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Cremeaux au chocolat & the chocolate conspiracy against Winston Churchill

cremeaux au chocolat chocolate mousseOne of the greatest passions of my life is history and I’m always happy when I discover that one of my other biggest love is part of it. So I suppose it doesn’t come as a big surprise if I say that I was really excited when I discover the chocolate conspiracy against non other than Winston Churchill! It seems certain that Adolf Hitler wanted to murder the UK Prime Minister using a chocolate tablet packed with explosives. I know…it seems a James Bond movie! But the most wonderful thing about history is that often it’s stranger than fiction! So the Führer ordered his agents to create a similar  device  and hid it in the London office of the Cabinet War. The conspiracy was discovered by the English secret services. We know it thanks to a letter written in 1943 and auctioned few days ago, by the MI5 agent Mr. Rothschild. The letter is addressed to an illustrator and contains instructions to prepare flyers to alert not only the Premier but the entire population on the possibility that explosive chocolate bars were introduced in England. As Enrico Franceschini wrote in his blog on a famous Italian journal: luckily good Winston preferred whiskey!

When I discovered this story I decided that it was perfect for my blog, all I needed was a good chocolate recipe to match and suddenly this creameaux came into my mind. It’s of course too good to be mine: it’s another culinary magic inside my brother’s pastry chef hat! I’m sure you will enjoy it!

Ingredients:

250 ml of heavy cream

250 ml of milk

80 g of sugar

5 egg yolks

300 g of chocolate

2 sheets of gelatine

Beat lightly the sugar with the 5 egg yolks. Put the milk and the heavy cream in a pot and boil. Remove from heat and add the egg mixture beating. Let it cool slightly then add the chocolate chopped and the gelatine (soaked in cold water and drained), whisking vigorously to get a homogeneous mixture. let rest in refrigerator 10 hours.

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Espresso muffin with chocolate drops: a twilight in L.A.

espresso muffin with chocolate dropsAs you probably know, muffins aren’t part of the big Italian culinary culture, that’s the reason why I discovered them when I was already adult and started to travel throughout the Anglo-Saxon world. During the years I ate a lot of them but there’s one special muffin that will always have a special place in my heart. Even if I certainly ate muffins before that day, there is a well-defined moment in my life when I completely fell in love with this culinary delights. It was August 2005 and we were in L.A. , first stop in our first travel to the U.S. We had been in the big city for few hours, ready to leave for a 6.500 km journey in California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah, and I perfectly remember myself staring out of the windows in this beautiful hotel, watching the dawn and the city waking up slowly. I had a Starbucks coffee in one hand and a blueberry muffin in the other one and, while I watched outside, every bite tasted of thousands flavors: expectations, hope, willing to know, a “dream coming true” feeling… I completely fell in love with everything I met during that travel, muffins included. So I started to cook them, from the traditional recipes till this “fusion” version that includes the Italian favorite coffee. Hope you like it! Read more

Pasta with vegetarian ragout & the tomatoes addiction

pasta with veggie ragoutIf you love Italian cuisine there are many chances that you love pasta. Together with pizza, pasta is certainly one of our national prides and the reason for that is simple: pasta and pizza are cheap and versatile. You can open your fridge and certainly find something that is good to put on a pizza or a pasta dish, the only thing you need is fantasy and the ability to mix different ingredients to create a magical flavour.

I’m pretty sure that you can try to cook pasta with everything on your mind, but for me pasta with tomatoes is always the best. So I have to admit: I have a tomatoes addiction and I’ve had it for so long. I wasn’t even 1 year old when my mom, coming back from work, found me in the box with all my face red with tomatoes juice. I was the first niece and the first female in the family so the truth is that my grandpa went totally crazy for me and spent hours cultivating tomatoes just for me. My grandpa was a strange man: silent and hard like the ground he cultivated, I don’t remember him saying “I love you” but I know he did love me so much. When he got older I remember all the tenderness, that he never expressed with words, in his beautiful blue eyes. Many years passed since he left this world, but in my heart I still have the image of this strong man, with his hands damaged  by hard work and the back bent to work the veggie garden. Read more

Red, white & blue frozen yogurt: all my love for United States

red white and blu frozen yogurtI can tell you almost 100 reason why I love U.S. and Americans so much, but one of the biggest is their love for their own country. During our first travel to Southwest, and then again in Montana, in Wyoming and in Colorado, we often saw big signs saying “God bless America” and “We sustains our troops” and I was totally enchanted.

For Europeans the American foreign policy is a complete mystery: since centuries we Europeans are all neighbours ( the Mediterranean Sea seems sometimes only a big pond) and this proximity forced us to develop a system of close relationships and to manage every action with caution. Americans have a more direct approach but the question here is not if they’re right or wrong, the point is that they are able to distinguish from the political decision to make a military mission or even a war, and the people that is there, with an helmet on the head and a rifle in the hand, doing their duty.   These guys, with different skin colors and ethnic roots, risk their lives for a higher ideal, that of a country that is the Land of the Free, where their ancestors came to realize a big dream. It’s incredible for me see how a country that is made by so many different ethnic groups is able to unify everything under the love for a flag. Today ‘s  the 4th July and I want to celebrate it even if I’m not American, because this country gave me a lot of unforgettable moments and incredible emotions. This dessert is my personal tribute to a country that I love with all my heart, hope you’ll enjoy it!

red white and blu frozen yogurt

Ingredients:

– 400 g natural white yogurt

– 50 g white sugar

– 2 eggs white

– 1 cup of blueberries

– 1 cup of currants

Beat the eggs white to aerate, then add the sugar and beat at high speed till get a meringue. Pour 400 g of white yogurt in a large bowl an add a little bit at the time, tossing lightly, the meringue. Put the mixture in silicon moulds and let frozen for almost 5 hours. Decore with currants and blackberries. To make the small jar I seasoned cranberries and currants separately with a spoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of sugar. Happy 4th July!

Italian Focaccia, a patchwork & a “pizzeria”

italian focacciaOne of the things that I love most about Unites States is that they are like one of those lovely patchwork blankets that you can find in small shops in Massachusetts: like they are made by different tissues and different colors and fantasy, US are made by different ethnic groups and various cultures. This incredible mixture generates something beautiful, as each community had given its best to become part of the country.

I’m proud to say that certainly Italians have done their part. It always touches my heart think at how my fellow Italians left a country that was poor and, after a long journey by sea, they reached their “promised Land”. My husband and I are “emigrants” because we left Italy for Switzerland, but we are graduated, we speak English and we left not because we were poor but simply because we are ambitious. That is a completely different picture. At the end of 1800 and even later, leaving Italy was like say an eternal goodbye. There weren’t Skype, low-cost flights and telephones in every home to keep in touch with families. People didn’t know the language and for the first years probably they tought that they had left poverty to get only misery. But at the end they did it! They were able to find good jobs and to start businesses. I suppose you will agree with me if I say that one of the most important contributions (even not the only) that Italians gave to the US was… PIZZA!!

The first “pizzeria” in the US was opened in New York City in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi and it’s still there. Go and try it in Spring Street – Little Italy, you won’t be disappointed. Of course I went there not only out of curiosity but because, believe it or not, Lombardi is also my husband’s last name! So we have a nice photo in front of their Gioconda and the words “Smile, you’re at Lombardi’s”.

I’m sure lots of you have a similar story to tell, about ancestors that left Mexico, Ireland, Germany and many other places believing in the dream of a better life. Please feel free to join my kitchen and share your story eating a slice of this soft and “truly Italian” focaccia. Enjoy! Read more