Central American · Dessert · Mediterranean

Simple & Refreshing Summer Desserts

While I have a fair amount of baking recipes on this site, in truth, I don’t bake much in the summer. Instead, I prefer quick and easy cool treats for us to enjoy that take advantage of the fresh fruit available. Also, I don’t eat much dairy – only bits of parmesan and feta – so this rules out a lot of ice cream. I favor granitas (italian ices), batidos or agua frescas (fruit drinks) and desserts made with coconut milk. I realized many people out there might be like me and might want some refreshing ideas. What follows are some of my own recipes, as well as recipes I’ve collected from others that we often make for summer evenings. The beauty is no oven, ice-cream machines or molds are required. Simple and refreshing.

Most flavors are grounded in Italian and Latin American flavors reflecting our home and preferences, but some such as the Chai tea latte popsicle are from other cultures that we truly enjoy. A few ideas are from cookbooks that I love: Everyone’s Table by Gregory Gourdet and Bottom of the Pot by Naz Deravian.

Granitas:

What I love about granitas is that they are relatively easy to make – you blend them and then leave them in the freezer until you are ready to enjoy. They are very healthy, as well, as it is simply fruit and water. If you add sugar, you can sub out stevia for those who are sugar conscious. Honey is also a tasty substitue. I take advantage of using very naturally sweet fruits (i.e. pineapple, watermelon), fresh mint from the garden and limes to make most of my combos. My basic recipe is as follows:

  • 6-8 cups of fresh fruit, chopped
  • 2 tbs lime juice (or 1 lime)
  • 2 tbs honey or 1/4 cup sugar
  • fresh mint (2-4 tbs)

When you blend it together, spread it into a 9×13 baking pan and freeze for an hour and 1/2. Scrape the ice and then put back in the freezer. Set the pan out for 15-20 minutes before serving, so it thaws to the best texture.

Granita ideas:

  • Watermelon Mint Granita – if you have a bunch of leftover watermelon, this is is fast and easy to put together. It is my favorite of all time.
  • Pineapple Mint Granita – simply use canned or fresh pineapple.
  • Lemon & Rosemary Granita – Omit the lime juice and honey. Instead use: 3 cups water, 1 cup sugar, 1 and 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tbs lemon zest. Three sprigs rosemary.
  • Strawberry Mint Granita– 1.5 lbs of hulled strawberries. 1/2 cup sugar (to taste). 2 tbs lemon juice, instead of lime.
  • Melon & Mint Granita – Use cantalope and increase the honey/sugar to desired sweetness.
  • Coconut Granita- I literally use a can of coconut milk, lime juice, and sugar. It’s ridiculously easy.

Quick Coconut Milk “icecream”

This is a great substitute for those who are dairy free, lactose intolerant or don’t have an ice-cream maker. Like granitas, I utilize a 9 x13 baking dish and the freezer. Generally, this freezes within an hour, and better than granitas, no scraping necessary:). The basic recipe is as follows:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 cups of frozen fruit
  • sugar to taste, if desired. I would begin with a 1/3 of a cup and build to desired level of sweetness.

Coconut Milk Icecream ideas:

  • Mango & Cardamom – add three crushed pods of cardamom seed.
  • Pineapple & Cardamom – add three crushed pods of cardamom seed.
  • Papaya & Pineapple – use a combination of these frozen fruits and a dash of lime juice.

Ice Pops or Popsicles

What I love about these is that they can be as simple as pouring some fruit juice in to a mold, or you can make it more elaborate or alcoholic for a summer evening refresher. I like silicone molds, which you can find online for around 8 dollars, but of course, the molds from dollar tree will work just as well in a pinch.

Popsicle ideas

Icy Popsicles: The basic recipe is 2 cups whole fruit (frozen or fresh), 1/4 cup honey or sugar, and coconut water/orange juice/lime juice water as needed for blending.

  • Strawberry-Watermelon – 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup watermelon, 1/4 cup sugar or honey. Lime juice as needed.
  • Mango-Papaya – 1 cup mango, 1 cup papaya, 1/4 cup sugar or honey, orange juice as needed.
  • Any fruit juice – simply add to the molds and freeze.
  • Strawberry Rose – 1 lb stawberries, mint leaves, splash of rosewater, honey & 1 bottle of rose’ wine (source: Bottom of the Pot)*

Creamy Popsicles:

  • Orange Mango Coconut Yogurt – 4 cups frozen mango, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 can coconut milk, 1/4 cup honey or sugar
  • Peach Yogurt – 2 ripe peaches, 1 cup yogurt, 1/4 cup honey or sugar
  • Pineapple Chia Seed – 1 can coconut milk, 1/2 cup pineapple juice, 1/2 cup crushed pineapple, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • Chai tea latte – use a commercial concentrate base of chai tea latte and combine with almond milk, regular milk or coconut milk to desired taste.

Batidos or Agua Frescas

Fruit drinks are a refreshing treat for anytime, and of course, you can add a little alcohol in the evening for some fun. In Costa Rica, they are known as batidos, but in much of Latin America – agua frescas. I love watermelon batidos when I am dehydrated or tamarind when I am constipated or sluggish. They are better than juice because you still have the fiber and vitamins from the cut fruit.

Regardless when you get them in restaurants they are usually made with pulpy syrup base. The old school way is a machete and blender. They can come made with water or with milk. The basic recipe for a batido is essentially 1 cup fruit, 1 cup water OR can evaporated milk (or coconut milk if dairy free), 1/4 sugar or honey. From there, you can add other layers.

Here are some ideas.

  • Tamarind & Orange Blossom – 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup tamarind paste, 1 tsp orange blossom water. You make this over the stove and store in the fridge as a syrup. When ready, combine with five cups of water. Alcohol: tequila. (Source: Bottom of the Pot)*
  • Pina Colada – Pineapple juice, 1 can crema de coco (coconut cream), ice and blend. Alcohol: rum
  • Papaya: 1 cup papaya, 1 can evaporated milk (or coconut milk if dairy free), 1/4 sugar or honey.
  • Peach Lassi – 2 ripe peaches, 3 tbs honey, lime juice (1 lime), 1 cup yogurt (Source: Everyone’s Table)*
  • Limonada de coco – 1 cup cream of coconut, 2 1/2 cups crushed ice, juice of 3 limes, 2 tbs sugar Alcohol: rum
  • Other great fruits – watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberry, pineapple, strawberry, mango – or any combination.

*If you haven’t please check out these amazing cookbooks: Everyone’s Table by Gregory Gourdet and Bottom of the Pot by Naz Deravian.

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