I'm all about ease these days, especially coming back from Italy....they sure do know how to enjoy life. I can't help but wish that this beautiful country will some day evolve our food mentality and treat a meal with the same reverence as they do over there.
One of my favorite moments of our trip was in Rome. We had a phenomenal lunch at Trattoria Lilli, tucked away by the edge of the Tiber River. It was everything you'd think a meal in Italy should be.
Sat next to us was an old man; he actually reminded me of my grandpa, dressed up in his dapper collared shirt and cap. Clearly a neighborhood regular, he sat, removed his cap and we observed his leisurely lunch and we enjoyed ours.
He had a book in hand, and first came the gnocchi. We had the same pillows of heaven although his was garnished with a single palm sized basil leaf. He read, ate, drank his sparkling water, and seemed to have not a care in the world at that moment.
I surreptitiously snapped a photo. Notice my hair on the right side. I was trying to be discreet.
After his gnocchi came the meat stuffed zucchini. I wish we would have ordered that- It seemed perfect. Then, we watched as he was brought a fruit plate. Cantaloupe, strawberries and some others.
He finished with an espresso and went his way. We couldn't help but guess his story. Was he a widower? Maybe he used to dine at that same table with his wife for the past 30 years?
You could say that this dish was greatly inspired by that experience. It's about simplicity, ease, seasonality and flavor.
The key is really to use fruit at its peak. Strawberries right now, where I am, are like candy. Peaches will be next.
I brought this to Malibu for family dinner yesterday- it was a hit. We watched the Supermoon light up the ocean and talked about plans for our upcoming family reunion with the midwesterners. They actually have some Italian in them and have that same mentality about eating, so at least there's that coming. That and many cases of wine.
Strawberries w/ Chocolate Whipped Mascarpone
INGREDIENTS: (serves around 8 people)
- 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, room temp or slightly chilled
- 12 oz. heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon good rum (optional)
- pinch of salt
- Grated chocolate, to taste
- Choice of sweetener, optional*
- Strawberries, to serve (or other seasonal fruit)
*I purposely left this unsweetened since strawberries are in peak season and super sweet right now. Whatever floats your boat.
-In a large bowl, whisk the mascarpone until smooth. Add the heavy cream, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, rum and salt and whisk until desired thickness.
-Top with grated chocolate (I used a bar of Vahlrona 70% and a microplane).