Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I think my mind is still on Italy and I am pretty much drawn to all things Italy. Sometimes I'll scroll through my photos and relive the sites and sounds (and tastes!). It's still hard to believe I was actually there, and stood where Michelangelo painted his incredible Sistine Chapel and walked through the halls of the Uffizi.
And I remember how fashionable everyone dresses over there--love the fashion! There is nothing like it where I live, and no one here dresses like they do there. Maybe if I were in, say, New York City, I wouldn't have noticed such a difference, but I'm pretty much in suburbia and work in corporate America, where Banana Republic seems to be more of the norm. Perhaps being around the product of so much talent in Italy inspired the more creative side of me, and since I've been back, I'm more interested in exploring photography...and wanting to shop even more than I normally would, trying to be a little more adventurous with my sartorial choices. Both are not inexpensive pastimes.
Though I haven't been baking and cooking as much recently, especially with traveling and then an increased devotion to some other "hobbies", that hasn't fallen away completely. A girlfriend organized a girls' night this past weekend, and I was designated to bring a dessert. Hooray, it was an opportunity to get back in the kitchen. As I scrolled through epicurious.com (my default recipe repository), I came across an "Italian Strawberry Tart". That was the winner, for sure. For one, it said Italian--never mind that I didn't recall seeing anything like it while I was there; and for another, it was easy. Easy is good, especially if it looks impressive and tastes as good as it looks. The tart generated some oohs and aahs, and the girls loved it. I like that it looks like there are little hearts blossoming throughout the dessert. Kind of like how I still feel when I think about Italy...
Italian strawberry tart
Adapted from epicurious.com
Serves approximately 8
Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
1. In a bowl, mix together:
- 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 t. baking powder
- 1/4 t. sea salt
- 1 t. ground cinnamon
2. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together until the color turns light:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup of white granulated sugar
3. Continue to mix into the bowl from #2:
- 2 large eggs
- 2 T. milk (whole or 2% lowfat)
4. Slowly pour the flour mixture from #1 into the mixture from #3 and mix until just combined.
5. Transfer the batter to a round 9" spring form pan. The batter will be sticky. Press into the batter in concentric circles:
- 2 to 3 cups of fresh strawberries, hulled and halved (save any extras for garnish).
6. Bake the tart for approximately 30 to 35 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream and fresh strawberries (optional).
Saturday, October 2, 2010
For almost as long as I can remember, I've had a yearning to go to Italy. Thanks to my dedicated teacher in elementary school who first introduced me to art (yes, in elementary school!) and movies like Roman Holiday, A Room With a View, even Ben Hur, Italy took on something of a mystique--with the sprawling countryside, ancient ruins and the beginning of the Renaissance. In my mind, Italy was a magical land of beauty and culture, rich in history and creativity. It was a dream, and I almost wanted to save my first trip to Italy for something really special, maybe even something like a honeymoon. But this year, this was going to be the year for me to finally make the trip I've always wanted to make--and it had nothing to do with Eat Pray Love (which I've never read nor have I seen the movie). Going to Italy in and of itself is pretty special, and really, what was I waiting for?
Three of my girlfriends and I embarked on our own Italian adventure. Given work schedules and time restraints, we had seven days to tackle four cities: Venice, Florence, Siena and Rome. We plotted out each day in advance to maximize our limited time, visiting churches, museums, historical sites--all the while making sure we also ate the best Italy had to offer. And we were able to get in some valuable shopping time.