CRAVE: Turn summer produce into icy treats
What would summer be without frozen desserts: ice creams, sherbets, sorbets, and all their cousins? Among the most heat-quenching of these are granitas – intensely flavored, coarse-textured ice confections typically made from water, sugar, and fruit. Granitas are frozen, and they’re stirred during the freezing process, which gives them their icy, granular texture.
Most granitas are sweet and are served as a dessert or between courses to refresh and surprise the palate. But perhaps the most original granitas are savory, intended as condiments or garnishes for soups, fish, and shellfish.
Savory Red Pepper and Rosemary Granita
A spoonful of this savory granita adds a burst of flavor and vibrant color to chilled potato and leek soup or cold avocado soup. Yield: 2 cups.
1 1/2 cups water
1⁄3 cup sugar
2 pounds red bell peppers, roasted and peeled, seeded and stemmed, juices reserved
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
To make rosemary syrup: In a saucepan, heat water, sugar, and pepper juices until the sugar is dissolved.
Remove pan from heat, stir in rosemary, cover, and steep for 20 minutes.
In a food processor or blender, purée the bell peppers with the lemon juice and cayenne.
Strain the rosemary syrup and stir it into the pepper mixture. Pour into a bowl, cover, and place in the freezer.
Stir the mixture every 30 minutes, or until semi-frozen.
Chop the mixture coarsely with a fork, and then spoon into chilled glasses and serve immediately as a palate cleanser or as a garnish for cold soups.
• Carole Peck, chef
Peach and Lemon Verbena Granita
Lemon verbena brings out the flavor of peaches that have been ripened to perfection. Yield: 2 cups.
1 pound ripe peaches, pitted, peeled, and diced into medium-sized pieces
1/2 cup superfine sugar, or more to taste
1 cup water
1/4 cup chopped fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, or more to taste
Lemon verbena sprigs for garnish
In a small saucepan, bring peaches, sugar, and water to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or until the peaches are tender and the sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat and drain peaches, reserving the poaching liquid. Purée peaches in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Taste and sweeten with some reserved poaching liquid if desired.
Add the lemon verbena leaves to the purée and let stand for 15 minutes. Then, strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl.
Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and taste; add enough lemon juice to make a sweet-tart mixture.
Pour the mixture into a shallow, freezer-safe pan, and place it in the freezer.
Scrape with a fork to break up ice crystals every half-hour to an hour until it’s fully frozen, about four to six hours.
Serve in chilled glasses garnished with lemon verbena sprigs.
• Jimmy Schmidt, chef