Did I make this ice cream because it's intensely, shockingly pink? Yes. But also because it transported me somewhere else -- to a beach town in South Africa during college. So let's start there.
Getting to the beach from my tiny, narrow-walled apartment in Cape Town was complicated. First, I meet my friends next to the Cocoa Wah-Wah coffee shop on the side of the main road in busy Rondebosch. We peer into the haze of traffic, searching for the white vans that serve as communal buses-cum-carpools.
The system is this: You flag down a van going in your direction, hop into the crowded backseat, and shout your destination up to the driver. A guy in the middle seat calculates your fare based on distance and takes your change. It took awhile to figure out, given the casual nature of the entire transaction. I'm used to printed schedules, uniformed bus drivers, and Greyhound terminals. But once you learn to navigate it, to push your way into the van, to enunciate, to give exact change, and so on, you're happy for the efficiency of it all.
The first bus only takes us as far as a large open-air market and bus hub. We get dropped off on one end and have to meander through aisles of makeshift booths spilling over with printed sarongs, wooden beaded necklaces, cold sodas and candy, and so on. Cars spew exhaust, the noise level rises through the blazing heat of the square, and we finally reach the opposite side. There we flag another bus, pay our change, and ride a few miles further. The driver shouts "Clifton Fourth beach!" and drops us on the side of the highway.
Cars whiz past us. The cliffs of the Twelve Apostles rise sharply to our left and to our right, the four scalloped beaches of Clifton spread themselves against the sweeping edge of the ocean.
Clifton is one of the ritziest areas of Cape Town: a neighborhood reminiscent of Orange County with very, very expensive real estate perched on a swatch of spectacular sugar-sand beaches. Shops, clubs, and restaurants with palm trees and cool white interiors and $20 cocktail price tags line the main stretch.
The beaches are pristine, edged with huge granite boulders, and dotted with steep, narrow stone pathways leading up to the main streets. There are surfers and food hawkers who pick their way through the sunbathers offering cold water and ice cream in shockingly bright tropical colors.
I love buying a cone -- sometimes bright orange sherbet or a creamy lime gelato -- and eating in the sun while it drips down my fingers. Frozen dessert when you're hot, coated in sand and saltwater and sunscreen, is the best.
Those ice creams inspired this recipe: one that tastes of foreign places and hot beach weather. Take a bite, and you taste coconut, but then the beet juice. The flavor is hard to place in the context of ice cream: It gives an earthy, exotic edge to the coconut. It's not for everyone, but I like something a little less vanilla now and then.
Coconut Beet Ice Cream
Adapted loosely from The Kitchn
**If you don't have arrowroot powder, you can use cornstarch, but I find that arrowroot powder provides a better texture to coconut milk-based ice creams.**
2 cups coconut milk (full fat)
1 1/4 cups beet juice
1/2 cup coconut sugar (can substitute raw or white sugar here)
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
Mix all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Transfer to an ice cream maker and process according to the directions for your machine.