When you weren’t looking, I snuck off to southern Italy. The trip was filled with sun, sea, and of course, food. But being someone with an aversion to white flour, dairy and meat, finding appropriate cuisine for me was, challenging to say the least.
A swathe of gelato may have graced my lips on occasion (when in Rome…), but on account of it making me feel less than perfect, I went in search of something less rich. Lo and behold, the granita stand appeared, a holy, lemony light falling upon it. Related to sorbet and Italian ice, granita has a more crystalline texture. This is largely the result of different freezing techniques: the smoother types of frozen desserts are produced in a gelato machine, while the coarser varieties, like granitas, are frozen with only occasional agitation, then scraped or shaved to produce separated crystals. This is good news for those of us who only have a freezer and a fork!
Granita stands are everywhere in Naples, and each serves delicious slushy-ice in a myriad of fruit flavours. My favorite, and the most traditional, was the lemon. So refreshing and with a sweet, but tangy bite…oooh! It’s amazing how such a simple combination of water, juice and sugar can produce such delicious results – so much more than the sum of its parts.
When I got home, I set off to make my own granita, except a healthier version without using processed sugar. If you recall back to post on sugar alternatives, you may remember a delectable little nectar called agave, with a taste similar to honey, but without the blood sugar rollercoaster effects. Agave is perfect in this recipe because it is so viscous, and easily dissolves into the lemon juice and water mixture. It adds a light sweetness, which balances out the sour lemon, but doesn’t overpower. And if lemon isn’t your thing, try using other flavours like orange, strawberry, blackberry, or even coffee. Light and refreshing, this dessert is my idea of the perfect end to a summer’s meal.
1. Combine water, lemon juice, agave nectar and sea salt in a blender.
2. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Freeze overnight.
3. Scrape the frozen mixture with a fork until all the frozen pieces are broken into small shavings.
You can serve the granita very frozen, which will appear more like ice crystals, or you can let it thaw slightly to create more of a slush. Either way, you will fall in love with its tangy brightness and refreshing finish. Ciao, bella!