Tea Party in Sicily

April 9, 2013

My Roman friend Roberta–who has moved to Sicily–proposed that I host an afternoon tea.

Great idea, you say?

Ha. Consider this: Roberta works for Gambero Rosso, Italy’s gastronomic bible, which pitilessly rates and ranks food.  She’s reviewed fancy Michelin-starred restaurants all over Italy … and Paris … and London … and New York. She’s penned cookbooks and other food books and now runs a restaurant near the shore with her new Sicilian marito.

So the thought of feeding my food-goddess amica filled me with a kind of horror.

But I’d been fed at her table plenty of times, so it was time to step up and act like a Big Girl.

Whaddya serve at a tea party, anyway? Was Roberta expecting high tea or low tea? I was sure mine would be low–very, very low.

You eat breads and cakes, don’t you?  I can do that. I like to bake. I ran my usual repertoire through my head.

  1. Cranberry-nut loaf. (But there are no cranberries here!)
  2. Pumpkin tea loaf. (No canned pumpkin here!)
  3. Chocolate chip cookies. (No chocolate chips!)
  4. Blueberry-oatmeal muffins. (No blueberries or oatmeal!)
  5. Buttermilk biscuits. (No buttermilk here!)
  6. Etc, etc, etc Ach!

Every single thing I’d ever baked in my entire life contained a key ingredient that this isle lacks.

So to the Wide Web I went, trolling for lemony-orangey things. Because mountains of lemons and oranges we have.

Then I got to work squeezing lemons, chopping nuts, whipping eggs. It was warm enough to toss the doors wide open. Big furry bees circled the honey.

I made Tuscan lemon muffins using whole ricotta instead of skim (no such thing here), and more lemon zest than the recipe calls for.

Tuscan Lemon Muffins, photo copyright Jann Huizenga

And an orange-nut loaf.

Orange nut bread

And lemon meringue pots de creme, a NY Times recipe.

Lemon Meringue Pot de Creme, recipe from the NY Times, photo copyright Jann Huizenga

And raisin scones, totally unworthy of a photo.

You can just get a glimpse of them below–those things in the back that are flat and hard as hockey pucks. What self-defeating instinct made me put pucks on the table????? The fact that I had good mandarin marmalade and zagara honey to scoop on them was no excuse.

Tea time

I had a Plan called Prosecco. When my guests arrived, I would get them tipsy so they wouldn’t care what they were eating. I let the Moroccan mint tea steep and steep while we tossed back the sauce. We toasted the slaves of Milan and New York who do not know the perks of the free-lance life, and we toasted Sicily.

Moroccan mint tea, copyright Jann Huizenga

The orange-nut bread was unremarkable, but Roberta rushed to the rescue: She pulled a pastry bag of ricotta cream from her purse, like a rabbit from a hat. Abracadabra! The perfect spread!Ricotta cream

The Tuscan lemon muffins were good and moist, but Roberta reserved her praise for the lemon meringue pots de creme.

Roberta Corradin, copyright Jann Huizenga

Roberta Corradin

Hooray! I got the Gambero Rosso thumb-up!


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46 comments to Tea Party in Sicily

  • Jann, how in the world can you consider this arsenal of goodies “low tea”? My dear, by any standards this is super high tea! hee hee! I would gladly have eaten your “hockey pucks” if it meant I was allowed to look out your window! What a view, amica! 🙂

  • Anitre

    Wow! You really stepped up to the plate my dear. I’m impressed with your spread. I shall email some recipes that I use for using all the delicious lemons from my tree. I now have La Famiglia drinking tea in the afternoon with my Lemon Drizzle cake. Brava, Jann!

    • Jann

      Ciao Anitre–I’d really love to get your recipe for Lemon Drizzle cake. Just the name makes me drool. xxxxxxx

  • Now you’ve got my stomach growling, Jann! I love that you courageously went along with the idea of hosting a tea — and that you excelled at it. Now, that’s Yankee ingenuity, my friend!

    • Jann

      Ha ha, Debbie…I wouldn’t quite say “excelled!!!” Two out of four, let’s see, that’s 50% correct–about a “D”???? 🙂

  • Ohhhh, you are doing so much well in Sicily with cooking local food than me in Japan doing the same….sigh….
    On the other hand, they all want me to cook Italian here.
    After seeing all the treats you prepared I am feeling homesick. Time to plan a visit, I reckon.
    Keep doing the Sicilian way, even Gambero Rosso gave the OK!!

    • Jann

      Marina–the difference between US and Italian cuisine is small small small compared to what you’re dealing with! I remember when I was in Tokyo, there were so many Italian restaurants. I didn’t try any–how are they??

