Ice, Hold the Dairy

In the heat of my blathering about ice cream yesterday, I had a small meltdown (I know, another food pun), realizing that I've left a bunch of folks out in the cold -those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.

Ice is nice, but what if you can't do the dairy or eggs?

I could take you on a trip to a little neighborhood in Philadelphia called Manayunk (pronounced MANNY-YUNK), where ice cream is for sissies and tough guys slurp on "wooder ice" (that's Philadelphia-speak for "water ice.") Now, if you're from Philly, don't get all in my craw about South Philly and Overbrook -I KNOW great wooder ice is all over town -- Manayunk, about five minutes from home, is where the O'Donnel's got their fix on the hottest summer nights.

If a trip to Philly is out of the equation, you can make your very own wooder ice at home, without any fancy contraptions. A more elegant word for this low-cal, cholesterol free alternative is "granita." Ah, yes, it certainly rolls off the tongue nicely.

All you really need to get granita-going is a square pan and a fork. Seriously.

First thing you'll do is make a simple syrup, a solution of water and sugar that you cook on the stove (details here) and allow to completely cool. Next thing is deciding on your flavor. Lemon for palate cleansing? Coffee, like the Italians in IT-LEE do? Mango, watermelon, grapefruit? The possibilities are endless.

You'll combine the simple syrup with your flavors and pour into a frozen square pan, cover and put into the freezer. Every hour, you check on things and stir things around with a fork to pester those ice crystals. In a few hours, dessert is slushy and slurp-ready.

As an added bonus, here's another flavor variation, using lime and mint, from a recipe that ran in the Food Section in 2003, from contributor Elinor Klivans.

Lime Mint Granita
(6 servings)
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves, plus whole mint leaves for (optional) garnish
2 teaspoons lime zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3 to 4 large limes)

Have ready a 13-by-9-by-2-inch or similar size nonreactive metal pan.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the water and sugar, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.

Remove from the heat, add the mint and set aside to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up
to overnight. (The longer the mint is steeped in the syrup, the more intense the mint flavor.)
Strain the liquid into a medium bowl, pressing on the mint leaves to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the mint leaves. Add the lime zest and juice to the liquid and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the pan and freeze for 30 minutes.

Using a fork, scrape the frozen crystals that have formed around the edge of the pan toward the center of the pan. Return the pan to the freezer and
repeat the stirring process every 30 minutes until no liquid remains, 2 to 2 1/2 hours total. After the third stirring, the mixture should have a slushy texture.
To serve, remove the granita from the freezer, scrape it to break it into
small shards and spoon it into individual dishes. If desired, garnish with whole mint leaves.

(May cover the pan tightly and freeze for up to 1 week.
It may be necessary to remove the pan from the freezer a few minutes prior to serving to facilitate scraping.)
Per serving: 130 calories, trace protein, 34 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 1 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

By Kim ODonnel |  June 14, 2006; 10:58 AM ET Desserts , Frozen Treats
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One of the most refreshing things on a hot day is frozen lemonade -- here in Rhode Island Del's lemonade is a state treasure. I prefer it when it melts a little bit -- sounds like melted Del's could be similar to the Philly treat.

Posted by: Providence, RI | June 14, 2006 11:35 AM

When I was growing up in Massachusetts, slush was our big treat. There would be people lined up on The Parkway for Richie's slush on a hot summer day.


Posted by: Corinne | June 14, 2006 11:48 AM

You ought to add an e-mail this blog enry feature because I'd like to keep recipes and tips like this in a handy file. Sure, I could cut and paste, but it seems a good alternative to offer an e-mail feature to make it all quick and easy.

Can't wait to try this granita out on my kids who I am slowly and somewhat covertly converting to at least part-time vegan and vegetarian.

Posted by: Icicle | June 14, 2006 2:53 PM

Water ice is great. Much better than Italian ice or, God forbid, sno cones. Still, it doesn't hold a candle to shave ice. The Hawaiians know how it's done.

Posted by: WhoCares | June 14, 2006 4:47 PM

Thanks for thinking of us vegans! I was just looking sadly at the ice cream recipes and wondering if I could do a sorbet, or something...

Posted by: happy vegan | June 15, 2006 3:45 PM

Stay tuned, vegans. I have some interesting ideas up my sleeve, using coconut milk..and then of course, there's sorbet. Check back next week and thereafter; I'll have a weekly feature on frozen treats called Deep Freeze.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | June 15, 2006 10:40 PM

yes, vegans need not despair: there is sorbet/granita. martha stewart living had a comprehensive guide to sorbet years ago and all the recipes should be available through the website's search function.

Posted by: sorbet | June 16, 2006 2:05 PM

From a native Philadelphian -- I've never seen anyone spell it "Wooder ice" before, but the spelling completely captures the pronunciation! I sold Wooder ice in Cenner Ciddy Fully during the Bicentennial summer -- it was one of the best jobs I ever had. We carried only cherry and lemon, obtained from a wholesaler in South Philly. Last time I was back in the ol' hometown, though, I had my first taste of mango water ice. Yummy! I'll have to try your water ice recipe, particularly since I have a whole box of ripe mangoes from Costco to play with. Thanks for the trip on the Wayback Machine (and the recipe).

Posted by: DMS | June 29, 2006 2:36 PM

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