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[Photograph: Alexandra Penfold]

Sherbet. It's not quite ice. It's not quite ice cream. What is it exactly? And why is it sherbet not sher-bey, you know, like sorbet? Well, it turns out that sherbet is derived from the Persian word sharbat, which is a sweetened fruit drink. Over the years sherbet has evolved and depending on whom you ask about sherbet, you might get very different answers. For the Brits, sherbet is a powder that fizzes when combined with water. For Americans, it's a frozen dessert found in the freezer case alongside ice cream and sorbet. By federal law (yes, there are federal laws about these things), stateside sherbet must contain dairy ingredients and a certain percentage of milk fat.

Sherbet doesn't have to be the bland, kind of cloying, neon-dyed confection you might remember from your youth. In fact, it can be a lovely way to showcase fruit in a dessert that's a little less decadent than ice cream but not quite as sweet as an ice or sorbet. This is a recipe I first played with last July and one that's stayed with me ever since. The balsamic and strawberries are up front and center on the initial taste but it finishes with the tang of buttermilk. I'm already looking forward to the first strawberries at the farmer's market. In the meantime, here's an easy recipe that works beautifully with frozen berries for a light and refreshing treat that tastes like the promise of summer.

About the author: Alexandra Penfold is mild-mannered literary agent by day, food ninja by night. Never one to skip dessert she's the Brownie half of Blondie & Brownie, a Midtown Lunch contributor, and co-author of New York à la Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks. You can follow her on Twitter at @BlondieBrownie.


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