    • Ahh, few are very good, some are good, many aren’t…but I don’t need to go to a fancy restaurant any time I crave Italian food…the easiest it cook at home, invite friends over and have a good time 🙂

    • Jann

      I bet your Japanese friends LOVE when you cook them authentic Italian food. Lucky them!

  • I use the Prosecco plan All.The.Time…even though my guests are common folk 😉 Works like a charm.

  • —Omygosh, I am in heaven reading this. I only wish I could have been there at your HIGH tea. Yes, to me, this is quite high and lush.
    Is that a ship from your kitchen window? What a view! WOW.
    I shall make (try to make) the lemon meringue pots de creme. DEeelish.
    Thank you for allowing me to live vicareously thru your deliciousness, sweet Jann. Xxx

    • Jann

      Kim, I only wish you had been here! You would have added to the hilarity. I am quite sure that you and Roberta would really hit it off. You have things in common: poetry/literature, tall shoes, flash, etc. xxxxxxx Good luck with those pots de creme. Hope they turn out! Be sure to use really good lemons, like Meyer.

  • I just looked at the picture of your kitchen again. Is that the Duomo di San Giorgio outside your window?

  • I’m trying to lose weight. I think reading this post put me back about 10 pounds! LOL. Everything sounded yummy!

  • Angelo

    Yes, Restoring a Damp House in Sicily was a success!

  • This post made me want to cash it all in, as your posts often do, and rush off to be your neighbour. The colours and the hospitality shine through Jann. Your new home is lucky to have you there. xx

    • Jann

      Janine–it would be so much fun to have you as a neighbor! (But I know your heart is in Umbria…)

  • Wow! Don’t know where to look first: the view (surely that’s a travel poster on the wall?), the great food styling, the mint tea. Wonderful post. Such a stylish woman your friend, and to learn she carries around ricotta spread in her purse …

  • Daunting indeed! Your Prosecco Plan was brilliant!!! All your baked goods seem very tempting…and I am tickled to see that you have the same scone-making “abilities” as me. But sweetest of all, perhaps…baking with doors and windows thrown wide open and sunshine spilling in! That is truly yummy.

    • Jann

      Who knew that scones were such tricky creatures? I thought I put in the called-for baking soda or powder or whatever it was. Yes, it was fun baking “al fresco”…

  • Looks like a very very high tea if you ask me!!!

  • Sam

    This is the toughest kind of blogpost to get through: all those gorgeous photos of delicious goodies, while knowing I have only a half-package of stale Oreos in my kitchen.

  • Sandee wheeler

    I, too, love seeing your kitchen and the wonderful view! It is funny how we think the things we have access to are, surely, available all over! Not so!

    • Jann

      Sandee, even when they have the same things in Italy that we do, they’re different and hardly recognizable. For instance, vanilla comes in packets, and is a powder.

  • Angelo

    Don’t worry about the hockey pucks…you’re just a hockey fan pining for the upcoming playoffs. Go Ottawa Go!!!!

  • Great descriptions of your experience. Love the view from your place. As much as we all fuss and try to make things perfect, the friendship and time together is what makes it special. I keep trying to figure out why she had a pastry bag of ricotta in her purse!!! Just in case?? God your lemon meringue pots were a hit. Sounds like a special day. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jann

      Ciao Rosann–thanks for commenting! You’re absolutely right about the fact that it’s the time together that’s important… and I always try to remember that when I entertain because otherwise I get too nervous. Roberta said that she had the pastry bag full of ricotta cream in her purse because she knew I might make breads or cakes. But I think she carries it around 24/7, just in case.

  • What a beautiful, delicious story! I must come for tea some day soon. And Congrats on the Thumbs Up!

  • oh just jump in + then figure out how to swim. Loved reading about all of this. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  • thats a long way from bacon and eggs. your culinary skills have progressed quite nicely.

  • Lena

    Mamma mia, you are truly a brave woman! I would put a sign on the door- “gone dead” or something…

    Everything looks very tasty to me and by looking at you photos you get at least two thumbs- ups from me!

    • Jann

      Lena, you really made me laugh. “Gone dead”–I must remember that the next time I’m stressed out about a dinner party or something.

  • Sei stata bravissima…….READING I suffered with you……….
    You are becoming truly Sicilian
    Don’t you know L’Arte di arrangiarsi? It’ so typical Sicilian

    The photo of your kitchen is faboulous……….
    Xxx lucia

    • Jann

      I love that expression, Lucia–“l’arte di arrangiarsi”–by that do you mean my Prosecco Plan??? xxxxxxxx

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