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Cantaloupe and Lime Granita


My grandfather loves cantaloupe.  At least I assume he does, as he has eaten a half cantaloupe filled with cottage cheese for lunch almost every day that I have known him.  I vividly remember him coming home for lunch (coming home for lunch!) when I was visiting them in my childhood, and my grandmother having his melon ready at his arrival.

He's turning 89 in four days, so the cantaloupe clearly did right by him.

For the most part cantaloupe has been something I could take or leave.  I'd take some to balance out the color at the occasional brunch buffet, but generally would dig though the melon bowl to scoop out as many of the sweeter watermelon cubes as I could unearth.

However, when I was pregnant last summer, the only slightly unusual craving I developed was for cantaloupe.  And lots of it.  Particularly as the summer went on and the weather was sizzling hot.

It was then I discovered an orange-fleshed melon Shangri-La on the tables of the summer's farmers' market.  Tiny, outrageously sweet, nubby-skinned melons came out in abundance in the months when we needed them the most.  Numerous heirloom varieties, particularly ones about the size of a softball, exploded with fleeting flavor.  Heaven.  And obviously Papa was hip to this many decades earlier.

This incredibly simple, two ingredient, refresher is a stunning way to use this stunning fruit.  It also helps in keeping their fast-ripening goodness around for a day or two longer.

Happy Birthday Charlie, and thank goodness for the humble cantaloupe.


CANTALOUPE AND LIME GRANITA

Serves four to six.

6 cups pureed fresh cantaloupe, from about one medium melon
2 tablespoons lime juice, from about one lime
Zest from one lime

Remove the rind from the cantaloupe. (You can cut off each end and then around the outside, like at the start of supreming citrus.) Cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds.  Roughly cut the fruit into about one inch pieces.

Zest the skin of the lime, and set the zest aside.  Then juice the lime.

Combine the lime juice and cantaloupe in a blender.  Puree on high (or "liquify"!) until smooth.

Pour mixture into a 9 x 13" baking dish, or other medium to large container.  If it has a lid, even better, if not, cover it with plastic wrap or foil. (These gorgeous tupperware containers are designed by my friend Melissa, and are some of the most useful things in my kitchen. Granita is chilling in the largest one as I type.)

Place the cantaloupe mixture in the freezer.  After forty-five minutes, agitate the mixture with a fork, making sure to scrape around the sides, and return it to the freezer.  Again, after another 45 minutes, break up the ice crystals a second time with a fork, and return to freezer.  Repeat once more and return to the freezer a final time to set for about 2 hours.

Gently scoop out the granita to serve, so as not to pack down the ice too much and lose the delicate texture of the ice crystals.

Serve either alone, on top of vanilla ice cream for a delightful creamsicle effect, or in a glass topped with a small amount of prosecco right as you serve it at the table.  Top with a few strands of lime zest.





 


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Lemon Verbena and Thyme Soda Syrup, and Sorbet too!
 



Our herb garden is growing like weeds.  Well, truth be told, the weeds are also growing like weeds.  But between the weeds are fragrant, mystical herbs, that are spicing up meals and will also shortly be hoarded away in ziplocks in the freezer for less bountiful months.

My favorite herb is lemon verbena.  It smells like something that should come from a much more tropical locale--even the plant, with its woody stems and slender leaves, looks rainforesty.  Rubbing your fingers on one of the leaves, as I do at the start of many days, is an instant antidepressant.  Bright, intensely fragrant, with an aroma and flavor that is distinctly the sweeter side of citrus.  Too much and it can make a dish taste like bad perfume, in the right amounts it is transporting.

My husband's favorite herb is thyme.  It definitely stems (pun intended) from his early childhood-rooted love affair with weekly roast chickens.  He painstakingly freezes bunch upon bunch of this savory treasure and stuffs several sprigs under the skin of our weekly roast chickens through the year--as well as it being used in our homemade soups and beloved stocks.

So this recipe is a love letter to our favorite herbs.  Citrus and thyme marry beautifully, fortunately for us, and both herbs are in great abundance now and for the next couple of months in gardens and markets.  A not-too-sweet aromatic addition to sodas and cocktails, and a refreshing palate cleanser when spun into a sorbet or scraped into a granita.  Try any of the above with a few fresh berries, oh my.

(more…)


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arch
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Earl Grey and Lavender Granita recipe
A lovely and unexpected flavor combination, that serves as a small sweet forecast of warmer weather ahead.



I saw a new stand at the market this week I hadn't noticed previously. Lavender by the Bay is a lavender farm in East Marion, NY. They were selling a variety of dried lavender sachets and bouquets, but what caught my eye were small bags of dried lavender buds "for baking and tea."



Inspired by Sophie Dahl's iced tea recipe in this month's Food and Wine magazine, I experimented with the lavender and some excellent organic earl grey loose tea I had from specialteas.com, and came up with a delicate, floral, light dessert, that is not too sweet, and slightly musky. Definitely has me dreaming of warmer days with glass of iced tea on the porch.




EARL GREY AND LAVENDER GRANITA
by Catie
Makes about one quart

4 cups water
2 TBS loose earl grey tea (more or less depending on strength of tea leaves or bags)
2 tsp dried lavender buds (again, more or less depending on what you are using)
1/4 tsp lemon juice

Simple Syrup:
1/4 cup sugar (I used sugar that I had stored my old vanilla beans in--a great addition.)
1/4 cup water

To make simple syrup: Combine water and sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring gently, until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the granita base: Bring the 4 cups of water to a boil and remove from heat. Add tea leaves, loose or in a tea ball, or bags, and lavender buds. Allow to steep for 5-10 minutes, depending on strength desired. Strain if necessary. Add lemon juice and simple syrup, to desired sweetness.

Either spin in an ice cream maker, for sorbet, or pour into freezer-safe dish and freeze for one hour. Remove from freezer and break up ice that has formed, with forks. Return to freezer, and repeat the breaking up of the ice every hour for 2-3 hours, until uniformly frozen.

To serve, scrape out granita with a large spoon, and top with lemon zest.



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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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