When temperatures soar as they did last week, life, at least for those of us who hate such heat, becomes more of an act of triage than anything else. Appetites typically plummet in hot weather and even remembering to drink enough water can be challenging when you’re utterly miserable.
Most of us have certain go-to foods at times like this. It may be lemonade, ice cream, ice pops, watermelon, ice tea, iced coffee, simple salads, or, if the heat wave is an extended one, nothing at all but water for a day or two.
Things get even more complicated when you run out of your favorite cool-down delights and have to leave your house. This is when it is a good time to discover granita, a frozen desert that is easy to make, even if your pantry isn’t well stocked.
Granita is, basically, a flavored liquid that has been frozen and fluffed with a fork. All you need to make it is water, sugar, some sort of flavoring, and a freezer. It is the simplest of all frozen desserts, unless you like to toss grapes into the freezer, stick them on a toothpick, and call them Popsicles.
The two most important elements of making granita is to make it a tad sweeter than you think you want it to be — because the perception of sweetness will decrease once the liquid is frozen — and to perfect your fluffing technique. Once the granita is in the freezer, you’ll need to check it after an hour and use a fork to pull the frozen edges toward the center. After that, check the granita every half hour and use a fork to rake through it, fluffing it as you do so.
Once it is completely frozen and fluffy, it is ready to enjoy.
If you love Hawaiian shave ice, granita is a good substitute, as it is all but impossible to find the real thing locally. It’s also your best bet if you love root beer Popsicles, which are really hard to find. All you need to do is pour a bottle or two of good root beer into a metal pan and freeze and fluff it as you would any flavor.
Some recipes, especially those you find online, add half-and-half or cream to granita, but this is not at all traditional and, at least in my opinion, diminishes the final result. In a heat wave, creamy desserts can seem warming, and you don’t want that. You want a nicely flavored fluffy ice and nothing more. It’s fine to serve something alongside — fresh fruit is best — but let the granita be as pristine and refreshing as it is meant to be.
Leftover granita should be scooped into a container with a lid, stored in the freezer, and fluffed with a fork before enjoying.
For many people, dinner is not complete without coffee. But who wants to drink coffee on a hot night? This is a light and lighthearted substitute.
Makes 6 to 10 servings
3 cups strongly brewed coffee, hot
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Put the coffee, sugar, and vanilla extract into a pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Taste and add a bit more sugar if you like.