October 21, 2009
“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” -Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story
Italy has to be one of the most memorable places that I have ever visited. The landscape, or seascape, depending on where you are, are absolutely breathtaking. The architecture in itself is masterful, harking back to the Moorish design evident in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, to the gladiatorial arena that made Rome famous, the Colosseum. Alongisde the scenery, the people are fantastic and extremely gracious. While we, my aunt and I, were in Italy, we visited Florence, Venice, and finally Rome. During our stays at Florence and Venice, we stayed at two amazing Bed and Breakfasts. In Florence, we were able to stay in one of the old Medici homes, which in itself is laden in history, however it was our hostess who shined the whole time we stayed with her. She personally delivered home-made hot chocolate and other breakfast goodies to us every morning, and I distinctly remember that she loved the fact that my aunt and I called her “ma’am.” (Never underestimate the power of Southern hospitality!). Also, our hostess at the Bed and Breakfast in Venice was just a sweet, sweet woman. She was the size of a toothpick and managed to convince us that she could carry our luggage all the way up a tiny little stairway by herself. And she did. She was so kind and hospitable, and truly made our stay there memorable. She gave all of us a beautiful gift to remember Venice by, which were delicate hand-painted masks. Mine is still waiting to be put into a shadowbox, but everytime I look at it, it reminds me of Venice and the time we had there. Oh, and did I mention that I got to turn 18 while there? That in itself was amazing!
Along with all the beautiful places seen, and the great experiences I had there, it was the food that truly defined what Italy is all about. When you think Italian, you immediately think of pasta, pasta, and more pasta. And there was, but Italy hosts a variety of amazing desserts. Ranging from gelato to chocolates, I had some really amazing sweets that showed that the Italians know how to make more than just traditional pasta. Venice, in particular, stole my heart with their delectable, sugary confections. (By the way, sugar was the main ingredient in my birthday dinner…and it was worth every single calorie!).
Speaking of calories, one simple Italian dessert that Americans know very well, thanks to Ice Cream brands across the country, is the Neopolitan. The word actually means a “resident of Naples” (dictionary.com), however it also refers to a dish consisting of three things. Following this idea, I made a stacked dessert consisting of what I had in my freezer and kitchen. To say the least, this was my “cheat” dessert for the semester. I concocted more of a Napoleon than a Neopolitan…do you know the difference?? For those who don’t, here’s the short answer: I goofed, and made a French dessert instead! Hey, it happens…
Even so, the dessert was easy and one that could be done with the kiddos in the kitchen. All I did was dress a sheet of thawed phyllo dough in butter, granulated sugar, and a couple of dashes of cinnamon, and baked it on 400 degrees F. for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. I also whipped together a pudding mix and threw in some mini chocolate chips for kicks and giggles. I then preceeded to configure a Napoleon: stacking phyllo dough, then pudding, phyllo dough, pudding, phyllo dough, and then topped it off with a melted chocolate drizzle. All in all, the dessert is simple and fun, and looks really fancy considering the simplicity of the dish. And for all of you who don’t particulary prefer pudding in your dessert, just eat the phyllo dough with the chocolate drizzle-it makes a great low-calorie snack!