Oct 082014
 

In my recent article for Zester Daily, I wrote about the gelato explosion. One thing is for sure, gelato is on the move from its Italian home base as more and more entrepreneurs set up shop all over the world using Italy’s state-of-the-art equipment, designed for small-batch, artisan production.

Some of the entries at the Gelato World Tour finale, Rimini, 2014. | Photo: Dino Buffagnani

Gelato entries at the Gelato World Tour Gran Finale, Rimini, 2014. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Following up on my last post about Rimini, here’s the scoop about why I was in that famous beach resort last month. No, it wasn’t to sunbathe or take in the nightclubs. It was to join the World Gelato Tour which, after circling the globe and picking finalists along the way—including two American gelato makers, Matthew Lee from Austin and Stefano Versace from Miami—the contestants had a “cook-off” to vie for  the World Cup. Here are the stars, the winners, the flavors, and the backdrops—and a photo gallery of the three sweet days I spent in Fellini’s native town to join the jury in discerning who should win the title.

Gelato Village, Rimini. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Gelato Village in Fellini Park, Rimini. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Some Sponsors

 A tour of Carpigiani HQ outside of Bologna took in their Gelato University, and the Gelato Museum…

Gelato University classroom. | Photo: Julia della Croce

Gelato University classroom. | Photo: Julia della Croce

At the Gelato University lab, student samples for sale. | Photo: Julia della Croce

Australian jurors inspecting student work at the Gelato University lab. | Photo: Julia della Croce

Gelato cart c. early 20th century. Gelato Museum, Bologna.| Photo: Julia della Croce

Gelato cart c. early 20th century. Gelato Museum. | Photo: Julia della Croce

MEC3, a Willie Wonka-like factory that makes the base ingredients used for making gelato and frozen desserts.

MEC3, Rimini, a Willie Wonka-like factory that makes the base ingredients for gelato and soft-frozen desserts. | Photo: Julia della Croce

MEC3, Rimini. | Photo: Gelato World Tour

Finalists

Matthew Lee, from Téo, Austin. | Photo: Dino Bufagni, Gelato World Tour

Matthew Lee, from Téo, Austin. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Stefano Versace of Versace Gelateria, Miami. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, World Gelato Tour

Stefano Versace of Versace Gelateria, Miami. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

James Coleridge of Bella Gelateria, Vancouver, BC, Canada

James Coleridge of Bella Gelateria, Vancouver, BC, Canada. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Ahmed Abdulati, of Dolci Desideri, Bahrain. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Ahmed Abdulati, of Dolci Desideri, Bahrain. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

A gelato artisan taking a break on her Vespa, Rimini. | Photo: Dino Buffagani, Gelato World Tour

A contestant taking a break in Fellini Park. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

The twenty-four finalists from around the world. | Photo: Dino Buffagnani, Gelato World Tour

All the finalists, from around the world. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Some Favorites…

Hazelnut's Heart, from Gelateria Fiore, Suzzara, Italy

Hazelnut’s Heart, from Gelateria Fiore, Suzzara, Italy. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Sóller Orange Sorbet with Fresh Mint and Cardamon, from Iceberg, Spain.| Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Sóller Orange Sorbet with Fresh Mint and Cardamon, from Iceberg, Spain.| Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Texas Pecan Pie gelato, from Téo, Austin, TX. Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Texas Pecan Pie gelato, from Téo, Austin, TX. Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Sicilian Pistachio Gelato, from Il Cantagalli, Lamezia Terme, Italy. | Photo| Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Sicilian Pistachio Gelato, from Il Cantagalli, Lamezia Terme, Italy. | Photo| Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Bahrani Rose gelato, from Dolci Desideri, Bahrain. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Bahrani Rose gelato, from Dolci Desideri, Bahrain. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Drowned Almond Gelato, from Cow & the Moon, Sydney, Australia. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

Drowned Almond Gelato, from Cow & the Moon, Sydney, Australia. | Photo: Dino Buffagni, Gelato World Tour

To find out who won and the ingredients in the winning flavors, continue reading here. Thanks to the Italian Trade Commission and the many dedicated organizers of Gelato World Tour Rimini for making this trip possible. Special thanks to Valentina Righi, Communication and Public Relations Manager for the Carpigiani Group, for enlightening me about the nutritional value of eating gelato for lunch at least three times a week!

Valentina Righi having lunch at the Carpigiani Gelato University lab. | Photo: Julia della Croce

Valentina Righi having lunch at the Carpigiani Gelato University lab. That plate she’s eating from is a newly designed four-compartment gelato palette that accommodates two flavors and three toppings. Designed by the ever forward-thinking Carpigiani folk. | Photo: Julia della Croce

 

Apr 082013
 

Last year nearly to the day, I wrote a post about A Day Cooking with the Duchess at the ancestral Lampedusa palace in Palermo, where I spent a weekend that was spectacular indeed.

