If I had to name one favorite food from childhood, the food I can remember eating with total abandon, the clear answer would be watermelon. In family photo albums, there are pictures of me sitting on a stoop or a kitchen counter, at age 2 or 3, happily biting into slices of watermelon bigger than my head. Sometimes there would be watermelon juice dribbling down my chubby little arms. Sometimes I would be in mid-bite, concentrating too hard to look up at the camera. Often would be a huge smile on my face.
You know how childhood favorites can come and go? Not true with me and watermelon. Even today I look forward to summer every year primarily for the ripe watermelon available everywhere, from farmer's markets to my corner bodega.
In fact, there's a bodega conveniently located between the subway and my apartment that displays its watermelons prominently near the entrance. In the past few weeks I've bought more watermelon quarters there than I can remember.
Usually I just take the watermelon home, cut it up into small bite-sized pieces, and store them in Tupperware in the fridge. I take so many snack breaks that the watermelon is gone in 1 or 2 days.
To make the watermelon last a bit longer, I decided to turn my most recent purchase into a frozen dessert. Ice cream was a bit too time-consuming, so I did a watermelon and mint granita similar to a hibiscus granita I blogged about a few years ago on Appetite for China. It's quite simple. You puree the watermelon pieces and mix in some sugar syrup, lime juice, and chopped mint. White rum goes together with watermelon so naturally that I had to add a splash, though you can of course leave it out. Then you divide the mixture into shallow bowls, freeze it for a few hours, and use a fork to mash it every so often so you get small icy chunks instead of one frozen block.
It's the easiest frozen dessert to make without an ice cream maker. And if you're like me, working from home without the AC on full blast, it really helps to have a constant supply of this in the freezer.
Watermelon and Mint Granita
- 3 to 4 pounds watermelon
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- Splash of white rum (optional; I used about 1 1/2 ounces)
- 4 or 5 sprigs mint, finely chopped
- Cut the watermelon into bite-sized pieces. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. (If you'd prefer larger watermelon pieces or don't own a blender or food processor, you can just finely chop the watermelon with a knife.)
- In a small saucepan, bring the water to a simmer. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, stir together the watermelon, sugar syrup, lime juice, optional rum, and mint. Divide the mixture into shallow bowls. Freeze, using a fork to mash the large chunks of ice every 30 minutes, until the mixture reaches a granita-like consistency (about 3 to 4 hours, or freeze for longer before serving if you choose.) Dish into individual glasses and serve.
More frozen fruit desserts:
- Tequila Watermelon Popsicles from love & olive oil
- Strawberry and Blackberry Popsicles with Coconut Milk from Wishful Chef
- Black Raspberry and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from Naturally Ella
- Grapefruit Campari Sorbet from David Lebovitz