Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

The Greatest Dessert Since…

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

         EUREKA! MY FRIEND ELAINE and I have been working overtime in the laboratory of the imagination, and the result is a stunning new confection which the New York Times, London Guardian and Neue Zurcher Zeitung will have to put on their front pages — to heck with John McCain and J.D. Salinger. Yes, Conde Nast will raise Gourmet Mag from the dead and the James Beard people will do somersaults. It’s those pumpkin ravioli, you see, the ones I wrote about a few paragraphs back, cast in a new role: Dessert!

        Simply boil them up, six minutes max, and top them with a warm chocolate sauce zapped with a little cayenne for a buzzy touch of Reality. Sauce for one portion would be two squares of ultra-dark chocolate (melted in a little water) and a quarter teaspoon of the cayenne. Zounds, the pumpkin and chocolate marry as easily as the chestnut puree and chocolate sauce in those wonderful crepes at Ty Couz over on 16th Street. Well, I had a hunch they would.

        As for the spinach ravioli I was writing about — another sauce you could try for them is plain low-fat yogurt specked with mint or dill and enlivened by as much pressed garlic as you can tolerate!

SUMMER DESSERT IN OLD VERONA: Gorgonzola and Peaches

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

        On leave from the Army in summertime Verona, the living was easy. At least it was after a pair of GI’s looking for a hotel were found scratching their heads in a labyrinth of piazzas by Luigi Cozzi. Luigi was a roving concierge in black-and-braid who in his streetwise inventiveness must have been a graduate of some DeSican school of wartime hard knocks. “All this you want I have found,” he announced, and off we trailed behind this piper to the Albergo Gabbia D’Oro.

        Then we were ready for Quality Time.

gt69_verona_opera_program.jpg        There was breakfast with pin-cushion rolls and good marmalade next to the bead curtain and a warm outdoors, picnic lunch on the ramparts, opera in the arena by moonlight. I can hear the announcer barking across the piazza, “Sabato cinque Agosto, terzo di Turandot con Gertruda Groba-Prandl, Magda Olivero…” And the hawkers in the stadium intoning lustily like Parpignol in act 2 of Bohème the Italian equivalents of “beer, orangeade, ice creams.”

        At 9:15 the audience in the arena lights a sea of candles, then the conductor enters the giant orchestra pit (notice six harps!) and the opera duly commences — with, one night, a shirt-sleeved lions’ roar when the well-meaning tenor momentarily cracked.

        (By the way, our trip had been interesting so far: I especially remember the radio chromily embedded in the wall of our Geneva hotel’s up-to-the-minute room, something unheard of in the antique France of 1954; the clawp-clawp-clawp of the horse-drawn milk wagon beneath the window of the Mozart Hotel in Vienna, this noticed after driving off the edge of the world through Austria’s verdant, muddy Russian Zone, a kind of outdoors equivalent of those mysterious corridors in Last Days at Marienbad; then the sight-and-sound on pioneer Italian freeways of Lancias and Maseratis piloted by imitation Juan Fangios tooling along, if that’s the word, at 180 kilometers an hour.)

        In Verona’s Aida  there was lots of good singing, Fausto Cleva conducted authoritatively and the Ethiopian prisoners tumbled over the top of the arena, careening liked spilled furniture onto the well-populated stage. But not before our dinner! . . . Invariably it was a pleasant scallopini with good pan juices followed by baseball-sized peaches and slabs of perfect gorgonzola. This combination was so satisfying the first night out there was no alternative but an encore domani sera — and another the evening after that . . .

        You don’t need a recipe here. Simply splurge on some nice gorgonzola cheese and the largest, juiciest peaches you can find and place slab and sphere on a rather large plate. Proceed with knife and fork and feel on top of the world.


Sunday, September 30th, 2007

        An aristocratic coffee cake, souvenir of a run through Brittany in 1985. Every bakery had it in the window, temptation was our constant companion.

        Our premiere gastronomic experience in France’s scrubby but enfolding West was a dinner in the pre-Laura Ashley precincts of Chez Melanie near Pont-Aven, where the great bec fin Curnonsky holed up during the ’39 war. Like gung-ho philatelists eager to fill their album blanks, we had to eat here, amidst the faience and ferns. And a success it was, a soothing retro meal served by kindly coiffed Bretonnes adept at greasing the wheels of hospitality for such pilgrim foodies as Cecily and me. Suave local ham, mussels and rice, roast duck in brandied juices, ripe cheeses, flan with custard sauce, well, it was Mr. Liebling’s heaven.



Combine 2/3 cup of water, 1 package of dry yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 2 cups of flour, mixing all together nicely with clean hands which will become very sticky in short order. Let the mixture rest for half an hour.

Then on a floured board with a floured rolling pin roll out the dough in a very long rectangle with a short side in front of you, after which you spread the bottom, or closer, two thirds with 6 tablespoons of quite soft butter and 6 tablespoons of sugar.

Now fold the top third down and the bottom third up over that (Who’s on Third, interrupts Costello here), place your dough on wax paper, put it on a plate and and chill it for an hour. Repeat the rolling-folding-chilling procedure three times, without adding butter and sugar.

Finally, flatten the pastry in a 6 or 7″ buttered pie pan and bake it at 425° for about 20 minutes, with a good prayer along the way, until it’s quite golden. Cool, unmold and sprinkle with sugar.