Cherries and homemade mascarpone

Cherries on a plate and in a crateMaking homemade mascarpone has been on my “to do” kitchen list for some time. Although I must admit this has no particular relationship to bright red cherries. I was inspired to combine both after a weekend shopping trip to the farmers market. A crate of red stone fruits and a few glass jars of organic cream were the spark for a perfect pair. Just how easy making mascarpone turned out to be was quite a surprise. Like so many “old-fashioned” cooking methods, the key to success is to following a few simple steps. The results unfold after an effortless wait. Homemade mascarpone is infinitely creamier and most definitely lighter than the store-bought version. From now on, I am making my own. Just like ricotta, any kind of fresh cream will do — whether from a goat, a cow or a sheep. I poured my pale yellow homemade mascarpone over hibiscus-soaked cherries while thinking of a classic”clafoutis”. Did I already mention I hope summer is forever?

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Nectarine sorbet

Peaches on golden platesSummer  is the best of all seasons — bringing loads of melons, even more berries,  crates full of peaches, nectarines and baskets and baskets of blueberries. The abundance of reds, purples and pinks inspire to simple salads and heavenly desserts. Fruit macedonia for breakfast or lunch makes way for brightly colored frozen fruits after supper. I like to fill frosty caffè’ latte bowls with homemade fruit sorbet and top them with chopped fruits for an effortless dessert.

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Strawberry and lime tomato gazpacho

Tomatoes and strawberries with lime

I love strawberries. At the moment my interest in this ruby-red fruit is more accurately described as an obsession. With the heat of the summer weighing heavily on my mind, the only thing that lingers is the sweet aroma of strawberries. It would seem that this luscious red fruit is even starting to compete with my favorite of all time — the tomato. This is quite a statement, since not only do I love tomatoes, I would even consider wearing a perfume made from the oven-roasted version. Continue reading

Homemade ricotta

Strawberries and ricottaI like to experiment in the kitchen.  I even dream of spending a few uninterrupted months between the kitchen counter tops and my writing desk some day, to wonder and create recipes so simple that happiness is the only option when making them. In my vision, my pantry is filled with the bright colors of fruit jams, Mason jars filled with endless variations on simple tomato sauce and preserved vegetables from a garden of all seasons. Intent upon reaching that kind of happiness on a daily basis, I try “old-fashioned” recipes when I have a moment to spare, like the making of fresh ricotta. Continue reading

Strawberries with lemon and lavender

Strawberries and lavendarSpring arrives in April or May and slowly but surely baskets of strawberries begin to overtake the fruit vendors shelves in my neighborhood. The brighter their color, the more often I find myself  cheerfully adding strawberries to my fruit macedonia and picnic-style shortcakes. The days stretch out into long evenings full of light. All of a sudden, or so it seems, deep ruby-red strawberries fill my favorite vintage porcelain plates daily in the kitchen.  Just about mid-June, strawberries become so luscious and full of perfume that nothing short of a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of honey and some flowering lavender are needed for the perfect midsummer dessert.  This is the moment when I hope that summer will last forever.

Ingredients

  • 500 grams of the very best organically grown strawberries
  • the zest and juice of one organic lemon
  • one tablespoon organic honey
  • the flowers of two sprigs of lavender from the garden

Wash a carton of fresh strawberries briefly in cold water, or brush them off with a linen cloth. Remove the green stems and cut the strawberries in half above a ceramic bowl to catch their juices. Swirl a few spoons of honey along with the flowers of blooming purple lavender into the fruit. Add the grated zest of the lemon and just enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to add a hint of tartness to the strawberries. Chill the strawberries for just one hour or bring them to the kitchen table right away.

Suggested combinations

The possibilities are endless but in the height of summer I suggest generous bowls of this fruit completely on its own.  For a lovely appetizer, wrap a strawberry in a leaf of fresh basil and serve.

Notes

In Italy a mixture of cut fruits marinated in lemon juice (and often wine of some kind) is called “Macedonia”.

Green goddess avocado dressing

avocado on a blue platterAt the age of seven I moved from the Italian countryside to the United States with my family for a few years. Up until then I had passed my days taking bike rides through the village of Caldogno. Daydreaming in the fields bordered by grape vineyards situated picturesquely across from our house was never boring. I had not yet watched television as a pastime, or at least I don’t recall doing so. While my mother and her best friend Melia drank their daily afternoon espresso, I chased butterflies in the vegetable garden. With the carelessness of youth I set out on a new adventure to my origins, unaware that every place and time is irreplaceable.

I did not realize at the age of seven, that leaving Italy would mean saying goodbye to zinnia filled flower gardens and copper pots full of polenta. Traveling to the U.S. I had no idea what was awaiting me. From one moment to the next, I was surrounded by the English language. I no longer smelled freshly baked panini from the corner bakery in the morning. The espresso pot didn’t percolate on the stove every afternoon. I was intent upon observing — taking in my new surroundings. It was an unforgettable experience, filled with change and confusion, excitement and happiness. For an indefinite period I felt lost, unaware  that what I was feeling could be described as culture shock. Continue reading

Green asparagus and new potatoes with gremolata

Green asparagus on newspaper IIIn the Spring I simply cannot decide which green vegetable to start cooking with first — peas, broad beans or asparagus. The arrival of the first clay covered new potatoes at the farmers market is a thrill and a promise that winter’s root vegetables are no longer my sole source of kitchen  inspiration. With fists full of bright green spears of asparagus, I look back with absolutely no regrets on the end of limited hours of daylight for three glorious new seasons. With the door temporarily closed to the cold, I look forward to a gorgeous spring, a brightly colored summer and an unforgettable harvest season in the fall. The following recipe is distinctively Italian and made with three of the best earthy ingredients — grilled asparagus and potatoes with lemon-parsley gremolata. This is deliciously real fast food.

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