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Blueberry clafoutis

Go ahead, say it out loud. You know you want to. Bloo-bare-ree-clah-foo-tee. Fun, no? Ever since the berry gratin last week, I've had clafoutis on the brain. The inimitable Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini posted her recent contribution to NPR's…

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Berry gratin

BerrygratinI know, I know — I said we were trying to lose a few pounds. But then, the Chronicle food section had a whole thing on gratins, including a berry gratin, and I just had to make dessert. Had to! And anyway, I justify that this was yet another way to integrate more fresh fruit into our diet. It just happens to be fresh fruit smothered in zabaglione, that’s all.

For my first zabaglione, it turned out moderately well, though I think I got a tad impatient and could have whipped both the whites and yolks a tad longer to get a richer texture. I also embellished on the Chron’s recipe by macerating the berries a bit first, but make sure you drain them well if you do so.

The dish is good, but it really only spends about a minute or two under the broiler, so the berries remain quite raw. I guess I was expecting something more clafouti-like. Instead, you get a nice caramelized crispy top on a fluffy foam over sweet berries.

Overall satisfying and really not all that rich. We each ate the equivalent of 1/2 of an egg and less than a tablespoon of sugar, and the rest was just pure, fresh berries. As usual, recipe after the jump.

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Housemade ricotta with Apician spiced dates and fig preserves

RicottafigTo read this blog, you might think that ricotta cheese is the root of all desserts: Cannoli, rosette and of course ricotta pie all call for it. So when I saw a recipe for housemade ricotta in this month’s Gourmet magazine, I knew I had to make it. It’s surprisingly easy, and yields a fresh-tasting ricotta with a tight, dry curd and a milky, lightly lemony flavor. In fact, for the purposes of this dessert, I had to reincorporate some cream to loosen it up a bit. (Pic is a little sloppy — I had already taken a bite, and it was late in the evening.)

This dessert was inspired by two things: In Bologna, we experienced a locally made cheese called squaquerone — it was similar to ricotta, with a fresh, milky flavor and somewhat loose texture, somewhere between ricotta and cottage cheese. They serve it for dessert with fig preserves. The Apician spiced dates we had at Lupa in New York. These stewed dates with almond "pits" were served on a disk of mascarpone, and we just loved them. (Plus, I seem to have a thing about stuffing things inside dates.) I decided to merge the two desserts into one. The fig preserves were store-bought; Whole Foods carries a nice Croatian fig spread in a squat little jar. Recipes for ricotta and Apician dates after the jump.

* Note: there’s another recipe for fresh ricotta at the always delightful Becks & Posh. Interestingly, this one does not call for any acid to get the curds going.

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Ricotta pie

This recipe comes from my great Aunt Margherita Pecora, heaven rest her soul. Aunt Margaret (as we Americanized kids called her) emigrated to the states from the Old Country as a young woman, and spent the remaining six decades or…

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Rosette (Anginetti)

EastercookiesBesides the obligatory pizzelle and cannoli, no Easter is complete without rosette, shown here with the pizzelle and the traditional Peeps, a little-known Italian delicacy. These knot-shaped cookies are lightly sweet, somewhat bready in texture and iced with a simple glaze. A drop of food coloring makes for pretty pastel colors to enhance the Easter flavor.

This year, my aunt found an alternative recipe in, of all places, Entertaining with the Sopranos. Previously, she was using a recipe that called for ricotta, which makes for a moister cookie, with occasional clumps of ricotta in the cookie itself. The new recipe, called anginetti in the cookbook, is dried and breadier, which is evidently closer to the original cookie that my great-grandmother used to make. I’ll include both recipes (after the jump).

Which one is better? The jury’s still out. I think I’ll have to make a few batches of each before I decide.

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Pizzelle and cannoli abruzzesi

Cannoli2Everyone loves cannoli, don’t they? The traditional cannolo siciliano is comprised of a crispy, fried tube filled with a sweetened ricotta filling, often with chocolate chips or candied citrus rind. In my family, we make the tubes from pizzelle — crisp, wafer-thin cookies that you make on a waffle-like iron. (These are becoming increasingly available, and you can order one from Sur La Table.) In fact, while pizzelle (pron. peet-ZEHL in our dialectic) are popular all over Italy, they are believed to have originated in Salle, the town in Abruzzo where one branch of my family originated.

Pizzelle are normally flat, sometimes eaten with a dusting of powdered sugar; you can even find them in most grocery stores these days. However, they are pliable fresh off the iron, and can be molded into tubes, cones or cups before cooling and setting. They set within seconds, and it’s a short window between skin-blistering volcanic heat and crumbling cookie. You will burn your fingertips a little, but you will live, and it’s worth it. Recipe and, yes, pics after the jump.

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