Watermelon and Basil Granita

Watermelon & Basil Granita | Will Cook For Friends

My heart is stuck in Spring. Last I remember, it was the end of May, and I was still marveling at the glorious scent of lilacs in my backyard. I don’t know what happened to those pleasantly warm days and pleasantly cool nights, but they’re nowhere to be seen now.

One moment I was going about my life, digging into great big bowls of strawberry rhubarb ice cream, the next I was making a new home for myself in my dad’s hospital room, where I’ve spent the past six weeks by his side.

It’s crazy to think how suddenly things can change. One minute everything’s fine, and the next thing you know your whole life gets turned upside down and all the stuff gets dumped out of your pockets. It’s scary to think about, and even scarier to go through, but it’s also amazing to see just how much people can step up and be there when you need them.

Watermelon & Basil Granita | Will Cook For Friends

When I stepped out of the hospital last week, I was hit hard by the realization that it is, in fact, Summer. It came to me in the form of a humid, stifling wall of heat as I walked through the automatic doors and out of the air conditioning, and again about fifteen minutes later when my allergies started flaring up.

Now, in place of lilacs, I smell ballpark franks and grills being fired up everywhere I go. Normally those would be welcome Summer scents, but now they serve as reminders of all the time that seems to have passed by without me.

It was a brutal wake-up call.

To escape the heat and come to terms with what the calendar keeps telling me is July, I knew watermelon was in order. I once survived an entire Summer on nothing but watermelon and ice cream, and when the temperature starts to get high it’s one of the first things I crave.

Watermelon & Basil Granita | Will Cook For Friends

I’m pleased to say that things with my dad are improving every day, and with a lot of love and support will hopefully be back to normal soon. It’s been a long road to recovery, but one that I think we can all be thankful for in the end. In the meantime, I’m hoping this granita will keep my tastebuds occupied until I can get back on track and back into the kitchen again.

Granitas are pretty much like snow cones, only all grow’d up. They’re one of my favorite ways to stay cool, in part because they’re delicious, but also because they’re easy. They don’t require any cooking, or any special equipment. No ice cream maker, nothing. Just fruit, sugar, and enough room in your freezer for a 9×13 inch baking dish. That’s it.

I was really intrigued to find, while flipping through the pages of The Flavor Bible, that watermelon and basil were listed as pairing well together. At first I wasn’t sure the two flavors would play nice, but just one taste and I was hooked. I didn’t think it was possible to make watermelon more summery than it already is, but if you can believe it, the basil does just that. Sweet, crisp, and just a touch herbaceous… some things were just made for each other.

Watermelon & Basil Granita | Will Cook For Friends

Now, I already said that granitas are kind of like grown-up snow cones, but I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention that a splash of tequila or rum could be added for a truly grown-up way to stay cool. Swap the basil for mint, add a splash more lime, and you’re well on your way to frozen watermelon margaritas or mojitos.

What’s that? Did someone say these would be perfect for the fourth of July? Why, yes, now that you mention it, I bet they would!

Watermelon & Basil Granita | Will Cook For Friends

What’s your favorite way to beat the heat? I’m a sucker for ice cold watermelon straight from the fridge, but I think this granita has started to win me over. In fact, it’s almost up to par with the Two Ingredient Mango Sorbet I made last year, which I believe I referred to as “life changing”. Just sayin’.

Watermelon and Basil Granita
Recipe type: Dessert
  • 8 cups seedless watermelon, cut into 1-2 inch cubes (about half of a large melon)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ¼ tsp. lime zest
  • ½-3/4 cup granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of your watermelon
  • 6-8 leaves fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  1. Add half the watermelon, lime, sugar, and basil to the blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a bowl and repeat with the remaining watermelon, lime, sugar, and basil.
  2. Pour the pureed mixture into two 9x13 inch baking dishes, or one rimmed sheet pan if you can fit one in your freezer.
  3. Place baking dishes or sheet pan into the freezer, and let chill for 1-2 hours. Once the liquid has started to set, use the tines of a fork to scrape the top, creating flakes of ice. Return to the freezer, and continue to scrape every 1-2 hours until the granita is fully frozen, and the consistency of a snow-cone.
  4. Eat immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and store in the freezer. Scrape with a fork before serving.
This granita is super refreshing with fresh basil, but for an even crisper experience I suggest trying mint leaves instead. For an adults-only version, try adding a splash of tequila or white rum to the mixture before freezing (start with 4-6 TBSP, and adjust to taste).


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6 Responses to Watermelon and Basil Granita

  1. movita beaucoup July 4, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    I hope that you and your dad will have the most wonderful of summers as he recovers – I’m betting you’ll both appreciate each and every day. Sending best wishes to you and yours… xox

    • Willow July 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

      Thanks, Rachael! :)

  2. shannon July 5, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    my sweet Willow: i’m happy to hear that your dad is getting better day by day, but i know that can be a long and sometimes difficult journey for everyone. I wish him and your entire family the best as you go through it. Easy to say, but try not to think too much about the time you’ve missed while caring for him: summer comes back, and heaven knows all that lovely june produce is still hanging around this year, even if it IS july: watermelon being one of those things i’ve been eating since the minute the good stuff appeared in stores. Watermelon and basil are MAGNIFICENT together: i like it almost as much as watermelon and mint. This granita? i may make it while on vacation because everyone would just love it. You know what you could do with this if you have any leftover? The other thing watermelon and basil do well is make a lovely agua fresca: whirl that granita up with some cold water and you’ve got yourself a really great summer drink. too good, i promise. *hugs*

    • Willow July 9, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

      Thanks, Shannon. That’s really sweet of you. And you know what, that is exactly how my husband has been eating the granita — mixed into a glass of cold water. I had a glass myself the other day and it was deee-lish! :)

  3. Jennie @themessybakerblog July 9, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    Sending prayers your way, my friend. This granita looks refreshing and vibrant. Now I’m craving ballpark franks :)

    • Willow July 9, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

      Thank you so much, Jennie. And seriously, I smell them everywhere… it’s really hard to resist.

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