June 29, 2011

Watermelon granita

I love eating watermelon throughout the summer.  It's such a refreshing treat for those hot, sweltering days that are just around the corner.  My favorite way to have it is just as it is, cut up into chunks and ice-cold.  But I thought I'd change it up and try something new by making watermelon granita.  I've been wanting to try making a granita at home because it reminds me of my other favorite summertime treat, Italian ice!
Living in Brooklyn as a child, there seemed to be a pizzeria around every corner (maybe more than one, actually).  I remember going for pizza with my friends after school all the time and all these pizzerias would have a little window off to the side where they'd sell Italian ice (I've always called it "Italian icy" for some reason) during the summer.  I loved getting the Italian ices.  My favorite flavors were cherry, chocolate, lemon, and rainbow - I guess I pretty much liked them all!  And you'd get them in one of those little paper cups and worry that the paper would disintegrate before you get a chance to finish.  But who are we kidding - it takes but 2 to 3 minutes to polish one off.  That taste of a cherry Italian ice brings me right back to Brooklyn, to being a kid, and of summer.
A granita is probably the closest way I can get to a homemade "Italian ice" without any equipment.  Where Italian ice is smooth, a granita is more like shaved ice and chunky in texture.  Both are refreshing and a nice dessert for the hot summer days.  So until you can get to your local pizzeria or ice cream/Italian ice shop, you can make and enjoy a nice icy granita at home.

Making this watermelon granita is quite simple and you only need 3 ingredients: watermelon, sugar, and lime.  The only catch is you'll need a blender or food processor. 
The recipe for this watermelon granita comes from bon appétit.  I'm following the general outlines of the recipe but adjusting the amount of sugar I'm using down a bit since the watermelon was quite sweet on its own.  Place 4-5 cups of cubed watermelon into your food processor or blender.  The recipe calls for half a cup of sugar.  I started with 1/3 of a cup and ended up using about half of that since I thought it was sweet enough.  Add about 2 teaspoons or so of fresh lime juice.
Blend the ingredients until it's smooth.  This recipe does not call for straining the mixture through a sieve but I choose to do that since I had quite a bit of those white seeds inside the watermelon that I couldn't completely get rid of.
The watermelon mixture goes into the freezer for an hour.  At that point, take it out and stir it up, mashing down the frozen bits with the back of a fork.  Then, cover and freeze the mixture again for another 2-3 hours.
This is how it looks after an hour in the freezer
Stir and mash frozen chunks with the back of a fork
After the second time in the freezer, remove the granita again and scrape again with a fork.  Really work it well to create those signature icy granules and chunky texture.
If the bottom of the granita is still a bit liquid, pop it back in the freezer for a bit.  Right before serving, scrape it around a bit more and it's ready to go.  If you like, you could add a little bit of lime zest on top as a garnish.

I hope you're having a good summer so far!
The recipe:

You can access the recipe for this watermelon granita from bon appétit.  I would recommend adjusting the amount of sugar based on the sweetness of your watermelon.  In my case, I also poured the mixture through a sieve before freezing but this is not required.

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