You know the feeling after dinner when you are full, don’t want dessert, but still wouldn’t mind a bite of something sweet and satisfying? Just a final sweet moment to round things off. Most of the time it’s a cookie or a spoonful of ice cream or a square of chocolate – at least when I cook at home. But this can get a bit boring, and I’m always looking for something new.
In September, when I was in Sicily, I got to eat a new favorite sweet a few times: Granita. Granita is simply frozen sugar/juice/milk – sweetened ice crystals that are a bit like an American slushie, but generally much coarser, granular, and eaten with a spoon, not slurped through a straw. I had been really curious to try to recreate the almond version I had there.
Last weekend, I was paging through a cookbook I’ve had for a few years now – “Crazy Water Pickled Lemons” - a really nice collection by Diana Henry, who is an expert on all (food) things North African and Mediterranean. And I ended up selecting three dishes to cook – a marinated chicken over bulgar wheat salad, roast vegetables with labneh and zhug (yogurt cheese and a very spicy chutney, respectively) and finally, granita. There were a few granita recipes in the cookbook, so I decided to try two. Henry’s “grown up” grapefruit and campari granita recipe (beautiful photo of it here),
plus my own take on an almond granita. (Cheater’s version – made with marzipan, rather than squeezing the almonds yourself. ;-) ) In both cases, it is simply a matter of combining about 2.5 cups of liquid – so grapefruit juice + 5 tablespoons Campari, about 5 ounces of sugar (about 150 grams), and heating them together on the stove until the sugar dissolves. For the almond version, I took about 100 grams of marzipan, and about 100 grams of sugar, added 2.5 cups water and did the same. After the sugar dissolves, you put the liquids in a shallow bowl and stick them in the freezer. For about 3 or 4 hours, you stir the mixture once an hour, scraping up the frozen crystals from the sides of the bowl. As long as you have nowhere to go and can stick around, it’s something that can be done in seconds.
And they both came out really beautifully. The grapefruit campari mixture was sweet and sour and bitter – a refreshing puckery bite. And the almond version a perfect final finish – sweet and satisfying but ultra light and refreshing. I’m curious to try out a pistachio version too. Next time I think a spoonful of amaretto over the top will be even better. I see this dessert in my future a lot. In particular for Thanksgiving, in less than two weeks.
Countdown to California – 5 days! :-)