creamy

Le Sorelle del Conte

I want to start by saying that Turin is my most favorite city I have visited in Italy, thus far. Tell that to any local and they will usually respond with a slight gasp, giggle, or quizzical look. Don’t let this deter you! While Turin may not be saturated with art and historical landmarks like many other cities in Italy, it has so much more to offer in terms of cuisine and jaw dropping views of the Italian Alps. Turin is home to the largest open air market in Europe, host of the Salone del Gusto, a gastronomical food expo, and is located in the Piedmont region whose chocolate is internationally renown. To say the city of Turin is a foodies paradise would be an understatement. Restaurants all over the city are putting gastronomical spins on classic Piedmontese and Northern Italian dishes using innovative cooking techniques and pairings.

While my parents and I ate many delicious meals, one cafe had us coming back for more. This delightful place goes by the name of Le Sorelle del Conte, a few blocks off of one of the city’s main streets. Keeping with Piedmontese tradition, they feature a speciality chocolate coffee on their menu. The chocolate from the Piedmont region is so decadent, rich, and creamy, that there is no hesitation to add it to the caffé. The Caffé del Conte sets itself apart from the rest by adding not only chocolate cream to their morning pick-me-up, but warm whole milk, pistachio cream and chopped pistachios as well. This makes for a sweet, bitter, slightly salty, and oh so very decadent beverage. If my description did not at least peak your interesting in upping your daily coffee routine, perhaps this photo will…

Caffe del Conte: espresso, warm cream, chocolate cream, pistachio cream, steamed milk, & shopped pistachios

Caffe del Conte: espresso, warm milk, chocolate cream, pistachio cream, steamed milk, & chopped pistachios

Imagine the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when embracing someone you haven’t seen in a long time, or the coziness of sticking your feet in front of the fireplace after a long day out in the cold. Those same feelings are evoked by this luscious and creamy drink. This was my first time ever trying pistachio cream. It’s flavor was buttery and salty, a nice counterbalance to the sweet chocolate. I highly recommend adding this to your repertoire of nut butters and spreads!

Whether you prefer to start your day decadently, get your second wind in the afternoon with an enhanced espresso, or end your day with its richness and warmth, this drink fits the bill every time. It’s also a fun drink to make on your own, if you don’t have access to Le Sorelle del Conte in Turin 😉 Play around the ratios of coffee, chocolate, cream, and pistachio to create a personalized pick me up for those cold days I know you are all facing over there on the East coast.

As always, enjoy and share with your best company!

Eggplant, Fig, & Ricotta Stack

Fig season is in full swing here in Florence, and I must admit I am LOVING it. I had never tried fresh figs until earlier this summer back in the states, and they were okay. However, the figs here in Italy seem to be a whole other fruit! They are sweet, succulent morsels full of a unique pulp and sticky sap. They come in both black and white varieties and are about the size of an oblong golf ball. White figs are on the sweeter and a little tarter side, while black figs have a more subtle and decadent flavor. I am truly infatuated with them both! In fact, earlier today I picked some up at the local market and couldn’t stop myself from snacking on one as I strolled past the other vendors.

But I digress. Since these figs are just such a prime produce item of the moment I wanted to incorporate them into an actual meal, not just an all day snack. So again I dove into the depths of the internet and found a variety of pairings with cheeses such as ricotta and goat. I am in Italy after all, so I went with something that hit close to home, the ricotta. Along with more pondering and considering the other seasonal produce I decided on a take on eggplant lasagna consisting of layers of sautéed eggplant, ricotta, and sliced figs atop a bed of spinach. In my opinion, it looks like the leaning tower of Pisa, but that may be too cheesy of an Italian comparison (oops, there I go again!). My humor is usually much more along the lines of sarcasm than puns, I promise!

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Ingredients

1/2 of a medium-sized eggplant

4-6 fresh figs

Ricotta

Spinach

Rosemary

Salt & pepper

Oil & Balsamic vinegar

Instructions

1. Slice the eggplant into medallions, about 1/2″ thick

2. Roughly chop the rosemary

3. Drizzle eggplant with olive oil and vinegar and season both sides with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Let marinate for about 5 minutes

4. While eggplant is marinating heat sauté or grill pan over medium heat. Place the eggplant in the pan so none of the pieces overlap.

5. Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes, checking on them once or twice, and flipping them after 5 minutes.

