Are you looking for a light, elegant, refreshing summertime dessert? Try granita. Similar to shaved ice, it’s perfect for cooling off on hot summer days. Granitas are made from crunchy ice that is flavored with fruit, wine, or coffee. The Italians call this deliciously cool dessert “granita.” The French call it “granite.” Sounds more gourmet than slurpy, right? It originated in Sicily, where it is served for breakfast. It is topped with whipped cream and served with a brioche. No doubt, the Sicilian breakfast version is made with coffee. Granita is also sometimes served as a “palate cleanser” between courses. Classic Sicilian granitas are made from lemons, oranges, almonds, mint, and pistachios, but you can use any ingredient your heart desires. These icy wonders are made from three basic ingredients—fruit, liquid, and sugar. When making granita, use any fruit or liquid you like, but follow a ratio of 4 cups of diced fruit to ¼ cup of liquid and ¼ cup of sugar. Sweeter fruits may require less sugar. If you are using fruit to make your granita, put the fruit into a food processor and purée it until the mixture is the consistency of a smoothie. Add sugar syrup and purée again. Pour the puréed fruit mixture into a shallow pan and place it in the freezer. You will want to keep the pan in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours, or until it has begun to freeze around the edges. Then using a fork, scape the ice to break up any chunks. Every couple of hours continue to scrap your granita several times until it is loosely frozen and has a flaky consistency. It is best to freeze it overnight.
If you want to serve your granita as a cocktail, add ½ cup of vodka, rum, or tequila but reduce the liquid in the recipe by ½ cup. Garnish it with watermelon slices, lime wedges, or dip chilled glasses into a spice mixture.
Watermelon Granita Serves 4
1 cup water 1 cup sugar 2 teaspoons fresh grated lime peel 3 pounds unpeeled seedless watermelon, cut into 2-inch cubes 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
In a medium saucepan, place water, sugar, and lime peel over a high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool. In a blender or food processor, process watermelon until it is liquefied. Add 1 cup of the sugar syrup and process again until combined. Strain syrup through a fine sieve or wire strainer into a medium bowl, removing any seeds. Add lime juice and stir to combine. Season to taste with any remaining sugar syrup or lime juice.
Pour watermelon purée into an 8-inch square baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until the mixture has started to freeze at the edges but is still slushy, about 2 to 3 hours. Stir the mixture thoroughly, scraping down the sides. Cover again with plastic wrap and freeze until the mixture is solid, about 8 hours, best if frozen overnight.
To serve: Scrape the granita with a fork, making large flakes, and spoon into chilled glasses.
Tips on shopping for watermelons: My father taught me to thump a watermelon with my knuckle. If it sounds hollow, it’s ripe. Characteristics to look for are a symmetrical, dull-colored body, and a slightly flat, yellowish, almost butter-colored underbelly. If the underbelly is white, the watermelon will likely be underripe. If it is bright yellow, it will be overripe. It should not have flat sides.
Tips on storing watermelons: Melons should be stored at room temperature until fully ripe. Once the fruit has matured, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Once you cut your melon, it should be placed in an airtight container or wrapped tightly with plastic, as it can absorb odors from other foods. Cut melon will keep 3 days in the refrigerator.
Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
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