Breakfast Apricot + Berry Crisp

I had big plans for posting in June -- summer, with its abundance of tomatoes, corn, basil, and berries tends to be a season where I have more recipes and ideas than I know what to do with -- but it's been a busy couple of weeks. There's been a wedding here in Rome and a baby shower up in Milan; a dear friend from my University days, whom I haven't seen in nearly 7 years, is in town, along with a few other visitors from home; there have been cooking classes, and two food-related side projects (!), and more pasta-making, and while it has been a wonderful month, I'm happy to have a minute (or, more specifically: a free lunch hour) to sit down and write a post. Ahhhh. Forgive me for the delay!

There tends to be a cobbler, or a crisp, or a crumble on my blog every summer; it has become an unofficial blog tradition, one born simply out of the fact that they scream summer to me -- lots of peak-of-the-season summer fruit, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! -- and this year is no exception. There was 2015's plum cobbler, 2016's blueberry crumble (pie), 2017's peach cobbler, and 2018's smash hit nectarine blueberry crumble (one of the most viewed recipes on the blog that year!) and now, ladies and gentleman, I give you **drumroll** 2019's Breakfast Apricot + Berry Crisp. 

This recipe comes from HRH Deb Perelman, aka Smitten Kitchen, My Favorite Blogger Always and Forever. Leave it to Smitten Kitchen -- the mind behind these genius savory (!) shortcakes, this Thanksgiving-y, vegetarian-friendly main, and this you-can-have-your-dessert-and-drink-it-too red wine chocolate cake , among many others -- to invent a crisp that is best eaten at breakfast rather than for dessert. Like most SK recipes, this is one of those brilliant, why didn't I ever think of that! sort of dishes, the type of impeccable work I've come to expect from my preferred food blogger after all these years. After all, fruit, oatmeal, and yogurt are all perfectly suitable candidates for the first meal of the day, so why not bake up the first two with a touch of sugar and cinnamon, a little butter, and a handful of walnuts, and then dollop the resulting breakfast-splendor with yogurt making for a mildly virtuous, healthy-ish breakfast, colazione stepped up a notch?! The strawberries here are at their summer best, sweet and juicy and the perfect foil to tart, slightly no-nonsense apricots, the whole thing tucked under a crunchy, wholesome topping reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie, and really, does it come as any surprise to you then that this is a real treat when eaten cold out of the fridge on what promises to be a boiling day, an instant antidote to any potential case of The Mondays, and ideal if you feel you need a little something more than your average bowl of cereal (or in my case, cornetto)?! 
(Summer) Breakfast of champions, indeed. 

A couple of notes: Though apricots are on the tart side, this could very well be served with vanilla ice cream and dusted with powdered sugar to make it more dessert-like. Having said this however, this really is meant to be eaten at breakfast with yogurt (at least in my opinion!) I used red apricots (albicocche rosse) which were really pretty. If you'd like to go more the dessert route, substitute something sweeter like peaches or plums for the apricots. Here I added in strawberries, but feel free to throw in some blueberries, or cherries, or raspberries if you'd like. If you don't have any whole wheat flour, use 1/2 cup all-purpose, and feel free to substitute almonds (as per the original recipe) or even pecans for the walnuts here. 

Looking for other cobbler/crisps? I've got this Peach Cobbler, this Plum Cobbler with Cinnamon Biscuits, and this Apple Pecan-Crisp. Looking for other summer fruit recipes? I've got this Blueberry Pie, these Blueberry Pie Bars, these Raspberry and Blueberry Shortcakes, this Watermelon Granita, this Peach and Raspberry Buckle, these Honey-Cinnamon Roasted Peaches, and this Blackberry Cheesecake Galette.


Recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Serves 6.

Ingredients for fruit:
1 pound (445 grams) apricots

8 strawberries
3 tablespoons (37 grams) sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (about 11 grams) flour
A dash of cinnamon

Ingredients for topping:

4 tablespoons (56 grams) butter, melted
6 tablespoons (75 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (90 grams) oats
1/4 cup (30 grams) whole wheat flour
1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Prepare fruit: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pull apart apricots at their seam, remove pits, and cut them one at a time into quarters, placing them in a mixing bowl. 
 Stir in sugar, flour and cinnamon and set aside. 
Make topping: In a small skillet, melt the butter and stir in sugar, then oats, then flours, salt and walnuts until large clumps form. Pour the fruit mixture in to a small baking dish (one that holds two to three cups is ideal) and sprinkle the crisp mixture over the fruit. 
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes and serve warm, or refrigerate once cool and eat cold the next day mixed with a scoop of yogurt for a weekday breakfast. 