6. While eggplant is cooking, quarter fresh figs to be layered between the eggplant. I also like to take the ricotta out of the fridge while the eggplant is cooking so it gets closer to room temp, as to not cool down the dish.

7. The eggplant will be done once it’s tender and the skin is slightly shriveling. Make a nice bed of spinach leaves on a plate or bowl and begin building your tower! I went with a pattern of eggplant, ricotta, fig. And in regards to the amount of ricotta per layer, that really depends on how much you like ricotta 😉 But I spread about a tablespoon of ricotta between each layer and could fit about 4 pieces of fig.

8. Top with a dollop of ricotta and any extra fig and enjoy!

All of these measurements should make enough for 1 dish, but could also be enough for 2 smaller stacks or even multiple mini stacks if you wanted to make this for an appetizer (may be a little messy, but who cares when it tastes this good?!).

I really enjoyed making this dish because it seemed more like an arts and crafts project to me cooking. And I must say folks, this dish is as good as it looks. It’s sweet, savory, and oh so creamy. The perfect transition dish from summer into fall when we all wouldn’t mind something warm and cozy in our stomachs.  Embrace your inner child and really play around with the construction (or deconstruction) of this loose take on no-bake eggplant lasagna.

As always I love to hear feedback, so let me know how this dish worked for you! Did you add some more savory? Bake it like a more traditional lasagna? Make it into a pizza perhaps?! My favorite thing about cooking is seeing all the different interpretations of a dish!

 

Beer Ice Cream Floats

You read it right, beer ice cream floats! I have been SO inspired by all the artisnal ice cream flavors and craft beers that have been bursting onto the food scene. Something you all need to know about me is that I have a gigantic sweet tooth and have recently taken to a love affair with microbreweries and craft beer, so when I heard there was a way to combine my two great loves I new I had to try in for myself! Since I am home in New Hampshire for the summer and don’t really have access to the most up-and-comings in food (like I did in New York City) instead of just sitting and dreaming (aka trolling the internet for photos) of sweet beer treats, I set out to make my own. Believe it or not, this required a little bit of research. Since I am not the first person with the genius idea of combining beer and ice cream (in fact, there is a whole beer-centric creamery, Frozen Pints devoted to just that) I found a fair amount of information is available on the all-knowing internet; specifically, the 2 beers that blend best with ice cream are Pale Ales and Stouts and that the notes and flavors of the ice cream must balance out those of the beer.

Now onto the good stuff! I decided to go with some local brews; Shipyard’s Black IPA and Red Hook’s Long Hammer IPA, and keeping with my theme of supporting the small businessman I chose Steve’s Ice Cream (made in Brooklyn) Sunday Morning and Small Batch Bourbon Vanilla flavors. Sunday Morning consists of a buttermilk ice cream with maple syrup swirls and crunchy waffle pieces and don’t let the subtle Bourbon Vanilla fool you, its definitely more bourbon that it is vanilla. I decided to pair Sunday Morning with the deep and savory Black IPA, and thought the strong base flavors of the Bourbon Vanilla would play well with the bitter and citrusy flavors in the Long Hammer. I also picked up some old-time soda fountain glasses and straws from Homegoods.

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Steve’s Sunday Morning Ice Cream & Shipyard’s Black IPA

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Steve’s Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream & Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

To keep things cool I popped the glasses into the freezer for a couple of minutes before I loaded them up with love. In the 8oz class I poured about half a bottle of Black IPA in (like a pro so no foam here!) dropped in 2 scoops of Sunday Morning, and topped it off with (almost) the rest of the beer. I poured the Long Hammer IPA into the 6oz glass, just about half way, added 2 scoops of Bourbon Vanilla, and topped it off until there was about half left in the bottle. The frothy foam that rises to the top  was my first taste and it only had me wanting more, but I recommend mixing the ice cream in there to get the fully blended flavors!

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There you have it! A modern take on a nostalgic sweet treat. The dark float turned out just as I had hoped; the perfect combination of sweet, savory, and creamy, but not too sweet and it still retained a decent bitterness. The lighter float came out something like a creamcicle, but with an unexpected bite from the citrus and bourbon. Suffice to say my tastebuds and tummy were elated with how these creamy babies turned out! But don’t worry, my search for craft beer-infused recipes will not stop here. If you have a beer-themed recipe share the wealth in a comment below!