Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Something happened a few years ago. I developed a Scandinavian gene. After decades of putting out antipasti platters, bruschetta with crostini and variations of a Caprese appetizer, my mind wanders to dark bread, open-faced sandwiches (butter, arugula, a gorgonzola slab and some sour cherry jam is an excellent choice). Maybe the decades of living in Minnesota have changed my genetic make-up and I have more in common with the Christensens and Andersens than I previously thought.
The joke here in Minnesota is, "Antarctica called. They want their weather back." We haven't had a real winter in a few years. It's back.
I also like winter. (My family now does a double-take and wonders who inhabits my body.) I've always been one for cozy winter eves, huddled under a blanket, candles lit, cats purring, books lined up and the requisite glass of wine. Nothing needs to be mowed or weeded. The outside in winter-white - stark and simple. They call it "gezellig" in Dutch - that warm cozy feeling like a hug. Something I have practiced for decades. It's "hygge" in Danish and I guess it has become a huge thing - but it's attitude is something I've always embraced (or.... hugged?).
Part of hygge is treating yourself. (Ostensibly after you skied down a mountain for eight hours.) Well, I didn't ski down a mountain but even a short outing in the frigid air is cause for baking.
Below is a lemon-ricottta-semolina pie - Il Migliaccio in Italian. It hails from Naples so hardly Scandinavian. But perfect for Carnevale/Mardi Gras, simple enough to make and comforting to eat. The pie tastes light - it is not overwhelmingly sweet and it comforts which is the purpose of eating dessert.
There are many variations. I used the recipe from Manu's Menu and except for a few changes, the recipe's a keeper. You probably have most of the ingredients.
2 cups water
2 cups milk
3-1/2 tablespoons butter
peel of one lemon (I wouldn't bother next time. I'd just double the limoncello.) Or zest a lemon.
1 pinch salt
1-2/3 cups semolina
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
12 ounces ricotta (drained, commercial ricotta works best in this recipe)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon limoncello (says its optional but definitely use it or use fresh lemon juice and I'd add at least another 1/2 tablespoon)
Icing sugar to decorate (NY Times has a raspberry sauce for it which works)
1. Preheat oven to 355 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.
2. Put the milk water, butter and lemon peel in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove lemon peel (if you zest, leave it in) and slowly add the semolina - constantly stirring. Stir for ten minutes (yeah, the arms got a work out. I wound up just constantly folding and lasted about 7 minutes and declared it good enough). Try not to get any lumps but if you do smooth it out with an immersion blender (I got a few and I blended the entire thing because I like getting batter everywhere - including in my hair). Let it cool for a few minutes.
3. Whisk the eggs with the sugar. Add the ricotta, vanilla and limoncello and whisk well.
4. Slowly add in the semolina mixture and combine well.
5. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
6. Bake for sixty minutes (starting checking around 55 minutes). The pie will be slightly wobbly (like a cheese cake but a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean).
7. Cool completely. Sprinkle icing (confectioner's) sugar over it. Serve at room temperature or cold.
If you need another reason to embrace, winter: sunrises.