Traditional Italian-Style Icy Treat Is a Breeze to Make
by Kirsten Harrington
Looking for a cool, icy dessert you can make at home, but don’t have an ice cream maker or Popsicle molds? Why not make luscious frozen granitas?
Not to be confused with that slushy drink from your favorite coffee bar, an authentic granita is a fluffy, fruity shaved-ice dish originating from the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean. Similar to sorbet but with more texture, this sophisticated Italian version of a snow cone is easy to make at home, with no fancy equipment or hot ovens involved. So put your freezer to work, and in a few short hours you will be momentarily transported to Italy as you enjoy the thirst-quenching coolness of an icy granita.
The process is simple. Water, sugar and flavorings such as pureed fruit or citrus juice are combined and placed in the freezer, scraping the mixture every few hours with a fork until it reaches a snowlike consistency. Granitas can be made fat-free, nondairy and gluten-free, making them a light and healthy choice for dessert to suit just about any diet. A peach and Champagne granita served in a martini glass would make an elegant palate cleanser between courses at your next dinner party. Summer berries or melons can be turned into a kid-friendly frozen dessert they can help make. From cabernet and coffee to mangoes and melons, the variety is endless.
Get creative! Layer the finished granita with whipped cream and serve in a parfait glass, or make a few different flavors and serve them in espresso cups as a dessert sampler. Granitas can be made a day ahead, making them perfect for entertaining. Just remember to scrape the ice before serving to get that soft, fluffy texture.
• Serve in a hollowed-out fruit that matches the flavor of the granita.
• Clear Champagne, martini or parfait glasses make elegant serving vessels.
• Garnish with edible flowers or herbs.
• Serve quickly so it doesn’t melt.
• If the mixture becomes too hard in the freezer, add a splash of juice to soften it up.
• A pinch of salt in the mixture brightens the flavor of the granita.
• Choose very ripe fruit for best results.
Locally grown watermelons lend themselves beautifully to this vibrant, refreshing granita.
1/2 medium seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into chunks (about 8 cups)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Basil leaves for garnish, optional
Puree ingredients in a blender until smooth, working in batches if necessary. Strain watermelon puree through a fine-meshed sieve into a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish. Discard solids. Freeze watermelon mixture until edges begin to set, about 30-35 minutes. Scrape the frozen sections with a fork and return to freezer. Scrape every 30 minutes until the watermelon turns into a fluffy, shaved ice concoction — about two to four hours. Divide into six servings. Garnish with chopped basil if desired.
Café con Leche Granitas
Serve in chilled espresso cups with a dollop of whipped cream.
3 cups brewed strong coffee (Italian dark roast)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Stir the sugar into the coffee to dissolve. Chill until cold. Pour mixture into a shallow metal pan and freeze, stirring with a fork every half hour, until mixture is coarse ice crystals but not frozen hard, approximately four hours. Serves four to six people. ♠