Some sources say that mascarpone would be nowhere without tiramisu. Conversely a tiramisu made without mascarpone would be lessened in flavor and texture. According to Italian Food Forever, a tiramisu is by definition “a rich creamy mascarpone layered dessert made with brandy and coffee infused savoiardi cookies and dusted with rich dark chocolate”. You may find different types of liquor used in tiramisu recipes but mascarpone cheese stands alone as the cheese of choice in a true tiramisu.
Although I cannot imagine a tiramisu without mascarpone, according to a Bing search with 989,000 results, tiramisu without mascarpone is entirely acceptable. Recipes for tiramisu without mascarpone are all over the internet with substitutions like cream cheese, ricotta, creme patisserie, instant vanilla pudding and silken tofu. If tempted to substitute remember it is the high fat content (between 60% to 75%) of mascarpone that makes tiramisu such an iconic Italian dessert.
Mascarpone’s claim to fame as a fluffy, spreadable cheese originated in Northern Italy and while it is best known for its presence in tiramisù, its creamy texture and delicate flavor is perfect as a versatile ingredient in everything from entrées to desserts.
This written shot of espresso is paired with a simple tiramisu recipe that showcases mascarpone’s true claim to fame.
Italian spirits are in the air for Valentine’s Day and Italian mixologists are creating aperitivi and cocktails that are sure to lead you to an evening of enchantment and romance. Here are a few of our favorites including the Red Passion of Campari, an Italian bitter flavored with a secret mixture of 68 aromatic herbs, spices and wood bark blended with spirits in alchemic proportions. It is Italy’s most well-know aperitivo.
Classic Mixes– The Negroni made with gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth and all its various permutations including the Americano, which lacks the gin but adds club soda and the Sbagliato where gin is replaced with sparkling wine or prosecco. And then there’s the Venetian Spritz “sprettz“. Favored in Venice but equally as popular in many Italian towns especially in the north. A light cocktail (7 or 8 percent alcohol by volume) often made with Aperol like this version.
Fill a highball glass with 3- 4 Ice Cubes
Pour in 2 to 3 ounces Prosecco or any sparkling wine
Add 1 1/2 ounces Aperol
Then a splash of soda water, sparkling water, mineral water, or Club Soda
Garnish with a wheel of lime or a wedge of orange. Makes 1 serving.
New and Innovative Combinations – The Cherry Americano from New York mixologist Albert Trummer of Apothéke. The Truffle Honey Cocktail, luscious and decadent made with i Peccati di Ciacco Black Summer Truffle honey perfect with Italian Black Summer Truffle Honey Pizza.
Buon Capodanno! Happy New Year! Literally translated it means happy “head of the year”. Italians, like most of us, are faced with a way to make the New Year better. It always helps to have a good head capo on your shoulders.
The dictionary of idioms and phrases tells us the “having a good head on your shoulders” means to be sensible and intelligent. To be smart, responsible, intelligent, able to deal with complicated things, able to make good decisions, able to think clearly. Italians tend to identify common sense with wisdom and good judgement.
For example in her 9th authored cookbook Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking, Lidia Bastianich equates common sense with cooking simply, seasonally and economically. Stocking a practical pantry that can be adapted to your needs, recycling leftover ingredients and cooking with what’s at hand. That seems a worthy resolution for the head of the year to bring to the table. Making vibrant healthy food takes more wisdom than money and is something almost anyone can do if they have a good head on their shoulders.
Here is a recipe from Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking for those times when you have nothing to add to your risotto that my Nonna would approve of as a “good head on your shoulder’s recipe”.
Italy’s La Cucina del Buonsenso (The Cuisine of Common Sense) believes that “good spending is the basis of good cooking”. Use the best ingredients that are available and use them well and you will be rewarded with memorable meals and good health.
Message to myself (aka a New Year’s Resolution for 2016) – make time for mindful eating and food shopping. We as Americans often seem to have little regard for what goes into our mouths often judging the quality of food on what’s fastest and easiest. Spend wisely but well seems to be the motto of most Italians who value the food they eat. In Italy the food is fresh and vibrant, it is arranged and well cared for. It is treated with respect and in return adds so much to the Italian experience.
