holding our breath, and a recipe: peach basil sorbet

“Can we have the peach ice cream?” my son asked, looking up at me with his deep blue eyes. It was after dinner, and the kids were bathed and in their pajamas. They were being extra sweet. Maybe they could sense the stress their father and I were under.

Or maybe they’ve just learned how to get what they want.

I had forgotten about the peach ice cream, which wasn’t ice cream at all but was instead peach basil sorbet. The kids didn’t seem to notice the difference, or if they did, they didn’t care. To my children, the melon-colored sorbet was cold and sweet and a perfect ending to their evening.

I had made the sorbet last Sunday, while my husband was visiting his father, something he’s done nearly every weekend for the past six months. Sam’s dad – my father-in-law, known as Papa to our children – was hospitalized back in December after back surgery to repair a fractured vertebrae sustained in a fall. The initial hospitalization was fraught with complications, and as a result, he’s never walked since.

My father-in-law has not been home since that hospitalization in mid-December. Like my own father, he’s been in a nursing facility for the last several months. Unlike my father, there was a hope – an expectation, actually — that my father-in-law would get better, that he would walk again, or at least get used to using a wheelchair and be able to return home.

peach basil sorbet | the merry gourmet

My husband and I never imagined that, in our early 40s, our lives would revolve around our ailing fathers and visits to nursing homes. Each weekend, though, we alternate who visits which father when, fitting these visits into our lives almost seamlessly. In addition to working full time and parenting our two children, we’ve added those extra glass balls to the ones we already juggle, hoping to keep them all in the air for just a while longer.

Of course, there are so many others in our position: adult children becoming caregivers for ailing parents. I see it daily, in fact, in my oncology practice.

While Sam was gone, I felt like I needed to be productive. Instead of writing (the words just weren’t coming that morning) or cleaning the playroom (a never-ending task that always winds up on my to do list, but inevitably at the bottom), I opted for chopping peaches, fragrant and yielding under my fingers, and making basil simple syrup with the last of the fresh basil leaves. Soon after, the ice cream machine was whirring, churning the peach juice mixture into a fluffy, frozen dessert.

peach basil sorbet | the merry gourmet

We had the sorbet for dessert that night, a refreshing chaser after a dinner of burgers from the grill and fresh corn on the cob. I stored the sealed glass container of sorbet in the freezer, nestled up next to the blackened bananas (frozen solid, awaiting their future as the starring role in a loaf of banana bread) and the frozen rounds of Trader Joe’s steel cut oatmeal (my favorite weekday breakfast).

And then I forgot about it. Life got in the way, as it has a tendency to do.

My father-in-law was placed on Hospice on Wednesday. His steady, but slow decline has taken a nosedive in the past few weeks. His prospects for recovery, once small, have now become nonexistent. We’re talking to our children about death and dying, and I’ve ordered my son his first tie and dress slacks, to wear at his first funeral. I’m answering questions like, “What does dying feel like, Mommy?” from my 9-year old daughter.

We’re moving toward an ending, and it feels like we’re just holding our breath until it happens.

peach basil sorbet | the merry gourmet

Yield: About 2 quarts.

Peach Basil Sorbet

If you have an ice cream maker and a freezer, this is one of the simplest warm weather desserts. The only ingredients are peaches, basil, sugar, and a bit of lemon juice. Easy peasy.


2 cups water
2 cups sugar
8 fresh basil leaves
2 pounds fresh peaches (approximately 3 or 4), pitted and chopped
Juice of 1 lemon


Make basil simple syrup:

In a small saucepan, stir water and sugar together. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn off heat. Add basil leaves, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain the basil leaves out of the syrup and let cool before using.

Make sorbet:

In a blender, combine 1-1/4 cups simple syrup (reserving leftover simple syrup for another use), chopped peaches, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the peach mixture into a bowl. Chill for an hour, then process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for at least 3 hours.

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12 Responses to “in times of need – summer fruit crisp”

  1. 1
    SMITH BITES — July 22, 2010 @ 9:18 am

    First off – NOT selfish to cook for yourself!! It’s important to nourish/love ourselves in the same way we’d do for others – and I’m pretty sure you’d bake a dessert like this one for a friend who was having a tough time. Second – IT’S GORGEOUS! And who wouldn’t want to eat this after long hours – I’d eat the whole thing all by myself (which is why I don’t bake often!) You’re doing fine!

  2. 2
    Kath — July 22, 2010 @ 10:09 am

    Smith Bites is right–it’s not at all selfish! I love a good fruit crisp, and yours looks delicious! I like the combination of fruits that you used.

  3. 3
    Melissa — July 22, 2010 @ 10:32 am

    Two words – YUM MY. I was there. I know 🙂

  4. 4
    Gail — July 22, 2010 @ 11:45 am

    Warm fruit crisps like this are the most satisfying! Eat to your hearts’ content.

  5. 5
    Joy — July 22, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

    I understand that need. It is just perfect for a hot summer day.

  6. 6
    Magic of Spice — July 22, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

    Looks beautiful! I am glad you are able to create something that gives you comfort… Don’t burn yourself out…

  7. 7
    Kate @ maître de moda — July 22, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

    just hearing the words ‘fruit’ and ‘crisp’ together makes my mouth water. oh, the crunchy topping is my favorite part.
    this looks amazing! thanks for sharing!

  8. 8

    Reading this post made me realize that a fruit crisp is exactly what I need to alleviate my stress. Sometimes the only thing you can do is make something to feed your soul, no need to feel guilty about that!

  9. 9
    Squeaky Gourmet — July 23, 2010 @ 7:52 am

    fruit crisps–YES!
    I love the posting, as I am reading and looking at the pics I am thinking “sounds good, sounds great” then you share the final picture with the ice cream with it and Oh man–it looks so–perfect!

  10. 10
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — July 23, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

    Ahhhh… summer fruit crisp. So simple to make and yet so flavorful! You are not selfish at all for wanting to satisfy a food craving. I would have done the same thing… thankfully, I have a husband who loves a good crisp and would help me eat it.

  11. 11
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — July 26, 2010 @ 7:10 am

    Loving all the fresh fruit that’s available right now – perfect just to eat or make into a cobbler! Yours looks lovely – I am sure your hubby didn’t mind picking up fruit when you turn it into something like this!

  12. 12
    Heather @ The Single Dish — July 26, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

    This is my favorite dessert!! Love it. Nothing better than crisp served warm with ice cream 🙂

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