Thursday, July 8, 2010

Veggie Might: Tamarind-Blueberry Granita

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian. She continues CHG's No-Cook Month.

Well, my dear sweaty readers, as Kris and Jaime have discussed, it’s still really, really hot. The Northeast is melting into the ocean, raising sea levels, and threatening Arctic critters that melt our hearts, starting the cycle all over again.

But fear not, puffin, your habitats will be safe again, once everyone on the Eastern seaboard whips up a freezer full of the classic Italian ice dessert, granita.

I became aware of granita when I started reading food blogs, but I never quite understood the appeal. Granita is essentially a grown-up snow-cone: fruit juice, frozen and then scraped over several hours to make a slush.

Snow cones and slushies were always disappointing to me as a kid. The flavored juice either seeped to the bottom, leaving bland, tasteless ice at the top, or never quite covered it’s territory to begin with. If I want frozen fruit, I’ll take sorbet, thank you.

Turns out SmittenKitchen and I share a brain on this matter. When I read her post, Lemon-Mint Granita, it was like having a good friend finish my thought. But then, she continued to sell me on the whole granita concept. Because starts as juice, the flavor is spread throughout, not drizzled over or concentrated in one area.

But there was the matter of my freezer. My freezer is about the size of a bread box, does not have it’s own separate door but sits inside the refrigerator, and has to be defrosted once a month by either filling it with pots of boiling water or chipping away at the ice.

Filled to capacity, my freezer holds two ice cube trays (no bucket), one quart of vegetable stock, one pint of ice cream, and maybe three or so packages of frozen veggies. The whole unit is like a 6-cu. ft. version of a dorm fridge.

Luckily, CB has a normal, adult-sized, mid-to-late-20th century fridge with a regular-sized freezer—it even has a rack on the door, perfect for an ice bucket—imagine! And his freezer is empty but for said ice bucket, two ice trays, and two half-gallons of ice cream. Plenty of room to make granita.

The core recipe for granita has two flavors: sour and sweet. Combine those in liquid form, freeze, and you have the perfect summer cooler.

I wanted to recreate the flavor of agua de tamarindo, a beverage I get at my favorite local Mexican takeout place. Agua de tamarindo is a tart fruit drink sweetened with sugar, like lemonade or limeade, and very popular in Mexcio. Tamarind tastes a bit like a date, but it’s tart like a lemon. (Since I haven’t been able to find tamarind pods, I used tamarind concentrate I purchased at the Indian market.)

I used fresh, local blueberries to act as the sweet counterpoint to the sour tamarind, and then topped it off with a little bit of honey. (If you don’t have access to tamarind, substitute 2 tbsp of lemon juice or lime juice.)

The combination was delightful and refreshing, perfect for a 98° afternoon without air conditioning. It was so good that I quickly made a second batch. The polar ice caps began refreezing with each tart/sweet bite.

Hang on baby seal, I’m eating as fast as I can.

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If this recipe flies your kite, let the wind blow you over to
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Tamarind Blueberry Granita
Yields about 4 cups/servings.

2 cups water
1 cup blueberries
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
1 1/2 tbsp honey or agave nectar

1) In a blender or food processor, puree water, blueberries, tamarind, and honey for 2–3 minutes.

2) Strain to remove blueberry seeds, and pour into a baking dish or other freezer-friendly container. You only want your juice to be about an inch deep for faster freezing, so make sure your container is big enough.

3) Stick the container in freezer for 1 hour.

4) After 1 hour, scrape the partially frozen blend with a fork, creating ice crystals.

5) Continue to freeze, scraping every half to 1 hour, until a slushy consistency is achieved, about 2 hours, depending on your freezer.

6) Serve with fresh blueberries and relief. The Arctic critters will thank you.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
47 calories, 0g fat, .25g fiber, 1g protein, $0.34

Calculations
2 cups water: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.00
1 cup blueberries: 84 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, 4g protein, $1.00
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate: 8 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.13
1 1/2 tbsp honey: 96 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.24
Totals: 188 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, 4g protein, $1.37
Per Serving (Totals/4): 47 calories, 0g fat, .25g fiber, 1g protein, $0.34

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3 comments:

Ashley said...

Such a coincidence- I made a blueberry granita last night! It was the only thing I could figure out to do with last summer's blueberries whose skins had turned leathery from being frozen too long. Hated to waste them. I wish I had known about adding tamarind...I went with vodka instead:)

Anonymous said...

I had to comment after you mentioned that Tamarind tastes a little like date.

In fact, the word "tamarind" comes from Arabic: Tamaar al Hind.

Hind is "India" in Arabic; Tamaar is "date".

Tamarind is a truncated Arabic word for "Indian date."

Anonymous said...

I had to comment after you mentioned that Tamarind tastes a little like date.

In fact, the word "tamarind" comes from Arabic: Tamaar al Hind.

Hind is "India" in Arabic; Tamaar is "date".

Tamarind is a truncated Arabic word for "Indian date."