Watermelon Granita

It's not officially summer for me until the watermelon stand down the street from my house, called Cocomero da Febbre -- roughly translated as Watermelon Fever -- is up and running. The stand sells whole watermelons, watermelon by the slice, and individual cups of watermelon for only a few euros, as well as fresh coconut, melon, and pomegranate juice, but who cares about those. Once they're up in running for the summer, I pay them a visit a couple of times a week (they know my name and my usual order by now -- watermelon fever indeed!) The cafe' at my workplace has now started selling watermelon on a stick ("Fruit Stick," as they advertise it) which also allows me to now easily eat watermelon during the work day, and even at breakfast if I wish (side note: this greatly dismays my Italian colleagues, who have witnessed me purchasing a Fruit Stick to consume along with my cappuccino, thus breaking every Italian breakfast rule ever created). My first summer in Rome, I would buy whole watermelons, cut them up on the kitchen counter and keep tupperwares of chopped watermelon in the fridge for a snack, later fielding complaints from my roommates as they pointed out for the 100th time that there were watermelon seeds in the sink and could I please find something else to snack on?! Long story short, I truly believe watermelon is the most perfect of all summer foods, light and refreshing yet still filling, a sweet exclamation point in a sweltering hot day.
Ahh, granita! I discovered granita only a few years ago, at a gelateria not far from my house. I had, for the past few summers, overlooked it -- gelaterie are for gelato obviously, duh -- but was intrigued one day when I saw a fellow customer be handed a tall plastic cup full of what seemed to be a mountain of strawberry ice, somewhere in between a sorbet and a slushie, topped off with a generous dollop of whipped cream. I ditched my coppa piccola of gelato in favor of granita right then and there and haven't looked back since. Apparently the granita in Sicily is to die for (granita is after all Sicilian) and I plan to one day make a trip to Sicily not to see Mount Etna or the beautiful beaches but JUST to try the granita. Seriously.

You see where I'm going with this, right?

The combination of my favorite summer snack and my favorite summer dessert could thus only be destined for greatness, don't you think? Watermelon is of course fantastic eaten as is -- but when dressed up with a splash of bright sunny lime juice and just enough sugar to enhance its natural sweetness, then frozen and scraped up into a pile of icy granite splendor, it becomes truly spectacular, a light, fresh summer-y treat to be kept in the freezer and enjoyed at any time. It doesn’t really get any easier than this, either; just throw everything into a blender, pour the resulting mixture into a pan, and scrape the layers of ice every few hours with a fork or spoon. Done.

A couple of notes: I do love this topped with a dollop of freshly whipped cream (then again I am the same person that eats watermelon with cappuccino, so go figure) but it's also excellent eaten plain or with a garnish of lime zest. It's best to use seedless watermelon here, but if you have a watermelon with black seeds try and pick them out best you can before pureeing the watermelon. I used a food processor here but a blender would be better as some of the liquid seeped out of the food processor as I blended. This does take some time to set as it needs to freeze for a couple of hours, but it can of course be made ahead of time so that shouldn't be a problem.

If you like this recipe and are looking to make other cooling freezer friendly desserts, do check out these Nutella Banana Fudge Pops, this Pistachio Semifreddo, these Butterscotch Pudding Pops, and these Raspberry Yogurt Popsicles. There will probably be some Vanilla Salted Caramel Ice Cream happening soon, too, but you didn't hear that from me.

WATERMELON GRANITA

Ingredients:
8 cups watermelon, cut into pieces
1/3 cup sugar
Juice of 2 limes

Directions:
Combe the watermelon, sugar, and lime juice in a large bowl and mix well. Pour into the blender or food processor and blend until well combined and the mixture is smooth.
 


Pour the mixture into a 9x13 inch pan, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer. After 2-3 hours, use a fork or spoon to scrape off the ice that will have formed on the top of the granita.
 
Wait another 2 or so hours, and scrape the next layer, making icy shavings as you go.
Scrape the ice on the third bottom layer of granita. Divide up into individual serving glasses. Serves 8. 
Recipe from www.pioneerwoman.com.




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