Make Ahead Holiday Dessert:: Salted Chocolate Pots de Crème

PotsDeCreme

One thing that’s super important when it comes to hosting is to be a stress-free hostess. A key to remaining calm and collected is to make a few dishes ahead of time. Pots de Crème are a lovely way to end a meal, and they happen to be a great make ahead dessert choice. In fact, these can be made up to two days in advance! It’s an elegant, indulgent dessert that’s sure to wow your guests. Let me know if you give them a try; I’m confident you’ll love it if you do!

Salted Chocolate Pots de Crème
Serves 6-8

You will need:
1 ½ cup whole milk
– 1/2 cup whipping cream
– 5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
– 1 teaspoon sea salt, or flake salt
– 6 large egg yolks
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 cup whipped cream for topping

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bring milk and cream just to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and salt; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot chocolate mixture. Strain mixture into another bowl. Cool 10 minutes, skimming any foam from surface.

Divide custard mixture among six 3/4-cup custard cups or soufflé dishes. Cover each with foil. Place cups in large baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until custards are set but centers still move slightly when gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove from water. Remove foil. Chill custards until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.) Top with whip cream, and serve.

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Last of the La Fortezza Workshops, end of the season

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I must admit the last 2 workshops in October were amazing. The first workshop was a private group. All I can say is that it was the most amazing group of friends. It was comprised of four ladies that really supported each other and enjoyed each other’s company. I have never seen anything like it.

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Philip and Suzanne prepared a pizza lunch for the group.

We tried a new chef, Philip Meeker, a classically trained chef with tons of restaurant and teaching experience. He was a fantastic addition to the La Fortezza workshop team. He was genuinely enthusiastic about our garden and local vendors like the dairy and the various butcher shops. He loved shopping at the Tuesday local market in the square in Fivizzano, and he became quite the local celebrity as he speaks great Italian and is quite charming, not to mention easy on the eyes.

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His food was absolutely delicious, creative and seasonal. His high regard for great ingredients is exactly what we look for in the meals we serve at La Fortezza – high quality, beautiful and delicious.

Our private group’s organizer, Suzanne Vizethann , is the Executive Chef and Owner of Buttermilk Kitchen. She brought all her best friends with her, and we had an amazing time touring Modena with my sweet friend and stylist/editor Barbara Pederzini. She even gave us the VIP tour of her hometown. As an aside, Barbara will be joining me next year for a couple days to teach the Italian side of styling during my Strictly Styling Workshop 2019; we have lots of surprises up our sleeves, so stay tuned.

We stopped for a bit of power shooppingat Oro Nero a custom design shop in Modena

We stopped for a bit of power shopping at Oro Nero a custom design shop in Modena

We began the workshop with Suzanne’s group with truffle hunting. It was a gorgeous morning trekking through the forest.

Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

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Suzanne treated all of us to her Nonna’s sauce and meatballs at our Sunday supper. Philip rounded out the meal with amazing handmade pasta noodles along with sides and dessert. Private workshops have been very exciting and so fulfilling.T hanks to Katie, Janie and Kristy for joining the adventure and making the dance party so fun.

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For our final workshop of the year, Angie Mosier brought an amazing group of photographers to La Fortezza. We had a wonderful time touring and photographing. Angie is a gifted teacher, and she brought so much energy and expertise to her workshop. Chef Rebecca Wilcomb joined her friend Angie, and we all visited local food purveyors and introduced Philip, Angie and Rebecca to local fare, like panigacci and testoroli. My Italian girlfriends, helped introduce them to all things local in food stuffs. Thanks to Giovanna, local food ambassador, and Federica of China Clementi. We had professional barman Simone join us one night to create cocktails with China Clementi a locally produced Amaro, created in Fivizzano by the family.

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Panigacci made the traditional way on the open fire.

Testaroli being made

Testaroli being made

Me with Giovanna

Me with Giovanna

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Testaroli

Testaroli

Testaroli tasting

Testaroli tasting

We toured the China Clementi Amaro factory earlier in the day, so it was such fun to do a cocktail tasting later that evening for aperitivo with Angie’s group.

