Every family has a midsummer story. Growing up, our family's midsummer story could be condensed to a single word. Watermelon. The word summer is interchangeable with the word watermelon.
My mom spread out a giant pink blanket on our family's green grassy back lawn. My sister and I carried our summer lunch, each of us grinning, and holding a large plate. On top of each plate was a perfect round of watermelon. Not the overused magazine photograph style, sliced wedge, but rather, a slice across the width of the variegated fruit, studded with dark seeds. We'd sit, spoon in hand and dig out bites of our melon, spitting seeds into the dirt of the bordering marigold planted flower bed. I'm not exactly sure where the huge round serving of melon started. Now as a mother myself I have to wonder if it was my mom's way of creating an occasion around a meal-- something that made an ordinary event like lunch feel extra special on a mid-summer afternoon. Or maybe it was the knowledge that if she gave her kids giant rounds of watermelon, we'd be fascinated with spitting seeds and attempting to scoop out little circles for far longer than a simple block of melon would have allowed. Or maybe it was simply a celebration of the season-- enjoying good food when it was at it's peak.
In any event, the sight of a watermelon sends my mind deep into the dreamy haze that every summer day should be. Which is why when I walked by a roadside produce stand selling watermelons, I didn't hesitate to purchase one and lug it the remainder of my walk home. Even while wearing the baby in the sling and keeping my other two children out of harm's way, the work of walking home with a melon was worth it. Upon arriving home, I proceeded to slice rounds and present one each to my seven year old and to my five year old-- who each looked at the other as if I had lost my mind. Meanwhile, my seven month old gummed little bits of the juicy fruit as I chopped the remainder of the red sweet flesh for use in the following recipes.
Start with one large ripe watermelon. Remove and discard the skin and rind. Chop the fruit into pieces and add to a food processor or blender. Pulse until the fruit liquefies. Set a strainer over a large stainless steel mixing bowl and pour the mixture through the strainer, pressing the fruit until all of the juice is extracted. Discard the fruit caught in the strainer and place the bowl, containing the juice, into the freezer. Allow to sit for at three hours.
Using a fork, scrape across the top and down the sides of the frozen juice (the mixture should be slushy at this point). Return to the freezer and revisit the mixture every hour, scraping across with a fork, until the mixture is frozen and flaky. (Alternatively, the mixture could be frozen hard and added to a food processor just before serving to create the icy flakes. However, the texture won't be quite as light using this technique.)
Serving option A (kid friendly): Scoop the watermelon granita into small bowls and serve as a refreshing treat on a midsummer's day.
Serving option B (party ready): Fill a martini glass with the watermelon granita, top with champagne and serve as a midsummer's evening sip.