When I lived in San Francisco, I was used to the summer fog, which kept things pretty cool. Moving to Paris, I imagined idle afternoons enjoying the gentle breezes of summer, sipping my citron presse in cafes by the Seine. Instead I’m sweating it out in a top-floor apartment. While it’s tres parisienne, the charming zinc roof just overhead turns the place into a raging four d'ete: a summer oven. So don’t complain about how hot you are until you’ve spent August at my place.
But wherever you are, even if the oven stays off, it’s still nice to finish backyard barbecues and outdoor dinners with something sweet -- a rich espresso granita maybe, or a sophisticated rose jelly with nectarines and blueberries, or luscious berries jubilee with peach sorbet.
In the summer, I do what little cooking I can on the stove top. But it’s not a problem, because it gives me the opportunity to use the abundance of fresh fruit that’s overflowing at the markets.
Slices of ripe nectarines and blueberries get layered in goblets with a retro-style rose jelly, and baskets of plump, luminous berries get jumbled together in an updated berries jubilee, a cool twist on the classic.
The berries macerate briefly in an orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier, and, keeping it simple, I skip the traditional flambeing and use my ration of time by the stove to quickly caramelize some salted and sugared almonds to scatter on top. (Leftovers are terrific tossed with salads and summer slaws.)
And is there anything more appealing during the broiling heat of summer than icy peach sorbet scooped from the machine, made from fragrant, juicy-ripe peaches with a big helping of those berries?
Well, yes, there is something that’s almost as appealing: an air conditioner. And last year I decided to investigate getting one. In the United States, they’re pretty standard fare.
But although the French are the masters at taking liberties with something from another culture and making it their own (which is why you might find a pile of mozzarella, or morsels of quail, in your Caesar salad), they haven’t kept pace regarding effective methods for cooling down. In addition to air conditioning, fans are taboo.
So I churn up lots of ice cream and sorbets and keep my freezer jampacked with what often seems like more than 31 flavors in there.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, not to worry: Granita is easy to make in any home freezer. The bulk of the work is done by raking the mixture with a fork as it chills, until it becomes a mountain of intensely flavored crystals. A dollop of white chocolate cream acts as a creamy counterpoint to the frozen crystals of espresso granita.
With a flurry of chocolate curls, it will satisfy the most hard-core coffee lover. (If you’re not up for enjoying the late-night revelry that the long days of summer inspire, feel free to use decaf.) And because you’re keeping a lid on the oven door, feel free to let your local baker take the heat, so to speak -- no need to turn your nose up at store-bought crispy cookies, which you can serve alongside.
Unfortunately for them, too many people turn up their noses at rose, confusing it with similarly colored wines, which can be sweeter than candy, and not so refreshing. Since a hearty red wine is out of the question when it’s hot outside, glasses of chilled rose -- ones on the dry side, thank you -- have a much easier way of going down in the summer months.
Similarly easy to enjoy is a chilled jelly made from rose, served with whatever combination of summer fruits and berries suits you.
I adore the combination of sliced nectarines along with a handful of ripe blueberries, perhaps because they nostalgically remind me of my mom, who sprinkled them in her fruit gelatins too. (Although mine are decidedly less stiff, and not fluorescent green.)
But unless you’re my long-lost sibling, there’s no reason you can’t veer off with other fruits: Plums, ripe apricots, silky mango slices or cubes of melon can easily be used instead.
Making glasses up in advance so they’re chilled thoroughly is a good idea. It not only takes the heat off entertaining but gives me time to polish off any leftover rose before my guests arrive.
And after surviving summer in this apartment -- even the pigeons, who usually congregate on my window ledge in large numbers, have taken a breather until fall -- I don’t think anyone deserves it more than I do.
To make the espresso granita, dissolve the sugar in the warm espresso. Pour the mixture into a shallow 2-quart glass, plastic or nonreactive-metal pan and place it in the freezer.
After two hours, remove from the freezer and use a fork to rake any frozen espresso around the edges toward the center. Return the granita to the freezer.
Continue to scrape the granita every 45 minutes until you get fine crystals. When it’s done, you may want to use a metal pastry scraper or spatula to chop the crystals and make them very fine. Store in the freezer for up to two days, until ready to use.
To make the white chocolate cream, melt the white chocolate with 6 tablespoons of the cream in a medium metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Whip the remaining cream until it reaches stiff peaks. Fold half of the whipped cream into the melted white chocolate, then fold in the remaining whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
To serve, spoon the granita into chilled glasses and top with a dollop of the white chocolate cream. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of chocolate shavings over each. Serve immediately.
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