With the warmer weather teasing us with spring flowers and greener landscapes, I am ready for summer. Some basil simple syrup has been on my mind for weeks because I started buying the larger, more economical container of fresh basil and needed to find creative uses for it. Basil and fresh ginger are tasty companions so I thought they would be fun to combine in a granita, and hopefully hasten the approach of summer (a girl can try). The recipe is modified from my strawberry granita with vanilla bean whipped cream dessert, but much lighter. The basil & ginger granita is simple to make and needs several hours, most of the day, to firm up in the freezer. It’s light and refreshing with subtle hints of basil and ginger flavors – perfect to enjoy outside in the sunshine, or watching the sunset.
Fresh ginger root is sold in the produce department in the grocery store and has an inedible skin. A spoon is the best tool to peel the skin off; I like to use a serrated grapefruit spoon to make it even easier. Once peeled you can grate it with a microplane zester/grater, or slice it. Here’s a great trick (borrowed from Rachel Ray) to store fresh ginger: peel the root, wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Grate or slice what you need off the frozen root and put back in the freezer when done.
For a special topping, I added a few thin slices of candied ginger (also known as crystallized ginger). As described on the Savory Spice website, it is “young, fibreless ginger that has been steeped in cane sugar syrup and crystallized” – it has a strong but sweet flavor. You can find it in the spice section of your grocery store or at your favorite spice store. Ginger is known to help digestion and ease nausea. In the kitchen, it’s great to have on hand for baking, fruit salads, marinades and granola, or just to eat on its own. The candied ginger slices are my go-to for an upset stomach. When we fly, I pack some slices in my purse just in case I need an in-flight fix from turbulence.
Fancy and funky glasses aren’t just for drinking – dress up dessert by using glasses instead of bowls. They are a fun and easy way to make dessert more elegant. Add some cloth napkins, fancy spoons and you are ready to indulge in style.
Eat well and share the love!
Basil & Ginger Granita (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies, makes about 1 ½ cups granita
Cooking time: 35 minutes, Total cooking time (with freezing): about 6 hours
1¼ cups water
½ cup sugar
12 to 15 large basil leaves, torn – plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped
½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger root – plus 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon
Fresh basil leaves
6 pieces of thinly sliced candied ginger (optional)
Add water and sugar to a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. When sugar is dissolved, reduce the heat to lowest setting and add the torn basil leaves and grated ginger. Lightly mash the basil leaves with the back of a spoon, to release the oils. Let steep for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Turn heat off and let mixture cool for 15 minutes.
Into an 8” x 8” glass dish, pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve (lightly press on the leaves with the back of a spoon to remove all the liquid and discard leaves) and add 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon grated ginger root. Stir and cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in freezer.
Let mixture freeze for about 5 hours total. Every hour, stir with a fork until crystals start to form. Once the mixture starts to firm up (its gets slushy after about 3 hours), scrape with the tines of a fork every 30 to 45 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy and no liquid remains. After the final scraping, add 1 teaspoon chopped basil and stir well to combine. Put the granita back in the freezer and let set for 30 minutes.
To serve, place about ¾ cup of granita into a martini glass or decorative serving glass and garnish with fresh basil leaves and chopped crystalized ginger (optional). Serve immediately.
Cover and freeze any extra; will keep for 3 or 4 days well-sealed.
- A note about adding the additional grated ginger to the granita mixture before freezing: If you really enjoy the taste of fresh ginger like me, add ¼ teaspoon and if you prefer a milder taste just add 1/8 teaspoon