It’s strawberry season for a wee bit longer here in New Jersey, so there’s no better time than the present to make strawberry ice cream. If you live in a place where they’re juicy and sweet right now, take advantage of the short time strawberries are still available at farm stands and farmers’ markets.
I have a few of my own plants growing in the garden this Spring, but not nearly enough are ripening all at once to make this recipe. These ruby beauties came from a local farm stand and were luscious – perfect for making strawberry ice cream.
I put the strawberries and some sugar into the food processor, and added a few tablespoons of this strawberry liqueur. It not only gives the strawberries a flavor boost, but the alcohol keeps the ice cream from becoming rock hard in the freezer. If you can’t find it, add some kirsch, or even vodka, or a liqueur that you love.
I don’t like to use raw eggs in recipes, so I cooked the eggs, milk and sugar together for a short while, until it coated a spoon. Make sure you use low heat, or you may end up with a curdled mess. Then let it cool, preferably overnight.
Mix all the ingredients together at this point, pop it into your ice cream machine (I got mine at a garage sale several years ago) and turn on the switch. It will do its own thing and start forming ice cream. The colder the mixture you pour in, the quicker it will become ice cream. I kept the mixture in the refrigerator overnight and once I poured it into the machine, it took about 15 minutes to turn into ice cream.
This recipe makes a large amount and I made a mistake in churning it all in at once, instead of in two batches. As you can see, I had quite a bit of spillage.
After I removed some of the ice cream from the machine to store in the freezer, I added some dark chocolate that I cut into bits to the remaining amount.
And if you’re in the mood for Italian gelato, instruction on memoir writing, fabulous food and a dreamy setting in Italy, consider signing up for our workshop in beautiful Varenna on Lake Como – “Italy, In Other Words.” You’ll be lodged at Villa Monastero, below, right on the lake, with exquisite gardens to wander through. Click here for more information and to enroll.
1 quart fresh strawberries
2 T. fresh lemon juice
3 T. strawberry liqueur (or any other liqueur you like)
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
optional: 4 ounces dark chocolate, cut into bits
Put the washed strawberries in a food processor and pulse until you have small pieces. Don’t totally liquify it. Put into a bowl and add 1/4 cup of the sugar and the strawberry liqueur. Let it sit a couple of hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Beat the eggs in a bowl and add in the rest of the sugar (3/4 cup), the milk and the cream. Put the mixture into a pot and heat it over low to medium heat, stirring until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Be careful not to overheat it or boil it, or you may end up with a curdled mess.
Put the mixture into the refrigerator overnight if possible. You could let it sit for as little as four hours, but the colder it is, the less your ice cream machine will have to work and the sooner you’ll have ice cream.
The next day, pour the milk, cream and egg mixture into the ice cream maker along with the strawberry mixture. Process according to your manufacturer’s instructions.
Optional: Mix in small bits of dark chocolate when it’s almost at the point where it’s thick enough to eat.
If you haven’t already noticed from all the butternut squash recipes I’ve posted lately, it’s one of my favorite vegetables – winter or summer. It makes a great soup, filling for lasagna, or even a delicious base for ice cream. It’s also wonderful just as a vegetable side dish, as pictured here. My friend Dede made this dish a while ago for a luncheon of our Italian chit-chat group, and I wanted to eat the whole plateful. But I played nice and left some for others. Then I went home and made more just for me. I used kale in my version, since that’s what I had at home, but I much prefer it with swiss chard or spinach, as Dede made it.
You could even add some chick peas or cannellini beans to make this a vegetarian dish with complete proteins, or serve it as a side dish with a piece of grilled meat, as I did.
One of my first entries when I started this blog several years ago was “Fourteen Reasons To Fall in Love With Rome.” One of the reasons was a gelato shop that’s no longer in business, and in trying to edit the entry this week, I accidentally deleted the entire post. That was reason enough for me to revisit the post, especially since I spent some time in Rome on my most recent trip. As you can see, the post is now “Twenty Reasons” rather than “Fourteen Reasons” but I could actually list hundreds more reasons why I never tire of the Eternal City.
1. The Fountains of Rome – You’ll see magnificent large fountains all over the city, including well-known ones like the Trevi Fountain, but this small one in the Jewish Ghetto, erected in the 16th century, called “La Fontana Delle Tartarughe” (fountain of the turtles) is my favorite.
2. Galleria Doria Pamphili – Who wouldn’t be enchanted by this large art collection housed in the enormous palace owned and still occupied by the princely Pamphili family, whose ancestors included Pope Innocent X. Among the many treasures here is a portrait of the pope by Velazquez and a marble bust by Bernini.
