Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Granita: A Frozen Summer Treat!

Granita is one of the most underrated summer desserts. If you are not familiar with granita, it is, more or less, a grown-up, Italian version of a Sno-Cone. Even as a child, I never quite understood the appeal of a Sno-Cone; the neon colored, sugary flavoring always dripped through to the bottom of the paper cone, leaving boring, unflavored ice on top. You might as well just suck on an ice cube. But granita!! It is flavorful and vibrant like sorbet, but slightly more granular and icy. I can't get enough of the stuff!
The best part about granita is that it is very simple to make at home. In summer, I let the season's bounty guide me. I use fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, or strawberries to flavor my granita, while other times of the year I enjoy lemon or coffee flavors.

The ingredients are simple: fruit, sugar, and ice. The method is even easier: puree, pour, and freeze. In about 45 minutes, you'll have a refreshing dessert that is satisfying and sweet, without a lot of calories. It is a perfect way to end a meal, whether on a weeknight with your kids, or at a weekend dinner party. Serve in small glass bowls, or even martini glasses for a little pizazz.

This summer, add granita to your dessert repertoire. You'll never look at a Sno-Cone again!
Watermelon Granita with Mint
Serves 4

2 cups coarsely chopped seedless watermelon
¼ cup sugar, or to taste
½ tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice, or to taste
2 cups ice cubes
Fresh mint sprigs (for garnish)

Puree all ingredients (except mint) in a blender or food processor until smooth, then pour into a 13- by 9-inch metal pan and freeze until mixture becomes a firm slush, at least 40 minutes.
Scrape with a fork and serve in chilled glasses, topped with sprigs of fresh mint.

Strawberry or Cantaloupe Granita: Substitute 2 cups hulled strawberries or coarsely chopped cantaloupe in place of the watermelon. Follow directions above.

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