Greyhound Granita Cocktails with Candied Grapefruit Zest
I have a secret strategy when I don’t want it to rain on my vacation: I pack an umbrella. Then I carry that umbrella with me everywhere—fully prepared for the rain that never shows up—and I usually end up having to splurge on supermarket sunblock the first chance I get.
Once my parents and I were caught, umbrella-less, in a San Francisco downpour. We had no choice but to keep on slogging through it, until we got to a drugstore on Market Street and bought an umbrella. And just as we left the drugstore, the rain stopped.
I’m sure this was only memorable to me because it proved my oddly superstitious conviction that the weight of an umbrella in my bag is often enough to ward off the rain. I’m sure there are thousands of counter-examples that I’ve failed to remember, since they didn’t support my theory… but I still can’t help but think it tends to be true.
I’ve recently discovered a similar phenomenon, also weather-related, but in this case the question is not: to pack, or not to pack, an umbrella. The question is what to have for dinner.
Paula and I have been superstars in terms of meal-planning and weekend make-ahead cookery over the past few months. In order to save money (while also eating delicious things), we started planning out our meals for the following week every Friday or Saturday, right before a big weekly grocery shopping trip (often to be supplemented by other little grocery shopping trips).
As a result, we’ve been spending even more time in the kitchen over the weekends, to get a head start on the week’s meals. We’ve been making one big frittata (like this one) or scones nearly every Sunday, so our weekday breakfasts are covered. Paula also bakes bread for the week, and I get a kale salad in the fridge to accompany our lunches, assuming we’ve come across some nice looking Tuscan kale.
Then we pretty much stick to our plan of the 3-5 weeknight dinners we’ve decided to make that week. We try to put most of the heavy cooking on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights, since that’s when we have the most energy, and since we need to make dinners that generate leftovers for our weekday lunches!
Wednesdays and Thursdays are for eating leftovers, or for making dinners that won’t have any leftovers, and Fridays are usually for going out to eat (or collapsing at home with a meal we can yank out of the freezer, like tomato soup).
Although we often exhaust ourselves cooking over the weekends, it’s also a nice way to spend time together, while listening to music, and it always seems worth it. So I honestly wasn’t thinking of our recent mastery of meal-planning as any special feat. I only realized just how challenging it might seem to some people when I signed up for the Cooking Cure e-mails from the Kitchn, and—other than the new recipe ideas, which I’m always up for discovering—I found nearly the whole thing unnecessary (for me). It turned out I didn’t need a cooking cure at all—Paula and I were already cooking cured!
Why am I telling you all this? Well, it seems I can never resist making a short story long.
Basically, since we started making weekly meal plans, I’ve noticed a trend: We plan to make broiled bulgogi chicken, kale & eggs over rice, baked polenta, and lentil soup, and it’ll be over 80 degrees all week, and 85-90 in our apartment, so that it’s increasingly miserable every time we turn on the oven. We plan to make chilled noodles, avocado chicken tacos, pasta with salad, and cold lentil salad, and the temperature dips to the 50s or 60s as the “marine layer” of low-hanging fog moves in from the coast.
If I were a superstitious person, I’d say our weekly meal plans are (inversely) controlling the weather.
I know 90-degree apartments and 60-degree fog shouldn’t merit much complaining, especially compared to where I grew up in Wisconsin… But it’s still a little frustrating to be practically locked into your dinner plans—unless you want to make yet another grocery store run—and yet not feel at ALL like turning on the oven or eating hot soup, as you sweat in front of the fan.
Santa Barbara may be seasonless, but it does have its mood swings.
Our last little heat wave got me dreaming of tangy, refreshing grapefruit cocktails, sorbet, or granita. I love Salty Dogs (vodka + grapefruit juice with salt around the rim), and have recently also fallen for Greyhounds (gin + grapefruit juice). The Hungry Cat, a local restaurant, serves Greyhounds adorned with the loveliest little garnish of candied grapefruit zest. (So lovely that Paula and I immediately agreed we would be attempting to reproduce it at home the first time we tried it.)
It’s actually pretty simple to candy your own citrus zest at home. (Thank you, Alice Medrich! <== I can’t even count how many times I’ve said these words). Since it’s just the thin zest, it’s less work than candying the thicker citrus peel that includes the bitter white pith, but it does need to sit in the fridge overnight.
