Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Strawberry Frangelico Tart

One of my favorite places in the world is Italy. When I was nine and my parents were making the staggering move from Russia to the United States, with two children and elderly parents in tow, we had to stay in Italy for six months to wait for our visa. At first, with the help of an American Jewish organization, we were housed in an old gray villa, where the paths crunched with gravel and the tall windows let in the cold spring wind. Eventually, though, we found a little house all of our own, in a town called Nettuno - a little seaside retreat an hour south of Rome. Nettuno was heaven for us kids. While our parents worked, we ran around the neighborhood, peering (discreetly, of course) into windows of strange shops, smelling the wonderful ciabatta bread which had a hard, crackly crust and soft insides. We watched the procession of colorful characters on the boardwalk and there always seemed to be something going on, music playing just around the corner and red, green, blue confetti flying through the air. That's how I remember Italy during that time, a whirl of confetti and the feel of warm bread breaking beneath my fingers.

Our neighbors - an Italian family - had a house which seemed to us (coming from a tiny apartment) the height of luxury. There were two little girls, too - Valentina and Federica. Valentina was the oldest - nine, just like me, and despite me not speaking any Italian and her not speaking any Russian, and neither of us really speaking more than four words of English, we got on swimmingly, and not a few months passed before we were tyrannizing our younger sisters and deciding matters of national importance, like who would play with which doll. Their parents made us our first ever pizza - a rectangular one, of course, with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil layered on the thin crust, and my grandmother made them a cake that said 'grazie.' Their house was always full of people - friends, cousins, neighbors - and I think they didn't mind the addition of two timid girls who probably did unspeakable horrors to the beautiful Italian language. Whenever I get sad or lonely, I think about them and those beautiful months playing in the sunshine in Nettuno and drawing pictures that said 'ciao' when we only meant to say 'until we meet again.'

This strawberry tart with Frangelico somehow makes me feel closer to that time and I wanted to share it with you. It's also full of color and fragrance and uses two of my favorite Italian ingredients, mascarpone cheese and Frangelico (and, well, Nutella isn't so bad either). At a time when rain beats against my window, I want to wrap myself in my memories like in a warm blanket and bring back the smells of Italy.

Strawberry Frangelico Tart

One fully baked sweet tart shell

3/4 cups heavy whipping cream, very cold
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, softened and at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar (for lightly sweetened, or more to taste)
1-2 tablespoons Frangelico (Italian hazelnut liquor)
2-3 tablespoons Nutella (OR 2-3 oz chocolate, finely chopped)
1 lb strawberries, hulled and halved (I think sliced in half would be best, though as you can see I tried it with whole strawberries first and then I sliced them thinly)

Bake the crust fully. When you remove the crust from the oven and it is still warm, spread the Nutella or chopped chocolate (whichever one you are using) on the bottom. If you are using chocolate, the chocolate will melt - this is a good thing. Set the crust aside to cool to room temperature.

Next, whip the cream with sugar to soft peaks (there are varying philosophies on how to do this, but I usually start on medium-high speed and once there are some air bubbles, I add the sugar and continue whipping on medium-high). Fold in the Frangelico, one tablespoon at a time, depending on how boozy you want it to be. Add the mascarpone cheese and continue whipping on medium until the mascarpone is incorporated and the cream is thick but not completely stiff.

Spread the cream inside the crust and top with strawberries. I also sprinkled some grated chocolate on top.


Helene said...

That looks so good. I like the addition of Frangelico & Nutella

Eileen said...

What beautiful memories… AND, what a beautiful tart! I'm ready for fresh strawberries.

Elyse said...

Irene, this tart looks just gorgeous! I love that food has the power to evoke such strong memories. I can't wait to try this recipe--and maybe get a little bite of Italy!

finsmom said...

This picture is beautiful! I bet it tastes as good as it looks!

Elra said...

This is truly truly beautiful tarte. I love fruit tarte very much, and strawberry is my all time favorite.

Elra said...

You asked about financier, "do you whip egg whites before folding the flour into them?"
The answer is no, you don't need to. You just need to mix the almond mixture and the egg whites together with the rubber spatula. It's pretty easy recipe, really!
Hope this helps.

The Food Librarian said...

Beautiful! Lovely!

onesilentwinter said...

gorgeous!! i am going to try this this weekend-promise!

AnticiPlate said...

Antyhing with Nutella, Whip Cream, Frangelico, and Mascarpone and I am there. Beautiful presentation! Was it hard slicing it and getting it out of the pan without making a mess?

Nicisme said...

Saw this on Food Gawker, looks amazing!

Peg said...

Oooh, yum! All of my favorite ingredients!
R & I are going to love this, Irene.

Ivonne said...

How I wish we were neighbours! We would be very fat but we would be happy!!!


Yulinka said...

That looks wonderful. I've always wished that we could have had a stopover in Italy, but we came directly to the U.S.

The Food Librarian said...

What a great post of yumminess and wonderful memories. I could probably eat this whole tart!!!

Jude said...

Sounds amazing. It's been a while since I bought Frangelico and this just might be the recipe that makes me replenish the stash.

nicole said...

You had me at "Nutella"... this looks delicious. I can't wait for strawberry season!

taraleovna said...

I love this and was relieved to learn that Frangelico is kosher! Frangelico has been approved by the Kashruth division of the Orthodox Union and certified “Kosher Pareve.”

taraleovna said...

I love this and was relieved to learn that Frangelico is indeed kosher! Frangelico has been approved by the Kashruth division of the Orthodox Union and certified “Kosher Pareve.”

Thank you for a great recipe.