3. Gelato -My favorite new place for gelato in Rome is I Caruso at Via Collina 13, a little off the beaten tourist path, but not too far from Piazza Repubblica. A couple of other great spots are Giolitti, near the Pantheon, and Fior di Luna in Trastevere. Just stay away from those places selling neon blue gelato.
4. The surprise waiting for you as you look through the keyhole at the Knights of Malta. I hate to spoil it for you and unveil the secret, so you’ll have to go to Rome and see for yourself. It’s located in the beautiful Aventine neighborhood, at the Piazza Cavalieri di Malta, designed by Piranesi in 1765.
5. Trastevere – What many people call “The Real Rome” is a vibrant, noisy neighborhood of cobblestone streets and tiny alleys where you can easily get lost and be glad for it. Ignore the graffiti and the “dog people” – beggars who use dogs in their approach – and focus on the shops, the cafes, the restaurants and the churches, like the exquisite Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of Rome’s oldest churches, or the beautiful Santa Cecelia pictured below. Wander into one on a Saturday and you might find yourself witnessing a real Roman wedding.
6. Graffiti – Yes, there is lots of it here, but you have to look past that and find the whimsy, as in this case. Juxtaposed with a teensy red Smart car, it becomes an enchanting scene.
7. The Roman mosaics and the bronze sculptures at Museo Nazionale Palazzo Massimo alle Terme – This small museum not far from the train station is a gem — one look at the mosaic floors from the Roman era and you’ll wish you could order them — along with a toga — for your own home. The bronze statues, dating from the 2nd century B.C. of a Hellenistic Prince, and a boxer, made using the “lost wax” process, are nothing short of miraculous. They will take your breath away.
8. The coffee – The cappuccino in the picture comes from Rome’s famed St. Eustachio cafe. The truth is, you can get a cup of espresso or cappuccino that’s just as good, and a lot less expensive, at many bars in Rome. But it’s worth the pilgrimage to this noted spot if only because it’s around the corner from Borromini’s elegantly twisted spire atop the church of St. Ivo alla Sapienza.
9.The Pantheon – The oldest building in Rome that’s been in continuous use is this circular building that was constructed as a pagan temple. It was built nearly two thousand years ago and it still holds the record for the world’s largest, unreinforced concrete dome. It’s been used as a Roman Catholic church since the 7th century, and is also the final resting place for many notables, including Renaissance painter Raphael, and Italian Kings Victor Emanuele II and Umberto I.
10. The Temple of Hercules Victor – It’s often mistaken for the Temple of Vesta, but this jewel of a symmetrical building from around 120 B.C. is actually a temple to Hercules Victor and is the oldest surviving marble building in Rome. With its concentric ring of corinthian columns, it’s also my favorite ancient building, after the Pantheon.
11.The “Jubilee church” designed by Richard Meier –
The church of Dio Padre Misericordia was built as part of the initiative “50 churches for Rome 2000,” celebrating the new millennium. Situated in a working-class residential neighborhood, it rises triumphantly like three sails on the ocean,symbolizing the holy trinity. Unlike his controversial building housing the ancient Ara Pacis, Meier hit a home run with this stark, modern design, which really gives the sensation of being closer to heaven.
12. Music – You’ll find concerts and music in different venues all over the city, from churches to the Baths of Caracalla, a spectacular setting for grand opera in the summertime. During the rest of the year, opera lovers can high-tail it to the Rome opera house. While not as large as New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, it makes up in baroque splendor what it lacks in size. The outside however, is typical drab and bulky Fascist-style architecture.
13.The frescoes at Villa Farnesina – This Renaissance villa along the Tiber River in Trastevere was built for Agostino Chigi, a rich Siennese banker and treasurer of Pope Julius II. He commissioned artists including Raphael and Sebastiano de Piombo to decorate the walls and ceilings with expansive eye-popping frescoes. It became part of the Farnese family holdings in the late 16th century and now belongs to Italy.
14. Sauteed mussels and clams at “Le Mani in Pasta”- This simply prepared dish of tiny clams and mussels with a few shrimp tossed in, is always my favorite first course at one of my favorite restaurants in Rome — in Trastevere on Via Genovesi. It’s always full by 9 pm. the time dinner gets in full swing for Romans, so call for a reservation.
