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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Three Granitas

I suppose I first learned about a granita from Alton Brown's show Good Eats. A granita is an Italian frozen dessert and can be made of any number of sweetened liquids including juices, herbal teas, wine, and coffee. A granita is a cooling dessert in the summer but much more enjoyable than a snow cone, because one can avoid the heavy sweet syrup squirted on the ice. It is much more elegant (and flavorful) than a popsicle. Try one of these and if you like it, you can find many more recipes on the internet.

Note: the larger the pan you use, the shallower the liquid will be and the faster it will freeze, so if you use a 9X13 pan, check it earlier, rather than later. In addition, the pan can be glass, metal, or plastic, for that matter.
I found the following recipe in a book I picked up at a library sale. It allows me to enjoy the best part of a rootbeer float; the crystals last much longer than they do in a the rootbeer.


Rootbeer Granita


Source:  Cakes and Cowpokes by Wayne Harley Brachman
Yield: lots, enough for a party, or keep covered in the freezer to enjoy over a month or so

1/4 c plus 2 T  (3/8 c) water
3/4 c sugar
3 12-oz bottles rootbeer or 36 ounces of rootbeer from a large bottle

Heat all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Pour mixture into a 9X13 pan, and place in the freezer and let rest for about 45 minutes. Take a fork and scrape the frozen portions on the edge into the middle of the pan. Repeat scraping about every 30-45 minutes until all you have is frozen bits of rootbeer, rather flaky and grainy, hence the name granita. Serve with vanilla ice cream.


If you want a less assertive and acidic flavor than you get from lemon juice or zest, use lemon verbena, an under-appreciated herb. It is a perennial in my garden, growing in a protected, warmer spot. It's leaves are so tough one can't really chop them like parsley, basil, or mint, but it's best to infuse their flavor in hot liquid. It also makes a great herbal tea, iced or hot.


Lemon Verbena Granita

2 large handfuls lemon verbena leaves, rinsed clean
the peel of 1 lemon, removed with a vegetable peeler--just the yellow part
2/3 c sugar
1 1/2 c boiling water
6 ice cubes

Pour the water over the lemon verbena leaves, lemon peel and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and leave to steep for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and stir in the ice cubes. When they have melted pour the liquid into an 8X8 or a 9X13 pan and place in the freezer. 

Allow to freeze for 45 minutes. Scrape frozen portion away from the sides into the center and replace in the freezer. Continue scraping every 30-45 minutes until there are no liquid portions. 

This can be served as is or with a dollop of creme fraiche or Greek yogurt, sweetened or plain.



Coffee Granita

Adapted from:  Alton Brown's Good Eats
Serves 6

2 c lukewarm espresso or strong black coffee, decaf is fine
1/2 c sugar
1-2 T coffee flavored liqueur, optional
1 teas orange or lemon zest

Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar melts. Pour into a 9X13 pan and place in freezer. Using a fork, scrape the ice crystals that have formed on the sides of the pan and pull them to the center. Return to the freezer and repeat every 30-45 minutes until all is frozen. At that point, fluff the crystals with a fork and allow to "dry" in the freezer for another 30 minutes or so. Scoop into glass bowls or goblets and top with barely sweetened whipped cream with a few thin curls of lemon or orange zest, if desired.