Desserts are clearly not my specialty since I have one cookie recipe and one cake recipe that I make over and over again. Usually if someone else offers to make dessert, I don’t hesitate to agree. Last week while making a birthday dinner for a friend that shares my love of light, fresh, seasonal desserts, I branched out and tried a rhubarb granita. It was a big enough hit that it’ll easily make my dessert list. And the summer cocktails you can make — don’t worry, I’ll get to that.
My only regret is that I let myself get suckered into buying some organic strawberries from California, out-of-season for us here in the Northwest. There seems to be a myth about rhubarb — some say without strawberries, it’s just not sweet enough. I know better but you know how it is when you trust a recipe more than your instincts. Strawberries will be in season here very soon so if you choose to use them, please wait (local strawberry update — first of the season available at University District Farmers Market on Saturday). If you’re like me and love rhubarb for what it is (and have an over-abundance in the garden), just use that.
Rhubarb Granita Recipe
Ingredients: 1/2 cup sugar/ 6 – 8 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1″ pieces (use 10-12 if you omit the strawberries)/ 1 cup sliced strawberries/ Juice of one lemon/ Several sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)
Directions: Bring sugar and 1 cup water over high heat to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar/ Reduce heat to medium-high and add rhubarb/ Cook until tender, about 5 minutes/ Add strawberries, lemon juice and thyme and cook 2-3 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat and let it sit undisturbed for about 15 minutes/ Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a 9 x 13 baking dish, lightly pressing the solids with the back of a wooden spoon to release all the liquid/ Discard the solids, let the liquids cool down then cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and place in the freezer.
Using a fork, stir the mixture every 30 minutes, scraping the edges and breaking up any ice that forms as the mixture freezes/ When the mixture is slushy and frozen, about 2-3 hours later, it’s ready to serve/ To serve later, scoop into a container with a lid and place back in the freezer.
I love whipped cream so this is how I served it, along with a couple of strawberries on top. Thanks to Saveur for the inspiration for this recipe.
Now, about those cocktails. The following evening my master mixologist husband was shaking up a couple of quick G & T’s and decided to add some granita to the mix. Great move, Charlie. For those of you who’ve never tasted a Charlie Cocktail, they’re always delicious but this opens a whole new world of summer cocktails. As we sipped, we couldn’t help but think up all sorts of seasonal combinations for our next batch of granita.
Rhubarb Granita Gin & Tonics (for 2)
Ingredients: 2 T rhubarb granita (and 2 more for garnish)/ 4 oz gin/ Juice of one lime (or lemon or a mixture of both)/ Tonic.
Directions: Place gin, lime juice and granita in a shaker filled with ice/ Shake and strain into 2 ice-filled glasses/ Top off with tonic/ Add another spoonful of granita as a garnish (we didn’t think of it but a sprig of fresh thyme would be lovely too).
For the true all-in-one experience, you can just put the granita in a glass, pour some booze over the top and call it good. Let the summer cocktail season begin!