16. Ghirlandaio’s Cupid and Venus at the Galleria Colonna – The lavish Renaissance palazzo alone is reason enough to visit, but savor the artwork stacked on the walls, including ceiling frescoes depicting the Battle of Lepanto and Ghirlandaio’s Cupid and Venus. Several years ago, art restorers stripped off centuries of grime from the painting — and clothing too — that had been painted on Venus during more prudent times. Attentive fans of the film “Roman Holiday” may recognize the gallery and the painting in the final scene where Audrey Hepburn appears as a princess. Open only on Saturday mornings and located at Via della Pilotta.
17. Contemporary Art – Rome’s newest museum finally gives modern art lovers a place for design, art and architecture. Opened in 2010, the MAXXI museum, located in the Flaminia neighborhood of Rome, features works by 21st century artists, including this recent exhibit by Michaelangelo Pistiletto – paintings on reflective mirrored surfaces.
18. The bread and pizza at La Renella bakery. There’s almost always a line at this bakery on Via del Moro, where the scent of freshly baked bread wafts out onto the narrow streets of Trastevere. The bread is perfection and the pizza is too. Slabs of pizza that they will cut to your order – every kind of topping you could ever want — and many you’d never think of. All of them will leave you wanting more — pizza with olives and tomatoes, with potatoes and sausage, with zucchini flowers, anchovies and mozzarella, with prosciutto, arugula and on and on and on.
19. The Quirinale – Visitors can tour the opulent palace that is home to Italy’s president only on Sunday mornings, and hear concerts on occasion too. Things slow down in the summer, but during the rest of the year, you might hear a jazz vocalist, a harpsichordist, or a play set to Stravinsky music. All in the beautiful Paolina Chapel. And you might even get to shake hands with Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano, as I did a few years ago, when he and his wife joined the crowd.
20. The Food Markets – From the well-known market in the campo de fiori, to lesser known ones (at least to tourists) like the ones in Testaccio or in Piazza San Cosimato, Rome’s neighborhoods hold a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables. When it’s in season, you’ll see broccoli romano – looking like a work of art nestled amid its large leaves.
21. Unexpected Events – OK, so I lied, and made it a list of 21, not 20. But it made me happy and I’m including it for that reason. It happens in any city if you’ve got your eyes and ears open, but when you stumble across a festival, a parade or some other event you didn’t know about, it all seems so much more grand when ancient Roman monuments provide the backdrop. For me, this serendipitous bumping into a raucous gay pride parade on my recent visit was just the pick-me-up I needed to lift me from a melancholy afternoon.
While temperatures soar to more than 100 degrees here in New Jersey and many parts of the U.S., I’m giving the oven a respite and thinking about cold foods – and of course gelato is one everybody’s favorites. You may not be able to whip up gelato in your kitchen, but you can make its close cousin – semifreddo. But first a small tour of my gelato debauchery in Italy.
My favorite shop in Rome – Giorgiagel – is no longer in business. But I found a new place that has won my heart, even if it’s a little farther from the neighborhoods where I normally roam. More about that later. This cone is from Corona – at Largo Argentina – and it’s a winner – a rich, dark chocolate, a dulce de leche that’s loaded with caramel, and a creamy ricotta gelato – all topped with whipped cream.
Here’s a cup of dark chocolate and coconut (my standard order) from Fior de Luna, a consistently reliable place on Viale Trastevere.
This year I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about I Caruso, located a tad northwest of the Piazza Repubblica, on Via Collina 13, in a neighborhood that’s a little off the beaten tourist path. You’ll see businessmen as well as young mothers lined up outside the store, including this man holding a cone of dark chocolate and stracciatella (chocolate chip) ice cream.
The gelato is made right before your eyes.
I ordered the dark chocolate and pistachio. By the way, anytime you see pistachio or mint chocolate chip gelato or ice cream that’s bright green, steer clear of that store. Pistachio may have a slight green tinge if it’s made without artificial colorings, but it should never be the color of grass. The ice cream cone I ate at I Caruso was transcendent. I was enraptured with the creamy richness of my cone that tasted like smooth, frozen chocolate pudding. It was so good, I forgot to snap a picture until it was almost too late.
Here’s a real cutie caught in the act in the Tuscan town of Castellina in Chianti. This shop – Le Volte – was located in a vaulted medieval passageway and a little off the main drag, but definitely worth searching out. I think this little fellow agrees.
I ordered the stracciatella and a flavor that was a combo of pistachio, almond and hazelnut gelato.
If you don’t have a trip to Italy planned in the next week, or even if you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can beat the heat and feel a little Italian with this semifreddo recipe – “semifreddo” by the way, translates to “half cold.” Let’s hope it helps keep you a little cooler too.
