As a child, I remember my father taking me with him when he went shopping on a Saturday morning, in what was, “the little Italy” neighborhood in our city. We would visit the Italian deli for cold cuts, Sorrento’s Bakery for bread, Sacco & Sons for sausage and a quick lunch trip to Spirito’s for a slice of pizza. I didn’t mind the excursion during the warm months because my father always bought me a lemon ice from one of the push cart venders. The neighborhood that I remember is no longer there, but eating lemon ice or sorbetto or gelato is timeless. The recipes for frozen ices and other Italian treats will keep you cool in the coming months, but light enough so you do not have to worry about the calories.

Gelato (Italian Ice Cream) has a very low butterfat content, which makes the flavors more intense on the tongue. In addition, less air is introduced into the mixture before it is frozen, creating a much more dense dessert that adds a surprising richness to the flavor. Gelato may be made with or without eggs, cornstarch or cream in its base and, frequently, has other ingredients such as fresh fruit or coffee added for flavor. I prefer to make gelato without raw eggs yolks, so another thickener, such as cornstarch, is needed.  There are numerous recipes around but the best recipe, I found for this version, is from Mark Bittman in The New York Times. It is easy, healthy and offers many flavor ideas but does not sacrifice taste.

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Gelato

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Ice Cream Maker

Put 2 cups milk, the sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. If using a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into liquid, then add pod. Cook until mixture begins to steam.
In a bowl, blend cornstarch and remaining milk; there should be no lumps. Remove bean pod from pot and discard. Add cornstarch mixture to pot. Cook, stirring, until it starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until thick. Stir in vanilla extract, if using.
If mixture has lumps, strain it into a bowl. Chill for 2 hours. When cool or if there are no lumps, pour into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Yield: 1 generous pint.

Additions:

  • Honey-Jam Variation –  Substitute honey for half the sugar. Add 1/2 cup good jam to mixture before freezing.
  • Yogurt-Substitute yogurt for half the milk.
  • Cherry-Vanilla-Add 1 cup halved, pitted cherries just before freezing.
  • Strawberry, Blueberry or Peach-Add 1 cup hulled, sliced strawberries, blueberries, or peeled and chopped peaches before freezing.
  • Coffee-Substitute 1/2 cup very strong coffee for 1/2 cup milk.
  • Coconut-Substitute 1 cup coconut milk for 1 cup milk; add 1/2 cup toasted dried coconut.
  • Mint Chocolate Chip-Add 1/2 cup minced mint and 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate just before freezing.

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Fresh Strawberries With Limoncello

Limoncello has long been a staple in the lemon-producing region of the Italian Amalfi Coast, especially in Capri and Sorrento. Authentic Limoncello is made from Sorrento lemons that are grown in that region. Families in Italy have passed down recipes for generations, as every Italian family has their own Limoncello recipe.
When my son and daughter-in-law returned from a trip to Capri several years ago, they brought me back a bottle. Until that time, I had never heard of the product. I find it compliments many fruit desserts or adds another dimension to fruity drinks. Bottles of limoncello should be kept in the freezer until ready to serve.

Ingredients

  • 20 whole large fresh strawberries, cut into halves
  • 1 tablespoon limoncello
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • fresh ground pepper
  •  Biscotti

Directions

Place cut strawberries in a bowl.

Pour over the liqueur, orange juice and sprinkle over with freshly ground pepper. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. 

Serve as is or with biscotti.

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Citrus Sorbetto

Makes a perfect palate cleanser.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, fresh
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, fresh
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 orange

Directions

Combine sugar and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil reduce and simmer just until the sugar is dissolved, let cool.

Stir together all the juices, zest and vanilla and add in the sugar syrup.  

Chill syrup & juice blend in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

You may serve the sorbetto right away or store it in the freezer.

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Ricotta With Berries

2 servings

Berries

  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 10 strawberries, hulled and chopped ( or sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 

Ricotta

  • 6 ounces skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto
  • Garnish with mint leaves

Directions

Combine the berries with lemon juice and sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

Mix ricotta ingredients together. This may be done in a food processor, if a finer texture is desired.

Serve berries over a scoop of the ricotta and garnish with mint. Serving it in a martini or other decorative glass makes for a nice presentation.

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Strawberry and Ricotta Crepes

Serves 4

The crepes can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer, so that you can pull this dessert together quickly. This recipe also makes more crepes than you’ll need for the servings below.  Allow the extra crepes to cool, place waxed paper between them, stack and place in a ziplock bag in the freezer.

Other fresh seasonal fruits can be used instead of strawberries.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 ½ teaspoons powdered sugar
  • 2 cups (about 10 ounces) cleaned and sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh mint
  • Small pinch of salt

Crepes

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Measure all crepe ingredients and place into a blender; blend for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides. Blend for 15 seconds more. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. (This helps the flour absorb more of the liquids.)  

Heat a crepe pan (or use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet). Lightly grease the pan.

Measure about 1/4 cup batter into the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the batter. Once the crepe has lots of little bubbles, loosen the edges with a spatula and turn the crepe over. The second side cooks quickly, so after about 15 seconds, slide the crepe from the pan to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter (yield: about 20 crepes).

Mix ricotta with powdered sugar. Set aside.

Mix strawberries gently with sugar, mint and salt. Set aside.

If the crepes were prepared earlier in the day or frozen and defrosted overnight, reheat them in the microwave for a minute or two until warm.

Spread 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture on one half of each of 8 warm crepes and fold to cover. Place two crepes on each serving plate.

Top with strawberries, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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Lemon Biscotti With Lemon Drizzle

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2  cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1  cup pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl.

Combine zest, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, lemon extract, oil and eggs. Add to the flour mixture, stirring until well-blended.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 7 to 8 times. Divide dough in half. Shape each portion into an 8-inch-long roll.

Place rolls 6 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; flatten each roll to 1-inch thickness. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the rolls from the baking sheet; cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 15 (1/2-inch) slices.

Place the slices, cut sides down, on the baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F; bake for 10 minutes.

Turn cookies over; bake an additional 10 minutes (the cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool).

Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on wire rack.

Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice and powdered sugar; drizzle over the biscotti.

If you’re making enough to freeze, store them in the freezer without the drizzle, then make it just before serving.

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Tangerine and Prosecco Sorbet

“Italian Champagne” – Prosecco is a sparkling wine made from late-ripening white grapes from the Veneto – Conegliano – Valdobbiadene region of Italy.

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cups chilled tangerine juice or tangerine orange juice
  • 1 cup chilled Prosecco
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated tangerine peel

Directions

Combine sugar and water in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil.

Transfer syrup to medium bowl and chill until cold, about 2 hours.

Add tangerine juice and Prosecco to syrup; whisk to blend well. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer sorbet to a freezer container. Cover tightly with a lid and freeze until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight. 

DO AHEAD:  Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen. Divide sorbet among wine goblets or dessert glasses.

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