Move over Ice Cream – Granita - A healthy, refreshing summer treat!

Easy to make summer treat!
Refreshing in flavor and easy to make, Granita (pronounced grah-NEE-tah) is a popular summer treat.  These ices are a mixture of water, sugar and a flavoring.  They are grainy in texture and are frozen in a pan in the freezer.

The goal when making granita is to create coarse granular crystals or flakes of ice; you are not trying to create a smooth mixture such as a sorbet, which is made in an ice cream maker.   The large ice  crystals are developed as you stir the mixture several times during freezing.  The granita is a perfect solution when you want to play with exotic flavors but don't have the money or freezer space for an ice cream maker - and much healthier!

Making granita is easy and most recipes begin by simmering sugar and water in a saucepan to make a syrup.  Once the syrup has cooled slightly the fun begins as you add the other ingredients; from delicious ripe strawberries to more exotic fruit like star fruit. Then just transfer the mixture to a container and place in the freezer.  When you see ice crystals beginning to form around the edges of the container, stir the mixture with a fork. Most granitas call  for regular stirring at 30-minute intervals. Once you've made a basic granita, experiment with new flavors using the same basic recipe.
Served in a wine or martini glass, the elegant mound of frozen crystals can be dressed up with liquor, fresh mint, fruit, or whipped cream – or enjoyed alone for a healthy treat.  Moisten rims of 6 martini or wine glasses with water; dip rims into some sugar, and then add the granita.

Fresh Strawberry Granita
1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice, optional

Traditional Aceto Balsamico (aged Balsamic Vinegar), optional
Mint leaves, for garnish
Wash, hull, and slice the strawberries. Place sliced strawberries in a large bowl. Toss the strawberries with the sugar; let stand for at least one hour at room temperature, or up to four hours. The strawberries will be very juicy.

Puree the strawberries and their juices with the water in a blender. Taste and add fresh lemon juice, if desired. At this point, if you want, strain out any seeds.

Pour mixture into a 13x9-inch baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze approximately 45 minutes or until icy at edge of pan.

Every 30 minutes, using a fork, stir the granita, scraping it off the bottom and sides of the pan.  Break up the frozen parts near the edges into smaller chunks and rake them toward the center.  Continue to freeze and break up ice crystals until completely frozen, about 3 hours.  If at any time the granita freezes too hard, simply leave it out at room temperature for a few minutes until it softens enough to be stirred again with a fork.

To serve, scoop flaked granita into tall goblets or parfait glasses. If the granita is too solid you can allow it to sit in the refrigerator for half an hour until you can scrape it with a fork. Garnish with mint leaves, and serve immediately with iced tea spoons.  When served, the granita should look like a fluffy pile of dry red crystals.

For an extra-special taste sensation, drizzle the tops (for use a dropper) of each serving of Strawberry Granita with aged balsamic vinegar. So good!

Makes 6 servings.

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