I can’t imagine there’s anything I wouldn’t love about the city of Venice. Since I haven’t been there yet I remain a vicarious traveler; picturing a sepia-colored city like no other, floating over an ancient network of canals, all those mysterious alleyways winding through a landscape of crumbling palaces.
Twenty-seven summers ago my best friend took off in the direction of Europe, with no real itinerary or return date. I’d planned up until the last minute to go with her, saving all my waitressing cash in a box under my mattress, but drama overrode – it became suddenly necessary that I break up with my then-boyfriend and find a new apartment. How unromantic!
Everything worked out fine in the end, but missing that adventure was my regret. In the middle of her travels, my friend called me from Venice; she was running out of money but still hoping I’d change my mind and meet her there in Italy.
I felt a tiny bit jealous that she was in a place I’d only ever dreamed about seeing, until she described the harrowing time she was having there; getting off the train alone in the middle of the night, finding the Piazza San Marco teeming with rats and also a few human ones intent on stealing her backpack and who knows what else.
It can happen in any city anywhere, but somehow, knowing it was less than paradise at that moment in Venice made it a little easier to accept what I was missing.
I wonder how it might have been if this creamy, cold lemon drink – a sgroppino – had been there to greet her instead of a dark night of dirty rats. Hmmm, maybe she’d decide to never leave, and I’d have someone to visit.
italian lemon and sea salt slush
This slushy, creamy drink can take the place of dessert; the addition of sea salt makes me think of the briny Venetian Adriatic.
Make the lemon syrup one or two days ahead.
- 3 small lemons, preferably organic
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more for garnish
- 1 cup chilled Prosecco
- 3 tablespoons chilled vodka
- 1/2 cup very cold heavy whipping cream
- Use a swivel vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemons in wide strips, avoiding as much of the white pith as you can.
- Juice the lemons; put the juice and all but two strips of peel (for garnish), sugar, salt and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and stir to dissolve sugar. Turn off the heat and let steep for 15 minutes.Transfer to the refrigerator to chill completely.
- Pour the prosecco, vodka and half the lemon syrup (remove the zest if you want, or leave it in for a more intense lemon flavor) into a blender; add a 4 or 5 ice cubes; depending on their size; they should be submerged in the liquid. Blend to a slush; transfer to a mixing bowl or large Pyrex measure with a pouring spout.
- Put the cream and remaining syrup in the blender and blend on high speed until the cream thickens to soft peaks.
- Gently whisk the cream into the slush in the bowl, just to blend. Pour or spoon into glasses, sprinkle with a few flakes of salt.
- Slice the reserved zest into thin pieces to garnish the drinks.
Inspired by a sgroppino recipe in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking