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Cantaloupe-Basil Granita

Cantaloupe-Basil Granita
Fresh basil, with its anise undertones, is unusual to find in desserts, but in this icy granita, basil pairs perfectly with musky ripe cantaloupe. The result is a bracing dessert that is full of fresh but earthy flavor. Because the ingredients are so few, be sure to use the finest-quality produce to make the best-tasting granita.

Ingredients:

  • 30 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 ripe cantaloupe, about 4 lb.

Directions:

Coarsely chop 20 of the basil leaves; set the remaining 10 leaves aside.

In a small nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the lime juice, sugar and 2 Tbs. water and bring to a simmer. Simmer, swirling occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped basil, cover and let steep for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, halve the cantaloupe and scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut away the rind and cut the melon flesh into 1-inch cubes.

Strain the basil mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a blender. Add half of the melon cubes and pulse a few times, then puree until smooth. Add the remaining melon cubes and pulse a few times, then add the remaining whole basil leaves and puree until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, place on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the freezer.

After 1 to 1 1/2 hours, check the granita. When the mixture starts to freeze around the edges of the dish, stir it with a fork, then return the dish to the freezer. Stir the granita every 45 minutes until the grains are completely frozen and the texture is fluffy, 2 to 3 hours more.

Spoon the granita into serving dishes and serve immediately. (The granita is best when eaten within 2 days. If it becomes very hard and dry in the freezer, let it stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.) Serves 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Desserts, by Raquel Pelzel (Oxmoor House, 2008).