informed me are just like cantaloupe in their orange flesh and spider-webby rinds but are actually slightly sweeter. Hence, ambrosia mojito popsicles! (though if you can't find ambrosia, cantaloupes should do just fine.)
I really liked how these popsicles turned out, with layers of pure ambrosia puree and lime and mint juice. I didn't add anything to the ambrosia flesh at all, choosing instead to let the unchanged flavor of the fruit shine through. For sweetness, the middle lime and mint layer provides all of the sugar you might need in a dessert, and it's so satisfying to lick both layers at once, getting the balance of fruity flavors, tart lime, and minty sweetness.
The pomegranate, hibiscus, and strawberry popsicles came about when the lovely people at POM Wonderful sent me a case of pomegranate juice to play around with! (the grad student in me was very excited about free food. ;-P) Of course, given my current ice-pop state of mind (can Alicia Keys please write a song about that for me?), the first thing I had to do was freeze pomegranate juice.
As a contrast to the ambrosia mojito popsicles, I really wanted to emphasize the darkness of the pomegranate juice in these pops, so they are spiked with earthy and robust hibiscus juice, made from dried hibiscus blossoms, giving them an even richer and darker flavor. Then, buried inside are small pieces of fresh strawberries, just to give the popsicle a bit of textural surprise and to take full advantage of the fast-disappearing summer berries. Don't you just love how these popsicles are this luscious deep red? I can assure you that they taste as juicy as they look!
Anyways, this has been sort of a long post, so I think I'll stop here and go see if I can't make a dent in those popsicles sitting in my fridge... (So I can make more, duh. ;-P)
[full disclosure: POM Wonderful did send me a case of POM juice for free, but I wouldn't post about it here unless I actually love the stuff, which I totally do. In fact, their teas make up most of my study brain food. I guzzle the stuff whenever I have papers to write (which, given my profession, is basically all the time), and all of my glassware at home is old POM tea glasses from when their teas first came out and came in these awesome reusable glasses.
Make sure to check out some of my other pomegranate recipes!]
Read on for recipes...
Ambrosia Mojito Popsicles
makes ~8-12 popsicles, depending on the size of the molds
1 lb. chopped ambrosia melon (~1 small melon, weighed without rind or seeds)
1 handful mint leaves
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 + 1/2 cups water (total: 1 cup)
zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1. In a food processor or blender, puree the chopped melon until smooth. Set aside.
2. In a bowl or using a mortar and pestle, smash the mint leaves into the sugar.
3. Combine the sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves and then let cool.
4. Once the water and sugar mixture has cooled, strain out the mint and add the remaining 1/2 cup of water, lime zest, and freshly-squeezed lime juice. Stir to combine.
4. Pour enough melon puree into the popsicle molds so that they fill about 1/3 of each mold. Freeze for ~2 hours until it is no longer liquid.
5. Then, pour enough of the lime juice on top of the first melon layer to fill another 1/3 of each mold. Freeze again for ~2 hours.
6. Finally, top off the popsicles with the remaining melon puree. Freeze until completely solid, preferably overnight.
7. To remove the popsicles from the molds, run hot water around the outside of the molds for a brief time until you can easily pull the popsicles out.
Pomegranate Hibiscus Strawberry Popsicles
makes ~8-12 popsicles, depending on the size of the molds
2 cups water
4 Tbspn dried hibiscus blossoms
2 Tbspn sugar
2 cups pomegranate juice
strawberries, about 2-3 per popsicle, chopped into small pieces
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and hibiscus blossoms. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and cover. Steep for ten minutes.
2. Remove the hibiscus blossoms from the water. Add the sugar to the water and return the saucepan to heat, cooking until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
3. Combine the hibiscus water with the pomegranate juice.
4. Place about 2-3 strawberries, chopped, into each popsicle mold. Pour the pomegranate-hibiscus juice into each mold and freeze until solid, preferably overnight.
5. To remove the popsicles from the molds, run hot water around the outside of the molds for a brief time until you can easily pull the popsicles out.
Tip: For a sweeter popsicle, feel free to double the sugar here, but you'll want no more than 1/4 cup of sugar all told.
Tip: You can find dried hibiscus blossoms at Latin food markets or certain well-stocked groceries. If you're in the Bay Area, I know that Berkeley Bowl carries it in their bulk foods section.