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.
[Read more...]

venetian chocolate walnut cake

venetian chocolate walnut cake

I believe with my whole heart in the act of cooking; in its smells, in its sounds, in its observable progress on the fire. – Marcella Hazan

Here’s a simple, rustic cake, right at home presented on a plain old cutting board, dolled up with nothing more than a lavish dusting of cocoa (powdered sugar would do just as well).

The basis of this recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s masterpiece, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a book I tote around with me like a cherished friend. And now I realize that it is just that.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

I bought my copy at the Strand Bookstore in New York City, just about twenty years ago when I was teaching myself to cook, and I still have it. On those days when I feel slightly uncentered and overwhelmed, Marcella’s words and recipes help me feel grounded again.

I only have to read the recipe title for Roast Chicken with Two Lemons (a version of that chicken appeared here as Marry Me Roast Chicken) to be reminded that no matter how discouraging a day seems, a person can always replenish the soul by making something simple and delicious to eat.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

Marcella’s recipe uses almonds, but I was craving walnuts and needed to make a dent in what seems to be a stockpile of them in my freezer (I must have been a squirrel in another lifetime). I also added a bit of chocolate (just because).

I love this cake, and I hope you will, too. It’s light, moist, rich, not too sweet…making it one of a few desserts that can be savored along with the last drops of red wine – or better yet, a glass of nocino - after dinner.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

Yield: one 8 inch cake

Marcella writes in the headnote to the original recipe that almonds are “ by a wide margin the most favored nut in Italian cakes, particularly in the Veneto...” but I think walnuts are a wonderful substitute.

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups shelled walnuts

1 cup sugar

3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Grated zest of one lemon or orange

8 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon salt

½ cup all-purpose flour or brown rice flour

1 tablespoon nocino (Italian walnut liqueur) or brandy

Unsweetened cocoa powder and/or softly whipped cream for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the sides of an 8-inch springform pan with olive oil or softened butter and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.
  2. Put the walnuts and sugar in a food processor and grind until fine crumbs form; add the chocolate and zest and pulse a few times to chop the chocolate into small chips.
  3. Whip the egg whites and salt in a mixer with the whisk attachment until they form stiff peaks.
  4. Sift the flour over the egg whites and fold it in gently. Add the walnut mixture in 2 or 3 additions and fold it in carefully (the volume will decrease slightly); stir in the nocino or brandy.
  5. Transfer the batter to the pan. Bake on the middle oven rack 30 – 35 minutes, until the cake is puffed and a toothpick inserted in the middle emerges without crumbs but with a little melted chocolate.
  6. Cool in the pan 10 minutes before releasing the sides of the pan; invert onto a rack, remove the parchment paper. Turn the cake right side up and cool completely.
  7. Sift cocoa powder over the cake before slicing and serving, with a side of whipped cream of you like.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/venetian-chocolate-walnut-cake/