italian lemon slush

italian lemon slush cocktail

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!

lemon peel syrup for italian slush

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.
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Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream


I’m a purist when it comes to ice cream; not a fan of those what-the-hell flavors that pose as ice cream but are actually a totally different category of dessert – pumpkin pie, cotton candy and wedding cake come to mind.

I avoid distracting mix-ins like swirling candy rainbows, chunks of cake, cookies or even chocolate chips. That stuff just gets in the way.

When I indulge in ice cream, I want to be focused on the very essence of it: cream, air and sugar. I want smooth, super-luscious cream floating in my mouth; sweet, butterfatty custard in easy to understand flavors like vanilla, strawberry or chocolate.


Making homemade ice cream isn’t difficult, but it does involve some patience and maybe a tiny bit of bravery during certain delicate steps such as making the custard base on the stovetop (scrambled eggs are not fun in ice cream, and neither is throwing them out and starting all over).

The demand and production of ultra-premium “artisanal” ice cream is growing. If you live or visit a city that has small shops like Jeni’s in Columbus, Ohio or Van Leeuwen in New York City, well lucky you. Bypass the recipe below and go out on the town!

But if you have some time, an inexpensive electric ice cream maker and the desire for indulgence, you can make this rich, not-too-sweet ice cream in your kitchen. The texture is very much like the inside of a chocolate truffle, only much colder…


Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream

Serving Size: 1 quart


  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water. Let the chocolate melt, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in an electric mixer until thickened and pale, about 5 minutes on medium-high speed.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the cream, milk, cocoa and salt in a saucepan. Bring the mixture just to a boil - when little bubbles form around the edges of the pan, you're done. Transfer to a container with a pouring spout (like a Pyrex liquid measure) and slowly drizzle into the egg mixture on low speed.
  4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook for 5 - 7 minutes over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened enough that the whisk leaves a trail in the pan. If you want to be sure, the temperature should read 175 degrees on an instant thermometer.
  5. Whisk the melted chocolate into the custard until completely smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until very cold - at least 6 hours or overnight.
  6. Scrape the mixture into an ice cream maker (it will be thick) and churn according to directions. You can serve right away, or transfer to a container to freeze for a few more hours. Scoop truffle-sized servings and dust with cocoa powder.

Ricotta Gelato with Blackberry Syrup

I feel like I’ve taken a brief hiatus from my blog — after the excitement of returning from vacation and getting the kids ready for school, this is the week I’m finally breathing easier (oh, but going to my first yoga class in months might explain that).

Plus, I’ve been working on some exciting projects. I’m going to keep you in suspense for a little bit longer, but things are going be different both at my house and in my life, hopefully in all the best ways. But, for now here’s two clue words: cooking and income. Stay tuned.

Meantime, I made this INCREDIBLE gelato from the September 2007 Bon Appetit while I was in Maine, using rich, homestyle ricotta cheese I bought at Enoteca Italiano, a specialty food shop in Kittery. But I wasn’t happy with the picture I took — you know how that goes — so I made it again the other day. All I can say is that if you have an ice cream maker in your possession, or even if you know someone who does, get it out on the counter and make this!

The ingredient list is shorter than Polly Pocket’s miniskirt and couldn’t be easier to throw together. Here’s the one thing, though. Do NOT use plain old supermarket ricotta cheese. I bought some Sargento ricotta at my local store, since it was the only whole-milk choice they had. It wasn’t nearly as thick and wonderful as the first batch I made.

I called DiGregorio’s market here in St. Louis, and they sell a homemade-style ricotta made in Chicago which I will go out of my way to use next time. Also, Whole Foods sells “hand-dipped” ricotta ( which means nothing more than a WF employee scooping the cheese from large tubs into small bulk containers. I asked once.), which would work well, too. If really want to go all out, make your own with the creamiest milk you can find. Whole Foods has a recipe here.

Ricotta Gelato with Blackberry Syrup

1 pound fresh whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup simple syrup

Blackberry Syrup

3 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Puree ricotta, milk and syrup in a food processor or blender until very smooth.
Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions. Place gelato in a freezer-proof container and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. Before serving, leave gelato at room temperature for about 10 minutes to soften a bit.

To make syrup, place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; lower heat and cook uncovered until berries are soft, about 15 minutes. Press through a fine-meshed sieve set over a bowl, discard solids. Serve at room temperature, as the pectin in the berries will firm up if chilled.

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