The official last weekend of summer is here already. I was out walking with a friend today, doing errands and catching up on the last few months’ activities. “The summer has just flown by,” she said. I nodded in agreement. Hopefully, whipping up this recipe for Strawberry-Limoncello Granita with Vanilla-Basil Whipped Cream will let you hang onto those warm, sunny days for just a little bit longer.
With the end of the second strawberry season for this year approaching, it’s also the time to try to hang on to as much of their flavor as possible. I’m not much of a strawberry jam fan, but having found a bottle of limoncello hanging out in my freezer (it does help to clean it out from time to time, I know), I knew that it would be perfect to go with the berries, adding a dash of sunshine and a reminder of vacations in Italy (where, sadly, I didn’t get to travel to this year).
The strawberries were a little bit past their prime by the time I got around to making this recipe, so they weren’t as gorgeous as in this photo. As they were cooked down and puréed, that didn’t matter so much. Their sweet-tart flavor came through in the final dish, as did their bright, vibrant color.
The basil-vanilla whipped cream adds a layer of richness, making the granita seem almost ice cream-like. The herbaciousness and licorice notes in the basil compliment the sweetness in the strawberry-lemon mixture with the vanilla wrapping around all these tastes to make a fragrant bouquet. This dish is a glorious way to celebrate the end of summertime.
3/4 c. Water
1/2 c. White Sugar
1 pt. Strawberries, hulled (green stems removed) and cut in half
2 Tbsp. Limoncello
1/2 c. Whipped Cream
2 tsp. Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 tsp. Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped finely
Extra small Fresh Basil Leaves for garnish
Pour water into a saucepan and add sugar. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, about five minutes. Add strawberries to the sugar-water mixture and let them cook for 5-10 minutes until the berries are soft and have given up some of their juices.
Remove the berry mixture from the heat and puree all of it together with a hand blender or in a food processor until completely smooth with no lumps of fruit. Pour the mixture into a bowl and place the bowl over an ice bath (ice + water) to cool, stirring occasionally. Once it has cooled down, add the limoncello.
Pour the strawberry-limoncello mixture into the 8x8" pan and place it in the freezer. About every 30 minutes or so, check on the granita and, with a fork, scrape across the mixture to break up the ice crystals.
Repeat the scraping technique over several hours until the mixture is completely frozen. Because of the alcohol in the mixture, it will take a bit longer than with a traditional granita recipe for the mixture to reach a mostly frozen state, and it will not freeze solid. Keep the mixture in the freezer until ready to serve.
Just before getting ready to dish up the granita, make the whipped cream. I usually like to make it by hand, but you can do so with a hand or stand mixer, if you prefer. Place the cream in a bowl and whip it to semi-firm peaks. Add the sugar and vanilla and whip to incorporate into the cream. Taste the mixture and add more sugar and vanilla, if necessary. The cream shouldn't been too sweet or vanilla-y. Fold in the chopped basil.
Place a scoop of the strawberry-limoncello granita in the bottom of a serving dish. You can add a dollop of the basil-vanilla whipped cream on top of that; however, it will freeze slightly. Add another scoop of the strawberry-limoncello granita and then top it with a large scoop of the whipped cream on top. Garnish with a few small basil leaves, if desired. Eat immediately.