Strawberries in Chianti with Black Pepper Ricotta Cream

(fragole al vino con ricotta e pepe)

Strawberries in Chianti with Black Pepper Ricotta Cream

I guess I’m not the only one who thinks twice before turning the oven on and baking something when the weather is hot. And I’m not complaining, it’s finally resembling summer here. Until now all we could enjoy was gray cloudy days.

This dessert is wonderful in many ways. It tastes superb. The ricotta cream spiked with cracked pepper is topped with Chianti marinated strawberries. Doesn’t it sound good? I found the combination to be perfect. Make sure though to crack – not grind the peppercorns, or the cream will be too spicy. The dessert components can be prepared in advance and assembled before serving which is another plus. And the presentation is pretty, so summery bright!

The recipe is from Gina De Palma, the pastry chef at Mario Batali’s Babbo.

Strawberries and Pepper

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Zeppoli

Zeppoli

I guess everybody is familiar with classic Italian fritters. These are scented with nutmeg and lemon zest. Sure, they are good (as any food fried, to be honest) and incredibly tender. Fried and still warm zeppoli are divided between the lunch bags and then shaken with some icing sugar to coat. This dish should be very popular among kids – everyone gets his own bag of fritters. Isn’t it appealing? But I would serve it in the backyard for sure, not at home.

I don’t cook them often but occasionally I give my boys such a pleasure. To make the fritters a bit “healthier” I always use organic canola oil for frying and dump it as soon as all the batter is fried. I use rather small high-sided saucepan which requires only about 2 cups of oil, so I don’t feel myself as a squanderer. If it still seems like a terrible waste, the oil can be reused once (I would although try to talk you out of using the same oil more than twice). Let the used oil cool, then drain it into an airtight container leaving any sediment behind and store it in the refrigerator until the next use.

The recipe is from Sherry Yard’s latest book “Desserts by the Yard”. If my description isn’t convincing enough, may be mentioning the author’s name will help…

Zeppoli Inside

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Neapolitan Ricotta and Wheat-Berry Easter Pie (Pastiera Napoletana)

Wheat Berry Pie

This rustic looking pie, distantly reminiscent to a cheesecake, is an Italian specialty and usually served on Easter. Don’t try to substitute orange-flower water for anything else. There’s no such substitution. And in my opinion, this aromatic fluid is what makes this cake so special. Most likely you will find the orange-flower water in the Ethnic food section in any supermarket.

There are a lot of recipe variations of this pie. This one is Michele Scicolone’s, published two years ago in the Easter issue of “Gourmet”. I followed the recipe almost to a letter. I just boiled the wheat-berries in milk instead of water as it was suggested. It didn’t look like a bright idea when my milk boiled over (what it always does) and made a terrible mess on the stove. So, the moral is – follow the recipe… I added a bit more zest though…

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Honey-Drizzled Chocolate Ricotta Fritters

Honey-Drizzled Chocolate Ricotta Fritters

These are wonderful and irresistible. I’m not promoting fried food here, but it won’t hurt to treat yourself once (or several times) in a while.

The recipe is from “Chocolate Holidays”.

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Curd Cheese Zapekanka with Pears and Honey-Flavored Crème Anglaise

Curd Cheese Zapekanka with Pears and Honey-Flavored Crème Anglaise

This is another way to enjoy fresh curd cheese. Sort of Russian cheesecake. But please, don’t confuse it with American cheesecake, the texture and flavor are completely different. I like it best warm, eaten with sour cream. But for a more elegant presentation, serve the zapekanka with honey-flavored crème anglaise, kids’ favorite, may I say.

I like to offer it for a weekend breakfast but, of course, it can be served as a dessert any time of the day.

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Curd Cheese Tart in Oatmeal Crust

Curd Cheese Tart in Oatmeal Crust

What can be simpler? The filling is just the fresh cheese, eggs and a bit of sugar. The crust is buttery and crunchy, and full of nutritious oats. You don’t have to roll the dough, just press it into the pan. Nothing is complicated here, use the best quality ingredients and you will sure have a winner.

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