When your friend Annette Joseph renovates an ancient fortress in Italy and asks you to visit, you say YES. And when she happens to have penned the definitive guide to aperitivo along the Italian Riviera, you let her plan the itinerary. So began our journey through Tuscany -- a two-part trip that started with a week-long vacation for Jeff and me and continued with Annette's styling workshop.
Tuscany is the rural northern region of Italy known for great wine, fabulous food and charming towns. Come hungry because you'll be hard-pressed to have a bad meal. Seriously - even the roadside Auto Grill highway gas stations have amazing coffee and brioche. And when you drive through the winding roads that connect these charming towns you'll understand why. The hillsides are dotted with farms so the ingredients are decidedly local. Unless you stumble upon the rare crappy restaurant, everything you'll eat is fresh, seasonal and delicious.
Most of the food you'll find is rustic and hearty with recipes passed down among families for centuries. But not everything is old. Tiramisu is, in fact, neither old or Tuscan. Its origins most likely come from Venice or Milan, and it could possibly have been invented in the 1960's, although it first appeared in a dictionary in the 1980's. Regardless, it's so good and super easy to make; Annette's chef taught me how. And while she's San Franciscan - not Venetian or Milanese - she's a great chef and a fun gal pal. Plus, her tiramisu rocks. Stay tuned for more traditional Tuscan recipes, but like a skinny girl's dream: We start with dessert.
12 Lady fingers
1 Pint Mascarpone cheese
1 Pint Heavy cream
4 t Sugar
Beat the eggs, sugar and a pinch of salt for about 10 minutes -- long enough to triple its volume. Mix in the cheese. In a separate bowl whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and then fold that into the cheese mixture.
To assemble: Dip half of the lady fingers into the cold espresso and line them into a 9x9x3 inch pan. Pour half of the cheese mixture to coat. Then repeat with the remaining lady fingers and cheese mixture. Refrigerate for at least three hours. Sprinkle cacao on top immediately before serving.