My Italian family has often spent summer vacation in Sicily, where my father was born. While there are many culinary highlights to behold, in August, it’s all about the frozen treats. Two of our favorites are semifreddo and granita–slightly under-the-radar here, but ridiculously easy to make, deliciously refreshing, and slightly less calorically sinful than straight-up ice cream. When visiting friends and relatives we often stop at a bakery to pick up a chocolate-studded semifreddo cake, kind of a creamy frozen mousse with a light texture and tons of flavor. After the beach, we stop at the port for what is hands-down the most ridiculous lemon granita on the planet (seriously–the BBC did a segment about it!). Coupled with a shot of limoncello, it’s citrus heaven. When we’re not lucky enough to get to Italy, I try to replicate our treats at home, and have happily found it’s a snap to do so.
A basic semifreddo recipe goes something like this: you make a custard base with eggs and sugar, whip in whipped cream and whipped egg whites, fold in your flavors, and freeze in a loaf pan. It’s really basic, and so versatile–perfect for summer’s ever-present ripe berries and fruit. Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef semifreddo recipe is my favorite.
To make a granita you need little more than water, sugar, and flavor, plus a few hours of freezing/scraping time–lemon is typically the most refreshing, but we also indulge in espresso granita on hot mornings in Sicily, topped with whipped cream (hey-it’s vacation!). If you’re making lemon granita, you want to infuse a sugar syrup with the flavor of lemons (use Meyer, or organic lemons that are heavy and juicy, you’ll be using the zest) and then freeze, scraping to obtain that grainy texture every hour or two. This recipe is dead simple and delicious. Buon Appetito!