Sunday, February 12, 2006

Valentine's Day Special: Blood Orange Granita

Valentine's Day is right around the corner (like you forgot), so we're going to make something special - blood orange granita. Granita is a stupendous frozen, crystallized dessert. It is also frequently seen as a palate cleanser between courses. The crystallization is very important, because if you do not get your granita to form crystals as it freezes, all you have is a very good popsicle. Tasty, but lacking the proper texture that is part of granita's joy.

The beauty of granita is you can make it from just about any liquid - coffee, tomato juice, fresh fruit - you name it. Today we're working with the Moro, or "Blood" Orange, because it's flavor is wonderful, and it's striking color provides the perfect backdrop for a Valentine's dessert.

As you can see, from the outside, Moros look like, well, oranges. Open 'em up though...

And wow! Isn't that neat? If you live in Michigan, Meijer has these at 5 for $2 right now. Time to get started. Halve and juice the following, in this order: four Moros, one lemon*, one Minneola Tangelo, and one to two navel oranges. You are trying to get to 2 cups of fresh fruit juice, and approximately half of the juice should be from the blood oranges.

Strain the juice into another container, and add simple syrup** to taste, about one and a half cups. Make sure the mixture is not too sweet, because you just want to balance the tart flavor of the citrus, not overpower it, and too much sugar will prevent the granita from freezing properly. A few ice cubes added now helps to chill the mixture as you stir it prior to freezing. At this point you may add the minced zest from one Moro, if desired.

Remove the ice cubes after you have stirred the juice thoroughly and pour the mixture into one or two shallow containers, and place on the bottom of yoru freezer. Go find something to do for an hour, because nothing's going to happen for a while.

After an hour, check on your granita and give it a stir. It should just be forming some ice crystals, which your are now redistributing throughout the bowl. Stir it again in an hour, and after the second hour begin stirring it every half hour until frozen. The idea is to keep the ice crystals from forming a block of ice as they freeze. You need to keep the crystals separate. Here's why:

This is granita! Note the dry, distinct texture, with clearly differentiated ice crystals. Now you should fluff it with a fork to increase the volume. Two cups of juice will almost double in volume for dessert if you do this.

That's all there is to it! This could not be easier, and it's great any time of year. Granita is refreshing, low calorie, delicious, and versatile. It's the perfect dessert, and in this garish red it is just the thing to show how gruesomely thoughtful you are. Presentation is important, so for Valentine's day you want to put this in a crystal glass, but the rest of the year I just eat it out of the bowl and make another batch immediately.

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*Only use half of the lemon. Use the other half to clean the microwave.
**In this instance, One cup sugar dissolved in two cups boiling water and cooked over medium heat for five minutes. There are of course variations.


Kendra Lynn said...

Hmmm...looks yummy. I think I'll try this one. :)
Have a happy Valentine's Day!

Judy said...

That looks AWESOME! I may check out our oranges at the store tomorrow!