Granita di Limone
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One of the most dramatic aspects of Italian life is the taste and feel of fresh ingredients in the food. Real fruit, herbs, and vegetables are used to create delicious, powerful aromas and flavors. If you go to an ice cream vendor and ask for lemon ice, it's made with lemons, and fresh ones at that. Sometimes the delight in the quality of the food just knocks your socks off.
An really easy way to get a sense of this is to make your own Lemon Ice (Granita di Limone). This is easy to make and it gives an authentic Italian taste to your dessert. When I'm in Italy, I always try to get a lemon ice after a meal.
- 5 lemons
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 cups water
- Puccini's "Turandot"
- Food processor
- Cheese grater with little holes, or potato peeler, or, if you're lucky, a zesting tool
- 3 quart saucepan
- cutting board
- big spoon to stir
- ice cube trays
- CD player with good speakers
This took me about 1/2 hour to get ready to put into the refrigerator.
Get "Turandot" playing. No one sounds as Italian as Puccini. Now we can think about Coppi, Bartoli, Giro d'Italia, Columbus tubing, Sophia Loren, Ravioli........
Pick the best lemon, scrub it clean with a brush, and remove the zest. The zest is the yellow colored part of the skin and contains oils that will give the lemon ice a subtle flavor. You can use the small holes of a cheese grater, or a potato peeler if you're careful not to make slices too thick, It's the yellow part of the skin we want, not the bitter white part of the skin. As you do this, the aroma of the lemon should flood the kitchen. Now we're making real food. A zesting tool is rare, but is just perfect. When you have removed the zest, if you have used a grater, chop it into small pieces (1/4 inch).
Put the sugar and the zest into the food processor. Some recipes call for as much as 2 cups of sugar, but if you use that much, it's not Italian, and the sugar will overwhelm the subtle lemon flavors. Italian desserts are not as sweet as Northern European or American desserts. Run the food processor until the zest is in little tiny bits and well mixed with the sugar. You'll need the sharp metal blade for this. On our new processor I had to run it at high speed and pulse it until it was all chopped up and mixed in.
Juice the lemons. You need 2/3 of a cup of juice. Some recipes call for 3/4 cup. This time I used just over 2/3. It took 4 1/2 lemons. Put the juice aside. Turn up CD player some more. Pavarotti is about to sing "Nessun dorma".
Put the 4 cups of water, the sugar/zest mixture, and a dash of salt (what the heck is a dash? Less than 1/8 teaspoon; about two shakes of a salt shaker; I put a little in the palm of my hand and plopped it in) in the saucepan, and heat until the sugar dissolves. It doesn't have to get very warm. The zest will not dissolve, just the sugar and the salt will dissolve. Take it off the heat and let it cool. Turn down CD player before your neighbor gets too mad.
Add your lemon juice to the sugar/zest/water.
Put the mixture into your ice cube trays. I ended up using three this time. Don't overfill them because it will be very hard to transfer the tray to the refrigerator without spilling the precious liquid. Be sure to get some of the zest into each tray.
Freeze the lemon mixture in the ice cube trays. It will take at least several hours to freeze.
Put five or six of your frozen cubes into the food processor. Run it. You'll want to experiment with how many cubes you can do at a time, and you will want to try running it on pulse or steady to bust up the cubes. You want to turn the cubes into a slushy mixture. If the cubes have frozen overnight, the final product will be fluffier. Spoon it into dishes and enjoy immediately. Mama Mia, that's good!
Note: If you and your starving riding buddies don't eat it all at one sitting, put your remaining lemon cubes in an airtight container when you put them back in the freezer. Otherwise the ice cubes will slowly disappear and what remains will have freezer smell and taste.