Thursday, July 5, 2012

Granita – a flavorful Italian icy dessert made without an ice cream maker



In many parts of the US this week, there’s been a big heat wave. We’ve set records here in the mountains with temperatures in the afternoon hovering in the low 100’s. Now that’s hot. This kind of weather calls for cold desserts and of course ice cream and sorbet come to mind.

But what if you don’t have an ice cream maker? Leave it to the Italians to come up with the perfect solution. They’ve long known the simple pleasures of flavor and refreshment in one. Proof lies in their love of granitas, a delectable Italian grainy ice dessert made in the freezer that needs no fancy machine.

Granitas have been around since the 1500’s. As the story goes, Catherine de Medicis traveled to Paris in 1533 from her home in Florence, Italy to marry Henri, duc d’Orleans and heir to the French throne.  Along with Catherine came Italian chefs. During the grand wedding celebration, one of the Florentine chefs made a different flavored ice each day, giving the French their first taste of these delicious desserts. The French obviously recognized a good thing when they tasted it too. By 1576, there were more than 250 master icemakers in Paris.



Granitas are super simple to make, but you’ll need to plan ahead because they need to sit in the freezer for four to six hours. Although they can be left for a day to freeze all by themselves, I like to check on them every hour or two to make sure they are freezing properly and to scrape them.

After the ingredients are heated, then cooled, the granita is poured into a shallow, rectangular dish and placed in the freezer so that they can form a fairly thin layer that should be scraped to prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface. I use an 8 x 8 metal pan, but Tupperwear or a similar plastic container also works.

To serve, scrape the surface with a metal spoon or an ice cream scoop. It’s the granita’s grainy, icy texture that makes them special. You probably won’t have to worry about leftovers because this refreshing dessert is packed with flavor. But if you do have some extra, granitas can be kept for up to two weeks in the freezer before losing flavor.

I’ve made my favorite granita using Campari, a popular, bright red and slightly bitter Italian aperitif that derives its distinctive taste from a mixture of herbs and spices that have been steeped in alcohol. An interesting fact about bitterness - research tells us that bitterness is the last of the four primary tastes to be appreciated, following sugar, salt, and acid. The Campari infused with the orange and sugar imparts a flavor that reminds me slightly of grapefruit in flavor and color. Some other popular flavors of granitas include cappuccino as well as lemon.


Campari Orange Granita
From The Silver Palate Cookbook –serves 6

3 cups strained fresh orange juice
1 cup Campari
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup granulated sugar
Mint sprigs for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and set over moderate heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is about to boil and all the sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Pour into a shallow pan (an 8” square cake tin is ideal) and set in the freezer. Follow directions above about scraping every hour or so. The mixture will take from 3 to 6 hours to freeze. If it is very hard, set it in refrigerator for 30 minutes to temper the texture slightly.  Garnish with mint sprigs.

This recipe will be linked to Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Living, Foodie Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable and Carol's Chatter's Food on Friday. Please stop by and enjoy the recipe round-up.

Summer has always been my favorite time of the year. I hope you stay cool and enjoy all the wonderful, relaxing things that summertime has to offer, such as walks on the beach or reading a good book in a hammock on the porch.

40 comments:

  1. A divine granita! Lovely flavors.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. Thanks for this one it looks delicious. Have a good day Diane

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  3. We're having a dinner party next week. Thanks for this recipe which will make the perfect hot-weather dessert!

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  4. This looks beautifully refreshing. It would be most welcome here today as the thermometer has already climbed to 102!! I'm happy to see a Silver Palate recipe. It was my very first "cutting edge" cookbook. I purchased it at shop on Hilton Head and sat in a rocking chair on the porch of the shop and read through it. I had the pleasure of meeting both of the authors at a gourmet food show in Atlanta years ago. Many recipes are repeated in my kitchen.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  5. This could get you past any dessert contest:)

    I specifically made Rosemary infused honey for my cheese platter last Friday:) Thank you!

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  6. Could use a scoop of this today - New York is sweltering, and this looks so cool and refreshing!

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  7. This sounds wonderful! I make what I've always called sherbet by the scraping method -- one with lemon juice and rose wine, the other with orange juice and milk -- my grandmother's recipe.

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  8. This looks and sounds delightful! A guilty-free summer treat.

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  9. Dear Sam, This looks like a refreshingly delicious treat!! I could certainly go for one of these now. Blessings my dear, your friend, Catherine xo

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  10. How refreshing! I will have to look for some Campari.

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  11. Sounds perfect for this obscene weather we're having and the mint sprig gives it the perfecy final touch.

