The first Taste of Italy fundraising dinner has been successfully served … to a sold-out crowd as usual. This time we were celebrating the cuisine of Naples and surrounding area. Many, many thanks to Christine Clementi for all her help, ideas and calm cheerfulness! More thanks are due for her splendid cooking … people are still talking about her Pasta Puttanesca and a luscious Eggplant Parmesan (I think she may be after my job). My apologies to those who were not able to attend – there are still tickets available for the June 15 and September 28 dinners, although possibly not for long!
The appetizer platter was photographed by Emily – one of our new kitchen staff treasures, who is revealing diverse unexpected and welcome talents. It featured Christine’s seasoned, roasted peppers; a tedious, sticky thing to prepare but well worth it …especially when someone else is doing it! In homage to the abundant seafood of the area, I made a calamari salad with arugula, artichoke hearts and white beans. Mushrooms a la Greque saluted both the amazing lemons of the area and the subtle Greek influence on culture and cuisine. Finally olives – no platter would be complete without olives and plenty of them!
For dessert, we did a variety of fruit and a brace of cakes; a Lemon Polenta cake and a Torta Caprese. These were chosen to compliment each other in taste and texture. The lemon cake was very lemony and had the pleasant grittiness of cornmeal in contrast to the decadent richness of the torte. It is a surprisingly fun cake to make and I highly recommend it!
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Farenheit (sorry, Dad). Grease a 10 inch spring form pan. Line the base with a circle of parchment paper for added insurance against sticking!
Melt and allow to cool to almost room temperature …
200 g butter
In a food processor, grind …
250 g of almonds – I made sure not to grind them too fine to add interest to the texture
200 g of good dark semi-sweet baking chocolate – again, don’t grind it too fine or too long lest it start to melt!
Separate 4 large eggs. Beat the yolks until thick and quite pale with …
1 1/4 c sugar
3 T good vanilla extract
Fold together the yolk mix, butter, chocolate and almonds.
Clean the mixing bowl very well before tackling the egg whites! Rinse with very hot water to remove all vestiges of fat and then cool. Whip egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold them into the rest of the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until just barely done – about 45 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the edges of the cake, then let it rest in the pan for half an hour before removing to a serving plate. This keeps well if wrapped tightly and HIDDEN VERY WELL!
I added a square of unsweetened chocolate to each recipe to give a slightly bitter edge. After such a rich meal, the last thing one would need is a too-sweet dessert and I am still convinced that bitter will be the next new flavour fad. You read it here first … thanks for reading and take care of yourself so you can take care of others!