I love violets. (I can’t grow them, although I keep trying.) Violet was my great auntie’s name, and she was a Dame-to-the-Max. I remember with great fondness her scent … a mixture of bourbon, cigarettes, and oil paint. (She was crafty AND hot-to-trot.) So as you might guess, I get especially excited when I come across violets at the flower mart or the farmers market, as I did recently.
I have always enjoyed cooking with flowers. When I was a working chef (in the olden days) such creations were viewed as “cutting edge.” It is not something you see much here in the States, but the rest of the world has long known the joy of the petal. The Victorians were fans of violets, lavender, citrus flowers, jasmine, and roses, and used them frequently in teas, butters, jams, and the occasional cocktail. Throughout the Middle East, India, and Asia you will find floral essences in all sorts of confections. (I just read about rose-saffron-pistachio ice cream in Iran. I need that.)
I wanted to make something simple to highlight the delicate perfumery of these petals. Also, I was feeling lazy, so the first thing that came to mind was granita … the lazy man’s dessert.
If you are a nervous-Nelly or you just can’t find violets, you can substitute any other fragrant – and edible – petals. Or try infusing herbs and juices together, like lemon with thyme, apple and rosemary, or orange and red pepper. You can also make granita with plain-old coffee (milk and sugar as desired), lemonade, pomegranate juice, or wine, to name just a few. In fact anything liquid will work, as long as there isn’t too much alcohol, which prevents freezing. Just be sure to keep it shallow in the pan, and fork it every 20 minutes.
C’mon! Try it! Life’s short!
2 cups violet petals
4 cups water
1-1/2 cup sugar
1 TB. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- In a large saucepan combine violet petals, water, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Bring to a boil breifly, remove from heat, and cool completely. Strain into a shallow baking dish and place in the freezer. (If it is not purple enough for you, add 2 drops of blue, and 1 drop of red food coloring.)
- Use a fork to mix up ice crystals every 20 minutes until the entire pan is frozen and slushy, about 2 hours. Serve as is, or over sliced peaches or berries. Be sure to use chilled glasses so it doesn’t melt too soon.