Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ricotta Gelato for Small Bites Sunday


I have a three small bites for you this week but only one is edible. The other two are for your heart and mind.
- a peek into Stolen Figs and Other Adventures in Calabria by Mark Rotella
- a glance at the cookbook My Calabria by Rosetta Costantino with Janet Fletcher
- ricotta gelato (so rich that you need to have it in small bites - you've been warned)

I like my recipes with history and my history with stories so both books filled me with yearning for places still to come.

Political prisoner Carlo Levi (doctor, lawyer, writer, painter anti-fascist) was sent as a prisoner to Basilicata from 1935-1936. He characterized Basilicata and neighboring Calabria as "that other world, hedged in by custom and sorrow." His account as a prisoner in Basilicata (formerly Lucania) is the basis for his book Christ Stopped At Eboli  and was reviewed as "a starkly beautiful account of a place beyond hope and a people abandoned by history." "A kind of grey, El Greco beauty."



According to Mark Rotella in his 2004 book Stolen Figs and Other Adventures in Calabria, northern Italians do tend to think of both Calabria and Basilicata as "bereft of culture and economy - a burden on the rest of Italy." Having discovered his cousins in Calabria, Rotella spends months at a time visiting his family and getting to know Calabria from the inside out.

What he discovered was a land rich in rugged coastlines, mountains and forests. A terrain so wild that it only will yield if you have respect for it. Conquered over and over by Greeks, Arabs, the French, the Austrians, the Spanish and of course the Roman Empire itself, Calabria encompassed bits of their cultures and created a cuisine that gives a nod to their conquerors while at the same time celebrates what easily grows in their rugged terrain.

While the book sellers like to recount Rotella's lessons in how to make 'nduja, soppressata and how to steal a fig without committing a crime, Rotella's book is much more than a Tuscan sun travelogue. As Rotella grows to understand Calabria, he recounts bits of history, folklore and tales of humanity from the Calabrese that speak of sorrows mixed with joys. Pain and mirth co-exit side-by-side. Rotella recounts is beauties and its warts. There is generosity and slyness. (He even mentions the "M" word.) And there are figs and chestnuts and pasta and gelato.

He visits Cosena for a few days and eats at the recommended L'Arco Vecchio.

"My first course was an amazing fusilli, corkcrews tighter than even my grandmother had made with Calabrese sausage and tomato sauce.... the main course was pork fillets stuffed with zucchini and smoked scamorza cheese which tastes like a combination of provolone and mozzarella. An orange sauce had been drizzled over the stuffed pork and edible orange rinds garnished the plate. To finish the meal ... a tartufo di Pizzo, a chocolate and hazelnut gelato  molded around a soft, syrupy chocolate fudge, then covered with a crunchy chocolate coating and surrounded by small, tart, fragole di bosco, wild strawberries."




When I closed the last page of Stolen Figs (reading every so slowly as I neared the end knowing my time in Calabria was ending), I picked up My Calabria by Rosetta Costantino with Janet Fletcher and decided to cook. I needed a sweet for a family dinner. While I yearned for Rotella's Tartufo al Modo di Pizzo (ice cream truffle), simplicity won out and the ricotta ice cream would be made.


Gelato di Ricotta Stregata (Makes 1-1/2 quarts)
from My Calabria
(Ricotta Ice Cream with Strega)
(With no eggs but heavy cream this is almost more ice cream than gelato; this does not store for days so serve it the day you make it)

2-1/2 cups (560 grams) homemade ricotta or top-quality ricotta
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons Strega Liqueur (I had to do the alternative below - no Strega Liqueur to be found)*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 cup (250 milliliters) heavy cream
2 ounces (60 grams) Candied orange peel - chopped (optional) (How to make candied orange peels can be found here.)

In a food processor, blend the ricotta, sugar, Strega, vanilla and lemon zest until smooth. Scrape down ides of bowl and add the cream.Pulse to combine then scrape down the bowl and pulse again until completely blended.

If using, fold in orange peel. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions. Freeze until ready to serve.

