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The Importance of Names: or How I Turned a Culinary Failure into an Overwhelming Success

I am a bit of a perfectionist. As I once tried to explain, it’s not that I have to be right, it’s just that I like things to be done right. Unfortunately, much to my chagrin, I don’t always succeed flawlessly on my first attempt.

Watermelon Margarita Sorbet.

It was a perfect idea. At least, I thought it was a perfect idea.

I asked a friend (who just happens to moonlight as a bartender and mixologist of potent cocktails) for his margarita recipe. “Muddle lime, mint and a tablespoon of lime juice. Shot and a half (or two) of tequila. Shot of triple sec. Fill glass with half sour. Mmm!”

I followed his recipe as exactly as possible. There was half of a watermelon chilling in the refrigerator so I pulled that out, pureed and strained it. After mixing the margaritas into the watermelon, I stuck the whole thing in the fridge to chill while I wiped down the incredibly sticky countertops.*

Once the kitchen was back to normal, I pulled my ice cream bowl out of the freezer, poured in the watermelon mixture, turned on the mixer, and waited. And waited. And watched as the liquid whirled, without freezing, and waited. Epic sorbet fail. It was about as frozen as snow in May (which, if you’ve never lived in Colorado, is slushy and quick to melt). Annoyed and irritated, I dumped the slush into a container and shoved it angrily into the freezer.

Yes, in a moment of imperfection, I had forgotten that pesky detail about how alcohol doesn’t freeze. After “cooling off” (sorry, I couldn’t help myself!) I went back to the freezer. The failed attempt at sorbet had frozen a bit, though not enough to properly be called sorbet. Consistency aside though, it tasted very good! Cold, refreshing, slighly sweet, and just a bit boozy. It was far too good to deem a failure.

And then it hit me…granita!

I immediately grabbed a fork, raked the top, and shoved the whole thing back in the freezer (then repeated the process a few times). I’m fairly certain that “granita” is Italian for “sorbet that refuses to freeze” but truthfully, one of the nice things about granita is that it doesn’t freeze solid. I left it in the freezer for a week (I don’t know how I managed not to eat the entire container myself!) before sharing it with some friends. The response was rather enthusiastic and I was left with just enough to photograph.

I know summer is winding down and the long, hot days are fading. Still, I highly suggest you make this. Perhaps this weekend. What better way to send summer off? And while it is a great treat for 100° days, I’ll keep enjoying it into the fall.

*While I did figure it would freeze better if chilled, this step was really the result of my Tasmanian Devil kitchen style. Try as I might, I can never seem to keep the kitchen tidy while I cook.

Watermelon Margarita Granita

5 cups watermelon purée (about 1/2 of a watermelon)
3 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
6 ounces Tequila
3 ounces Triple Sec
6 ounces Sweet and Sour mix

If desired, for a smoother consistency, strain watermelon purée. In a large glass, mix remaining (margarita) ingredients. Taste and adjust as desired. Add to watermelon and refrigerate 1/2 hour. Attempt to freeze in ice cream machine. Watch as mixture spins and only freezes to a slushy consistency. Get very annoyed. Throw the whole mixture into a freezer safe pan. Ignore for a few hours. Return to the freezer. Realize that the whole thing is now a perfect granita. Scrape with a fork, cover and return pan to the freezer.

Or…thoroughly mix all ingredients. Pour mixture into a freezer safe container. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. After 2-3 hours, remove from freezer. Using a fork, scrape through entire dish. Repeat process.

Serve in salt rimmed dishes or sprinkle with a pinch of finishing salt. I used black Hawaiian salt for contrast (and to be playfully reminiscent of those black watermelon seeds!)

Footnote…

While I had intended to post this last weekend, pre-Labor day, it simply didn’t happen. Tonight, I happened to catch some of the Stand Up To Cancer telethon. I was actually glad that I hadn’t already posted this blog, here’s why. Watermelon, like tomatoes, contains lycopene. While not accepted by the FDA, lycopene is suspected to inhibit cancer growth. So, perhaps this post is perfectly timed.

Family, neighbors, friends…everyone seems to be directly impacted by cancer. So, humbly, I ask you to stand up to cancer. Whatever organization you choose and whether you give time or money, please take action.

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