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Rose, Hibiscus, and Thai Basil Lemon Granitas: Three Frozen Lemonades

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3 lemon granitas

One of the gifts my husband gave me for my last birthday was a bag of flowers. Not a bouquet of flowers, although he did that too, but a bag full of bags of culinary grade dried flowers. He went to one of my favorite shops of culinary curiosities, Kalustyan's in New York City, and picked out anything that looked pretty. There were cups and cups of pale pink rose buds, sunny whole chamomile blossoms, and regal ruby hibiscus flowers, each gorgeous and fragrant.

He didn't know what I'd do with them, and neither did I, but that is a conundrum I love getting myself into.

I have been writing a lot about cooking with edible flowers, and in the summer months, it feels even more fitting. And the tartness of summer's signature beverage, lemonade, seemed like something that could stand up to the floral, and sometimes very perfumey, notes of the dried blossoms. I also have a thriving Thai basil plant in my garden, and thought I'd try that too, remembering my best friend's incredible mid-summer Thai basil mojitos on a rooftop in Brooklyn.

Speaking of which, to quickly turn these lemonades or granitas into an icy adult snowcone cocktail, combine a shot of white rum with a serving of the Thai basil granita for a mojito-esque beverage, a shot of tequila with the hibiscus granita for a tart margarita version, and pair the rose granita with gin, particularly Hendrick's with their own rose infusion.

Happy summer.

lemon granita vertical

Rose Simple Syrup

Makes about one cup.

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup loosely packed culinary grade dried rose buds

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, just until all the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to the syrup to steep and cool for thirty minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine strainer and refrigerate until ready for use. The syrup will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Hibiscus Simple Syrup

Makes about one cup.

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup loosely packed dried culinary grade hibiscus flowers.

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, just until all the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to steep and cool for thirty minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine strainer and refrigerate until ready for use. The syrup will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Thai Basil Simple Syrup

Makes about one cup.

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup, packed, fresh Thai basil leaves

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil just until all the sugar has dissolved. Place the basil leaves in a blender, and pour the hot syrup over them. Blend the leaves and syrup for a minute or two until the leaves are as finely chopped as possible.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and reheat gently over medium-low heat. As the leaf particles cook a bit more, a brighter green color will start to form around the outside of the mixture, working it's way to the center as the heat does. Stir the pan slightly to heat the mixture more evenly. Remove the pan from the heat when the basil has all turned the brighter green.

If desired, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth lined strainer or coffee filter to remove basil particles. Refrigerate the syrup until ready for use. The syrup will keep for up to three days in the refrigerator in an airtight container with the color changing some, but is best if used right away.

Rose Lemon Granita

Makes one quart.

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, from 2-3 lemons
3 cups cold water
1/2 cup rose simple syrup (recipe above)

Hibiscus Lemon Granita

Makes one quart.

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, from 2-3 lemons
3 cups cold water
1/2 cup hibiscus simple syrup (recipe above)
2 additional tablespoons sugar, or more to taste

Thai Basil and Lemon Granita

Makes a little over one quart.

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, from 2-3 lemons
3 cups cold water
1 cup Thai basil simple syrup (recipe above)

For each of the above recipes, combine lemon juice, water and simple syrup in a pitcher. Taste and adjust sweetness if desired, by either adding more syrup or additional sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Keep in mind that cold mutes the perception of sweet some, so the mixture will taste less sweet when frozen, and you may want to adjust the sugar accordingly.

Serve over ice for lemonade.

For frozen granita:

Granita Method #1: Traditional.
Pour mixture into a flat medium-large container, something like a 9" x 13" baking dish. Cover either with a lid or plastic wrap.

Place the mixture in the freezer. After forty-five minutes, agitate the mixture with a fork, making sure to scrape around the sides, and return it to the freezer. Again, after another 45 minutes, break up the ice crystals a second time with a fork, and return to freezer. Repeat once more and return to the freezer a final time to set for about 2 hours.

Granita Method #2:
A friend recently told me about his speedy way of making granita. I tried it and really like the very fluffy results, much more like shaved ice. I also really like his idea of keeping a bag of the frozen cubes in your freezer, all ready for any sized portions whenever craved.

Fill an ice cube tray with the granita mixture. Place the tray in the freezer until the cubes are frozen solid.

Unmold the lemonade cubes and place them a food processor with a metal blade, or a powerful blender. Grind the cubes in the machine until you reach a uniform consistency. Serve immediately.