When it’s time for dessert, ordinarily I don’t mess around -- give me cake or give me death, that sort of thing. But every once in a while -- say, in the peak of summer when temperatures are ghastly and you’ve invited people over for dinner, when you’d really rather just lie in front of the air conditioner in your underpants -- life calls for something light, fruity, and totally refreshing. Granita is my go-to for these occasions, and it couldn’t be simpler.
The honey in this recipe offers a two-fer -- not only does its ambrosial sweetness play beautifully with fragrant melon and fresh mint, it also keeps the puree from freezing solid, making it easier to scrape the granita into a gorgeous, fluffy pile of sweet snow, even in the middle of summer.
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the mint leaves, 1/2 cup of water, the honey, lime juice, and salt. Set the pan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring all the while to encourage the leaves to wilt. Remove the pan from the heat and cover the pan. Let cool and steep for 30 minutes. Strain the syrup into a clean bowl, pressing on the mint leaves in the strainer to extract as much mint flavor as possible. Discard the mint leaves.
2. Place the melon chunks in a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Puree until nearly smooth. Pour in the mint syrup and blend until the mixture is as smooth as possible. Slosh the puree into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place the dish in the freezer until the surface and edges of the puree have begun to freeze, about 45 minutes (it will still be somewhat liquid underneath). Use the tines of a fork to gently loosen the ice crystals from the edges of the pan, and scrape the icy surface. Freeze for another 30 minutes, and scrape and the granita again, breaking up any large chunks and fluffing them as you scrape and stir. Repeat the freezing and scraping process until the entire pan is a frozen, fluffy bed of icy, fruity crystals.
3. To serve, scoop generous spoonfuls of granita into frozen dessert glasses. For an extra punch of mint, stir a handful of finely chopped mint leaves into the finished granita before spooning it into the serving dishes.
Tip: Frozen dessert glasses make for a gorgeously frosty presentation, and help keep the granita cold while eating it: simply run the glasses under cold water and place them in the freezer for several minutes prior to portioning out the granita.