Strega is an herbal Italian liqueur. If unable to find, make a cannoli-type ice cream with chopped bittersweet ice cream and chopped, toasted pistachios. If doing the cannoli-ice cream, omit the orange peel.

I have yet to find a cookbook from Basilicata! My Calabria with its emphasis on olive oil, spicy peppers, bitter greens, polenta and sheep's cheese has been the closest I could find to my grandmother's cooking. The lure of My Calabria is not just the recipes (once considered "poor cooking" is now lauded - what goes around... ) and the recipes do beckon - but the journey of how the Calabrese through mean circumstances and foraging developed a delicious cuisine that could not have happened anywhere else would draw in any food-lover. The recipes for jarring and canning are a bonus - in true form - they wasted nothing.



So there's a wee bit of irony that from the land of peperoncini and soppressata, I bring you ice cream. But look at it all melted and creamy and yielding in the sun. Imagine it in the hot Calabrese sun...


It's worth the calories.

You might also like: Goat Cheese Ice Cream

46 comments:

Mister Meatball said...

When you get to Portland you MUST stop at Gorgeous Gelato (not Gelato Fiasco) on Fore St. Tell Donato the owner that I sent you. I promise that you won't be disappointed.

Oh yeah, small bite my arse!

Velva said...

First, I could never eat just one bite of gelato...the whole bowl, and then some would be good.

I have also added a new book to my list of "To read" I enjoy books where culture and food are discovered.

Velva

Kathy said...

I was just looking for a gelato recipe last night…my search is over! This one looks delectable! I adore any thing with ricotta in it! This is a must make! Thanks for sharing, Claudia!

Barbara F. said...

I purchased a bottle of Strega (Witch!) last Easter to make a certain pie, never gotaround to making the pie but I will be trying this gelato! xo

Claudia said...

Now, now Mister Meatball... just because you can't have a small scoop of gelato...

Beth said...

The gelato looks wonderful. Keeping myself to just a small bite could be difficult!

And My Calabria sounds like a terrific cookbook.

Reeni said...

Ricotta in gelato is so unique! I never heard of it before but totally love the idea!

Torviewtoronto said...

lovely gelato looks like a good book

Gloria said...

I love ricotta so this sounds amazing!!

gobakeyourself said...

A cheesy and delicious dessert treat - thank you :D

Cheers
Choc Chip Uru

Proud Italian Cook said...

I'm making a promise to myself and getting an ice cream maker this summer, I must make that, you know how I feel about ricotta, we share the same love!

Chiara Giglio said...

I love gelato, thanks for sharing this lovely recipe Claudia ! have a good week...

Tina Bk said...

I have never had ice cream or gelato with ricotta, but this does look amazing. Also, I will be on the lookout for Strega! Enjoy the day.

Amy (Savory Moments) said...

Your gelato sounds soooo good. I love the idea of making it with ricotta!

Lizzy said...

Now I want BOTH your gelato and a trip to Italy!!! That would certainly make my Monday morning :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

An original recipe! That ice cream must taste divine. Ricotta is so versatile and delicious.

Cheers,

Rosa

Joanne said...

I love cookbooks like this also that have a little bit of love and history infused into them! I've never seen ricotta in gelato before but man does it look GOOD.

Mary said...

Your food for the soul was every bit as nourishing as that for the body. I loved all aspects of your post today. The gelato sounds wonderful and the use of ricotta has made me curious as to how it tastes. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Books and a great recipe - what a great post Claudia. I visited that town were Levi was exiled - Aliano - and it was a very moving experience to be in his house, to see his paintings (yes, he painted and very well) and even meet someone who knew him back then. I'm off to buy ricotta - and that Stolen Figs book.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Thank you for not only the delicious sounding recipe but the books that you recommended as well.

Jeannie said...

Oh that bowl of gelato sure looks so creamy and delicious! definitely worth every sinful calorie!

Gourmantine said...

I'm very intrigued, but the book, having driven through the whole Calabria last year (from Sicily all the way up), and it's indeed a fascinating place, that takes time to be discovered.
p.s. this gelato looks incredibly good!

Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris said...

