Happy Fourth of July! Looks like summer has finally arrived, and with a vengeance. It is HOT, you guys.
I love summer, but getting through these days usually involves a little suffering. Yesterday I went outside for a half-hour trip to the farmer’s market, and spent the rest of the morning with sweat pooled in my hair and dripping slowly down my temples. I went over to Kate’s place for a visit, and her two dogs were huffing and puffing and panting like I’ve never seen them do before. It was mighty tempting to flop down on the floor and pant right along with them.
So what’s a girl to do, when the sky is unfathomable blue but the sun is scorching?
Make granita, obviously.
When I get home from work–especially in the summer–the only thing I want to do is sit on the couch, with a fan directly on my face, and watch cooking shows. My apartment doesn’t have cable, so I’m limited to whatever Netflix has on streaming. Which is Take Home Chef.
For anyone who didn’t watch TLC in the early aughts, Take Home Chef had the following premise: Curtis Stone, a handsome blond Australian chef, would walk up to pretty women in grocery stores–usually in the LA area–and offer to cook them dinner. The chef and his target would then plan a gourmet meal, go back to her home, and cook. They would then surprise her dinner guest–usually a husband or boyfriend–by hiding the camera crew behind the front door and then yelling “SURPRISE!” when it opened. Yes, literally.
I have a love-hate relationship with the show–Curtis liked to make weirdly heteronormative commentary on the women he picked up, and the “surprise” just gets dumber the more episodes I watch. But I really like the idea of crafting a menu based on what’s at the market, then coming home and improvising. And the show did place an admirable emphasis on seasonally-appropriate cooking. Which meant, in the summer, Curtis made a lot of granitas.
In its most basic form, a granita is sugar, water, frozen. Infinitely adaptable. But I’m fond of a particular chord in the suite of variations: fruit puree for sugar, wine for water. On our (sweaty, wilting) trip to the farmer’s market, Audrey and I came across some beautiful white peaches. And then the idea took shape: what about a bellini granita? A bellini is nothing more than white peach puree and sparkling wine; that would be good frozen, right?
Oh, yes. Yes, it would.
This is pretty much what would happen if sorbet and shaved ice had a baby, and that baby turned 21 and spent a semester in Italy. It’s cold, fluffy, crystalline, delicate like snow, rich with fruit and just a little sharp with wine. The peaches make it barely sweet; the champagne makes it effervescent. It’s the rare dessert that makes you feel airier and lighter after you eat it.
And here’s a happy discovery: no need to pop a big bottle of fancy champagne. It’s a perfect excuse to break out those tiny bottles of champagne that come in four-packs at the supermarket. One bottle holds just enough champagne for a tray of granita, and it’s served so cold that nobody will be able to tell how cheap your choice of booze is. All they’ll get is a little sourness, a little spike, a little fizzy bite. And then fresh peach, and ice. Ahhhhhh.
I would write more, but it seems my legs are stuck to the leather couch. Et tu, summer?
Bellini Granita (serves 6)
8 ripe peaches, pitted and roughly chopped
1-2 tbsp honey or agave nectar (depending on how sweet your peaches are)
1 cup Prosecco, champagne or other sparkling wine
To prepare, place an 8×8 baking dish in the freezer to chill for a few minutes. Meanwhile, combine the peaches and honey or agave nectar in a blender, and puree until smooth.
Strain the puree into the chilled dish through a fine mesh strainer–I used the back of a ladle to push the liquid through–and discard the leftover solids. Add the sparkling wine to the strained puree and stir gently until thoroughly combined, trying to break up the bubbles as little as possible.
Freeze for about 1 hour, or until the granita has started to set. Pull it out of the freezer and run a fork through the granita, breaking up the ice into fluffy crystals–there will still be a lot of liquid, which is fine. Return to the freezer and freeze for another 2-3 hours, repeating the fork-scraping process every hour or so. When there is no more liquid in the dish and the granita is fluffed to your liking, it’s ready to serve.
Spoon into glasses or serving dishes, and eat with a spoon. Ahhhhhhhh.