I tried mango for the first time while I was living in Ecuador. I remember coming home on a particularly hot day to find my roommate, an Ecuadorean artist, savoring this tropical fruit. Feet kicked up, she would delicately cut herself a thin sliver of mango, bring it to her lips, and then eat it slowly, enjoying every tangy, sweet, and juicy bite. She ate that mango like it was the best thing she had ever eaten and relished every bite as if it were her last.
I must have been staring, because without a word I was offered a piece of mango from the tip of her knife. I took a bite and found myself in a similar heaven. Sliding into a chair next to her, we proceeded to eat every last bit of that mango and in an incredibly gracious gesture, she offered me the mango seed, still covered with bits of flesh, to nibble off with my teeth. Juices dribbling down my chin and over my hands, I swore I would never leave Ecuador.
But I did leave Ecuador and consequently, found myself in a quixotic quest to find perfect mangos. It’s harder than you might think. The mangos I buy from the grocery store never seem to ripen all the way and those that do are few and far between. This past week I bought three, yes three, mangos hoping to find one that would satiate my cravings. While none had the flavor to score a perfect ten, they were all good enough for granita.
Granita is one of the simplest frozen desserts to make. You don’t need an ice cream maker and it contains only three ingredients: water, sugar, and a flavoring, in this case mango juice. Requiring only a couple of hours to freeze, it’s easy to make, refreshing, and very elegant. In short, it is the quintessential dessert for the dog days of summer.
Granitas are versatile and this one is no exception. A different fruit can be substituted for the mango or another fruit could be added to create a blend. Remember to give yourself time to stir the mixture as it cools in order to get the proper consistency.
3 mangos, cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces (about three cups of fruit)
1 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Lime juice, to taste, optional
Combine the mango pieces and water in a blender or food processor. Blend until completely smooth. Pour the blended mixture through a strainer. Add the sugar to strained mango mixture and stir until dissolved. Taste mixture and add more sugar if needed. If desired, lime juice can be added at this time.
Pour mixture into a 9″ x 13″ metal pan and place in freezer. Check on mixture every thirty minutes, stirring with a fork each time until just frozen. Scrape mixture with a fork to produce ice shavings. When it comes time to serve, soften slightly if necessary and scoop into serving bowls with a spoon.