Come midsummer, we have one objective: cool off and cook with as little effort as possible.
Okay, yes, that’s two objectives, but they come from the same intention: to slow down and take in those long summer days and warm nights. And to make seasonal, fresh recipes that totally transport us. Case in point: this California grape granita.
If you are a fellow lover of frozen grapes, this is like the more refined version of that and just takes a few more steps to come together.
But first, let’s talk grapes.
Californians have been cultivating table grapes for more than two centuries, so there is a lot of history and tradition around this fruit. There are 80 varieties grown across the state in three colors–green, red, and black–and seeded and seedless.
California table grapes are now in season — grape season in California runs from May through January–so you’ll want to make sure you look (and ask) for grapes from the Golden State.
To help you out, check out this shopping guide to learn how to tell where your food is from.
You know we’re all about supporting our home state and, seeing as 99% of the nation’s grapes are grown here in California, you do just that each time you buy grapes grown here. Choosing California grapes supports the agricultural families that work hard to bring us safe, delicious fruit.
We’re partnering with California Grown to give you some inspiration for using this fruit in your kitchen.
Ways to cook with California grapes.
Yes, you can eat them out of hand as a snack, but here are a few other ideas for recipes using grapes:
- Tuck them into your next cheese board
- Blister them under the broiler and toss them with balsamic vinegar
- Use them instead of figs to make this prosciutto sage chicken
- Use them in place of cranberries in this stuffing
- Smash them with a wooden spoon and stir them into this sangria
- Make them the star of the show in this Blue Cheese grape focaccia appetizer
- Swap them for the tomatoes in this butter lettuce salad
- Use loads of them in this twist on a Waldorf salad
Want even more ideas? You can get all sorts of grape recipe ideas and more at www.grapesfromcalifornia.com
Golden State Grape Granita
You may be thinking to yourself that you’ve never seen grape granita. Or, you read about traditional Italian desserts and recall that this Sicilian treat most classically comes in flavors like lemon, almond, chocolate, and coffee.
But the reality is that almost any fruit can be turned into a granita as it’s simply a combination of blended fruit (and in some cases nut milk or chocolate) and sweetener that is frozen and scraped for a few hours. The best fruit for making granita tastes better when frozen, and we all know that grapes very much tick that box.
In this Spiced Grape Granita Parfait recipe, there are a few critical steps for maximizing the sweet grape flavor (see below), but combining the spiced simple syrup, blended grapes, and orange juice is pretty much dessert magic. Our preference is to have it layered with freshly whipped cream for a sort of cold, creamy, crunchy frosty dessert, but it’s just as good eaten alone too.
Tips For Making Great Granita
Though this granita recipe is straightforward, there are a few keys to make it outstanding:
- Be bold in flavor: The cold factor of frozen foods—think: ice cream–means flavors get muted. So, if you’re adding a spice or other flavor, go for about 20% more than you think you need to ensure the flavor comes through in the end.
- Don’t skip the simple syrup: Using a simple syrup as the sweetener makes for the best-textured granita, so resist the urge to use granulated sugar instead.
- Rake well: The best granita texture has a mix of airy ice crystals and some “creamier” pieces. To achieve this, make sure you rake through the mixture and let it “dry out” before serving it.
- Riff on it: This grape dessert recipe is perfect for riffing. To do so, spike the whipped cream with a liqueur or orange flower water; add fennel seed or cinnamon to the simple syrup, or serve it with brioche and have it for breakfast like they do in Sicily.
Spiced Grape Granita Parfait Recipe
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds or anise seed or 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- 4 cups California red grapes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (from 1 orange)
- 1 cup cold heavy cream for serving (optional)
- 4 to 6 t Brioche or croissants for serving (optional)
- Make the simple syrup: Make the simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat.Bring to a simmer and add the crushed fennel seeds, anise, or cinnamon if using. Set aside until the flavor is prominent for about 10 to 15 minutes, then strain off and discard the seeds or stick.
- Macerate the grapes: Meanwhile, place the grapes in a large bowl and, using the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher, smash the grapes until the majority of them are split open.Pour the flavored simple syrup over the grapes, add a pinch of salt, and set aside until the grapes have a lot of flavors and the syrup is cool, at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.
- Blend the grapes: Transfer the grapes with the syrup to a high-performance blender or a food processor and blend until it is very smooth, at least 30 seconds.Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl and pour the grape puree into the sieve and strain off the grape skins by pushing on the sieve with a spatula or wooden spoon to get as much color and flavor from the puree. Add the orange juice and orange zest, and whisk again.Pour the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish or loaf pan then place it on a level shelf in the freezer for one hour. (Mixture should only come about ½ to 1-inch up the side of the pan.)
- Shave The Granita: After one hour, remove the granita from the freezer and, using a large fork, gently stir any ice crystals that have formed on the sides of the pan back into the liquid, not breaking them up entirely.Return to the freezer and repeat scraping every 30 to 45 minutes until the whole mixture has shaved ice-like texture, about 3 hours.
- Dry the granita: Before serving, scrape the granita with a fork to fluff it and allow it to “dry” in the freezer for another 20 minutes.Meanwhile, take chilled cream and place it in a large, impeccably clean bowl. Using a clean whisk or stand mixer, whip the cream until it has soft peaks — when the whisk is pulled from the bowl, the cream holds onto the whisk but bends a bit at the end.
- Serve the granita: Layer the granita and whipped cream or sandwich the granita and cream in a brioche. Serve immediately.