Mmmm!! My mouth is watering in anticipation...Yes! I've just booked my holidays in Sicily in August!!
Mamma Mia !!!!!!

love2dine said...

i think i'm going to try making this one!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Good post - lots of info, really absorbing. Love the photos, too. And the recipe? Looks great. I don't believe I've ever had ricotta in gelato before, but now that I know it exists, I have to have it! Great read - thanks.

CJ - Food Stories said...

I don't know if I could eat just one bowl ... looks amazing :-)

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I have read "Stolen Figs" and I LOVE Rosetta's coolbook! The cuisine of Calabria varies so much from town to town that there are still elusive recipes of my Calabrian in-laws that I have never been able to find in written form, but many of Rosetta's come closer than any other Calabria centric cook book I've tried.

I'm "pinning" this gelato recipe, Claudia, for a day I'm not counting calories! :)

Juliana said...

I never had ricotta gelato and from your description I will definitely try this out...like the orange peels...and the texture of this gelato looks absolutely heaven...
Thanks for this awesome recipe Claudia and hope you have a great week ahead :)

Cucina49 said...

Claudia, what gorgeous gelato--ricotta has so many delicious uses. I saw the "Stolen Figs" book when I was last at Powell's and was wondering whether it was any good.

Rebecca Subbiah said...

wow looks amazing and love the sound of the orange sauce too

Ruth said...

Here is the recipe I have been waiting for and, as usual,it is full of interesting, fascinating little bits of you, behind it. The ice cream sounds truly amazing. Had never considered making an ice cream with ricotta before and the books, and the history behind your roots make me hungry for more :)

Tiffany said...

Wow! I love Ricotta. This sounds amazing!

Beth Michelle said...

What an amazing gelato!! How unique to use ricotta! YUM

FOODESSA said...

Claudia...I felt right at home with your closeness with Italy. book review and a very small bite of that Ricotta ice-cream ;o) Looks and sounds absolutely sinful.

Thanks for such a lovely post.

Ciao fo now,
Claudia

sophiesfoodiefiles said...

Ooh Claudia! What a perfect ricotta & cream gelato: it would go straight into my mouth!

Yummy all the way: rich & creamy,..ooh yes, please!
A beautiful creation!

Erica said...

I love gelato....A ricotta version sounds like heaven,Claudia! It looks creamy and delicious!

My Little Space said...

Oh Claudia, I have never tried anything like this before. Sounds like really delicious. I wanna try making it one day too. Thanks so much for sharing it. ((hugs))
Hope you're having a ggod day.
Blessings
Kristy

My Little Space said...

Oh Claudia, I have never tried anything like this before. Sounds like really delicious. I wanna try making it one day too. Thanks so much for sharing it. ((hugs))
Hope you're having a ggod day.
Blessings
Kristy

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

VERY interesting!!!! Ricota in gelato? I've never thought of that. Super easy to make and I just put my ice cream maker's bowl back in freezer for next batch. I can't wait to try this!

anchoviesandcake said...

An excellent fictional work that describes Calabria vividly is Morris West's (of "Shoes of the Fisherman" fame), "The Devil's Advocate".

SerenaB said...

This looks delicious! I will have to try it! Have a fabulous day!

Kristen said...

It all sounds so good. I like your optional cannoli ice cream, but you said to add chopped bittersweet ice cream...I think you meant chocolate. I love how you described reading slower at the end of the book to make it last longer. I find myself doing that sometimes, too. Then, I usually have to go back and reread the last few pages just to savor a little more. Great post!!

Fresh Local and Best said...

Stolen Figs sounds like quite a fascinating read. I've tried goat cheese ice cream and loved it, but not ricotta. This looks fab!

Claudia said...

I shall be looking for The Devil's Advocate. Thanks!

Catherine said...

Dear Claudia, It certainly looks delicious. I believe it is worth the calories.
Thank you for this post. I read every word and enjoyed it. I felt like you were reading me the story. Actually, you were. I enjoyed the visit. Blessings and Happy Mother's Day dear friend. Catherine xo

Frank said...

Boy, that gelato looks out of this world! I'll definitely giving this a try—and checking out My Calabria. Sounds like a must read.