La Dolce Vita & Tiramisu

spanish_steps_romeEaster is this coming weekend. Anyone who lives in northern New England knows that spring comes in two parts: Mud Season and Black Fly Season. Easter falls firmly in the former. Which means that, more often than not, Easter is windy, wet and wild. When we were little girls, my dad’s cousin Ginny or my grandmother bought fancy dresses for my sister and me for Easter. Regardless of the weather, we wore those light and frothy dresses to church and Easter dinner. While we were truly adorable, our outfits were hardly appropriate for the icy rain and whipping winds of a typical early spring day in New England.

That’s not the case in Italy. Fast forward a few decades … to the long Easter weekend I spent in and around Rome. It was a pilgrimage of sorts. I was living in Geneva at the time and dating an Italian. We had four days off and he decided it was time to take me home to meet the family.

Unlike New England or even Geneva, spring had arrived in central Italy. Daffodils bobbed in the warm breezes and the sun gave everything a soft, golden glow. Now, I don’t want to disappoint you but if you are conjuring up visions of a sporty little convertible zipping through the Italian countryside and streets of Rome … well, stop. In spite of his roots, my beau drove a very practical sedan of some sort. I think it was German.

Anyway, we traveled light with no heavy coats or muddy boots to weigh us down. With sweaters casually draped over our shoulders, we wandered through the ancient streets of Rome. We sipped espresso in Piazza Navono, visited the Spanish Steps and Saint Peter’s square. It had been rainy and cool when we left Geneva and we reveled in the sweet life of the Italian spring. Ahhhh, la dolce vita.

Early Sunday morning we headed up into the nearby Apennine Mountains to meet the family. We spent a delightful day in a picturesque medieval village. It was the kind of village you see in the travel books or on picture post cards. Thick stonewalls protected the entire village. Narrow three- and four- story houses were jammed together. We meandered through the winding, cobblestone streets, past my friend’s boyhood home, his grandparents’ old house and the houses of numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and school chums. Along the way, he entertained me with stories of his family, a young boy’s mischief-making and, of course, soccer games played here there and everywhere. It was a wonderful glimpse of what it was like to grow up in a tiny village in central Italy.

Around noon, we found ourselves in the village square with its ancient church. The ringing bells announced the end of mass. Within minutes, people, shouts and laughter filled the square. It was like a scene out of a movie. Widows were dressed in black from head to toe. Men played Bocce. Extended families and friends came together to celebrate. Hugs and kisses were exchanged. New babies were admired. Foreign girlfriends were eyed and not so surreptitiously.

Next, our walk took us out of the protective walls and into the surrounding hills. It was time to stop strolling and work up an appetite for the feast to come. Several hours later, showered and changed, we settled down to an enormous family dinner. The food was perfect and, in a word, abbondanza. We were treated to delicious springtime delicacies – beautiful artichokes, delicious lamb and bright spring greens. Everything was fresh from farms in the nearby valley. Everyone was full of good cheer, the conversation was animated and laughter flowed like good wine.

Have a wonderful Easter with your friends and family. Buon appetito!

Tiramisu
London to New York to Tokyo and everywhere in between, Tiramisu gained worldwide popularity during the 1990’s. For many, it is still the quintessential Italian dessert. Enjoy!
Serves 12

12 egg large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups Marsala
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1 cup very cold heavy cream
About 30 crispy ladyfingers
About 1 1/2 cups freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee
4-6 ounces dark or milk chocolate, grated

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with water and ice. Set a medium bowl in the ice water and have a fine mesh sieve handy.

Put the yolks, 1 1/4 cups sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a heavy saucepan and whisk until smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly add 1 1/4 cups Marsala and whisk until smooth. Set over medium-low heat, and stirring constantly, cook until the mixture is thick and reaches 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Immediately remove the pan from heat and pass the custard through the fine mesh sieve into the bowl sitting in the ice water. Add the vanilla and, stirring frequently, let the custard stand until cool.

While the custard cools, put the espresso and remaining sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the Marsala and stir to combine.

When the custard has cooled, put the mascarpone and cream in a bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the custard into the whipped mascarpone and cream.

Cover the bottom of a deep 9×13-inch glass or ceramic dish with a single layer of ladyfingers and drizzle the cookies with half the espresso mixture. Let the ladyfingers sit for a minute to absorb the espresso. Top the ladyfingers with half of the custard-mascarpone mixture and smooth the top. Add another layer of cookies and drizzle with the remaining espresso. Top with the remaining custard-mascarpone, cover and refrigerate for several hours.

To serve: generously sprinkle the tiramisu with grated chocolate, spoon into individual bowls and serve.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce
Two Years Ago – Confetti Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago – Magret de Canard Provencal
Four Years Ago – Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool Parfaits
Five Years Ago – Grilled Lamb & Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Six Years Ago – Spicy Olives
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Easter? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

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