Palazzo Lanza Tomasi, Palermo.  Photo courtesy of the Duchess of Palma

A sitting room in Palazzo Lanza Tomasi, Palermo, facing the sea. Photo courtesy of the Duchess of Palma

With so many photos to post there was no room for a recipe. Here, you’ll find a version of the Duchess’s pistachio pesto that I adapted for American kitchens.

Recipes for lunch at A Day Cooking with the Duchess, Palazzo Lanza Tomasi, Palermo  Photo: Julia della Croce

Recipes for lunch at A Day Cooking with the Duchess, Palazzo Lanza Tomasi, Palermo Photo: Julia della Croce

(And by the way, if you live anywhere near Westchester County, New York, the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville will be showing Luchino Visconti’s film adaptation of Il Gattopardo, The Leopard, in this year’s Italian Film Festival on May 19, 20, and 22. Check their website soon for ticket information—and book early—tickets go quickly at this popular independent film theater—designed, incidentally, by my husband, architect Nathan Hoyt.)

The Leopard, psoter

From the Luchino Visconti film adaptation of The Leopard, with Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, and Claudia Cardinale

My host, the Venetian-born Duchess, Nicoletta Polo, lived in New York for awhile with her husband, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, the cousin and adopted heir of Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of The Leopard. (To clarify, the leopard is the emblem of Lampedusa’s own ancient family, and the author drew from his great-grandfather’s life in creating the protagonist, Prince Salina, the Leopard of the title). The couple and their young son made their way back to Palermo, arguably the jewel in the crown of all Mediterranean cities. There they rebuilt the magnificent 18th century palazzo by the sea that was Lampedusa’s last home. The character of Tancredi in Lampedusa’s novel was based on his beloved cousin and adopted son, Gioacchino Lanza.

Tancredi with Angelica

The character of Tancredi, played by Alain Delon in the film, was inspired by the novelist’s affection for his adopted son, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi.

It’s hard not to imagine yourself in Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s world when you’re in the grand rooms of the palace, an era which Visconti, working with the heir himself during the production of the film, carefully recreated.

The famous scene at Prince Salina's table, from the film, The Leopard.

The famous scene at Prince Salina’s table, from the film, The Leopard.

While the palazzo is filled with reminders of the book—the Prince’s telescope, paintings of ancestor popes and family saints—all the windows face the terrace garden and the open sea beyond it, a metaphor, perhaps, for this family’s outlook on a vanishing civilization, Sicilian indiscretions, and the travails of modern Italy.

A view from the Lanza Tomasi palace garden.  Photo: Julia della Croce

A view out to the sea from the Lanza Tomasi palace garden. Photo: Julia della Croce

A taxi driver who’d brought me to the palazzo had a more local outlook, gossiping that he’d heard that the Duchess made “foreign” dishes in her cooking school—from Naples, and Venice, for example—proof enough that even after Garibaldi disembarked with his Redshirts at Marsala in 1860, the battle  for a unified Italy was never fully won.

The Duchess at market with a student, explaining unfamiliar sea creatures.  Photo: Julia della Croce

The Duchess at market with a student, explaining unfamiliar sea creatures. Photo: Julia della Croce

The recipes on the Duchess’s menu, with their emphasis on pistachios, are typical of the local cooking. When we shopped for the pistachios, we sought out the D.O.P. variety from the medieval town of Bronte at the foot of Mount Etna. The particular type of pistachio tree the area is famous for, springs from the lava rock of storied Mount Etna and nowhere else. Considered to have no equal in flavor anywhere in the world, the pistachios were for sale at a shop near the palazzo.

The pistachio vendor around the corner from Palazzo Lanza Tomasi

The pistachio vendor around the corner from Palazzo Lanza Tomasi

For the pesto and the crostini toppings, the olive oil the Duchess used was, needless to say, the sun-struck local variety, fragrant and floral, seemingly concocted by the gods of Etna just for this marriage with the Bronte pistachios. Without them, I couldn’t quite reproduce Nicoletta Polo’s Sicilian pesto in my New York kitchen.

The Sicilians are masters of pesto. At the Capo market in Palermo, a rainbow of pestos.  Photo: Julia della Croce

The Sicilians are masters of pesto. At the Capo market in Palermo, a plethora of pestos. Photo: Julia della Croce

Instead, I used whole pistachios bought in my local market. I shelled, peeled, and toasted them lightly; added a few almonds like they do in Bronte, upped the amount of basil and parsley the Duchess used, and eccola! (“so here it is!”)—a very fine pistachio pesto was made.

Fusilli with Sicilian Pistachio Pesto, by Julia della Croce  Photo: Nathan Hoyt

Fusilli with Sicilian Pistachio Pesto, ©Julia della Croce Photo: Nathan Hoyt

Pistachio Pesto – Pesto di pistacchi 

Makes about 1-1/4 cups
©Julia della Croce, 2013

Use this delicate pesto with fresh ribbon-type egg pasta, home-made potato gnocchi, or with short macaroni cuts such as fusilli, as the Duchess does. The coils of the fusilli trap the pesto nicely for an excellent ratio of sauce and pasta-surface. Mind that when saucing the pasta, you must blend a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water with the pesto to loosen it up for an even coating. You can also use pistachio pesto as a condiment for grilled fish, stir a teaspoonful into a bowl of vegetable soup, or add a dollop to a batch of pureed potatoes for a big flavor boost.

