Crostata di visciole

Crostata di Viscole

I invariably choose crostata di visciole for dessert when out for dinner. Visciole…those delightful cherries that are sweet yet tart at the same time…are just what I love at the end of a delicious meal. Last night at dinner everyone elected to top their dessert with a scoop of gelato so I went with the flow. A wise choice: it was delicious!
So what exactly are visciole? They are wild cherries largely from the Marche region, located on the east coast of central to north Italy, and facing the Adriatic Sea. In the Marche visciole are usually cultivated to produce wine.
Visciole are the product of the prunus cerasus plant and are about half the size of consumer cherries. They yield a wonderful syrup and jam, which is often used to make crostate, or cherry tarts.
If you’d like to make a crostata yourself simply use your favorite buttery crust recipe for tarts and top it with visciole jam. I always top my crostata with a latticed crust as it’s prettier. Italians then sprinkle their crostate with powdered sugar before serving.
You don’t have to venture off to the Marche for visciole. These small, sour cherries also grow near Rome. Making the jam is simple:

Visciole (Sour Cherry) Jam

Visciole, pitted, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds)
Sugar, granulated, 200 grams (7 ounces or 1 cup)
Pectin, according to package instructions

Stir visciole, sugar and pectin together in a large, heavyweight pan.
Cook over a medium flame for about five minutes, stirring regularly, until the jam has begun to thicken. Jam will thicken further once it cools.
If desired, use a potato masher to break up the fruit while cooking. My texture preference is to leave some of the fruit whole.
The jam can now be ladled into sterilized jars for future consumption or used right away to prepare a crostata.

MilanExpo 2015, its final weeks

Milan Expo

Don’t let this scare you! All these people entered Expo in half an hour. If you want to catch the Milan Expo in its last weeks, here’s the skinny….
If you’re expecting to see everything with no crowds and no lines then stay home.
Expo is in its last month so everyone is now rushing to catch it, and honestly it’s not to be missed. Certain pavillions are deemed the best so the lines are atrocious: Japan, Kazakastan, and a few others: upwards of four hours. Point being, don’t waste expo time in those lines. There’s so much more to see!
A wonderful surprise was the USA pavillion. No lines to speak of, and a wonderfully educational visit. Ask them about the James Beard American restaurant in Milan centro: it’s their off-site, center Milan activity. Fabulous chefs and fabulous food! More on that tomorrow as we’re having our anniversary dinner there this evening.
Must see is the Tree of Life, after dark at 9 pm. Loop around it to get an up close view from the side.
Another must see is Pavillion Zero. It’s the essence of Milan Expo. The line is about 75 minutes; power through it! Try to go around 5:30 pm as the line will be better.
See everything you can, big and small! The day(s) will fly by.
People go to be entertained, eat and be educated. Each pavillion has a different thrust.
To give you an idea of numbers: the other day there were 270,000 visitors, and yesterday USA hit its 5 millionth visitor. So of course there are crowds and lines! There are lines to go to a movie theater with just a few hundred spectators so it’s unrealistic to expect no lines.
If you are over eighty, disabled and can prove it, or visiting with a baby you can go to a fast entry priority line at most pavillions.

Positano’s Casa Cosenza

Room with a view at Positano's Casa Cosenza

We’ve stayed in just about every room at the Casa Cosenza over the past thirty-plus years, each one with a breathtaking view of the spectacular Positano.
Maurizio first brought me here when we were still fidanzati; I was here on vacation and spoke no Italian at the time. The whole weekend I was intoxicated: head over heels in love with my handsome and charming Maurizio, loving the musicality of the lilting and flowing Neapolitan dialect, captured by the view of the colorful Positano homes spilling down to the sea and in gourmet ecstasy with the buffalo mozzarella, succulent seafood, delicious pastas. Sensorial overload in the most delightful way imaginable.
Our host and owner at Casa Cosenza was the lively and energetic Maria. The first night in Positano I walked up a hundred or so steps with Maria to reach a local bar where we sat for hours enjoying ice cream and drinks until close to midnight. I’d been on my own that day enjoying Positano while Maurizio drove to Scalea to sell a property his father had invested in. No cell phones back then so I had no idea when Maurizio would return. The local young men were teasing me all night saying Maurizio wouldn’t return and coaxing me to go off with them to dance. All in fun…with some serious intent all the same! As midnight approached I was getting anxious but just then Maurizio appeared in his Alfa Giulietta, and my heart skipped quite a few beats when I saw his smiling face.
Since that time Maria has become older, her husband has passed, and the management of Casa Cosenza has passed into the hands of her daughter Giuseppina. She has in turn brought her daughter Raffaella into the family business and she’s now ready to take over from her mother. Time seems to have flown by, and people here have come and gone. Casa Cosenza has remained lovely and charming and mostly just as it was decades ago…less rustic and more beautiful.
If you visit Positano and want to feel a part of the local rhythm and lifestyle this is a perfect place to stay. Half of the pleasure of Positano is lost to you in a hotel.
So where is it? Take a look; it’s the yellow building right in the center (a bit up and left of the dome):

Casa Cosenza: the yellow building  just upwards and slightly left of the dome

Blackberry jam

Last year we made blackberry jam; Maurizio picked the berries and I did the cooking and canning. Blackberries have so many seeds which we find unpleasant in jams and tarts so I decided to remove them. It’s a laborious, time consuming task and I cursed myself the whole way through making the jam…or at least…

Nonna’s hope chest and her Neapolitan coffee maker

Giulia will be having her baby any day now so while we are all waiting I’ve started doing a little nesting myself. For a long time now I’ve wanted to go through Nonna’s hope chest; it’s nearing a decade since she passed away at age ninety. She was an amazing woman: frugal, organized, efficient, as…

Hibiscus flowers

Every morning one of my hibiscus plants has a new flower to share. They’re so intricate and beautiful with a rich array of color tones. I have a number of plants so I never know which plant will be offering up a gift. The plants love partial shade and regular watering. I place my hibiscus…

Food is all about flavor….and presentation

Tomatoes and ripe banana. I love ripe and over-ripe bananas; they have so much more flavor. I know I’m in the minority here but they’re wonderful this way and great with cereal, in a smoothie and in banana bread. This banana and the tomatoes look gorgeous within this ceramic bowl; they seem to bring out…

Rigatoni with Smoked Salmon & Mascarpone

My husband is retired now which means most of the time he’s home for lunch. I’m usually the food preparer and find myself in a quandary at lunchtime. When I’m on my own its leftovers, salad, something simple. But Maurizio loves his pasta for lunch so that’s what I make. I try to keep it…