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  12. This sounds divine. It's beautiful, too. Perfect for this ridiculous heat. It hit 106 here a few days ago. It's cooled down to only 94. :)

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  13. This look delicious. I would love some now. We have just finished a curried shrimp dinner.

    Helen xx

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  14. My kind of dessert. This looks delicious and cold.

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  15. This looks so delicious! I can't wait to give it a try! It's been a long time since I've had this delicious dessert!

    I had no idea it was that hot where you are. A friend of mine is building a home in Hendersonville @ Champion Hills and she never even mentioned the temps when we were "talking" on -line!

    Hope it cools off for you soon!

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  16. Truly a perfect dessert on a hot summer day! :-)

    My favorite is Granita di Caffè. Early mornings in Roman coffee bars you can observe baristas drawing large amounts of espresso and pouring it into flat containers, ready to be put into the freezer as soon as the coffee cools down a bit. I love how they serve it, in one of those tall heavy glasses, granita layered with whipped cream. Take the long-handled spoon and dig right in, a heavenly treat.

    Vienna's been the hotspot of Europe for more than a few days lately. Hotter than in Rome and Madrid, that is! I went for a bicycle ride at 7 AM on our shady neighborhood street. Bei 8 AM it was getting uncomfortably hot even there.

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  17. This would be so light and refreshing on a hot summer night. I wouldn't hold up very well if I lived in your part of the country. I hope it cools off soon, Sam.

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  18. Hi Sam,
    What a refreshing Granita and perfect for all this heat we are having.

    I am so glad that you gave us the history for the Granita, very interesting.

    Your lovely treat will certainly help us stay cool in the days to come.

    Hope you are having a great holiday week and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

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  19. I need this right now! It is devilishly hot outside! I love the back story. It makes a flavored ice all the more special!
    So happy to stop by, dear friend!

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  20. It's so hot here in SE Wisconsin too! We've set records.

    This is the perfect ticket for weather like this and I love the Campari in this one. I gave a bottle of Aperol in the frig that I think would taste wonderful in this too.

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  21. Sam, just looking at your photos makes me feel cooler!

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  22. A great summertime idea.

    I found this via Simple Living with Diane Balch. I linked in a retro steak dish. Have a super week.

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  23. That's one I've never heard of, but I'm such an American noob to foreign cuisine:) This sounds perfect to cover those temps we had last weekend. hoowah that was hot!

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  24. It was on my mind to make granita in this sweltering weather! I think I may just try my hand at one this week.

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  25. it looks so tasty! beautiful :)

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  26. Looks so cool and refreshing... I love the history of the ice. Thanks for sharing it on foodie friday.

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  27. Not only is the color beautiful but the flavor of the added Campari must make the granita very refreshing.

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  28. This sounds refreshing on hot summer days. I want to make this! Thanks for sharing such a delicious recipe!

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  29. The granita sounds perfect Sam. This heat has been awful. We left France with cool temps. Love the history behind this dish. Loved the history we encountered in France. What a trip. I am just getting back into posting and commenting. Thanks for all of your great tips on traveling.

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  30. This granita looks outstanding Sam! Thank goodness for Catherine de Meidici's culinary wisdom! I cannot believe that the mountains hit 100. Your granita should have brought some cold relief!

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  31. wow this looks perfect for this Southern Texas heat. I am still a novice in the kitchen but I can see you know your stuff! Thanks for visiting my little blog, quite an honor for me.

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  32. I hope you and Meakin had a wonderful 4th of July!

    On the hottest of days I prefer an icy granita to ice cream. This looks absolutely refreshing!

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  33. Looks wonderful Sam...so cool and refreshing. Trying to beat the heat, I see!

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  34. Wow, Sam, that is such a cooling picture. I want to try this icy treat.
    Your blog is so pretty as well as delicious!

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  35. granita is a favorite of mine. I love all flavors but I am really really liking this one! refreshing

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  36. That looks delightfully fresh right about now!

    Pop by the blog to see my 'big announcement! Fun times ahead...

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  37. The thought of a Campari orange granita sounds divine, Sam!

    We like make adrink called "Negroni" with Campari..it is so refreshing!

    Thankfully the temperature has cooled down here quite a bit this week--i hope it lasts!

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  38. Wow, that really sounds good, Sam. Love the idea of Campari. What's nice about granita is the simplicity of the ingredients and the smiles on a hot summer day when you bring it out. :)

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  39. Oh Sam, I love the flavor of your granita...I made some for the July 4th celebration, but cold not add liquor because of the kids...I will definitely give this a try...looks so refreshing.
    Thanks for the recipe and hope you are having a great week :)

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Sam