How does a girl who lives in the southernmost region of Italy, whose father was a shepherd and winemaker, end up in California as a cooking teacher and author of one of the most satisfying and endearing cookbooks about Italian cuisine?
And where exactly is Calabria?!
I googled images of Calabria and my breath stopped. How have I not visited? How soon can I go?! It looks exquisite, and if the cuisine is as luscious as Rosetta's recipes and prose paint it, then it's my next culinary journey. As soon as I can make it happen.
And then there was the table of contents, normally pretty dry stuff. Reading the contents page of My Calabria made me want to dive right into each and every page.Handmade fusilli wrapped around a knitting needle…..featherlight fritters to accompany the evening's first glass of wine…..an exotic green tomato tart with ricotta ice cream…..
From this very first page my emotions were entwined with the pages before me. Rosetta is an evocative writer. So this, then, is more than a cookbook. It is great reading.
The opening paragraph of My Calabria:
"The home that so many Calabrians once had to abandon is a painfully beautiful place, a remote land of majestic castles and ancient fortresses; snow-covered highlands that resemble Switzerland; markets proffering salt cod, unusual salumi, and fresh ricotta cheese; and miles of beaches and unspoiled coastline, the longest in all Italy."
Wow. Makes you want to go, doesn't it?
This is homey food. Comfort food. No foams, no tricks. It's about homemade jams and pasta and simple meat and fish dishes. Simple to make but complex in flavor, with a punch of spiciness.
Today is Sunday, when I block off the entire day just for me to play with food. Today I am going to make desserts from My Calabria. And today, I share with you a recipe from this wonderful cookbook, so you too can have a taste of Calabria.
Ricotta Ice Cream with Strega
2 1/2 cups top quality whole milk ricotta
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Strega liqueur
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream
2 oz. candied orange peel, chopped (optional)
1. In a food processor, blend the ricotta, sugar, Strega, vanilla, and lemon zest until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the cream. Pulse to combine, then scrape down the bowl and pulse again until completely blended.
2. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream freezer and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. By hand, fold in the candied orange peel, if using. Pack the ice cream in a freezer container and freeze until ready to serve.
Makes 1 1/2 quarts. "Because there is no egg in the ice cream, the texture does not remain velvety for long. If possible, serve the ice cream the same day you make it…"
My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy's Undiscovered South by Rosetta Costantino with Janet Fletcher, W. W. Norton & Company