Celebrate Ultimo dell’anno – The End of the Year Italian Style!
Open a bottle of spumante on December 31st and you’ll be
celebrating New Years Eve Italian style!
A bottle of sparkling wine or prosecco is always a part of La Notte di San Silvestro – New Years Eve in Italy. The crisp, bright taste of prosecco, reminiscent of citrus, herbs and melon, has a 10.5% alcohol content making it a perfect midnight toast or a before dinner apertivo.
If you want the best prosecco, look for the letters DOC on the label. It means that you are guaranteed of the quality and heritage of prosecco made in the district of Valdobbiadene (Val-do-bi-ad-en-ay) near the town of Conegliano in the Veneto. Here is where the finest prosecco is made.
A classic Prosecco spago will have a fantastic cork and string presentation. The traditional string used to tie down the cork with this wine is known as a “spago”. This ancient technique was used by winemakers to prevent the corks being forced out of bottles of semi-sparkling Prosecco during the natural fermentation process. It is still in use today.
With the holidays coming you’ll probably be attending parties with family, friends, co-workers and influential bosses. If your male friends or spouse need to improve their social graces we’re suggesting they follow the advice of two Italians who wrote the book on proper behavior and etiquette . . . in the time of the Renaissance.
You might think that the customs and conventions of Renaissance Italy might be outdated for modern men. But consider the recommendations of these 16th century Italians who discuss the best practices on how to avoid a “hangover -esque” experience including why you should not get drunk, blow your nose into your dinner napkin, or bore others by talking about your dreams.
Begin with Baldasarre Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier who wrote about how to be a respectable nobleman at court. His discussions in the salons of Urbino’s ducal palace might be a metrosexualist manual for the 21st century. Castiglione coined the term sprezzatura, “the art of unaffected nonchalance” where whatever is said or done appears to be without effort and almost without any thought about it yet comes off as so COOL.
Then there is Florentine scholar and diplomat Giovanni della Casa who wrote the 16th century best seller Il Galateo on how to dress for success and be witty in conversation and not act like a fool with advice like “one should not gnaw or chew such that you hear the sound or noises, since there is a difference between the eating of men and pigs”.
If discussions on such manners be taken lightly and prove unsuccessful reference a quote from della Casa’s Il Galateo saying”And don’t be looking like you consider the things discussed above trivial and of small moment, for even light blows, if they are many, can kill.”
Driving the road to Hana on the island of Maui to the 10,000 foot summit of Haleakala is a popular destination but not for the faint of heart. With all those hairpin turns and one lane bridges the drive can be a challenge but a challenge well met because along the way there are spots were the island gods have left their mark and you are taken back in time with places and ancient stories that shape the Hawaiian islands.
Like Italy the historic atmosphere of the Islands is reflected in their food so when I was food surfing and noticed a Hawaiian chopped salad inspired by Hana Bay made with balsamic vinegar from Italy I took the opportunity to combine ingredients from two of my favorite travel sites for a Hawaiian-Italian inspired late summer lunch. Let’s eat!: E pā’ina kākou! – Mangiamo!
Hana Bay Chopped Salad with Mango Balsamic Dressing
Mango Balsamic Dressing
1 mango peeled, pitted and chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1 piece (1/2 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup aceto balsamico*
1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
2 T packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil from Liguria ( such as San Damiano Extra Virgin Olive Oil)*
Place all ingredients except olive oil in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour oil through feed hole with motor running to blend. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Combine with 1 bag of mixed baby salad greens, 1 tomato seeded and chopped, 1 green onion and 1/2 cup diced red cabbage. Makes 6 servings.
(adapted from a recipe by Mako Segawa-Gonzales, chef of Maui Beach Cafe in Los Angeles).
*ingredients can be found at CosituttiMarketPlace.com