That's amore: Plan ahead to treat your sweetheart to the sweet taste of Italy
It's always a challenge when Valentine's Day falls in the middle of the work week. If you have a job or other demanding activities but want to cook for your Valentine, as many people wish to do, how do you prepare something special after what will probably be a busy day?
The simple answer is to do some planning, and at least a little bit of cooking, ahead of time. That is why I'd like to share a special recipe to make for the one you love: a classic recipe from my restaurant Spago for the Italian frozen dessert known as a tartufo.
If you know any Italian at all, even the restaurant version of the language with which many people are familiar, you may recognize the dessert's name from more savory sections of the menu. Tartufo literally means "truffle," referring first and foremost to the roughly spherical fungi found at the bases of some trees such as oak and hazel. Highly prized for their wonderfully earthy, aromatic perfume, truffles are among the great delicacies of the kitchen.
Not surprisingly, the name became poetically attached to another coveted delicacy as well, and this one is sweet: Small, soft spheres of the chocolate-and-cream mixture called ganache, which are sometimes rolled in cocoa powder or grated or melted chocolate or to resemble the earth still clinging to true truffles when they're dug up. Many of you reading this will no doubt give, or receive, a box of chocolate truffles on Valentine's Day.
But there's still another type of sweet truffle; this one is a frozen dessert that at least two different restaurants in Italy that I know of -- one in the town of Pizzo on the coast of Calabria near the southwestern toe of Italy's boot, the other in Piazza Navona in the heart of Rome some 380 miles to the northwest -- claim to have invented themselves.
This tartufo, for which I offer you a simple, delicious version here that we served long ago at Spago in Beverly Hills, is a semisoft frozen dessert (which the Italians call a semifreddo) made by mixing together melted chocolate, beaten egg yolks, a simply made sugar syrup, and some cream. I like to freeze the mixture until firm enough to scoop, and then form it into egg-shaped ovals that I roll in grated chocolate before returning them to the freezer to set.
It's a surprisingly simple recipe, but still one that would be wise to make up to a couple of days ahead of Valentine's Day so you have it ready to remove from the freezer and serve to your sweetheart.
Makes 5 to 10 servings
9 ounces (255 g) bittersweet chocolate