As promised, I am exploring the “dolchi” sides of “Spoon Food.” Typically, I am a “savory” girl. When you ride the trains in Italy, the attendant will come through and ask you, “Sweet or Savory?” (…and yes, it will be in English because they know that we are Americans.) If you can pass yourself off for a native they will say, “dolce o salate?” It usually is a choice between cookies of some kind or a pretzel or cracker. I always choose the savory. My husband, the sweet. I wonder what that says about us.
On those occasions where I do want something sweet, I have particular favorites that I reach for over and over.
While I love me a good cookie and a cup of tea, (see my “You Wanna The Tea? Go Make“) these are some of the confections that taste best with a spoon.
Tiramisu: This decadent dessert is made with lady fingers, coffee, Mascarpone cheese and little bits of chocolate. When it is served in a restaurant, they usually dust it with a drop of cinnamon or powdered sugar or cocoa. I like to scrape that first thin layer off bit by bit so I can savor the filling unadorned. Mascarpone cheese is some derivative of Ambrosia….which was the food of the gods in Greek mythology. It’s like cream cheese, but lighter. It isn’t sweet on its own, but it takes on the flavor of whatever you are making with it.
Ricotta Pie: This is traditionally made at Easter. After all the ham, the lamb, the artichokes, the potatoes and the pasta, this is the final nail in the coffin. My mother’s is excellent. The lemon flavoring and the sugar with the ricotta create a surprisingly refreshing flavor. You have to be sure and not get one that is dry. It’ll kill you. There’s nothing like that hot hangovery feeling of too much food, too much chocolate, and then a dry ricotta pie. It’s making me sick thinking about it.
Rice Pudding: Arborio risotto is perfect for this dish, although any sticky, short grain rice will do. The longer you let the rice cook and soak in the milk, (and cream and butter) the richer the flavor. Cinnamon, sugar and raisins give the right mix of texture. Golden raisins are an elegant option, they tend to swell up more like the rice.
Gelato: We have all heard the praises of gelato previously. If you choose to get it in a dish instead of a cone, you are given a teeny, tiny, baby, little spoon. It’s the better to savor it with, my dear. A ramped up version of gelato is “Drowned Ice Cream”. This recipe was mentioned in Carlo Middione’s cook book, The Food of Southern Italy. Drowned ice cream is a generous dish of your favorite frozen confection and then you add a shot of liqueur to it. For example, chocolate with Grand Mariner, mint chocolate chip with Peppermint Schnapps, vanilla with Amaretto, hazelnut with Frangelico, chocolate with Kahlua. There are as many combinations as your imagination can make.
Chocolate pudding: Chocolate pudding is a dish best served warm, with some whipped cream, still in the pan. Personally, this one always gets a wooden spoon. There is such a comfort to this dessert. It’s like chocolate porridge for stormy night.
Pears in syrup: Home grown pears are best, but whatever kind you choose, they are best soft and ripe. My husband claims that fruit is not dessert, but I disagree on this one. (He also says that “casserole” is French for “ass”, but that’s a whole other kettle of crazy.) The glazed sugary syrup over warmed pears is the perfect base for whipped cream and cinnamon.