Sunday, April 18, 2010
I love it when I have an opportunity to plan a dinner party. Choosing each course and beverages, deciding on a dessert, and figuring out how much can be prepared in advance is a fun challenge. Last week, friends who now live in Dublin were in Austin for a visit, and we were excited to invite them for dinner one evening. When your dinner guests happen to do a lot of traveling and happen to know food, it makes menu planning a little more stressful, but I knew we’d have a fun time regardless of the meal. Since I’ve been so interested in The New Spanish Table lately, I chose several things from that book for our menu. First was a sangria made with tempranillo, brandy, and my favorite liqueur Paula’s Texas Orange. Along with tapas of olives, nuts, and Spanish cheeses, I wanted to serve something a little different which was an idea that actually came from the dessert chapter in the book. There is a suggestion to use a blood orange and campari granita with shrimp or scallops, and I was intrigued. There’s a small amount of sugar in the granita, but the blood orange juice and campari made it more tart and fruity than sweet. The idea of a frozen, brightly colored topping on a scallop was something I had to try.
Making the granita was straightforward. I juiced some blood oranges after zesting one of them. The juice and zest were added to one quarter cup of sugar in a saucepan, and the mixture was warmed until the sugar dissolved. It was left to reduce for a few minutes, and then allowed to cool. Once cool, about one-third cup of campari was added. Freezing a granita is easiest in a wide, shallow pie dish. The juice mixture was poured into the dish and placed in the freezer for about an hour before being stirred and scraped. Then, every 30 minutes for the next couple of hours it was scraped and flaked. It takes a little longer to freeze a mixture with alcohol in it, but soon enough it became grainy and icy as it should. Then, I seared large sea scallops and allowed them to cool to room temperature so that the granita topping wouldn’t melt instantly. I topped each scallop with a little scoop of granita and some chopped cilantro.
The bitterness of blood orange and campari balanced the sweetness well and mingled nicely with the mild flavor of scallops. Next time, I might sear the scallops earlier and even chill them a bit before topping them with granita since it did melt more quickly than I would have liked. The bright orange color of the frozen granules was as pretty as can be, and it was a fun play on sweet and savory expectations. There was more to come after the tapas, and I’ll show the rest of the meal in upcoming posts.