Granitas have never exactly captured my imagination. Flecks of flavored ice in a bowl seemed rather dull, and their place in the dessert repository was kind of lost on me. Trust me, if I’m hoping you’re going to bust out some salted caramel dark chocolate mousse and you come out of the kitchen with pale icy chips? It’s going to be hard for me to feign enthusiasm.
But now I get it. People, granitas are a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine of our kid dreams. They’re the perfect antidote to the sticky, oppressive summer days to come — frosty, crunchy and tart — tossing out that annoying plastic crank in favor of the unbranded simplicity of two forks and a roasting pan, and swapping the unnatural syrups in frightening hues for fresh fruit juice.
In this case, bold lemon and mint. I recently discovered the awesomeness that is lemonana: frozen, slushy fresh lemonades with fresh mint, often served at Israeli restaurants. They are, singlehandedly, the most refreshing thing I have ever tasted — bold and barely sweet — and although they sure are delicious from a glass, a granita is an even more perfect vehicle for these flavors, and more fun, because you can eat it with a spoon. Or a fork. And it crunches, oh, how it crunches.
We’re addicted. It took an inhuman amount of restraint for us not to finish the whole glittering pan last night. Seriously, for the first time in the history of this entire pregnancy that I have found something more appealing than a bowl of chocolate or mint ice cream for dessert. (Then again, one should never trust a preggo that craves broccoli over Oreos, grapes over cheese doodles.)
Adapted pretty liberally from Wolfgang Puck
Granita’s selling points don’t end with being more appealing than ice cream to a certain preggo (though really, what more do you need to know?), more refreshing than an air conditioner on turbo on a sticky summer day, and the best thing since a Snoopy Sno-Cone — they’ve got something going for them that sorbets, sherbets, ice creams and gelatos lack: not just the ability to be made without a machine, but the insistence that it’s the only right way. You won’t get those fleck-y ice bits in a churner, you’ve got to rake them up yourself with a fork. And then try not to eat them all before sharing.
Oh, and let’s say you’re not baking a baby right now? One word for you: Limoncello. Can you imagine a glug of that over your dish? Oh baby indeed. Just promise to have some for me, too.
4 cups water
Sugar, to taste (we used 3 tablespoons, like a tart lemonade)
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Clean and wash the lemons. Cut off the top quarter of the lemons and slice a thin bevel off the bottom, so they can stand up straight. (You can skip this step if you don’t want to serve them in frozen lemon cups.) Using a grapefruit knife, carefully remove all of the lemon flesh and juice (working over a bowl ensures you won’t lose any), being careful not to cut through the bottom. Stand the lemons on a plate or cookie sheet and freeze until solid.
Using a food processor (a blender will work as well), toss a handful of washed and dried fresh mint leaves into the work bowl. (I used about 25 to 30 leaves from 6 to 9 sprigs.) Add the scooped out lemon flesh and juice, and pulse until mostly pureed. Let mixture stand for 15 minutes, so the mint releases its flavor, then press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. You’ll end up with approximately one cup of lemon-mint juice.
Stir in the water, then sugar, one tablespoon at a time until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is to your desire level of sweetness. Pour the mixture into a large roasting pan or baking dish, large enough that the liquid isn’t more than one-inch deep. (Otherwise it takes forever to freeze, trust me. A 9×13-inch pan worked great here.)
Freeze for one hour, then remove the mixture and scrape with two forks to break up the ice. (Your freezing time will vary, depending on the temperature and muscle of your freezer.) Return to the freezer and freeze until solid, about 2 to 3 hours, scraping it again with forks every hour or so.
When the granita is frozen, rake until glittery. Scoop into frozen lemon shells (or, you know, plain old dishes) and serve before Deb gets to it.