Semifreddo alle fragole

A little over a year ago, I took a class solely on desserts at Latteria Studio in Trastevere. Though there were only three of us (two students, one Carla Tomasi)  we churned out 7 (yes, 7) different dolci: a batch of fudge-y brownies, swirled with nutty rich tahini; a tea-time lemon-scented cake dotted with poppy seeds; an intensely chocolate-y torta caprese, flecked with crunchy almonds and a hint of orange zest; a cloud-like cake made of ricotta known as a cassola, perfect with a spoonful or two of wine-stewed cherries; a jiggly, caramel-coated chocolate custard hailing from up North, otherwise known as a bonet; and a refreshing, summer-friendly, no-oven semifreddo alle fragole, or strawberry semifreddo. Pictured below as well and not to be forgotten: spicy fragrant rolls twisted with cardamom, cinnamon, and sugar that we ate for breakfast before commencing our baking for the day.

To say it was a epic would not be an exaggeration.
You'll notice that you see lots of chocolate-brown and creamy-beige, but no dash of rosy, strawberry-tinged pink above, right? The aforementioned semifreddo is not included in the family photo; semifreddo may mean half cold, yes, but it still needs a good amount of time in the freezer to set up, and when this photo was snapped, semifreddo was still doing its thing, tucked away from the rest of the dolci. The plan was that we would take it with us when we left; Carla had wisely portioned it out in separate containers, so that we each got our own baby semifreddo to take home. 

Except I didn't follow the plan! I was so excited by my haul -- multiple slices of torta caprese, a tupperware of bonet, thick slabs of brownie, all mine for the keeping! -- that I forgot my semifreddo all together. I realized my mishap only when I was home, an hour or so later, via a message from Carla on Instagram: "Your semifreddo is still here, Francesca! Feel free to come and pick it up this week!"

But I didn't. Between one thing and another -- starting a job in a new division at work, Spring visitors, my blog -- my semifreddo got left behind that day, abandoned in the freezer at Latteria Studio. Though I'm sure that it didn't go to waste (and was most likely enjoyed by the lovely Latteria-ladies themselves) I, avid foodie that I am, hated the idea of missing out on what was most definitely an excellent dessert -- and, well, meglio tardi che mai, or better late than never, I finally took matters in to my own hands, redeemed myself, and made this semifreddo you see here, the same one that I missed out on at my class all those months ago.

The verdict, finally?!

This semifreddo is dreamy, unabashedly lush and strawberry-centric, reminiscent of a bowl of strawberries dolloped with freshly whipped cream, refreshing and indulgent all at once, and just what you want to eat on a boiling 98 degree day (that's 37 degrees for the rest of you)It's kind of like homemade ice cream, minus the ice cream machine that most of us don't have, and requiring less work and time (think of it as ice cream's cool, low-maintenance cousin). It was all I had hoped for and then some, and what I'll be making all season long. You too?

A couple of notes: Feel free to cook the fruit the day before to make sure it is thoroughly chilled, or keep a stash in the freezer. If you don't want to use strawberries, you can also use purple plums, raspberries, peaches, apricots, or even apples or pears. Note that the dessert remains soft even when frozen because of the meringue we make here with the hot sugar syrup and the egg whites. 

Looking for more frozen, summer-appropriate desserts? I've got these Butterscotch Pudding Pops, these Raspberry Yogurt Popsicles, these Nutella Banana Fudge Pops, this Pistachio Semifreddo, this Chocolate Gelato, this Watermelon Granita, and this Vanilla Salted Caramel Ice cream

Recipe from Carla Tomasi. Serves 6.

