A collection of seasonal recipes and stories

watermelon granita

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who own ice cream makers and those who do not.  And sadly, though my dream machine has been languishing in a virtual shopping cart all summer long, I have yet to determine how I might squeeze another uni-tasker into our tiny kitchen. I gaze longingly at tables overflowing with fruit and yearn for sorbet as I pass through the farmers market, but I remain squarely in the have-not category.

Which was all rather depressing until yesterday when I discovered the slushy goodness of granita. 

In a perfect homage to summer, Chris and I spent the day swimming and sunning ourselves at the beach, then passed the evening eating cold slices of watermelon and spitting seeds off our deck.  Even with all that eating and spitting we still had quite a large hunk of watermelon sitting on the cutting board, so I flipped to the watermelon page in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything for inspiration. Bittman doesn’t exactly sing the praises of watermelon, but he does concede that it’s “not bad when made into Granita.”  

And, as it turns out, making granita is about the easiest thing in the world, involving little more than sugar, fruit, and time.  You combine puréed fruit with sugar or simple syrup, put it in the freezer, and wait. In fact, the waiting may be the hardest part — I saw Chris reach into the freezer with a spoon at least three times in as many hours to sample the granita as it froze.

Because, yes, it’s that good.  Remember those paper cup Italian Ice things you’d get from the grocery when you were a kid?  Granita is like that only several billion times better.  It’s a burst of sweet, fruity ice crystals that melt away into a delicious slush as you wipe sweat from your brow and murmur, “Mmmmmmmmm.”

And Chris, who teases me for obsessing about food, must have been thinking about it all day because he called me a while ago to say, “Hey, don’t eat all of that slush before I get home.”

Like I would do such a thing.

Watermelon Granita
adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything
(serves 4)

1 c. sugar
½ c. water
2 c. chopped watermelon, seeds removed
juice and zest of half a lime

1) Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and sugar to a boil.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then set aside to cool.

2) Purée the watermelon in a blender or food processor.  Add sugar syrup to taste (I used about ½ c.), then stir in the lime juice and zest.

3) Pour the mixture into a shallow glass or ceramic pan (the shallower the pan, the more quickly your granita will freeze).  Freeze for 2-4 hours, stirring with a fork or whisk every 30 minutes to break up the crystals, until it reaches the desired consistency.  I like it just beyond slushy, so that it remains icy in your dish and melts in your mouth.

You can vary this recipe endlessly by substituting 2 cups of juice, coffee, coconut milk, or puréed fruit for the watermelon and swapping out the lime for lemon (or eliminating it entirely).

14 responses

  1. I was given an ice cream maker by an aunt one Christmas. Unfortunately, it was one of those that required intricate layering of ice and salt, and even when that task was performed perfectly, which was difficult, it still didn’t freeze the ice cream very well. My struggle to make pumpkin ice cream while also dealing with an unfortunate romantic entanglement one Thanksgiving Day became the subject of an autobiographical monologue that I performed while I was an actor in Chicago.

    The other day I found the publicity still for that show. It was me, dressed in black leather and a vintage embroidered apron with a forlorn ice cream maker lying ruined at my feet. I would scan it and send it to you, Megan, if it weren’t so embarrassing.

    September 3, 2008 at 11:35 am

  2. Why specify a seeded watermelon?

    September 4, 2008 at 8:20 am

  3. Megan

    Vikki – Um, wow.

    Dave – Because I’m bossy like that. Actually, now that you mention it, I realize that’s a bit ambiguous — some might read “seeded watermelon” as “a watermelon containing seeds” while others might interpret it to mean “a watermelon from which the seeds have been removed,” which is what I meant. I’ve edited the recipe for clarity, although I suppose seed removal should go without saying.

    September 4, 2008 at 8:52 am

  4. omy. what a PERFECT picture of the watermelon in the last picture!

    September 4, 2008 at 5:40 pm

  5. How adorable – your matching watermelon posts!

    September 4, 2008 at 10:45 pm

  6. I really dislike everything about watermelon; even the thought of it makes me vaguely ill, and yet I totally want to try this because it looks so damn good.

    You better get a book deal out of this blog.

    September 6, 2008 at 5:53 am

  7. Megan

    Sarah – Why, thank you! And thanks for your visit.

    Kristi – Yeah, but whose is better? :-)

    Lulu – Wouldn’t that be nice? This has none of the semi-gritty texture of watermelon and the sugar intensifies the sweetness while the lime adds a bit of zip. It’s seriously yummy!

    September 6, 2008 at 10:41 am

  8. Yum! We have enjoyed quite a few watermelons this summer. I wonder if you would have to stir it every 30 minutes if you added just a bit of vodka as an antifreeze? (I try to weave my alcohol into anything I can. :D)

    As I mentioned to Chris, if you had some chickens they would finish that watermelon – I give them the rinds and they are completely gone by the next day.

    September 7, 2008 at 10:04 am

  9. Bubbles read my mind. Add in some vodka for a little kick next time! I was watching Everyday Italian this weekend and that’s exactly what Giada did.

    September 8, 2008 at 12:33 pm

  10. Megan

    I actually considered adding vodka (or even rum) but as this was my first foray into the world of granita, I thought I’d start with the basics. But even if you added alcohol, you’d still want to stir frequently so that you’d end up with ice crystals rather than a big hunk of flavored ice.

    September 9, 2008 at 11:04 am

  11. Looks delicious. Have you tried adding alcohol? The tiki enthusiast in me sees a lot of potential there.

    September 9, 2008 at 9:53 pm

  12. Bubbles

    The reason I didn’t think you would need to stir is because the alcohol doesn’t freeze. I make what I call “bucket” drinks in the summer that have alcohol and fruit juice concentrates / juices. They stay soft enough to scoop with an ice cream scoop. To serve you add some sparkling water or sprite to the soft frozen mixture and it turns slushy.

    September 9, 2008 at 11:03 pm

  13. Megan

    Okay all you lushes, I made this a second time, adding a bit of vodka (¼ c.) as several of you so bossily demanded, and I was quite pleased with the results. No noticeable difference in taste (because, um, vodka doesn’t taste like anything) but the ice crystals were a little bigger and fluffier (you know, if ice could actually be described as “fluffy”). I still stirred every 30 minutes or so, although I suppose if you wanted to end up with something other than granita you could do away with the stirring.

    September 13, 2008 at 12:44 pm

  14. Great recipe prepare from watermelon

    November 24, 2010 at 1:53 am

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