I love my friends. Because of so many of them, this has been the greatest summer I've had in a long time. Maybe ever. A few weekends ago, Lorella and Paolo invited myself, Joel, Suresh and Nina to spend an evening enjoying a home-made Italian meal, good wine, a swim in their backyard pool, and their stellar company.
- Americano - a cocktail made of 30 ml each Sweet Vermouth and Campari, topped with club soda and garnished with an orange slice and lemon peel over ice in an old-fashioned glass
- Ricotta spread on toasts - made simply of good quality ricotta cheese, zest of 1 lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper
- Sopressata made by Lorella's dad
- Fresh figs topped with blue cheese, walnut, and proscuitto
- Pine Ridge 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa, California)
- Bucatini with a hot pancetta tomato sauce
- Tuscan beans with roasted cherry tomatoes
Everything was absolutely delicious, despite Lorella's nervousness about cooking for
"foodies" "Eat Local" advocates. The ricotta spread, which is such a simple and quick thing to make, was fantastic and fresh tasting. We couldn't stop eating it! I liked it so much I made my own (inferior) improvisation of it for a party this past weekend, where it was once again a hit.
The sopressata was also addictive with a nice hit of spice. And even though the tomato sauce on the bucatini was hotter than I can handle (I'm a pepper wuss), I still ate almost the whole thing. After dinner, we retired to the bath-warm pool where we enjoyed a refreshing watermelon, lemon and mint salad and water danced to Tropical Tribute to Beatles, among other tunes. As the steam rose off the water's surface and a brilliant full moon flooded the sky with light, we marvelled at and counted our blissful blessings.
We capped the evening with a ricotta-based cannoli ice cream that was rich without being overly sweet. Lorella based her version on the following recipe from One Ordinary Day.
Cannoli Ice Cream
- 1¾ c. whole milk ricotta cheese
- ⅔ c. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp., overfilled, of vanilla extract
- ⅔ c. heavy cream
- ½ tsp. Grand Marnier (I substituted frozen orange juice concentrate.)
- zest of one small lemon
- pinch of sea salt (I used kosher salt.)
- ¼ c. chopped pistachios, optional
- ¼ c. mini chocolate chips, optional
In a food processor, combine the ricotta, lemon zest, sugar, salt, and vanilla until well blended. With cover on and blade spinning, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Add the Grand Marnier. Place the mixture in a bowl, and place that bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water. Set in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.
Churn in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s directions. Place in a container in freezer until firm.
Lorella's adaptation of this recipe had the following changes.
The addition of candied orange peel. When I make real cannoli, I like to use the candied peel as well. I put shelled pistachios and candied orange peel in a tiny food processor and chop them up together, then I mix in the mini semi sweet chocolate chips. I add the nut/orange/chocolate mixture in at the last minute or so of churning in the ice cream maker (mine is just the ice cream bowl with attachments to my kitchen aid stand mixer. And, as you know, I serve the ice cream with broken cannoli shells on top. Packaged imported shells are widely available at grocery stores, or you can just ask your local Italian bakery if they'll sell you a few unfilled shells.
Thanks again, Paolo and Lorella, for an utterly unforgettable night.