Thursday, June 18, 2009

Strawberry Basil Granita - Something Cool For a Hot Summer Day

We're in the middle of a heat-wave/borderline drought. Days and days of 95+ degree heat. I've been loving ice cream, iced tea, and everything else that involves ice. Low-fat ice creams, however, often involve lots of preservatives. So here's an organic, icy dessert I created to beat the heat - strawberry-basil granita.
Here's what your strawberry-basil granita will look like when it's finished.

Granita is the Sicilian version of Italian ice. It's a little like a fancy sno-cone (or what we call raspas in Houston). It combines water, sugar, and flavoring. Back home in Washington state, granitas are made in margarita machines and sold at espresso stands. Most espresso stands sell a coffee version and a fruit version; in Italy, coffee granita is often eaten for breakfast with brioche. Yum!

Here's how to make my version. I used organic fruit and herbs; if you use conventionally-grown strawberries, be sure to wash them completely to avoid a big mouthful of pesticides. I also used organic agave nectar, rather than sugar. Agave nectar is great when sweetening iced teas and desserts, because it doesn't have to be dissolved like sugar.

A similar process to the one described below can be used to make granita from any fruit.

Step 1:
Put the following items into your blender:

1 qt. water
1/2 pound organic strawberries
3-4 sprigs of organic basil
Juice of one line
1/4 cup agave nectar (if you like your desserts a bit sweeter, use a more)

All the ingredients in the blender.

Step 2:
Blend it up, until the strawberries and basil are tiny.

Step 3:
Pour the liquid mixture through a strainer several times until the large pieces have been removed.

Step 4:
Pour the liquid into a metal baking pan. Put it in the freezer, being sure that the pan is sitting flat. After one hour, run a fork through the liquid. Every half-hour after, run the fork through again. After about 4 hours, or when the granita has a flaky, or sno-cone texture, it's ready to serve.

Step 5:
Serve in a small cup or bowl with a sprig of basil.

If you want to serve this dessert after it has been fully frozen, just put it in the refrigerator for about and hour, then use the edge of a spoon to scrape off a serving.

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