Friday, September 30, 2011

Tomato Granita

I don’t want to complain abut the tremendous tomato season I’ve enjoyed, especially after I’ve been cursed with some pretty meager harvests in recent years, but I’ve been running out of things to do with this bounty.  I’ve canned sauce, frozen sauce, roasted tomatoes, made soup, tomato pies, caprese salads, panzanella., eaten plenty of tomato sandwiches.  Need I go on?

But they’re still coming!  And me, out of  ideas – not to mention time and space. And I hate to waste all this good stuff.  My sister told me about a tomato bacon jam that sounds too irresistible to pass up and I’ve been tempted by some very interesting drink recipes  but  the first thing that intrigued me as I searched for something new was this Tomato Granita.  Only three ingredients and a bit of time and attention. Imagine!  Frozen tomato slush!

The recipe comes from a book called The Essential Mediterranean, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins, who wrote the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. 

This book has off and on been great bedside reading because it’s not just recipes (although I can read recipes just like fiction) but great descriptions of  the intimate connection of food and culture that have so colored the countries that surround the Mediterranean– how the same ingredients take on new forms and taste as they make their way around the sea.

The name of this dish sounds so pretty in Italian – Granita di Pomodoro.  (Much better than tomato slush.)

The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook [Book]
The author says that this dish "makes an elegant entremet for a dinner party  . . .  or a startling but delicious dessert."  I had to run straight to Wikipedia to look up entremet.  It just means something served between courses, what I grew up calling "palate cleanser," which was usually some kind of sherbet.

For me, the granita was just a pretty tasty treat.  And it was just for me.  Mr. Rosemary loves tomato sauce and will eat cooked tomatoes, but not fresh.  Me?  I can eat them like apples.  And have.

Because it has both chili pepper and corn syrup in it, it's a mix of spicy and sweet.  And the chunky cold texture of the granita somehow enhances both the spiciness and sweetness.

And when you have pretty much just tomatoes in a recipe, they have to be nearly perfect and very ripe tomatoes.  The recipe specified romas -- and I had plenty -- but says any fresh red ripe tomato will do nicely. My trouble was finding a substitute for chili pepper.

Nancy Harmon Jenkins advises that you want the flavor of a chili but not the mouth burning qualities of some Mexican or Caribbean types.  So I had some dried peppers I'd ground myself and used them but they weren't well-labeled so I can't tell you for sure what they were.

My bottom line? A great experiment but probably not something I'll likely make again. If I ever host a really fancy dinner party and need an entremet, however, this is the one I would make.

Tomato Granita
from The Essential Mediterranean, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Makes 8-10 servings as an entremet, 6 as a dessert

1 1/2 pounds very red ripe tomatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon fragrant ground chili pepper
1/4 cup light corn syrup

The day before making, halve the tomatoes and gently squeeze out the seeds and excess liquid.  Coarsely chop and store, covered in the fridge overnight.

The next day, combine the tomatoes and the chili pepper in a food processor and process in brief spurts, adding the corn syrup as you do.  Don't make a puree; you want a chunky mixture.

If you have an ice cream maker, follow the manufacturer's instructions for sorbets and granitas.  Or turn the mixture into a stainless steel bowl, cover well, and freeze. Every 20 minutes or so, stir the mixture with a fork.  Within an hour or two, you'll have the granular ice chucks typical of a granita.  (I used this second method.)


  1. I've never heard of an intremet or of a tomato granita. What a lesson I'm getting here! Well, I'm very curious about this dish. Maybe when I need an intremet I'll try it too! I walked out to my garden earlier and on the dead-looking vines there were a few small tomatoes! Their flavor is a weakened a little, but still better than grocery store tomatoes. Keep enjoying!

  2. Oh, what a unique, delicious dessert! Our tomato season stunk again this jealous of your bounty!!!

  3. I love this tomato recipe. Never had anything like I will have to buy some fresh tomatoes to try it. Very delicious!

  4. This is really a unique way to prepare tomatoes-cold spicy and fresh. Something worth trying out. No good tomatoes here, so you are lucky!

  5. I need this in my life. We had an early frost but now it is summer and the tomatoes have returned. Enjoy the surplus - because when they're gone - they're gone!

  6. What a fun granita! I love all things tomato. :)

  7. That is SO original and amazing! I LOVE the idea of a tomato granita as a palate cleanser....BRAVO!

  8. Wow! Love that attractive colour, very innovative. Glad to follow your lovely blog :)

  9. What an interesting use for tomatoes. It sounds really refreshing!


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