In the hallowed pantheon of firehouse food, I can’t think of one more deserving of entry then that of ice cream. Whether the vehicle of a the wide-eyed firefighter hopeful transferring a gallon in the hopes of gleaning information towards getting their dream job to that of the rookie beaming as he passes out the scoops as penance for their first fire, ice cream has sweetened the stomachs of the fire service for generations. But in the current climate of health and nutrition that has swept our profession as we look to improve our lifestyles and extend our careers, we firehouse cooks are ever endeavoring to provide that sweetness but without the calories or glycemic spike.
Enter granita, the Italian dessert that exists somewhere between shaved ice and sorbet but with a technique that builds a coarser crystal. It is a name that when done correctly is earned as it resembles small stones of granite. With typically only three ingredients; water, sugar and fruit, this is a healthier alternative to the legend that is ice cream, very refreshing on a warm summer day and as varied as the market’s fruit offerings.
A few after the fire critiques: I’ve used strawberries in this recipe as they are in peak season (their most affordable and tasty time) but have made versions with watermelon, mango, kiwi and coconut. Long story short, make whatever you want (I’ll eventually make an almond granita) and be limited by only your imagination.
Strawberries (3 cups, cored and sliced)
Sugar (3 Tbsp.)
Lemon Juice (2 Tbsp.)
Lemon Zest (from one lemon)
Salt (½ tsp.)
Rectangular Dish (13 x 9” being ideal)
In a bowl, place the strawberries, sugar and salt and mix to combine. Let sit at room temperature for an hour or until macerated enough to form syrup. Place the strawberry syrup, lemon juice and ½ cup of water into the blender and blend until smooth. Pour into the dish and top with lemon zest. Take the fork and stir in the lemon zest and then place in the freezer. Freeze for 1½ - 2 hours while stirring the granita every 30 minutes ensuring that you drag from the outside to the center every time. The ice should start to resemble coarse pebbles. You can serve immediately or cover and serve when you are ready, just shave the ice from the top, scoop up, dish out and indulge!