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Philip was enamored with our outdoor pizza oven (il forno). He and Rebecca opted to cook a few of our meals in it as well as a pizza lunch for our attendees. It was really an honor to have Rebecca cook in our kitchen, and she and Philip had a blast using fresh local ingredients. Phillip taught handmade pasta to many of our attendees. His charm and ease in the kitchen made him an instant hit with our guests. He’ll be back next year in June to create more exciting meals in our kitchen.

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Roasted in the forno

Roasted in the forno

Wrapping up the workshops with such great people was so rewarding, I am back in the US for a few months. I’ll be on book tour and of course producing a few editorial stories. I will be back to Italy next year. A heartfelt thanks to all who attended. I loved meeting you all and showing you my Italy.

xx Annette

 

 

 

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Preserving Italy Workshop with Domenica Marchetti

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Ciao Guys! I am thrilled to write about our first Fall Workshop here.

I have admired Domenica Marchetti from afar for a long time. She’s one of those awesome Instagram connections that has been so fantastic. When we met in real life last year, of course we found that we had tons of people in common in the media industry. If you don’t follow her on Instagram, you should; she’s amazing.

She has many books to her credit, but when we met, we cooked up the idea of teaching folks how to preserve. Her book, Preserving Italy, is filled with amazing recipes, and I was excited to have her here at La Fortezza this fall to preserve right from the garden. With tons of tomatoes in the kitchen garden, along with all of the strawberries, figs and herbs, we could pick and choose.

We had a lovely group that was so enthusiastic and hard working. They cooked and canned and picked over 30 pounds of tomatoes for sauce.  It was so satisfying. We now have lots of tomato sauce to use over the winter, and I am thrilled. Domenica is a fantastic instructor, and I can honestly say I learned so much. We are definitely having her back next year. Thank you Domenica for such a beautiful and inspiring, yummy, hands on experience!

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The Harvest 2018

Chardonay Grapes

I know some of you know that we have a vineyard here in the Lunigiana. It came with the house. The funny story is that when we bought the house, the vineyard was never mentioned. It was only mentioned when the sellers accepted our offer, and we were toasting with their (now our) wine. Imagine how happy and surprised we were. As we always say, “only in Italy!” It’s actually a longer story, one that I am including in my next book Italy is my Boyfriend, which I am in the middle of writing right now.

Every year (it’s been 3), I look forward to the harvest. I excitedly wait for our vintner’s entire family to arrive. Even the dog joins in.

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One of the Vinter Brothers

For me, fall is thee best time of year in Italy! It’s the harvest, and it’s just so amazing to watch everything ripen. You literally see the seasons change here in farm country.

Fingers crossed this year’s harvest will make for a delicious vintage. Cin Cin from the vineyard…

xx Annette

 

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Summer Zucchini Pasta

Zucchini Pasta

Since we are still in the thick of summer, summer veggies like squash and zucchini are still abundant, and you can easily find them at your local grocery store or farmer’s markets. I love zucchini because it’s so versatile. Zucchini can become bread, soup, or antipasto. When I want something light and satisfying yet seasonal, it’s a no brainer. I turn to zucchini and pasta.

Add a bit of garlic, good Parmesan cheese, and some truffle oil, and you’re left with a fantastic weeknight meal that screams summer. Feel free to toss in other summer vegetables too. Tomatoes from your garden would be divine!

Summer Zucchini Pasta
Serves 4

You will need:
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 3/4 pound whole-wheat dried spaghetti
– 3/4 pound zucchini sliced into coins
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 2 tablespoons minced garlic (btw I always use a micro plainer to grate the fresh garlic into the oil)
– 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
– 3 tablespoons truffle oil

To Prepare:

Cut the zucchini into thin coins then put oil and grate fresh garlic into a skillet. Heat oil and garlic and add zucchini, saute on high heat until the zucchini is evenly browned. In the meantime, boil the pasta on high, until al dente. Drain and add the pasta with to the zucchini, and toss with cheese. Pull off heat and put pasta into a bowl, finish with the truffle oil, salt and pepper.

Serve hot with a nice tomato salad.

Note: I like adding truffle salt if you have it.

xx Annette

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