July 2, 2012

Watermelon Granita Parfaits

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Watermelon has to be one of America's favorite summertime fruits. It goes without saying that we are faced with too many choices of outstanding fruit during the summer, but there is something special about watermelon that brings out the joys of childhood in us all. It is not surprising as the sweet, juicy, crisp and refreshing flavor and texture can be enjoyed far beyond the pleasure of eating a big slice of it with juices running down your face. It lends itself so well to dishes both salty and sweet, from salads to desserts.

Almost 15 years ago, I was instructed to put watermelon parfaits on our dessert menu at Coco Pazzo, Los Angeles by Chef Patti Jackson, my superior and "pastry mommy". At the time, Patti was the executive pastry chef for over 15 restaurants owned by chef and restauranter Pino Luongo, and had earned well deserved infamy for her watermelon treat of fresh watermelon layered with watermelon sorbet, watermelon granita, and vanilla panna cotta. I have been making variations on this fresh and cool dessert ever since.

For this 4th of July, I plan on making them into a healthy dessert with agave sweetened granita, fresh fruit, and either coconut based ice cream or yogurt. If you make it with yogurt, they would make an elegant summer breakfast or brunch item.

As much as watermelon is a fun and sweet summer fruit, it also happens to be far healthier than many people might be aware of. It is high in vitamin A, C, B6, and rich source of potassium. Watermelon contains the amino acids citrulline and arginine, which can help maintain arteries, blood flow, and overall cardiovascular function.  It also has the highest concentration of lycopene of any fruit or vegetable including tomatoes. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant known to fight heart disease and several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer.

Watermelon Granita
serves 6
 
4 cups watermelon, cut into chunks
2 limes, zested and juiced (reserve zest for garnish)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon agave nectar
 
Parfait Components
2-3 cups plain yogurt, vanilla ice cream, or coconut milk ice cream for vegans
2 cups watermelon, cut into bit size chunks
1-2 cups blueberries and/or blackberries
 
Put 4 cups of the watermelon chunks, the lime juice, and agave nectar into a blender. Reserve the remaining watermelon chunks and lime zest for serving. Blend until liquefied. Taste for balance of sweetness and acid. The mixture should not be overly sweet with a hint of lime.
Pour the mixture into a shallow glass rectangular dish. Cover and freeze.
After about an 2 hours, check on the freezing of the mixture. If it has begun to set, use a fork to move it around. Check again after another 30-60 minutes. The larger the dish and more shallow the mixture is in it, the faster it will set.
Once the mixture is fully frozen, remove it from the freezer and allow to sit for about 3-5 minutes to soften before beginning to scrape. It might be necessary to stab it into the mixture to break it up, but it softens rather quickly.
 
Assembly of parfaits.
 
Use a clear juice, parfait, wine, or martini glasses or 1 pint mason jars to assemble and serve.
Put about 1/4 cup of the watermelon chunks into the bottom of the glass. Add a small scoop (2-3 tablespoons) of either the ice cream or yogurt on top of the watermelon. Layer a scoop of the granita on top of the cream and repeat with a little more fruit, ice cream, and top with granita. Sprinkle the top with the a few berries or reserved lime zest. Serve immediately.
If you are serving for a large party, I would recommend preparing them in advance and keeping them frozen until serving. In such a case, reserve the fresh fruit for serving perhaps only using berries over the top.

 

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Categories: Desserts, Fruits, Kids in the Kitchen, Spring & Summer, Vegan Desserts
 

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