Watermelon and Black Pepper Granita

Watermelon and Black Pepper Granita  | a little saffron

It’s sweaty out there, whew. Jeans are getting pushed to the back of the closet. No pants til September. If, like me, you’re looking for an excuse to stick your head in the freezer for a blast of cold air, the answer is granita. Gra-ni-ta! That’s the Italian name for this icy dessert, and you can flavor it pretty much any way you like. This one tastes intensely of sweet, fresh watermelon enhanced with liqueur and black pepper. We think it’s pretty spot on and we’ve looked forward to it for dessert each night this week. Watermelon granita hits the spot when your apartment’s AC has given all it can give, and it’s time to find other ways to keep cool.

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Popsicles and ice cream ask you to wait a while, usually overnight, to enjoy them at their best but granita is ready to go after a few hours. Watermelon is so great right now, but I don’t always want to take the time to break one down. This recipe was well worth the effort, and I bet I’ll be making many more granitas til the end of summer.

Black pepper may seem like an odd pairing with watermelon, but it’s subtle here and just adds a touch of savory to go with the sweet melon. I loved the combination. The original recipe called for Muscat but I didn’t have any around the house and wasn’t about to let that stop me from making this granita. I used elderflower liqueur and it turned out very well.

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I can’t wait to try other granita flavors! Here is some more granita love from other bloggers:

Espresso granita with whipped cream
Honey and lavender granitas
Apple pie granita
Mint julep granitas
Ginger lime granita
Watermelon, lime, and ginger granita

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watermelon and black pepper granita

Granita is delicious in its own right, but it’s just the thing when you are wilting in the summer heat and can’t wait for popsicles or a batch of ice cream. Granita can be ready the same night, and it’s easy to make. And, hello, you get to stick your head in the freezer every half hour. It feels amazing, and only more so when you take the first bite of the pink ice.

Granita can be made in all kinds of flavors but what could be more refreshing than icy watermelon? Black pepper is its sidekick here for, well, a little kick. It’s pretty subtle here, actually. I didn’t have Muscat so I used St. Germain elderflower liqueur, which is also fairly sweet and has a similar proof. For this recipe, I broke down a watermelon that weighed almost 6 pounds to yield just over the 2 pounds of melon needed. Granita can be made 3 days ahead. Keep covered with plastic wrap in the freezer and scrape again before serving. This recipe is adapted from Bon Appétit.

2 pounds watermelon, rind and seeds removed, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup elderflower liqueur, Muscat, or other sweet dessert wine
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus coarsely ground for serving

Purée watermelon, sugar, liqueur, and black pepper in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and freeze mixture until edges begin to set, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Use a fork to scrape mixture and break up frozen sections. Freeze, scraping and breaking up ice every 30 minutes, until mixture resembles fluffy shaved ice. This can take 2 to 4 hours. Serve granita in a small glass with coarsely ground black pepper on top.

Serves about 8.

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