As in the case of almost all of my favorite foods, I can thank the Italians for this refreshing summer treat. Granita has been traced back to the times of the Greeks and the Romans to a little town called Sicily, but it apparently gained notoriety courtesy of the Arabs. For a more in depth explanation on the history of granita, held over to the archives of The Old Foodie.
Best of Silicy has a very elementary recipe for granitas, using only three ingredients (fruit, sugar, and water.) For my concoction, I included a pinch of salt and a bit of lime. Full recipe after the jump.
1/2 of a seedless whole watermelon (about 5 cups)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
juice from two limes
1/8 tsp salt
First, slowly heat water and sugar on low heat until the sugar is dissolved, creating a simple syrup. Allow syrup to cool completely before using.
Meanwhile, cut the watermelon into 1 inch sized cubes, or use a melon baller. The exact ratio of fruit to simple syrup is not set in stone (hehe, anyone who read Old Foodie's post about the word "granita" might see how I made a pun.) The more fruit that is used will create a granita that tastes less sweet, whereas increasing the amount of simple syrup will result in a more stickly-sweet granita.
Drizzle the juice from two limes over the cubed watermelon.
Working in batches, puree the watermelon in a blender or food processor.
After all of the watermelon has been pureed, add the pinch of salt.
Pour the watermelon puree (batches!) through a fine mesh sieve to strain, pushing through solids. (Hint: Periodically scape the puree off the exterior of the sieve.) I repeat this step for two reasons. One, I think it results in a smoother, more sorbet-esque granita, and two, there is something soothing about gently and delicately straining the puree.
Once you have a smooth watermelon juice, gradually add the cooled simple syrup. Blend well.
Pour the mixture into a 9"x13" freezer safe baking dish. (Non-stick is not recommended, as you will be scrapping through the granita to the bottom of the baking dish.)
Place the baking dish in the freezer. Every 30-40 minutes, gently scrape the mixture with a fork to break up any icicles that are beginning to form. It may take 4 hours to completely harden.
(Caution! Initially, there will be very few ice crystals, and a lot of liquid. Splashing may occur. Fun to clean up!)
The final product is a cool, refreshing summer treat. It's so good, you might dig in before you take a picture.
If you don't have watermelon, substitute any citrus, strawberries, or coffee. (Yum!)