Lifestyle & Culture

Kitchen Detail: Granita to the Rescue

 

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By Nancy Pollard

After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes Kitchen Detail, a blog about food in all its aspects—recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food-related issues.

           It’s Too Darn Hot

granita al pistacchio giardini naxosCole Porter was right. Why do we always forget about August in March?  Where I am, in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area, it is really too hot and  humid to always grill outside. Even this spatchcocked chicken is better than standing outside waving the smoke around the burning coals. And if you have not treated yourself to granita, a hot-weather Sicilian specialty, now is the time to drag your body over to the sink, create a syrup around your flavoring, allow it to get really cold, partially freeze and then flake the slush, refreeze and flake again a few times. Or throw it into an ice cream maker, which is what I do—and that seems to be the method used in almost all the restaurants that I went to in Sicily. Granita is lighter then sorbetto, with the latter really a sweetened fruit purée that is aerated and frozen (sometimes with an egg white). And the success of a sorbet depends on the sugar density of the purée, while a granita’s triumph does not.

Colazione dei Campioni*

I have always, always hated cereal for breakfast. Pastries, fruits, or cookies, I get that. Even cold cuts and cheese with whole-grain bread, but a processedGranita Magic Book Cover grain cereal—yuk. A  Sicilian bun with granita and whipped cream, which I had read about for years and probably have waited for all my life, is my ideal summer breakfast. I think one of the nicest books you can use for inspiration is the one written by Nadia Roden titled Granita Magic. It doesn’t get a lot of traction, but I think it is a gem in introducing you to savory and sweet granita. Although I don’t have a dairy allergy, this is my go-to dessert for friends who can’t tolerate any milk product. The standard Sicilian breakfast accessory for granita is an Italian take on a French brioche (watch one of my favorite T-shirt-clad cooks on the Giallo Zafferano YouTube channel). I  sometimes skip the brioche part when I make a fruit-based granita. Instead, I make a seasonal fruit salad with a bit of Triple Sec and top it with a scoop. But if I’ve made coffee or pistachio granita, and I really want to feel like a morning champion, I top it off with whipped cream. I feel almost Sicilian.

Four Breakfast Possibilities

I keep a Bialetti Moka coffeemaker and a Frieling French Press (below) just for coffee desserts and variations of ice coffee. Of the two, the Moka will give you a more intense coffee flavor. Use an espresso roast, and I prefer one that is made with all Arabica beans. If you run it through your ice cream maker, the granita will be very fluffy, almost meringue-like in its appearance and more velvety in taste. The real discovery with this coffee version is the glorious substitution of Light Muscovado sugar for white sugar. You can add a couple of tablespoons of pure Pistachio Cream to the Pistachio recipe below to make Bronte (pistachio) flavor more pronounced. My favorite brand is Stramondo. For a garnish, crushed Amaretti crumbs fit almost all flavors.

One of the reasons I love the Granita Magic book is the wildly imaginative way Roden  combines flavors I would never think of in a granita—sour and sweet cherry, or pineapple-coconut (delicious with maple syrup on top); or fresh ginger, lime, and my windfall of blueberries. The other person in this household, who said he didn’t like granita, has changed his mind and adores her pineapple-coconut version, with the addition of the aforementioned maple syrup . . . and whipped cream.

Roden’s directions to hand-flake any granita mixture are simple: Pour it into a shallow container with a lid or cling wrap. Freeze it until the mixture has frozen around the edge—about 30 minutes to an hour. Remove it from the freezer and with a fork stir the frozen part toward the center. Repeat this process every 20 to 30 minutes until the whole mass has turned into a tray of tiny ice crystals.

Coffee Granita

Serves 4
It’s almost not a recipe, but this can be dressed up for a dessert any time and it is my classic breakfast treat.
Recipe by Nancy Pollard.

Ingredients

3 cups (710ml) brewed Italian espresso
¾ cup (150gr) Light Muscovado Sugar (see Notes below)
Sweetened whipped cream for garnish

Instructions

Use the grind specified for espresso and use an all Arabica bean blend. For best flavor use a Bialetti stovetop coffeemaker or a french press.

