Tag Archives: Granita

Basil & Ginger Granita

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

Memorial Day Dessert: Strawberry Granita with Whipped Cream

Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend – it’s time to start thinking about a menu and isn’t dessert the logical place to start?  We are always full after eating the barbecued and homemade treats during the weekend so I wanted to try something light and refreshing for dessert.  Strawberry Mint Granita with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream is the perfect finish.  It is very simple to make with just a few steps.  Your freezer does most of the work which means you can spend more time outdoors having fun.  This is a surprisingly decadent combination.  When you add the whipped cream to the granita, the whipped cream’s texture becomes like a soft ice cream because it gets slightly frozen!  It’s almost like eating fresh strawberry ice cream but with lots more strawberry flavor.

There are only four ingredients that you’ll need for the Strawberry Mint Granita: water, sugar, strawberries and mint.  I let the strawberries soften in the warm syrup (see below) for about fifteen minutes on very low heat.  Then I puréed it in the blender and strained it through a fine sieve to remove any seeds and large pieces.  That was most of the work and the freezer did the rest.  The recipe is versatile because almost any of your favorite fruit can be used in place of strawberries.  Try experimenting with flavors, like blueberry/thyme, peach/basil or mango/orange.

Granita is just frozen flavored ice and similar to sorbet.  The fruit and simple syrup mixture is frozen in a shallow pan and scraped with a fork to form large ice crystals.  There are many recipe variations and flavors, and I decided to go with the original recipe in my head – make a simple syrup, add fresh fruit, purée, strain, freeze and scrape every few hours.  It was that easy.  I of course had to add a twist to the simple syrup and infuse it with mint.  It is super easy to make.  After lightly heating the water and sugar, I added two mint sprigs and lightly mashed them with the back of spoon to release the oils and then let it steep off the heat for about ten minutes.  The mint added another layer of flavor that was just a hint in the background, which I am so fond of. 

At first you may question whipped cream with granita.  I had seen a photo of a fruit granita with this combination and was intrigued about how it would taste.  I was so pleasantly surprised at how rich, creamy and decadent it makes every bite.  I love using fresh vanilla beans for cream dishes, not only for the authentic, fresh flavor they impart but also for the wonderful little black flecks they leave throughout.  The flecks are a wonderful visual reminder of the flavors yet to come.  I didn’t want the vanilla flavor to be too dominant in this recipe so I only used half the bean.  The fresh vanilla bean paste is perfect to use in fresh whipped cream because the pure flavor stands up to the rich, fluffy goodness. 

Here’s to many sweet treats for your Memorial Day Weekend!

Strawberry & Mint Granita with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies, plus extras (makes about 3 cups granita)

Mint-Infused Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
¾ cups sugar
2 mint sprigs
1 pound strawberries, stems removed and cut into thin slices
Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Half of one vanilla bean
1 tablespoon sugar
Strawberry slices
Fresh mint

Mint-Infused Simple Syrup:
Add water and sugar to a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  When sugar is dissolved, turn off heat and add the whole sprigs of mint.  With the back of a spoon, lightly mash the mint leaves to release the oils.  Let steep for 10 minutes.  Return heat to medium-low and add the sliced strawberries.  Stir well and let steep for 15 minutes.

Remove the mint sprigs and transfer the mixture to a blender; purée mixture until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Pour through a fine sieve into a 13 x 9 glass dish.  Press most of the fruit through the sieve with the back of a spoon until just solids are left (be sure to also scrape the bottom of the sieve – where all the good stuff is) and stir to combine.

Cover dish with plastic wrap and freeze mixture for 6 to 8 hours, or overnight.  Scrape with a fork every few hours to form crystals (otherwise it will be a frozen block). 

Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
Add the whipped cream, vanilla bean paste and sugar to a large glass bowl and mix with a hand-mixer on low until soft peaks form, about 1 ½ minutes.  Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.  Can be made one day ahead.

Place some granita in the bottom of a parfait glass and add a good dollop of whipped cream.  Add another scoop of granita and finish with a small dollop of whipped cream.  Garnish with a slice of strawberry and fresh mint.