A little over 1 pound (500 grams) strawberries, hulled and sliced
3/4 cup (180 grams) granulated sugar, separated
1/3 cup (80 grams) cold water
2 medium egg whites
Few gratings of orange zest
2/3 tablespoons of liqueur that pairs with the chosen fruit (optional)
10 tablespoons (150 ml) heavy cream

1.) Cook the strawberries with just a touch of water and 60 grams of the sugar. Gently stew, uncovered, till soft and pulpy. If the cooked fruit looks watery, strain it and just reduce the liquid. This way you will not kill the fresh flavor of the fruit. Puree the fruit whilst hot, pour in to a bowl, and pour in any reduced fruit syrup you may have needed to make. Leave the whole thing to cool, stir in the alcohol and zest, and then chill it thoroughly (you can do this the day before and chill the fruit overnight). 
2.) Whip the cream to soft peaks and store it in the fridge, covered. Dissolve the rest of the sugar (120 grams) in the water and then bring to a boil very gently. Boil and cook the sugar/water mixture for 3 to 4 minute until a bit sticky but not gummy.
3.) Place the 2 egg whites in the bowl of an electric beater and whip to soft peaks. When the syrup is ready pour it on top of the egg whites, whisking as you do it. The mixture will turn liquid at first but rather quickly turns into a thick meringue. Whisk some of the meringue into the fruit puree to lighten it and then fold in the rest. Lastly fold in the whipped cream. 
4.) Pour your lovely strawberry semifreddo in to a container and freeze. Or do as I did and divide the mixture up in to smaller containers -- this way it freezes much faster (in 3-4 hours) which is always good when dessert is involved, right?!

Pasta Series #3: Gnocchetti sardi + pesto alla trapanese

There was a time in my life (not so long ago!) when making my own pasta seemed unnecessary, time-consuming, something that, as much as I liked to cook, wasn't really for me. After all, dry pasta had its merits, and besides, fresh pasta could easily be ordered at a trattoria, or picked up at the shop around the corner from my house, and for one reason or another, it wasn't anything I felt particularly compelled to make, even in all these years of blogging and living in Italy.

I am longer that person, my friends. 

Since delving in to the world of pasta a few months ago, I've arrived at the conclusion that pasta-making is bewitching, and fascinating, and I can't get enough of it (move aside, baking!) I find both the subject and process to be something I can only describe as magical, from start to finish: what begins as a bowl of flour and an egg or two transforms in to butter yellow, smooth-as-silk pasta dough, with just a little kneading and resting and nudging in the right direction; there is my brand new, shiny-silver pasta machine, which rolls and stretches the pasta (from 0-7!)  and deftly cuts it into delightful mounds of fettuccine-ribbons; there's the satisfaction of knowing that I'm capable of making my own sfoglia, and that I've learned a new skill that I can keep honing. The more I've researched my newfound hobby, the more I've learned about the many forms handmade pasta can take, something that has been reaffirmed by the oh-so-informative Pasta Grannies channel (do check it out) and a new friendship with Trastevere's own sfoglina (more on that soon). There are filled pastas, long pastas and short pastas, pastas made with rolling pins, or shaped on ridged boards or with stamps and little iron rods and something called a torchiothere's everything from the well-known tagliatelle and tagliolini to the less familiar curlugionis (stay tuned) and n'dunderi (idem), to name just a few of a vast sea of many. The shapes and types are endless, and all of them intriguing, with their own stories, traditions, and history. It's a complex subject with so much to learn, and I'm dying to know more. 

So! As you may remember from our previous pasta adventures (these ravioli, this lasagne) we used eggs and 00 flour in our pasta dough, which makes a pasta that is on the softer and richer side and cooks in just a few minutes time. This sort of pasta is more traditional in the North of Italy, for example Bologna where tortellini and tagliatelle are abundant. In the South of Italy, however, pasta made with just water and durum wheat flour (semola rimacinata di grano duro, more specifically) is more common. This pasta -- pasta di semola -- was invented by poorer Italians who couldn't afford to buy eggs to put in their pasta dough, and ever so resourceful, they managed to make something good from the little they had. The resulting pasta is sturdier than egg pasta, pleasantly chewy and humbly delicious, with a character all its own, and I positively adore it. 

