I got my air conditioning bill the other day, raised eye brows and all, and make no mistake – summer is upon us. At the rate this summer’s going, best to prepare myself for some higher cooling costs, despite my great desire to reduce my carbon footprint. I’ve resorted to some creative solutions too: ice cold water, fans continuously on, shades drawn in the apartment. But sometimes you have no other choice, and you push that “on” a/c button. Otherwise, you walk around in a hot and sleepy stupor, dented by the heat and humidity, your environmental altruism causing you serious suffering.
But, I think I have found yet another creative alternative to air conditioning and I wanted to share it with you. Friends, I’d like to meet a new buddy of mine. Its name is buttermilk granita and it’s here to stay for the summer. I think you might just become good pals with it too. It’s cold, tangy, refreshing, and requires only a dish and a whisk. That’s right, a shallow dish and a whisk only. No ice cream machine needed here. Nothing to plug in and chill for hours. Just periodic stirring with the whisk – that is all that’s required. So if you have a tiny kitchen, or don’t own an ice cream machine, but want to make a cold dessert while the summer heat is abound, this dessert here is for you. Think you can handle it?
The granita stands on its own and has a taste reminiscent of homemade frozen yogurt, but it’s lighter and tastes more like sorbet than anything else. Here, however, it’s paired with some lush strawberries that have been steeping in its own juices, a little sugar and some balsamic vinegar. Strawberries and balsamic are nothing new, of course, but when they’re paired with the buttermilk granita, it’s a whole new game. These are complementary flavors, working together to elevate one another’s notes even higher. Buttermilk tastes tangier, strawberries – sweeter. And while dessert is generally viewed as an enemy to an expanding waistline, this here little concoction is quite healthy, in fact, and tastes lighter than air – a welcome relief from some heavier desserts this long weekend will undoubtedly bring.* And you can even feel good about that carbon footprint reduction because this dessert is all over it.
Simple. Refreshing. Calming, even. And environmentally-friendly to boot. We could all use a friend like that. Don’t you think?
*[Not that I'd ever turn down pie. Ever.]
Buttermilk Granita with Strawberries in Balsamic
Adapted from Food & Wine
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 pint strawberries, quartered
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
4 tiny tarragon sprigs [I had a ton of mint, so I used that, but tarragon would be heavenly here! or basil!!]
1. In a bowl, whisk 1 1/2 tablespoons of the sugar with 1/2 tablespoon of the lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the buttermilk and pour into a shallow baking dish; freeze until firm, whisking the mixture every 30 minutes, about 3 hours.
2. In a bowl, toss the strawberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Add the lemon zest and vinegar; let stand for 30 minutes. Spoon the berries and any juices into glasses. Using a fork, scrape the buttermilk ice into fluffy crystals and spoon over the strawberries. Garnish with the tarragon and serve.