Monday, February 13, 2012

A Light Valentine's Day Dessert - Ginger Pear Granita

Valentine's Day is approaching and I know for some people this carries with it the pressure to create a magical day for their significant other.  If this sounds like your situation, or if you're just looking for a quick, easy and fairly healthy dessert to make, I'm glad you stopped by.

I've always liked the idea of a granita.  A granita is essentially a classy version of a slushie that you make by hand.  The only slightly annoying thing about making granitas is that you can't forget about them while you're making them because in order to make a granita, you need to scrape at it with a fork or knife every hour or so to prevent it from freezing into one hard block of ice.  But I have found an easy solution to this very irritating problem: use a carbonated beverage and mix it with fruit.

The combination of ginger ale and pears chunks in this granita prevent it from freezing into a chunk of ice and also make this a refreshing dessert.  The most important thing now becomes finding good ginger ale.  I cannot stress enough how vital this is to the recipe's success.  Normal grocery store ginger ale does not taste like ginger.  It is simply sweet carbonated water.  That will not do.  Go out and buy the real stuff.  Boylan's makes a good ginger ale that uses real cane sugar and Reed's makes a deliciously spicy ginger ale that is my new favorite soda.

From there, all it takes is four easy ingredients (or three if you feel like omitting one) and you've got a palate cleansing, refreshing, and healthy dessert that takes absolutely no time to make.  I also like this dessert because it is light and almost ethereal in quality.  The frozen ginger ale bubbles a little bit as it melts in your mouth and because there is no cream or fat in the dessert, it doesn't weigh you down.  I know this a bit different than the standard chocolate and strawberry desserts that people normally associate with romance, but let's be frank here: who feel sexy after a heavy dinner of creamy, fatty foods?  And besides, ginger is an aphrodisiac and pears are sexy.

Now if you're wondering why there's only one glass pictured (especially considering the fact that this is a Valentine's Day dessert), well, it's because I only own one martini glass.  I once had two, but then, sadly, I broke one while washing dishes and I've never felt the need to go buy more given that I neither drink martinis nor thrown swanky parties at which my guests would be drinking martinis.  Instead, my martini glass tends to be used to dress up yogurt parfaits, chocolate mousse, and, now, a granita.  Also, despite posting a recipe for a Valentine's Day dessert, I will not be making this tomorrow for my special someone so there is no need for a second glass.  Why is that?  Not because of a lover's spat, I assure you, but rather because balancing a long distance relationship in which one partner works on one side of the Atlantic and the other attends medical school on the other side of the ocean means not seeing each other for Valentine's Day.  But it's okay because I don't need a holiday to remind me to appreciate my sweet B. and he makes me feel loved regardless of what day of the year it is.  So I will have a single martini glass of this granita tonight and another glass again tomorrow night.  If you're single, come on and do the same.  After all, Valentine's Day is really just an elaborate excuse to enjoy good food and good company, and this granita qualities as both.

Happy [early] Valentine's Day, all.

Ginger Pear Granita
serves two

4 ripe Seckle pears or 2 ripe Barlett or Comice pears
1-2 tbsp dark rum
12 oz. good ginger ale
optional: zest from 1 lemon or lime
garnish: pinch of flaky sea salt and a spring of mint

Dice the pears into very small chunks.
In a small sauce pan combine about half of the pear chunks with the dark rum and cook over medium low heat until the pear softens and the liquid cooks off, about 3-4 minutes.
In a wide container (preferably one that has a lid), combine the raw pear, rum cooked pear, ginger ale and zest (if using).  Freeze for 1 hour.
Use a fork to scrape and stir the semi-frozen dessert, mashing up the pear as much as possible.
Freeze for another 4-5 hours.  Scrape and stir every 1-2 hours in between.
Spoon into elegant glasses.
Garnish with a pinch of flaky sea salt and a sprig of mint, if desired.

Note: this can be made a day in advance, but any more than that and the frozen bubbly feeling of the ginger ale will go away.

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