Note: If the membrane of the pistachios don’t peel off easily after rubbing them with your fingers, blanch them in boiling water for about 1 minute. Drain, shock in cold water, and dry the nuts in a paper towel. Toast them lightly and when they cool, peel off any skins that haven’t come off.

1/2  cup shelled, peeled, unsalted pistachios
3 tablespoons lightly toasted, blanched almonds, or pine nuts, or  a combination
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
1/2  cup  Sicilian extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground white or black pepper
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

In a food processor, combine the pistachios, almonds (and/or pine nuts), basil, parsley, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process, pulsing every few seconds, to grind the ingredients to a grainy consistency. Take care not to over-grind to avoid a paste-like result. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the pesto to a small mixing bowl. Fold in the grated cheese. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto until you are ready to use it. For best results, use it within several hours of preparing.

Ahead-of-time note: I am not a big fan of freezing pesto of any kind, but if you need to make it in advance, leave out the grated cheese until you are ready to use the pesto. Immediately after making the pesto, keep the surface well-protected with plastic wrap, as described in the recipe. The pesto can be kept in the refrigerator  for up to two days. Freshly grate and blend in the grated cheese just before using.

Thanks to Nicoletta Polo and Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, and with gratitude to Gemmellaro Pistachio Products, the Bronte Insieme and Naturalmente Italiano websites, Pistachio between History and  Kitchen, by Irene Faro, and  “I Mille Menu” (F.lli Fabbri Editori, 1972).

Nicoletta Polo will be your guide to Palermo, arguably the most colorful city in Italy, to the palace and its generous kitchen. She gives hands-on classes with market tours (Cooking with the Duchess), and has tastefully restored apartments within the palazzo for paying guests (Butera 28).

Mar 312013
 
A Whiff of Spring, a Waft of Rome

At long last, a streak of warm sunlight beams through my kitchen window. The day brings to mind Easters in Rome and the city’s abbacchio, butter-tender baby lamb, and the first artichokes of spring. No one, but no one, makes lamb and artichokes taste better than the Romans, though my mother would disagree. Being from Sardinia (Sardegna) where some of the best artichokes in the world grow under that island’s blazing sun, the thistles are a religion in her house. In a region where there are nearly twice as many sheep as people (some 3,000,000 of them to about 1,675,000 Sards), you know [...more...]

Apr 062012
 
Feasting with Leopards: An Unordinary Cooking Lesson

On a recent morning in Palermo, I found myself a guest at the historic Lanza Tomasi palazzo, where Nicoletta Polo, the Duchess of Palma, was planning a cooking lesson for American students who would arrive after breakfast. I first met Nicoletta some twenty years ago when she was living in New York City. Originally from Venice and an excellent cook, she versed me on the food of the Veneto for research on a book I was writing then, which includes some of her recipes. Today the Duchess lives in the ancestral palace that her husband, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, has restored. [...more...]

Feb 062012
 
About that Stracotto: Italian for Very, Very Slow-Cooked, Sublime Stew

And for which I promised a recipe in a recent post (December 15). Just the remedy for February’s chill.  Go to RECIPE> After I finished off producer Piero Catalano’s bottle of Suavis, the aged vinegar from Sicily’s desert island (“The Other Face of Balsamic” [December 15 post]), a small flask of Modena aged balsamic vinegar took its place in my cupboard. Unlike the Suavis, a souvenir from my September in Trapani (I drank it as a cordial, an “amen” to the day, blissful thimbleful by thimbleful and it was gone by January), aged Modena balsamico can be more easily replaced. [...more...]

Jun 102011
 
On the Road with Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Photo by Nathan Hoyt At a recent cooking class at the Silo, the cooking school on Ruth and Skitch Henderson’s old estate in New Milford, CT, I decided to demonstrate one of the quickest and easiest pasta dishes of the Italian kitchen: spaghetti alla carbonara. Call it Italy’s version of bacon and eggs if you will–with pasta added. No question that it’s sturdy fare for cool weather, but it’s also a fast summer fix for lunch or dinner–I first ate it as a young girl on a sizzling August day in a trattoria along the Amalfi coast. Outside of Italy, this [...more...]

May 102011
 
At Eataly with Julia: Stalking Italy's Winter Flower

Eataly has a gem of a little cooking school. I taught there  in April, timed for the season’s first crop of the precious winter flower of Treviso. Because Eataly carries the uncommon long-ribbed “tardivo” variety of radicchio, I showed my class how to make a stupendous and simple dish with it: Sauteed Spaghetti with Radicchio. The recipe appears in my most recent cookbook, Italian Home Cooking: 125 Recipes to Comfort the Soul (Kyle Books, NY and London, 2010) To buy this book click here Radicchio belongs to the chicory family (cichorium intybus) and there are four different types: – elongated red Verona [...more...]