The constellation of mosquito bites on my ankles tells me that this has been a good summer after all. A summer of early mornings spent rocking on a chair with a novel in one hand and a cup of coffee that would inevitably go cold in the other. Of Saturdays at the beach, roasting on the scorching sand of a Venetian shore. And of nights eating watermelon under the pergola, seeds and all, sugary juice running down my forearms. Balmy, humid evenings with the scent of corn wafting through the air; with clear skies and bike rides and peachy sunsets that matched the colour of the drinks in our hands.
I haven’t spent a whole summer at home in Veneto in over ten years. I didn’t realise how much I missed it, not until now that it’s almost gone. And although my main reason to be here isn’t leisure, I had to remind myself to soak it all in, all the small details that frame the idea of ‘home’ – the smells, colours, the light, the heat, the flavours – and that make my stay here all the more timely and, in a way, needed.
The reason I’m here, though, the real reason, is to finish my book – to cook, eat and capture the essence of this region through its food and its landscape. The more I think about it – the more I feel the weight of such an ambitious project – the bigger is the temptation to bike away until no one can find me. Seriously, though, it’s going well. I’m happy to report that the book is getting there. I have submitted the manuscript in July (the event was celebrated with three rounds of Bellini) and the photography is nearly done. It will only take a couple more trips to the fish market and another tour of Venice’s alleys to come full circle.
Meanwhile, this spritz granita: what a thrilling discovery! Having had a good deal of spritz and granita this summer, it recently occurred to me that the two could be combined into a smashing, icy aperitivo. Now, if you are thinking about granita in Sicilian terms, think again: this version has no claim for authenticity. That said, there’s a lot to love about it, and if you like spritz, I suspect you’ll love this frozen version just as much, if not more. In fact, not only does it have the same power to quench some serious thirst; it can really cool you off at once, and make your smile wider and head lighter while at it.
This granita is what I’ve been looking forward to at the end of most days lately. Bitter, cold and zingy as it is, it has the power to pick me up after hours spent at the stove or hunched at the computer. And so, I suspect I’ll keep making it again and again, before summer drifts away.
My bitter tooth has seen some potential in the addition of grapefruit juice here, but if you prefer a hint of sweetness, I’d recommend swapping it (in part or completely) with orange juice. Citrus juice, though not present in spritz, adds zing and makes it less alcoholic.
600 ml/ 20 oz Aperol (or Campari, or a mix)
250 ml/ 8 oz Prosecco
650 ml/ 22 oz grapefruit juice (preferably not from concentrate)
Stir all the ingredients together. Pour them in a square metal pan that will fit into your freezer. Freeze for about 3 hours, or until solid and frozen through. Every hour, remove the pan from the freezer and scrape the surface with a fork so that it freezes in flakes.
To serve, remove from the freezer and leave at room temperature for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape the surface to obtain a fluffy, icy flakes and scoop into chilled bowls or glasses. Serve right away.