Granita: The perfect summer treat

Jul 11, 2010 by

Guido and I went to Rome recently, and while reacquainting myself with the city I saw so many years ago as a teenager, he decided to take me to the famous Piazza Navona, sight of the Tre Fontane (The Three Fountains). I went to Piazza Novana sixteen years ago on a tour in high school, and vaguely remembered savoring a delicious gelato while sitting next to one of the Tre Fontane at night. Well, it wasn't night this time; it was the hottest part of the day. Guido and I were wilting in the heat, so much so that we stuck our feet in one of the fountains (like everyone else, in our defense) and ended up getting yelled at by the carabinieri (the police). We finally managed to drag our sweaty selves to Tre Scalini, a famous gelateria, to salivate over their tasty gelati. I don't know why, but we decided to skip their most famous dessert: divino tartufo, a heavenly chocolate concoction (wait, why did we skip it again?). Instead, we dipped our plastic spoons into an over-priced but mouth-puckeringly delicious lemon granita. Our moods improved immediately. Granita is the general name for a slushy Italian dessert made from sugar, water, and other flavorings. It's similar to sorbet and Italian ice, but is famous for its more crystalline structure. Every city seems to have its own preference for consistency--granita machines create a smoother, more sorbet-like texture, and coarser varieties are frozen and only agitated slightly, then scraped or shaved to produce separated crystals. In Sicily it's often served with a brioche--pictured here alongside an almond milk granita. Some other popular granita varieties include jasmine, mint, wild strawberries, black mulberries, and chocolate. But since it's a bit trendy, you can see other creative variations as well.
I had to see if I could make this delicious treat, since I heard it was pretty easy. Searching around, I found some tasty recipes on a blog called Rachel Eats, written by an American woman living in Rome. Anyway, I found a great recipe for lemon granita there, which I'll share here. She also posts the recipes for watermelon and lime granita, coffee granita, and orange granita. I made lemon granita yesterday, and coffee granita today. I'll let you know about the watermelon and lime next week. Lemon Granita Servings: 6 to 8 (depending on how generous you're feeling) Prep time: For lemon granita--if you're juicing the lemons yourself and peeling the lemon rind, budget about 30 minutes prep, maybe a bit more. Ingredients:
  • 8 oz. (250 ml) lemon juice (juice from about 8 large and juicy lemons. Make sure you have the right amount of juice. Have extra lemons or a bottle of lemon juice to achieve the final amount, just in case your lemons aren't juicy enough.)
  • 1 cup (250 g) sugar
  • 16 oz (500 ml) water (though you may use more, depending on taste)
  • G-Spot Ingredient: zest from one lemon
Clean and dry the outside of one lemon, then zest it. You don't have to add lemon zest if you don't have lemons (and only have lemon juice) but it adds such a lovely bitterness and complexity that I think it takes it from tasty to...well...orgasmic. For more about how to zest a lemon, click here. You can also use the smallest setting on a cheese grater to zest the lemon if you don't have a zester. Bring half (4 oz. ) of the water to a boil, lower to just below a simmer (you should see almost no bubbles) and add the sugar and lemon zest until the sugar dissolves. Take the mixture off the heat and let it cool. Juice the lemons. When the sugar water has cooled, drain the lemon rind out and add the sugar water to the lemon juice. Add the remaining water, and perhaps a little more (I think I added an extra Tbsp or so), till you have the desired flavor. Remember to make it a little stronger because it looses flavor and sweetness when frozen. Put the mixture in a shallow dish (like a 9 x 9 glass baking pan). Don't use something with teflon because you'll be using a fork (and because teflon is toxic). Let the mixture sit for one hour, then stir it up with a fork, crushing all the icy chunks. Repeat this every 30 minutes and after about 3 to 4 hours (depending on the dish you use and if you halved the recipe or not), it should be ready to serve. Buon Appetito! What are you eating to stay cool this summer? Please share!

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