Pour the hot coffee over the sugar in a container that you can put in the freezer or refrigerator to cool down.

Once cool, freeze the coffee as you would any ice cream mixture and store in a covered container.

If doing by hand, pour the coffee syrup into a shallow pan that will fit in your freezer and allow it to freeze about 1 or 2 inches around all the edges of the pan.

Take a fork, and stir the ice crystals from the edges into the center and refreeze for another 20 minutes or a bit longer and repeat the procedure. It takes about four repetitions to get the crystal-like texture.

Keep in a covered container in your freezer, and let it sit out for about 5 to 10 minutes to soften a bit before serving.

Notes

My favorite brand of Muscovado Sugar is India Tree and is usually available from Amazon.

 

Pistachio Granita, Sicilian-Style

Serves 4
Make this with Bronte pistachios only. It makes all the difference in the flavor.
Recipe by Nancy Pollard.

Ingredients

200 gr (7 ounces) peeled Bronte pistachios (see Notes below)
200 gr (7 ounces) white granulated sugar
800 ml (3 1/3 cups) water
Optional enrichment: 3 tablespoons of pure Bronte pistachio paste (my favorite is Stramondo brand).

Instructions

Toast the pistachios in a dry frying pan over medium-low heat just to bring out the aroma.

Bring the sugar and water to a boil and make sure that the sugar has dissolved. Remove the resulting syrup from the heat.

Grind the pistachios in a blender or food processor until they form sort of a paste.

Add the sugar syrup to the pistachio paste and blend briefly.

Pour into a container and allow the mixture to get cold before putting it in an ice cream maker. You can also use the tray procedure (see instructions in the Coffee Granita recipe) using a fork to create crystals.

Notes

I use India Tree caster sugar as it dissolves beautifully in a syrup.

Peeled Bronte pistachios can be purchased by the pound or quarter-pound at Mercato.com.

Blueberry Granita

Serves 4
Recipe by Nadia Roden.
Adapted from
Granita Magic.

Ingredients

¾ cup (170gr) white granulated sugar (I use India Tree caster sugar)
2 tablespoons (10½gr) peeled and grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
1 pound (454gr) blueberries
5 tablespoons (74ml) fresh lime juice
1 cup (237ml) water

Instructions

In a food processor, combine the sugar with the fresh ginger and purée to a paste.

Add the blueberries, lime juice, and water, and purée to a liquid.

Strain through a fine sieve, stirring and pressing with a spoon or rubber spoonula.**

Discard the solids, and allow the mixture to cool in the fridge. Then process in your ice cream maker or a tray in the freezer (see instructions in the Coffee Granita recipe).

Notes

I always add about ½ teaspoon or a capful of the French Blueberry Essence from Grasse, which is available from www.simplygourmand.com. It intensifies the blueberry flavor without making it overly sweet.

** A spoonula is a curved spatula, a cross between a regular spatula and a spoon.

Pineapple-Coconut Granita

Serves 4
Top your serving with some maple syrup (trust me)!
Recipe by Nadia Roden.
Adapted from
Granita Magic.

Ingredients

1 large pineapple
Juice and zest of 1 to 2 limes
4 to 8 (59 to 89ml) tablespoons of white granulated sugar (I use India Tree caster sugar as it dissolves so beautifully)
13 ounces (385ml) unsweetened coconut milk

Instructions

Cut the crown off and halve the pineapple lengthwise. Cut away the peel and pare away any of the “eyes.” Cut each half into two lengthwise slices and cut away the core from each slice. Discard the core and cube the pineapple slices.

Place the pineapple cubes in a food processor with the lime juice and zest, sugar and coconut milk. Process this into a fine purée.

Strain the purée through a fine sieve, pressing with a spoon or spoonula. Discard the solids, and pour into a container that can stay in the refrigerator until the purée is cold.

Process in your ice cream maker or follow instructions to make it in a tray (see instructions in the Coffee Granita recipe).

*That’s “breakfast of champions” for non-Italian speakers.

Nadia Roden’s book Granita Magic has a recipe for watermelon granita, plus 54 other possibilities, sweet and savory. / iStock photo.



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