Sunday, August 10, 2014

{Cool Down}: Cantaloupe-Basil Granita

I love being a Southern girl, there's no disputing that--and with the exception of two unforgettable stints away (one in Spain and another in Washington, D.C.), I've always called the South home.  So after a literal lifetime of hot, humid summers, one might think that adjusting is no big deal.  To that, I'd have to say think again.  With each passing summer, I'm no more adjusted and always seeking ways to chill out--literally!

Besides beaches, pools, and all the air-conditioning that I can amass, my favorite way to bring the chill factor to my summer days and nights is through the world of cold treats.  And icy, refreshing granita perfectly fits the bill.  Wonderfully versatile, granita can take on practically any flavor profile and serves well as a casual treat, or as an elegant dessert finish to a meal.  

I recently indulged with a Cantaloupe-Basil granita from Williams-Sonoma.  The luscious melon and fragrant basil, accented with a hint of lime, served up just the sweet cool down I was craving.  Now it's your turn to grab a spoon and indulge!

Happy Eating!

Cantaloupe-Basil Granita
From Williams-Sonoma

30 fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) fresh lime juice
2/3 cup (5 oz./155 g) sugar
1 ripe cantaloupe (about 4 lb./2 kg)
Coarsely chop 20 basil leaves; set the remaining 10 leaves aside. In a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the lime juice, sugar and 2 Tbs. water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer, swirling occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped basil, cover and let steep for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, halve the cantaloupe and scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut  off the rind and then cut the flesh into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes.

Strain the basil mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a blender. Add half  of the melon cubes and pulse a few times, then puree until smooth. Add the remaining melon cubes and pulse a few times, then add the reserved whole basil leaves and puree until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into a 13-by-9-by-2-inch (33-by-23-by-5-cm) glass baking dish. Cover with plastic  wrap, place on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the freezer.

After 1 to 1 1/2 hours, check the granita. When the mixture starts to freeze around the edges of the dish, stir it with a fork, then return the dish to the freezer.  Stir the granita with the fork every 45 minutes or so, until the mixture is completely frozen into icy grains and the texture is fluffy, 2 to 3 hours longer.

Spoon the granita into bowls and serve right away. (The granita is best when eaten within 2 days. If it becomes very hard and dry in the freezer, let it stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.) Serves 8.

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