Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Almond Granita with Minted Rhubarb

Rhubarb and I don't always get along. I usually thrill to see it in the markets, right around the time that the wintered-over apples are mealy, past-its-prime citrus isn't juicy, and ohmygosh why isn't there any fruit? feelings are running high. But then I take it home, and don't quite know what to do with it. A few weeks ago I slumped rhubarb into a compote to pair with a flourless almond cake, but ended up just eating the cake plain (well, plain except for whipped cream).

I think the problem is that I don't want stovetop sauces or oven-baked pies. I want fruit. I want something fresh and juicy and full of spring. Given rhubarb's tartness, it can be hard to find raw preparations where it delivers on this springtime promise. I've seen a few Mediterranean recipes that shave it into salads, but it's usually just a lone stalk or two. And I didn't want salad. I wanted dessert.

The original version of this recipe pairs the rhubarb with its old friend, the strawberry. I'm sure that's lovely, but our strawberries are still a few weeks away. And luckily my failure to wait for them yielded a truly delicious result. This almond granita is just a simple frozen almond milk, frozen into fluffy crystals (I made it fresh, but you could also freeze up a commercial version if you prefer). The milky sweetness is a perfect match for the spunky punch of pure fresh rhubarb, saucy with a bit of sugar. A little bit of mint (thanks to a friend's backyard) heightens the springtime brightness even further. I'm sure I'll eventually bake up some rhubarb into a pie (especially when the strawberries come in). But right now, this fresh-fresh-fresh bit of crunch and melt and sour and sweet is just what I needed to fall back in love with rhubarb.

Almond Granita with Minted Rhubarb 

adapted from Apt. 2B Baking Co. 
yields ~4 good-sized or 6 small serving 

1 cup raw almonds
2 1/2 cups water (plus more for soaking)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
sugar to taste (~2-3 tablespoons)
pinch salt

~6 slim stalks rhubarb
~1/4 cup sugar
handful of mint leaves

To make the granita: Place almonds in a bowl, and cover with water. Let soak at least four hours, or overnight. Drain, place in a blender with the three cups water, and puree to bits. Strain the mixture through a few layers of cheesecloth, squeezing to get out all of the liquid you can. Add vanilla, sugar, and salt, and adjust seasonings to taste to yield a sweet, flavorful mixture.

Pour the mixture into an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish. Slide the dish into the freezer, and chill for one hour. Remove the dish from the freezer, and scrape the milk with a fork to break up the crystals. Return to the freezer, and scrape the milk every 20 minutes or so, until it is frozen and, thanks to your work, fluffy crystals have formed (maybe another hour or so).

To make the rhubarb: Wash the rhubarb, and cut in a fine dice. Toss it in a bowl with the sugar, and let sit for about half an hour to let the juices come out, and the sugar dissolve into a syrup. Add the mint.

To serve, layer the granita and minted rhubarb in a glass, and slurp up before it melts.


Post a Comment