The calendar may say September, but, thanks to all these sunny days and warm afternoons, I’m not quite ready to give up summery foods. Take, for instance, granita. Known also by its French name “granite” or English moniker “water ice,” cool, refreshing granita is the perfect ending to any summer – or fall, winter or spring – meal.
As with many recipes, debate rages over which country crafted the first water ice. Historians point to France, Italy or Spain as the birthplace of this treat. Yet, the one thing on which they can agree is approximate birth date. Water ice came into being in the mid 17th century, around the same time that ice cream appeared.
Like ice cream, water ice requires few ingredients and little effort. Simply combine water, sugar and fruit juice in a shallow dish and place it in the freezer. After the liquid has started to set, stir the mixture and return it to the freezer. Repeat the stir-freeze step until the water ice takes on a coarse, granular texture. Once hard, chunky crystals have formed, the granita can be served. It’s that easy!
When making this at home, I often chop up whole fruit, such as watermelon or strawberries, and toss that into a blender with water, sugar and a little lime juice. Every now and then I may replace the fruit or fruit juice with coffee or tea. Depending on who’s eating it, I might pour in a smidge of vodka or light rum. I’m always careful not to add too much sugar or alcohol. If I heavily sweeten or spike the ingredients, they won’t freeze completely.
Along with serving granita as a dessert, I sometimes offer it as an appetizer or refreshment. If I really want to impress my dinner guests, I present it between the soup or salad and main course. Just a little something to cleanse the palate before the real eating begins.
Makes 5 cups
If you want this granita to have a little kick, pour a smidgen of light rum over it before serving.
4 1/2 cups chopped, seedless watermelon
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
juice of 1/2 lime
fresh mint leaves, washed and dried
light rum, optional and to taste
Place the watermelon, water, sugar and lime juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the contents into a shallow baking dish and place the dish in the freezer for 1 hour. After an hour remove and, using a fork or spoon, scrape the granita so that it no longer sticks to the dish. Place the dish back in the freezer for another hour and scrape again. Repeat this process until hard, coarse crystals have formed. You can then spoon the water ice in cocktail glasses, garnish with mint, add the light rum if desired, and serve.