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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.

What's Red, Juicy and a Gift from Nature?

What's Red, Juicy and a Gift from Nature?
There’s nothing that says "Hello Summer" quite like eating a juicy vine-ripened strawberry that has been ripened to perfection in the early summer sunshine.  Have you noticed the beautiful juicy strawberries available at your local farmers market and in the grocery stores?  Strawberries serve more than just fulfilling the sweet tooth. That small berry packs a big nutritional pop!  It is packed with loads of health benefits, making a nutritious fruit for mind and body.

Selecting and Purchasing Strawberries:
Naturally the best strawberries are the ones you grow yourself or pick from your local strawberry fields.
In the stores, always choose locally grown strawberries during the harvesting season (they are sweeter and juicier than those that are bred for shipment). Remember, your local strawberry season only lasts 3 to 4 weeks.

When purchasing berries from the grocery store, shop with your nose. Always pick the plumpest and most fragrant berries. They should be firm, bright, and fresh looking with no mold or bruises.  The caps (stems) should be bright green, fresh looking and fully attached. Berries should be dry and clean; usually medium to small berries have better eating quality than large ones 

Strawberries do not ripen after they have been harvested, so choose strawberries that have been picked fully ripened. Select berries that are in dry; unstained containers (stained containers may indicate over soft berries that are not freshly picked). Mold on berries spreads quickly - Never leave a moldy berry next to a good one.

Strawberry Equivalents:
Fresh Strawberries:
  • 1 basket = 1 pint strawberries = 3 1/4 cups whole berries = 2 1/4 cups sliced berries = 1 2/3 cups pureed berries. Basket of strawberries refers to the market package. 1 tray or flat of strawberries = 12 baskets.
  • 1 cup whole strawberries = approximately 4 ounces.
  • 1 quart whole strawberries weighs 1¼ to 1½ pounds and yields 4 to 5 servings.
  • 1½ quarts strawberries are needed for one 9-inch pie.
  • 12 pounds or 8 quarts of fresh strawberries = approximately 13 pints of frozen berries.

Nutritional Value of Strawberry
1 cup  of strawberries provides (approximately) the following nutrients:
Protein - 1 gm
Carbohydrates - 10.5 gm
Fat - 0.6 gm (No Saturated Fat)
Fiber - 1.6 gm
Vitamin A - 3 RE
Vitamin C - 84.5 mg
Thiamin - 0.1 mg
Riboflavin - 0.1 mg
Niacin - 0.4 mg
Vitamin B6 - 0.1 mg
Vitamin B12 - 0.1 mcg.
Folic Acid - 26.4 mcg
Sodium - 2 mg
Calcium - 21 mg
Iron - 0.6 mg
Potassium - 247 mg
Zinc - 0.2 mg
Magnesium - 16 mg
Calories - 45 

Did you know?
  • Rubbing a cut strawberry on teeth and gums helps remove tartar, apart from strengthening and healing the gums.
  • Since strawberries are rich in fiber, they help the body in absorbing nutrients.
  • Strawberries are good for diabetics, as they help stabilize the level of blood glucose.
  • Strawberries are said to help in regulating blood pressure and thus, diminishing the risk of heart disease.
  • Strawberries have been associated with inhibiting the production of cholesterol in the liver.
  • Strawberries have been known to help the body in getting rid of harmful toxins.
  • The high antioxidant levels in strawberries can help the body neutralize the destructive effects of free radicals.
  • The potassium in strawberries helps regulate the electrolytes in the body, in turn lowering the risk of stroke