Last summer, I wandered aimlessly with the husband through the blistering heat of the Tuscan sun, eating as many cold things as possible. I mostly ate gelato, because well, it’s gelato. (I really don’t need to explain that one, right?) Along the way, however, I also found myself devouring gelato-filled cannoli (what?! I didn’t even know that existed!), and of course, granita. If you aren’t familiar with granita, it’s an icy frozen treat, traditionally made with water, sugar, and lemon juice. It’s also used as a palate cleanser between meal courses. (File this factoid in your brain somewhere, just in case you someday have an especially fancy-schmancy dinner). My favorite thing about granita is that it’s ridiculously easy to make at home– no ice cream maker required. This Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta is the perfect way to cool down on a summer day.
A little ice cream chain 3 hours away sells Wild Berry Lavender Ice Cream, and it is DEEEEElish. I want to eat it all the time, but I don’t particularly want to drive the 3 hours each way for little bowls of tastiness. Therefore, when I found myself staring at a bag of dried lavender petals, wondering what to do with them besides make Lavender Lemonade, I thought of their ice cream. This Wild Berry Granita is an Italian take on their far-away dessert. If you’ve got wild berries, use those! If you don’t have berries growing nearby, or don’t feel like foraging– go ahead and use ‘non-wild’ berries from your local market– strawberries, raspberries, blackberries– whatever you like.
Making Wild Berry Lavender Granita
Start by making a lavender simple syrup. Put sugar, dried lavender petals, and water in a small pot, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer 5 minutes. Strain the petals out by pouring the syrup through a mesh sieve into another container, and let the syrup cool. Next, put the berries, syrup, vinegar, and lemon juice into a food processor. Blend everything up, pour it into an 8″x8″ pan (or something about the same size), and put it in the freezer for 2-3 hours. Every 30 minutes, rake the whole thing with a fork, paying extra attention to the edges. Raking it will help keep ice crystals from forming, and keep it from setting into a giant frozen fruit-flavored ice cube. Yes, you do need to remember to scrape it, which might seem annoying, until you remember that it’s hot outside, and sticking your head in the freezer isn’t really a bad thing. If, however, you forget to scrape it, you’ll just end up with bigger crystals of granita, and it’ll still taste delicious and cool.
Finish your dessert off with a little whipped ricotta. Scoop ricotta into a glass bowl with a couple teaspoons of sugar, and whip, whip, whip. Use an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer, and mix until stiff peaks form. Mix it all up right before you serve the granita, and serve the whipped ricotta on the side or on top like whipped cream. Take a bite, close your eyes, and pretend you’re in Italy.
Wild Berry Lavender Granita with Whipped Ricotta
Yields ~2 1/2 cups Granita
- 2 cups fresh berries (blackberry, raspberry, strawberry etc)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 TB dried lavender petals
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta
- 2 tsp sugar
Make a simple syrup by mixing the sugar, lavender petals, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, and then simmer 5 minutes. Pour syrup through a mesh sieve into another container. Set aside to cool.
Put berries into a food processor or blender and purée. Add syrup, vinegar, and lemon juice to food processor and blend more. Pour entire mixture into an 8"x8" pan. Set pan uncovered on a level surface in the freezer for 2-3 hours, scraping with a fork every 30 minutes. Pay extra attention to the edges, making sure to scrape the frozen fruit mixture away from the side of the container. When it's ready, your granita should be a light and flaky mixture.
Before serving, mix ricotta and sugar with an electric hand mixer or stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Serve granita and ricotta together.
Store leftover granita in an airtight container in the freezer.