The Flowering of May

april TOI

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!

Torta Caprese

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

then …

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!

pear plate





5 thoughts on “The Flowering of May

  1. says:

    Susan, A great post. It brought back fond memories of a wonderful evening. Roger

    Roger Yaworski, S.J. 175 Emma St. Guelph ON. N1H 1V6 cell 519 546 9406

  2. Virginia Varley says:

    It looks tantalizing! congratulations on a sold-out banquet.


    • susanmsprague says:

      Thank you, it was fun! When are we going to see you at one of these shindigs? It’s been far too long since you’ve graced us with your presence!‎ All the best, susan.

      Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Rogers network.

  3. Julie W. says:

    Sounds delicious… and it’s another gluten-free dessert for the celiacs in our family; thank you! Think I’ll serve it for Thursday Evening Family Dinner… or perhaps it’s too much chocolate for little girls before bed? Maybe for Mothers’ Day brunch instead.

  4. Hazel Wills says:

    Hi Susan Please don’t keep sending these pictures, they make me so hungry and nostalgic for the Italian holidays I have had! Only joking, it all looks delicious. Have you heard of a TV programme called MasterChef? Amateur cooks have a series of challenges, last night in the finals four of them were in Mexico City, yummy street food and also a fine dining restaurant. There I was watching and eating my popcorn, sweet and salty, also very tasty and stressless to prepare!

    Spring has at last come and it is Sunny Stubbington. Hooray…

    We were up very early this morning to open up the church hall for local and police elections and tonight it is close down time after 10.15. I tell you, it is all go when you are retired!

    Watched a TV programme recently on secret stations, based on one of Dixe’s books, and he made a brief appearance. Two more to follow – unfortunately his book doesn’t get a mention, but he did all right.

    Have fun, Love Hazelxx

    Sent from my iPad


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