Today's recipe is for pasta made just in this way, more specifically gnocchetti sardi, or little gnocchi from Sardinia, which also go by the name malloreddus. They look a lot like little seashells, and good looks aside, I find them spectacularly fun to make; the roll-and-flick motion used to form them makes one feel incredibly nonna-like, and there's nothing more gratifying than seeing a pile of them accumulate in to a flour-dusted heap on your pasta board as you roll. Here's a few I learned to make with the guidance of C.T and J.G (grazie):
These gnocchetti are traditionally served alla campidanese --with a sausage ragu' -- but now that the summer is here (yes, did I mention this?! Warm weather has FINALLY arrived here in Rome after a non-existent Spring!) I can attest that these are also delicious served with pesto alla trapanese, or pesto from Trapani in a Sardinia-meets-Sicily combination. A bowl of this -- happy, festively-ridged shells wrapped up in a pesto fragrant with basil and garlic with a little crunch from the almonds, topped with a few gratings of Pecorino -- is my new favorite dinner. Swoon. 

A couple of notes: When making this sort of pasta, the proportion is 2:1, so for example if you're using 200 grams of semolina flour, you will need to put about 100 grams of cold water. I put cup/tablespoon measurements below, but I recommend you use a kitchen scale when possible when making pasta. Note that the dough here should be quite stiff, not softer like your usual egg pasta dough. The brand of flour that I was advised to use (thanks C.T) and have had good results with is De Cecco. You can use this dough to make everything from orecchiette to strascinati to cavatelli pasta; to learn how to make these different shapes, the Pasta Grannies channel on YouTube is a great resource. I confirm that these gnocchetti freeze well; make lots of them and have pasta whenever you want. Finally, the little board used here to form the gnocchetti can most certainly be found on Amazon or I'd guess in most cooking shops. 

Want to know what recipes #1 and #2 are in the pasta series? I've got these ravioli fatti in casa and this lasagne ai carciofi. Looking for other pesto recipes? I've got this pistachio pesto, this sun-dried tomato pesto, this classic basil pesto, and this lemon, almond, and basil pesto.

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients for the gnocchi:
300 grams (about 1 3/4 cups) of semolina flour
150 grams (About 1/2 cup water + 2 tablespoons) or so of water

Ingredients for the pesto:
8 cherry tomatoes
About 1/2 cup (50 grams) of peeled almonds
1/2 cup (50 grams) of freshly grated Pecorino cheese
A bunch of basil
1 clove of garlic
Olive oil as needed
Salt and pepper 

Start with your pesto! To make your pesto, start by cutting an X in the bottom of each tomato. Blanch them for 1 minute in a pot of boiling water, then strain them and let them cool.  Remove the tomato skins and then squeeze the tomatoes to get rid of the seeds and any liquid inside.  Next, process the tomatoes, basil, almonds, garlic, and a bit of salt and pepper in a food processor, adding olive oil in through the feed as you go until the pesto is nice and smooth (you can eyeball the quantity of olive oil here -- I always do). Once the pesto is blended, place it in a bowl and stir in the Pecorino cheese, tasting for salt and pepper. Set aside. 
To make your gnocchetti: It is possible to make the dough with the food processor: place flour and water in the bowl fitted with the metal blades. Run at full speed until a scraggy mass is formed. Tip it out of the bowl and knead it into a dough. Cover it with an upturned bowl and leave it to rest for a little while. Otherwise, place the flour in a large bowl and pour in the water. Use your hands to get the dough to form a shaggy mass, and then turn it out on to a clean work surface or pasta board and knead it for 10 or so minutes, or until it is smooth and shiny. You can see how to knead the pasta here. The dough is anyways ready with you touch it with your finger and it springs back (note that the imprint of your finger will remain and that is fine). Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap, or place it under an overturned bowl, and let it rest for at least half an hour.
To make the gnocchetti sardi: cut off a piece of dough (keep the rest covered) and roll it out in to a long rope with your hands. Using a knife or a bench scraper if you have one, slice off little pieces of dough (about 1cm each) and then roll them on the ridged wooden board with your thumb, dragging them as you go and curling them over your thumb, and then releasing them. If the dough dries out a little and becomes difficult to roll out just wet your hand with a little cold water. You can see a video of how to do this here, if it helps! 
Cooking the gnocchetti in a pot of boiling salted water for anywhere from 10-15 minutes; to see if they're cooked, take one out and cut it in half to see if it is cooked throughout. Note that the pasta will still be chewy, but pleasantly so. Drain the gnocchetti and toss them with the pesto alla trapanese, sprinkle with a little extra basil and a little extra cheese if you would like, and dig in.