Start by cooking the egg yolks with some sugar over a double boiler. Make sure you continue to whisk or you might end up with scrambled eggs. It’s ready when it makes ribbons like this.
Crush some amaretti cookies in the food processor and break up some chocolate into small bits.
Blend the egg yolk mixture, the chocolate and the amaretti cookies together with whipped cream, then fold in the whipped egg whites.
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap and put some of the crushed amaretti cookies on the bottom.
Pour in the semifreddo mixture, cover and freeze.
When you unmold it, it will look like this, with the cookies all flattened on top. I think it looks prettier if it has some texture on top, so I save some of the cookies to sprinkle on top before serving.
Doesn’t that look better?
You can make it for company ahead of time and keep it in your freezer.
Amaretti and Chocolate Chip Semifreddo
This recipe is also delicious using torrone candy instead of the amaretti cookies. The torrone has to be the rock-hard kind, since it needs to get crushed in the food processor to small bits. The soft torrone that’s sold in small packages and seen everywhere at Christmas won’t work for this. I was all set to make this semifreddo with hard torrone I had bought a few months ago when I realized that the package had softened with the summer’s heat and humidity. Thus, amaretti and chocolate chip semifreddo was born.
1/2 cup good dark chocolate or chocolate bits, chopped roughly
Place the cookies in a food processor and pulse until they are large crumbs.
Separate the eggs, but you will only need four of the egg whites. Save the other two egg whitess for another use.
In a double boiler, place the egg yolks and the sugar. Whisk over warm water until you get a velvety, thick mass. (Don’t move away from this or you could end up with scrambled eggs. Some recipes call for using raw eggs, but I like to err on the side of caution and cook my egg yolks.) Let it cool slightly, then add the rum, whisking all the while. Place it to the side or in the refrigerator, but if you let it chill too long, it will become hard to work with.
Beat the cream until stiff. Add the egg yolk mixture, 1 1/4 cups of the amaretti cookies, and the chocolate bits to the whipped cream, folding everything together.
Whip the four egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg yolk, whipped cream and amaretti mixture into the egg whites.
Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Sprinkle half of the remaining 1/4 cup of amaretti crumbs on the bottom, then pour the mixture on top.
Place a piece of plastic wrap or aluminum foil on top and freeze overnight.
When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge, let the pan soak for a few seconds in hot water, and flip onto a platter. Pull off the parchment or plastic wrap and sprinkle the remaining amaretti crumbs on top. Slice and serve with chocolate sauce, if desired.
This is my favorite combo – coffee, dark chocolate and coconut – from my favorite gelateria in Rome – Giorgiagel. It’s a tiny outpost in Trastevere on via. S. Francesco a Ripa that you never read about. But after trying all the major, well-known gelaterie, this one could not be matched, at least for my benchmark flavor, dark chocolate – or “cioccolato fondente,” as they say in Italy. It’s wickedly good. Aside from the intensity of the flavor, you get the most for your euro here – this cup or “coppetta” cost only 1 euro – or the equivalent of about $1.40 during my trip. And they add a crunchy cookie. Giolitti, one of Rome’s beloved institutions, is my second favorite gelato spot in Rome. The coconut flavor here is the best I’ve tasted anywhere, with flecks of fresh coconut adding texture and more taste to an already yummy flavor. The coffee is really intense too, but the dark chocolate doesn’t hold a candle to Giorgiagel. The flavors on display in the case are myriad, with a rainbow of fruit sorbets including mango, plum and wild berries. This heaping cone cost 1.50 euro. Located at via Uffice del Vicario, 40, not far from the Pantheon.
The chocolate from Fonte della Salute, via Cardinal Marmaggi in Trastevere, looks darker than most, but it tasted like some thickener had been added in – more like a chocolate pudding. But it certainly looked like there were plenty of pleased customers there. The stracciatella (chocolate chip) nestled next to it, was delicious. cost 1.50 euro
Dark chocolate and caramel at San Crispino – another landmark gelateria in Rome with several locations – one near the Trevi Fountain and one near the Pantheon. Right off the bat, I don’t like the fact that their ice cream is served from covered stainless steel containers, so you can’t see what you’re ordering. Moreover, the price of this meager serving is double – 2 euros – what I paid for a heaping cup at Giorgiagel, and the dark chocolate is much less intense.
To round out my tasting, (I had to give flavors other than chocolate a shot after all) I include photos of two other combos – a luscious amarena (sour cherry) and frutti di bosco (wild berries) — and a cup of torroncino (nougat candy) and pistachio. Both from Giorgiagel, and 1 euro each.