Island Bites: A summer dessert that’s cool and delicious

DAVID LAPHAM PHOTO | Granitas are a great way to cool down on a hot summer day.

DAVID LAPHAM PHOTO | Granitas are a great way to cool down on a hot summer day.

You can take a lot of shortcuts when making granitas. These Sicilian shaved ice desserts require only a few ingredients and are the perfect light summer dessert. And typically, I opt for saving a little time when making them. I’m that way with cooking in general. Whether it’s substituting melted vanilla ice cream for crème Anglaise sauce or buying Hellman’s mayonnaise instead of making my own, I’ll often take the short road if one presents itself.

That being said, I’d like to encourage you to take the longer road with this particular sour cherry granita recipe. Sour cherries deliver a sweet and sour explosion of flavor and are by far my favorite fruit. I buy these little guys by the quart when they’re in season and snack on them all day long. Sour cherries spoil quickly, so one is encouraged to eat them as fast as possible.  Look for them at farm stands from late June through mid July.

Now here’s where the long road comes in: Making granita from sour cherries requires you to take the pits out before blending the mixture. You simply need an extra 35 or 40 minutes to spare. If you’re the instant gratification type, though, you can simply buy the juice (I like R.W. Knudsen’s Just Tart Cherry).

Cherries and pits aside, granitas can be made with almost any variety of fruit. I like using blood oranges, lemons, raspberries, grapefruit, blueberries, blackberries and watermelon. If you’re going with fresh berries or any fruit with seeds or pits, you’ll always want to remove those before blending the mixture. Or to save time, you can just buy the juice and skip this step. Each fruit has its own degree of sweetness and tartness, so you may want to add lemon juice and/or sugar syrup to suit your tastes.

Don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected] with any questions about this recipe or cooking in general.

Bon appetit!

Sour Cherry Granita

Serves 6 to 8  |  Preparation time: 3 hours 

6 cups sour cherries, pits and stems removed

1 ½ cups water

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest

1 teaspoon kirsch, Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional)

6 to 8 or more sprigs mint for garnish

In a saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Once sugar is completely dissolved, remove from heat and let mixture cool. Over a large bowl, extract pits from cherries and discard pits (or plant a few in the yard). In a blender, mix cherries and sugar water on high speed until thoroughly blended, about 2-3 minutes. To remove excess bits of skin, strain mixture over a casserole or baking dish measuring at least 8 ½ by 11 inches. Stir in lemon zest and liqueur. Place dish in the freezer. Scrape the edges of the mixture about every 30 minutes with a fork and bring ice shavings into the center of dish. Repeat every 30 minutes for about 3 hours until mixture becomes shavings. Serve in chilled dishes with a mint sprig on top.

Note: Granita can be made up to three days in advance. Simply cover with plastic wrap and scrape with fork if necessary before serving

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