Watermelon Granita on the Half Shell

One of the reasons I originally got into vintage cookbooks: I have a strange fascination with foods that are shaped to look like their ingredients.  Think salmon mousse in fish molds, deviled eggs; give me off-color picture plates of these, and I’ll be happy.  Until I came across this recipe in The Dallas Junior League Cookbook, however, I never thought of the absolutely flat-out genius idea of making watermelon-esque watermelon granita.  I might have thought of serving such a dish in a watermelon shell, but I’d never have gone the extra step and added chocolate “seeds.”  And the world would have been poorer for it, because this is awesome.

Not only is this kitschy and adorable, the bittersweetness of the dark chocolate pips contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the granita. The granita itself, in addition, is incredibly easy to whip up.

Ice cream scoop = super-sized melon baller.

This recipe uses fresh lemon juice to add flavor and acid, which rounds out the watermelon.

Freeze it in a large, shallow pan. The key to granita: turn it every half hour or so with a fork. This will keep the ice crystals small and broken-up. If you forget, you’ll wind up with a massive watermelon ice cube.

To make the chocolate “seeds,” melt dark chocolate and use a chopstick or knife to drip dots onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I did this early, and just tossed it into the freezer with the granita so the pips wouldn’t melt (it’s hot out).

The pips get layered in with the granita, so each serving has some chocolate. I also had some chocolate salt hanging around, and tossed a bit of that on. It was pretty delicious.

Watermelon Granita (Serves 6-8)
1 qt. pureed watermelon (about half a large watermelon)
Juice of 1 medium lemon
Sugar to taste
4 oz. dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa)

1. Puree the watermelon in a blender until smooth. Add lemon juice and sugar to taste.** Reserve the shell from the half watermelon.
2. Pour the puree into a wide, shallow pan and put it in the freezer. Break up the ice and turn the granita over every 30 minutes or so for about 2-3 hours, until all the liquid has frozen.
3. While the granita is freezing, melt the chocolate (in the microwave or on stovetop, over super low heat). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and use a chopstick (or similar implement) to drip watermelon seed-sized dots of chocolate across the sheet. Put the sheet in the freezer or fridge to keep the seeds solid until serving.
4. Scrape all the pulp out of the watermelon shell, so only the white part remains. When the granita is frozen, spoon it into the shell, arranging the chocolate seeds in even layers. Reserve a few seeds to decorate the top and serve on the half shell, straight from the freezer.

** About 1/4 cup should work, but tastes vary and melons vary in sweetness, so make it however you like.