Summers in Florida, Israel, Italy, Nigeria, summers so hot breathing is labored, summers so stifling one gasps for breath and searches out even the smallest iota of relief. A smattering of cold showers sporadically throughout the day, ice cream sucked down with no consideration of calories, sweet drinks with plenty of ice, the chilly glass first rubbed across cheeks, pressed against the forehead and held against the chest. A bric-à-brac of fans made from old magazines and newspapers, handkerchiefs or most anything will do to stave off the hotness. Summer days so scorching it is difficult to concentrate, nights sweltering, anything but sultry, no hint of romance in the rumpled, damp sheets strewn haphazardly across the bed. Lights dimmed, the noise of too many television sets droning in the distance, in the silence of the evening, windows thrown open to catch even the merest whisper of a breeze, letting out lives and family secrets to mingle over the rooftops.
How many sizzling, sticky, torrid summers have I lived through that I should be used to it by now? How many cool summers kissed by rain have I lived through, complaining, wondering where the warmth has run to, astonished each morning as I slip into a sweater that I could have ever damned and cursed those sweltering seasons before? Year in, year out and we wait to discover what kind of summer it will decide to be all the while romanticizing past summers in another country, on a different continent, summers that, through time and hazy memory have somehow become magically gorgeous, temperate and filled with adventure.
As the years pass and memories of childhood and youth blur and perfect, I tend to remember only the best, the comfortable shady mornings playing in the street, the sunny afternoons at the public swimming pool eating icy treats in between dips, Fourth of July picnics at Wickham Park in the cool lake breeze. One tends to forget the burning cement of the sidewalks, the oppressive heat of afternoons waiting impatiently for the end of a June school day or intolerable evenings on a terrace in Italy praying for a wisp of air, the dry, arid heat of a day hiking in the Negev or trying to keep two little babies cool during a canicule, a heatwave, while rolling through the French countryside in an old, rattling deux chevaux, windows open, barely feeling any relief from the wind whipping our hair, wind as hot and heavy as no wind at all.
Yet, those hot, hot summers are interspersed with sweet memories of staying cool, practices that quickly became traditions, habits formed, customs embraced, the focus of so many fond remembrances: drinking icy Coca Colas on a Jerusalem street; tall glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice every morning in Lagos, a quinine pill washed down with the sweet, refreshing drink; thick, chilled slices of watermelon eaten standing in the front yard of a Florida summer day, sticky juice dripping down chins and off of gangly elbows, children spitting black seeds across the grass in bursts of giggles; cherry Italian ices from the truck driving through a Long Island neighbourhood during family vacation, those funny triangular ices slurped down after an afternoon playing in the park; trips to the gelateria, a young mother holding onto two tiny, slippery hands, ordering a single cornetto each, scoops of gelato "Caffé per la mamma, cioccolato per Clemente e una pallina di crema per Simone". Or, better yet, when the mercury pushes up to dizzying heights, when the sweat trickles down one’s back and clothing weighs heavy, pressing against the skin, when eating becomes impossible, the dog days of summer snatching away the remnants of an appetite, and even sitting under the vines twining lazily up and around our terrace offers no peace, we make the winding trip to another gelateria, the one a block or two away, an even hotter trip, for their granità in a rainbow of flavors, watermelon and lemon, strawberry and peach, icy, slushy and offering respite from the skyrocketing temperatures.
And home again in the evening as the day winds down and the boys play, husband and I kick back and relax, glass of chilled bubbly Prosecco in hand. Oh so Italian, a good Prosecco is the ideal adult refreshment. A nice lemony sorbet drenched with a kick of vodka, a tall goblet of Prosecco accompanied by slices of ripe, flavorful tomatoes layered with buffalo mozzarella with just a slight tang and garden fresh basil, a granità in whatever flavour you choose, these are the lasting memories, the wonders of living in Italy. I remember my first granità al caffé in New York’s Little Italy with my brother before even my first trip to France. Coffee-infused ice chips layered with barely sweetened whipped cream and I was in heaven. Our trips to the local wine shop to select a bottle or two for a party invariably found us tucking a Prosecco into our sack. There are just some things that make summer bearable, traditions carried with me from one country to the next as we learn how to live with the oppression of scorching, torrid, sweltering summers.
It had been so long since a good bottle of Prosecco graced our coffee or dinner table until Bisol Prosecco entered my very French life. Thanks to Bisol’s generous sponsorship of From Plate to Page Tuscany and Somerset, we have renewed our love affair with this splendid drink, this elixir of the gods. Chase away the devil, the bad mood and the heat with a glass or two of chilled Cartizze, elegant and fruity, or Crede, richer, with hints of apple and pear. Or our summer favorite, Bisol Desiderio Jeio, a bubbly rosé. Hints of rose, fresh fruit, citrus highlight this elegant, crisp sparkling wine of delicate Champagne pink; it is our go-to accompaniment with appetizers, dessert and, yes, dinner as well, especially a cool seafood platter. So when the desire swept over me to prepare a granità to see us through the summer, I knew that I would pair the Desiderio Jeio with sweet seasonal cherries for an extra-special, very adult treat. Ah, yes, cherries spiked with Prosecco, frozen and icy… summer doesn’t get better than this.
14 oz (400 g) fresh cherries, stems removed and pitted
5/8 cup (150 ml) Bisol Prosecco or any other sparkling wine, rosé or white, or a dry white wine
6 Tbs runny/liquid honey
¼ tsp Nielsen Massey lemon extract or 2 tsps lemon juice
Rinse the cherries, remove and discard stems and pits. Place the cherries in a robot or blender and mix to purée. Place in a mixing bowl.
Add the Prosecco, the honey and the lemon extract or lemon juice and blend or whisk well. Pour the liquid into a freezer-safe container, a metal pan or a plastic container, preferably with a lid, and place in the freezer. The larger and shallower your pan (8 x 12 x 1 inch/20 x 30 x 2 cm), the quicker the granità will be ready to eat.
For a shallow pan, stir the granità every 15 minutes or so, using a fork, spatula or metal spoon, until ready to serve. For a deeper container, stir every few hours and then leave in the freezer overnight. Stir it up before serving.
Serve as is or, for a more decadent treat or elegant dessert, serve with a dollop of unsweetened or very lightly sweetened whipped cream.