The timing works out fine, though, since the granita also needs 6-10 hours to freeze. That is, before you intentionally melt some of it again with a splash of gin. I love it when a dessert can so easily transform into a cocktail. (A cocktail that you eat with a spoon…)
And, following the superstitious law of inverse menus and weather, the week I finally put this recipe together, Paula and I found ourselves shivering under a blanket, enjoying our greyhound granitas.
While this is definitely not a last-minute dessert recipe since the zest and granita both need to sit overnight, it is the perfect make-ahead dessert recipe. It might even be perfect for your next dinner party! Depending on the weather.
Print these recipes. (PDF)
Candied Grapefruit Zest
(Barely adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich.)
(Makes about 1 cup, more than enough to garnish 8 cocktails)
Active time: 30 minutes; Total time: 30 min. + overnight (+ 2-5 hours of drying, if coating in sugar).
~ zest of 2 organic grapefruit
~ 1½ cups sugar (plus a few more spoonfuls for the second day)
~ 1 cup water
How to make it:
1. Rinse grapefruit well, then use a vegetable peeler to remove long strips of zest (try to get just the zest and avoid the white pith). Then slice each strip of zest into long thin ribbons, about ⅛-inch wide.
2. Place zest ribbons in a small saucepan and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil, then uncover and boil 5 minutes. Drain away all of the liquid. Repeat this step once more.
3. Once you’ve boiled and drained it twice, add 1½ cups sugar and 1 cup water to the zest ribbons in the saucepan. Heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Then cover and bring to a simmer. Leave it covered, but lower the heat and gently simmer 5 minutes. Then remove from the heat and transfer the zest and the cooking liquid to a heatproof bowl. Let cool 15-30 minutes, then cover and refrigerate overnight. (Make ahead: you can do these first 3 steps up to a week ahead of time, and just leave the zest in its cooking liquid in the fridge.)
4. Using a slotted spoon or chopsticks, remove the zest from the liquid and let it drain and dry on a paper towel-lined plate. Enjoy right away, or optionally coat it with more sugar: Let dry for at least 1 hour—or up to 3 hours (for a nicer texture)—then transfer just some of the zest at a time to a small bowl, sprinkle with additional sugar, and toss the zest to coat it in sugar. Then transfer to a clean paper towel and let dry for another 1-2 hours. Store dried zest in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
(This extra sugar coating makes the zest less sticky and nicer looking, but most of it will wash off into the granita, so you can use the sugary zest to balance a tart granita, or you can skip this step.)
Greyhound Granita Cocktails
(Makes 6-8 granita frozen desserts/cocktails)
Active time: 20 minutes; Total time 6-10 hours (or overnight).
~ juice of 4 organic grapefruit (2-2½ cups) + enough water to total 3 cups
~ ½-1 cup sugar (depending on whether you want it very tart or very sweet, or in between)
~ ½ cup water (to dissolve sugar)
~ 1½ oz. gin, per cocktail (optional)
~ several strips of candied grapefruit zest, to garnish
Special equipment needed:
~ an 8×8 or 9×9-inch square metal baking dish
How to make it:
1. Juice the grapefruit, then add ½-1 cup water, or enough so that the juice + water totals 3 cups of liquid. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and ½ cup water. Heat over medium, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once it is just barely starting to simmer, remove from the heat. Stir in the grapefruit juice + water mixture from step #1.
3. Pour the mixture into the metal baking dish, then cover with tin foil, and carefully set it in a flat spot in the freezer. Freezing time will depend on your freezer, but it could take anywhere from 6-10 hours. Every two hours or so, scrape the granita with a fork to break up the ice. If you’re freezing it overnight, try to get at least one or two fork-scrapings in before you go to bed. (It’s fine to leave a few larger chunks of ice, since smaller pieces will turn into a slushy the second they come in contact with room temperature gin.) Once it’s frozen, you can stop scraping and keep in the freezer for up to a week.
(If the whole thing freezes solid, you can always serve it by scraping shavings off the top of the ice with a metal spoon, but the thin shavings will melt very quickly when you add gin.)
4. Spoon granita into individual cocktail glasses or small bowls. Pour over gin, then garnish with a few strips of candied grapefruit zest. Serve with a spoon.
Print these recipes! (PDF)
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